Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Racism Precedes "Hard Times"

This morning Tacoma News Tribune features an article about a walk of reconciliation that will commemorate the time in Tacoma's early history when Chinese immigrants were driven out. A sidebar piece asserts that "hard time" drove the white residents to uproot, abuse, and expel their Chinese neighbors.

The pieces are informative, but in my opinion, racism preceded the "hard times." We're living in comparatively hard times now, and they have certainly influenced the racism and other kinds of over-reaction, especially to President Obama and to immigration-issues. But if the pre-existing conditions of racism and xenophobia weren't already alive, many people would react differently to the hard times, and they'd be less likely to take the bait of cynical right-wing political manipulators like Karl Rove. People might be more tempted to focus, for example, on the chasm between rich and poor in the country--a chasm that isn't the fault of immigrants, or the health-care reforms, etc.

The News Tribune recently endorsed Republican incumbent Representative Dave Reichart. Reichart's offered to concrete solution to the chronic and acute health-care crisis, and he has sat quietly as his party slides further right and as it exploits fear and racism. Reichart was also sitting next to Rep. Joe Wilson when Wilson shouted, "You lie!" during President Obama's State of the Union message. Wilson wouldn't have shouted that if he hadn't had a pre-existing arrogant and resentful attitude toward the President and if, deep down, he felt licensed to shout because Obama is Black. Reichart sat and accepted his colleague's behavior.

Yes, times are tough, and stressed people over-react. But, regardless of their politics, more media need to speak out against the hatred, race-baiting, and fear-mongering. The Democrats are no day at the beach, and all politicians play on emotions, but it's the Republican Party--once it was Eisenhower's Party, if you can believe that--that's become a repository of hate, racism, and despotism. The News Tribune and other media can do something now, or at least say something now, about vicious pre-existing conditions similar to those that drove people to drive out the Chinese. Moderate Republicans also need to break ranks and speak out against Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Karl Rove; after all, Rove wasn't the least bit reticent to savage a fellow Republican, John McCain, when McCain was running against Bush. And the tactic was the same: exploit fear and hatred.

What would Edward R. Murrow say and do? And did any reasonable people think that Murrow student up to McCarthy because of Party politics? I doubt it. They understood Murrow was standing up to McCarthy because of what McCarthy was doing, how he was exploiting fear and hatred, and where he was taking government and politics.
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