Per the norm, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gave a speech recently and one part stood out to the national news media. "When [our debt] comes due, and this isn't racist … but it's gonna be like slavery … we are gonna be beholden to a foreign master," Palin said Saturday at a fundraiser in Iowa, referring to money the U.S. borrows from China.
MSNBC's Al Sharpton pounced on the comment. "Our federal debt is like slavery?" he said on his show Monday. "Slavery was horrific, vile, a vile practice that was explicitly based on race. So it’s hard to avoid sounding racist when you make comparisons like that."
Perhaps Palin was unartful in the comparison but racist she wasn't. It's worth stating here, however, that there's longstanding confusion over whether someone is speaking in racist terms or racial terms. Palin may have been better served by preempting her comparison with, "I'm not speaking in racial terms, but..." rather than, "this isn't racist, but..." Then it would have at least been clear without doubt she was referring to slavery in practical terms, not historical terms and definitely not racist terms.
For good measture...
racial (adjective)- "arising, occurring, or existing because of differences between races or racial attitudes."
racist (noun)- "a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that a certain human race is superior to any or all others."