Jesse James, Sandra Bullock, and Public Discussions of Racism

by Latoya Peterson

So, I have been trying to motivate myself to write about the Jesse James – Sandra Bullock saga, but I am just not feeling it.

For those new to the situation, Jesse James is the proprietor of West Coast Choppers, a television personality, and the husband of Sandra Bullock. Fresh off her Oscar win for The Blind Side (yes, this is one big racial cosmic joke), Bullock found out through the tabloids that Jesse James was pulling a Tiger Woods, with mistresses coming out of the woodwork. The twist? Michelle McGee, one of said mistresses (who claims she isn’t racist, which is de rigeur in these situations), is at the very least Nazi tolerant.

Michelle McGee Nazi Pose

According to Gawker:

Michelle ‘Bombshell’ McGee denies being a white supremacist: Her sexy Nazi photo shoot was for fetishists, she says, and the W P tattooed on the backs of her thighs stands not for “white power” but the revolting-in-a-different-way “wet pussy.” She says, “Jesse and I had a conversation about it and he says a lot of his friends have the tattoo.” (Is that an inside joke? That statement could use context, including an updated assessment on McGee’s believability. She has said she’s Amish as well as a third-generation French Canadian. Is that even possible?) Suing for custody of their children, her ex-husband said she had “child block magnets on the refrigerator that spell out ‘White Power’,” and that her older son from a different relationship “is Jewish and she think it’s funny that she makes the Nazi salute.” UPDATE: McGee lists Mein Kampf as a “Favorite Book” on her Facebook page. This lady is totally a Nazi.

Meanwhile, it is revealed that James’ ex-wife went on to marry “an admitted skinhead.” Gawker asks “How many neo-Nazis can you date without being one?”

Jezebel, on the other hand, looks at the US Weekly photo of James in the context of the larger scandal.

Jesse James Nazi Pose

Jessica writes:

We finally got what we wanted, didn’t we? I use “wanted” loosely — who wants these terrible things to happen to any woman? — but amidst reportage that James was a “history” buff (particularly Nazi history, I guess), we now have irrefutable confirmation of the rumors that Jesse James struck a “Heil Hitler” pose for a camera. Is there anything more powerful than visual proof? That Us photo, enraging as it may be, would hold up in any court of gossip law. And whether James regularly doffed a SS cap or was simply joking around at some party with the type of folks who find Nazi memorabilia interesting (though Us reports that the photo was taken in his own home while he was still dating Bullock) doesn’t matter. All that matters right now is that he posed for that photo.

Here’s why I am beyond bored with the trajectory of this story:

1. Jesse James is officially a “bad person” – therefore, people are more willing to believe he is racist.
2. When Kate Harding floated the question “What Did Sandra Know About This Nazi Stuff?” the response came so fast and hard that she quickly posted a clarifying follow up…which still derailed into “why are you calling Sandra Bullock a racist?” Because Sandra Bullock is a “good person” so there’s no way she would ever do anything like knowingly date and marry a white supremacist, right?

Kate writes:

All too predictably, loads of people (in Jez comments and elsewhere) are saying shit like, “It’s just one picture” and “We don’t know the context” and “It was obviously just a joke.” To which I would respond:

* How many pictures like that would you need to see to be appalled?
* What context would make it okay?
* What on earth makes it funny?

If all you mean is that it would be unfair and premature to conclude from this photo that Jesse James personally wants to commit genocide, I’ll grant you that. But I am entirely comfortable concluding from this one photo — let alone other recent revelations — that Jesse James is an epic fucking douche, and that racism is a noteworthy element of his douchiness.

That, of course, is what some people get so upset about. Heaven forbid we jump to the conclusion that someone captured on film doing a “humorous” Hitler impression perhaps has some problematic views about race. We’d better wait until we have the whole story before we go off half-cocked and say things we might regret! I mean, for all we know, he might have just been…

What? What would make that picture okay?

Hint: Nothing.

For fuck’s sake, what does a white person have to do around here before a critical mass of other white people are willing to say, “Yep, that’s some racist bullshit”?

This is why these conversations are so depressing.

It’s not so much how many people will engage in racist/white supremacist activities, but how many other people will jump to defend them.