Pulling the Race Card
“Pulling the race card” is a fascinating expression in American lexicon. Typically, this phrase is used to allege that someone has deliberately and/or falsely accused another person (or a thing) of being a racist or something. More to the point, this is a phrase uttered mostly by whites (and the appointed pets of whites) in order to blow off the problem at hand.
“Why does it always have to be about race with you?” ~ white people
I remember specifically when a friend of mine (white, male) said this. I pointed out that technically, a person ignorant to the science of a healthy mouth probably won’t see the cavities in your teeth, but an actual dentist who is trained in the science of, will see cavities and other ailments of the mouth that you won’t normally see. I used this as a parallel to point out how psychology and sociology helps train a person to better observe social ills. Interestingly, he didn’t really care for a logical explanation. He didn’t care for getting assistance to find clarity on the subject. What he wanted to do, is use a rhetorical device to not only pivot the hard conversation on racism away, he wanted to blame me for racism in a passive-aggressive manner, as if “only if I didn’t observe these things they will all go away.” Needless to say, he’s no longer a friend of mine. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
For some strange reason (read: white fragility), white people infinitely seek to duck and dodge any honest conversation on racism, especially when it’s an sociologically aware black person speaking. The remarkable thing about this, is that this isn’t just a sub-cultural thing where white people from a specific part of the United States all do this on habit; white people from all over America do this. You don’t have to talk about any particular person either; discuss any system or institution and you will provoke this white flight-or-fight response take place during the conversation. Ever seen an old Jackie Chan flick where he jumps, skips and ducks everything? That’s what white people do when they see the discussion of racism looming on the horizon.
Because of this, the concept of calling something the race card is merely a rhetorical device used in an effort to devalue and minimize the statement at hand.
“Here we go with the race card…”
The use of the phrase “race card” tells a lot about who is saying it. For the most part, whoever uses this term is usually looking to silence black people. It’s worth noting that the concept of a race card being used is never used when someone is diminishing the humanity of black people as a whole, whether in coded language or explicitly racist. No one ever invokes this term when a white person is using white racial animus to procure votes, for example.
No one ever called Donald Trump out, for example, for pulling the race card when he attacks black athletes, but never answers towards white coaches or even Eminem. While it’s possible for this term to exist in a neutral sense, it most certainly does not. This term exist for the sole purpose of silencing black people, policing black thought, and to protect white privilege and white comfort. This is more about the white reluctance to acknowledge racism, which isn’t new at all. Invoking this term functions to protect white people from white guilt so they can remain selectively sociopathic to black people.
An American History of Gaslighting
Speaking on white reluctance to acknowledge racism, I think it’s proper to point out that technically when a white person invokes this term, they are implying that you, the black person, is a liar. White people are practically saying you are totally making shit up, with an inventive imagination, with reckless abandon. Not caring to understand a black person’s perspective in American society isn’t a new thing. In fact, white people created a multitude of false sciences on such.
Drapetomania is a term created by a white “doctor” named Samuel A. Cartwright. Drapetomania is a term he invented to describe the reason why a black slave would run from slavery, as if, slavery was so great and it’s totally baffling to a white person as to why so many black slaves ran away, or fought back, or burned houses down. Dr. Cartwright, then stated that the “medical remedy” to this was to “beat the devil out of” (read: whipping, torture) that black person, or cut off both big toes (to make it impossible to run).
The phrase “pulling the race card” has a lot to do with the term “drapetomania” conceptually. Both terms are invented in a world devoid of black thought, black reason, black humanity. Both terms were invented by white people speaking to only white people concerning the Afro-American experience. Both terms were designed to silence black people.
Poisoning the Well Fallacy
At its core, it has to be known that the term “pulling the race card” is a classic poisoning the well fallacy. The poisoning the well fallacy is a error in logic where someone attempts to sully the logic of a person provided that they come from the pre-attacked standpoint. If an ad hominem fallacy functions as direct gun fire, poisoning the well functions as a landmine; step there, and get blown up. Invoking the term “race card” against black people speaking on racism, is in effect a smear tactic. Its purpose is the discredit the person before they speak further.
As a black abolitionist, it’s one’s civic duty to continue to press the conversation and not get sidetracked by nonsensical claims. One should not allow a sideways bigot, alt-right, white supremacist, or Americanized Nazi sympathizer to derail a topic that they deem difficult due to their whiteness to protect.
When a white person, or pet-to-white-supremacy person accuses me of “pulling the race card”, I always retort as such:
“If you want to talk about race cards, you gotta talk about who built the deck.”
Interestingly, when someone mentions race card, that same person who invokes never want to talk about who built the deck, who printed the cards, who dealt the cards, and who is really cheating in this card game they speak of. You can use this retort, by the way. Just remember where you got it from.