The year 2013 was tough for people who felt entitled to publicly express bigoted and intolerant views without suffering any consequences. There were the offenders who learned the hard way that jokes have to actually be funny to work, long before public relations executive Justine Sacco's tweet, "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" lost her a job in what was evidently not the best field for her skill set.
There were those who went down in black-Twitter-sparked flames while insisting on a tragically misunderstood definition of freedom of speech. And then we had the ones who clung desperately to the "Obama is a Muslim and Muslims are the worst people ever" thing. We've rounded them up in a year-end celebration of lessons on humanity and decency, learned the hard way.
One thing is clear: More and more, it's getting harder out there for a racist. And if it gets even harder in 2014, cheers to that.
No one can say they haven't been warned that this old-as-racism-itself practice—whether on Halloween or at an "Africa-themed" party—is a bad idea. But people keep doing it. And doing it. And doing it. And they keep getting publicly humiliated. However, at least a handful this year learned that refusing to consider the implications of the choice comes with consequences. In other words, feel free to paint your face, but you're probably going to want to hide afterward when your embarrassing image circulates and the entire Internet scoffs at you. Sorry not sorry.
Uttering the n-word 30 years ago and feeling terrible about it is one thing. Fantasizing in current times about a slavery-themed wedding is another. One of the worst consequences television chef Paula Deen suffered after the revelations about her remarks was that she lost her Food Network gig, but what we'll never forget is the resulting #PaulasBestDishes hashtag (think, "Ku Klux Flan"). Fired and laughed at (hysterically, for days on end). Ouch. You know you've had a rough year when you have to hire the real-life Olivia Pope to clean up your reputation.
Sure, you can insist that a made-up character is white because that fits your worldview and network's general approach to race-related topics. But be prepared to become a punch line. This anchor didn't apologize or step down after her comments about Santa Claus (or her historically inaccurate ones about Jesus, for that matter) but she'll forever be associated with her silly comments. That's enough to ruin anyone's white Christmas. And, yes, we're sure that's her favorite holiday song.
We're guessing these school administrators will think again before they accuse a child of a dress-code violation that pretty much amounts to failure to conceal or change one of the physical characteristics that identifies you as black. Thanks to intense media scrutiny, 12-year-old Vanessa Van Dyke won't be expelled for her hair, about which she says, “First of all, it’s puffy, and I like it that way." It's clear who the winners and losers are here.
No, he wasn't charged with a hate crime, and no, he wasn't convicted in the death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin. But it doesn't take a judge or jury to conclude that karma just might be at work in the tough time this guy has been having since he was acquitted. Zimmerman has been in trouble with the law repeatedly. It might have been deemed legal for him to shoot and kill Trayvon, but the act certainly hasn't set him down a great path in life.
When Trayvon Martin's teenage friend was called to testify at his trial, "Crass assessments of her weight, looks, and intelligence from some white observers competed with a cocktail of vicarious shame, embarrassment and disdain from some black ones," said the New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb. Olympian LoLo Jones got in on the action, comparing her to Tyler Perry's Medea. The racialized judgment and insensitivity was topped only by swift and numerous reactions, exposing all the troubling things about those who criticized Jeantel. It's safe to guess some tweets were sheepishly deleted and that perpetrators were reminded to think before sharing on social media. Or just think, period.
Appearing to decide that a customer is stealing or can't afford a particular item because he or she is black will not win you many fans in the African-American community (or among any critical-thinking people who know that "black equals poor and criminal" isn't a great equation on which to rely). Here's hoping the individuals at the center of these "shopping while black" stories take a lesson from the now-infamous allegations about their actions.
A&E has placed the reality-television star "under hiatus from filming indefinitely" after complaints about his homophobic comments in a GQ interview. His reputation certainly wasn't helped by the bit about how great it was to pick cotton with "singing and happy" African Americans before "entitlements" and "welfare" came along. He insisted in the midst of his wildly condescending and historically inaccurate comments that he is "with the blacks," but he might be in for a surprise when he finds out neither "the blacks" nor the rest of the show's viewers are going to have much to do with him going forward.
The North Carolina GOP precinct chairman told The Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi that he’s all for his state's controversial voter-ID laws because “If [the law] hurts the whites, so be it. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.” We applaud him for his rare honesty about the racist origins of such a stance—and for getting himself fired (he stepped down, at party officials' request). The good news: He's out of power. The bad news: He’s got time on his hands, and the Internet probably has a new troll.
Sad news for bigots and people who enjoy inaccurate, unsupported generalizations. You can no longer say something like this: Rep. King (R-Iowa) asserted that for every child of illegal immigrants “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” and expect people to focus on the policy point you were trying to make. Times are changing. Adjust. Make better choices. And keep fruit out of your attacks while you're at it.
Come on. If you're going to use an image of Hitler for your profile photo and spew racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and anti-Asian comments on Twitter, you can't fall to the ground and burst into tears when the New York Post confronts you about it. Proposed 2014 resolution for this FDNY firefighter: Don't be so hateful that you even make yourself cry.
" … whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, [s—t-bag], ignorant, pathetic, welfare-dependent excuses for parents. They're just misunderstood little church-going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn't have anything to do with why people wonder if they're about to get jacked by a thug." That was the Facebook post about the Trayvon Martin case that got the Miami-Dade firefighter demoted. His rank was eventually restored, but his reputation wasn't. Maybe he'll spend some of the next year trying to snuff out his own biases and hate? We can hope.
Thanks to Twitter, this campaign aide for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was able to express some pretty unsavory thoughts: “This bus is my worst [f—king] nightmare Nobody speaks English & these ppl don’t know how 2 control their kids #only3morehours #illegalaliens.” And “I will choke that illegal mex cleaning in the library. Stop banging [f—king] chairs around and turn off your Walkman.” And thanks to Twitter, Palmisano no longer has a job. Hope that means she has time to work on accepting what it means to live in a country where not everyone looks like you. And to take a deep breath or two.
"Go die in a shallow grave you Muslim commie … ," this police officer ranted in a Facebook post about President Obama. He's been suspended because of his department's assessment that the comments were "completely unacceptable." Add to that: horribly unoriginal and outdated. Why are racists still hanging on to the inaccurate criticism that the president is Muslim and that being Muslim a bad thing? Given how deeply hate ran through Burns' profile, it's unlikely he'll come to his senses during his time off, but maybe he'll at least come up with new material.
Earsing had one job: assistant manager at a New York Wal-Mart. But he couldn't do it without getting inexplicably outraged by Muslim women in traditional dress shopping at his place of employment: "Halloween came early this year … do they really have to [f—kin] dress like that … your [sic] in my country … get that [f—kin s—t] off!!!!!" he wrote on Facebook. Needless to say, he doesn't work for the company anymore. Hope it was worth it.
Wait, you knew that being on Big Brother involved having cameras record you, right? We can't figure out how the reality-television house guest thought racist remarks about Asian and black cast mates—"She wore my f—kin' head band and didn't ask … She took it off your f—kin' head and put it on her greasy-ass, nappy-hair head"—were going to fly under the radar. It's apparently especially hard out there if you're a racist who struggles to understand how video works.
“I can count on 1 hand the black people I know who don’t have [expletive] for brains!!!” That was just part of a post on the Dallas 911 operator's Facebook page that cost her job. Turns out the biggest emergency in her life involved her own ignorance and bad judgment. Maybe someone will send help?
Demonstrating once again that being racist and dumb often go hand in hand, a pizza deliveryman accidentally "butt dialed" a customer and left a racist rant (including a self-composed opera) on his voicemail. Times are truly hard when a bigot can't even deliver food without getting fired.