Thursday, October 4, 2007

White Supremacy on the March.

Racism is alive and virulent in America. Don't believe me? Look at nooses at the Coast Guard Academy: in Jena, LA; outside Jena; in Maryland. Look at a Black student at Gallaudet held down and marked with swastikas and 'KKK. Look at the mayor of Jena telling a white supremacist: "I appreciate what you are trying to do. Your moral support means a lot.” And of course you have Bill O'Reilly's surprise that Black people in restaurants behave, shockingly, just like white people. If I didn't know better I'd think Birth of a Nation was playing down at the multiplex. In that spirit, here's a column I wrote for the school newspaper excoriating the honkies.

If a poll came out tomorrow that showed 40% of Iranians were in favor of making Jews wear special identification from the government, the world would be justifiably outraged. It’s not difficult to picture the apoplectic fits we would see on the nightly news as pundits tried to outscore each other on who could condemn Iran the most stridently. Fortunately, it’s not true that Iran wants Jews to wear special identification. In fact Forward, the Jewish Daily, has reported that Iran’s Jews actively resist Zionist entreaties to emigrate to Israel.

It is true, however, that thirty nine percent of Americans think Muslims require special government identification. I’m guessing most people reading this haven’t heard this statistic, which is from a nationwide poll taken last year. The lack of furor caused by this openly racist sentiment (and yes, it is racist. Have you ever heard anyone calling for white folks to be kicked off a plane for speaking “strange languages?”) demonstrates something frightening about the acceptance of racism in American society today.

Ever since 9/11, lawmakers and talking heads have been bombarding us with the most disgusting anti-Arab and anti-Muslim doggerel imaginable. Witness, for example, Rep. Virgil Goode using the fact that there is one Muslim in Congress to whip up scare campaigns about how “if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office.” Or CNN’s Glenn Beck threatening Muslims that they will soon “be looking through a razor wire fence at the West." Concentration camps? Special ids for minorities? We know how this story ends.

Nor is acceptable racism in America limited to Arabs and Muslims. The supposed “immigration crisis” that congress is constantly trying to scare us into believing in has spawned a newer, more confident white nativism with devastating consequences for Latinos. This is most obvious in the movement of “the Minutemen,” a racist terrorist group which has gained legitimacy thanks to the scaremongering of Pres. Bush and congress. Their members have a signal new approach to immigration “problem.” One member said simply "Just shoot 'em on sight. That's my immigration policy recommendation. You break into my country, you die." Rep. Tom Tancredo called these men “heroes.”

Is it any wonder, then, with US policymakers openly supporting domestic terrorists, that this violence trickles down to people’s everyday lives? That’s just what happened to a Latino boy near Houston, Texas, who was assaulted last year in a vicious hate crime. The victim tried to kiss a white girl at a party, at which point two white boys beat him with a metal pipe, used it to sodomize him, and then poured bleach all over his naked body. While the Minutemen may think its fun to play army on the US border, it’s not fun for the Latinos who have to endure the kind of torture and humiliation we saw on display at Abu Ghraib.

Even more disturbingly, perhaps, is the degree to which the legitimization of groups like the Minutemen has given neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan a foot back into the door of American political discourse. It’s not uncommon to go to Minutemen events and see both Nazi and Confederate flags flying high. The acceptable racism against Latinos has given these despicable symbols new currency in America. Is it any wonder, then, that a white supremacist group felt confident enough last month to post the addresses of the Jena Six online “in case anyone wants to deliver justice?” The lesson is clear: the racist scapegoating of Latinos increases the confidence of racists against other groups as well.

The same lesson applies to the anti-Muslim sentiment described above. Before 9/11, America was moving towards a nation consensus that racial profiling was illegitimate. Afterwards, however, federal and state law enforcement agencies moved with a frightening swiftness to single out anyone who looked remotely connected to the Middle East. This rehabilitation of racial profiling in the “War on Terror” has had disturbing consequences for African-Americans. Just look at Los Angeles in 2002, where 22 percent of Blacks stopped were asked to get out of their cars, compared to a mere 7 percent of whites. The numbers could go on, but suffice to say that once more racism won’t stay in its cage.

It’s for these reasons that the International Socialist Organization, the Wisconsin Black Student Union, and the Multicultural Student Center are having a panel discussion this Wednesday about how to fight racism here in Wisconsin. As the evidence marshaled here shows, racism has a powerful grip in American society. Nothing less than a mass movement will dislodge it. Join us Wednesday, October 10th, at 7:30, TITU, for a discussion of how to start one.