Not the Party of Racists

After G pointed out a mistake I made in a previous post, I followed his blog and was surprised to see a pretty strong argument against the commonly accepted fact that Dixiecrats became Republicans in response to the Democratic party’s support of civil rights. In his post he discusses the long history of the Democratic party’s obstruction of civil rights progress and makes the case that the Republican party should not be branded as the party of racists. I agree with the second point, but I still take issue with linking the Democratic party of today with the Dixiecrats of the past.

G points out, correctly, that only one of the Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Stom Thurmand, ever became a Republican and states, “One man switching parties can not undo over 150 years of historical fact that Republicans have always been the party of freedom.”

But I think the voters are more telling. Most of the regions which historically kept racist Democrats in congress started electing Republics in the mid and late sixties. I find it easier to accept that a core of Dixiecrats in congress stayed loyal to their party even as they disapproved of the new direction in which the party was going, than to accept that voters who always elected racists switched parties because they embraced the civil rights movement.

Another flaw in equating present Democrats with old Dixiecrats is ignoring the stark contrast between Dixiecrats and the rest of the party. While it’s correct that Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while many Democrats tried to block it, it’s also true that Northern Democrats supported the act more strongly than Republicans did as a whole. Dixiecrats and Northern Democrats may have been in the same party, but they were not the same people. Today, the Dixiecrats are gone and the Democratic party reflects the history of those Northern Democrats who supported civil rights in a far greater percentage than either Northern or Southern Republicans did.

I find it offensive that some right wing websites equate modern Democrats with old Dixiecrats by rehashing the sins of the Democratic party in the past. It’s especially bizarre since other right wing websites equate Democrats with black racists, as if a single political party could appeal to old Dixiecrats as well as the Nation of Islam. But to give G and his peers their due, the Republican party has a long history of supporting civil rights, and it’s to that history that most Republicans are attracted.

It will be tough without Lowes, but we can do it.

Sasha and I have been pretty big customers of Lowes, but that ends now because Lowes decided to comply with the demands of bigoted family values organization in Florida to pull their ads from a TV show about Muslim Americans.

I personally find it shocking and heartbreaking, because Lowes was on the correct side of the bullshit English-Only campaign. I guess Lowes decided that Muslim Americans don’t buy as much lumber as Spanish speaking Americans do.

I wish a boycott of Lowes would teach them that it’s worth a business hit not to promote bigotry, but I’ll have to settle for trying to teach them that appeasing bigots isn’t a good business decision.

I hope Lowes apologizes for this miserable decision. Even they only do so for pragmatic reasons, it will demonstrate that Americans who hate bigotry are a larger and more powerful group than they expected, and that would be a step in the right direction.

A Crazy Wingnut Mistake

Doug Ross, a wingnut blogger, misunderstood a tweet and thought Obama had a U.S. flag removed from Ground Zero because he hates America. Then his stupid mistake was repeated by Malkin and Drudge. Malkin later acknowledged the mistake. Ross did too, sort of. He says his mistake was Obama’s fault for making him think such a delusional accusation could be true.

In justifying his hair-trigger overreaction, Ross linked to a video of Obama standing with his hands clasped during the National Anthem, to prove that Obama hates the flag. A little bit of Googling reveals photos of Bush and other presidents also failing to put their hands over their hearts during the National Anthem. A little more Googling led me to videos of Bush sitting, bored, fiddling with a hand-held American flag and drumming it against his thigh, and a photo of Bush stepping on a floor mat with the U.S. flag printed on it. I also remember (because I’m old enough) Bush Sr. draping a flag over his shoulders like it was a bath towel.

People make gaffs and every president has done things that appear to be disrespectful. These are either due to a deficiency in knowledge about ceremonial etiquette or due to being distracted by other things, like running the country. I can find gaffs committed by Republican presidents and Democratic presidents, but I can’t find swells of lunatic reactions from the left that come close to spreading as quickly as those on the right, or which contain the same amount of murderous and hysterical accusations.

I wish the hateful nonsense would stop, but Republicans are at a low. Their obstructionist tactics almost lead to a government shutdown, their plan to kill Medicare didn’t quite slip by without the people noticing, the birther movement is pretty much dead, Bin Laden was caught and killed on Obama’s watch, and the Republicans can’t seem to produce a leader who excites their base without sounding like a lunatic or a moron. Brace yourselves, folks, for a tidal wave of accusations against Obama that are hateful, racist, and most of all, unbelievable, at least to a thinking person.

The So Called American Problem

A friend of mine, on facebook, posted a link to a book by Philip A. Muhammad called The HipHop Nation: Willie Lynch’s Newest Slave. I did not read the book but I have read some of Brother Muhammad’s writing. Brother Muhammad says his book unearth’s the “truth and reality of governmental and corporate America and the slave master role they play on a global scale”. In other writing he makes clear who he blames. His website states that the “so-called American Jew is using the HIPHOP Nation and its Music, to transform slavery from a physical thang to a psychological thang”.

Brother Muhammad’s words are offensive and untrue. And yet they’re not baseless. Many Jewish people are movers and shakers in the entertainment industry. Many movers and shakers in the entertainment industry profit from Hip Hop. Hip Hop, at least in its worst form, is detrimental to the Black community. Therefore, many Jews are profiting from from the troubles of Blacks. But that’s a far cry from suggesting that there is a conspiracy of “So Called American Jews” to keep Blacks psychologically enslaved. Mr. Muhammad correctly describes behaviors that are detrimental to the Black community, including: “Referring to each other as Niggers”, “Growing ignorance of the world and the politics that govern it” and “Calling women bitches”. It is an absurd stretch of the imagination to lay the blame for this behavior squarely on the “So Called American Jews”, even if many Jews, along with non-Jews, promote it and profit from it.

But the blame for troubles in the Black community should not be laid exclusively at the feet of Black people, either. Doing so denies that slavery, followed by a century of Jim Crow, followed by good-hearted but detrimental efforts to alleviate poverty have lasting effects throughout generations. Slavery and the institutionalized bigotry of the past continue to cause problems today. The most lasting effect slavery had on the African American community was the destruction of the family. This was, and to a degree is still worsened by misguided efforts to help. When the best thing a poor man can do for his family is disappear, that creates long lasting detrimental effects.

Muhammad’s hateful rhetoric, along with that of non-Blacks who assume no responsibility for problems in the Black community, deny the “American” in “African American”. Communities are willing to help those people that they consider their own. But many Americans don’t see Black people as part of American society. That includes African Americans like Philip Muhammad who primarily blame non-Blacks for their troubles and who prescribe isolation from the American community as the solution.

What should be done? Improve schools in poor neighborhoods. Put more cops in high crime areas and support programs that improve relations between the police and the neighborhoods that they patrol. Provide health care to children. Support programs like Head Start, which not only provide education and developmental services for young children but also provide daycare to allow single parents to find work. According to one study, the “society receives nearly $9 in benefits for every $1 invested” in Head Start programs, but Head Start and similar programs are on the chopping block of Republican budget reforms.

What should not be done is laying blame for Black troubles at the feet of any single racial, religious, or ethnic group. We are all Americans. The troubles in Black communities are an American problem.

Para Español, marque el numero dos.

A good guy who I know just sent me one of those jingoistic emails complaining about the fact that some people in this country speak Spanish. I once worked with someone for a couple of years who would complain about anyone, even coworkers, who spoke Spanish better than English. But one day, I found that her grandfather had been living in this country for years without ever learning English. He was German. In her mind, any language commonly spoken by white people was as good as English.

I don’t think the good guy who I referred to in the first sentence is a racist (the woman with the German grandfather was), but I do think he is getting caught up in a fever that racists are intensifying. People who don’t speak English well have been an important part of this country for generations. And I’d be a fool not to admit that they’ve been treated like shit for generations. But it was never righteous, and lately there’s been a special wide-spread animosity towards Spanish speakers.

Lady Liberty stands in the harbor welcoming the tired, the poor, the homeless and the tempest-tost. She doesn’t demand that they take English as a Second Language before fleeing the poverty, imprisonment, or death that awaits them in their home countries. Many people who complain about Spanish today have descended from people who didn’t speak English, or at least not very well, before arriving at our shores. And the fact that English isn’t this land’s native language is a whole other topic.

I agree that people who make it to our great country should learn English. And most do. But people who get upset about the two or three seconds it takes to wait through the phrase “para Español marque el numero dos” are barking up the wrong tree.

Corporations, like Lowes, don’t offer “el numero dos” because of a left wing pro-immigration agenda, and they’re not being forced to speak Spanish by the Obama administration. They offer “dos” because they want to sell their stuff to more people, and some of their customers are more comfortable with Spanish than English.

When people complain about Walmart’s neighborhood-killing tactics, MacDonald’s oppressive employment policies, Smithfield’s cruelty to animals, or Stanly’s outsourcing, the right wing gets up in their asses about interfering with the free market. But when the same companies try to make more money by appealing to more customers, the same wingnuts start calling for laws against conducting business in any language but English.

Government agencies speak different languages because they have work to do and it wouldn’t make sense to limit their ability to do their jobs just to make a jingoistic statement. Even wingnuts wouldn’t expect the police to follow an English-only policy. Other agencies also have work to do. That might be hard for you to imagine if you feel that any government function other than rounding people up or killing them is socialism, but it’s true.

I want to explain my use of the term “more comfortable” (three paragraphs up). I’m not trying to find a PC way to say “They don’t speak English”. The fact is, most immigrants do speak English. I have several Spanish speaking coworkers. They are all hard working American taxpayers, and they all speak English. But a few of the guys speak Spanish better. If I could speak Spanish ( and I’ve been trying ), I would sometimes use Spanish for clarity. And I would still expect them to continue to improve their English.

For the most part, you don’t have to press 1 for English anymore. You just have to not press 2. But people still complain. Perhaps they’re afraid of accidentally pressing “2” and then not understanding the instructions on how to get back to English. If that happens, don’t panic. Just hang up and call again.

English is this country’s language. Acting as if pressing “dos” is a threat to our English speaking tradition is as silly as acting like same-sex marriages will make us all turn gay.

Spanish is a non-issue that has been built up by the Right to drive a wedge through this country. It doesn’t hurt you in any way if signs are in English and Spanish. It might effect you if signs were in Spanish only, and I might be willing to consider a policy that would address that. But we’re not there yet. For now, the only problem with Spanish is that some people get angry when they hear or see it. And that anger is being used as a political tool by people who think it’s to their advantage to drum up hate in this country.

I’ve worked with people who don’t speak English well. They work; they pay taxes; and many of them are in uniform defending this country. Some of them annoy me by waving flags of the countries that they left and not doing more to become part of our society, but most seem to love and respect the United States far more that many native born Americans who take for granted the freedom and prosperity of our nation. We get strength from our Foreign born citizens. They give us new technology, expand our thinking, and are important military assets. And they left their homes so they can be Americans. Like new people everywhere, they don’t speak the language as well as those who have been here longer. Business want to compete for their money by speaking their language. Do the American thing and let them.