I realized it early on in the five years between my ex-stepfather’s beating up of my mother, my summer of abuse, and my departing for the greener pastures of the University of Pittsburgh in August ’87. It wasn’t just about being whipped with a belt so that it would leave welts. Nor was it merely about the kicks, the punches, the constant threats to take me “out of this world.”
No, my ex-stepfather wanted something more, even more than me calling him “Dad.” It was about shutting me up, about keeping me from ever speaking the truth of our calamity and of his monstrosity. It was all about making sure that I never resisted, protested, questioned or stood up to him. Fortunately for me, I did. I have the scars and chipped tooth to prove it, too.
For people like Atlantic Monthly editor and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, neo-con and true- believer Roger Ailes of FOX News, as well as entities like FOX (or Faux, or Fix) News and the so-called Tea Party, it isn’t much different. They claim reverse racism by Blacks against Whites at every turn. Come up with cockamamie versions of the truth with regard to anything involving race. And refuse to believe that any person of color experiences any instance of racial discrimination, a racial epithet or any bigotry whatsoever. It doesn’t matter if there’s an audio recording, a video stream or an affidavit, racism died with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, at least according to these folk.
The embodiment of all that ails America today, for FOX News and Tea Baggers alike, is President Barack Obama. His very name, his father’s nationality, his birth certificate, all have come under more scrutiny than the stain on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress. Somehow, POTUS 44 is a socialist, communist, biracial man who sometimes hates Whites, too thoughtful, not commanding enough, scared of the military, too hasty in his decision-making, a Hitler-mustache-wearing-Nazi, a foreigner who has usurped the presidency, among the myriad of inconsistent insults these folks have hurled, and with pride.
That’s what has made the news around the so-called New Black Panther Party on FOX News over the past week disturbing. That’s what has made the news about the response to the NAACP’s tired but accurate claim that the Tea Party supports bigoted rhetoric so unnerving. This is what’s made the news the past three days about Shirley Sherrod being fired and then re-offered a job at the USDA over something that wasn’t racial so ludicrous. All of these are efforts by racial conservatives — people who refuse to accept a multicultural society in which all things White aren’t necessarily the things that determine who is and isn’t a winner — to put White progressives, people of color and other deviants in their place.
Douthat, Ailes, FOX News and the Tea Party all want to turn back the clock, to somewhere between 1945 and 1954. To a time when few cared what anyone who wasn’t a middle-class WASP male thought about anything. To a place in which “girls were girls and men were men,” as Archie Bunker would’ve sang on All in the Family. To a world in which race, bigotry and racism didn’t exist at all, or at least, could easily be swept under the rug, and the N-word an acceptable part of the American lexicon.
That’s what they want. Let’s make sure that they never get it.