In a recently unearthed video, Tony Robbins, an allegedly world-renowned self-help guru, extolled the virtues of shouting out racial slurs in the pursuit of getting your mind free.
Basically, picture the worst kind of Kanye tweet, but 300 percent more ludicrous and 1,000 percent more Caucastic.
Now, I know what at least a third of you are thinking: Who the fuck is Tony Robbins?
Imagine a Sam’s Club Josh Brolin, but a jerky-fied version of him. Not jerk, mind you—that would actually be tasty and seasoned and useful—but really terrible jerky: weathered, stringy; the sustenance you get not really worth the effort of eating it.
Anyway, white people love taking advice from “charismatic” white men with strong jaws who tell them they can just Hulk-smash their pain away, so that’s what they’ve been doing—helping propel Robbins to the top of the self-help game during the 1980s and 1990s. He’s also made headlines this week, due to a recent BuzzFeed report detailing a slew of sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Here’s a more generous summation of Robbins’ work, from BuzzFeed:
At the core of Robbins’ teachings is the message that his followers should not see themselves as victims, and should instead view their pain as something they have the power to “destroy.” He claims to have revolutionized millions of lives with this philosophy, while building a multibillion-dollar business and working with celebrities from Donald Trump and Bill Clinton to Oprah and the Kardashians. Access to his most exclusive membership program has cost as much as $85,000 a year.
At any rate, this is where Robbins’ racial-slur laden anecdote, filmed sometime in the ’80s during a small-crowd presentation, comes in.
First obtained by BuzzFeed, the video shows Robbins recounting a talk he gave to a room full of “militant black” people, who allegedly challenged Robbins on why his talks were so full of “white examples.”
In Robbins’ own retelling, he started dropping the n-word all over the place to prove a point about mental freedom.
“As long as someone calls you a nigger and gets that kind of response I’ve seen right now, where you’re ready to explode, and what you’ve done is given that person absolute control of you,” Robbins said. “You have no control in your life, you are still a slave.”
“I’d like to have you be free, because I’m free and I’m white, so why don’t we pretend I’m going to get you free right now,” Robbins recalled telling the crowd, before leading them on a call-and-response exercise. “Trust me for a moment, pretend I’m black,” he told the room.
Robbins then launched into a chant and dance, singing “I’m a nigger, you’re a nigger, be a nigger too, oooh be a nigger” and beckoning the crowd to join in with him. In Robbins’ retelling, the audience gleefully did so.
The exercise went swimmingly, he recounted, with black and white members of the audience shouting racial slurs at each other without tension, apprehension, or good sense.
Robbins doesn’t dispute the video. In a statement mailed to BuzzFeed reporter Katie Baker, Robbins’ legal team said: “the presentation was positive and was accepted in the context in which it was conducted: a passionate discussion about racism and how to rise above it.”
They even marshaled in the tried-and-true “BUT HE HAS BLACK FRIENDS” line, pointing out that one of Robbins’ longtime event partners is black.
On Thursday night, Robbins tweeted out a rebuttal to the accusations that he’s racist, sharing a clip of Lora King, Rodney King’s daughter, lauding one of his workshops as “life changing.”
“I did notice that some exercises could have been taken out of context by the media,” King said, adding that she had “always been a fan” of Robbins.
Hiding behind a black woman’s cosign when shit hits the fan—I suppose, if you’re Tony Robbins, that’s how you try to get yourself free.