Sunday, June 30, 2019

Same as it ever was

Here we go again: Rightwingers have started promoting another round of birtherism, echoed by bots primed to sow racial discord—and hatred. This time, at least, the reaction has been strong and fast. Maybe this time we can cut out the cancer once and for all?

It all began when a rightwinger Tweeted that Sen. Kamala Harris wasn’t a “black American” because her father was Jamaican and her mother was Indian. Racists piled on, declaring that not only was she “not really black”, she also wasn’t a “real” American (she was born in Oakland, California, for the record, and attended some of her schooling in Quebec). Donny Jr. retweeted one of the racist Tweets, thereby buying into the same sort of birtherism that helped make his father famous in the 21st Century. Apparently the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

This is part of an old and very tired tactic, this saying that she isn’t “black enough”. I’ve read that it’s a common attack line among certain activists (including, maybe especially, white Leftists). I know that I’ve seen them make a similar silly attack against Pete Buttigieg, that he isn’t “gay enough”, something I mentioned in a ”Political Notebook” post back in April.

We need to stop both levels of bullshit—the bald racism of birtherism, and the judgemental attack that a minority isn’t minority enough. In this particular case, her fellow Democratic presidential candidates—including Joe Biden, who was schooled by Harris in the second debate—joined in condemning the racist attack. Caroline Orr, a reporter for Canada’s National Oberserver, who focuses on “disinformation and the rise of hate”, connected the dots:

Ending the silly attacks against minorities for not being minority enough will be much harder to do. For some it’s about protecting their political turf, or their personal political power. Other times it may actually originate from good intentions.

I’ve personally known white Leftists who had as their default position always deferring to minorities—well, racial minorities, anyway (they tended to dismiss the demands of LGBT+ people out of hand and these days, that means trans* people especially). It’s good that white, middle class activists want to take their cue from people who are directly affected by issues like racial and economic justice, however, that shouldn’t mean giving someone a free pass when they’re spreading racist attacks. Shouldn’t we be able to evaluate the claim being made based on their merit? For example, claiming that Harris “isn’t really black” is offensive and racist, so why shouldn’t that be condemned instead of championed?

Reforming our politics will take a lot of work, but we have to begin somewhere. It was heartening to see so many Democratic presidential candidates condemning the racist conspiracy theories being used to attack Sen. Harris. More of that is needed. As for people—real people, not bots or rightwing troublemakers—we need to be a little more thoughtful and careful about the positions we take, and how we respond to the latest Outrage of the Day. But, then, I’ve been saying that last part for years; apparently it still needs to be said.

Still, the response to this latest birtherism conspiracy theory was slightly encouraging. Maybe this time we can cut out the cancer once and for all.

Update July 2, 2019: "Social media trolls try but fail to give Kamala Harris the Obama-birther treatment"ThinkProgress


rogerogreen said...

I CAN be scary...

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Funny you should say that, and not just because I hit 161 shortly after you left the comment. Earlier today I was working on a post I'll be publishing in a couple days that will talk about that very thing! Spooky.

rogerogreen said...

And now for one of my favorite sports: "will Arthur hit 365? He's at 160, 20-something down. But there were times in 2018 he was worse off, percentagewise. We have faith.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...