Follow TV Tropes


Mistaken for Racist

Go To

Homer: If we wanted to see Japanese people, we could have gone to the zoo.
Marge: Homer!
Homer: What? The guy who washes the elephants is Japanese! His name is Takashi. He's in my book club!
The Simpsons, "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo"

A character says or accidentally does something that is interpreted by everyone else as being racist or some other breed of bigotry, and they proceed to chew him out or start shunning him for it. If it is not the main plot for the story, it can be quickly cleared up, but otherwise, any attempt to prove that he's not really racist ends up backfiring and making him look even more racist. When the accused is finally confronted on his behavior, expect him to say something to the effect of, "I don't hate you because you're [minority status], I hate you because you're [completely valid reason to dislike someone]."

If the people who believe this person prejudiced are themselves prejudiced, they'll be proud of him, leading to Your Approval Fills Me with Shame. The character may also try (unconvincingly) to deny it by saying "Some of My Best Friends Are X."


Compare Discriminate and Switch, Stereotype Reaction Gag, Calling Me a Logarithm. Sister Trope to Everything Is Racist. May overlap with One Dialogue, Two Conversations, Sustained Misunderstanding, Poor Communication Kills, Open Mouth, Insert Foot, That Came Out Wrong, and other miscommunication tropes. See also Innocent Bigot.


    open/close all folders 

  • British comedian Ross Noble has a few jokes and stories involving this trope:
    • He sometimes tells a story about one of his daughters, who loved juice so much as a baby that it was one of the first words she learned to say. One day, she saw a boy in stereotypical Orthodox Jewish attire drinking a carton of juice, and started shouting "Juice! Juice!" at him, while reaching for the carton in a way that could easily be mistaken for a certain kind of salute that was popular in 1930's Germany. The only thing Ross could think to say to alleviate the embarrassment was to tell the boy's horrified family "I'm sorry, she's not actually mine, I'm babysitting for Mel Gibson."
    • In another joke, Ross claims that prior to the 2016 Brexit referendum, he was worried that voters would become complacent due to predictions that it would be an easy win for Remain, and made sure to tell everyone he met "Don't trust the polls!"
  • Patton Oswalt had a similar incident, in which his daughter saw an elderly black man with long dreads and said "monkey!" Turns out she thought he looked like Rafiki, but his reaction didn't help matters, as he picked her up and held her in front of his face as he quickly exited the store in embarrassment.

    Comic Books 
  • Let's just note up front that comic book heroes in the 1940s and 1950s were almost exclusively either Caucasian (or at least looked Caucasian, e.g. Superman) or their ethnicity was their defining characteristic, and usually not in a good way (Whitewash Jones). Sometime in the 1960s, the comic book companies discovered there was an ethnic market out there they could skim more dimes from. The first batch of non-white heroes that were more than simply stereotypes tended to have names that let you know right off the bat what you were dealing with ("Black Lightning"). Then someone with slightly more of a clue realized that just shading someone darker and putting "black" (or "El" for Hispanic heroes) in front of their names was maybe not all that much better. Cue stories with all the subtlety of a chainsaw about how racism is bad, kids! And expect heroes who are and have always been very level-headed suddenly realizing in an anvilicious manner just how racist they've been for all these years. A lot of the stories below hail from this time period.
  • As Aquaman is white and his Arch-Enemy Black Manta is black, Arthur has on occasion come off looking like a racist, which is only emphasized by the fact that Aquaman has superpowers and Manta does not. Most notably, Manta once goaded Aquaman into attacking him in public when Manta didn't have his Power Armor on, making it look like Aquaman had decided to just beat up a random black guy in broad daylight for no reason.
  • The Avengers:
    • Ever since the events of Avengers vs. X-Men and Death of X, The Avengers' relationship with the X-Men has been pretty heated, especially with Cyclops. This has caused Marvel's Mutants and their Fanbase to develop a, quite frankly justified, Alternative Character Interpretation of the opposing team's views on Mutant rights. Captain America especially. From defending the Inhumans who were gassing mutants to death, to policing a hate rally of mutants in an Issue of Uncanny X-Men (2019). Captain America claims that he believes in the sanctity of the individual, to make up your own opinions and thoughts, even if they are those of a bigot. His mind hasn't changed even after Magneto used his mind altering helmet to erase any Anti-Mutant thoughts, revealing that there weren't any in the first place. Nevertheless, in an issue of Uncanny X-Men (2013), Cyclops delivers a well deserved "Reason You Suck" Speech to Captain America and the Avengers for their inaction towards hate crimes commited against Mutants, stating they're just as bad as the people oppressing them.
    • An issue has Iron Man getting extremely upset by the idea that the team needs to induct a minority member in order to diversify its line-up. His opposition becomes extreme enough that Duanne and Triathlon (who are both black) begin to insinuate that Tony is in fact, a racist. He tries to deny this, stating that he believes that the Avengers should only be the "best of the best" regardless of race, but he ultimately stops arguing after noting that he is indeed beginning to sound like a bigot.
    • While never saying that Tony is a racist, the narrative itself does go out of its way to try and justify the idea of diversifying the team. The Wasp for instance is shocked and upset when she realizes that there have only been a handful of non-white Avengers in the team's history, and an earlier issue by the same author has an African-American man noting that he wished the Avengers had some diversity so that his son could see that people like him could be heroes too.
    • Strange enough this issue has been in Avengers many times before. During the '80s the government and the people in the streets wanted the Avengers to be more diverse. The Avengers asked Black Panther to join them, but he turned them down since he didn't want to be the "Black Guy in the Team".
  • There was a story arc in West Coast Avengers involving nearly half the team quitting and forming their own short-lived splinter group over the issue of using lethal force in crimefighting. At one point, this team, composed of Mockingbird, Moon Knight and Tigra encounter Dr. Bill Foster, also known as the superhero Black Goliath, and later Giant-Man. At the end of their adventure together, Foster leaves, and the mentally disturbed Moon Knight quips "Good riddance! That man is not our kind!", prompting Tigra to rebuke his apparent bigotry. Moon Knight denies this, explaining that he was referring to the fact that Foster is not a killer like the rest of them.
  • Captain America was accused of racism in the '90s, in the issue that introduced the "Harlem hero" Rage. He got in Cap's face to angrily demand why "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" were almost entirely white people.
  • Archie Comics has this in a comic where Veronica throws a party. She tells Archie that she doesn't want certain friends of his there. Since he's hanging out with Chuck and Jughead at the time, he thinks she means Chuck (who's black) and becomes angry. Turns out she means Jughead, who tends to be a slob and rather greedy with the food.
  • In Angel: After the Fall Spike tells Angel he has "bigger fish to fry". Betta George, a Canon Immigrant telepathic fish demon thingy, is offended by this and calls him a racist.
  • Played for laughs in issue #9 of Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics, which focused on Alternate Universe where Superman was black. The Lex Luthor of that Earth is still a light-skinned man, and upon being arrested, is shown arguing that he is not a racist and hates Superman because he's an alien, not because he's black.
  • Happens with the fame-hungry villain Screwball in Superior Spider-Man. She refuses to attack a woman she deems to be "too ethnic" because she's worried that it would make her seem like a racist.
  • In an infamous Green Lantern comic from the 1970s, Hal Jordan enters a neighborhood full of African-American families to deal with a mugging, and is quickly accused of racism by everyone. An elderly black man points out that Hal patrols the galaxy helping and protecting aliens, but hardly ever helps the black people. Hal is very shaken up by this, apparently forgetting that when he saves the world as part of the Corps or the Justice League, he saves it for, you know, every single race and ethnicity, not just light-skinned people. Then again, a recurring Inuit member of his support characters was "lovingly" referred to as Pieface (which all modern incarnations establish said character only being called that by actual racists).
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • At one point in Spider-Verse, Miles Morales and the Spider-Man from the Ultimate Spider-Man TV show team up with the Spider-Man from the '60s animated series. When Miles unmasks, the '60s Spider-Man is visibly shocked, causing the animated Ultimate Spidey to think he's a racist. Instead, it turns out that '60s Spidey is proud to learn that the Spider-Man legacy has lived on, and was actually expressing shock at the fact that the new Spider-Man is so young.
      Ultimate Cartoon Peter Parker: [addressing the fourth wall] Oh, snap! Don't tell me "Spider-Mad Men" is old-fashioned in bad ways, too!
    • A similar joke occurs in Divided We Fall. Stature captures Miles after being brainwashed by the Mind Gem, and states that the new Spider-Man isn't what she was expecting. Miles calls her a racist in his internal narration but then realizes she was likely referring to the fact that he's only 13-years old.
    • Ultimate FF: Van Damme gets into the interrogation cell, grabs Miles Horhames (an Anthropomorphic Animal Adaptation of Miles Morales as a pig) and says "tell the truth or die, swine". Miles thought that was racist.
  • During Ben Reilly's tenure as Spider-Man during The Clone Saga, he was acting on information from his boss about her ex-husband when he decided to keep tabs on her son for her after she said she was concerned for her son's well-being around him and that he wasn't reliable, thus was hostile towards the man. The man in question was an African-American undercover cop who thought Ben was a racist because he wasn't aware that Ben worked for his ex-wife and Ben was acting on she said.
  • In an early issue of Spawn, title character Al Simmons (who is black himself) is mistaken by a southern black man for a klansman thanks to his red cloak and mask, which leads him to take off the mask and reveal his scarred face.
  • Similarly, in Supreme, Jack O'Lantern's ghostly costume causes a race-hate group member to assume he's ready for a meeting. Might count as Stylistic Suck, since the first thing people assume when they see Jack's costume is that he's ready for a Halloween party.

    Comic Strips 
  • During one of Jesse Jackson's runs for President, a Bloom County arc centered on Binkley's father scared to death that people would think he was racist because he didn't think he could vote for Jackson. Finally, Oliver Jones' father (who is black and moderately conservative) assured him, "On behalf of all black people, we do not, repeat, NOT, hate you!"
  • One For Better or for Worse storyline has a new family move in next door while Michael and Elizabeth are still kids. Michael excitedly says "Look, mom, they're—!" only to be repeatedly shushed because they're Japanese-Canadian... until he finally gets it out with "they're our age!"
  • Knights of the Dinner Table: While attending Garycon, B.A. gets covered in dye from an exploding dye pack when Dave attempts to open Brian's briefcase (It Makes Sense in Context). He attempts to remove it with lighter fluid and only succeeds in smearing it all over his face and hands, making it look like he is in Black Face. After several people make comments about how offensive his costume is, Sheila is able to explain it away as a (very poor) Drow cosplay.

    Fan Works 
  • In XCOM: From the Ashes of Temples: Poor Carlock gets mistaken for both a racist and a sexist when he tries to explain why sending women or non-Caucasians for covert ops to infiltrate EXALT is a really bad idea. The perfectly valid reason is that EXALT only have white men in their ranks, but his choice of words could have been better.
  • Pony POV Series: Shining Armor is not a fan of Leeroy Jenkins tactics, and cites some Zebra warlords who tried them and lost to illustrate his point. The Pegasus Interviewer smacks him and calls him a racist until he says he was talking about those specific warlords, not Zebras in general.
  • In a crossover fiction by A.A. Pessimal which brings together the The Science of Discworld and The Big Bang Theory, note  Discworld Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes comes from the Disc's Expy of South Africa. To blend in at Caltech she adopts the cover identity of being an academic zoologist from Earth's South Africa. She meets real expat South Africans in a public park in Pasadena where her accent, demeanor and general attitude make her very welcome indeed. Then she discovers to her horror their mindsets are firmly stuck in the Good Old Days, which is why they emigrated to find common cause with white supremacists in the USA. Even though her own society on the Disc is an apartheid one, Johanna has no sympathy with the philosophy and gets out of her compatriots' company as soon as she can. But this has been noted by a certain Ms. Janine Davis who was watching. A routine interview with Caltech's HR department follows the next day. Johanna's protestations that, for instance, "one of my best friends is bleck!" drops her more deeply into it. She then gets all the sensitivity training courses. At once. As this took Howard Wolowitz a year to achieve, he is most impressed. Her realization is what amounts to a Real Life observation - that white South Africans anywhere outside South Africa are presumed automatically to be racist, even twenty years after the end of The Apartheid Era, and the onus is on them to amply demonstrate that they're not. Especially Afrikaaners.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Rex, when he hears some of Vix-Lei's jokes, assumes she's bigoted towards Diamond Dogs. She's not - she's just Innocently Insensitive and doesn't know she's offending him.
  • Escape From the Moon: In the sequel The Mare From the Moon, when Spliced starts explaining about her world's Pures (Alicorns) and Thirds (the other three tribes, who have only a third of what a Pure has), she realizes that this might sound like racism, and starts explaining that to her, the differences between the tribes are purely biological, with Thirds variously lacking any or all of the following: a carbuncle (the organ that generates their thaumatics) and the particular keratin (a fibrous structural protein) that makes up a horn, or the bones that form wings.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): Weiss tells Adam that Beacon is closed to "your kind," and he assumes she means because he's a Faunus. She clarifies that it's because he's a terrorist. Adam rolls his eyes and thinks that Weiss probably thinks every Faunus is a terrorist. He completely ignores the fact that he is a terrorist, he's wearing the mask of a terrorist organization, and the organization in question is currently attacking Beacon.
  • RWBY: Epic of Remnant: Blake Belladonna assumes from Lancelot's looks and the fact that he's friends with Weiss Schnee that he's from Atlas. Then, because a majority of Atlas is racist against Faunus, she assumes he's a racist. She is thrown for a loop when he shows he isn't a racist.
  • Remnant Inferis: DOOM: Blake Belladonna and the White Fang tend to assume the Doom Slayer is racist against Faunus because he slaughtered several White Fang members and he tends to call Faunus "beastkin". The thing is, Doom Slayer doesn't care who or what you are; if you are evil, he will kill you, and every White Fang member he killed was a murderer. "Beastkin" is simply what Faunus are called in his homeland.
  • A Tale of Two Rulers: When Vaati learns that Zelda knew all along about his Human Disguise, he assumes that her dislike of him is because he's a Minish, when in fact it's because he crassly tries to seduce her while she's engaged and, later, married.
    Zelda: You have many things to be ashamed of... but being a Minish isn't one of them.
    Vaati: And yet you hate me.
    Zelda: Of course I do... But for who you are deep, deep in your heart.
  • Invoked in Ma Fille; during an argument, Katrina (white) tells Claire (Asian) to go back to the rock she's been living under to think they're still friends. Claire later posts online that Katrina told her to go back to her own country. However, this backfires as it turns out that a boy named Kevin recorded their fight, which contains the real exchange.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Occurs in the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, when the Robinsons are walking down the street when a gruff-looking (white) man approaches them. They prepare for a fight, only for the man to sternly say that he's a supporter who thinks Jackie should be allowed to play baseball as long as he has the talent.
  • The main character in the opening scenes of Anger Management, in the middle of his Humiliation Conga that started with getting (falsely) accused of physically harassing an airplane stewardess, makes the mistake of proclaiming "What is it with you people?" to the black air marshal who comes up to investigate.
  • In Beauty Shop, Gina quits her job at the beginning of the movie mostly because she misunderstands the way her foreign boss pronounces the word "Moniker". (He's not actually racist and didn't intentionally say the N-word like she originally thought, but he is still an egotistical, overly competitive douche.)
  • In the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle the protagonist gets mistaken for a racist when he uses racial slurs in class. One of his students told the principal about it without context to get him into trouble.
  • Occurs in Cabin Fever. At one point the characters ask a store owner why he has a high-powered rifle behind the counter, and he explains it's "for the Niggers", much to the shock and worry of the characters. At the end of the movie we see a black group pull up to the store, and the owner goes into the back hurriedly... only to hand them the gun that they'd apparently ordered, at which point the audience realizes that the owner actually meant "Niggas" and simply doesn't know the difference between using "er" and "a". That said, blacks and anti-racists would still be offended.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury is stopped by some cops, and thinks that they're going to harass him for being black. It turns out they're actually a HYDRA death squad that wants to assassinate him.
  • In Clear History, Rolly punches a black guy who pops up at him at his birthday party. The black guy spends the rest of the film finding pretenses to accuse Rolly of being prejudiced against blacks. It doesn't help that Rolly keeps screwing up the guy's relationship with his girlfriend.
  • In Clerks II, Randall loudly complains about being treated "like a porch monkey" in front of a couple of black customers. They react about how you'd expect. Randal then admits he wasn't aware "porch monkey" was a racial slur and it was just a phrase he picked up from his grandma and he spends much of the rest of the movie attempting to reclaim the phrase.
  • The Confirmation: Drake mentions this happened once after he logged onto a Neo-Nazi website when he was really just trying to find a recipe for German pancakes.
  • Referenced in Crash. Jean (a white woman) states that she felt uncomfortable when she saw two black men (who turned out to be carjackers) coming toward her, but she didn't say or do anything because she didn't want to look racist.
  • In Die Hard with a Vengeance, the Big Bad of the film, portrayed by Jeremy Irons, blackmails John McClane into standing on a street corner in the middle of Harlem wearing a sandwich board that reads "I Hate Niggers". He very nearly gets killed by a gang of local street thugs but is saved by Zeus. Note that when they were filming the scene, Bruce Willis wore a blank sign, because they were genuinely worried that he'd get killed. They photoshopped "I Hate Niggers" onto it for the theatrical release, and "I Hate Everybody" was added in post for the TV edit. Of course, this means the black people in the neighborhood appear to attack McClane for no real reason leading to some Unfortunate Implications.
  • In the 2005 The Dukes of Hazzard film, Bo and Luke are shown stuck in traffic. As several other drivers pass them they make comments. The first is a stereotypical redneck who shouts out "Southern by the Grace of God!" leaving them a little confused. Then a black couple drives by them and asks them if they're late for their Klan meeting, leaving them even more confused. Another redneck drives by complimenting them again. Then another black woman drives by and says "Nice roof." Bo and Luke then check their roof of the General Lee and discover the Confederate flag that it was so well known for on the TV series.
  • Guess Who, a race-inverted remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, is built on this trope. The patriarch (Bernie Mac) mistakes his daughter's fiance for racist for most of the film. Near the end, the fiance tries to call him out on it, only to accidentally use the words "you people" to the predictable effect. The father eventually realizes that the reason his daughter's fiance is unemployed is that he quit his high-paying job after his racist boss told him to break off the engagement. He commends the guy for sticking up for her and then calls him an idiot for quitting his job over an insult.
  • In How to Rob a Bank, while Jason is talking to negotiator Officer DeGepse, he mentions not liking being surrounded by 'armed assholes' then realises that DeGepse might think he means the police and adds "I don't mean you people". This is followed by a long silence from DeGepse, who is black. Sensing something is wrong, Jason says "You're not black or something, are you?". Fortunately for Jason, Jessica takes the phone from him and explains the situation to DeGepse.
  • Me, Myself & Irene: Charlie (Jim Carrey) incurs the wrath of a black midget chauffeur by asking him "Do you people take credit cards?" (He was speaking of the business itself, not the driver, who was a black midget, wielding nunchuks, and also a Mensa member.)
  • The trope is sideswiped by Will Smith in Men in Black 3: he's pulled over by a couple of policemen, and after neuralizing them gives them a dressing down about how they're racists who only stopped him because he's black, so they assumed he stole the nice car he's driving.
    J: Keep in mind, just because you see a black man driving a car, does not mean he stole it! [pause] Okay, I did steal this one — but not because I'm black!
  • In the post-credits scene of My Boss's Daughter, when Hans (the daughter's ex-boyfriend) is sent to Thailand to oversee the new factory, he's told "You people! Back of bus!" by a bus driver. At first, he thinks it's because he's black, but the driver then yells "Smoker! Back of bus!" Hans then raises his other hand, holding a cigarette, and the scene cuts to several people smoking at the back of the bus.
  • In National Security, which gets a good half-hour out of the joke, Earl (Black) played by Martin Lawrence tries to get into his car when he finds that he has locked his keys inside. The police officer Hank (White) played by Steve Zahn confronts Earl and mistakes him for a car thief trying to break into the car. However, immediately after Earl is cuffed a bumblebee arrives and, as Earl is allergic to bumblebees, Hank attempts to swat the bee away to protect Earl from a potentially lethal reaction. Unfortunately, all that the bystanders see is a white cop savagely swinging a nightstick near a hand-cuffed black man, and to top it off the bee does manage to sting Earl. Afterward, with a jittery recording of the encounter on the news and Earl seemingly bruised from the beating (But really just swollen from the bee sting) Hank was convicted with aggravated assault by an all-black jury (and a single timid white guy) and sentenced to six months in prison. To be sure, the DA is initially reluctant to pursue the case, but Hank's Lieutenant insists that letting Hank off would result in a race riot.
  • In the Denzel Washington film Out of Time, an older woman is at a police station reporting on a prowler and excitedly identifies Denzel's character as the culprit. When it's revealed that he is the chief of police, she uncertainly starts pointing out other people of color as the culprit and is dismissed as racist. However, the audience knows that Denzel really was the culprit.
  • The first Rush Hour movie combines this with N-Word Privileges when Carter (who's black) and Lee (who's Asian) go to a pool hall. Carter, who's known by the patrons, greets them by saying "What's up, ma nigga?" While Carter goes into a back room to interrogate a source, Lee tries to start a friendly chat with the bartender using the same line (to be fair, though, Carter had previously instructed him to "follow my lead, and do what I do"). Since this is a Jackie Chan movie, Fighting Ensues.
  • In Scary Movie 3, George puts on a white hoodie that resembles a KKK hood and does what looks like a Nazi salute in front of a predominantly black audience. This turns out about as well as you'd expect for him.
  • In Soul Plane, Elvis Hunkee (Tom Arnold) meets an old black classmate named Karl at the airport. Karl remembers Hunkee since he and the other kids always pick him last when playing basketball due to the fact he was black. But Hunkee reveals a funny shocker to Karl: it turns out the other kids picked him last not because he was black but because he was a horrible basketball player! The ironic part was the classmate is actually Karl Malone of the L.A. Lakers, a famous NBA player which Hunkee think he's joking which leaves Karl bewildered by this revelation.
  • "What do you mean, 'you people'?" from Tropic Thunder. A subverted example since it was spoken by a white guy playing a black guy, and then an actual black guy asks what he means.
  • An incredibly awkward version pops up in True Crime when Clint Eastwood's character goes to see the mother of a black possible witness. She assumes he's racist, and while he's sputtering, trying to explain himself, she correctly figures out that the other two witnesses and the victim were all white. Eastwood's character tells her she's "making it into a race thing" and tells her the condemned man he's trying to save is also black. She tells him the man he came to see has been dead for three years and asks him where he was when he got stabbed.
  • Deadpool 2:
    • Deadpool is shocked when Negasonic Teenage Warhead shows up with a girlfriend. Negasonic calls him an outdated homophobe, but Deadpool clarifies that he's surprised Negasonic got anyone to date her. She can't really argue with that.
    • Deadpool keeps referring to Cable as a racist after the latter kills minor villain Black Tom Cassidy, who is a white man. After meeting Black Tom, Deadpool forgot everything about him, "except that he was African-American".
  • The homophobia variant happens in Set It Up. Harper and Charlie are trying to get Kirsten and Rick together, and scheme to get them on the kiss cam. After they refuse to kiss on camera, the kiss cam pans to two men who do make out. Charlie boos them and is called out by some spectators.
    Charlie: It's for a different reason!
  • In The Human Stain (adapted from the Philip Roth novel of the same name), professor of literature Coleman Silk refers to two students who never show up for his class as "spooks", the full question being "Do they exist or are they spooks?" As it turns out, the two students whom he has never seen are black, and because "spook" is (besides its other meanings) a slur for black people, the professor is accused of racism. Silk turns to his black fellows for support, but feels betrayed when they do not take his side, and eventually resigns from his position. The big revelation of the story is Silk is an African-American who has "passed for white" in his adult life.

  • Discworld: In The Last Continent, Rincewind mistakes himself for a racist, because he erroneously believes the word means someone who is good at running. Once he finds out what it actually means, he is surprised but realizes he isn't one after all — he only categorizes the world into "people who are trying to kill him" and "people who are not".
  • Esther Diamond: At one point in Disappearing Nightly Hieronymous tells Esther that it's possible that "your people" were behind the disappearance. She takes that remark as anti-Semitic and stats to get defensive before he clarifies that he meant non-magical people.
  • Godzilla: The novel Godzilla Vs. the Robot Monsters features Jack Strongbow, a Blackfoot brave with a strong dislike of Joel Mitchell, a white man working for the U.S. Department of the Interior. In one scene, his girlfriend, Theresa Rainbird, accuses him of hating Joel just for being white, completely ignoring the fact that Jack's best friend and almost brother Wayne is white, as are some other people he's friends with. For his part, Jack privately thinks that he has a whole host of reasons for disliking Joel, none of them related to race, but doesn't bother to voice any of them to Theresa because he knows that, in the mood she's in then, she won't listen.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when the Hufflepuffs are afraid of Harry because they think he's the Heir of Slytherin, Ernie mentions that he's heard Harry hates his Muggle relatives. However, he does not seem to be aware that Harry hates the Dursleys because they're abusive, not because they're Muggles.
    • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, while the Weasleys are picking up Harry from the Dursleys, Fred and George decide to have some fun by "accidentally" dropping a toffee in the living room to tempt Dudley into eating it, knowing he's on a diet. Said toffee is actually an invention of theirs that causes people's tongues to turn purple and grow as large as four feet long when they eat one. Arthur chastises them for using magic to mistreat a Muggle for their own amusement. Fred and George indignantly tell him they didn't give it to him because he's a Muggle, they gave it to him because he's "a great bullying git".
    • Dumbledore’s long-dead father is believed to have been a Muggle-hater due to attacking three Muggle boys. Harry finds out the truth is much more complicated than that note  and comes to realize it’s silly to even think that because he was married to and had three kids with a Muggleborn witch.
    • Viktor Krum mistakes Xenophillius Lovegood for a neo-Grindelwald sympathizer for wearing the Deathly Hallows symbol, which is a fantasy take on a Non-Nazi Swastika.
  • In the short story "A Hot Time in the Old Town" by Desmond Warzel, the elderly gentleman telling the story to the narrator was a landlord, whose house was avoided by potential black tenants because of a hate crime homicide that had taken place there. As it turns out, this is a wise decision on their part, because it's not the landlord who's racist, but the house itself that has been poisoned by the original crime..
  • In Philip Roth's novel The Human Stain, professor of literature Coleman Silk refers to two students who never show up for his class as "spooks", the full question being "Do they exist or are they spooks?" As it turns out, the two students whom he has never seen are black, and because "spook" is (besides its other meanings) also a slur for black people, the professor is accused of racism. The conflict escalates until Silk resigns from his job in protest. The faculty admits he probably was not intentionally being racist, but he just shouldn't have used that word. It is implied that the faculty was resentful because he created some unpopular tenure reforms.
  • In Bryan Miranda's The Journey to Atlantis, Hispanic José is insulted on his race by Chris, calling him a "spick" and referencing his ability to reach America without knowing how to swim. Although he isn't really acting of his own accord but is being influenced by Loki.
  • Older Than Radio: In The Last of the Mohicans Colonel Munro flies into a rage when Major Heyward asks for his daughter's hand in marriage and it turns out that the one he wants is not Cora (whose mother was part-black), but her younger half-sister Alice (whose mother was white). Heyward has a hard time convincing Munro that he just happens to be attracted to Alice more than to Cora (the novel at that point already has established that he in fact greatly admires Cora for her spirit and inner strength). It did not help that Heyward is English, as the crusty Scotsman Munro sees racism against blacks and people with black ancestry as a very English prejudice.
  • In Rick Riordan's verse, demigods are often called "half-bloods." This causes issues sometimes.
    • In the first The Heroes of Olympus book Annabeth uses this term upon meeting Piper, who is taken aback, as her father is Cherokee and she's always assumed that her Missing Mom was white. It's then clarified that Annabeth is actually talking about her mother being a goddess.
    • The same thing happens in "The Son of Sobek," the first Demigods & Magicians crossover story. Percy assumes that Carter is a "half-blood" like him, not realizing that a.) magicians powered by Egyptian gods also exist in this setting, and b.) Carter is, in fact, biracial and might take that term badly.
  • Star Wars: Aftermath: After Sinjir turns down Jas's offer of sex, she thinks at first this is because she's a Zabrak, and gets angry. He quickly corrects her that no, it's because he's gay.
  • When You Reach Me: Miranda calls Julia "Swiss Miss", in reference to her Swiss watch, but it's mistaken by Jimmy (who approves) and later Annemarie (who does not) as a reference to her skin color (Swiss Miss is an American hot chocolate brand).

  • There are several rap songs that contain The N-Word in the title, and if you're not black, saying that you like the song could get you dirty looks.
  • There was a rumor in the 90s that 311's name was related to the KKK (K is the eleventh letter of the alphabet, 3 K, get it?). They actually named themselves after Omaha police code for indecent exposure (a friend of the band's was arrested for skinny dipping). People who bought into this rumor were either unaware of or just flat-out ignored the fact that one of the band members is Mexican (which the Klan probably wouldn't take kindly to), not to mention all of the black artists they've worked with.
  • Country artist Brad Paisley and LL Cool J wrote the song "Accidental Racist" centrally about this phenomenon, using the image of Paisley being mistaken for a racist by a black man while wearing a t-shirt with a Confederate flag emblazoned on it, and attempting to collaboratively overcome the US's race problems. Of course, irony of ironies, upon release the song was attacked by numerous critics for its pronounced Unfortunate Implications and extremely naive, misguided treatment of its subject matter.
  • The refrain of La Marseillaise ends with a line that can be roughly translated as "so that our fields can be watered with the blood of the impure!" Yeah... In context, "impure" means the Evil Reactionaries who ruled France at the time, not those of mixed race.
  • The German metal band Rammstein has, throughout their career, had to fight off accusations that they are Nazis. The accusation seems to stem from the fact that they're German and sound angry, as opposed to anything more substantive.
    • The original cover of Herzeleid featured the band (all Caucasians) standing shirtless in a row - this was taken by critics to be a "poster for the master race." The band eventually changed the North American version of the cover to show just their faces.
    • Added Irony: Some of the band members support communism and the hammer and sickle has shown up more than once in their music videos.
    • The band got so fed up with these accusations, they eventually wrote a song - Links-2-3-4 - in response. The lyrics of the chorus, in part, translate to "My heart beats on the left."
  • An odd case is the Danish children's song "Jeg har set en rigtig negermand", where only the first verse is commonly known (It essentially goes: "I have seen a real negro man / His head is as black as a bucket of tar / He said a lot of strange things / And in his nose he had a great big ring"). However, after several more verses in the same vein on the various races, the final verse of the song sees the protagonist call for everyone to be painted blue so that we can all live in a world of harmony and togetherness. The Celebration saw the first verse being sung, with a party guest telling her (black) partner that it's a racist song. Cable & Deadpool saw a cult called the One World Church to take this premise to its logical conclusion.
  • Tim Minchin's "Cont" or "Context" has Minchin declare his disdain for minority after minority, only to stop and reveal that he had half the lyrics covered up. He then starts again from the top and incorporates the rest of the lyrics, which provide much-needed context:
    Minchin: I don't like Jews... who make and distribute kiddie porn.
  • One viral Chinese song is overflowing with sugary imagery and rife with positive messages in the lyrics... except that the main reason it went viral is the unfortunately-sounding (to anglophone ears, at least) chorus. How unfortunately, you ask? To those without grasp of Mandarin, it sounds like constant repetition of the N-word. One professor was even fired after using that particular Mandarin word.

  • Richard Herring's As It Occurs to Me podcast. Richard describes how twenty years ago he was playing a skinhead in a play and was turned away from a Pizza Hut because they assumed he was racist. He then told of how he was recently given bad service in a branch of Pizza Express because he has a Hitler mustache (which he had because for his stand-up show Hitler Moustache). He said there should be a campaign against people who aren't racist being discriminated because people think they're racist (although he admits that he is probably the only person with that problem). Funny, considering that a major percentage of skinheads are decidedly anti-racist, and hold special loathing towards those who mixed the neo-Nazi and skinhead subcultures together.
  • In True Capitalist, this is subverted. Ghost goes on about the trolls making "false indictments" of his racism, yet Ghost makes fun of minorities and stereotypes all the time.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Muhammad Hassan would very often accuse the fans and the other wrestlers of being against him solely for being Middle Eastern. Despite John Cena claiming that "We don't hate you because you're Arab-American, we hate you because you're Asshole-American!", he was not exactly far off the mark with his claims. note 
  • Happened during a feud between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin & Faarooq:
    Austin: It's not a black thing, it's not a white thing; it's a me kicking your ass thing!
  • Bad News Brown would often accuse white opponents of being racist against blacks like him. In one infamous spot, Roddy Piper showed up to their match with half of his body painted black and declared that color doesn't matter.
  • During a June 2018 interview, Kenny Omega stated that foreign wrestlers in New Japan were "hungrier and worked harder" than the native talent. Two fans misconstrued this and declared Omega a racist despite his being pro wrestling's greatest Occidental Otaku and the numerous examples that many hardcore NJPW fans of both Japanese and Western origins have noted to back up what he's saying.

  • An episode of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme features a man who is convinced his granddad is racist. The pattern of the sketch is: Grandad says "Now, the thing about [race]...", his grandson tries to stop him, and he actually says something complimentary. The grandson protests that this is still stereotyping, and eventually becomes so confused that he starts saying racist stuff.

  • In Avenue Q, Kate Monster getting offended when Princeton asks if she and Trekkie Monster are related is the lead-in to the song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist". Kate herself and two other characters say things that would qualify for this trope if they didn't all end up agreeing that they are racist.

    Video Games 
  • There have been a handful of non-English Apex Legends players that have ran afoul of the game's TOS regarding hate speech and harassment, where something they type out in text chat in their own native language leads to a 7-day suspension for hate speech due to whatever they typed out being mistaken for the N-word.
    • Two Japanese players were hit with suspensions for hate speech. In both cases, someone on the player's team mistook their romaji rendering of "逃げろ" (nigero), which translates to "RUN!!", as the N-word.
    • An Indonesian player also got slapped with a suspension for typing out "No" in their native language. "No" in Indonesian is "Ngga".

    Web Animation 
  • In the Battlefield Friends episode "Recon C4", the Noob says that he'd expect the Medic (who is black) to steal his C4, leading to this exchange:
    Medic: The fuck is that supposed to mean!?
    Noob: You know what it's supposed to mean!
    Medic: No, I don't! Tell me!
    Noob: You're always stealing my kills with your overpowered rifles!
    Medic: ...oh... Oh, I thought you were s—... never mind.
  • Cyanide & Happiness introduces a superhero known as White Knight (clad in garbs reminiscent of the KKK, wears shoes with the Nazi insignia imprinted on the soles, has a cape bearing the Confederate Flag, and flies around on a burning cross), who has brought in Criminals throughout his city (that were all consisting of African-Americans). The Police Chief tries to call him out on this.
    White Knight: Why are you so upset?
    Police Chief: Because WE are supposed to arrest those black people! You're not leaving any for the rest of us.
    White Knight: [Beat) ...That's racist.
  • In episode 20 of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, "Kitten" suggests that people are afraid of the Salamanders because of their black skin, prompting the Emperor to accuse him of being racist and angrily strip his armor off telekinetically. Then it turns out that Kitten is himself black by 2nd millennium standards, but by the 41st millennium's his skin just has a perfectly normal human tone, unlike the Salamanders, who have literal pitch-black skin that looks like they were dipped in tar.
  • Yahtzee Croshaw anticipated this response to his Zero Punctuation review of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, and spent a good minute of the review in question explaining in exhaustive detail that he is not, in fact, a racist, all while the words "UNFUNNY SOAPBOX BIT" scrolled behind the animation in the background. And then he finished the review with this line:
    Yahtzee: Maybe if the world was a little less prejudiced and little more accepting then people might see that we all have the potential to be so much more and then we can all work together to build a better world for everyone. Not that they'd know anything about work, the lazy ni- *credit sequence*.
  • One episode of The Strangerhood parodied black-and-white detective films, with everything changing color in shades of grey. Sam refers to the color scheme as black and white, which causes Chalmers, the African resident, to think Sam has issues.

    Web Comics 
  • Penny and Aggie, in the storyline appropriately titled "The Race Card". Aggie publicly accuses Penny of blowing off a blind date with Duane "because he's black." In fact, Penny had simply assumed his love letter came from another guy with the same vague description.
  • This little gem from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
    Audience: The president is a racist! Bigot!
    President: No! Wait! I said chiggers! Chiggers!
    President: I hate black people and CHIGGERS!
  • This is essentially the sum of Kris the Koala's character in Acorn Grove, to the point where other characters refer to him as "Kris the Racist Koala".
  • Hyperbole and a Half: Played for Laughs when a young Allie, drugged out of her mind from dental surgery, tries in public to convince her mother that she's well enough to go to her friend's party. She gets louder, more incoherent, and more desperate as the mother keeps refusing, until...
    It was at that point that my mom noticed all the people glaring at her and realized that, from an outside perspective, it appeared as though she was not only refusing to let her poor, mentally disabled daughter go to a park and/or a birthday party, but was also taunting her child about her disability.
  • In The Last Days of FOXHOUND, Vulcan Raven assumed that the designation of the codename 'The Chinaman' to one of the members of Dead Cell was the result of prejudice. It turns out that Chinaman had chosen this name for himself, a fact that Colonel Jackson had evidently needed to explain many times before.
    Raven: What kind of fucked up codename system do you guys use?
    Jackson: Look, he picked it, alright? I told him it was a bad idea. You don't know how many times I've had this exact conversation.
    Raven: Why would anyone call himself his ethnicity?
    Chinaman: I don't. I'm Vietnamese, thanks very much for asking.
    Raven: It... makes even less sense that way.
    Chinaman: Oh, well sorry my codename doesn't live up to your fascist standards!
    Raven: What?
    Chinaman: Yeah, sure, act confused. I know your type! You think I'm not good enough for special ops!
    Jackson: Oh, god, not this again.
  • Queen Of The Dead by A-gnosis: When Hades refuses to resurrect Demeter's mortal lover on request, she accuses him of Slut-Shaming her. Hades' real concern is that the man would never truly fit in among the living again, but he's tactless enough to ask Demeter what would happen to the man when she gets tired of sleeping with him.
  • Awkward Zombie: In one of the Mass Effect 3 comics, Miranda's father proudly says that he genetically engineered his daughter to be "perfect." Jacob (who is black) pointedly says "so you made her white."
    Shepherd: Not cool, Miranda's Dad!
    Miranda's Dad: No, that's not—I didn't— [jumps out the window]

    Web Original 
  • Clients from Hell:
    • On one story, the designer accidentally printed a publication with a black cover when the client wanted a different one; the client asked if they could take the misprints but get a discount. Leading the designer to say to his supervisor "They (i.e. the client) want a discount because they (i.e. the documents) are black." The client in question was an African-American church group. Hilarity did not ensue.
    • A lighter example: one client complained about a presentation slide that depicted a black person on a phone, telling its designer to get rid of "those black things." Indignation ensued until the client remembered that the "black things" are called BlackBerries.
  • Not Always Right
    • Not Always Workings has a bank customer ask to see a different teller, because she's deaf and can't lip-read through the teller's burka. The manager absolutely refuses to listen to the customer's explanation and ends up threatening to call the police on her.
    • Not Always Learning has a kindergartener explain to her teacher that she really doesn't like Tiana's color. The teacher is a bit worried before the girl elaborates that she really doesn't like green.
    • A white man asks a black woman: When do you plan to return to Africa?
  • The Fuck My Life website has a story about someone saying he "hates blacks and yellows". He was talking about colored candy, but the black person next to him on the bus misunderstood him.
  • Parodied in this article from The Hard Times, in which the narrator claims that his various racist tattoos are actually anti-racist, but he keeps running out of money, so he can't finish them.

    Web Videos 
  • Rhett & Link knew that their Red House Furniture Commercial would create controversy, but it has no touches of racism in it. In fact, it is the exact opposite. It may only include blacks and whites, but they made it very clear that persons of all races are welcome at The Red House.
  • Tobuscus makes a Running Gag in his various vlogs and gaming commentaries of saying things that can be taken as racist (or sexist, species-ist, or anything else ending in -ist), noticing, and then doing a Verbal Backspace or trying to dig himself out, frequently punctuated with That Came Out Wrong and Freudian Slippery Slope.
  • In the Rooster Teeth Short "Pongo", Joel is repeatedly being labeled racist when he comments on the new intern, who happens to be a puppet.
  • In "Wolfenstein," an episode of Hardly Working, Owen excitedly shows Pat and Murph what he believes to be his grandfather's collection of Wolfenstein 3-D merchandise. Unfortunately, the "merchandise" is actually horrific Nazi propaganda, including a picture of Owen's grandfather with Adolf Hitler, incriminating documents that discuss a "final solution," and an autographed copy of Mein Kampf (which Owen thinks is "German for Wolfenstein."). Owen cheerfully posts pictures of the items online, which inadvertently brings a huge group of Neo-Nazis to the office.
  • The Epic Rap Battles of History battle between Shaka Zulu and Julius Caesar had Caesar's final line of "But there's no use in murdering you and your heathen/You can grow my wheat for me after you're beaten", implying enslavement. Many viewers left comments finding that line racist given Shaka is black; it was more the fact that the Roman Empire enslaved everyone they conquered regardless of skin color.
  • Invoked and exploited in the "Magic and Misfits" campaign of Dimension 20, when a younger student at a British school runs off to snitch on Jammer, an exchange student who happens to be black, for breaking a rule. Jammer stops him by reminding the kid that he's American, prompting him to panic, assuming that he has a gun.
    Jammer: Uh, yeah, I'm a black American. I probably have a gun.
    Snitch Kid: It wasn't a race thing but then you said that like that! And now I believe it!
    Jammer: Yeah, you tell all your friends that I have a gun, and then I'm gonna tell all your friends that you assumed because I'm a black American that I have a gun, and all your little friends are gonna think you're racist.
    Snitch Kid: That's entrapment, no!
    Jammer: You've been entrapped, little man!

    Western Animation 
  • On American Dad!, Steve had his black lab partner over at the house and Francine made her leave, explaining that she didn't feel comfortable with "her kind" in the house. It turns out that she actually noticed that the girl in question was left-handed, which turns out be a case of Boomerang Bigotry.
  • Archer: In season 6, Ray loses his right hand. Krieger eventually builds him a new one... That has black skin. Throughout the season, Ray continuously voices his discontent with it. The others, particularly Lana (who is black) assume he's being racist, but he's actually upset about it being robotic. Eventually, Ray realizes what he sounded like and, horrified, rushes off to apologize to Lana... And manages to cripple himself even further.
  • The Brickleberry episode "Write 'Em Cowboy" has Steve become popular with the gay community due to his country songs containing unintentional innuendos alluding to gay sex. Steve isn't too pleased to find out exactly why his music is popular, but has a change of heart when a gay kid named Billy Black informs him that his music prevented him from committing suicide. Steve then sings a song dedicated to Billy Black, but his poor choice of lyrics gets him in trouble for sounding unintentionally racist.
    Steve: I'm so sorry, Billy Black, people suck.
    It's not your fault, Billy Black, people stink.
    Don't worry, Billy Black, people are animals.
    I'd like to tie them to my pickup truck and drag them down the road.
  • Cleveland in The Cleveland Show is accused of being racist towards Mexicans from her neighbor Choni.
  • Family Guy:
    • Brian gets it from his father. It's a Running Gag, and in at least one episode the full attempts to prove "not racist" backfiring is shown.
    • Another one has Peter sent to sensitivity training and coming back as a Straw Feminist. At one point he gets up in front of a gathering of men and rants that it's their fault that there's so much crime and violence in the world. Unfortunately, said gathering happened to be the Million Man March.
    • And when Peter tries smoking crack:
      Brian: Where'd you get crack?
      Peter: From blacks.
      Brian: What?!
      Peter: Yeah, right behind Black's Hardware Store. There's a white guy sellin' it.
    • In "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein", Peter thinks that being Jewish automatically makes you intelligent (after befriending a stereotypically savvy Jewish financial planner) and takes Chris to get bar mitzvah'ed. When Lois goes to stop them, she talks about how wrong it is, but the people in the synagogue mistakenly think she's a self-hating Jew and chase the Griffins out.
    • In "Deep Throats", Brian gets a job as a cab driver. When he sees Cleveland, he decides against picking him up to buy some milk, causing Cleveland to assume Brian didn't pick him up because he's black. At the end of the episode, Cleveland retaliates by smashing Brian's cab with a golf club.
    • In "A Shot in the Dark", Peter unwittingly shoots Cleveland Jr. at night after mistaking him for a burglar, but people assume it was a hate crime.
    • Exaggerated in one episode where Peter wants Jerome to move out for the quite understandable reason that Jerome and Lois have a history, which they are constantly bringing up with Peter around. Peter resolves to chase him out by dressing as a ghost with a torch.
  • King of the Hill:
    • In "Racist Dawg", Hank is thought to be subconsciously Afrophobic after his dog attacks a black repairman. Him trying an online "are you racist" test and failing (due to being Hopeless with Tech), or Ladybird snatching and destroying a doll of a black man (she sensed Hank was unconfortable playing with dolls, and Bobby was holding the white doll), don't help his reputation. However, in the end, it's revealed the dog attack stemmed from his innate dislike of repairmen, irrespective of ethnicity, when Ladybird attacks a white repairman.
    • In an early episode, Hank doesn't want to go to his new Laotian neighbor Kahn's barbecue because Kahn had been nothing but rude and insulting to Hank (calling him a "stupid redneck" and so on). Peggy demands that Hank go, otherwise they'll look like racists. Hank is frustrated, "I don't care about his race, he's a jerk. What kind of country is this where you can only hate a man if he's white?"
  • At one point, in Metalocalypse the crew of Dethklok was accused of being racist, and so decided to hold a community outreach concert to prove otherwise. Unfortunately, due to Toki's revenge meddling, they joined his special "Special Persons Invites Club"note , and showed up wearing his special club outfits (white robes and hoods), in front of a model of the club logo (a white letter T, for Toki).
  • In the episode "Romeo Must Wed" from The Proud Family, Penny developed a crush on Kwok while rehearsing for their school's production of Romeo and Juliet. After a while, Kwok's parents, the Wongs, politely asked Penny's parents, Oscar and Trudy, that they not allow Penny and Kwok to see each other anymore. While Trudy remained civil in her inquiry, Oscar immediately jumped to conclusions, thinking that the Wongs didn't approve of their son having a relationship with Penny because she wasn't "good enough" for them. This prompted both Oscar and Mr. Wong to imply the other was a racist. It turned out the real reason was that Kwok had an arranged bride, who was coming to town for a visit.
  • Robot Chicken:
    • A sketch has Batman and Robin playing checkers, with the latter stating his distaste for playing the black side. Unfortunately, The Falcon walks by just as Robin yells out "I hate black!", leading to some awkwardness, to put it mildly.
    • Another sketch has a little boy getting amazed when a black stallion starts talking to him. The stallion, talking in an African-American accent, angrily accuses the boy of assuming he was dumb just because he was black. The boy tries to explain that a horse doesn't normally talk, but this just makes him angrier. This goes on with increasing intensity as everything the boy does, like mistaking another horse for the black stallion or offering to fry up a chicken he caught do nothing but enrage the black stallion who assumes literally everything the boy is doing is racially motivated. While constantly making racially motivated comments about the child's race.
  • The Simpsons:
  • Ends up being the punchline of one Smiling Friends episode; while everyone's getting ready for the office Halloween party Charlie states that he doesn't wear costumes for fear of ending up in this trope. The episode then revolves around Pim being terrorized by a forest demon with tree bark for skin, who chases him all the way back to the office. When the two end up in the middle of the party, the demon is accused of wearing blackface in spite of him Suddenly Speaking to explain this is his actual skin color, and is beaten to death and eviscerated by the partygoers. Charlie then calmly points out this is exactly why he doesn't dress up.
  • South Park:
    • Randy Marsh used the n-word on television in "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson", thinking it was the answer to a Wheel of Fortune bonus puzzle. It didn't help that the topic was "People Who Annoy You," and currently the parts he had solved spelled out N_GGERS. Even the black audience members came to the same conclusion. To anyone wondering, the right answer was Naggers. Stan later defends him saying his father isn't racist, just stupid.
    • This trope was played with (somehow) in "There Goes the Neighborhood", where the townsfolk get upset at the town being filled with... rich people (all of whom happen to be black). They try several things that could be seen as racist (burning "lowercase Ts" for "Time to leave", dressing like "ghosts" that more than resemble KKK members), but the "richers" all see these as exactly what they were intended to be. At the end of the episode, after the rich people have left, Mr. Garrison suggests sell all of the rich people's houses and become rich themselves. When Jimbo and Randy point out that means there would still be rich people in town and they would become what they hate, Mr. Garrison remarks "Well, at least we got rid of those damn ni-" *episode ends*
    • At the end of "Summer Sucks", an attempt to make the world's biggest ash-snake covers everyone with soot. Chef drives up and, assuming they're in blackface, tells them all to line up for an ass-kicking.
    • In "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000", Cartman is sent to prison for committing a hate crime when he threw a rock at Token for completely unrelated, but still stupid, reasons.
    • And there's "Chef Goes Nanners" where Chef lobbies to have the town's flag changed, as it depicts four white men hanging a black man. To Chef's indignation, Stan and Kyle claim to not see what the big deal is. He's completely convinced that they're racists... until he realizes that they were so entirely not racist that they didn't think of the men on the flag as four white men hanging a black man, but merely as four men hanging another man. Jimbo and Ned, who aren't racist but are against having the flag changed for the sake of preserving history, sneak into a KKK meeting disguised as Klan members in order to convince them to switch sides, since they know nobody will vote for whichever side the KKK supports (in fact that's the argument they used, and the KKK agreed with them). When they sneak out of the meeting, they remove their hoods, only for Chef to drive by at that exact moment.
    • In "La Petit Tourette", Kyle is accused of not believing that Tourette's Syndrome is real and is forced to meet various people with the condition. The adults all ignore Kyle's protests that he does believe in the condition; he just doesn't believe Cartman's claim that he has Tourette's (Cartman is just using the disease as an excuse to say whatever insult he wants).
    • In "The Big Fix" it's revealed that Token Black was named Tolkien all along, and apparently everyone in South Park knew except Stan and Randy. Stan goes to his doctor seeking advice, only for him to angrily gaslight Stan and the audience over the mistake.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In the episode "Surviving the Spiderbites", Star invites the Spiderbite royal family to Mewni in the hopes that they will make an alliance with Eclipsa, treating them to refreshments, some abstract art and an elaborate monster dance, all of which they hate. Star assumes that they, like most other Mewmans, hate monsters and that is the reason for their disapproval. She's immediately proven wrong when Princess Penelope's monster boyfriend shows up and is welcomed warmly by her parents. As it turns out their problem wasn't with monsters; all of the stuff Star had shown them was associated with Globgor, who, among various other atrocities, apparently ate Shastacan, Queen Spiderbite's great-uncle several times removed. Star apparently didn't do any research beforehand.
  • An episode of Stripperella: A female supervillain called "The Bridesmaid", driven mad by winding up "always a bridesmaid, never a bride," kidnaps several bridegrooms and announces her intention to murder them all. She points her gun at one of the grooms and tells him that he will die first — and because this particular groom happens to be African-American, he accuses her of racism for it. The Bridesmaid concedes the point and opts to start with one of the other grooms — but they all catch on and reveal to her their status as members of "oppressed" groups so that the Bridesmaid will not be able to kill any of them either (including one groom who conveniently "remembers" that he has a "Native American grandparent").
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • The Alchemist, remarking upon Jefferson Twilights' outfit, says "black is slimming". Cue a stony-faced expression from the African-American Jefferson.
    • A later episode had Dermott helping Dean seduce Trianna. He tells Dean to put on a ghost costume (actually a KKK outfit) because goths love ghosts, and write "TRIANNA" on her lawn with wooden boards. When the T is accidentally set aflame, her stepfather comes out with a shotgun, accusing him of being a racist bastard. The stepfather himself is Ambiguously Brown.

    Real Life 
  • The so-called Water Buffalo Incident, in which Pennsylvania University student Eden Jacobowitz was charged with violating the school's racial harassment policy when he yelled "Shut up, you water buffalo!" out the window of his dorm to a noisy, mostly black crowd of students. Ironic in the fact that Jacobowitz was Jewish, and his usage of "water buffalo" was a rough translation of the Hebrew "behema", referring to a noisy, rowdy person. The school's official complaint referring to water buffalo as large, black animals that dwell in Africa also hit a major snag when it was pointed out that water buffalo are, in fact, Asian. Nevertheless, other commentators noted that the act of associating Black Americans with animals itself is often used as a racist trope.
  • Australian entertainer Bert Newton once famously said "I like the boy!" when referring to Muhammad Ali, who didn't take it that well. Bert was making a Call-Back to a recurring comedy routine in which he impersonated Colonel Sanders — unfortunately in America, boy can be considered a racist insult ("No matter how old he is, a black man is always 'boy'"). Luckily, Muhammad Ali did quickly get over it.
  • In 1999 Washington, D.C. ombudsman David Howard, a white man, used the word "niggardly" (which means "miserly", and has a completely different etymology from that other N-word) when talking about the budget, which was interpreted by a black man as being the other word note . Howard resigned from his job because of this but later took another job in the administration. The incident led to something of a clash of beleaguered minorities, as Howard happened to be gay and his resignation (widely believed to be forced) was roundly protested by gay-rights activists. Howard's boss, then-mayor Anthony Williams, later conceded that he'd "acted too hastily" in accepting Howard's resignation.
  • The (African-American) chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, was being interviewed on a news show when this exchange occurred:
    Reporter: What is it that you people want?
    Steele: "You people"?!
    Reporter: Yeah, Republicans.
    Steele: Oh! [chuckles] I thought you meant ...
  • Due to the popularity of neopaganism among white supremacists, bands like Týr and Moonsorrow have had to release video statements in order to convince the public that they were in fact not neo-Nazis.
  • In one episode of The Apprentice, one of the contestants used the phrase "The pot calling the kettle black" when referring to one of the other contestants, who then took it to be a racist comment.
  • AV Club criticized the 2013 South Park episode "Black Friday" for "having the mangled pronunciation of the 'Black Friday Bundle' repeated over and over" by Japanese characters, the article author citing it as an "unfortunate" example of how the show "mocked foreign cultures in un-PC ways." However, the phrase, "burakkufuraidē bandoru" is in fact correct Japanese ("ブラックフライデーバンドル") for "Black Friday Bundle." If anything, the way it's pronounced in the episode is due to Americans mangling the pronunciation of a Japanese phrase, not vice versa. Series co-creator is actually fluent in Japanese (his college major) and has been to Japan over 50 times.
  • On the reality web series Strip Search, Alex designed a T-shirt with a crest featuring the initials of the show. The judges cautioned him on this subject, noting that there were inherent problems with a military-esque symbol with "SS" in the middle and that even if he didn't think of that, "someone will".
  • There's a hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts called Cooley-Dickinson, but locals tend to abbreviate it to "Cooley-Dick" and on at least one occasion this has been mistaken for a racial slur when referring to the interns at the hospital, many of whom are Asian-American.
  • More than one prominent politician, including former presidential candidates John Kerry, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, has been accused of racism for using the phrase "tar baby". Many assumed it was a racist slur; in actuality, it refers to a problem that only gets worse the more heavily you get involved in it (for the record, the original reference came from the Uncle Remus stories, which are African-American folktales). Most politicians now use the less-charged terms "quagmire" or "the third rail", depending on the context of the issue.
  • The 2010 South African World Cup starting 11 had 10 black players and 1 white. The white player's name was Matthew Booth. Cue horrified, mostly foreign Moral Guardians who had watched the overwhelmingly black South African crowd yelling "Boooooooooo(th)" every time Booth had the ball.
  • A potential problem for equestrians talking about Arab horses as seen by this post on an equestrian forum. Turns out, "Normally, I'm not a fan of Arabs...", sounds really bad when taken out of context.
  • A local TV news program once investigated an Australian man who'd apparently called a real estate ad that said "No Asians" into a local newspaper. In his interview the man appeared to be digging himself deeper by explaining he meant he didn't like any of them and didn't want them in his house because they were all crooks. Fortunately, it turned out to be a case of One Dialogue, Two Conversations: he was opposed to dealing with real estate agents.
  • A few people protested (and still joke) about the fact that Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers' Yellow Ranger Trini and Black Ranger Zack were played by a Vietnamese-American actress and an African-American actor respectively. According to Zack's actor Walter Jones, he was originally going to be the Blue Ranger but the producers decided to shift him to Black for continuity with the original Super Sentai footagenote , which Jones okayed because he thought the Black costume looked cooler. As for Trini, she was played by a Hispanic actress in the pilot episode, but was recast after demanding more money. Nobody on the staff realized the implications of the casting until after several episodes had been filmed, at which point it was too late to do anything about it.
    • And irony of ironies, this uproar has since lead to a greater case of racism: a male Native American can never lead a Power Ranger team because he would be a "red man" because the Red Ranger generally leads the team and the one exception was a White Ranger which would be worse. The White Ranger (who was also the Red Ranger for two later power sets) was a Native American character played by a white actor; oddly enough, this went largely unremarked at the time.
  • The undercut, a hairstyle that has the hair buzzed on the sides but left long on top, became popular among young men in The New '10s. It also became popular among white nationalists, most notably by Richard Spencer, because it looked less threatening than the "skinhead" look. In response to this, users on dating apps like Tinder began rejecting any guy who had this hairstyle. The hairstyle started to fall out of favor as men who weren't white nationalists tried to avoid this trope. (Only applies in America and England though. It does not seem to carry any political implications in Francophone countries.)
    • This trope can apply to skinheads themselves. Although the skinhead subculture arose from the mingling between Jamaican immigrants and British-born youth, many outside the subculture today associate skinheads with the violent, fascist, racist strand that emerged in the 80s. Even as fascists today have begun to abandon the subculture due to the violent connotations, and as anarchists, socialists and antifascists have begun to reclaim aspects of the culture, many average people will associate skinheads with racism.
  • In November 2018, a white general manager of a St. Paul, Minnesota, Chipotle restaurant was recorded by a group of several young African American people saying that the group needed to pay for their food before ordering it claiming that they never have any money on them. The group posted the video on social media, accusing her of racial discrimination, and led to her getting fired by Chipotle, and the company issued an apology to the group. Sympathizers, wanting to support the group, combed over the leader's Twitter feed and discovered that he and his friends had been bragging about how they managed to pull a number of "dine dashes" across the city, and surmised that the manager meant that she was preventing them from pulling another Dine and Dash on her restaurant.
  • Criticizing Islam often ends in accusations of racism, it does not help that Islam is linked exclusively with Arabs and the people of the Middle East in general, even though not all Arabs are Muslims or all Muslims are Arabs. This article by Cracked -written by a liberal ex-Muslim- explains in detail how valid criticism of Islam is often-erroneously or intentionally-branded as racist, and at the same time valid criticism of Islam is hijacked and distorted by racist groups. On the other hand, the stereotypical association of Muslims with turbans has led to a rise of Sikhs getting discriminated against and even attacked.
  • A similar situation exists with linking any criticism of Israel, no matter what the substance of it, to being racist against Jews. In extreme cases this can extend to being at all sympathetic to Palestinians. Such accusations will even be leveled at Jewish critics of Israel, including those who are themselves Israeli citizens. It doesn't help that some of the criticism actually is anti-Semitic.
  • Actor Tyrese Gibson (who is black) was once asked by a BET reporter whether his ongoing — and rather angry — feud with James Franco (who is white) had anything to do with the fact that he (Gibson) was black and Franco was white. The way the question was phrased made it clear that the reporter believed that the argument was somehow based in racism on Franco's part. Gibson quickly ended that assumption by saying, "My beef with him has absolutely nothing to do racism, because he's absolutely not a racist. But it does have everything to do with his being an gigantic asshole. 'Cause that's what he is, a gigantic asshole."
  • In 2017 Trent Lockett, an American basketball player who went to play for a team in Spain, encountered a Semana Santa parade, a religious festival where people wear outfits that strongly resemble those worn by the Ku Klux Klan in America (although it actually predates the Klan by centuries).
  • In Latin America the word "negro" does not have negative connotations (it's simply the Spanish word for "black") - of course, it all depends on the context in which it is used - and calling someone "mi negro" or "negrito" is often an affectionate nickname among friends or romantic partners. However, when the Uruguayan soccer player Edinson Cavani in a conversation in Spanish called one of his friends "mi negrito” on social media, he was accused of racism, and heavily fined. This in turn led many Uruguayans to accuse the English authorities of being racist for imposing their own cultural parameters on a conversation in another language.
  • A notable incident that contributed to the great Prince Philip Mountbatten-Windsor's public image as "Gaff Man" was his interaction with neighboring Aborigine tribes in Australia in 2002. One tribe admitted they and the other tribe used to exchange spears in the martial sense, and the Duke of Edinburgh had one question for the leader of said other tribe as a result: "Do you still chuck spears at each other?" The whole tribe thought that one was Actually Pretty Funny, but it subsequently ended up being one of many Duke of Edinburgh quips the Daily Mail and similar tabloids took out of context.
  • In 2021, many Indonesian Twitter users were accused by their English-speaking counterparts of saying the n-word under the guise of "ngga". Little did they know, "ngga" is an actual word in Indonesian (well, technically a slang word) meaning "no", but this fact did little to stop English-speaking Twitter users of accusing Indonesians of racism anyways.


Video Example(s):


Forest Demon/Blackface Mix-Up

Some people really don't like blackface. Sadly for the Forest Demon, that's just how he looks.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / MistakenForRacist

Media sources: