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Member since: Sun Jul 4, 2004, 02:07 PM
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The term "playing the race card" is racist.


Today in American politics, the phrase “playing the race card” is still being used by pundits, politicians, and media outlets to either dismiss or downplay a very serious issue. Using the term is a form of denial, a way of talking about racism, while still pretending that it doesn’t really exist.

When understood in its historical context, the phrase is deeply rooted in racism. Just as John Tenniel’s 1862 illustration portrayed the issue of slavery as just another ‘card’ in a game, the phrase that is most often connected to that image is used to trivialize issues like police brutality and disparity in the criminal justice system – issues that are anything but trivial.

There is no ‘race card’. Racism is not a game. The phrase ‘playing the race card’ can and should be removed from our national language. Without it, racist politicians and frightened Tea Party ‘patriots’ would be forced to face and address the issues, instead of consistently hiding behind meaningless catch phrases, meant to detract from them.


It is one thing to debate the presence of racial motive in a circumstance, but it is quite another to suggest that people who suspect a racial component are exploiting some mythological, vaunted position and prerogative of aggrieved groups or exerting the exclusionary authority of the dominant group.

And furthermore, what other forms of discrimination are so routinely diminished and delegitimized in this way — cast as a game, a tactic or a stratagem?

The truth is that the people who accuse others — without a shred of evidence — of “playing the race card,” claiming that the accusations of racism are so exaggerated as to dull the meaning of the term, are themselves playing a card. It is a privileged attempt at dismissal.

They seek to do the very thing they condemn: shut down the debate with a scalding-hot charge.
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