The Race Card

racecard.jpg Image: Mollena, with the Race Card she created to respond to the annoying expression of the same name. "Every once in a while some fooligan will roll to you talkin' some trash about how you discussing your racial background in a broader social context is a 'back-handed maneuver," she says. "They may even accuse you of 'playing the Race Card' because you mention that life is different for you because you are different. Next time that shit goes down, be prepared." (Incidentally, she's also Miss SF Leather 2009 / photo: Colm McCarthy.)



  1. Life is different for me because I’m different too. My only problem is that it’s hard for me to print small enough to get all the differences on one itty bitty card!

  2. Dear (Blacks/Women/Native Americans/Hindus/Snuffalufagus), I won’t pretend to completely understand your struggles if you don’t pretend to completely understand mine… or insist on thinking I don’t have any unique to my race, creed and background. Fine, we good? All right, then I’ll admit that you are a reasonable insightful person who can at least partially understand my unique problems and you can admit the same, and we can find some common ground and finally go after the jerks who use race as a wedge issue anyway. Oh, and watch Bulworth.

  3. I would have thought the “Miss SF Leather” card would pretty much preclude any need to play the race card ever.

  4. With that one eyebrow raised like that, I would imagine that most smart people would take ‘race’ as an imperative verb.

  5. Also, a Zathura “Fleet Admiral”card totally trumps the race card. Unless you’re in the Crab Nebula.

  6. And she’s also the author of the forthcoming book “The Toybag Guide to Playing With Taboo,” coming soon from Greenery Press!

  7. The card is interesting – and annoying – The ‘race card’ is used so much – I imagine I’m bothered by it more because of where I live, Memphis-TN, where race is more probably of a problem than in most of the US.

  8. my most memorable experience with the “identity card” tactic came about 15 years during a fairly vigorous discussion with an african-american woman about some film that portrayed the lives of various victorian era english women. as the going got difficult, she turned to me and simply said “what could you possibly understand about the lives of victorian era english women?”.

    i am an english (by birth) male; she was an american female; both of us lived solely (at that time) in the 20th century. the idea that either of us had a more priviledged position to interpret the stories of those women’s lives was absurd. i was so disgusted by this maneuver that i just walked off.

  9. Black woman uses humor to defuse racist talking point: white folk whine about it. Film at eleven, only here on Fox.

  10. Amen, sister. I am surprised how many times the race card has been pulled FOR me, by those not having any of their own. Its like my husband says, “stop yelling at me”, to which I respond, “why is it every time I tell you something you don’t want to hear you say I’m yelling?”.

    Or the gay neighbor asking me why African Americans choose to be called African American when they are not African.

    Anybody who accuses POC that they are pulling the race card, to us, they themselves are merely pulling the idiot card, that is called projection.

    Meaning, the race card is a cultural phenomenon of post colonial caucasiana, created by said, to skirt issues they will neither acknowledge exists, or if they do, they personally are not capable of it (it being racism), as evidenced by the fact that, “Hey man, I voted for Obama!” (this actually uttered to me in response to calling someone out on their entitlement behavior).

    Don’t bother with blustering responses, it would be pointless and sad.

  11. I think the thing to remember when about strangers is we don’t know their stories. Along primalchaos’s line of thinking: we don’t know what challenges people have and haven’t faced. We don’t know how they have and haven’t met those challenges. And it’s better not to pretend to know.

    Now as for the ‘race card.’ I grew up a white kid in a town with few black men or women. My parents and teachers were pretty good: I didn’t have any negative impressions of black Americans whatsoever. My brand of racism, which I didn’t uncover until well into my 20s, was the racism of ignorance. I really was ‘colorblind': until then. I had no concept that the American experience was at all different for blacks and whites. I didn’t realize one could talk about ‘black culture’ as distinct from ‘white culture’ (after all, in town with one black family, there is no such distinction). We read about such things in history books but I didn’t get it. In my mind I was thinking ‘getting picked on for wearing glasses’ or ‘not getting chosen for pickup basketball games because I was short’ level of discrimination. I really didn’t think black people had it much different. (Sure, I had since picked up on some cultural things: my black neighbors seemed friendlier and had much cooler churches than my white neighbors).

    So, sometimes the ‘race card’ really does need to be played. And I love this woman’s satire of the overuse of that term.

    I still think the term still has a place, though: court cases and political races. I think you’d be hard pressed to claim that people in the business of manipulating others (lawyers, politicians) don’t sometimes invoke white guilt or black pride for their own selfish ends. I just think there should be similar terms for similar tactics. Playing the ‘Jesus Card’ for insincere references to the Bible, or the ‘Terror Card’ for hyperbolic references to terrorism, or the ‘end of the world card’ for exaggerating environmental problems. If we started labeling and trivializing these sorts of emotional debate tactics I think we’d be a lot better off.

  12. I’m just confused by this in general, especially after going to her website. The perverted negress? Check out Feb. 2010 in the archives if you want to see her boobs.

  13. Maybe I don’t get what ‘playing the race card’ is – I’m thinking, “black person accused of committing a crime says that he didn’t break any laws and it’s actually a racist plot against him.” -is that not playing the race card?

    Maybe I should read the article. rtfa

    1. Maybe I don’t get what ‘playing the race card’ is – I’m thinking, “black person accused of committing a crime says that he didn’t break any laws and it’s actually a racist plot against him.” -is that not playing the race card?

      I think that is playing the race card, absolutely. Accusing someone of being a racist when their racism is in doubt or irrelevant is a dirty trick.

      I think Mollena’s point is that sometimes when people try to point out legitimate, substantiated racism they get accused of doing the above, which is also a dirty trick. She’s tired of being told she is ‘playing the race card’ when she’s raising legitimate concerns, so she is being humorous about.

      Now that I sucked all the fun out of that….

  14. Yeah, I have to ask, did 30 Rock steal this from her? Or she steal it from 30 Rock? Because that does cut straight to the heart of how clever it really is.

  15. I used to have a friend that carried around cards that simply said:


    …In smallish print. Dead center on a plane white card.

  16. there was an african-american performance artist in the 60’s 70’s who did this as well… handed out little cards when someone was being racially insensitive. her name escapes me.

  17. The ‘race card’ debate in this discussion is from a VERY American perspective. Please note this debate would be different in other countries- based on clearer tools such as identity, access to opportunity

    I see two things in this posting. A black woman holding a card that says ‘race’. Second, add ‘American’ and the narrative is stereotypically self-fulfilling.

    Tip: Try a different perspective like gender and development studies. It includes most of the perspectives that are being used to circle around the issue of this posting, albeit with better tools, which can provide much clearer answers.

    A simple definition, like the card in the pic, does not do the woman pictured justice. However, to ACTUALLY EXPLAIN the word, not just in anger or stance, the text would need to be written in size 7 font.

    Using a picture to explain race is like the US Founding Fathers writing the Declaration of Independence on Twitter.

    Mollena, I hope you can do better then that.

  18. “Black woman uses humor to defuse racist talking point: white folk whine about it. Film at eleven, only here on Fox.”

    For various definitions of ‘humor,’ ‘racist,’ and ‘white folk.’

    I’ll leave ‘Fox’ as an exercise for the reader.

  19. Mollena approaches this with grace and humor, and she gets responses like “Try a different perspective like gender and development studies.” Proving her point exactly.

    1. @ AJ, “Mollena approaches this with grace and humor”

      But ‘this’ is a Huge and complex problem. Her anti ‘Race Card’ card is funny but it over simplifies the problem and concentrates on only one part of the huge problem that racism is.
      hopefully you get what I mean – I don’t mean it in any kind of mean spirited way – it’s kind of a touchy subject

  20. Xeni doesn’t know what a “star bellied sneetch” is… It’s remedial Dr Seuss time!

    In “The Sneetches”, we find a world where the inhabitants consist of two types of birds… those with stars on their bellies and those without. The star bellied sneetches live a privileged life, while those without stars are outcasts. A fast talking salesman, Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes along with a machine that converts sneetches without stars into ones with stars. The no star sneetches line up to pay to be run through the machine. When the star bellied sneetches see what is going on, they are horrified. Sylvester McMonkey McBean shows them a machine for removing stars and tells them that’s how they can be special again. They line up to pay to have their stars removed. Now the no star sneetches are privileged… but Sylvester McMonkey McBean keeps raking in the money and his machines keep churning through the sneetches until they are all mixed up, and broke- unable to pay to be converted any more. The sneetches no longer know which is which, and they come to the realization that surface differences don’t matter. This realization allows them to live peacefully ever after in equality and fairness.

    The end.

  21. I think the overuse of the term “race card” is only for those who watch too much television. I don’t experience the term much in real life. it’s one of those words like “sea change” and “thinking outside the box” that make me scratch my head and wonder where the hell it came from every time I hear it.

  22. This is an informative, well written post which lays out my perspective. Insert anecdote here. I also include in this post my ethnic background, gender, and sexual orientation. Did I mention I voted for a candidate? That last was a rhetorical question. Now for a paragraph break.

    In this paragraph I get to the meat of my argument. I point out my view in the race card issue and make a few salient points. This sentence is a humorous jab at those who posted above me. Pause again for a paragraph break to emphasize my parting shot.

    I leave off my post confident that my remarks are absolutely sensible and obvious.

    1. JohnCJ #42 –
      And, do you have a comment to contribute in terms of the substance of the posting about race? I would appreciate your views.

  23. This woman is from my neck of the woods so I’m inclined to say ‘Right on!':

    A card that says Race

    Waved in the face

    Beats a can of Mace

    Everytime. . .

  24. Some times I have dreams where I wake up as a person and nothing more..
    Inevitably the smoke blows away and the mirrors crack, and I awake from the near bliss not being anything.

    on a less somber note, I wonder if I should make a card that says “Ginger” with “Yes I have no soul.” on the back.

  25. I’m disappointed at the lack of care that went into making the card. Round the card’s edges, put some hearts or diamonds on it and perhaps a pseudo-royal figure (like Jack) on it.

  26. When I saw ‘back-handed maneuver’ I immediately read ‘BLACK-handed maneuver. Missed opportunity perhaps?

  27. My kds wr brght p rnd lght sknnd nd drk sknnd ppl. Thy knw nthng f rcsm ntl n ldr drk sknnd by shwd t t thm. Nw thy thnk drk sknnd ppl tlk wrd, swr, lstn t BD msc nd smk drgs. Cngrts; y’v nw sgrgtd yrslvs yt gn. Tryng t rs nn rcst kds n swr flld Rp, BT TV nd ppl cllng ch thr nggr (whn w cn’t) wrld s dmn nr mpssbl. T mny frcn mrcns drv hg wdgs btwn thmslvs nd wht ppl nd thn whn bt th gp. Wk p nd smll th rvrs rcsm.

    1. So your kids assumed all dark skinned people did those things after meeting one dark skinned guy?

      Methinks they didn’t start off so unbiased as you claim. The rest of your post sure as hell speaks of a racist individual on the defensive.

      Thanks for playing.

    2. Chalk up another one for the “blame hip-hop” crowd. What a depressing stupid way to justify racist feelings.

    3. They knew nothing of racism until an older dark skinned boy showed it to them.

      I imagine that most of the time when you try to express these ideas, you get viciously attacked and denounced. That’s because the ideas you’re expressing are very offensive. But I also imagine that the offense is not intended, but just the result of being oblivious to the nature of racism in the US.

      Check it out: we live in a racist society. Maybe you’re Buddha himself and you love everyone equally no matter what, but that doesn’t change the fact that you live in a society that has an omnipresent undercurrent of racism. The idea that your kids could remain blissfully unaware of racism – that you could raise some utopian next generation that was “colorblind” – is incredibly naive.

      You imply that were it not for this racist black kid telling your children that there are differences between white and black people, race wouldn’t exist for them. This is incredibly unlikely. But even if it were true, racism exists whether one is aware of it or not. There /are/ differences between white and black people, because society treats people of different races differently. Your kids, being white, have a very different life experience because of their skin color, whether they know about race or not. Black people are denied work, denied housing, targeted by police, and any other number of injustices, simply because they’re black – because of their race. Remaining ignorant of those racial differences is simply being ignorant of the suffering of others – not a virtue in my book.

      Another thing to consider is that being “colorblind” itself is a privilege which you and your kids have available, but most black people in the US don’t. You are rarely, if ever, seriously inconvenienced or abused on the basis of your race. Your skin color is rarely something you need to consider in your daily life and social interactions. This is often not the case for people of color. They are aware of race because race influences their life constantly – it’s an inescapable part of their identity. Therefore, I think you can see how your implied statement that it’s black people’s fault that racism continues to exist would be considered pretty outrageous.

      The solution to racism is not to stop talking about race and pretend it doesn’t exist. That’s the solution to white people feeling bad about racism, and I don’t think that’s what needs solving. Acknowledging the systemic nature of racism, and the fact that we all play a role in maintaining a racist society (and that as white people, we all benefit from that racism) is the first step to actually changing that society.

      1. Well, now I’m a dreadfully curious heterosexual white male. I am aware that racism exists in this country, and that black people are harassed by police, denied housing and work, et cetera based on their race. I’m a little hazy on what constitutes an “unintentionally racist” comment, so we’ll just leave that for the time being — who knows, I may be making them all the time.

        My question is: now what? How is this knowledge supposed to inform my day-to-day life? What should I be doing differently? Should I change the way that I interact with black people? They say that knowing is half the battle but, honestly, I’d put it more at about 10%. What’s the other 90% of fixing the problem?

        I guess I’m just unclear on the takeaway from the original article, and from these comments. What is the race card supposed to accomplish, besides being funny? Is it part of some solution to the race problem? If not, what is the solution? Is there a solution? Hell, I’m still unclear on what exactly the problem is. Maybe that means I’m a racist.

  28. I always imagined the race card to be a playing-card, maybe a whole new suite of cards, like hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs and race. So playing the race card would mean putting the Ace of Race on the table, which beats everything else, naturally.

  29. Being able to produce a physical iteration of the card when accused metaphorically of playing it… priceless

    …For everything else, there’s Chaos Confetti!

    #37, The tagline at the bottom of my screen reads
    “Boing Boing: For sneetches with stars upon thars “

  30. To put this blog post in context:

    I’ve run across Molena’s blog before. She is a very vocal practitioner of a form of BDSM called “race play”, where racial bigotry is roleplayed as part of a BDSM scene. It’s only roleplay, so it’s not immoral. I’m not judging her at all. This context is important to understand where she’s coming from, though. Raceplay is considered extreme and very controversial among many minority groups. Even mild pop star interracial BDSM themes create controversy among African American activists. Mollena takes this to the extreme, roleplaying plantation owners and slaves, for example (although roleplaying Jews and Nazis or Cowboys and Indians is also within the pureview of raceplay).

  31. The ignorance of some of these comments is astounding, but not very surprising.

    I live in Utah, a state not known for its ethnic or cultural diversity. Hardly a day goes by in which I don’t hear a racist or sexist comment. Unfortunately, the comments come from people who are generally well-meaning and don’t even think that they’re being racist, so when you point it out to them they are quite offended and bothered by the interjection.

    I’ve noticed that a lot of people, especially people in an insular society like many in Utah, believe that issues of race and gender no longer exist. They honestly believe that the civil rights movement solved it all. But they have no view into the actual problems that still exist.

    I’ll always be grateful for the “pushy” woman at one of my first jobs post-college, who never let anyone get off easy with a racist or sexist comment. Few people liked her; they thought she was overbearing and bossy, trying to create problems when there weren’t any. But she taught me a lot about my own perceptions and statements, and most of all she taught me that being condescending is not the same as being respectful.

    Yes, if you are born a Caucasian male you may feel it’s unfair that you get picked on for your attitudes and way of speaking. You may feel that it’s annoying the way people “go on” about race issues in this modern society, how it’s not your fault you descended from asshole slave-owners, etc etc etc. Well I guess that’s tough shit, because until every racist attitude and thought is stamped out for good, there will always be a need for the “race card.”

  32. if racism is;
    proceeding/operating in accordance w/ founded,(say; statistically), or unfounded, (say, anecdotal),
    prejudiced/preconceived notions
    of how someone will behave,
    or what behavior can be expected from them,
    based on the color of their skin,
    then i would have to say that i don’t think i’ve ever met ANYone of ANY color who isn’t a racist
    …such are the circumstances that prevail
    …if my definition of racism is wrong i’m sure someone will rush to correct me

  33. When did “racist” become the only word in our vocabulary on this subject? What ever happened to biased, prejudiced, and so on? Racist is a word like nazi: it has an extremist meaning that applies far less than it is used.

  34. I’ve never actually heard anyone play the race card in real life. I’ve never even heard anyone utter the phrase “race card” outside of a few movies.

    Does it actually happen?

    1. Yes, it happens. An example:

      My brother-in-law worked with a hispanic fellow who was fired. He immediately sued the company claiming that he was fired for racist reasons, citing numerous occasions when his coworkers jokingly called him ‘spic’ or ‘wetback.’ According to my brother-in-law, he played the race card, because those jokes were encouraged by him.

      I don’t know what really happened, but the fact is that a minority person sued a company for racial discrimination and several employees of that company accused him of playing the race card.

  35. I hear a genuinely racist comment maybe a handful of times a year.

    That’s the problem, right there. Everyone knows what the genuinely racist comments sound like. We’re not talking about that kind of racism. It’s the subtle, well-meaning but ultimately prejudicial comments that need to be dragged into the light.

    Phrases like (these are all comments I’ve heard recently):

    “That was good movie, I had no idea Those People could be so entertaining.”

    “They’re all here illegally”

    “Some of Those People moved into our neighborhood, how should we approach them?”

    “Why do they all have to give their kids names like that?”

    You’re sitting here reinforcing stereotypes about an “insular” state culture that simply aren’t true. Either you’re overly sensitive or you’re full of it.

    Maybe I’m full of it. Let’s try some stats (got these from Wikipedia):

    The majority of Utahns are of Northern European descent, aka WHITE. The predominant religion is Mormon, at 48 percent. Since 1968, the Utah Electorate has voted exclusively Republican in presidential elections.

    So what we have in Utah is a white-dominated state, with a massive majority in a single religion (Mormon) with a history of racist policies. YES, those policies are no more, but as a culture the majority of Mormons that I interact with still believe that there is a religious precedent for believing that black people are inferior.

    If you’ve lived here your whole life I doubt that you’d be qualified to make a judgement about whether or not the society in which you were raised is insulated or not. Where’s your frame of reference? I was born in Utah, but my dad was in military and I moved all over the country as a result. When I moved back to Utah as an adult I was shocked at the kinds of ideas and behavior my neighbors espoused.

    Am I overly-sensitive? Perhaps, but I think that’s a good thing in this case. The only thing worse than hate is indifference. If we act like these sorts of things are “no big deal” we’re contributing to an ideological and racial divide that will become unbearable.

    I would also argue, as a general rule, whenever someone become defense or accusatory in a conversation about race, chances are very good that that person is still holding on to some racist beliefs.

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