Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dylann Roof’s Racist Manifesto: A Reflection of Right-wing American Politics

Former GOP Senator George Allen and CCC  - click image to enlarge
FRC President Tony Perkins with CCC

The horrific shootings at Emanuel AME Church last week and the political dancing that is going on surrounding the Confederate flag continue to dominate much of the political blogosphere and news outlets.  Some on the right are still trying to pretend that racism and easy access to guns had nothing to do with the act of domestic terrorism.  Others such as bloggers at Bearing Drift, a right wing Virginia political blog, are trying to depict demands for the removal of the Confederate flag as "scapegoating symbols."  Still others are going ballistic over Gov. Terry McAuliffe's call that the flag be removed from Virginia vanity license plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans - see comments on the piece about McAuliffe's action at the Richmond Times Dispatch.  In the last analysis, they all come down to largely the same thing: far right Republicans and their allies are trying to dodge responsibility for their role in fostering a climate of hate and division.  While some of Dylann Storm Roof's "manifesto" is clearly crazy, a significant part is in keeping with the messaging of more-or-less mainstream racist GOP politicians and "family values" leaders some of whom happily appeared at Council of Conservative Citizens events.  A piece in Salon looks at the unsettling similarities.  Here are excerpts:
[W]hat’s fascinating and disturbing about Dylann Roof’s rant about politics, race and violence: Half of it is nuts, and about half of it could come from a more-or-less mainstream racist politician of the Jesse Helms or Lee Atwater school.

It gives the lie to the ruling conservative meme that Roof was just a loan wacko with no affinities with the white-militia movement that the respectable right has tried to keep offstage. It also shows how the accused killer of nine in a Charleston church has roots in weird ideas that are part of even the think-tank culture of the right: Roof’s manifesto is a kind of distorted, funhouse-mirror reflection of Tea Party-era conservative white America’s core beliefs, and it shares the ahistorical way many conservatives deal with race.

To be clear: Not every conservative, nor even every Southern white conservative, is a racist — not even close. But let’s look closely at what this man is arguing and spot the disturbing parallels [with Roof's statements].  

1. Trayvon Martin was a dangerous thug and George Zimmerman was right to kill him.

2. Law and order in this country is threatened by dangerous, murderous blacks.  

3. Blacks are obsessed with race; they won’t stop talking about it.  

4. Slavery was not so bad.  

5. Segregation was not so bad, either.  

6. Black people are intellectually inferior. 

Now, just about all of this stuff sounds pretty extreme when coming from Dylann Roof, . . . .  But they’ve all, in some form or another, been heard in establishment or mainstream parts of the U.S. conservative movement. The George Zimmerman defense, which was supported by many conservative talking heads, has its roots in the larger “blacks threaten law and order” belief, an outgrowth of the GOP Southern strategy that dominated Republican politics for decades — the patrician George H.W. Bush (with Atwater’s help) struck gold there with his Willie Horton ad. 

The slavery-was-not-so-bad idea, which is the premise of “Gone With the Wind,” has been a mainstay of the sentimental brand of Southern “Lost Cause” culture for a very long time. Bring-back-segregation was uttered by Southern racist politicians, from Strom Thurmond to Trent Lott, who was Senate majority leader – one of the most powerful people in Washington – until he praised segregation a bit too publicly. And so on.

The blacks-are-intellectually-inferior meme goes way back, of course, but was still considered a legitimate enough insight to bring Charles Murray, who is still active and influential, a substantial career as an intellectual of the think-tank right after his book “The Bell Curve.”

And how about his larger ahistorical read of the American present? It’s true there are a lot of black Americans who are poor, who live in rough areas and do what people in rough areas do, and whose nuclear families are incomplete. Funny how it happens when you throw a group of people in chains, toss them in the hold of a ship, shatter families, beat them until they work and don’t let them own anything, keep them from voting or owning land or going to good schools even after they are free. Economic inequality, a result of institutional racism, is the legacy of the work of legal slavery and of the legal segregation that followed.

Roof, perhaps, is not smart enough to grasp this. But what’s disturbing is the way some of his rancid ideas have been floating in and out of political discourse for decades and longer — and they won’t necessarily die with his ugly manifesto.

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