It came out on Facebook this week, at the website Addicting Information, that a Republican, Rusty DePass, replied to a post made on Facebook in 2009 by someone named Trey Walker. Walker's post was, "Just heard there is a gorilla loose at Riverbanks Zoo. Staff and visitors hiding. Full lockdown. Wow." Rusty Depass, a GOP activist and former chairman of the state elections commission in South Carolina, replied to the post, "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors--probably harmless."
DePass, however, apologized a few days later, once bloggers had exposed his racist remark to the rest of the world, by saying, "I'm as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest." This statement was followed by still another nopology by DePass: "The comment was hers, not mine," and DePass went on to give himself a pass by explaining that Michelle Obama had recently made remarks that humans were descended from apes, though the New York Daily News at the time could find no confirmation that Ms. Obama had recently made any such statement.
DePass's statement is a "nopology," which is when a Republican makes an extremely racist and offensive remark in public or online and then, once his or her gaffe has been made public, nopologizes, with qualifications, for the offensive statement. Another example occurred just a couple of weeks ago, when an even more prominent Republican, Haley Barbour (who has even eyed the presidency in the past), said of President Obama's polices, "There is no one who will run for president who will endorse Obama's issues, because Obama's issues are 'tar babies.'" Is it possible that a man who has spent nearly his whole life in Mississippi, and is former governor and a graduate of the University of Mississippi, would have no idea, when he used this racist term, what its connotations were? Barbour later nopologized for the use of the term "tar baby": "The Oxford American Dictionary defines the term as 'a difficult problem, that's only aggravated by attempts to solve it.' This is exactly what I meant and the context in which I used the term."
Since President Obama was elected president in 2008, these kinds of incidents--on social media, in front of live audiences--have occurred with numbing regularity. When such incidents occur, my Republican friends hasten to assure me, time and time again, "No, no. The Republican Party is not racist. We just disagree with his [Obama's] policies." But I'm left wondering two things, after these blatant examples of nopologies from prominent Republicans) 1) Had the remarks not been made public, would the two men who made these obviously racist remarks have nopologized? And 2) What part of the Republican brain--or, more broadly, what part of the Republican attitude toward race and ethnicity--do these comments come from? I can't really answer that second one, and I know the GOP has been struggling with this ever since, and even well before, President's Obama's re-election in 2012.
As for what part of the brain in Republicans these remarks come from, I'm guessing that they are a matter of impulse control, which originates in that part of our primitive, reptilian brain called the amygdala, a part of the brain in charge of impulse control that is often revelatory of how someone really feels about an issue (or an ethnic group). But let me here nopologize: I'm not calling Republicans who make racist remarks like this "snakes." No. Not me. I would never say that.
They just have a problem with impulse control.