Monday, April 28, 2014

Racism is a generational attribute, not a partisan one *updates*

Terrific piece here from Joe Concha at Mediaite.

So here’s a question to consider regarding the (LA Clippers' owner) Donald Sterling media storm that hit over the weekend: where was all this outrage when Senator Harry Reid talked about then-Senator Obama only using a “Negro dialect” when he wanted to?

That question doesn’t come from me, but from ESPN’s Robert Smith, a former All-Pro running back for the Minnesota Vikings. (It is worth noting that Smith is biracial, like Obama; African American and Caucasian.)

Mr. Reid — the Senate Majority Leader — made those comments back in 2008, during the presidential campaign as reported in the best-seller Game Change. According to authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann:
“He [Reid] was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one…’”
Reid later apologized for the remark after the book came out two years later. He was not asked to resign, nor was there anything remotely resembling the kind of backlash Sterling is feeling — and absolutely rightly so — for his recorded comments scolding his half-Latina girlfriend for bringing blacks to Clippers’ games and/or posting Instagram photos with them.

But as Smith notes, where exactly was the outrage for Reid? 

I had forgotten this happened, but I clearly recall the scorn Joe Biden received for referring to Obama as 'articulate' during 2008's Democratic presidential scrum.   What's being put to bed here is the canard that "not all Republicans are racists, but all racists are Republicans".

Sorry. No.

Or remember when Mitt Romney said this? “In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

Whoops. That wasn’t Romney, but then-Senator Joe Biden back in 2006. Could you imagine the media reaction if those words did come from a Romney, a Ryan, a Rand or a Cruz?

Rhetorical question.

And then there’s the time the North Carolina county precinct GOP chair (Don Yelton) actually said this of voter ID opposition in a Daily Show interview, of all places: The law “hurts a bunch of lazy blacks who just want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

Racism exists in this country, of course. But it seems to be more of a generational issue than something that pertains to one party.  

This is some brutal truth about to pour itself on our heads, y'all.

Think of what Sterling, Cliven Bundy, Reid, Yelton and Biden all have in common: All are over the age of 60; all are white; all grew up in a “different time,” when racism was much more accepted. So it’s fascinating to listen to Reid this week publicly call on Republicans to disavow Bundy, whom he correctly calls a “hateful racist.” As we’ve seen, the 27-year Senator never misses an opportunity to score political points with the base, even when the hypocrisy is obvious.

Sterling, who has only donated to Democrats in the past (albeit not for awhile), was actually up for his second Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP. 

That would be the LA chapter of the NAACP, which wanted to praise the Clippers owner for the significantly larger donations than he gave to two Democrats, Gray Davis and Bill Bradley, in the early '90's ... his only political contributions for which there is public record.  Thus is revealed the carefully orchestrated hypocrisy of Sterling, who brings his biracial black/Latina girlfriend to "his" games -- while his not-quite-ex-wife still helps him manage the Clippers -- but she (girlfriend) is not allowed to post a picture of herself with Magic Johnson to Instagram.

Let's check in briefly at this time with the Field Negro.

The thing is, though; no one should be surprised. This is not an unusual way of thinking for men in the majority population of a certain age here in America. [...] The fact that Sterling held these views has been the worst kept secret in the sports world, and yet he was allowed to continue owning the Clippers and reach into his deep pockets to purchase high-priced free agents and an equally high profile African American coach. (Please don't tell me that Doc Rivers didn't know about Sterling. He -- like the LA chapter of the NAACP -- should be ashamed of himself.)

As John Oliver -- the former Daily Show reporter/comedian whose new HBO program debuted over the weekend -- observed, it was a "rough week for unrepentant racists and recording devices".  Back to Concha.

Is racism getting worse in this country? Hard to know the answer to that. On one hand, Cliven Bundy’s and Donald Sterling’s deplorable comments have been universally condemned from left and right, blacks and whites alike. On the other hand, it feels like the divide is getting deeper — especially since the media-fueled polarization of the George Zimmerman trial and verdict.

Maybe it’s just that too many people on the extremes have been given a microphone. Shock value is more and more embraced in media, particularly the world of cable news. And nothing is easier for a segment producer to put together than a racial “debate” between the usual suspects we see every time there a story involving black vs. white that day, that week, that month.

Robert Smith wants to know where the outrage was with Harry Reid when he spoke of Negro dialects. It’s a valid question from someone with no skin (pun intended) in the game. But let’s stop trying to keep a scorecard on what member of which party is making a stupid racial remark this week.
As we’ve seen with the decisive dismissal of Cliven Bundy and the soon-to-be-dismissal of Donald Sterling, most Americans and almost all forms of media won’t stand for racism. And if you weren’t born somewhere before 1965, there’s a pretty good chance your thought process doesn’t exactly match theirs.

Nobody — except for blind partisans and ratings-hungry producers more interested in winning or showcasing an unwinnable and pointless argument — really cares about the voting preference of the offender. 

That's the best course of action here.  And that's coming from someone who was born before 1965, and has been guilty on occasion of squeezing lighter fluid on the partisan grill with regard to race.

Call out the racists, and also acknowledge that the blue or red label is immaterial.  That way we can all start to make a little progress together.

Update: FWIW, Michael Tomasky disagrees, as does Wonkette, with its usual graceful snark.  Tomasky has a good point about the incessant false equivalency that conservatives reach for in almost every political case, but w/r/t racism and racists, there's simply no political degree of difference that's worth contending.  As a nation, we can't begin to get past this until we recognize that we have all fallen short of the glory of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Update II: Sources have debunked the 'Sterling is a Democrat' meme by posting pictures of his California voter registration, which shows him registered as a Republican.  I'm going to hold the line on the premise first advanced in the headline, primarily because in our American oligarchy, the wealthiest generally don't take sides (despite Charles and David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, yaddayadda).  They $upport their $elf-intere$t$ quite con$i$tently.


Greg said...

Personally, I'd like more info on that GOP registration. When did he register as such? Is he one of those who changed registration so as to vote in a primary that mattered in an election year, or was he a long-time Republican? The donations lead me to suspect he was the former rather than latter.

PDiddie said...

Google is your friend (.39 seconds, first link):

"Here's the truth: Sterling is a registered Republican and has been at least since 1998. As I divulged via Twitter on Sunday night, that information comes from the official database of California voter registrations. A readout of Sterling's registration record is here, collated to the Clipper owner's official residence in Beverly Hills and his documented birth date, April 26, 1934. (Yes, he turned 80 on Saturday.)"

Please note the last words in the headline of that LA Times article linked above: "Does it matter?"

And read the very last paragraph there.