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Death by Racism

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Keen karma for The Klan.
Old Lady: Oh Gob, you could charm the black off a telegram boy!
Narrator: Okay we'll just tell you now. She's the one who dies.
Arrested Development, "S.O.B.s"

Imagine, for example, a Chinese or Middle Eastern character in an American film. He may (or may not) have adopted the culture and speech of the country that he lives in, but he may also occasionally speak in his native language. While most of the other characters think nothing of it, there is one character who harasses him, insisting he should only "speak 'Merican, dammit!" That one character is also given the most humiliating death scene in the entire movie. What we've just seen is Death by Racism. When it happens to one-shot, otherwise flat characters, it's more of a convenient way to treat the audience to a visually stunning death without having to display a title card afterwards reading "Trust us, he was a dick." Often, though, the killer will not even care that the victim was a bigot, having just chosen a target at random — which makes this more Kick the Son of a Bitch. The killer might even be a bigot themselves, and it's just that bigotry was irrelevant in this particular killing. If the killer is also portrayed as an incompetent failure of a human being, see Sub-Par Supremacist.


This trope is most common in shows that have a single Token Minority, but it can also turn up in shows with a Five-Token Band. When taken to extremes, it can become Narm or be an obvious Author Tract. Often overlaps with Bullying a Dragon or Mugging the Monster. Compare Politically Incorrect Villain and Asshole Victim. Contrast Vasquez Always Dies and Black Dude Dies First. When a character's racism directly causes their death, that's a form of Laser-Guided Karma.

Note that if done badly, this could be a case of Strawman Has a Point and Felony Misdemeanor. If the target of the insult was himself an Asshole Victim, or the outburst the writers considered irredeemably racist comes off to certain audiences as excusable, the death may not seem like the Karmic Death it was intended to be.


As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Black Lagoon, during the Neo-Nazi Arc, many Nazis are killed by the protagonists, Chinese-American Revy and African-American Dutch (also, the crew had a hacker Jew and a former Japanese salaryman on board at the time). When the commander is cornered, given a gun by Revy, and given a choice to either die by suicide or for them to shoot him, he decides to try to shoot Dutch, only to find out there were no bullets. Revy pulls out her other gun and the two both shoot him.
  • In One Piece, the Fishman Fisher Tiger died because he refused to have human blood transferred into him when a blood transfusion would have saved him, claiming that "The blood is filled with hatred towards the Fishman race". This is opposed to the story everyone hears as spread by Fishmen, that he didn't get a transfusion because humans were too racist to give him one. Which could've been true in most other cases.
    • While on Fishman Island, Sanji almost dies due to his explosive nosebleeds, because no Fishman would donate blood to him.

    Comic Books 
  • Sin City has had two instances in which a man uses a racial slur against Miho. To call them Too Dumb to Live would be an understatement.
  • In a Creepy (2009) story called Hell Hound Blues, a couple of racist record collectors go after an old, valuable blues record that a wise old black man tells them he has in a secret location. Throughout the story they belittle and insult this old man. They, uh, don't make it to the record.
  • In one Runaways arc, the team ends up in 1907 New York, where Nico runs afoul of the local "heroes", one of whom calls her a "chink" and threatens to beat her. He's later seen getting his spine ripped out by one of the local villains during the climactic battle. It's worth noting that he's the only one from his team who is shown dying in that battle.
    • Subverted by Lilli, who refers to Nico as "the Oriental who looks at me like I'm a bug". Not only does she not die in the battle, but it's revealed that she survived to present times, where she's an old lady.
  • Spawn has a doubly-literal example: A Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit judge is turned into a black man by Spawn's magic powers. Then, his former Klansmen friends lynch him to death. So, he was killed by racism, and by racists.

    Fan Works 
  • In the beginning of R2 in Code Prime, Gilbert tries to work with Milly’s Mother, Kallen’s Stepmother, and the Black King to start an uprising in an Energon mine. However, unlike Gilbert, the other three are unwilling to work with the japanese slaves in the mine, which leads to their deaths by the hands of Thunderhoof.

    Film - Animated 
  • Implied in Killer Bean Forever. A racist policeman makes fun of Jet Bean's Chinese nationality and mocks his intelligence, putting what he was trying to say into "something [he] can understand"; that being broken English and random mentions of Chow Mein. Jet responds by kicking the cop so hard that he goes flying into a wall. This cop is not seen getting back up, yet the other cop only lists "Assault of an officer" after Jet is arrested, possibly meaning he was just knocked out.
  • Done with a heavy dose of Irony in the Ralph Bakshi film Western Animation/Coonskin. A racist cop moonlighting as a low level mafia bag boy is drugged, dressed in Black Face and the stereotypical Mammy character, forced into sex with a gay man and then is shot up by his fellow cops while he’s spun out on the drugs.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In Come and See, a unit of Red Army partisans ambushes and takes revenge on an SS Einsatzgruppe which has been destroying Russian villages and slaughtering their inhabitants in various grisly ways. The German officer goes to his death, coldly justifying his actions on the grounds that Slavs are sub-human and a lesser species - to the faces of his Slavic - Russian - captors.
  • A secret agent jumps out of an aeroplane without a parachute in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, chasing after the title characters, after 90 minutes of brutalizing and terrorizing ethnic minorities.
    • Toned-down example in the first movie, where a racist cop ends up getting arrested.
  • Hannibal Rising: The ex-collaborator French racist who insulted young Hannibal Lecter's Samurai-blooded aunt is sliced into chunks by him with her family's Katana as the boy's first victim. Given Lecter's dislike for rude people, this also overlaps with Laser-Guided Karma. Lecter's aunt still disapproves, fearing what he might turn into.
  • Across Final Destination, Death itself seems to have a consistent intolerance for racism. And why wouldn't it? After all, everyone is equal in death's eyes. For specifics:
    • The first victim of Death in Final Destination 4 is Carter, a churlish redneck who has no compunctions whatsoever about calling African Americans the N-Word. (His character is actually listed as "Racist" in the end-credits.) He is given a humiliating end when he tries to burn a cross KKK-style in front of George, the black lead's, house: his tow truck snags him by the ankle and drags him burning and screaming in a manner similar to an infamous modern lynching while playing War's "Why Can't We Be Friends" before it explodes.
    • Isaac in Final Destination 5, who, in comparison to the above, is merely unbelievably insensitive and stereotypes the Asian workers at the massage parlor. This is only one of his many character flaws. He gets some karmic retribution from the staff before Death comes in and drops a heavy Buddha statue (about which he'd made one of his insensitive wisecracks) on his head.
  • Big Dan Teague in O Brother, Where Art Thou?: When our heroes crash a Klan meeting he's attending, after he does his best to kill them, they drop a giant flaming cross right on his face. Homer Stokes gets his comeuppance after he reveals his membership to The Klan during an angry tirade, which contributes to the audience quite literally running him out of town on a rail.
  • By its very nature, Crash (the Haggis one, not the Cronenberg one) averts and subverts this with various characters.
  • Koobus from District 9 could be considered an example. Late in the film he admits that he loves watching prawns die, 'prawns' being the aliens. At the climax, a group of prawns tear him apart and eat him.
  • The bulk of the interaction between the Jerk Jocks and the Indian kid Ravi in The Final consists of them taunting him with racist remarks about "dotheads" and "thank you come again!". They don't actually die, but judging by what happens to them, death may have been a welcome escape.
  • The unfortunate Boss Tanaka from Kill Bill, who makes the rather grievous error of insulting O-Ren Ishii's Japanese/Chinese-American heritage, and promptly pays dearly for his insult.
  • In A Bronx Tale, C's friends, and especially Slick, die because of their hatred of black people. They get blown up by their own Molotov cocktails after a black guy throws one back at them.
  • Cesar in [REC]. The moment he starts making racist comments about the Asian family, you know he isn't going to last long.
  • Not really deaths in most cases, but the Bruce Lee film Fist of Fury (or alternatively, The Chinese Connection) is all about a bunch of stupid, stupid people being racially discriminating and abusive against the Chinese — and Bruce Lee's character and Bruce Lee personally himself, by extension — and promptly getting the snot beaten out of them. In a more literal case, Chen himself: yes, Chen was guilty of a number of crimes, but there was absolutely no justice in his "arrest" in the film's ending sequence. It is highly likely that no-one in the Japanese karate school faced punishment for massacring the students at Chen's kung-fu school, seeing as how the Japanese authorities viewed the Chinese as lesser people.
  • The Untouchables (1987) has a rare heroic example with Malone. When the mob sends a knife man into his apartment, Malone pulls a sawed-off shotgun on him. Malone calls the knife man repeatedly a "Dago" while chasing him out out of his apartment. Frank Nitti guns down Malone at the doorway immediately after that.
  • Transformers: During the Scorponok scene, one Latino soldier speaks in Spanish and is told to speak English. The one who tells him to speak English becomes Scorponok's first victim.
  • Mary-Lou Barebone of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the leader of an anti-wizard organization and beats her adoptive children (who are implied to be the now-orphaned children of witches and wizards she has killed or had killed) when they display signs of magic. In the end, she is killed by the Obscurus summoned by one of her adopted sons, Credence, after she beat one of her daughters for having a toy wand.
  • Evan and 3 racist skinheads in Saw 3D are placed in a car-based trap by Jigsaw that will kill all 4 of them in 30 seconds. To stop it, Evan has to reach forwards and pull a red lever, which rips the skin from his back as he's glued to a seat. Evan fails. His girlfriend's face gets crushed by the car after the jacks give way, Dan has his jaw and arms ripped off by the car as it pulls away, one gets driven into by the car head-on, and the car then collides with a scrapped car while going 70 mph, killing Evan.
  • Happens in several of George A. Romero's "Living Dead Series" films:
    • In Dawn of the Dead (1978) a particularly unhinged S.W.A.T. officer indulges his homicidal fantasies, gunning down ghoul and living alike in an apartment complex after shouting various racist epithets about blacks, Hispanics and Puerto Ricans. He actually gets put down by one of his fellow S.W.A.T. members.
    • In Day of the Dead (1985), Captain Rhodes makes several racist remarks to the helicopter pilot, John. At the climax of the film he ends up Devoured by the Horde torn apart by the living dead.
    • In Land of the Dead, Kaufman refers to John Leguizamo's character as a "spic" (ironically, this character goes by the name "Cholo" which is itself a slur). He later encounters that character, who has become a zombie, just before zombie leader Big Daddy rolls a flaming barrel his way, blowing both of them up.
  • Circle: Since the characters are forced to kill each other off by popular vote, every time one of the abductees espouses openly bigoted views, they're almost inevitably chosen.
  • At the climax of BlacKkKlansman, the three most vile KKK members are killed when they accidentally detonate the parcel bomb they planned to use to murder a civil rights protester.
  • Narrowly averted in Die Hard with a Vengeance. John McClane is dropped off in Harlem (a predominantly black neighbourhood) wearing only his boxers and a sandwich board around his neck with "I hate [N-word]s" written on it. After running afoul of what appears to be a gang, McClane is only saved from death by the intervention of a shopkeeper. Of course, when this scene was filmed, the sign was blank, with the text being added in post-production. In the TV edit, it's "I hate everyone"
  • In Army of the Dead, an unscrupulous guard at the makeshift camp outside zombie-torn Las Vegas acts as a Hate Sink when he assaults helpless refugees living in the camps. Only a few minutes later in movie time, he's used as live bait so that the Zombie King will let the protagonists move through his territory.
  • In Be Cool, the Russian mobster who runs the pawnshop ends up being shot by the black music producer Sid LaSalle for calling him the N-word.
  • In No Time to Die, MI-6 agent Nomi captures Mad Scientist Valdo Obruchev, the inventor of the DNA-targeting nanomachines-based weapon Heracles, in the climax, and intends to bring him alive to the UK. Both find themselves above an Acid Pool (the "farm" to produce Heracles), and Obruchev stupidly suggests that he could reprogram Heracles to wipe out her entire race from the face of the earth. Nomi, who is black and of African descent herself, chooses to simply kick Obruchev in the acid pool after hearing that.

  • After the Revolution: Upon learning that his companion Manny has been 'reassigned to the Storming Batallions' by the fundamentalist sect they're infiltrating, Super Soldier Roland has to weigh the value of ruining his cover to rescue Manny, versus focusing on rescuing the people he's actually there to extract from the sect. He almost comes down on the side of staying undercover when Martyr Ditmar ends up making an overtly racist statement about Manny and making it clear he'd been reassigned simply due to his race. Roland gets so annoyed he decides to throw caution to the wind and breaks literally half the bones of every person in the building - starting with Ditmar's wrist. Made doubly satisfying since, unbeknownst to the Martyrs surrounding him, Roland is himself a black man who, thanks to his augmentations, was presenting himself in the guise a dead white person to make his infiltration.
  • Chance And Choices Adventures has this happen right near the beginning. The bandit Hank Butterfield attempts to attack half Native American Noah Swift Hawk for sitting in "a white man's saloon" and is shot dead by the townspeople, prompting the rest of his Bandit Clan to seek revenge and kicking off the plot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Treated realistically on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where an Arab-hating teen who killed an Arabic victim earlier kills a Middle Eastern fellow prisoner in a holding cell. His lawyer tries a version of the Insanity Defense that's pretty extreme even by Hollywood Law standards; that he's biologically programmed to hate Arabs. He's convicted for the earlier murder, but never serves his time for either murder, as he's ganged up on and killed by the dead prisoner's friends.
  • In the Tonight, Someone Dies episode of Arrested Development, the narrator points out the woman who does die after she says Gob could "charm the black off a telegram boy."
  • Toned-down example: the pilot for Spenser: For Hire has cool badass Hawk working as the bad guy's bodyguard — when he's ordered to kill Spenser, he refuses due to mutual respect. Bad guy yells "I told you to kill him, you goddamn nigger!" Hawk raises an eyebrow, clucking "Racial invective!", promptly resigns, and lets Spenser kick the guy's ass.
  • Inverted on The Jeffersons, when a leader of The Klan who'd refused to let his son learn CPR in a class with Louise and Florence suffers a heart attack and is saved by George's use of this skill. His parting words ("You should've let me die") suggest he'd have preferred Death by Racism to owing his life to a black man.
  • In the episode "Abominations" of Legends of Tomorrow, Jax has to go undercover as a slave in a Confederate plantation. After it's attacked by zombies, the plantation owner refuses to give Jax a weapon to help fight them off. He is then immediately eaten.
  • In the episode "Kaddish" of The X-Files, a very rabid Neo-Nazi who incited three teenagers to murder a Jewish store owner is strangled to death by a Golem created in the image of the murdered man, after it's killed the three teenagers. No one sheds any tears over any of them.
  • Oz: Mark Miles was a Death Row inmate who took to constantly hurling racial insults at his fellow death row member Moses Deyell. This pisses off Moses so much that he digs a hole through the wall in between their cells just so he can strangle Miles to death before his execution.
  • On an episode of Chicago Hope, a young neo-Nazi played by Giovanni Ribisi needs a heart transplant. He ultimately dies because when an Asian-American nurse starts prepping him for surgery, he threatens to have his gang rape her if she touches him.

  • The video for Fatboy Slim’s "Don’t Let The Man Get You Down" introduces you to a nice-looking fellow named Don. Don likes a lot of neat things, like fishing. DON IS A RACIST. The middle of the video is mostly about how he makes his own life miserable by being mean to non-whites. At the end, he dies in a non-sequitur fashion, and an apparent Spoof Aesop is that if you are a racist, you will die in some sort of Karmic Death accident.
  • Monty Python's song "Never Be Rude to an Arab" plays with this hilariously.
  • A staple of the Insane Clown Posse's discography.

    Video Games 
  • Garithos from Warcraft tries to take Lordaeron from its undead citizens on the grounds that, well, he just does not like zombies (or any other non-human race). Sylvanas has him eaten apart by ghouls because she had promised him control of Lordaeron in exchange for his aid against Balnazzar, which she had no intention of ever actually giving him.
  • In Red Dead Redemption, Herbert Moon is rather prejudiced. The expansion Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare hits him with this trope while cranking his racism up to a cartoonish level, as he proclaims to John Marston that he doesn't like Jews, non-whites, Native Americans, Catholics, Fabians, socialists, homosexuals, Asians, British and women. He also claims the current situation is the work of the "Jewish British Catholic homosexual elite" to bring down America. About two minutes later, he leaves his store and is promptly ripped apart by some zombies while John looks on smoking a cigarette with a grin on his face.
    • Red Dead Redemption II continues this fine tradition.
      • Each of the KKK random encounters end in this fashion, even if you don't involve yourself. In one, several members accidentally set themselves on fire trying to light a cross. In another, the cross falls over, killing two of them.
      • There is a eugenicist in Saint Denis who is so hated by the rest of the town that you can kill him in broad daylight without repercussions.
      • After recovering the items from the foreclosed home of an old man who turns out to have been a former slave catcher, you can kill him on the spot and actually gain honor.
  • In both Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and its comic-book adaptation, Nazi colonel Klaus Kerner meets his end this way. When Indy, Sophia, and the Nazis all find themselves in the Colossus at the very centre of Atlantis, the Nazis decide to see if the Colossus really can transform human beings into gods- and Kerner insists on being the first test subject. In the comic, he boasts that since he is the only person there of "pure-blooded Prussian" ancestry, he is the most fit to be a god; in the game, he brags that his Aryan genes will make him immune to the nightmarish mutations that occurred in most of the previous test subjects. Ignoring the hideously deformed skulls littering the area and (in the comic) even shoving other people out of the way, Kerner triumphantly mounts the platform at the center of the room just as the machine is starting up and proclaims, "I, Klaus Kerner, will rule the world! That Bavarian upstart, Hitler, will kiss my feet!" - right before he melts into a hideous mass of brown gunk. His fate in the game is little better: as the power of the Colossus courses through him, he grows to at least twice his height and laughs triumphantly... then his left eye begins to swell. Without warning, he shrinks and mutates into an antlered dwarf almost identical to the long-dead test subjects he'd earlier dismissed as subhuman. Screaming in horror, he flings himself off the platform and into the lava below.
  • Mass Effect 2: Potentially played straight in Thane's loyalty mission, depending on Shepard's choices. Thane's son has been hired to assassinate a turian politician on the Citadel who's campaign is openly anti-human. While tracking the politician you also see, among other crimes, him extort money from human shop owners. At the end of the mission, Thane's son takes the politician hostage when the cops arrive. The renegade resolution is for Shepard to simply gun down the politician because he's such a scummy person that Shepard doesn't care about keeping him alive.
  • In Parasite Eve, Japanese scientist Kunihiko Maeda has arrived in New York City to investigate the strange occurrences happening (namely, people spontaneously combusting) that, incidentally, occurred in Japan a few years prior. After being stopped by two policemen who have blockaded the routes into Manhattan, Maeda attempts to explain in his poor English that he needs to enter the city. One of the cops knows Japanese, and attempts to communicate with him. The other cop doesn't, and snidely tells Maeda that "if you can't speak the language, go back to your own country!" The racist cop bursts into flames two seconds later.
  • Downplayed in Saints Row 2. Jessica Parish, the Dark Mistress of Maero the Brotherhood leader, comments that Young Gun Carlos Mendoza reminds her of her old housekeeper and later has him tortured to death to spite the Saints. When the Boss finds out about this, and has to put Carlos out of his misery themselves, they furiously capture Jessica when she's making a bank withdrawal, lock her in the trunk of her car, and leave her at a monster truck rally, where her boyfriend unknowingly crushes her.

  • In Prequel, the bandits from Dodger: Break the Law side story are shown to trade in Argonian slaves and talk about them in horribly racist ways, just in time for an Imperial agent, who was investigating them, to show up and cut down the whole gang.

    Web Original 
  • A now-deleted entry from the SCP Foundation "The Racist Door". A door decoration that, when placed on a door, would attempt to injure any non-white person who tried to open it. A white-supremacist doctor at the organization keeps it on his door for his amusement. Eventually, said doctor mysteriously dies after a prolonged illness. It it then determined that the doorway upon which the decoration is hanged will, over time slowly kill anyone who walks through it. The report concludes by suggesting the possible sentience of the item in its attempts to protect non-white races from the effect, and the note that "racism is not exclusive of Caucasians."
  • Rarity in DRESS.MOV of the PONY.MOV series forces illegal Mexican immigrants to make dresses for her. It doesn't end well.
  • Speed Racist from Cyanide & Happiness is a short where a racist dies in a car crash, caused by speeding, after yelling "go back to Africa" to a black guy. This is a short, and not a comic, because it's three minutes of him lamenting (and debating) the irony of the situation, though it's not enough to save him.
    • The segregation era white people on the bus in "Too Much History" who demanded that the black driver go sit in the back despite being in the middle of driving, causing it to crash seconds later and leaving the driver the only one to get out alive.

    Western Animation 
  • Celebrity Deathmatch:
    • The Derek Jeter vs. John Rocker fight begins with John Rocker stating that he hates New York City because of all the foreigners living there. This enrages Derek Jeter, so he shows no mercy to him. Eventually, Jeter uses a battery to electrocute him to death. (And for bonus irony points, his charred corpse resembles the Statue of Liberty.)
    • The Carlos Mencia vs. Dave Chappelle fight is also an example. Carlos Mencia is constantly making racist remarks and justifying himself by saying "people can't take a joke". He gets his just deserts at the end of the match, when Dave Chappelle sics a dog on him and he bleeds out.


Video Example(s):


Carter's Death

Carter Daniels from "The Final Destination" suffers a humiliating death whilst trying to burn a cross on a black man's lawn. Death quickly comes for him, dragging his burning body across the road similar to a lynching. All while set to War's "Why Can't We Be Friends".

How well does it match the trope?

4.79 (19 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeathByRacism

Media sources: