My friend calls Obama a monkey

What am I supposed to say to this dude? What's his problem?

Published May 23, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I have a friend that cannot speak about the president of the United States without using the word "monkey" or "chimpanzee."

There have been presidents I was not thrilled about, but certainly I would not stoop to this.

This individual is well-off, has a degree and is considerate about most other topics.

What the HELL is his problem?

Thanks Cary,


Dear Bewildered,

Your friend's problem is that he is a racist.

It's not nice to label people. A racist may be an excellent builder of miniature racing-car models. He may be a good whistler.

But he's still a racist. Being a racist is stupid and repugnant. What's worse, it can spread. It's each person's job to not be a racist.

He can stop being a racist. You can help. You can tell him that while he may have certain racist thoughts, he can stop being a racist by not voicing any of these thoughts ever under any circumstances.

Maybe that would lead to some positive personal change. Or maybe he would give you a hurt, bewildered look of confusion and self-pity that makes you want to punch him.

Don't punch him. That won't help.

Well, it might help a little. It might temporarily curb his outward expressions of racism. But I'm against hitting people even as a gift of enlightenment.

Just tell him that being a racist is not cool anywhere in the United States of America or in Europe or Asia or Africa or North America or South America or Australia or Antarctica. which pretty much means the whole world, all the continents, plus the open oceans and in outer space also. Racism is not cool even in outer space or on other planets. It's not cool, period. It's not cool anywhere, not in public or in private. It's one of those things that you just want to get rid of completely and be done with.

Tell your friend that the next time he says some kind of racist remark like that, that you're terminating all contact with him.

Now, everyone has a shadow self that embodies the repressed. We all have our share of unvoiced hatred and fear, irrational beliefs, strange, criminal impulses. Thoughts come into our heads that we must censor because to voice them would disturb others.

We may have sexual fantasies about our friends' wives or husbands, or their sisters or brothers or their children; we might have taboo curiosities. We may find ourselves imagining elaborate ways to connect physically that involve hydraulics, servo motors, pulleys and latex.

Some of us have so many of these thoughts that we move to San Francisco.

But let's not complicate the issue.

Also, there are rumored to exist tiny protected intellectual zones where people have advanced degrees in things you never heard of and special vocabularies come into use in a specialized context, where you can say things that have several layers and degrees of irony and are understood in sophisticated ways that you couldn't explain to your friend even if you understood them yourself, which you're not going to.

That's different.

There is also weird humor which unless you're Sarah Silverman, don't try that either. It's too advanced for you.

And don't get on your high horse and pretend there are degrees, that racism exists on a continuum. There are no degrees. There is no continuum.

Racism is bad. It's evil. Nobody should be voicing racist thoughts.

If your friend keeps it up, just totally, radically de-friend him. Become his special not-friend.

Be done with it. It's that simple.

By Cary Tennis

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