Maine GOP chair: “I play basketball every Sunday with a black guy”

Does he play “banker” with his Jewish friend too?

You’ll recall that earlier in the week we wrote about the chairman of the Republican party in Maine, Charlie Webster, who was very concerned about reports that “dozens” of black people were voting a week ago Tuesday (or as I call them, “binders full of black people”) Being a good Republican, Webster’s mind went to vote fraud. If he’d been a Democrat, he’d have thought “how nice, historically under-represented minorities are exercising their rights of citizenship.”

Webster is now sorry if any of it sounded racist.  And he’d like you to know about his black friend, who plays basketball:

“There’s nothing about me that would be discriminatory. I know black people. I play basketball every Sunday with a black guy. He’s a great friend of mine.

In all fairness, not that the party whose entire presidential campaign was built on a never-ending series of lies deserves our fairness, but I’ve never been a great fan of the “guilt by association with the ‘some of my best friends are” line.

In truth, having black friends does suggest that you’re probably not a total total racist.  The thing is, racism, or sexism, or anti-Semitism, or homophobia are all a lot more subtle than whether you have friends or not among any particular category.  You can have gay friends you play basketball with, but still be against gay marriage and think that gays would make bad parents (and I think each of those views is based on a kernel of prejudice, whether the holder of those beliefs realizes it or not).

So the “having friends” defense is hardly absolute.  But it’s also hardly the “gotcha!” people tend to make of it either, IMHO.  Having gay friends is a step towards understanding us, and appreciating us as real human beings.  Perhaps people recoil at the line because so many bigots use the defense as some kind of “get out of jail free” card, to prove that they’re not bad people.

Webster went on to explain why the appearance of “six or eight or ten” black people voting in Maine made him immediately think of voter fraud:

Six or Eight Black men, Dutch Christmas

Two of the traditional six or eight black men who accompany the Dutch version of Santa (via Shutterstock)

“I regret saying the word black because it wasn’t like I was singling out black,” Webster said. “The reason I said it, ‘cause I don’t know where you live, but where I come from in rural Maine, it’s a small percentage of the population. I think we’re the whitest state in the country. So if you go to the polls and see people who are black, it’s unusual. And when you see a lot of people who are black, like six or eight or ten people, you think, ‘Wow, where do they live?’ That was my point.”

Six or eight black people?  What a minute, I know this story:

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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