Tag Archives: racist

The Flotilla and Helen Thomas

I have more to say about the Israeli flotilla debacle than can be written in a mere blog post. Suffice it, I am of the belief that Israel would be best served by ending the blockade, but recognize that this is an incredibly important issue on which both sides have truly valid and compelling points. I also believe that Israel had every right to board the Mavi Marmara under international law (San Remo) in order to maintain an internationally sanctioned blockade. Now, if the issue is that the international community now believes that blockades are an inevitable means of collective punishment that should not be a legal tool of war, then that is something that the international community should address, but to act like this blockade was a rogue move by a crazy nation is frankly factually disingenuous.

Israel has spent the last 20 years learning how to rule, and it is now past time to learn how to govern, but let’s be perfectly clear: Turkey’s absurd behavior (which really has much more to do with global positioning than it ever had to do with Israel), the apparent sudden incompetencies of the Israeli navy, and the deaths of the activists that all contributed to this event can be decried (and they should be!) while simultaneously supporting both Israel and its right to keep its citizens safe and an end to the Gaza blockade and better, legitimate lives for its citizens. Free Gaza does not have a monopoly on this idea by a long shot, though many of the rest of us are not especially supportive (understatement of the year) of Gaza’s incredibly repressive government, also known as Hamas. But then, there are very few repressive governments I support when their people are the ones who are suffering…

On the other hand, liberals who rally to the pro-Palestinian side need to be careful about the way in which they talk about Israel. Not the “Israel is an apartheid state,” “Israelis are Nazis,” etc crap, but this sense that often comes across that they perceive Israel as something temporary and experimental and thus able to be dismantled if necessary. Let me be perfectly clear, Israel is not going anywhere. Period. It’s kind of like how the LGBT community says “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” Israel is a sovereign nation with nuclear weapons, not the Tea Party…

Of course, this is an incredibly contentious and emotional issue on both sides, and a brief comment does not even count as scratching the surface. In fact, it is so emotional that the Israeli-Palestinian issue makes some liberals look like Deep South Republicans of the 1950s-60s. No, really:

Apparently this is how Helen Thomas chose to help celebrate Jewish Heritage Week at the White House. In some ways, I’m still so shocked that anybody would say this (and on camera!) that I have yet to decide how I personally believe this should be responded to. Should Thomas  be fired? Moved to the back of the room? In the same way that elephant ivory from Africa is now essentially valueless thanks to its enforced illegality and the lack of any kind of even underground market, so too had I imagined blatantly racist or anti-semitic comments by members of the press now existed. Or at least when it came to highly respected members of the press.

Clearly, I was wrong.

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Glenn Beck: Obama a “Racist”

I find this completely astounding. I don’t even know where to begin…

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Interesting Op-Ed from…Jonah Goldberg?

I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but there’s a great Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg on NRO today. It may not be to everyone’s liking, but I think it’s a really interesting treatment of the Sotomayor nomination and the idea of a national discussion on race. An excerpt:

It may go too far to call her a racist — not necessarily because she doesn’t fit the technical definition, but because she doesn’t fit the popular, emotional definition of one. She’s not an evil bigot, which is what the word “racist” colloquially suggests.

So maybe we can call her a “racialist.” She certainly doesn’t seem to believe in official colorblindness. Just ask Frank Ricci, the fireman denied a promotion simply because he’s white. He sought justice in her court, but Sotomayor couldn’t muster the requisite empathy to give him a fair hearing.

There’s a lot more to Sotomayor’s views on race that seems worth talking about, and her record is far from indefensible. In many ways, she’s a perfectly mainstream liberal jurist. All the more reason liberals should defend her positions openly, rather than dismiss or deny them.

Obama and the Democratic party indisputably share the broad outlines of her approach to racial issues. But rather than calmly defend her, they hide behind the robes of the first Latina Supreme Court pick and shout “bigot” at anyone who fails to throw rose petals at her feet.

And that is pretty much what liberals always do when it comes to race. They invite everyone to a big, open-minded conversation, but the moment anyone disagrees with them, they shout “racist” and force the dissenters to figuratively don dunce caps and renounce their reactionary views. Then, when the furor dies down, they again offer up grave lamentations about the lack of “honest dialogue.” It’s a mixture of Kabuki dance and whack-a-mole.

The irony of the current brouhaha is that the roles are somewhat reversed. Conservatives are shouting “racist,” and liberals are scrambling to explain themselves.

I’m willing to concede, happily, that liberals aren’t cartoonish villains for believing that certain preferred minorities deserve special treatment under the law. Unfortunately, too many liberals are unwilling to offer the same courtesy in return.

So here’s an idea. Let’s assume both sides have a serious and well-intentioned perspective and talk it out. Now.

Also, Dick Cheney supports gay marriage. What’s going on?

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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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