Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Normalizing Racism

There is an almost irresistible temptation to applaud Republicans who have condemned Donald Trump's criticism of Judge Gonzalo Curiel because he is of "Mexican heritage" (accurate) or "Mexican" (inaccurate).

Talk-show host, blogger, RedState founder, forced-birth advocate, and #Never Trump guy Erick Erickson wrote "This was racism plain and simple." Recently floated as a possible third-party candidate, Nebraska senator and staunch conservative Ben Sasse tweeted "Public Service Announcement: Saying someone can't do a specific job because of his or her race is the literal definition of 'racism.'" House Speaker Paul Ryan, fresh off an endorsement of Trump he won't retract, contended the candidate's remark is "sort of the textbook definition of a racist comment."

Hold your applause. When I Googled "textbook definition of racism," up popped the Merriam- Webster definition of racism, "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

One might argue Trump has implied that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities. However, Trump never suggested that Curiel was a bad judge because he is Mexican or Mexican-American; rather, that he is biased against Trump because "he's a Mexican. We're building a wall between here and Mexico."  Nor was there any suggestion whatsoever that Judge Curiel is inherently inferior because of his ethnic background.

Mexicans are not of one single, homogenous race, with even most Mexicans (Mestizos) possessing a mix of indigenous and European traits. When Trump speaks of Mexicans or Mexican-Americans, he is (knowingly or not) referring to a race. The candidate's assumption that a fellow born and raised in Indiana is "a Mexican" is horrific. Still, not a textbook definition of racism, nor even close.

The assertion of Sasse, Erickson, and Ryan is inaccurate. Additionally, however, the position of Speaker Ryan, the man otherwise recognized by Charles Peters as the "biggest fake ever," is harmful. Maintaining that Trump's comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel are "the textbook definition of racism" he added "Do I believe Hillary Clinton is the answer? I do not." Steve M. explains

notice what happens every time a Republican makes a statement like this: The notion that Hillary Clinton is a genuinely awful person gets reinforced. ("Yes, what Donald Trump said is outrageous, but at least he's not -- ick! ptui -- Hillary!") It sends the message that Trump is bad but Hillary is unspeakable. ...

The flip side of this message is: Really, what's so awful about what Trump is saying? It's bad, but it's not that bad. What Ryan and others are doing is defining deviancy down.

We have a candidate, Ryan suggests, who is a classical racist- but that's not so bad, not as bad, he argues, as Hillary Clinton.  "I'm not going to defend these kinds of comments because they're indefensible," says the man who immediately exonerated the individual making the remarks.  The significance of spouting racism or being a racist has been effectively minimized, perhaps eliminated. Nice work, Paul.

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