What’s the difference between a “racial joke” and racism?

“McCain dumps racial-joking campaigner” is the title of Mark Silva’s post yesterday on the Chicago Tribune’s Swamp politics blog.  Silva’s post cites an earlier post by Don Frederick of the Los Angeles Times on the subject, which is titled “John McCain backer dropped from Virginia campaign team due to racially tinged column.”

The story is that Bobby May, a McCain campaign organizer in Virginia, wrote a column in a Virginia newspaper that included:

Obama would hire the rapper Ludacris (a prominent supporter) to paint the White House black. And the….

…Democrat’s administration would divert more foreign aid to Africa so “the Obama family there can skim enough to allow them to free their goats and live the American Dream.”

May also joked that Obama would replace the 50 stars on the U.S. flag “with a star and crescent logo,” an Islamic symbol, and that his policy on drugs would be to “raise taxes to pay for Obama’s inner-city political base.”

What motivates some journalists to call overt racism like this “racially tinged” or “racial jokes”? Why not just call it racist?

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