FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Give Me That Old Time Racism

by JAMES ABOUREZK

I can still remember in the 1950s when, in Rapid City, South Dakota, a black African diplomat tried to get served in a Rapid City restaurant.  He was asked to leave.  After the newspaper reported the story, the owner of the restaurant said if he had known the guy was a diplomat, he would have served him instead of throwing him out.

When we think back, it wasn’t that long ago that blacks were not allowed to sit in restaurants, but were, instead, asked to go around to the kitchen to get served out of the back door.  That was a time when blacks were not allowed to buy homes in white neighborhoods.  I spent part of my youth visiting my older sister and her family in West Virginia.  There, blacks were told they could only sit in the balcony of movie theaters, a place expressly reserved for them should they want to enjoy a film.  There were white only drinking fountains in public places, such as bus stations.  And, of course, we all remember who had to sit in the back of the bus.

I have not yet heard anyone on television making the comparison between how blacks were treated in the god awful days of segregation and how Muslims are being treated by some of our political leadership today.

I remember when the Cold War came to an end.  That was when the Zionist movement lost an enemy–the Soviet Union–and had to look around for another group to hate.  That’s when the demonization of Muslims–and Arabs–began.  The pro-Israeli propagandists, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, leaned heavily into the Arab and Muslim population, making them the villains.  It was easy then, as the Arabs, either in the Arab world or in the United States were not well organized, so they didn’t fight back.  That failure to resist has cost them, as has the actions of some–Al Qaeda for example–which made it easier to hate them.

Those of us who have read some history also know what happened to the Irish when they first came to America.  We also remember how Jews were assaulted, both in the press and in person, until the remainder of the country put a stop to it by making it unpopular to isolate a community so they could be demonized.

Now, it’s the turn of the Arabs and the Muslims to receive the same treatment that blacks, the Irish, and the Jews did before that treatment became unpopular.

How similar is the assault on the Muslims and Arabs when compared to what happened to other ethnic groups in our shady past.  Where the similarity ends is how the media is treating the entire “mosque” at ground zero.  The proposed building is neither a mosque, nor is it at ground zero.  It is a community center that, among other activities, includes a prayer room.  I know of no one who would build an eleven-story mosque, and I know of no mosque that would allow a swimming pool and recreation center to be built in it, or even above it.

So what we have here is a political football that leaves it open for the gaggle of demagogues and hustlers —  I’m thinking  specifically of Newt Gingrich, Rick Lazio and Sarah Palin — to try to reap some kind of political popularity from denouncing the project.

It used to be that both political leaders and the media would denounce this kind racism, and that such denunciations would soon bring such demagoguery to an end.  But not this time.  Most of the media, MSNBC being the major exception, has ducked its head, being content to just report on the onslaught against the Islamic Center, but not denouncing the demagoguery.

So far, this has resulted in someone setting fire to the construction of a real mosque in Tennessee.  This usually follows acts of violence against Arabs and Muslims in different parts of the country.  We’ve seen it before.

All this won’t stop unless and until all the political leaders–now silent–come down hard on what is happening, when the haters begin themselves to feel isolated.  Cheers to President Obama and to Mayor Bloomberg, who have tried to lead the way, but who lost Howard Dean and Harry Reid in the process.  The rest of the political leadership–both Republican and Democratic–predictably are in hiding.

JAMES ABOUREZK is a former U.S. Senator, who practices law in Sioux Falls. He is the author of Advise & Dissent: Memoirs of South Dakota and the US Senate. He can be reached at georgepatton45@gmail.com.

James Abourezk is a former US senator from South Dakota. He is the author of: Advise and Dissent: Memoirs of an ex-Senator.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail