The Poisonous Label of Racism

by and.r.e.w.. on November 3, 2014 - 8:18pm

The article “The Good, Racist People” By Ta-Nehisi Coates from the New York Times brings up an event that occurred to Forest Whitaker in a Manhattan delicatessen.  One of the delicatessen’s employees stopped Whitaker and said he had shoplifted from their deli. The employee searches him immediately and comes up with nothing. An interview with the owner of the deli shows that the owner was apologetic but states the employee was “‘a decent man’ who was ‘just doing his job.’” The author of the article then speaks about a growing feeling of distance towards the deli he once thought as good. That racism tends to stain everything as evil that was involved with its label. The reality is that racism doesn’t live in one individual but a whole democratic society with a lot of bad history. To think that it resides just in one evil person reinforces your idea that you aren’t racist. Forest Whitaker is living the American dream, even though African Americans weren’t supposed to experience it. That they were supposed to only achieve middle class is a widely thought ideology. The author states that this would never had happen to a white actor like Nicolas Cage or other Caucasians living the American dream. That even if the deli owner was a good person it doesn’t change the fact of what happened and what may continue to happen to people who aren’t living the American dream.

Good people with insincere apologies don’t kill the label of racism. Since the employee was just doing his job it almost seems like systematic racism. If he was told by the owner to search clients who look a certain way that would be to victimize people who fit a description. If the employee had some sort of reason like seeing Forest Whitaker take something then it would be justified. None the less it’s very strange that this would happen to someone that would never need to steal. This leaves nothing but Forest Whitaker’s appearance to be the trigger of the random search.



Coates, T. (2013, March 6). The Good, Racist People. New York Times.  Retrieved from



I found this post very interesting. I have heard of multiple incidents regarding famous actors but not of this caliber this is preposterous this think that and actor so well known can be treated like that. In the shoe was on the other foot its wouldn’t even make the news, as you stated in Nicolas
Cage was in that scenario it wouldn’t even be a scenario. Doing your job does not mean to physically harass someone under a presumed “suspicion” that was way out of bonds. Even a successful black man is stumped out by a color something he has nothing do to with I wonder if he was a female would she have been searched or would it pass unseen because of her gender.

Very interesting article,
My only concern is why now? Why out of all of this time the Deli employee decides to search a black man? Surely the store has come across many different African Americans in its time. The author of the article wrote about the number of times he went with his family to the store, surely if there were racists employed there he’d have taken note of it before? Especially considering his wife had small talk with the cashiers on many occasions. Perhaps the cashier is new, and did racially profile Whitaker, if he did, then I understand. If not, I don’t understand why it would only happen now.