The Poisonous Label of Racism

by and.r.e.w.. on Novembre 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