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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail