—Faulkner, “Requiem for a Nun”
It’s already the 21st century yet much of the nation is still mired in ancient racism. Lately the racism is coming from an astonishing source: Hillary Clinton.
Politics has always been a dirty business, using incredibly foul means like the Swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004. But to have Clinton stooping to conquer through gutter politics is unbelievable.
She says Barack Obama’s support “among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans,” is ever-weakening. (See, Obama is black.) Earlier Clinton used the ethnic gambit. Asked if Obama is a Muslim, she replied: “Not as far as I know.” (See, he’s a closet Muslim.)
Now here’s John McCain, Mr. Rectitude and Mr. Integrity, gleefully noting that Obama has been endorsed by Hamas, the radical Islamic group in power in Gaza. (See, Obama is a virulently un-American. In contrast, Hamas will find that he, the Great McCain, will be its worst nightmare.)
America is a country where innuendo and symbols are far more important than substance. (See, Obama is not wearing a flag pin. At best, he is unpatriotic; at worst, a terrorist.)
Feminists like Gloria Steinem contend that men do not want a president wearing skirts. True of some men.
But the problem is not a woman in the White House. The nation needs to shatter women’s ultimate glass ceiling just as it needs to end the black presidential taboo. Clinton, however, is the wrong woman.
She and her husband, Bill Clinton, sold out the liberal soul of the Democratic Party. Their triangulation was reprehensible, stealing Republican programs and adopting them as Democratic measures.
Abolishing welfare “as we know it” was not the Democratic way. Neither was pushing trade treaties that benefited only corporations. Neither was promising to abolish the bar to gays in the military but cravenly caving in to the Joint Chiefs.
Bill Clinton kept cruel embargoes on Cuba and Iraq. He spinelessly signed the Defense of Marriage Act. He fired a surgeon general who told the truth about sex. He repudiated the head of a civil rights unit who had written a scholarly article about proportional representation.
But back to racism. America is a land of double standards, one for whites and quite another for blacks. It is a double standard that blacks know all too well, many having faced its grim consequences.
Patricia Williams, a columnist for The Nation, points out how blacks like Rev. Jeremiah Wright are derided as over-emotional preachers yet a madman white preacher endorses McCain and McCain gets a free pass from the media.
Wright, once Obama’s pastor in Chicago, says “God damn America” and his words are run constantly on TV, reinforcing American racism. It is guilt by endorsement. Wright is angry about America so Obama must be, too.
Obama’s wife, Michelle, relates her pride in America. The remark is either ignored by the media or she is asked tendentiously: How long has she been proud of America?
But when the Rev. John Hagee of a Texas megachurch backs the Sainted McCain the pundits utter not a word and TV virtually ignores Hagee’s wackadoodle remarks. Such as: God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its sins, particularly for scheduling a gay parade.
A double standard also operates in politics. As Democrats, Obama and Clinton are subject to constant judgments from right-wing pundits. But the talkmeisters never note that the Republican party has 245 senators and representatives in Congress. Not one is black.
One in 100 American adults is in jail. The rate is skewed along racial lines, with one in nine black men, ages 20 to 34, behind bars.
James Fellner, of the Human Rights Watch, notes: “Most drug offenders are whites but most of the drug offenders sent to prison are blacks.”
Other examples of racism: Schools are resegregating. More than half of the elementary schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district in North Carolina, once a model of court-ordered racial balancing, are 90 percent black or 90 percent white. … Redlining, wherein banks refused to lend money based on a borrower’s neighborhood, is staging an ugly comeback. The mortgage policy now is to charge borrowers higher fees if they live in minority neighborhoods. … Police in New York City bullet-riddle unarmed blacks. They torture blacks. They harass them with unnecessary stops in racial profiling. … And the cops in Philadelphia recently beat three black shooting suspects.
Racism is hardly something from the dim past. Blacks still suffer the “crime” of being black.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.