We all have witnessed individuals and some in the media engage in race hustling and race-baiting to sell a story. Some of these narratives are eye-opening and often draw attention to important issues but many are simply designed to leave Americans in a state of self-loathing. However, it is nice to see signs that some of us are in North Carolina are potentially turning the corner.

Recently, Gov. Roy Cooper said in an interview with Politico that he would not be running for the U.S. Senate in 2022 because he doesn’t want Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson to be governor. Cooper stated, “[w]e have a Republican lieutenant governor and if you look at who he is and what he stands for, I’m not sure that North Carolina needs two years of that because if I ran, I believe that I would win.” Now, if we focus on the line “if you look at who he is” one could certainly perceive this to be racist. Cooper is a man that happens to be white, and Robinson is a man that happens to black. Now, the assumption here for the would-be race hustler is that Cooper harbors some unconscious racist belief because he thinks Robinson, by merely looking at him, is not worthy of being governor of North Carolina. Therefore, Cooper must make this noble sacrifice by deferring advancement in his political career to a later date to be a vanguard of sorts for North Carolinians. Perhaps the race hustler will go a step further by saying Cooper’s sentiment is a calling card to the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, whereby klansmen felt this divine calling to protect the nation from the rise of the “other.” Hence, Cooper, the race hustler would contend, is perpetuating a racist perception of black Americans by highlighting Robinson’s appearance in a negative light. (If only Republicans had the same passion for spinning such a web of racist associations as some Democrats.)

Of course, this would be ridiculous. Not everything that is perceived to be the case turns out to be true. For example, I may perceive traffic lights to be colors other than red, green, and yellow but that would be due to color blindness which yields an incorrect perception on my part. In the case of Cooper’s interview, I see no reason to believe Cooper has some unconscious racist belief about Robinson. This is merely politics at play. That is, the more rational conclusion is that it is merely a personal repudiation of Robinson as lieutenant governor rather than it being anything about Robinson’s racial identity. Hence, to suggest otherwise would perceive Cooper’s statement from the position of the most sensitive person in the room who is already predisposed to racist thinking.

Interestingly enough, Cooper has received no backlash for his comment from the NAACP, the Democratic Party, or any other woke social group that I am aware of. While their silence may speak more to political hypocrisy, since Cooper is a Democrat, I am optimistic that it is a sign of social evolution away from race baiting narratives driven largely by media outlets. I am pleasantly surprised that outlets like The News & Observer were fairly straightforward in their coverage of the interview in terms of it being about the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina and not about race in any form.

Here we have two men with difference hues of skin color that happen to have well known differences in political philosophy. This difference is not because of the way they look, but rather due to their personal experience. So, when Cooper says “if you look at who he is” this should be perceived as a rejection of Robinson’s political ideas rather than a rejection of Robinson himself because of the color of his skin.

This moment reminds me of one of The Office’s cold opens during season nine when an actor friend of Jim and Pam played by Randall Park, who is an American of Korean descent, pretends to be Jim to prank Dwight. (However, Park’s character, Steve, is Asian.) During the scene, Dwight rejects the idea that Jim is of Asian heritage and continues to refute Steve’s portrayal as Jim. Steve cleverly responds to Dwight’s accusation that he is not Jim by suggesting Dwight never noticed Jim’s ethnicity before and says, “[h]ats off to you for not seeing race.”

This whole situation of overlooking Cooper’s statement about Robinson, which can be perceived as overtly racist, gives me some encouragement about the future. So, to all the race-baiters and race hustlers out there that turned a blind eye to Cooper’s comment, hats off to you for not seeing race…this time.

Joshua Peters is vice chair of the Wake County Young Republicans.