Thursday, August 17, 2006

An article by Timothy Simpson on racism

This reminds me of the days when our governor, Ev Mecham, referred to Black children as pickaninnies. HT: Jarrod Cochran

"Welcome to America, Macaca"
And you thought the days of racial politics were behind us.

At a campaign swing in southwest Virginia this week, VA Senator and Presidential wannabe George Allen made one of the most outlandish statements of the year when he mocked a young Virginian of Indian descent who had been sent by Allen's opponent, James Webb, to film Allen's event, just as Allen had sent two campaign workers to film Webb.

"This fellow over here with the yellow shirt - Macaca or whatever his name is - he's with my opponent," said Allen. "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

"Macaca" is the name of species of monkey and is a racial slur. Furthermore, the young man to whom Allen was referring, S.R. Sidarth, a 20 year-old student at the University of Virginia, is not only from America, he was born in Fairfax, VA, Allen's own state. In interviews following the incident, Sidarth said that he believed Allen was trying to draw attention to the fact that Sidarth was the only non-white person out of about a hundred at the gathering.

Allen has made the typical half-hearted apology, saying that he meant nothing by the slurs. His handlers are spinning the story that the slur was a reference to Sidarth's hair, which they described as a "Mohawk." But even if this were the case--and it is quite a stretch since, as Sidarth notes, he wears a "mullet" hairstyle, not a "Mohawk"--Allen has nothing reasonable to say about why he would make a very public assumption about where Sidarth was from based upon his skin color.

Same Old Politics of Division

Since Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s, the GOP has increasingly played one part of America against another, using fear and prejudice as the primary weapons in their attempt to take control of the political process in America. Whether it was Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" anecdotes, George Bush the elder's Willie Horton ads or the Rovian "gay marriage" scare of 2004, the pattern is the same: find some group of people that can be used to frighten middle America and exploit that fear for maximal political gain.We should not forget, as Randall Balmer notes in his most recent book, that the formation of what has become the Religious Right began in the 1970s when the Carter Administration challenged the tax exempt status of the fundamentalist Bob Jones University because of its racist policies. These folks have turned divisiveness into an election-winning formula and this year is no different. 2006 has long been shaping up as the year of picking on immigrants for the GOP, so Allen's slurs can be seen as a timely reminder to the party faithful that he remains "on message." His remarks are also evidence that the racist views of his young adulthood have only been suppressed, not expunged.

Neither the American or the Christian Way

One would think that, in 21st century America, one could not get elected to dog catcher after having said such nasty things, much less US Senator. Sadly, Allen's remarks have only been met with yawns in most Republican circles to date. Two of the most important leaders of the Religious Right, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, whose empires are both in Allen's state of Virginia, haven't made a peep about what he said. Can you imagine how they would have reacted if Hillary Clinton had said something like this? The 700 Club would have been devoted to the subject for a month and Falwell would be using DVD copies of the event as a fundraising premium.

Both Robertson and Falwell have good reason to be angry no matter who said these things, both because it flies in the face of what it means to be an American, but more importantly, because it is the antithesis of what it means to be a Christian. We believe that Jesus came to break down the barriers that exist between groups who might otherwise be in conflict. The Apostle Paul made the definitive statement : "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." What Christians need to be doing at times when wedges are being driven between groups is to hold fast to the truth of this very good news and resist and reject those who would lead us down paths of hatred and division.

- Rev. Timothy Simpson, Christian Alliance for Progress and Change

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