I Am Not Afraid To Look Racism In The Face And Dodge The Issue Entirely By Commenting On Its Pores

By Jesse Taylor
Monday, June 7, 2010 3:04 EDT
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imageIf there’s one Republican in this country I have sympathy for, it’s South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. Two men are claiming to have had affairs with her, both of whom are about as credible as a four year old who has no idea how all the cookies disappeared and mommy’s luggage got filled up with mud. Likewise, she (along with President Obama) was called a raghead by South Carolina state senator Jakey “Jakey Knotts” Knotts.

In other words, she’s gotten a sense of what it’s like to run as a Democrat in South Carolina.

As this bizarre internal warfare has raged on, conservatives have run to Haley’s defense. It’s not a bad position to be in; the woman, after all, has been subject to some truly vile smears. But wherever movement conservatives are running to the defense of one of their own, it’s critical to remember that what they’re doing is defending any attack on one of their own. They generally don’t care about the substance of the attack, other than that certain types of attacks allow them to use certain insults in response.

It’s with this in mind that we approach Robert Stacy McCain’s response to State Sen. Knotts’ remarks. And by “response”, I mean “defense of racism when it’s about brown people he doesn’t like”.

Certainly, I’m the last person on the planet to be screaming “raaaaacist” at other people, but it’s shocking enough that a Republican would use such language to describe President Obama. For a Republican to use it against a fellow Republican — Nikki Haley is a Christian of Sikh ancestry — is so wrong as to defy comprehension.

To McCain’s credit, he never actually did scream “raaaaacist” at anyone, so that streak is thankfully left alive.

The dichotomy here is that one can take a vile racial slur, and if it’s aimed (in public) at a Democrat, it’s “shocking enough”, presumably because the PC race pimps are set to bang down his door and turn all of his water into Kool-Aid should he not give some credence to the fact that racism exists. However, if it’s a Republican doing such a thing to another Republican, it’s “so wrong as to defy comprehension”.

There are many things that are too wrong to defy comprehension: the Holocaust, American slavery, Darfur, the continued existence of LOLcats. But an old white guy in South Carolina saying something racist about a brown lady for political gain? That’s actually entirely comprehensible. It’s directions-on-a-can-of-soup comprehensible. If you cannot comprehend that, you do not deserve the powers of comprehension, and should have them repossessed and given to someone who can actually use them. Like a coma patient.

Knotts has apologized and I don’t see any point in demonizing him, but I’m honestly shocked that any politician would go there. It’s unfathomably ignorant. Sikhs are not Muslim and they’re not Hindu. (And exactly how is the fact that Haley comes from a Sikh family relevant to Obama’s Kenyan ancestry?)

It’s not unfathomably ignorant because it’s the wrong slur. It’s unfathomably ignorant because calling someone a raghead is unfathomably ignorant, period, stop. You don’t get not-racist points because you managed to match up the particular stupid fucking thing you wanted to say with the person’s race. What’s the response supposed to be? “I thought you were a giant racist, but you managed to look at my nose and my haircut and correctly identify the broad racial group I belong to. I’m gonna buy you a beer, man!”

When your problem with racism is that someone wasn’t the right kind of racist, you actually don’t have a problem with racism at all. A perversely admirable devotion to accuracy over all other considerations, yes, but no actual problem with racism.

And when you decide to point out the times that you’ve been perfectly fine with racial slurs, you’re just a racist who finds dealing with accusations of racism inconvenient.

Just as I am not down with the Anti-Racist Mind-Probe Watchdogs, neither am I a Politeness Police Courtesy Cop. A remark may be rude or shocking without constituting a human-rights violation.

One of the first controversies I ever became involved in as a blogger was when Ann Coulter used “raghead” in her 2006 CPAC speech. At a time when even Ace of Spades (!) signed a petition condemning her, I defended Coulter because (a) I love Coulter, and (b) the person to whom she applied that term was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for whom no slur is sufficiently derogatory.

My argument then was that no generalized prejudice could be inferred from Coulter’s use of the term specifically directed at Ahmadinejad, a Jew-hating genocidal maniac who deserves a Hellfire missile where the sun don’t shine. (In her own defense, Coulter said: “You know, OK. I make a few jokes at Muslims, and they killed 3,000 Americans — I think we’re even.”)

Which is to say that, while I don’t recommend use of “raghead” in political discourse, neither do I think it is always necessarily grounds for expulsion from polite society. Context matters.

WHAT IS THE CONTEXT? At what point do I get to slur an entire race of people because I don’t like what one member of that racial group does? Do the accuracy rules still apply? Can I call Ahmadinejad a greasy Finn? If I can be racist because someone pisses me off, how do I know Barack Obama hasn’t been knocking over angry conservative white people’s trash cans for the past several years? Or impregnating their daughters? Or impregnating their trash cans?

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
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