Were absurd accusations of racism or racist conspiracies ever really a semi-common occurrence?

There’s a standard comedy cliche of characters calling something (usually a statement or performance) racist because said thing contains either parts that are black or brown, parts that are white, or both. For example, one comic does a bit about his nutty uncle saying the marketing slogan “cuckoo for cocoa puffs” is really saying black people are crazy, and is part of a conspiracy to ‘keep the black man down’. Or this video clip from an episode of QI: https://youtu.be/BvTBsduaDQM

I seem to recall this trope being rather popular in the 80’s, though I think it was most common in the 70’s (which is a just before my time).

Were there ever portions of American society that actually saw conspiracies like this everywhere around them?

PC note: racism was, and still is (albeit, to a lesser extent) a real problem in America. The existence of a lunatic or radical fringe doesn’t detract the issue.

The term ‘racism’ is just a Trotsky/Bolshevik term that has become a bad word for a normal, evolutionary, adaptive tendency known as ethnocentrism… which is one’s innate preference for their own racial/ethnic in-group. This is completely self-evident, yet so very fashionable to deny (especially for whites).

To believe that racism is a “real problem” is indicative of a kind of self-flagellating, Western Christian ethic that is the origin of modern progressivism. Most self-proclaimed progressives are unaware of this however.

Sometimes it’s just plain cuckoo without the cocoa puffs.

Sometimes it’s a demonstration of poor education. The word “niggardly” for example, has no relation to any racist connotation, but still people who lack a depth of language education, and reaching for perceived insults, will claim it is an insult.

Cecil had a whole column IIRC on “Does squaw mean female genitalia?” (Short answer, no, but some women activists of the aboriginal persuasion seem to get off on claiming it does to demonstrate that sexism and racism have been alive and well through the ages)

In keeping with the aboriginal theme, a number of Canadian music festivals have banned the wearing of feathered headdresses recently as these are an insult to native people and their sacred traditions. This doesn’t explain why the head of the Assembly of First Nations gets to wear one, despite never having counted coup against an enemy in battle to earn the feathers… (I wonder how the Land’o’Lakes logo is faring?)

I suppose the same thing but in reverse, was the claim that one of the Teletubbies was gay.

Moderator Note

thoughtCrimes70, political commentary of this kind is not appropriate for General Questions. No warning issued, but don’t do this again.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Warfare is not the only way eagle feathers are granted, either today or historically.

So, the trope of seeing conspiracies everywhere* and in everything* of “the man” trying to suppress non-WASP culture are fiction or gross over-exaggeration, then?

Surely somebody here can remember the period of the 60’s-70’s that inspired this cliche? I know Cecil, at least, is old enough. I can’t believe there aren’t any of his contemporaries on here.

Note to mods: Please edit my original title if you can articulate this concept better.

I’m from that era. I think the general paranoia stemmed especially from Viet Nam and Watergate, which overlapped with the civil rights movement. Before then the inclination was to trust the government.

It wasn’t limited to racism, of course. But J. Edgar Hoover did target and try to smear civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King. The idea that there was a conspiracy to suppress blacks was not so outlandish when parts of the government were actually conspiring to suppress black leaders.

I had read that the first time confidence in the government was lost was the Francis Powers U-2 affair, when Eisenhower insisted that the US wasn’t flying spy missions over Russia.

The “Jim Crow” laws (haven’t seen reference to those in decades) were enforced by the government and police. There was no need to invent conspiracies - they were quite obvious.

Voting Rights have been a cat-and-mouse game since the Reconstruction - the White power elite did not appreciate blacks voting, and came up with several clever rules to say “Blacks Can’t Vote” without actually using those words.

It seems that now, 150+ years after the Emancipation Proclamation, white folks are learning that Driving While Black really is a thing.

But there will always be nutters who see and hear things no one else does.

The history of the USA since 1945 has been a slow but growing realization the the Government is NOT all Sweetness and Light.

The CIA was the offspring of the WWII OSS - my parents knew a bit about the OSS and thought it part of “The Good Guys”. The revelations of the 70’s as to some of the CIA’s less wholesome activities came as a genuine surprise.

Bush’s “Iraq WMD” campaign was a wake-up to a new generation or two.
1950’s “We do not overfly the USSR with spy planes” was nothing compared to the blood thirsty campaign against the Rosenbergs or Joe McCarthy’s Witch Hunts
1960’s: There are just a few hard-core Commies fighting us in Viet Nam. Light at end of tunnel.
1970’s: Watergate. We still refer to any scandal by the name “X-gate”.
1980’s: “Star Wars”, Bring back the Iowa-class battleships. Too many to capture. B-1 bomber.
1990’s: Whitewater. Anything to nail Clinton.

To be fair, the Rosenbergs *were *spies, despite the protestations of their children today. IIRC this is borne out by the Venona decryptions. Ethel apparently was just a low-level secretary for the others; the story I heard from an interview with a historian was that the government used her as leverage - “tell us about your spying activities or your wife gets executed too”. Julius called their bluff, chose the party over his wife.

The OSS - well, they got caught up in realpolitik. How many people realize that one of their biggest allies out east was one Ho Chi Minh, fighting the Japanese in Indochina? he expected to get his country liberated for his effort, instead the US gave it back to France, which forced him to look for help elsewhere.

As for Whitewater, etc. - I blame the internet. (No, seriously) That was not the government, it was the nattering nabobs of negativism gnawing away at the government. Modern media, originally cable and FM, and now exacerbated by the internet, has allowed various groups to find like minded dark souls. Instead of three networks and local radio, we have a myriad of talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, who can rise above local limitations and collect an audience from random places all over the country, to group and feed on their conspiracy paranoia over what the latest political opponent is doing underhandedly or illegally. (It’s probably fascinating fodder for someone’s dissertation why this is a predominantly right-wing phenomenon…)

Were there ever portions of American society that actually saw conspiracies like this everywhere around them?

You mean like there are today? There have always been people who see conspiracies of every type you can imagine. And there will always be people who point to the lunatic fringe and use them to deny the existence of real issues. Just because some people see racism where it doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist at all.

I was in inner city Philadelphia when the Gulf War started and there were small posters all around the city claiming it was a conspiracy to kill black people since black people made up a disproportionate share of the military.
You also heard conspiracy theories that the CIA created crack and shipped it to the inner city to kill black people. There was also the conspiracy that the CIA created AIDS to kill black people.
Popular products such as Tahitian Fantasy soda, Snapple, Kool cigarettes, and Church’s fried chicken have all been rumored to be part of a conspiracy to make black men impotent.
Many of these conspiracy theories seemed to originate in the Nation of Islam or its offshoots.

Doesn’t anyone remember one of the great conspiracy theories of the 1980s – AIDS was created by the CIA to wipe out African Americans, and gays were test subjects.

Let’s move this over to Great Debates.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator