Tag Archives: racism

R: Race and the Tea Party

Whenever I bring up race and the Tea Party, or race and President Obama, or race and the angry opposition to the president, I’m often told, “Why bring race into this?”

I want to get into a long, rational discussion about race and how it has been the main antagonist (protagonist) in American politics basically since the country’s inception.

I want to discuss the murder–genocide, really–of the tribes of the Americas.

I want to discuss slavery.

I want to discuss the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction.

I want to discuss the rise of prisons and how blacks were incarcerated to continue picking cotton and harvesting crops.

I want to discuss the use of blacks as strikebreakers, which angered white workers and helped empower groups like the KKK to terrorize black communities.

I want to discuss laws in California that prohibited the Chinese from owning property in the early 20th Century.

I want to discuss the imprisonment of Japanese citizens during World War II, while German and Italian citizens roamed free and fought for the United States.

I want to discuss the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

I want to discuss the anti-Semitism that was a major reason the U.S. did not get involved in World War II until it did–reports about the atrocities dealing with Jews were out there, just on Page 33 of The New York Times.

I want to discuss the split of the United States into North and South–AGAIN–in the late 1940s and early 1950s when President Truman made Civil Rights part of the Democratic agenda.

I want to discuss South Carolina’s Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond’s attempt to run as a Dixiecrat with a strong, anti-Civil Rights agenda.

Then I want to tell these people that in 1964, Thrumond switched parties. The lifelong Democrat became a Republican. A switch that helped create our current political structure.

A structure that can now be explained as follows:

Democrats: The Party of change and progress.

Republicans: The Party of the good ol’ days.

Democrats: The Party of the minority.

Republicans: The Party of the old guard.

Democrats: The Party of “this is our country.”

Republicans: The Party of “this is my country.”

Thurmond wasn’t alone, but he became the face of the anti-equality movement.

Since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts, there have been several battles over race. They just take different names: busing, immigration, welfare, prison.

Since Obama’s been inaugurated, hell, since he’s been elected, the battle over race has taken on a different mantra:

“Let’s take back our country.”

We hear it over and over. Tea Party members say it. Republican candidates say it. Republican talking heads say it. Republican morons say it (couldn’t help it, sorry).

But what does it mean? Has Obama created a radical takeover of people’s lives? No way. Have taxes risen dramatically for all Americans? No.

But the opposition has made it clear: they don’t like government messing with their Medicare.

There are subtle messages that race continues to drive the politics: blame the immigrant as is happening in Arizona.

Vivid messages are shouted at protests.

And double-dipping, covering-all-bases messages are given by candidates like Rand Paul who was asked by Rachel Maddow whether he would have supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

“What I think would happen – what I’m saying is, is that I don’t believe in any discrimination. I don’t believe in any private property should discriminate, either. And I wouldn’t attend, wouldn’t support, wouldn’t go to. But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up. But if you want to answer, you have to say then that you decide the rules for all restaurants and then you decide that you want to allow them to carry weapons into restaurants.”

Huh?

Oh he explains more today saying that he doesn’t favor a repeal of the Act, but:

“This much is clear: The federal government has far overreached in its power grabs. Just look at the recent national healthcare schemes, which my opponent supports. The federal government, for the first time ever, is mandating that individuals purchase a product. The federal government is out of control, and those who love liberty and value individual and state’s rights must stand up to it.”

Wait, what?

“Government bad.”

“Government overreaches.”

“Civil Rights Act good. Sort of. No. Good. Really.”

Civil Rights Act of 1964 forcing businesses to desegregate?

“Government– hey, look, fire, over there!”

Now, the entire Tea Party movement isn’t built on racism. I don’t want people to believe that I think that. But, where the movement is taking place, racism is still prevalent.

That said, the Tea Party movement IS built on race. Like I said before, our entire political system is. The fact that there is a black president angers and SCARES many Tea Party members, especially those from the Midwest and the South.

It’s important to acknowledge this fact. If not, the entire dialogue, the entire tone of politics in this country doesn’t make sense.

It’s like reading The Great Gatsby without knowing the difference between old money and new money.

I’m going to say it one more time: politics in the United States is built on race.

Now let’s deal with it.

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The bigotted finish

I’ve written this before, but tears welled up in my eyes when Barack Obama stood on stage at the Democratic National Convention repeating the words “thank you” dozens of times during a minutes-long standing ovation. And I cried because of some unknown patriotism that still dwelled within – none of our European allies with a large black population has ever had a non-white president or prime minister.

However, once the primary season ended and the general campaign began, I had the idea that in the end, many cultural demons would have to be slayed for Obama to become president of the United States. He’d have to slay the generational racism of several working class families, which began because businesses used blacks as strike breakers in the early 20th Century.

I knew that the Jewish vote would also have to be convinced that a black man would stand up for them. Same is true of the elderly and Hispanics.

But I also knew that if the McCain campaign found itself on the losing end, the new GOP wouldn’t go out the same way Sen. Bob Dole did in 1996, with honor.

And the McCain campaign has definitely taken a turn for the nasty in recent days.

Shouts of “kill him” were recently heard at a GOP rally after Sarah Palin made an erroneous connection between Obama and a Chicago activist and teacher, who admittedly set off bombs at government facilities. Warm-ups for McCain and Palin are often heard emphasizing Obama’s middle name, Hussein, in attempts to paint the future president as a Muslim, which, if you ask me, seems to be an accepted bigotry for those on the right.

Then there’s John McCain calling Obama, “that one.” Now, maybe I’m reading into this a bit much, but when someone calls an equal, which is what the two candidates are, “that one,” it shows strong disdain. Add to that McCain’s racist past, and his refusal to correct any of his surrogates blatantly racist comments (one said “let them have their Tiger Woods”) and “that one” can be seen as one step away from “that boy.”

It’s going to get uglier. And the ugliness will come from one side. I’m just glad it’s not from mine.

In the end, I’m hopeful that an Obama presidency will strip away much of the remaining racism in our country and will give us greater hope for a more unified nation.

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Republicans counting on racism to defeat Obama

They are counting on “The Bradley Effect” to propel Sen. John McCain to the presidency.

A Republican pollster spoke openly about the probabilty of this happening at a luncheon for California Republican delegates. This is what he said in an interview with the conservative Washington Times:

I do believe there is a Bradly effect in polling this year — particularly in California and in the Northeast. Almost every exit poll from Ohio eastward through New Jersey and up the shoreline over-estimated Obama’s support. Now remember, these are not telephone polls. They are EXIT polls of actual voters. I think there is about a 2% lie factor at work — particularly among blue collar white voters that don’t want to admit for whatever reason that they aren’t voting for Obama.

Slate.com’s Jacob Weisberg wrote an excellent article about how racism could play a deciding factor if Senator Obama ends up losing:

Five percent surely understates the reality. In the Pennsylvania primary, one in six white voters told exit pollsters race was a factor in his or her decision. Seventy-five percent of those people voted for Clinton. You can do the math: 12 percent of the Pennsylvania primary electorate acknowledged that it didn’t vote for Barack Obama in part because he is African-American. And that’s what Democrats in a Northeastern(ish) state admit openly. The responses in Ohio and even New Jersey were dispiritingly similar.

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