Saturday, July 18, 2009

Atwater Councilman Frago Sorry for 'Stupid' E-Mails: Leftists Outraged, Blacks Reject Apology; Media Ignore Outburst of Democratic Race Insensitivity!

Atwater Councilman Gary Frago has apologized for distributing racially-insensitive e-mails to friends and local government officials. KFSN-TV Fresno has the story, "Atwater Racist Emails":

The emails were sent out by Councilman Gary Frago. Frago said they were meant to be a joke, but many people aren't laughing, calling them offensive and racist.

"They weren't sent as a racist, viscous act. They were sent as a very stupid act, and I don't know how many times I can say tell you I'm sorry."

Atwater city councilman Gary Frago is defending himself after e-mails he sent out surfaced in Friday's Merced-Sun Star newspaper. "If I could retract them all, knowing what I know now, I would retract all of them."
If you check the video, the black gentleman who is interviewed refuses to accept Frago's apology. Also, from a post at the black politics blog, Electronic Villiage, "Personally, I think that Frago should lose his seat on the city council."

The e-mails are clearly unacceptable, and recipents should delete them like any other piece of hateful spam. Frago appears genuinely upset and he admits that forwarding the e-mails was stupid.

But, how much does this tell us about racism in America?

The Frago story got
considerable attention around the radical netroots. See, Alan Colmes' Liberaland, AlterNet Blogs, Pandagon, Raw Story, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Think Progress, and Wonkette. (See also, the Merced Sun-Star, "Questions Raised About Councilman's Conduct After Discovery of Racist E-Mails."

One of the more interesting responses comes from Ta-Nehisi Coates, "
Now I'm Not Racist ..." He writes:
One cool thing about the Obama presidency is, far from leading us into a postracial America, it's actually revealing that significant minority of white folks, (35-40 percent? Too optimistic?) who are not racist, but just really really don't like black people Al Sharpton. Take this latest installment in what is, basically, a weekly drama:
In the past several months Atwater City Councilman Gary Frago has sent at least a half-dozen e-mails to city staff and other prominent community members containing racist jokes aimed at President Barack Obama, his wife and black people in general...

The remainder of the post features additional quotes from the Sun-Star piece, then Ta-Nehisi concludes with a link to his essay last year at Slate, "Playing the Racist Card: Ferraro's Comments About Obama Were Racist. Why Can't We Say that?"

Okay, first, is this truly a "weekly drama"?

Actually no. And second, even if it were, would that fact support Ta-Nehisi's contention that 60-65 percent of "white folks" are racist? That statistic just hangs out there as some monstrous indictment of America as irredeemably racist. - a meme which is standard on the Democratic-left.

The problem? It's simply not true. Poll after poll shows that Americans are more tolerant towards blacks today than at any time in history. One of the most important indicators of views on race relations are the findings on interracial marriage. In particular, opposition to a black-white interracial marriage has always been a standard measure of entrenched racism. According to Earl Black and Merle Black, in Politics and Society in the South, progress on inter-personal relations is the last barrier of the "color line" that has divided Americans since the Founding. And so interestestingly, a look at the data reveals dramatic acceptance of interracial marriage today, and hence greater tolerance and racial acceptance. See, Gallup, "Most Americans Approve of Interracial Marriages." Also, Pew Research, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: 22% of Americans Have a Relative in a Mixed-Race Marriage."

Sometimes it's argued that it's the younger cohort of Americans who account for the change. That is, the old guard bigots are as racist as ever. Consequently, as these old Bull Connor-wannabes quit the scene, America will reach the promised land. Of course, assumptions like that ignore the fact that Barack Obama's election confirms America's historic commitment to equality of opportunity. Moreover the Pew survey above, in particular, shows only minimal support for that contention.

But make sure you read Ta-Nehisi's essay at Slate, "Playing the Racist Card." He's talking about Geraldine Ferraro as the most recent example of that "Implicit to the racist card is the idea that no racists actually live among us." Or, for one to deny that they're racist, is itself racist:

The bar for racism has been raised so high that one need be a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party to qualify. Had John McCain said that Hillary Clinton was only competitive in the presidential race because she was a woman, there'd be no dispute over whether the comment was sexist. And yet when the equivalent is said about a black person, it's not only not racist, but any criticism of the statement is interpreted as an act of character assassination. "If anybody is going to apologize," Ferraro told MSNBC, "they should apologize to me for calling me a racist."

In some measure, the narrowing of racism is an unfortunate relic of the civil rights movement, when activists got mileage out of dehumanizing racists and portraying them as ultra-violent Southern troglodytes. Whites may have been horrified by the fire hoses and police dogs turned on children, but they could rest easy knowing that neither they nor anyone they'd ever met would do such a thing. But most racism—indeed, the worst racism—is quaint and banal. There's nothing sensationalistic about redlining or job discrimination. No archival newsreel can capture what it means to be viewed as a person who, minus the beneficence of well-meaning whites, simply can't compete.

The "bar for racism"? That's an interesting concept, and there's no room at a blog post to delve into all the other hypotheses offered by Ta-Nehisi (what is this "quaint and banal" racism, for example).

No, what's really key here is Ta-Nahisi's dejection at the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. You see, with the passage of that landmark legislation, the country made its historic commentment to equal treatmentn under the law. That, along with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, and decades of progressive Supreme Court rulings dating back to Brown in 1954, have helped this nation achieve the full measure of it's promise. Thus for Ta-Nahisi to lament the narrowing of racism as an "unfortunate relic of the civil rights movement" is a sad commentary on racial victimology. Think about that: We know today that Jim Crow racism has been repudiated and marginalized as the sentiments of a reprehensible fringe; and Ta-Nehisi's upset about it? For him, it's thus only a short step from that position to finding in every insenstive or stupid remark - like Councilman Frago's - some reprise of the post-bellum horror of white supremacy.

It's too bad, but that's where the radical left is nowadays. And don't forget that it's probably the biggest double-standard in America today. Recall that James von Brunn, the alleged Holocaust Memorial shooter, was a registered Democrat from Maryland. And just this last week, when California's Barbara Boxer, a top national Democratic official, was upbraided for plantation-style condescension towards Harry Alford during Senate testimony, the hard-left netroots media establishment remained silent. See Newsbusters, "On NAACP's 100th Anniversary Media Ignore Boxer's Racist Treatment of Black Chamber CEO."

Of course, Ta-Nehisi totally ignored Baraba Boxer's meltdown. But he's all over Patrick Buchanan's recent comments at MSNBC (here, here, and here, for example).

Go figure?


(Addendum: See also, "The GOP's Young Hatemonger," where author John Avlon finds one more odd example to tar virtually the entire Republican establishment as racist. It's mostly baloney, of course. But until conservatives are willing to make a more concerted effort to repudiated Democratic racism AND Democratic race-baiting, the right will concede the field on civil rights to those less committed to racial equality than the partisan heirs to Abraham Lincoln.


shoprat said...

To some being racially insensitive is the unforgivable sin and sadly too many equate being racially insensitive to simply having white skin. All this really does is distract from real discrimination and racial violence when it does happen (regardless of by whom and to whom).

repsac3 said...

"Recall that James von Brunn, the alleged Holocaust Memorial shooter, was a registered Democrat from Maryland."

The link says: "Macsmind is reporting that the Holocaust Museum killer was a registered Democrat in Maryland.
I am not sure if this was confirmed or not."

(It was never confirmed... but you probably could've found someone who at least made the claim with at least as much blind certainty as you did...)

As for the rest, people know racism ( & other offensive words and deeds) when they see/hear them. I seriously doubt that people railing against a particular statement (or defending one) change all that many minds.

To me, motive and context count. I'll forgive an insensitive oaf who tells a joke with a punchline offensive to (blacks, christians, gays, old people) alot more quickly than I will the guy who paints anti-black or anti-christian graffiti on a house or church... ...but I don't think that means that folks who find a joke offensive ought not speak up, just because it could be worse... Permitting bigotry and offensiveness to pass unchallenged silently condones those behaviors.

While some folks are way too sensitive, and some ain't nearly sensitive enough, most have a pretty good internal scale for judging what is/isn't bigotry or insensitivity to others.

Whatever said...

"Permitting bigotry and offensiveness to pass unchallenged silently condones those behaviors."

Alas, most seem only to find their voice when they know people like you will approve of what they have to say...which I believe is the point of this article that your liberal intolerance made you miss.

repsac3 said...

Repsac3: "Permitting bigotry and offensiveness to pass unchallenged silently condones those behaviors."

whatever: "Alas, most seem only to find their voice when they know people like you will approve of what they have to say...which I believe is the point of this article that your liberal intolerance made you miss."

I don't think it's anywhere near as simple as that, whatever... Few are looking for the approval of "people like me" (whatever that means), but they are seeking the approval of their friends. When confronted by people in one's own circle "innocently" telling bigoted or insensitive "jokes," too many of us (myself included, sometimes) don't want to appear to come off as "better than..." by coming down on the person telling 'em. (Even though more than likely, almost everyone is uncomfortable when faced with off-color remarks--perhaps including the person making them, even.)

Unless you're traveling in a far different world than I, I'm pretty sure MOST people would approve of anyone who stands up for people against insensitive or bigoted comments... even people far different from me politically, religiously, or socially.

Individuals are bigots; most political or social groups are not (and the groups who are bigoted are pretty obvious about it.) In light of that, your "liberal intolerance" line makes no sense whatsoever, whatever...