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Friday, April 29, 2011

TEA PARTY + reTHUGS© = RACISM

Something really awful happened yesterday. The President released his long-form birth certificate, in the (futile) hope that in so doing, he’d finally quell the non-story that he is not an American citizen. Of all the sickening things that have happened lately, this one finally pushed the envelope of supposedly decent behaviour into being torn beyond being fixable.

To see a seated President, regardless of my political views, or my agreement or disagreement with his policies, have to prove he's American simply because he's a person of colour both sickens and saddens me. Folks, this is NOT the 1970s – this is Anno Domine 2011. That this sort of egregious behaviour is not only tolerated but encouraged is disgusting, and both the Tea Party and the ReThugs© are pushing this issue for all that they are worth.

I’ve gotten a lot of flack over the last couple of years for saying that the Tea Party was a racist organization, since the only faces found in their crowds of folks at their meetings and conferences and conventions that belonged to people of colour were usually serving drinks and food. Why, GOSH, one of my less-loonie Republican friends told me about 3 months ago, "just COME to one of our ‘do’s’. We’ve got MEMBERS that are people of colour! You're being very unfair to us." So, I went. This particular chapter does indeed have people of colour. Three of them, to be precise. Out of, I hasten to add, a chapter that boasts of 2500 members just in the Houston area alone. So, generally speaking (AND stretching this thin plastic so far that it tears into shreds) I GUESS that I’ll have to say that the Tea Party isn’t 100% racist. Just 99.9999999%.

Wow. GoshGollyWowGeeWhiz. If I sound pretty underwhelmed, well, guess what? I am.

(http://www.mydesert.com/article/20110428/NEWS11/110428006/-1/) "Shortly after President Barack Obama declared himself an American-born citizen with papers to prove it, Baratunde Thurston declared himself a disgusted black man. “I find it hard to summarize in mere words the amount of pain and rage this incident has caused,” Thurston said. “This” would be the nation’s first black president standing in the White House, blue power suit and all, going on TV to debunk, in more detail than before, the persistent, he-ain’t-really-an-American rumors fanned anew by Donald Trump, the developer and might-be presidential candidate. Many African-Americans responded to Wednesday’s scene with a large sigh. The rumors and the controversy had a particular, troubling resonance for them: They’ve seen, heard, lived, the legitimacy of black people being called into question so many times before that, they said, they weren’t shocked to see it happen to Obama over something as simple as a birth certificate.

But they were sad about it, too, seeing what they felt was a high-level manifestation of the idea that when a black person accomplishes something great there must be something wrong. “The stress of feeling constantly called into question, constantly under surveillance, has emotional and physical consequences for us,” said Imani Perry, a professor at Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies. “It also puts us in the position of not being able to be constituents, with respect to our politicians, because we feel we have to constantly protect the president. ... You see people attacking him, and he’s the president, what happens to those of us who are not the president?”

This week, black people struggled to deal with what many of them perceived as a racially motivated dis of Obama at the hands of Trump and the “birther” movement. Fleeting thoughts about boycotting Trump’s hotels and casinos, or pressuring advertisers to pull away Trump’s hotels and casinos, or pressuring advertisers to pull away from Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality TV show bounced around Facebook and Twitter, the barbershops, the suites and the corner.

Trump, who may or may not seek the Republican presidential nomination, stepped up to a microphone in New Hampshire within minutes of Obama’s appearance to claim credit for forcing the president’s hand. He said he still wanted to scrutinize the birth certificate to make sure it’s legit. Trump also wants to eyeball Obama’s college grades, in search of bogusness around the bachelor’s and law degrees the president got from Columbia and Harvard respectively. Trump said he’d “heard” Obama was a poor student unworthy of an Ivy League education, but offered no real proof. GOT to wonder just how well he "heard" - with that hair, it's hard to tell where his skullbones are, let alone his ears.

That’s what bothers black Americans so much - that sense that nothing they do can ever be considered good enough, said William Jelani Cobb, professor of Africana studies and history at Rutgers University. He recalled being on a flight recently, expressing amazement when his seatmate, a member of Congress whom he did not name, said he, too, believed Obama was not really an American. “It’s partly American tradition of paranoia, and partly just plain old racism,” Cobb said. “Illegitimacy is the rule, not the exception. It’s the sort of thing that people come up with regularly when there are African-Americans operating at high levels.”

c'MON, folks – just how chuckleheaded can you be? Well, if you're a member of the Tea Party, pretty chuckleheaded, it seems.

We as a country did something wonderful in 2008: We elected a BLACK MAN to be the President of the United States. WE THE PEOPLE did this, and it was a shining, awesome moment in our history. Unfortunately, there was, and is still, a hard core of racially-motivated white people in this nation who did vote against Obama because he is black, and who virulently oppose him as president because he is black. And that racist core of angry white Americans resides on the extreme political right of U.S. politics. The far-right wing in America has never supported racial equality. Their political representatives voted against both the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, and most have never repented of it. And, let's be honest, the loudest voices of right-wing talk radio and cable television appeal directly to that core with subtle and not-so-subtle racial messages, as has the right-wing of the Republican Party for many years. Think Ru$hit ToiletBug and Glenn “BOOHOO” Beck here, gangers. Think DixieCrats under a different name, and call it the Tea Party.

Take the town hall meetings about health care in 2009, for example. There were blatant signs of racism at some of the town meetings and, indeed, many signs that carried overtly racial messages.

We all can see those racial sub-texts in the intensity of the attacks on President Obama - not in the disagreements per se, but in the absolute viciousness of the rhetoric. Racism is often about disrespect, and many African-American citizens are now feeling that the black president in the White House is being disrespected. I also see it in the supporters of the damnable (AND completely stupid) birthers’ movement, who stir up doubts about President Obama's citizenship. I see it in the furor over the President of the United States speaking to the nation's school children about studying and working hard. And, agree with me or not, I saw it in the disrespect shown toward a black president by a white Congressman from the South in 2009, whose less than enthusiastic apologies have now turned him into a fund-raising martyr, cheered on by a defiant rebel yell against the man (or is it "boy"?) in the White House. Yelling out “LIAR!” during the President’s State of the Union address was rude, disrespectful and completely predictable. After all, that’s just one of “them uppity N-WORDs, we don’t have to pay attention to IT!”

We’ve come a long way forward, folks – and now we’re taking a LOT of short steps backwards. I remember segregated lunch counters, and WHITE ONLY and COLOURED ONLY bathrooms, drinking fountains and bus sections. I remember cheering when the Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Houston was desegregated, and I remember how proud I was of the courageous 20-somethings that were getting out and DOING something both positive and proactive about racial inequality. Now, we’re into the second decade of the new millennium, and very little has changed.

Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said "minorities (and women - bitch is an equal-opportunity offender here) earn less than white people because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative. We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.” Kern said women earn less than men because “they tend to spend more time at home with their families.” While Kern has long history of taking outlandish positions - from saying homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism to introducing legislation to force teachers to question evolution - her bigoted comments reflect a disturbing trend among even mainstream conservatives to blame valuable social safety net programs for creating a culture of dependency or even “slavery.”

Then we have “The Donald”, who is even more of a racist that Mrs. Kern, talking yesterday to a black journalist during his break-his-arm-patting-himself-on-the-back alleged “press conference” in New Hampshire: Yesterday during his press conference in New Hampshire - after the cable news networks cut to President Obama’s remarks regarding the release of his long form birth certificate - potential GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump spent some time extolling infrastructure investments made by China and other countries, suggesting the U.S. should follow suit. This prompted Les Trent, a reporter for Inside Edition, to ask Trump: “Isn’t that what President Obama tried to do with his stimulus package?”

Trump’s response to Trent, who is African American, was “Look, I know you are a big Obama fan.” Trent replied, “Why do you say that?" (http://thinkprogress.org/2011/04/28/donald-trump-black-reporter-obama/). Last night, on CBS Evening News, Face the Nation host and CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer criticized Trump's recent statements regarding Obama's college transcripts, saying race was Trump's underlying motive: "That's just code for saying he got into law school because he's black. This is an ugly strain of racism that's running through this whole thing. We can hope that kind of comes to an end too, but we'll have to see," Schieffer said.

Trump responded today, saying he wasn't suggesting anything about Obama's race: "That is a terrible statement for a newscaster to make. I am the last person that such a thing should be said about. Affirmative action is out there. It's a program that is available. But I have no idea whether it applies in this case. I'm not suggesting anything.”

OF COURSE he isn’t suggesting anything, the damned liar. After all, doesn't he have a great relationship with "the blacks"?

And THEN, equally of course, we have Orly Taitz, who is the person that is credited with starting the abominable “birther” crap to begin with. Lawrence O’Donnell had her on his program last night, to give her a chance to speak to the release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate and to apologize to the President for calling him a liar publicly on more than one occasion. Mrs. Taitz responded by awkwardly asking for a close-up, so that she could show a document that she claimed was Obama’s selective service record. O’Donnell was in no mood to let Taitz introduce new “evidence,” or let her filibuster, and after a few minutes of attempting to force her to stay on topic, he ended the interview. Yeah, he lost it, big time - but I watched the interview, and honestly can't blame him for it. She also had to compete with herself from earlier today, when she said that a real long form birth certificate would have said “negro” under “father’s nationality,” not “African”.

These are just the visible signs, gangers. It’s no coincidence that they all identify as both Tea Party Republicans and birthers. I am ashamed of a lot of my fellow countrymen. It’s one thing to be ignorant which means that you’ve never had the chance to learn any different. It’s another thing entirely to embrace stupidity and make said stupidity the choice of your life’s direction.

I just hope that we as a country can get beyond this nastiness. As the President said, there are a lot of things that we should be talking about and doing something about, rather than being distracted with this silliness.

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