The Adams Controversy Highlights The Growing Trivialization Of Racism Charges

         Many viewers were surprised last week when, in the middle of a pandemic briefing, PBS reporter correspondent Yamiche Alcindor asked Jerome Adams to respond to claims that he recently made racist comments.  Rep. Maxine Waters declared “Donald Trump has found a new vessel by which to spew his racist dog whistles.” For those of us in academia, it was neither a surprising nor unique moment.  On campuses across the country, it is now routine for statements found objectionable to be labeled as racist or part of the ambiguous category of “microaggressions.”  Indeed, labeling people racists is now a common form of political criticism. It is often a conversation and career stopper for the accused.  Few people want to defend someone accused of being a racist, only to be accused themselves. 

The greatest problem with this trend in our political discourse is that it diminishes actual racism and the ability to call out real cases.  There is real racism that must be addressed in our society. However, if everything is racist, nothing will eventually be viewed as racist or racism will cease to be a term of significance. 

 Adams, the nation’s first black Surgeon General, has been speaking directly to “my community” as someone who represents the “legacy of growing up poor and black in America.” At the press conference on pandemic responses, Alcindor asked Adams to address all those “offended” by the fact that he “said that African Americans and Latinos should avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. You also said do it for your abuela, do it for Big Mama and Pop-Pop.” Adams responded and explained that he was using “the language that we use and that I use.”

Many declared that the advice to curtail alcohol and drugs was a racist stereotype of minority communities. Yet those comments are similar to comments made in the past by Democratic and liberal figures. Moreover, Adams has given the same advice to other communities.  However, Adams was appointed by President Donald Trump and soon people were online saying how deeply offended they are over the inherent racism in his warnings or his use of nicknames for parents and grandparents.  One commentator portrayed Adams as not really part of that community: “The Surgeon General is trying to relate to a life he never lived, listen to his voice and they way he speaks.” 

Imagine if a Trump official assumed the background of an African-American reporter based on how she spoke.  Adams achieved great distinction in his life, particularly as someone who was raised on a farm in Maryland and made it through school on scholarships.  Yet, activist Blaine Hardaway declared “Trump sent the only black guy on his team out to chastise black and Latino people for smoking and drinking, as if that’s the reason our communities are predisposed to this virus. Just disgusting.”

Adams could have spared the effort.  These attacks are meant to indelibly mark someone, not elicit a response. Critics know that they can isolate people by labeling their views as racist. 

The trend has continued unabated with the pandemic.  For example, there is a raging debate over the concealment of the origin, early spread, and lethality of the virus in China. However, the Council of Chief Diversity Officers at the University of California has issued a “guidance document” to tell students to stop others from referring to the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus.” Michigan State University warned students that use of anything other than coronavirus is unacceptable as part of a warning on hate speech pledge circulated around the school. Some university officials told students to report students using the term as “racist.” 

For the record, I wrote early that I would not use the term Chinese virus rather than the official name. However, I did not reject it because it is an inherently racist term – any more than the use of the Spanish Flu, Zika, or Ebola.  Indeed, it was the term used by many scientists in the early stages and even liberals. HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher noted correctly “Scientists, who are generally pretty liberal, have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time.”  

Yet, racism is a useful label to use when you are attacking free speech or academic freedom.  Many writers seeking to punish or silence others for opposing views have dismissed free speech arguments. While some writings can legitimately be challenged over racial concerns, there remains protections for unpopular and even offensive views. Yet, academics accused of espousing racially insensitive views are targeted for termination as “bad scholars” for holding such views. For example, Joe Patrice, who writes for Above the Law, called for the firing of Law Professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander because he disagreed with an oped column on how social ills have followed the breakdown of what they call “bourgeois values” of the 1940s and 1950s like strong families, patriotism, and altruism.  They prefaced their analysis by noting that those values also came with racist, anti-Semitic, and other problems. Various Democratic politicians, including President Barack Obama, have criticized the decline of the family and similar values.  I actually disagree with key points of the column and others have raised questions over racial implications of some of the writings by University of Pennsylvania Professor Amy Wax. Those criticisms relate primarily to other writings of Wax, but this piece did declare that “all cultures are not equal.” However, rather than simply disagree with the merits of this column, Patrice told readers to ignore their express criticism of racism in the column and instead focus on “racially coded language” showing an affinity for “white superiority.” Again there is a good-faith debate to have over other writings by Wax involving racial stereotyping or insensitivity. Yet, even if one believes that Wax is using such coded language or advancing such views, most of us still value free speech and academic freedom as a protection and not willing to fire academics because critics accuse them of “belching out so … lies and half-truths.” 

Even airing a defense by accused individuals is now viewed as facilitating racism. Patrice also aired an approving interview with The Nation’s Elie Mystal where Mystal attacked high school student Nick Sandmann in a controversy before the Lincoln Memorial with a Native American activist. The incident was widely misrepresented and Sandman received settlements from CNN and corrections to the early coverage.  However, Patrice agreed with Mystal’s objections to Sandmann wearing his “racist [MAGA] hat” and  the media airing interviews of Sandmann so this “17-year-old kid makes the George Zimmerman defense for why he was allowed to deny access to a person of color.” It is that easy. You falsely accuse a 17-year-old kid of being a vehement racist and then object to people interviewing him to hear his defense. 

The opportunistic use of this label results in tit-for-tat accusations. Trump called Bloomberg a racist for his stop-and-frisk policy despite Trump’s support for the policy. Joe Biden has also been accused of being a racist. Even deregulation by Democrats have been framed as a racist as opposed to an ill-conceived ideal. When Pete Buttigieg referred to his ties to the “American heartland,” former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien called him out for using racist “dog whistles.”

Once you start to treat opposing views or practices as presumptively racist, everything you dislike become vehicles of racism. meritocracy, Western literature, earthquake warnings, and the “white-nuclear family” have all been denounced as advancing racism. Even food controversies can be converted into racist moments today.  Patrice recently accused me of “delightfully passive racism” because I did not know what chicken tikka masala is.  Uber put out a list of the top orders during the pandemic by state.  The list was a surprising contrast of top ordered dishes from the mundane French fries (Arizona, Florida, Illinois) to the highly specific like Garlic Naan in Minnesota. Some seemed a bit exotic to be the most common dish ordered in a given state. I decided to share on Twitter as a light distraction from the grind of pandemic disaster stories: “The most popular uber eats orders in Oklahoma is spicy tuna roll and in both Missouri and Wisconsin crag Rangoon? California is chicken tikka masala? I don’t even know what that is beyond the chicken. If true, we have an outbreak of the panpompous.”

That is all it took: racism and what Patrice calls “performative white nationalism.” I did not know what chicken tikka masala was and that made me the Bull Connor of the culinary arts. (In reality, as my exasperated wife and kids pointed out, I have had the dish and, while it is not one of my favorite Indian dishes, it is widely known by others). It was not enough to be clueless, however, I had to be racist. Of course, Patrice tellingly did not label the failure to remember the dish as racist until after he ridiculed my testimony in the Clinton and Trump impeachments hearings.

There is no label quite as effective as racist. It is a claim that can never be conclusively rebutted so you simply dismiss any attempt as “performative white nationalism.” In the meantime, real racism is obscured by a wall of trivialized accusations. There continue to be acts that discriminate being people based on race and legitimate concerns over arguments that advance different treatment based on race and other immutable characteristics. It is important to have that discussion as a country. Those arbitrarily throwing around racism labels for political advantage only serves to give cover for real racism that continues to plague our country.

Perhaps everyone with opposing views is a racist.  Or, alternatively, a MAGA hat could be just a hat and chicken tikka masala could be a delicious, but sometimes forgotten, marinated chicken dish.

219 thoughts on “The Adams Controversy Highlights The Growing Trivialization Of Racism Charges”

  1. It should raise a red flag whenever someone makes a false accusation of racism (or any other slur) in order to shut you up. It typically denotes an inability to address facts.

    Here is the insanity presented:

    Accusations that black Jerome Adams isn’t black enough, or that he’s racist against blacks.
    Covid-19 has hit African-Americans hardest. We have to do something to combat this racist virus! The virus affects those in poor health the hardest, as well as those who don’t have the financial reserves to stay at home. African-Americans are, on average, in poorer health than the population as a whole. Adams’ enjoining African-Americans to eschew unhealthy habits is racist.

    This is just constant, convoluted, back and forth. It’s more like thrashing around than any sort of reason. And it’s all based on the premise that a black man is racist. Any structure based upon that foundation should be condemned.

    1. There is no way that the most common takeout order is chicken tikka masala. The state is 38% Latino. We are known for our Mexican, Central American, and South American cuisine.

      What I find interesting is the cultural anthropology of the food choices between different groups based on ethnicity and age. Which groups predominantly cook at home, and only go out for groceries. Which ones go through drive throughs for takeout, which use ordering services to deliver takeout.

      I’ll bet a lot of shut-ins don’t know how to cook beans, or that there are decent ones to be had outside of the desiccated fossilized specimens in dusty bags at the grocery store.

      God forbid the force that calls every activity racist condemn non European cooking methods as cultural appropriation. I am not giving up my Donabe, molcajete, or my machadora. In fact, it would be so stupid to pressure people to give up cooking methods as cultural appropriation during a pandemic that I’m surprised the Left hasn’t done so already.

    2. I concur, the attacks on Adams was unwarranted. He was speaking the truth. African Americans are at a higher risk. Poor diet, lack of exercise over indulging in food, alcohol etc. I can definitely state this because I’m a member of the culture. We have to stop enabling each other. We have to move forward by encouraging each other to make changes. I understand Waters despises Trump but don’t attack Adams. I wasn’t offended and she can’t speak for me. Instead of criticizing she should have cosigned.

  2. I’ve been accused of being a racist simply because of using the N word. But I I’ve hired colored people in my business before it failed and never had any issues one way or another. I even have a mexican friend. People need to chill out and realize racism isn’t what you say it’s what you do. I called a woman in my company the C word and she sued me. Sticks and stones people.

  3. I am white, I use Abuela and Abuelita sometimes to reference my ex-bf mom. She ain’t offended. Never even hinted at it. No big deal.

    This guy, he is black, and of his community. And someone try to say he can’t use those slang terms. Ima bout fall off my darn chair. 😉

    And even if he wasn’t, like me, he can use those very common non-racist slang terms whenever he wants.

    These folks these days have too much time on their hands to be a bunch of whiners and complainers.

  4. Since Paint Chips is having a meltdown and seems to have plenty of time on his hands I’ll provide him with a release and a video.I should probably do this everyday,

    “Today, Project Veritas is releasing a video with an update on the lawsuit filed by Democracy Partners.

    Guided by the First Amendment, a federal judge dismissed the “trespass” and “breach of fiduciary duty” counts that Democracy Partners brought against Project Veritas.
    Here are some of the other lawsuit highlights covered in the video:
    Democracy Partners was exposed by Project Veritas Action Fund for its role in directly promoting violence at Trump rallies in 2016 and they have been seeking revenge through weaponized litigation
    Project Veritas is confident that a trial on the remaining counts in the lawsuit will result in a Veritas victory; remaining counts include “Unlawful Interception of Oral Communications,” “Fraudulent Misrepresentation,” and “Civil Conspiracy”
    Project Veritas is undefeated in litigious attacks on its investigations”

      1. Young if you never went to Project Veritas go and get their videos as they come out or see the ones from the past. Project Veritas has done wonders in exposing ACORN, teacher abuse of children, corrupt news media, violence from the Democratic Party, etc. They drive Paint Chips crazy because they provide videos so people can decide for themselves

        1. I have been there but not in awhile. They are a great organization. They and Judicial Watch uncover more than the entire Congress at times.

          1. I agree with you. I have met the people from both organizations and they all have a lot of energy. Paint Chips hates Judicial Watch as well because they provide the public with actual documents that Paint Chips doesn’t want to know about.

            1. He and BTB do seem a bit batty. Waste of time to communicate with them. But, it is shelter at home time and there are moments to spare.

  5. Absurd x12 — Name one female composer from the 18th century from memory. How about the 19th century?


  6. Young previously stated that Congress determines what all Federal courts can hear.

    Article II, section 2 says:

    “The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;— to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;— to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;— to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;— to Controversies between two or more States;— [between a State and Citizens of another State;-]8 between citizens of different States;— between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States [and between a State, or the Citizens thereof;— and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.]9” says:

    “Generally, Congress determines the jurisdiction of the federal courts. In some cases, however — such as in the example of a dispute between two or more U.S. states — the Constitution grants the Supreme Court original jurisdiction, an authority that cannot be stripped by Congress.”

    Clearly Young was wrong and Congress does not determine what all courts hear.

  7. Too bad the surgeon general didn’t work for Obama, then he’d probably get much more favorable treatment.

  8. Professor Turley writes, “There is no label quite as effective as racist.”

    I have to disagree. It’s been misused and abused to the point where it’s basically meaningless.

    However, it does tell you something about the person invoking it. It tells you that person is most likely an indoctrinated Democrat (party of racial politics), that the person has the mental capacity of a crouton hence the sabotage of the conversation (so they don’t actually have to debate what you’re saying), and that the person really isn’t worth your time.

    In that regard, I suppose the term’s extremely effective.

  9. It is humorous how many times someone who didn’t buy into the conspiracy theory of the Russia Hoax was frequently called a Russian troll bot. Or responded to with mock Russian — Da, Da, and the like.

    But a discussion about the abhorrent behavior of a totalitarian regime, and the unnecessary pandemic that regime caused, and the xenophobic charges come flying out of the woodwork.


    April 13, 2020

    World Ends…Women and minorities hit hardest!

  11. I’m not a real doctor but I play one in Washington, D.C. Dr. Jerome Adams, witch kind of doctor is he? Oh, an anesthesiologist – a pain doctor. Isn’t that discipline that was providing healthcare for Michael Jackson, Prince, Tom Petty et al.?

    But I digress. Dr. Jerome Adams was absolutely correct when he said, “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country.” The “Wuhan Flu” is the 2020 equivalent of those vicious, surprise attacks. America was Sucker Punched by Chinese and American communists. During the American 2020 election campaign, China, in conjunction with its communist allies in America, conducted the preemptive, germ warfare “first strike” of World War III by launching the “Wuhan Flu.” Was this merely a coincidence? Is plausible deniability ever plausible?

    The upside is that Americans may consider all the aspects and ramifications of this attack throughout the final six months of the 2020 presidential election, right? Can you say, “There are no coincidences?” Can you say “democrat dirty tricks?” Can you say “Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.”

    “Trump’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”

    – Lisa Page to FBI paramour Peter Strzok

    “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,”

    – Peter Strzok to FBI paramour Lisa Page

    “POTUS wants to know everything we’re doing.”

    – Lisa Page to FBI paramour Peter Strzok

    The “resistance” launches its salvos as the fake Steele “dossier,” Stormy Daniels, Russian collusion, Special Counsel Mueller, Merrick Garland/Neil Gorsuch, Christine Ballsey Ford, Micheal Cohen, Michael Avenati, Ukraine phone call, Schiff/Pelosi impeachment, Wuhan Flu…to be continued.

    No matter witch type doctor Jerome Adams is, he is correct about the Pearl Harbor, 9/11, “Fake” and Wuhan Flu type attacks on America and President Trump. They continue without pause, increasing in force and intensity.

  12. Turley Is Mistaken!

    Adams Is ‘Not’ The First Black Surgeon General

    Turley makes this erroneous reference early in the column: “Adams, the nation’s first black Surgeon General..”

    Turley forgets that Bill Clinton’s first Surgeon General was Black woman Joycelyn Elders (August 1993 – December 1994).  Elders, a career navy professional, became a lighting rod to conservatives as a result of her frank comments on abortion.  Absurdly Clinton asked Elders to resign after she allowed that masterbation is part of human sexuality; a comment that drove conservatives ballistic.

    1. frank comments on abortion

      That’s a rather anodyne way of putting it. The woman was a grotesque clown.

    2. career navy professional,

      She was a discretionary appointment in Washington and Little Rock recruited from the University of Arkansas Medical Campus. Ranks in the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service are courtesy titles. She was actually a pediatrician.

      1. Absurd, thanks for the correction. I looked again at Wikipedia and saw this: “After working as a nurse’s aide in a Veterans Administration hospital in Milwaukee for a period, she joined the United States Army in May 1953. During her 3 years in the Army, she was trained as a physical therapist”.

        So while Elders wasn’t in the Navy, she did 3 years in the Army after working at a Veterans Hospital.

        1. By your standard, about 80% of the male population born in 1922 and about 65% of those born in 1932 qualify as ‘career [insert service]’.

          Interesting how this foul woman was able to build a career as a pediatrician and medical school instructor. I’ve never met a doctor like her.

    3. Seth, regarding your remark that doctors don’t have time to post during the health emergency, you are mistaken. It depends on what field of medicine they are in. I know several who are on furlough right now and are staying home with limited social contact or who are working part time. Some older doctors who are at greater risk are stepping back from patient care.

      That doesn’t mean I think Estovir is a doctor. I don’t know what Estovir is and don’t particularly care.

      1. Young, you dont ‘Care’ what Crazed Idiot says, but you want to echo his assertions. Sure, that makes sense.

          1. Young, you keep talking about doctors. But you’re a lawyer, right?

            1. Can’t be. He thinks the Congress tells federal courts what they hear, not Article III, section 2 of the Constitution.

              1. Yeah, Book, Young ain’t no lawyer. His arguments on Friday and Saturday looked oddly weak for a lawyer. I think these threads have been hi-jacked by one crazy idiot.

                1. Peter – I didn’t know you were a lawyer. How would you know how weak the argument was?

              2. BTB– You had 3 lawyers try to explain the federal courts to you without success and then, finally, you were give a direct quote from page 2 of the manual put out by the administrator of the United States Court system confirming what you were told.

                I assumed by then you had finally gotten it. You hadn’t.

                Don’t trust me, ask Seth, he isn’t that stupid and I think he read it.

                1. Young, all I know is that you appeared out of the blue some time in the past 2 weeks. And now you’re everywhere, on these threads, except for those spots where Crazed Idiot is active. Somehow you manage to never cross paths with him. But again, you’re everywhere else and you’ve even made references to Crazed Idiot’s comments.

                  1. Peter – you are not now, nor have you ever been, the gate-keeper of this blog,

                    1. Paul C…….my pasties should arrive tomorrow, or Wednesday! I orderedtwo kinds: English cheddar/onion/potato, and apple caramel. Yum.

      2. Young,

        Estovir says and appears to be a doctor from reading his posts the past year. He presents as an observant Catholic conservative of Cuban ancestry. Likely I would guess he lives in Cuba or down south somewheres.

        Seth hates him because he believes Estovir is taunting him with homophobic slurs under other screen-names. And perhaps he is. Or perhaps that is someone else. One would not know without the IPs and anyhow IPs can all be circumvented with VPNs. So this is a lot of wasted effort speculatingh.

        I dont know him personally nor do I know you young but I discern different voices.

        Now sometimes I wonder Paulie & Elvis are the same poster, but, I don’t believe they are sockpuppets for book, either. This online stuff is sometimes and amusing guessing game.

        I don’t have any other sockpuppets here but occasionally i post a bland link under anonymous if Im too busy to sign my name.

        Anyhow, welcome Young please keep checking in I would like to see the core of regular posters here widen on both sides as i believe it will contribute to a richer conversation.

        1. Kurtz,

          Thanks for the update. I didn’t know Estovir or anyone else was taunting Seth with homophobic slurs.

          He reacts so badly it is probably fun for someone. Also, the strength of his denials, all that “real men wouldn’t . . . ” crap usually comes up when someone actually is gay and is fighting it or denying it to himself.

          I doubt ‘real men’ go around telling everyone what ‘real men’ do or don’t do. He seems to be obsessing about it. If he discovers he is gay all he has to do is go down the hill to West Hollywood and….

          Maybe thinks about it a lot. If he still wants ‘real men’ he can go to a leather bar.

          As an aside, one of our friends is a gay man who is a very caring physician who is now putting his life on the line treating patients in a clinic. We got a text from him the other day saying he had to tell three of his patients they were positive for COVID. Another physician friend, a married woman with two children, texted that three staffers in her clinic tested positive. We worry for both of them. Whether one is gay and the other not seems too trivial to care about when they are at grave risk taking care of others.

          President Trump is right; these people are heroes.

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