Monday, May 16, 2022

Racism is America's Original Sin

     A half a century ago today, Dixiecrat and noted racist George Wallace won the Michigan primary with 51% of the vote. That same day, he also won the Maryland primary with nearly 39% of the vote. Just the day before, Wallace was shot at the Landover Mall in Laurel, MD, just down the street from where I would live the following year.
     One could say, and some had, that Wallace garnered the sympathy vote on account of the assassination attempt that left him crippled from the waist down for the rest of his life. But it was an alarming development among Democrats that a virulent racist such as Wallace could win two states in one day under their party's banner.
     Nearly 50 years later, last Saturday 18 year-old racist Payton Gendron drove all the way to Buffalo, chose a heavily African American section of the state's second-largest city, and opened fire at the Tops supermarket, murdering 10 black people. Authorities immediately uncovered a 180 page manifesto that breathlessly bloviated about "the Great Replacement Theory", a hoary old fear that Jews are actively trying to import black and brown people so they can establish a permanent liberal majority.
     Those of us who actually have two neurons to rub together know that's plain horseshit. Unless you live in Scandinavia or most countries in Africa, the racial demographic of a nation like the United States is going to change. America is a melting pot, always has been and always will be. Yet, racism remains America's original sin and this goes back to long before the first Continental Congress in 1774.
     Proof of this is readily evident. It took nearly 90 years after the Declaration of Independence before slavery was outlawed in the 13th Amendment. And even then, slavery was merely replaced with thinly-disguised avatars of the same old racism and slavery- Sharecropping, Jim Crow voting laws, etc.
     Just 136 days into the year, we're already up to 202 mass shootings (there were several this weekend alone). But the Buffalo shooting stood out not only because of the horrendous number of fatalities but also because it was the deadliest mass shooting of exclusively black victims since the Charleston AME shooting in which Dylann Storm Roof claimed nine black victims on June 17th 2015. That was just two days after Donald Trump came down the escalator and quickly began transforming America back into its undisguised 19th century racist past.
     Former Sen. Claire McCaskill hit the nail on the head when she said on MSNBC today that screaming about Elise Stefanik and Tucker Carlson's own "Great Replacement" conspiracy theory is all good and well but that we should also mention Donald Trump. The day he threw his MAGA hat in the ring, he got the racist country's attention by inveighing against Mexicans, calling them rapists and drug dealers. Great Replacement Theory is a crude form of racism but Donald Trump's paranoid and fact-free hatred of Mexicans is cruder still.
     Yet it worked. Virtually overnight, racism and racist epithets that had been muttered and muted was now being screamed at 300 decibels. The racists woke up and found their avatar in Trump like an ancient virus collected at the Antarctic and brought back to hideous life.
     In that same MSNBC panel, NY Times columnist Charles Blow added that Trump is certainly not America's first racist and he just as certainly won't be the last. I would add that Trump's also the most fabulously successful racist since at least Nixon and maybe Andrew Jackson. In fact, one could say that it was Trump's racism that propelled him into the White House and succeeding at a level of which George Wallace could only dream.
     As proof of how appealing Trump's racism was, in 2020, 8,000,000 more people voted for Trump (74,000,000) than in 2016. Were all those people who'd voted for Trump racists? Of course not. But at the very least, every one of them was much more comfortable to some degree with re-electing an unabashed racist like Trump than they were of a Democrat taking the White House.
     Even if it was a Democrat who'd co-authored a now-notorious crime bill that put hundreds of thousands of black men in prison for non-violent crimes.
     As proof that racists are panting at the gates, the day after Saturday's horrific shooting, vandals had spray-painted an ethnic slur on a black Niagra, NY family's fence that read, "Kill All N-ggers."
     These low lifes are inspiring each other yet we keep treating race-based mass murders as signs of mental illness or outliers that are, not, in fact, ideologically-connected. And I think those of us in the reality-based, compassionate community can all agree that we need to do more than just step on this shit, we need to stamp racism out of existence.
     Yet nobody seems to have any idea how to go about doing that. It's one thing for a dog to chase a car. It's another thing entirely when the dog doesn't know which car to chase.
     Another thing I think we can agree on is it's largely a matter of nurture. If one doesn't raise their kids with the proper values, it won't automatically make them racist but it will increase the likelihood they'll become one and that certainly applies to Payton Gendron, the Buffalo shooter.
     The Tops supermarket shooting last Saturday proved that white on black violence is still a major problem in this country no matter how many times white racist apologists try to divert our attention to black on black crime in Chicago and Philadelphia. And the Tops mass shooting was so wrong in so many different ways and on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to begin. It touches on very carefully targeted racism and the Great Replacement bullshit troweled out on a nearly daily basis on Fox and elsewhere. It touches on the necessity for much stricter gun control laws (Gendron had purchased his Bushmaster rifle with the extended magazine legally and a backup weapon given to him, shades of the Crumbleys, as a Christmas present by dear old dad).
     So it's tough to know which fire to put out first or if it's even feasible to try to put out several simultaneously. But racist infotainers like Tucker and policy makers need to learn there are, or should be, consequences to their words, especially when they espouse racist conspiracy theories about white genocide and replacement theory.
     Don't forget, Trump sounded the alarm on the campaign trail in 2020 when he tried to play on white fear of low income darkies invading pristine white neighborhoods through low income housing, which doesn't make any sense to any rational person. And it certainly didn't play well for Trump, who was not only widely ridiculed for his race-mongering but was rejected by those very same Republican-voting white suburban women.
     America is a racist country, always has been and likely always will be. Seriously, peeps, I wish I could give you more hope. I don't see an easy way out of this racism dilemma. And anyone who tells you they do is either a Pollyanna, a fool or a huckster. Racism was the very foundation of our earliest economy in the early 17th century when owners of sugar cane, tobacco and cotton fields used slaves to do the hard work they were too lazy to do.
     And, thanks to a Trump-energized, radical right wing that's looking less and less dissimilar from the Nazi Party of 1930s Germany, we're now living in an age in which it's actually a criminal offense to accurately teach that history to the younger generation.


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