Tag Archives: Republicans

Is It Apartheid Yet?

1 Aug

Lately friends of mine have been talking about the U.S. heading toward apartheid in response to white fears generated by census reports predicting demographic changes that are likely to erode white power. They point to various attempts to disenfranchise voters of color and marginalize us socially and economically as evidence.

My general reaction has been, “your kidding, right?” I mean, we beat legal apartheid in the courts and on the streets in the 1960s.

But folks say I’m taking the term too literally. They tell me I need consider de facto apartheid – a condition in which whites, even as a minority (though credible sources contradict census predictions and argue that a white minority is not in our near future), are able to rule by creating separate and unequal conditions for people based on race without resorting to explicit racial codes.

Okay, so maybe we’re just trapped in an argument over semantics. After all, we already have a system of minority rule, right?

For instance, the majority of us wanted the Affordable Care Act to include a public option. Regardless, we lost on that issue because a (white) minority interest opposed to the public option controls Congress.

And then there’s the wildly disproportionate targeting of Black men in the war on drugs, even when whites use drugs at the same rate as Blacks and are, by far, a bigger driver of the illegal drug trade. That seems like a pretty clear demonstration of how bald faced racism can drive public policy and institutional practices in spite of constitutional guarantees of equal protection. All you have to do is avoid certain trigger words and, at least to our courts, it’s not racism.

Advocates of the de facto apartheid scenario also point to efforts to economically marginalize people of color via attacks on government assistance and educational opportunity programs. It’s been pretty clearly demonstrated that leaders of both parties are far less responsive to poor people than to folks with money, so economic marginalization accrues to the political disadvantage of communities of color, right?

Attacks on government are also attacks on government employees, a disproportionate percentage of whom are people of color, reflecting the historical reality that government was (and is) one of very few avenues to good employment for many minorities. Government also plays a regulatory role, including by policing discrimination in hiring and promotions.

Then the prophets of doom ask that we consider conservative efforts to disenfranchise communities of color, especially Latinos and African Americans. By aiming the war on drugs at Black communities and making drug possession a felony that can cost you your voting rights, many states have gotten around the 15th Amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, both of which prohibit denying ballot access based on race.

And Republican Voter I.D. Laws take things a step further. They know full well that this will have a disproportionate negative impact on communities of color. In fact, that’s the whole point of these laws. In Pennsylvania, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R), has gone so far as to describe Voter ID as a way to “allow Governor Romney to win the state…”

Good point. And don’t get it twisted, the Republican Party is the party of white power.

A 2009 Gallup poll found that 89% of Republicans were white. 2% were Black, 5% Latino, and 4% were “other race.” Of white Republicans, 60% identify as conservative. And, according to a more recent Pew Research Center report, the trend is toward Republicans growing more popular among whites since the election of Barack Obama (while either losing support or holding steady among voters of color).

Put it all together and those fearful of de facto apartheid might be onto something.

But, in spite of all of these arguments (and folks offer many more), I’m not joining the choir on this one yet. To me, it matters not whether the white elite (what we used to call the white power structure back in the day) are plotting (or bumbling into) a form of de facto apartheid because, well, it doesn’t seem to me to increase the urgency of resistance nor change the way we ought to go about it.

But where we agree is on the matter of Latinos, Native Americans, African Americans, and economically disadvantaged Asian Americans being systematically marginalized, socially, economically, and politically. And that is cause for alarm, especially because most of our leaders aren’t talking about it, opting instead to go along with the post-racial (or colorblind racism) consensus that the best way of addressing racism is to avoid talking about it.

The Othering of Barack Obama and the Growing of a Movement

26 Jul

Liberal political reporting regarding the Republican’s campaign strategy of exploiting racism to defeat Barack Obama is giving me a serious headache.

I’m sure you’ve heard the rhetoric. Romney’s now said that the Obama philosophy is foreign (which is equated with dangerous). His campaign surrogate John Sununu went further, saying that President Obama needs to “learn how to be an American.”

Liberal news makers are calling this what it is – pandering to racism. But by reducing this kind of pandering to a campaign issue (as if the cure for the racism that makes it effective would be to re-elect Obama), reporters and pundits are trivializing its consequences.

The Republicans’ use of coded racism needs to be seen in the broader context of racist politicking and our particular moment in history.

For instance, we ought to consider rising, hyper-reactionary Islamophobia and the Bush (and now Obama) war on terror. Widespread fear of Islam is driving the growth of a repressive national security state and war machine that is coming at us from the top-down, while simultaneously inspiring a jihadist racism among conservative Christians from the bottom-up.

And, then there’s racist anti-immigrant politicking more generally. That’s a top-down and bottom-up phenomena, too. Conservative politicians scapegoat immigrants for our economic problems, promoting racism and distracting us from the real causes of our woes. Meanwhile, their racist rhetoric is contributing to the rise of a xenophobic worldview at the community level that is contributing to a rapid rise in vigilante white supremacist groups, as evidenced by the SPLC’s report that white nationalist Patriot groups have experienced an almost ten-fold increase since 2008.

Coded racist attacks on public assistance programs and so-called entitlement junkies are causing an uptick in racism as well. These attacks suggest that we, and especially Blacks, have become too dependent on economy wrecking public assistance programs. Some even double-down on this argument, suggesting that this dependency is being fostered on purpose. In this scenario, capitalism-hating left-wingers are promoting programs that get the poor hooked on socialism.

And then there’s a rise in model minority stereotyping of Asian Americans. This rise in stereotyping that suggests that the quality of life and financial success of Asian Americans is rising while the rest of the country is in decline. To make matters worse, this is happening at the same time as we are seeing a rise in Asia bashing, especially targeting China and India.

Finally, in this by no means exhaustive list, there’s the generalized anxiety among whites concerning the changing U.S. demographic. As we tilt toward 2042, when the U.S. is predicted to become a majority people of color nation, conservative white folks are reacting in a way that builds upon the angry-white-man reaction to African American civil rights gains.

And all of this at a time when folks of all races, and especially middle class white folks who believe themselves to be entitled to better, are righteously angry over our terrible economic and political situation.

In this context, the Romney/Republican attack matters because it is the most visible and well-financed effort to use racism to organize white middle class anger for political gain. These aren’t marginal right wingers, but they are using what started out as marginal right wing arguments and, by doing so, legitimizing them and the radical right wing forces who are attempting to use them to build a potentially violent racist movement.

It’s time for racial justice advocates to step up our game.

I won’t pretend to know the right strategies for every community, but I will suggest that Asian American civil rights groups are particularly well positioned to speak out and be heard on this issue. Asian Americans can draw upon our own experiences of exclusion and internment to put contemporary efforts to label people of color as foreign, dangerous, and disloyal in the context of our own long history of persecution.

President Obama – Not Ahead of the Curve

15 Jun

Today President Obama acted by directive to provide a 2 year “deferred action” on deportation of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. I’m overjoyed at the change. But am I grateful? Nope. I say it’s about time and, BTW, not enough.

No doubt the directive was prompted by the fact that the Republicans were about to announce a proposal via Marco Rubio meant to build support for the Republican Party among Latino voters.

I know that the Rubio proposal was just a political maneuver with no teeth. I’m not lauding Republicans. But never doubt that they, not human rights advocates, drove this decision. This had to do with the Obama team winning the Latino vote in the upcoming election by outflanking the other side. We deny this at the expense of our ability to get ahead of our national leaders; to get behind the wheel of our policy agenda and not just consign ourselves to the role of political backseat drivers.

The directive was the issue driving discussion on the Dylan Ratigan show today. In the discussion on air, liberal pundit Krystal Ball touted the President’s “courage” on social issues, citing his recent statement of support of same-sex marriage as “ahead of the curve.”

I was frustrated with the too little and, for many, too late directive, but I’ll admit that Ball’s statement was what got me writing. Ahead of the curve on same sex marriage? Courage in regard to immigrant rights? I call b.s.

I mean, if the order today and Obama’s statement in support of same sex marriage are ahead of the curve, we need a new curve.

On the issue of marriage, is the President ahead of the curve by evolving to support in an election year when young voters, overwhelmingly in support of same sex marriage, will be a factor at the polls? Only if that curve is drawn by pollsters, and not by the moral imperative at stake in this issue.

And concerning the deferred action on deportation? I won’t call it courage to finally provide temporary relief for a problem requiring a permanent solution, and years ago.

According to the ACLU:

In 2010…363,000 immigrants [were held] in detention in over 250 facilities… Among those locked up for months or years are survivors of torture, asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, families with small children, the elderly, individuals with serious medical and mental health conditions, and lawful permanent residents…who are facing deportation because of old or minor crimes.

In the immigration system, 84% of detainees have no lawyer. They are denied bond and can be held indefinitely. Many are detained for years without ever going to court to determine whether their detention was legal to begin with.

And those with past convictions are not the whole story. In fact, they are a red herring of sorts, distracting us from the fact that nearly half of those deported in 2011 had no past criminal conviction. Their only “crime” was crossing the border without papers. And once arrested, their human rights were not a consideration. Apparently in the U.S., the self described human rights champion, the only people counted as “human” and therefore eligible for rights consideration are citizens.

Krystal Ball should be ashamed of herself, calling out POTUS for being “ahead of the curve.”

How many same sex couples have been dissolved by death, with the survivor being excluded from the last moments of life of their loved one? How many have been excluded from wills? How long have same sex couples had to tolerate being treated as second class citizens, their basic humanity debated, while POTUS evolved?

And how many immigrant families have been torn apart, parents separated from children, husbands from wives, while we’ve waited for this temporary reprieve?

Why do we allow this kind of horse trading on matters of basic human dignity and human rights? And when those with the power to do something act, why does the “curve” get set at the point where they decide to act, and not along the lines of the lives of those for whom these decisions have life changing consequences?

It’s time for us to move the baseline on courage in America. If we don’t, I’m afraid of where following that curve will lead us.

Dog Whistle Racism

9 Apr

Liberal pundits are buzzing over Mitt Romney’s latest strategy of playing the old, “I know you are, but what am I?” game. In response to criticism that he’s too out of touch, not to mention odd, to relate to working class voters, Romney is accusing President Obama of being “out of touch.

Romney has even gone so far as to suggest that the President spent too many years (three) at Harvard, Romney’s own alma mater (which, BTW, he attended for four years), sharpening the point being made by other Republican candidates in the race that Obama is a privileged outsider.

The liberal pundits are going after Romney hook and nail. After all, Romney is the son of a man who was the President of American Motors and Governor of Michigan.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Romney made a career as a businessman that has made him one of the super rich, and then became the Governor of Massachusetts. One could grow up on Fantasy Island and be less out of touch than Mitt Romney.

Romney’s wife Ann, who many say is the “better Romney,” recently had this to say about their wealth: “…I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing, it can be here today and gone tomorrow.”

That not just odd, that’s downright callous. Moreover, it seems reckless. Why in the hell is Romney making himself  out to be so out of touch he doesn’t even know what it means to be out of touch?

Many pundits have suggested that he is following the Karl Rove strategy of taking your own greatest weakness and turning it against your political opponent. Probably the most famous example of this strategy at play was George W. Bush’s success in blunting the strength of John Kerry’s heroic war record as an exaggeration, when Bush himself had famously hid out in a cushy job in the reserves. By doing so, Bush took away a key strength of Kerry’s campaign strategy and turned it into a weakness.

I’m sure deflection is part of the game being played here, but I have a suspicion we’re witnessing dog whistle racism. Dog whistle racism is when folks use coded messages meant to trigger a racist reaction among those trained to recognize them without using explicit racist language. Kinda like dogs can be trained to respond to whistles only they can hear.

Consider the audience Romney is appealing to in this primary race. The Republican base is overwhelmingly white and has been subjected to coded and not so coded racist messaging for decades. They are conditioned to hear the cues and react.

Among the cues is the notion that educated and successful African Americans are all or nearly all beneficiaries of Affirmative Action. And to race-sensitive whites, Affirmative Action is all about denying opportunities to white people in order to bestow exclusive privileges on people of color, especially Black people.

And consider this: according to a March 2012 Pubic Policy Polling survey of Republican primary voters, only 33% of those polled in Tennessee think Barack Obama was born in the U.S. compared to 45% who don’t. 40% of Georgia primary voters think Obama was born in the U.S., and 38% don’t. In Ohio, 42% think Obama was born here, while 37% do not.  Nationally, 77% of Republican voters approve of interracial marriage compared with 88% of Democrats and 89% of Independents.

So why is Romney, who has had a very difficult time relating to the Republican right wing base, saying that the President is “out of touch,” elite and privileged? It’s not too far a stretch to suggest he may be exploiting racism in the Republican base and basically saying, I know you don’t like me, but that guy, he’s not one of us. And if you look at the overall Romney campaign message, Obama is not just out of touch, he’s dangerous.

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