Saturday, April 17, 2010

Minstrel Show

Screenshot from

One theme we've been hearing over and over at the recent tea parties is that they've been spending a lot of time on the defensive, gazing at their belly buttons and saying, hey, that belly button isn't really racist, is it? This is hilarious because they're devoting much of their rallies now to talking about themselves and their "portrayal" in the media, rather than about their nebulous causes. And they fall effortlessly into the standard contemporary Right Wing trope: racism itself is never a problem, really no big deal and not worth pondering, but being accused of racism is a terrible crime which must be battled ferociously.

This also reminds me of a certain kind of behavior I've seen for many years on forums and message boards where a clueless person will post something along the lines of "I don't mean this in a racist way, but...*" and then proceed to say something totally, well, racist, as if the first part of the sentence somehow mitigates the rest. 

Charles M. Blow had an excellent Op-Ed at the New York Times yesterday, and he really nails this phenomenon, wherein a Texas tea party's attempt to show diversity goes hilariously awry, and nobody even realizes what's going on:

At first I thought, “Wow! This is much more diverse than the rallies I’ve seen on television.”

Then I realized that I was looking at stadium workers. I should have figured as much when I approached the gate. The greeter had asked, “Are you working tonight?”


I had specifically come to this rally because it was supposed to be especially diverse. And, on the stage at least, it was. The speakers included a black doctor who bashed Democrats for crying racism, a Hispanic immigrant who said that she had never received a single government entitlement and a Vietnamese immigrant who said that the Tea Party leader was God. It felt like a bizarre spoof of a 1980s Benetton ad.


I found the imagery surreal and a bit sad: the minorities trying desperately to prove that they were “one of the good ones”; the organizers trying desperately to resolve any racial guilt among the crowd. The message was clear: How could we be intolerant if these multicolored faces feel the same way we do?


Thursday night I saw a political minstrel show devised for the entertainment of those on the rim of obliviousness and for those engaged in the subterfuge of intolerance. I was not amused.

UPDATE - Here, via Geekette70's photostream at Flickr, is a photo from the very same event attended by Blow:

And what, I ask you, is implied by the young man's "Join or Die" t-shirt?

*Seriously, click that link and crack the fuck up.


impotenta said...

:))Good job :)

Allen said...

Those "I don't mean it..." links are brilliant. In a bizarre sort of way, they are reassuring because at least they are spouted by all races equally about all other racists.

Christopher said...

My grandmother contended her whole adult life that she was suburban, Republican housewife. Despite the fact that she was okay with abortion, was ready to take my uncle to Canada to avoid Vietnam (and was generally anti-war) and on and on her views didn't line up with her chosen party.

BUT she rejected the Democratic party as it was the party of immigrants. And she, a first generation American who was forced to move to move Canada as a kid because anti-German prejudice after WWI prevented my great grandfather from finding work in upstate NY, did NOT want to be associated with immigrants. At all.

She wouldn't let my grandfather research his family history that went back 200 years in the U.S. out of jealousy. (He did it anyway but would have to sneak around about it.) She was stuck in this position of despising American history because it wasn't hers, while desperately trying to escape her immigrant upbringing (or even being all that interested in Ireland or Austria where her parents were from. She insisted on this extremely post-War version of a pastless present.

It's fascinating if it weren't so sad. Like the Tea Partiers themselves.

Peteykins said...

Allen, geez, how is that reassuring?

Matty Boy said...

Peteykins, the Google link now has this blog post as its top choice with a star on it, though that may be because I visit so often.

Very self-referential in any case.

Any time you have to say "I don't mean this in a racist way" or "Some of my best friends are...", anyone over the age of twelve should know they are in an argument they can't possibly win.

Sarah Palin had such a situation mentioning her gay friends during the 2008 election campaign,

Karen Zipdrive said...

"I ain't a racist, I just don't like half of Obama."

These people are full of shit.
There. I said it.