Racism in popular culture

I’m not sure if this was really done on the popular TV show hosted by David Letterman but I received a forward that may encourage an interesting discussion about racism in popular culture and be suitable for my Popular Cultures in English Speaking Countries class. I must say again that I find it hard to believe this was actually part of the show. I can imagine that some created their own top ten list as this is not an uncommon activity in America:

David Letterman’s Top 10 reasons why there are no black NASCAR drivers: (I bet his life will be miserable after the NAACP sees this!)

# 10 – Have to sit upright while driving.

# 9 – Pistol won’t stay under front seat.

# 8 – Engine noise drowns out the rap music.

# 7 – Pit crew can’t work on car while holding up pants at the same time.

# 6 – They keep trying to carjack Dale JR.

# 5 – Police cars on track interfere with race.

# 4 – No passenger seat for the Ho.

# 3 – No Cadillac’s approved for competition.

# 2 – Can’t wear helmet sideways.


# 1 – When they crash their cars, they bail out and run.

Filed Under: Language issues

About the Author

Comments (8)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Cleve says:

    I don’t know either if this was real or just more internet “humor”, but I must say I disagree with your decision to post this, if you’re not sure if it’s real or not. You’ve titled the post with the word “racism”, quoted the stereotyping, and then used Letterman’s name twice. You’ve therefore connected the two in your readers’ minds, which is an extremely harsh commentary.

    Keep in mind that the point here isn’t whether it is real or not, it’s that you don’t know, and have published this anyway. That’s an unfortunate lapse in judgement in an otherwise excellent blog.

  2. James Trotta says:

    I’m not sure that sharing a possible discussion topic is a lapse of judgement. I trust that readers are discerning enough to use their own judgement and attentive enough to read that while top ten lists are part of American popular culture, many are homemade and this one may well be.

    Actually, now that I think about it, a task that might be fun for any class (not just a Popular Cultures in English Speaking Countries class) would be to have students create their own top ten lists.

  3. Erik Brown says:

    Let’s not be so serious here. This is HUMOR… not racism. There are individuals in the U.S. that make a living by using their creativeness to make others smile. There are examples of this type of humor aimed at all groups in American society (Dave Chapelle, Carlos Mencia, Lewis Black). I even found an article on this subject in which “the great” Jesse Jackson pokes fun of black drivers.


    If you have your english students come away with one thing from your class, make sure they are aware of the runaway political correctness that has become a part of our society by those who think they have the moral high ground (i.e. their instructor). 감사합니다

    P.S. Didn’t you mean to say (I “hope” his life will be miserable after the NAACP sees this!) I believe that is what you were feeling.

  4. lewis71 says:

    Hey there from a fellow English teacher in Korea

    Just searched the letterman website and can not find this in the top ten archives. I’m not an apologist for David Letterman (some of his humour I find to be extremely funny, while other stuff I find is on the wrong side of nasty, mean spirited and cynical) – I’m sure if one went through his top ten lists you could find other examples which might go close to some of these – but this list doesn’t seem to exist. The David Letterman show takes it humour to the edge of American sensibilities – but I don’t think they would be stupid to do a list like this – well not to air one like this on TV anyway. 😉


  5. James Trotta says:

    Thank you all for the comments. I don’t quite understand this one: “Didn’t you mean to say (I “hope” his life will be miserable after the NAACP sees this!) I believe that is what you were feeling.”

    This is demonstrative of racism in American culture if you ask me although a class on political correctness is also needed because PC is a huge influence on American culture. I’ve done such a class before but I think you for reminding me about it. Now I have to go find it…

  6. bilbo says:

    It’s true, it was one of Letterman’s top ten. I agree with the posters who think this topic may be innappropriate for people who are not living within American pop culture. Personally, I don’t find it very humorous, and I am sure that many African Americans would not find it funny either. However, it should be noted that Letterman pulls no punches. His top ten list can target any sector of society. He pans white Americans far more often than those of color. He often goes after the religious right, which is predominantly white. Isolating this one top ten list, without giving an overview of all the top tens in Letterman’s long broadcast histtory could give a distorted view of what Letterman is really all about in North American culture.

    Just my thoughts…

  7. native american says:

    10. don’t help starving, dying white men during the winter, because they will backstab you right after thanksgiving dinner.

    9. don’t make treaties with the white government, b/c they will never hold their end up.

    8. white men will travel thousands of miles, risk being infected by diseases, risk their own lives…just to enslave people.

    7. they go to church…and come home to whip, raape, beat slaves.

    6. they hold the bible in one hand…and the whip in the other.

    5. even now…they want the black people to ‘get it’ first…and after letting them suffer a bit…show their benevolent side by sending some pocket change…after katrina.

    4. exploit women in developing countries.

    3. iraqi children killers

    2. india invaders.

    1. oppressors of society.

    By the way…this is just some humor. Maybe I should’ve been a little bit more PC.

  8. enlightened white dude says:

    Hey…guys. Fellow white dude here.

    Just wanted to share something I learned while traveling around the world.

    Just because I’m in Korea doesn’t mean that I could get away with the suble racist remarks, innuendos, or even nuances in my speech(towards black people) or behavior…and they even seem to catching on the very subtle patronizing that I used to enjoy….because I found out that the Koreans are learning more and more about our ways by Korean-Americans, or Koreans who’ve stayed in the U.S. for a long time. They seem to be educating Koreans in Korea about what’s really going on behind closed doors in the white communities in the U.S. So…just watch out, ok, guys? You can still do it…but just don’t get caught. They’re onto us.

    fellow whitey