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Monday, August 26, 2013

Marking 50 Years of Conservative Near Non-Progress on Race

Racist pro-segregation protesters
This weekend "tens of thousands" of people gathered in the nation's capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement's 1963 March on Washington. The occasion of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech," the march is a touchstone in the civil rights movement.

For those on the right, the anniversary creates a bit of a PR problem, with conservatives currently indulging in a racial freak out over "young black thugs" in hoodies. After George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, the stage was set. Republicans overwhelmingly came out in favor of racial profiling and the sort of street "justice" made legal by "stand you ground" laws.

Then a court knocked the legs out from under NYC's stop-and-frisk policy, ruling that the racial profiling involved was unconstitutional. The right reacted as if rape, murder, and various and sundry species of mayhem had all been declared legal, when all the court really did was rule that skin color didn't constitute probable cause.

Finally, they've managed to work themselves up into hysteria over the random murder of white Australian Chris Lane by three "black" teenagers (one of which happens not to be black). The right moves in fads, going from eye-clawing outrage to eye-clawing outrage until they get tired of being in a blind panic over things no one else really cares about. Right now, the flavor of the month is "scary black people."


Not that the right has ever been especially friendly toward African-Americans. After all, taking down ACORN and passing voter suppression laws are largely about keeping certain people from voting. They seem to believe that voting Democrat is part of minorities' DNA, rather than the result of decades of rightwing dickery toward them. Republicans have given up on minority voters and African-American voters especially.

Part of the problem is that they seem completely unable to empathize with people who have different experiences than their own. When an American flag that incorporated the face of Barack Obama showed up at the March on Washington, many on the right had a mini-meltdown, never once realizing that the celebration of America's first black president on the anniversary of King's "I have a dream" speech was the most natural thing in the world.

And the right is no doubt terrified that a major theme of the day was voting rights and Republican voter suppression schemes. Conservatives see this as evidence of the partisanship of African-American voters. And it kind of is. But it's a partisanship that's been forced upon them by onerous voting laws and the current "Trayvon got what he deserved/all black males should be automatically suspect" mentality of almost the entire right wing. The black community is partisan because one party in a two party system has pretty clearly rejected them and shut them out. It's merely the process of elimination.

You can't spend decades beating up a group of people for political gain (and it has been decades), then complain that they're siding with your political opponents.

And conservatives aren't letting up. In response to the march, Louisiana Gov. Bobbie Jindal argued that racial inequality exists because non-whites place "undue emphasis" on their heritage and that this somehow holds them back. It's weird how that argument fails when we consider the intense pride Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Norwegian-Americans, etc. feel for their heritage and how it holds them back not at all. Apparently, pride in ethnic heritage is something only white people can afford.

And somehow this argument is supposed to be something other than racist.

Also in the "racism is all minorities' fault" corner is conservative pundit George Will -- he of the unearned reputation for being serious and smart -- who would very much like America to know that minorities suffer inequality because of single mothers.

The Republican response to racism in America is intense denial. If you have a problem, it's your fault -- you created it. And anyone who says otherwise is a "race hustler." Racism is over in their minds. It's been solved. And anyone who still talks about it is just making stuff up or blaming others for situations they themselves created.

Given the racist state of today's Republican Party, it's easy to understand why they'd argue that way. I don't know that I've ever seen it worse -- or at least, as blatant. The irony here is that the people who introduced partisanship into race were conservatives themselves and now that it's coming back to bite them in the backside, it's all someone else's fault.


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[photo via ResourcesForHistoryTeachers]