Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Racism’s Affliction is Destroying America (updated July 23)

We have an ugly affliction in America that detracts its citizens from looking at issues compassionately, rejects diversity, and where critical thought is obstructed. An affliction that deters our nation’s growth, and contradicts that of which America says it stands.

An affliction as un-American as it can get. Something the U.S. Constitution addresses, in that “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …,” which is attempted in law to provide justice to discrimination, but unacceptably in the daily lives of many Americans it’s blatantly ignored. An affliction exploited in entertainment, the daily news, social behaviors, and by government and its politicians.

It’s an affliction caused by …

Stereotyping: a person is exposed to negative things about an ethnic group that eventually affects their conception of that group;

Unfamiliarity: fear of what is not known or understood;

Selfishness: caring about oneself at the expense of others;

Dominance: a certain race perceived politically, socially, or economically as superior to others;

Xenophobia: Fears of people who look, act, or behave differently.

The affliction induces animosity.

People with this affliction view human rights protections for minority groups as giving them "special rights."

It manifests an ignorance of other cultures, religions, and values, and influences the enforcement and enactment of immigration laws.

Although the affliction is recognizable, for those who are afflicted it will be disowned. But, undeniably, the symptoms are embedded in the rhetoric:

Mark Williams, Tea Party Express representative, commenting on the Mosque at Ground Zero, referred to Allah as a “monkey-god.”

In reference to the NAACP, Williams said they are “professional race-baiters” who make their “money off of race.” He wrote a blog post in which he called for a return to slavery. He referred to emancipation as meaning that “colored people” must “work for real,” and think for themselves. Saying, “How will … colored people ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn?” And he said, “The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society.”

Williams said that African Americans were too stupid to get out of the way of Hurricane Katrina: “They didn't have the necessary brains and common sense to get out of the way of a Cat 5 Hurricane and then when it hit them -- stood on the side of the convention Center expiring while reporters were coming and going"

The Tea Party Federation did expel Williams and a separate group, the Tea Party Express, over his NAACP remarks, but symptoms of racism were apparent in the movement and should have been repudiated long ago.

The most recent revelation of bigotry comes from Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart’s accusation against the NAACP and Shirley Sherrod, Georgia’s USDA's rural development director, of racism. Without further inquiry, news networks lead by Fox’s Bill O’Reilly presented Sherrod’s NAACP speech as evidence of her racism, and as a result, without due diligence Agriculture Secretary Vilsack asked for Sherrod’s resignation. However, to their chagrin, facts revealed that Breitbart’s selectively edited video was a blatant out of context misrepresentation of Sherrod’s speech. It turned out that Sherrod’s speech was a parable on her inner conflict with racism. Breitbart’s edited video was motivated by a desire for retaliation against the NAACP’s accusation of racism against the Tea Party Federation.

In order to marginalize this very damaging affliction, denouncing bigotry in all of its manifestations must become America’s zeal. That was the message from the NAACP when they called upon all people of good will to repudiate racism and to stand in opposition to its drive to push our country back to the pre-civil rights era.

Shirley Sherrod is correct when she said that discrimination is not just about being black or white, but being poor.