What to Make of These Viral Racist Rants?

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 5/26/2017, 6:51 a.m.
The cell phone videos show the underbelly of American society. Racist vitriol, mostly directly at Latinos, shared on social media.
People recording the rants "may feel like it's an injustice," another expert said

By Darran Simon

CNN

(CNN) -- The cell phone videos show the underbelly of American society. Racist vitriol, mostly directly at Latinos, shared on social media.

In an Arkansas Walmart, an unidentified shopper told a woman "go back to Mexico," and called another woman the N-word. At a Nevada airport, one man yelled profanities at another man speaking Spanish on the phone to his mother.

And in a Virginia Sprint store, a woman hurled a racist slur at a customer named Juan, saying: "This is my f*ing country."

Walmart said it would ask the customer to no longer shop at their stores. Sprint's CEO said he and colleagues were "disgusted" by the woman's actions.

We asked experts to weigh in on the racist rants and what may be fueling them. Here is what they said:

People feel emboldened

"It means that America is back where it was ... decades ago. That kind of thing went out of fashion with the Civil Rights movement; the Trump campaign brought it back into fashion," said the Rev. Joseph A. Darby, vice president of the Charleston, South Carolina, NAACP branch.

President Donald Trump "tapped into seething anger" that was already boiling in those who couldn't accept an African-American President, Darby said. Trump "legitimized bigotry by the way he campaigned."

"People who found their hope in him feel emboldened to say and do things that they wouldn't do before ... It leads to all kinds of foolishness that people have kept under wraps before because now they feel empowered because they think they have a President."

Darby said he believes some of the rants also stem from "fear on the part of some misguided, for the lack of a better word, ignorant people who believe they are losing their country, with their country being a white country."

He said: "They feel that they're going to lose the privilege of being white, and when you have fear, you do ugly things sometimes."

It's not new; it's cyclical

Teresa Carrillo said the rants illustrate an anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, which isn't new. The nation has experienced rants and derogatory language that created hostile environments for immigrants, including anti-immigrant campaigns that preceded deportations in the Depression-era, she said.

"It's cyclical. It goes along with the policies of the day and the ideology of the day," said Carrillo, a political scientist and professor with San Francisco State University's Department of Latina/Latino Studies.

But cell phones now bring it "into our consciousness in a much more emotional way," she said.

"There's one part of this that could move us forward as a society ... It's in our face now, and we can't deny that it's happening," Carrillo said.

She said: "People who are recording them may feel like it's an injustice, and that's why they are recording it -- and you can see some of the responses."

But she said while the rants are bothersome for people to witness, "it's kind of uncomfortable for people to talk about the ugly side of racism."