Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blaming The Little Guy

The Daily Times of Farmington, New Mexico reported the protest that greeted Democratic Representative Ben Ray Lugjan on a tour of Goodwill Industries in Farmington. One member of the San Juan County 9/12 Project, a group aligned with the tea party movement

.... said he came for "a chance to see the elusive representative."

"He needs to get out of politics and make room for an American," Clark said.

Luján is a lifelong New Mexican. Clark later explained that he meant an "American patriot."

Pretty ugly that is, and reminiscent of Senator George Allen's infamous crack about S.R. Sidarth: "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere." Sidarth was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, U.S.A. A foreigner to George Allen. Lujan was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A. A foreigner to his critic, Darrel Clark.

Posting on the blog of the ardently pro-Obama Center for American Progress, Travis Waldron found Clark's comment "representative of the strains of racism and ethnocentrism that exist in the Tea Party movement."

However, Darrel Clark is, well, Darrel Clark, a private citizen about as famous as you, me, or your next-door neighbor. But Tom Coburn is a long-serving United States Senator, who recently responded to a negative comment from a constituent about President Obama by contending

His intent isn’t to destroy. It’s to create dependency because it worked so well for him. I don’t say that critically. Look at people for what they are. Don’t assume ulterior motives. I don’t think he doesn’t love our country. I think he does.

As an African American male, coming through the progress of everything he experienced, he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs. So he believes in them. I just don’t believe they work overall and in the long run they don’t help our country. But he doesn’t know that because his life experience is something different. So it’s very important not to get mad at the man.

This was, CAP's Ian Millhiser observed, an "outlandish theory."

So let's review. Darrel Clark, of whom we never had heard and never will again (unless he is roundly condemned for his ridiculous and offensive remark), is emblematic of the "strains of racism and ethnocentrism" coursing through the veins of tea party supporters. A respected United States Senator (without presenting evidence) says the first black President "is out to create dependency because it worked so well for him," apparently because "as an African American male...... he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs." And that president believes in "these programs" not because they work- Coburn argued they don't- but because of the "life experience of the African'American male."

But Coburn, apparently, has not succumbed to racism or ethnocentrism but- wait for it- to an "outlandish theory."

Mere slap on the wrist though that is, it is more than we've heard out of the first black President, his spokespeople or advisers. And it's more than we've heard from the otherwise ever-vigilant civil rights organizations, apparently unconcerned that an influential opinion maker and role model-a United States Senator- believes the first black president couldn't have gotten anywhere near the White House if he weren't black. And that "these programs" exist solely for the African-American male, for whom life is evidently is just swell.

Hopefully, the acceptance of Coburn's remarks is attributable only to the personal relationship between the popular Oklahoma Senator and the former Illinois Senator. Sadly, though, it may be related to privilege- the ease with which some guy in the southwestern U.S. can get slammed while a remark by a member of the world's greatest deliberative body can get affirmed by the silence of others.

Change We Can Believe In, indeed.

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