Tag Archives: North Carolina

Sessions, Sotomayor, Racism, and an Anecdote

All kidding aside, Sessions appeared on Meet the Press yesterday with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy and was oddly unwilling to simply put into words whether he does or does not believe that Sonya Sotomayor is racist. Of course, the entire debate is 100% ridiculous and thus the mass participation on “is she/isn’t she” by both Republicans and Democrats is absurd, but it goes to a much deeper question that really has little to actually do with Judge Sotomayor. That is, how do we define racism in America today? Though seemingly academic in nature, the answer to this question has practical applications that go far beyond Senate Judiciary hearings.

An anecdote:

In my first semester of college, I participated in a freshman seminar called (some variation of) “Historical Memory and Slavery of the American South” taught by a young, but brilliant professor named Seth Rockman. Having literally just moved from my home in North Carolina to Providence, Rhode Island to attend one of the country’s most liberal universities, I was unsure how I would fare in a course meant to confront America’s Master Narrative head on.

It was, for all intents and purposes, the worst academic showing of my life. I remember distinctly the first time that Professor Rockman explained to us that reverse-racism is an impossibility, according to his school of thought, as racism relies on a superficial power construct, ie what has been the inherent position of power held by the white community as opposed to communities of other ethnicities. The more powerful (in this case white men) cannot be marginalized through racism by the less powerful (everybody else, but in Rockman’s specific example African-Americans), because the entire racial construct was created by white men to explain the relationship between themselves and all of the “others.”*

At first, I was entirely unable to comprehend this concept in a way that kept me from being incredibly offended at the apparent inequality, but after weeks of argument I reconciled that perhaps the problem with so-called reverse-racism really is about the semantics. As in, when a white person says something offensive to a black person pertaining to their race it’s called racism, but if a black person says something racially offensive to a white person, though perhaps hurtful and unacceptable, it isn’t referred to as racism because calling it so ignores the inherent power dynamics that define what racism is. Words have certain meanings, and racism has a historically specific and significant one. 

It has been a few years since I took that class, and I’d like to think that my ideas and reasoning on the subject have matured and become more nuanced (I suspect that the Professor and I have much to agree upon now), but even as I was the lone student arguing for the possibility of reverse-racism (a concept I reject after much further study), I managed to learn an important lesson from Professor Rockman: the words we use, how we define things, and the version of history we choose to tell all matter

I hated Rockman back then. I thought he was too liberal, too empathetic, and too blind to reality. But he was right.

Oh, and if I ever run into Professor Rockman, I’ll have to inform him that after writing  a (not very good) paper for his seminar tearing apart William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner  for being the MOST AWFUL, RACIST tome ever, I proceeded to bookend my college career by writing my final senior year seminar paper for a Gordon Wood class (entitled “The Practice of History”) on the very same book. My conclusions four years later were starkly different.

* I have vastly oversimplified this point. There is much to be read on the subject.

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Heath Shuler Not Running In 2010. North Carolina Erupts Into Spontaneous Celebration.

According to Poltico’s The Scorecard, it has  been confirmed by a Shuler sposkesperson that Rep. Heath Shuler  (D-NC) will not be running against Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) in the 2010 NC Senate race.

Phew! As much as I would like to see a Democrat take that seat, I’m not entirely convinced that Heath Shuler would be a better representative for North Carolina than Burr…and that’s saying a lot. 

So who’s left?

In my mind, there are two potential Democratic candidates for that 2010 race, but only one viable one (sorry Brad Miller). I’ve prepared a short bio below:

Rep. Bob Etheridge– This guy is LITERALLY salt of the Earth. A Representative from NC’s 2nd district (essentially the area in the middle of the state slightly east and south of Raleigh), who has really put in his time:

  • Served in the U.S. Army
Exactly

Exactly

  • Small tobacco farmer and hardware store owner by trade
This may or may not be Etheridge and his wife.

This may or may not be Etheridge and his wife.

  • Served as Hartnett County Commissioner for 4 years
Trust me, it's a good one.

Trust me, it's a good one.

  • Served 4 terms in the NC House of Representatives
Mythical

Mythical

  • Elected North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction (2 terms)
I have not been able to confirm that Etheridge wrote this himself, but it's not entirely unlikely.

I have not been able to confirm that Etheridge wrote this himself, but it's not entirely unlikely.

  • Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996 and still there
And thus, Bob enters the big game.

And thus, Bob enters the big game.

  • Member of the New Democrat Coalition
(Need New Logo)

(Need New Logo)

Fun Fact: “Bob” is not short for Robert, but rather for “Bobby Ray.”  This is not a joke.

How can North Carolina not fall in love with this guy?

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John McCain Gets a Reality Check, or (alternately), Stay Out of South Carolina, Sen. McCain!

As a twitter follower of Senator John McCain (twitter name SenJohnMcCain), my text message box has clearly noticed that the Arizona Senator has started regularly sending out a Letterman-style top 10 list of  that day’s 10 worst earmarks from the Omnibus bill. Granted, as a supporter of superfluous things like science, the environment, and the arts, I generally don’t agree with him, but this is his schtick and has been for a long time so I’m not at all surprised to see him list something like beaver management in North Carolina as an extraordinary luxury that the federal government shouldn’t have to foot the bill for. Has John McCain ever seen a North Carolina beaver? Has he ever looked into their beady little eyes? They’re like gremlins. Greatest national threat (besides bears) in my opinion. 

In a Friday opinion piece from the Myrtle Beach newspaper The Sun News however, it appears that there are some who do not have my sense of understanding (and let’s be honest, rightfully so. John McCain! Get your act together!): 

#6. $950,000 for a Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, SC

– Tweet from Sen. John McCain.

Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP candidate for president, has been having fun with his twitter.com account lately. He (or perhaps an aide) scrutinizes the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill under consideration in Congress for earmarked projects that strike him as silly, then publishes daily “pork” lists on the micro-blogging Web site. Among the projects that made one of McCain’s Wednesday list is $950,000 for expanding the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

The purpose of this pork-identification exercise, apparently, is to make congressional earmarks a political wedge issue for the Republicans (even though 40 percent of the earmarks in the bill are attributable to Republicans). Demonize earmark-backed projects as pork of socialistic nature attributable to President Obama and the Democrats, and perhaps you can re-energize the tattered GOP base.

Twitter is made to order for such political misdirection. As readers familiar with the service know, it limits messages to 140 characters – the perfect format for context-free political zingers. McCain has more than 143,000 followers on Twitter, so his zingers reach a large audience. And considering that McCain’s true believers share his “tweets” with others (that’s how we found out about it), the senator’s audience might run in the millions. Regardless, readers of McCain’s Convention Center tweet are now invited to think – without the inconvenience of critical reflection – that the Myrtle Beach Convention Center project has no value.

Wrong. The project has huge potential for the long-term creation of wealth and jobs here on the Grand Strand, and the $950,000 infusion advances that goal.

The proposed expansion of the Convention Center to include space for larger trade shows got a lot of ink a few years back. Larger shows in an expanded center would fill up local hotels at the times of years when occupancy is low while energizing restaurants and retail establishments in the during typically slow times of year, building jobs and economic activity for the entire region.

Equally important, larger trade shows could acquaint new visitors with decision-making authority with our communities. In tandem with an aggressive, well-run local economic-development outreach effort, trade-show visits could become an important recruitment tool for nontourism diversification of our local economy.

To that end, the S.C. General Assembly two years ago approved a

$7 million grant toward land acquisition for the expansion project – money that must be spent by 2011 or lost. The total estimated cost of the expansion is $70 million – a price that local, not federal, taxpayers will pay. The new $950,000 in earmark money will go into the city’s land-acquisition kitty.

The irony in all this: In bad-mouthing the project on Twitter, McCain threw Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., his supposed close pal, to the wolves.

It was Graham, long a supporter of Grand Strand economic-development projects, who inserted the Convention Center earmark into the appropriations bill. Our counter-tweet to McCain:Graham deserves praise, not mockery, for this earmark. The money in question won’t be wasted.

Just one word: BOOYAH. This editorial gives the kind of legitimate explanation that exists for many of the earmarks that are being ridiculed: creation of jobs, infrastructure, and investment in the future of the local economy. As much as we may theoretically hate the idea of specific legislators marking specific money for their own state projects, it is a) a big part of what we actually elect our Congressional representatives to do, and b) not inherently evil. Clearly the system needs an overhaul, as the number of earmarks in the Omnibus is exorbitant, but to say that this money will definitely go to waste, rather than pumping necessary capital into local communities and potentially creating jobs/ tourism/ various other revenue streams, is simple and silly. So if the states desperately need money, and we know that they do, and Republicans want smaller government, less taxes, more state control, etc., why are earmarks not the solution instead of the problem? And in all seriousness, if not earmarks, is there a better means of appropriating the necessary money to the states that need it without creating greater bureaucracy? 

*60% of earmarks in the Omnibus come from Democrats, 40% from Republicans. That essentially represents the make-up of Congress so this is definitely a bipartisan issue.

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