30 December 2008

On "The GOP's White Supremancy"

The Huffington Post’s Paul Jenkins offers “The GOP’s White Supremacy,” a thought-provoking discussion of how, and why, both “Barack the Magic Negro” and the election of the white supremacist (a son of a former KKK Grand Wizard, no less) to the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee, which GOPers effectively blocked, illustrate the conflicts over diversity within the Republican party. Notable quote:

Conservatives have for years hidden behind a disdain for quotas, political correctness and diversity gone wild to explain away the everlasting supremacy of white men in the Republican Party. The subtext, of course, is that selection, and election, is based on competence, not gender, race or ethnicity. And that the most competent simply happen to be white men. Always.

Its a sweeping statement, and there is some room for debate here. Although Jenkins mentions Palin and Clarence Thomas as exceptions to the above, he forgets to include Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Michele Bachmann, and a few other Republican or Conservative women. But his comments on minorities provide some food for thought, especially considering Bill Kristol’s strange bit of literary criticism in a recent New York Times column:

Obama has selected Yale’s Elizabeth Alexander to compose and read a poem [at his inauguration]. I still remember watching Maya Angelou read “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 — and thinking that American culture really was in a state of irreversible decline, as she indulged in that multicultural cataloguing of “the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, / The African and Native American, the Sioux, / The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, / The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, / The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, / The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.”

I’ve looked at some of Alexander’s poetry, and am confident she’ll be a big improvement on Angelou. It makes me think our culture isn’t necessarily getting worse. It may even be getting better.

Kristol fails to explain how Angelou’s poem illustrates “that American culture really was in a state of irreversible decline”; he instead implies that it is simply because the poem makes note of the variety within our cultures. How does one stanza represent the entirety of a culture, anyway? The point is, Kristol’s weird sneer at Angelou’s note on American inclusiveness goes a long way toward proving Jenkins’s point. Although the GOP in and of itself is not innately racist, sexist, or homophobic, its gatekeepers and spokespeople--the people with the bullhorns--tend to go to peculiar lengths to disprove this.

Added: In a column at The Daily Beast on "The 'Magic Negro' Debacle," John Avlon suggests that the would-be RNC chair's haha-heehee CD simply represents a larger issue: that of the Republican Party's "tone deafness" on racial matters. He argues that this is something the party must overcome if it's to regain power. I agree, and offer that this is no time to gather 'round and protect Saltzman from the forces of the "liberal media" or "PC cultists"; rather, this episode offers an opportunity for soul-searching that the party should take advantage of if it's to regain not just relevance, but also the moral authority it's claimed for itself lo, these many years.

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