by Latoya Peterson
A quick one, because time is short.
From the “racism doesn’t exist until it happens to me” files, The Nation points out Michael Steele’s double speak on race:
Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele used to be able to muster a lot of disdain for political players who suggested that criticism of them might be racially motivated.
“I don’t play the race card, I don’t play the race game, the way some tend to do,” Steele, the Republican Party’s most prominent African-American leader, declared last November.
The RNC chair used to argue that the very mention of race as a factor in how pols are perceived and treated was liberal whining and he has said that he is “sick and tired” of those on the left who “play that race card, that slavery card, that civil rights card (when) their backs are up against the wall.” […]
In a new interview with Washingtonian magazine, Steele, one of the Republican party’s most high-profile African-American stalwarts for a number of years, noted that Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine, who is white, doesn’t seem to be the target of the same sort of griping, embarrassing leaks and negative publicity that the RNC chair is experiencing.
“I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation,” Steele wonders. “Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”
In other news, Mediate reports on Rachel Maddow – and how she made a point to tackle the ignorance that is Tom Tancredo:
On Saturday Maddow referred to Rep. Tom Tancredo — whom she described as a “failed presidential candidate” and “professional anti-immigrant” — as having opened the Tea Party Convention with “a big, loud racist bang” because of his assertion that President Obama was elected by “people who could not even spell the word vote, or say it in English” and then proposed bringing the literacy test back.
At the time Maddow rightly (and righteously) noted that literacy tests were frequently used in the South during segregation to keep African Americans from voting. Last night she picked up where she’d left off on Saturday with a long, more damning description of the shameful practice. Maddow read aloud from Alabama’s literacy test from 1965 (can you answer any of these questions) before declaring her awe and disgust that something similar was proposed just this past weekend.
by Guest Contributor Debbie Reese, originally published at American Indians in Children’s Literature
When Harry Reid’s remarks about Obama hit the news yesterday, Michael Steele (head of the Republican Party) said Reid ought to resign. When called out on his own language (Steele said “Honest Injun” on January 4), he said, at first, that he did not to apologize or step down from his own position. Now, he’s issuing the classic “IF” I offended anyone….. (not)apology.
There’s been a lot of spin about both men and what they said. With this post, I focus on the terms “Injun” and “Honest Injun.”
Steel says his use of the phrase was not intended as a racial slur. I imagine a lot of people were surprised to learn that “injun” is derogatory.
Surprised, because, it is, after all, quite common. You can find “Injun” and “Honest Injun” in older books that are widely read today, like:
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – published in 1876, where “evil is embodied in the treacherous figure of Injun Joe,” (p. x of the intro to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a Signet Classic book published in 2002) and in the oath used several times by characters.
Seems to me, in my cursory study of the phrase, that it may have been coined by Twain. In the entry on “Injun,” the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists Twain as the first person to use “Injun.” It also lists several other noted writers who used “Honest Injun.” Some are George Bernard Shaw in 1896 and James Joyce (in Ulysses) in 1922. Continue reading
by Latoya Peterson
Over the weekend, the news broke that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made some ill-advised comments during the campaign in 2008:
Reid apologized to Obama and a handful of black political leaders after a new book reported that he was favorably impressed by Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and, in a private conversation, described the Illinois senator as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
Obama, who tries to steer clear of the political thicket of race and politics, accepted the apology and said he wanted to close the book on the episode. Republicans were eager to keep it open Sunday, comparing Reid’s remarks to those that cost Trent Lott the Senate leadership in 2002 and questioning why there was different reaction now.
Things I hate about this controversy:
1. The tit-for-tat mindset is clearly at play. Obviously, each comment had different intentions and meanings. (Adam over at Tapped explains this well.) However;
2. Anyone who is surprised at racist comments from democrats hasn’t been paying attention. Yes, the comment was racist – and true, which sucks. It’s clear that many of our lawmakers know exactly how racist our nation is – and are willing to verbalize how they can use racism to their advantage. No one is on that white guilt shit – there have been too many statements about Obama that reveal the general perception of blacks in the United States. It makes it all the more frustrating that people feel the need to pretend that the people who shepard our laws into existence are not racist when clearly they are. It’s just part of the spin game.
3. I hate The Politico for this:
Democrats are preparing to throw the race card back in the laps of Republicans as part of a counter attack designed to help save Harry Reid’s political career.
4. I’ve read entirely too many articles saying “GOP Chairman Michael Steele, who is black…” like we don’t already fucking know.
5. As far as I am concerned, this is all a bunch of bullshit, because as soon as someone figures out what is going to happen to Reid, people are going to keep pretending that race isn’t still an issue in America, when we know it is.
I ranted a bit on Jezebel; drop your thoughts in the comments.
by Latoya Peterson
Oh, this is so fucking cute. Daniel Larison writing for Eunomia (a blog hosted on the American Conservative site) sheds the spotlight on some very racist comments:
What on earth is this? Well, it is an interview between Michael Steele and ABC Radio’s Curtis Sliwa, but beyond that I don’t know how else to describe it:
SLIWA: Now, using a little bit of that street terminology, are you giving him [Jindal] any Slum love, Michael?
SLIWA: Because he is — when guys look at him and young women look at him — they say oh, that’s the slumdog millionaire, governor. So, give me some slum love.
STEELE: I love it. (inaudible) … some slum love out to my buddy. Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing a friggin’ awesome job in his state. He’s really turned around on some core principles — like hey, government ought not be corrupt. The good stuff … the easy stuff.
Oh wait, and here’s Ann Coulter:
Wasn’t Bobby great in “Slumdog Millionaire”?
I know Bobby Jindal isn’t going to trip over this. He’s still finding his feet as a rising GOPer and he probably won’t make his new friends uncomfortable by calling out their dumb jokes. But that shit is ridiculous. Cracking jokes that begin and end with someone’s ethnicity isn’t funny, it’s callous. Especially with the reputation this crew has for racist behavior.
Oh, and Steele? Remember the Oreo incident? That mess wasn’t funny. Neither was this. Don’t forget that when laugh off racism towards others, you could be the next target.
Update: Kuriusjurge writes in the comments that the Oreo incident was probably fabricated. Even still, Steele should know better!
(Hat Tip to Ta-Nehisi)
Excerpted by Latoya Peterson
I thought the insanity would end after the election. But oh-no! I was wrong!
”There was underlying concerns we had become too regionalized and the party needed to reach beyond our comfort” zones, he said, citing defeats in such states as Virginia and North Carolina. “We need messengers to really capture that region – young, Hispanic, black, a cross section … We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”
But, he elaborated with a laugh, “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”
This is a direct quote, people.
“I am not afraid of being held accountable for my leadership,” [Steele] said. “The idea I am somehow going to handicap myself before I begin is nuts. I am not going to buy into this mind-set among a few people who probably have never run anything but their mouths.”
Under Mr. Steele’s helm, the “old” may seem inappropriate in the Grand Old Party’s affectionate nickname. He said he is putting a new public relations team into place to update the party’s image.
“It will be avant garde, technically,” he said. “It will come to table with things that will surprise everyone – off the hook.”
Does that mean cutting-edge?
“I don’t do ‘cutting-edge,’ “ he said. “That’s what Democrats are doing. We’re going beyond cutting-edge.”
by Latoya Peterson
So, Michael Steele was elected Chairman of the GOP.
The Republican Party chose the first black national chairman in its history Friday, just shy of three months after the nation elected a Democrat as the first African-American president. The choice marked no less than “the dawn of a new party,” declared the new GOP chairman, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Republicans chose Steele over four other candidates, including former President George W. Bush’s hand-picked GOP chief, who bowed out declaring, “Obviously the winds of change are blowing.”
The Root weighs in:
After years of decrying what they described as identity politics among Democrats, the GOP, in part out of concern for its image as the party of old, white people, chose cable-television sensation and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican National Committee. […]
Central to the GOP’s perceived troubles is the idea that it had become too insular, too narrowly cast and too lacking in diversity. In the final round of balloting Steele defeated South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson, 91-77, and race was a clear undercurrent. Dawson’s fatal disadvantage may have been in the fact that he was a member of an all-white country club until he began seeking the chairmanship of the party. Some party insiders worried that choosing Dawson as their leader would simply serve to reinforce the race issues that have dogged the party for years.
In the end, enough GOP delegates were concerned to choose Steele over Dawson, who is acknowledged as a more accomplished fundraiser and manager.