Dude, Your Racism is Showing

There’s something missing in all this discussion of Duck Dynasty. There’s something missing from the response by National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Association, and Ted Cruz (up-and-coming Republican star and current US Senator) to the suspension of Phil Robertson from his TV show on A&E. Even Sarah Palin and Louisina Governor Jindal have spoken out against the suspension of Phil Robertson.

If you listen to these people, the suspension of a media personality from a television network is something straight out of a totalitarian regime. It’s political correctness and silencing of dissent. All for just speaking the “Christian” view of gays.

There’s a bunch wrong with the responses. I’ll start with the lessor problems first. The very people and organizations criticizing A&E for suspending someone that works for them is now wrong. Yet these are the people that believe religious people should be able to violate any law they disagree with, to not serve blacks, gays, or anyone else they don’t like – the right to refuse service and all. But let’s ignore that, as it’s a nuanced subject that the right wing doesn’t understand – they don’t understand the history of discrimination which created the Civil Rights Act and other non-discrimination laws.

So, let’s move onto other problems. It goes without saying, it seems, that the Christian view of gays is that they are going to hell, should be stopped by society, and are acting out of choice. But of course that’s only the views of some Christians, but hardly a defining doctrine of Christianity, no matter how much the loud bigots want to make it one. Plenty of other churches have moved past this bigotry, just as they moved past other bigotries in the past. Christianity isn’t one thing, and you should always be suspicious of anyone who claims a major religion is united in belief – particularly about a social issue that society remains divided on.

And I will say that Phil’s remarks on gay people were plenty deshabille, wrong, and just plain ignorant. If ignorance passes for speech that lobby groups and politicians are seeking to protect, we are in trouble. But I’m not going to repeat those remarks – they are easy to find through Google.

And, finally, the last minor point, before I get to the meat of what I want to say, is that being suspended from A&E is not a violation of anyone’s free speech rights. Phil can continue to speak his ignorant mind. And A&E can choose to suspend him. This is not a conflict – in fact, A&E is exercising a form of speech as well, by showing opposition to Phil, as any citizen or group of citizens is allowed to do. Free speech was never intended to be speech without consequences. It was protected from government interference, not private organizations choosing to not employ the speaker. Nobody I’ve seen is seriously calling for Phil to be sanctioned by the government or to be jailed or otherwise deprived of his freedom.

But, no, that’s not the meat.

Here’s the meat of my concern: All this right-wing chest thumping about freedom of speech and religious persecution is ignoring something else that was said. None of these people are shouting from the rooftops that Phil’s ignorant and racist statements about blacks are okay, or that A&E should employ someone speaking racist shit.

Yet, racist shit is exactly what Phil said – in addition to the aforementioned anti-gay shit. During the same event where he faced criticism (rightfully) for his ignorant views of gays, he said some ignorant things about blacks – despite, by his own admission, living during a time period and around the very people discriminated against. He said,

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

That is from the same article about his interview with GQ – read it for yourself here.

There’s a lot wrong with this in just a few words. Perhaps that’s why the NAACP has spoken out against Phil’s statements! No, not perhaps. You bet that’s why they did. Rightfully.

I’m wondering what is meant by “pre-entitlement.” Perhaps he means, “Pre-Civil Rights Act of 1967.” That’s the one that said Blacks didn’t need to sit at the back of the bus (or get kicked off entirely, at the driver’s whim). Or that Blacks could drink from the same water fountain. Or that blacks could vote. Perhaps he means “Pre-Brown v. Board of Education” and the entitlement to a decent education. Perhaps he means the time before people of all races were entitled to vote. Or perhaps before they were entitled to marry someone of another race.

And, even more concerning: Why are people not calling these right wing groups out on their support of racism? It’s bad that they are saying anti-gay shit. And they should be called out for that. But supporting racists is also worthy of being called out on. It’s every bit as offensive to discount the discrimination faced by blacks as the discrimination faced by LGBT people.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

American Owned

You’ll see the signs still in some places.  Most of the time, “American Owned” hanging on a convenience store window or hotel means one thing: “We’re white.”  It’s racism, plain and simple, and carries the implication that someone who isn’t white can’t possibly be American.

About 10 years ago, on election day, I went to my favorite restaurant.  The shop owner, a Vietnamese man, was in the process of becoming a citizen while legally operating his business.  He came over, but rather than ask if I wanted my “usual,” he asked if I voted yet.  When I said I hadn’t, he firmly told me that he would not be serving me until I had done so.  At first, I thought he was joking and explained that I would vote, just not before eating! He insisted.  He told me about the process he was going through to become a citizen and that I, as a citizen, have a responsibility to America to go and discharge my citizenship duties. He said, “I can’t vote, but I can get people who can to do so.” Clearly, this man wanted to vote, and I know (he is now a very proud citizen) that he proudly votes in every election.

I left, voted, and came back later. I got a free meal for it.

When I think of people coming to America, I always think of this man. He worked harder than most people I know. Hard work is American, right? He ran a successful business in the free market, by providing what people wanted for a price they would pay. That’s American, right? He is more patriotic than most. That’s American, right? He recognized the good about America. That’s American, right? He’s exactly the kind of person that makes America into America. I don’t know what his religions was, but I do know that he didn’t look white. And, in my mind’s eye, I can see a competitor hanging a sign that says, “American Owned” in the window when the competitor cannot compete on the basis of a superior product at a superior value.

In WWII, we saw the enemy of the Japanese. Heck, we saw the enemy of the Japanese-American. We locked Japanese into internment camps. This was while we were fighting the Nazis who were sure that race mattered. Apparently, it didn’t just matter to them.

During WWII, the 100th Infantry was made up of Japanese Americans, fighting two wars: the war against the Axis and the war for recognition as full Americans. By all accounts, they fought hard and incredibly bravely. TWENTY ONE of the members of this battalion received the Medal of Honor during WWII. TWENTY ONE! This is the highest possible military honor in the United States. It’s awarded for the often dismissed phrase, valor “above and beyond the call of duty.” To put in perspective how high of an honor this award represents, a four-star general will salute a private, even if in civilian clothing, who is wearing the medal. I know a white veteran who was in Italy while the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a part of the 100th, was also there. I can assure you that nobody will insult a Japanese American in his presence without finding out the full story of what our fellow Americans did there.

But there’s more to this story. Those 21 medals? 20 were not awarded until 2000, because these men were ignored – due to race, according to the commission investigating in 1998 – despite tremendous valor deserving of the award. It took us 50+ years to recognize the heroes of the 100th. Of course there’s other awards, too, that many were deserving of.  The 442nd is, for the size and length of service, the most decorated unit in US military history.

But, in WWII, these brave men were the enemy. They had the skin color of our declared enemy. They weren’t Americans, they were the enemy. They weren’t “us.”

Of course Japanese-Americans weren’t the only ones treated this way. We did it to blacks and Asians (and still do). And today, it’s popular to treat Hispanic Americans and Muslim Americans the same way.  For instance, what could be more American than singing the American Anthem? Apparently you are not to do that dressed as anything but a western European:

Sebastien, the boy in the above video, is as American as anyone else. He’s a citizen, born in Texas. Yet, he was attacked online for being “Mexican” and non-American. Fortunately, the San Antonio Spurs basketball team responded in the perfect way: they asked him to come back and sing again.

Yet, a positive response by a sports team doesn’t erase racism. It’s still here.

We saw that again with the Miss America Pageant when an Indian-American woman won. Among the racist tweets and statements were many that assumed Nina was an Arab Muslim, a common mistake made by racists. Apparently, in their America, a Muslim or an Arab couldn’t represent America. After all, Muslim Arabs are terrorists, and so are people who look like them. And thus they are the Japanese of the 21st century.

It’s time to stop this cycle of hate. No, it’s not about whether she was Arab or Indian. She’s American. That’s what this needs to be about. And whether she believes in Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Athiesm, or something else, she’s still an American. We’re a diverse country. With Muslims. That aren’t terrorists.

And, lest you think this attitude towards Muslims by an American is a new, liberal idea, check out this article by the Huffington Post. The founding fathers knew Muslims existed – they weren’t as stupid as some think. And they built a country that was supposed to recognize them as full Americans.

Not everyone wants that America, though. And rather than claim to be destroying the foundational principles of America, those who don’t want it hide behind the flag and patriotism, claiming they want “Americans” to represent America, when what they really mean is only white Christian people should represent America. Their “patriotism” needs to be called out as the bigotry that it is.

A bad month. Again.

Trans people – particularly transwomen who are disabled and non-white – are at high risk of attack and death – despite being a fraction of the LGBT population, they are by far the most likely to be attacked or killed.

In fact, most murders of LGBT people are murders of T people.  In Hate Violence in 2012, the NCAVP found that, in the USA:

  • 73% of murder victims were people of color.  Of these, most were black.
  • 50% of murder victims were transwomen
  • 60% of victims (not of homocide but other violence) reported having a disability
  • Trans people experienced police violence at 3.3 times the rate of non-trans people

Other findings are equally sobering.  We are not a country that treats trans people decently.  Or people of color.  Or disabled people.  And we’re really awful to people that are in more than one category.  If you add HIV status to the mix, those with HIV are even more likely to be victims.  So we’re not even through treating people with HIV like shit in this country.

Then, survivors of violence face violence from those we pay to protect us.  They face violence at a substantially higher rate from police.

That is the context of every month.

(note that for the below, I attempted to get names and genders correct – unfortunately much reporting relies on birth names and incorrect genders, so please let me know if you have information about someone’s gender or name that is incorrect below – I do not intend to insult violence survivors or the deceased)

This month, like other months, saw reports of violence against trans people.  I’m sure I’m missing tons of reports.  What I know about:

  • On July 9, Dora Özer, a transwoman who lived in Turkey, was murdered.  She was stabbed to death.
  • On July 14, Diamond Williams, a black transwoman living in Philadelphia, PA, USA was murdered.  She was stabbed, dismembered with an axe, and dumped in a vacant lot.
  • On July 21, a disabled transman living in Knoxville, TN, USA, was physically assaulted while his house was vandalized.  His front door was spray painted with the words “Tranny Fucker.”   While being attacked, he was threatened with death if he did not move away.  He reported being laughed at by police when they arrived on scene.  This was the second time he was attacked.
  • On July 21, in St. James, Jamaica, a transgender 17 year old was stabbed, chopped up, and dumped in bushes along the side of a road.
  • On July 21, Amanda Blanchard in Spokane, WA, USA was murdered by her fiance, who set fire to her home and then killed himself.
  • On July 25, in Thailand, Jatupon Ratworabood was murdered by being shot in the head.  Her body was dumped on the side of a road.
  • On July 25, in Limoges, France, Myléne, a transwoman, was beaten to death with a hammer.
  • Sometime this week, Gaye, a transwoman from Istanbul, Turkey, was murdered.
  • On July 30, in Philadelphia, PA, USA, a transwoman was shot in the head in her apartment by an unknown man.  The last reports I’ve seen indicate that she is expected to survive.

This is just a sampling, based on what I’ve seen this month, of violence and murder of trans people.

I wish for and pray for justice for the families (whether biological or chosen) and survivors of these acts.