Embattled Dilbert creator Scott Adams responded to allegations of racism on Saturday by arguing that racism is fine in some situations.
Newspapers including Cleveland’s Plain Dealer announced this week that they would stop running Dilbert cartoons after Adams went on a “racist rant” in which he encouraged white people to stay away from Black people, whom he described as a “hate group.”
In a follow-up video on Saturday, Adams attempted to clarify his comments, likening them to former Vice President Mike Pence’s policy of avoiding one-on-one interactions with women, out of fear of what Adams described as “getting me-too’d when maybe you didn’t me-too anybody.”
On Wednesday, Adams advised white people to keep their distance from Black people, whom he described as hateful.
“I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people,” the Plain Dealer quoted Adams as saying in the Wednesday video.
The Plain Dealer wrote that dropping Dilbert was “not a difficult decision.” “Adams said Black people are a hate group, citing a recent Rasmussen survey which, he said, shows nearly half of all Black people do not agree with the phrase ‘It’s okay to be white.’”
The “it’s okay to be white” slogan is an extensively documented meme, crafted by 4chan and disseminated on flyers by white supremacist groups, in an effort to cast white people as a besieged victim class.
Adams addressed the controversy on Saturday during which he bemoaned his “cancellation” and attempted to explain “what I did, which was the opposite of racism, but also racism.”
“Who disagrees with the idea that you should stay away from pockets of people where the odds are, they’re not going to like you?” Adams said. “Again, it’s nothing to do with any individual, and no discrimination involved here. I’m just saying: as a personal, career decision, you should absolutely be racist whenever it’s to your advantage and that’s for men, for women, for Black or white, Asian or Hispanic. Every one of you should be open to making a racist career decision.”
A “racist career decision” by a Black person, he argued, might involve taking a role at a Fortune 500 company, where he claimed that affirmative action gives Black workers an advantage. (This is measurably false. Just over one percent of Fortune 500 companies had a Black CEO in 2022, which was still the highest-ever percentage of Black Fortune 500 CEOs. A 2021 census of Fortune 500 companies found that minorities of any race accounted for just 17.5 percent of Fortune 500 company board seats.)
Angling for one such role “would require this hypothetical Black person to make a racist decision, which I would totally back,” Adams said. “If you’re making decisions for your own personal life, you can be as racist as you want. That’s not illegal and it’s definitely not unethical.”
He went on to criticize efforts to include more women and racial minorities in the workplace as having an “expense” for those people.
“The expense is, you can have what you want, but I don’t want to be near you,” he said. “Do you remember the ‘Pence rule?’ The Pence Rule was he wouldn’t go to lunch or dinner with a woman who is not his wife. Now, do you think that Pence does not like women? Would that be a reasonable conclusion? [...] Is that an anti-women thing? By the way, that’s totally right. Here’s how I interpret it. It has nothing to do with anything to do with any individual woman. [Mike Pence is not saying] ‘this jezebel wants to go to lunch with me.’ He’s not saying that. He’s just playing the odds. He’s just playing a statistical game.”
Refusing to take meetings with female colleagues, where one might otherwise take such meetings with male colleagues, is discriminatory and might be illegal, law experts noted when Pence’s policy made headlines in 2017.
The policy cuts off women from full access to the workplace, on the premise that they might falsely accuse men of sexual misconduct.
He went on to liken Black people’s complaints of racism to women’s complaints of sexual harassment.
“Would you expect that they would be primed to see racism everywhere? Of course, that’s just how it works,” he said. “The Mike Pence rule would say, you wanna get some distance. Now is that racist? Yeah, by definition. But it’s racist in a personal success context, which is completely allowable.”
Earlier in the day, Adams appeared to invoke a similar question on Twitter. “Is it racist to avoid racists who are the same race as each other?” he tweeted. “Or is it only racist if the racists you are avoiding are white?”
Twitter CEO Elon Musk responded to Adams, writing “simultaneously, an interesting question and a tongue twister!”