Sunday, April 08, 2012

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2012 April 8: The "New South" and segregation

Patrick Anderson, the editor of Christian Ethics Today, did a column earlier this year on Presidential Politics in the New South Huffington Post 02/21/2012. He recalls some of his own experiences growing up in the South while describing the persistence of race as a live political issue among whites:

But memories can be long. Fear is fear. In the states of the old Confederacy, race is at the heart of virtually every political issue. Whereas my childhood memories are mostly of isolation from persons of different races, black folk have deep memories of violence and injustice and, for many, those memories are recent.

Not only am I a southerner, I am a Christian -- a Baptist one at that. I was born and raised in the Southern Baptist Church. My idea of "other faiths" was Methodists and Presbyterians, those of questionable faith who sprinkled instead of dunked and wore robes when they preached. I met my first Catholic in the fifth grade when a boy entered my class after having moved with his family from a northern state. He was ostracized, looked at as though he had just stepped off of a space ship in my all-white protestant school. Poor kid. We know the same Klan foolishness that demonized African Americans was directed at Catholics and the many "others." [my emphasis]
He mentions some of the most obvious coded - sometimes very thinly coated if at all - racial demagoguery of the current Republican Presidential candidates:

We hear about mythical "voter fraud" and the imperative need for "voter IDs," devotion to the 10th Amendment and "states' rights," a great concern for "pay checks, not food stamps," calls for success based on "merit, not government handouts" and the claim that the 99 percent of us who question the demise of American egalitarianism are jealous, envious of the 1 percent whose merit clearly surpasses anyone not born to wealth and advantage.

Perhaps it takes one with ears sensitized in the post-World War II South to hear the dog whistle of racism in those priorities. As a white southerner I hear it, and I recognize its false tune. It summons the racial anxieties of the past, and it is inappropriate for the New South.
I'm not sure there's much point in calling such talk "inappropriate", though. Today's Republicans don't care. They use white racist demagoguery because they make it work for them. Until the public in the South and elsewhere get to the point that it hurts candidates more than helps them to use such rhetoric, and until the Democrats get aggressive enough to consistently produce that result, the Republicans will keep right on using it.

Anderson also finds that the openly partisan Republican Franklin Graham indulges in similar appeals, referring to a recent appearance on the Morning Joe TV program:

Graham said that President Obama cared more for Muslims in the world than the Christians who are being killed by Muslims. He said that President Obama had joined a church, but that Graham could not say that a real conversion had taken place in Obama's life. He said that the Muslim world recognizes President Obama as a fellow Muslim because of the President's father and grandfather who were Muslim. Graham neglected to mention that President Obama's father had denounced Islam and that Islamic law considers anyone who renounces Islam as worthy of death. He let Mitt Romney off the hook when asked about his Christian bona fides. Sure, Gingrich has had several marriages, and sure Romney shares a set of beliefs with his Mormon brethren that would befuddle most church-goers, but it is President Obama's faith which is in question according to Graham.

Again, my southern ears hear Franklin Graham's words clearly. If President Obama were white, or Republican, given the President's lifestyle and statements of belief, his Christianity would not be questioned. I hear the dog whistle, Franklin. Put it away.
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