I was once acquainted with a man who thought like Mark, except he was an American not Danish. There was one time he swore using the n-word in front of his wife and me. I had never heard either of them use the word, or any other slurs, before. He immediately followed his saying it with the explanation that the worst just comes out of him when he swears, even though he was not racist and understood how bad it was. As Patrick Klepek writes, that’s rationalization, not explanation. My response was to say I had lost so much respect for him.
The conversation paused until, later on, he spoke about it again. He was very angry and said he needed to let me know he didn’t appreciate that I had said what I did. I could object to his use of the word, he told me, but it was disrespectful and hurtful to ever tell anyone that you’ve personally lost respect for them. Especially in front of their wife. He was a much bigger guy than I was and I let that intimidate me. My response was, yeah, OK man, I’ll keep that in mind, and nothing more. I’m not proud of that softboy moment.
It’s worth noting that, in all of my subsequent interactions with him, he never used a slur again. Now, maybe he did with others. But not around me.
Still, his attitude is really common among us white Americans, regardless of where in the US we’re from. (The former acquaintance is a Southerner, but his attitude is everywhere.) People believe you can be anti-racist just, you know, don’t be mean-spirited about it. Don’t be insulting.
What’s even worse is if someone still uses slurs and rationalizes that as being OK, because they don’t use them around the person, or people, who object to their use.
So, sure, there are people who can be rehabilitated, as it were, if they’re open to listening or learning, but frankly? Putting niceness and gentility on a pedestal only ends up protecting racist beliefs and actions. Caring about manners and propriety above everything else only empowers white supremacists. As Beard_Check says, the absence of hate is not the absence of racism.