Federal Judge’s Private Racist Email Joke Becomes Public

A federal judge in Montana;  U.S. District Chief Judge Richard Cebull recently sent out an email to a few of his personal friends, a racist joke about President Barack Obama. His email said:

“Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’ “The e-mail joke reads.”His mother replied, ‘don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’ “

James Woodcock/AP

Judge Cebull admitted sending the joke to some of his friends but he also said he didn’t realize that the email would become public. He also claimed that he wasn’t racist himself and the email was meant to be private.

This is an old standard among men like Judge Cebull; it’s okay to make racist jokes among one’s peers or otherwise – other white men, and as long as it isn’t public, that makes it not racist; just some friends having a little fun. If the Honorable Judge Cebull had not been racist, then he would have found the joke offensive and instead of emailing it out to his friends, deleted it from his computer. Sending it out because he found it funny and “a bit touching” says a lot about the judge.

All my life I’ve been around white men who like to make racist jokes – in private.  It’s always been something that was acceptable among certain groups of men to privately tell racist jokes. Then if there was a black person around, you didn’t tell those kinds of jokes, instead you made claims that you’re not prejudice, that you even have black friends. It was only okay when you were among white men like yourself.

Just because something is done in private or among one’s confidants, doesn’t take away from the racism at all. It in fact, reveals that the person who tells such jokes, just what they really think of people of color.

Being a gay man, there has been many times that I also have heard gay jokes when someone didn’t know that I was gay. These are also the same kind of people who – knowing you’re gay – will tell you that they don’t have any problem with gay people, but let them get angry with you for something and suddenly, words like faggot erupt from their mouths.

Bigotry runs deep and just because someone has two faces for everyone – one that is public and allows them to get through their lives without too much trouble with confrontations and even more serious problems, like job loss and even law suits. Then there’s the private face that’s reserved for their friends or at least those they assume is like them.

Many times these kinds of people assume I’m one of them when they tell me racist jokes. I must confess that there was a time that I remained silent, allowing them to think I was okay with it. It was to me, like listening to gay jokes that were degrading to gay people because the person telling the joke didn’t realize that I was gay. That’s where the difference goes when it comes to me being gay and someone being black; someone doesn’t always know I’m gay but a black person most generally can’t hide the fact they’re black and so they won’t hear those “private” jokes as I might.

I’m no longer the kind of person who’ll just stand silently by when someone assumes it’s okay to tell racist jokes to me, no more than I’m someone who’ll stand by as someone tells gay jokes to me without revealing to them that I happen to be gay. I’ve come to realize that bigotry must be confronted, no matter if it affects me or not.  I also well realize that if someone is racist, they’re most assuredly anti-gay also because ignorant people, who hate, hate everyone who’s different than they are.

I’m sure there are a lot of people who really aren’t racist but also don’t like to be confrontational; especially with someone they deem a friend of some sort. They would rather stand by and just not say anything than risk alienating the individual who’s telling them the racist or even the gay joke. It’s easier that way; is their reasoning. They may not approve and wouldn’t tell those kinds of jokes themselves but they’re use to it and to object would put them in an uncomfortable spot.

I will no longer stand by and listen to something I find offensive, even if it means I will anger the bigot who’s telling me the joke. I feel it’s important that we put bigots on notice that their hate is not going to be tolerated.

As far as the judge; I would like to see what his record is as far as his rulings – does he show a bias toward people of color when he rules from the bench? I do think that he has shown a side of himself that he may hide well in public but his private joke shows otherwise.

He seems to also say by his admission that he thinks that since it was meant to be private, it doesn’t show him to be racist; I beg to differ – I believe it shows racism that he’s managed to hide until now. I do know that I wouldn’t want to be a black person depending on him to be fair if he was to preside over a case concerning me. That means he can no longer be trusted to be a guardian and an interpreter of our laws if we cannot feel confident that justice would be blind when he’s the one deliberating it. Saying that, I  believe it’s time that he step down.

7 Responses to Federal Judge’s Private Racist Email Joke Becomes Public

  1. This guy should be taken off the bench. If he can express such disdain for the President of the United States, I can only IMAGINE his expressed disdain for others who might appear before him hoping for and expecting “justice”. Great post!

  2. avatar valrfederoff says:

    He should be fired. It doesn’t matter if the email was meant to be private. It shows he is racist and doesn’t belong on the bench. I am sharing this post. Thanks for writing it.

  3. […] racism of U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull ; the judge who made a private racist joke about Obama to some email friend is the kind that […]

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