The other day I noted the difference between the juvenile debate regarding when it’s okay to call someone racist and the important work of ‘calling out’ racism. Thanks to regular reader Carlos M. Camacho (SUNY-Buffalo) for suggesting this video (3:00) as a response to that post.
In case you missed it, Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate from Kentucky, son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, has been getting a lot of press in the last day or so for his views on civil rights. The junior Paul, like his father, is a committed libertarian in his views of the government, and his comments recently on the Rachel Maddow show illustrate just how problematic such a stance is for civil rights. In this clip, Rand Paul effectively resets the clock on discussion about civil rights back about 120 years (video is on the long side, 19:35, but worth watching):
As you might imagine, Rand Paul’s comments have ignited discussion in the blogosphere and Twitterverse. One of the most cogent observers is Prof. Blair L.M. Kelley (@profblmkelley), a scholar who has studied the Civil Rights Movement. Prof. Kelley offers a thorough analysis of Rand Paul’s nonsense in this piece at Salon.
Coming soon, Prof. Adia Harvey-Wingfield, professor of sociology at Georgia State University, will offer her own analysis here at Racism Review of Rand Pauls’ recent comments. Check back soon.
In the last day or two, an “unknown political group” has created a video (and loaded YouTube), called “I’m a Racist,” and it’s been getting a lot of attention. The short description posted with the video states ‘We believe the health care system needs to be fixed. However, government intervention is not the answer, nor should we be called racist for not agreeing with Obama’s health plan!’ Fortunately, Rachel Maddow and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, provide a thorough critique in this clip (8:01):
Harris-Lacewell makes an excellent point here when she points out the way the ad reinforces an individualized notion of racism, as a personal trait, rather than an understanding that racism is systemic.
This “Guess I’m a Racist” meme jumped to Twitter and people began updating using the hashtag #youmightbearacist. (Using hashtags (#) on Twitter is just a way for people to have a conversation around a theme, so on an evening when the BET Awards are on, people might use #BET as a hashtag to talk about the awards. But the racism prompted by that hashtag is another story.)
Some of the updates to Twitter with the #youmightbearacist hashtag were meant to be funny and skewer racism, some were not so funny deeply racist. Almost all reinforced the point that Harris-Lacewell makes about the anti-health care ad, which is that they assume that racism resides in an individual rather than operates systematically.
There are a couple of things that are interesting about all this for me. First, the video opposing health care is a fairly slick politlcal ad yet it’s created by an “unknown” political ad. In this way, it’s similar to the cloaked sites that I’ve written about here (and in my recent book, Cyber Racism) in which people disguise authorship of websites in order to conceal a political agenda. This ad is slightly different because it’s being pretty overt about part of their political agenda (opposing health care reform), but because the identity of the group that created the ad is hidden, we don’t know how their stance on this one issue may (or may not) be part of a larger political agenda.
What intrigues me further about this is the convergence and overlap of media. So, the unknown political group releases a video on YouTube exclusively, and the video quickly goes viral and becomes one of the most viewed videos on YouTube. They do not buy air time on television to get their message out, but they don’t have to, because the video gets picked up by Maddow’s show and she airs the video. Then, the meme travels to Twitter, where people both reinforce and resist (sort of) the notion of what it means to be “a racist.” The political battle over race, and the meaning of racism, has moved into the digital era.
A few blocks from where I live, the annual “Columbus Day Parade” is about to disrupt traffic along 5th Avenue from 44th Street up to 79th Street, but I won’t be joining in this celebration. Like most school children in the U.S., I was fed the lie that Christopher Columbus was “an explorer” who “discovered America.” The local news stations here relentlessly refer to the parade as a “celebration of Italian heritage.” In fact, this is a holiday that disguises more than 500 years of church-sanctioned atrocities against indigenous peoples as well as the on-going, present-day racism against Native Americans.
While many of those who celebrate this holiday will participate in a Columbus Day Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral along the parade route (50th Street/Fifth Avenue), many others will protest the church’s participation in genocide. In fact, for the past dozen years, there has been an ongoing counter-protest, an Annual Papal Bulls Burning. At the Parliament of World Religions in 1993, over sixty indigenous delegates drafted a Declaration of Vision, which was originally “endorsed by resolution in a near unanimous vote” of the Parliament (Taliman 1994). It reads, in part:
We call upon the people of conscience in the Roman Catholic hierarchy to persuade Pope John II to formally revoke the Inter Cetera Bull of May 4, 1493, which will restore our fundamental human rights. That Papal document called for our Nations and Peoples to be subjugated so the Christian Empire nd its doctrines would be propagated. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling Johnson v. McIntosh 8 Wheat 543 (in 1823) adopted the same principle of subjugation expressed in the Inter Caetera bull. This Papal Bull has been, and continues to be, devastating to our religions, our cultures, and the survival of our populations.
Many indigenous peoples around the world have, since the Columbus Quincentennial in 1992, have reclaimed October 12th as International Indigenous Peoples’ Day (h/t @DinkyShop via Twitter) with celebrations and protests, with a particular focus on pressuring the Catholic Church to rescind the papal edicts (known as “bulls”), that sanctioned the genocidal practices of “explorers” like Christopher Columbus. Here is one account from Hawai’i:
Twelve years ago, Tony Castanha, a Boricua (Puerto Rican) in Hawai’i who was reconnecting with his Taino ancestry, began commemorating the day with a ceremonial burning of the 1493 Papal Bull Inter Caetera. The Papal Bull was the holy decree which gave Columbus the Church’s blessing and authorization to “establish Christian dominion over the globe and called for the subjugation of non-Christian peoples and seizure of their lands.” This racist law became one of the foundations of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery and many laws authorizing the taking of native peoples’ land.
In a small sign of progress, the Episcopal Church recently passed a landmark resolution entitled “Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.” As of yet, there’s been no response from the Catholic Church on this global movement of indigenous peoples.
The myth of “discovery” that’s woven into the celebration of Christopher Columbus as a mythic hero also serves to cover up the on-going, present-day racism against Native Americans. In a terrific piece on “Native Americans Long Battle Against Racism,” at Global Voices Online (well worth reading in its entirety), Bernardo Parrella writes about the fact that even though there are almost 2.5 million Native Americans live in USA (0.87% of total US population), this group is largely “forgotten or invisible to the vast majority of Americans.” There are lots of resources in Parrella’s post if you decide to educate yourself about racism against Native Americans. He also includes ways that Native Americans are using online citizen media to fight racism and stereotypes. Just one example of these is a video called, “Racism The Way We See It” (7:50) statement about how young Native Americans experience racism within their own community:
Stephen Colbert skewers the claims that “valid criticisms of Barack Obama [are] being unfairly associated with racism” in this clip (6:29) on “The Word – Blackwashing” :
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word – Blackwashing|
Rachel Maddow took a few minutes at the end of last night’s show to correct the record on Pat Buchanan’s racist rant about ‘white men built this nation.’ In case you missed it, here’s what she said (6:58):
I think she did a pretty good job on this. She gets bonus points from me for the line about affirmative action being necessary “so that we as a country don’t end up sealing in place forever a white supremacist society, created by and defined by segregation and Jim Crow.” What do you think about her rebuttal?
It’s Monday. Thought I’d start the week off with something light in the form of this truly offbeat commercial that is trying to do its part for ending racism in furniture sales (1:30):
Writing here recently, Joe and Sean talked about the problematic issue of white men. Larry Wilmore makes a similar and does it with humor, via The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (just under 10 minutes):
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M – Th 11p / 10c|
|The New White Face of Crime|
An article in the Washington Post earlier this week asked “Does your subconscious think Obama is foreign?” (Hat tip to HarlemWriter via Twitter and Light-Skinned Girl). Shankar Vedantam, the author of that piece, went on to cite the work of Mahzarin Banaji at Harvard, one of the developers of the Implicit Association Test, which we’ve written about here before. Vedantam has a provocative interview quote from Banaji in which she says: “African Americans in their [own] minds are fully American, but not in the minds of whites.” And, indeed, this seems clear in this short video clip (2:08) that includes interviews with white Ohio voters:
In these interviews, reporter Casey Kauffman reveals the misconceptions, racism, and just plain foolishness of these white people (to me via Alternet). It would be funny if it weren’t so scary.