More Racism From The Right – Incidents and Analysis

Posted in General by TBartine on July 22, 2009 No Comments yet

After several posts about health care, as promised, I’m going to shift gears and address a topic which just won’t go away: racism within the conservative movement.  Who is making these attacks, why so many as of late, and what does this mean within our societal context?

Since the start of the last presidential election, we have been repeatedly informed of new instances of overt racism among members of the conservative movement, conservative pundits, and Republican politicians and operatives.  First, there were the shocking clips on YouTube and other sites, of McCain/Palin supporters…holding up signs and shouting slogans which contained either thinly-veiled or, at times, direct racist attacks.  More recently, we saw much of the same in clips and photos of Tea Party gatherings.  A candidate for the RNC chairmanship sent out a “Christmas CD” with a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro“…and then the man who was instead elected RNC chair DEFENDED it.  We heard about the GOP activist and his sick “joke” about Michelle Obama being related to a gorilla.  It was revealed that a Republican California Mayor sent out an email with a picture of the White House…the lawn covered by rows of watermelons.  Recently, a Tennessee staffer for a Republican state legislator sent out an email with an equally racist picture…she only apologized for sending it to the wrong people.  That staffer…was not terminated, even despite calls from other Republicans.

You may well be asking…what on EARTH is going on in the Republican party and its supporters?

And recently…more instances have occurred:

  • So many comments, jokes, and attacks regarding Sonia Sotomayor’s ethnicity were made by Republican members of the Senate (and the conservative media) that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy had to call a stop to it: “…I understand [Sen.] Mitch McConnell and I’ve worked with Sen. McConnell on different things. But like the other leaders of the Republican Party, he came out very, very early against her and he doesn’t want to change his mind. You had one leader of the Republican Party call her the equivalent of the head of the Ku Klux Klan. Another leader of the Republican Party called her a bigot. To Sen. McConnell’s credit, he has not used those things, but the leadership of the Republican Party came out against her long before we ever had the hearing, long before they had a chance to look at her record. I think that’s unfair.“  Leahy went on to say, “I hope we don’t go back to the day when we used to put African Americans up for confirmation and say yes, but you belong to the NAACP so we’re really suspicious of you…Come on, stop the racial politics.“  In this day and age, a senator should not have to remind OTHER SENATORS that racial attacks are indefensible and unacceptable…and the ranking Republican senator on the committee (Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama) should not be a man who failed his own confirmation hearing due to his history of making racist statements.
  • A Republican California City Councilman, Gary Frago, sent at least six racist emails to staff and prominent members of the community.  In these emails he quips that “n—er rigs” should now be referred to as “Presidential Solutions,” and that “Playboy just offered Sarah Palin $1 million to pose nude in the January issue. Michelle Obama got the same offer from National Geographic.“  His defense: he says these “jokes” were only meant for the eyes of friends…and that he thinks it’s ok because he ALSO makes jokes about Jews and Hispanics.  No, Gary…that DOES NOT make it ok.  He has since apologized.
  • On the RNC’S OWN WEBSITE, they recently added a new feature…a “game” where the website’s visitor gets to buy items using a make-believe “Obama Credit Card.”  The obvious intention is to emphasize and criticize the cost of the President’s various proposals.  This would be fine…if it weren’t for what the RNC website allows visitors to “purchase“…the items include pornographic materials, anti-Semitic literature (including a book titled “The Jews and Their Lies“), and anti-Latino literature (such as a book titled “The Latino Threat“).
  • New York Republican Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney decided it was appropriate to quote someone else’s use of  the n-word when criticizing Hillary Clinton’s replacement, Kirsten Gillibrand.  She said: “It’s the NRA, it’s immigration, it’s all these other things. In fact, I got a call from someone from Puerto Rico, said [Gillibrand] went to Puerto Rico and came out for English-only [education]. And he said, ‘It was like saying n–r to a Puerto Rican.’  I don’t know–I don’t know if that’s true or not. I just called. I’m just throwing that out. All of her – well, what does she stand for?“  She has since apologized.
  • Brian Kilmeade has had to apologize for the comments he made on FOX and Friends According to Huffington Post: “Kilmeade and his co-hosts were discussing a Swedish and Finnish study which found that married people were less susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease than unmarried ones. Kilmeade downplayed the study’s significance in America, saying ‘we [Americans] keep marrying other species and other ethnicities . . . Swedes have pure genes . . . in America we marry everybody…’
  • I recently posted a clip of Pat Buchanan voicing flagrant white supremacist ideology while being interviewed on the Rachel Maddow Show.  The statements he made were similar to the sentiments he had communicated on several shows, during his strident opposition to Sonia Sotomayor and to Affirmative Action policies.  Rachel did us all the favor of later revealing that Buchanan’s assertions are NOT ONLY racist…but they are also factually, historically, and categorically FALSE:

  • Want a round-up of several of the racially charged attacks on Sotomayor, and a wonderful response?  Here’s Stephen Colbert’s treatment of the subject through his own, unique brand of satire:

So…

Why is this happening? Why now…why these people?

WHY NOW: We are experiencing a period of remarkable change.  An African-American President.  A Latina candidate for Supreme Court Justice.  An African-American Attorney General.  A new Hate Crime bill protecting gays against violent acts spurred by hated for their sexual orientation.

WHY THESE PEOPLE: Why conservatives, their media leaders, and their elected officials?  To understand this…we need only to do a quick, basic examination of what conservatism IS…not politically…but ideologically (again, these are NOT political definitions – they are not the policy platforms of our two parties…these are the core principles BEHIND such things).

Conservatism is: an inclination towards resisting change in favor of the status quo and a preservation of tradition.  It tends to revolve around a presumption that our society needs to stay as it is, or possibly even go back to resemble more the way it once was.

Liberalism is: an inclination towards supporting change, usually revolving around the presumption that society, through change, is consistently evolving towards something better.

That being said…can you see why conservatism is important? It serves several functions, including the preservation of valuable traditions, that are a part of our cultural and societal heritage, and it also SLOWS THINGS DOWN.  That is to say, conservatism can provide the necessary function of helping to make sure that change does not occur needlessly or recklessly because, let’s face it…change is not always necessarily effective, nor is it necessarily good.  The best changes are those that are well planned, that address a specific problem, where all reasonable options are considered, and all probable outcomes are studied.

The problem occurs when the opposition to a particular change or set of changes is NOT because of concerns that it will not be “effective” or “good,” but is instead because the conservative person or group in question wants to maintain a system of corruption and/or inequality.  And THAT is where the problem exists for many of today’s conservatives.  Because, ask yourself, who in America stands to benefit the most from things going back to what they were?  It’s Christian white people, especially men…which is, of course, why the Republican Party predominantly consists of Christian, white men.  In their remembrances of “the good ol’ days,” men were in the driver’s seat in the home, in the family, and in the workplace.  White men had the advantage in terms of education, employment, opportunity, and advancement.  In other words, you aren’t likely to find too many minority members, women, or gays who think of 1950′s America as the “good ol’days.“  These people I just mentioned (minorities, women, and gays)…want change.  And they will continue to want change until true equality exists.  Their hopes and dreams of equality…are one of the threats that some conservatives are reacting to when they voice outdated and prejudiced opinions.

A related note on discrimination: It’s also important to remark that in the past, more people in America identified themselves as Christians, and more families were regular church attendees…this and the lack of diversity of faith (including atheism) meant that it was easier to get people to accept arguments that were “scripture only,” that is to say, arguments that didn’t necessarily have any logical or scientific justification.  Back then, if a person voiced an opinion that originated from the church pulpit or from scripture…it was likely that most others would accept it without question or debate.  Now, conservatives seem besieged by opponents who respond with science, and data, and who refuse to accept an argument in favor of maintaining an unacceptable social injustice simply because “it says so in the Bible.“  This threat, a threat to justifications which worked unfailingly in the past, has resulted in attempts by conservatives to either preserve old (or insinuate new) Christian references in government policy and practice.  These fears are also responsible for conservative attacks denigrating members of other faiths (or those without faith), and their attempts to ensure that positions of power are only occupied by self-identified Christians…which is nothing more than another form of institutionalized discrimination.

In my opinion, we are witnessing the conservatives’ cultural “fight or flight” reaction to these strong attacks on their race-based and scripture-based justifications…justifications which our current society, with all its diversity, will no longer tolerate.  Our society’s response SHOULD be to reject these justifications, and not to reject conservatism as a concept, for as I mentioned earlier, it plays a crucial role.  And in the end, conservatism, like a force of nature, must survive and will survive…and like all things, it will do so by evolving.  It will always, by necessity, be the “status quo, resist change” ideology…but resistance to change on the basis of racial or religious discrimination will be abandoned.  In nature, that which is detrimental to a being does not survive to be seen in future generations.  In this case, once American conservatism has found enough of their positions continually rejected because of the use of race and religion in their arguments…race and religion will cease to be used, and will be replaced with new, more effective justifications.

Until then, we have to suffer these attacks…we have to reject them…and should acknowledge them as the “death knell” of one aspect of the American dialogue.