Ten Percent More Subtle Than A Burning Cross

« December 2010 »

Memo to Steve King and Michelle Bachmann: THANKS FOR BEING SO RACIST.

It's important to remember, when talking about racism, that after the Civil Rights era, racism had to change a bit. Before the 60s, most racism was centered around what black people weren't allowed to do. Couldn't vote, couldn't go to school with white children, couldn't marry white people, couldn't sit at the front of the bus, etc.

Once it became clear that you couldn't, for the most part, openly hold those beliefs, the central argument of racism had to change. And so it did. The modern tenet of racism is that black people are going to take white people's stuff.

Welfare queens? Black people getting rich off white people's tax money. Affirmative action? Black people taking the jobs that should rightfully go to white people. And when Barack Obama ran for President, poised to take the last thing white people had all to themselves, this argument kicked into overdrive. Obama, as President, was going to use the power of the federal government to take everything away from white people and give it to black people.

That's why teabaggers call taxes "slavery". That's why wingnuts speak derisively about "reparations". Well, on Tuesday, that modern version of racism exploded with full force on the floor of the House of Representatives, thanks to America's Stupidest (and now Most Racist) Congress-critter, Steve King, and his trusty sidekick, Batshit Bachmann. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Figure this out, Madame Speaker: We have a very, very urban Senator, Barack Obama, who has decided he's going to run for president, and what does he do? He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim. We've got to stand up at some point and say, 'We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress.' That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim.... They're just filing a claim because they think they can get away with it."

You can see why I didn't want to try and unpack this in a scant third of a column yesterday. Let's start with the obvious, the quote everyone fixated on, the "very, very urban" part. I shouldn't have to point out that in this context, "urban" doesn't mean "city-dweller". It's a common euphemism. It means hip-hop. Ghetto. Black. Anyone trying to play the Webster's Dictionary plausible deniability game with this quote is doing so for the sole purpose of defending racism, and should be handled accordingly.

And there's that "slavery reparations" thing. Keep in mind that the Pigford settlement, which King is discussing, has nothing to do with reparations. It has to do with discrimination. Systematic and systemic discrimination by the USDA during the 80s and 90s. Which the USDA admitted to and settled. So we're not talking about something that was "over a century ago", we're talking about something less than fifteen years old at one end.

"Reparations" is a buzzword for racists because it's the financial version of their longstanding argument that nobody can ever possibly be responsible for past wrongs. They didn't own slaves, loose dogs on voters, or hang anyone from trees, the argument goes, therefore no society they're a part of can possibly be responsible or make amends for discrimination. Or, to put it another way, THEY WANT MY STUFF.

And they cannot possibly deserve it. Both King and Bachmann think the settlement is fraudulent. Bachmann, for example, applied her now-famous logic.

"This looks like one of the most outrageously fraudulent claims of scamming the federal taxpayers that anyone has ever seen. It's indefensible."

Well, if the incredibly perceptive Bachmann thinks it LOOKS fraudulent, clearly, that's all the proof anyone should need. Although in Bachmann's and King's defense, their claims of fraud are based on simple math. Emphasis on the simple.

You see, there are approximately 94,000 claims of discrimination stemming from the years 1983 to 1997. And currently, there are 18,000 black farmers in America. By the King-Bachmann school of math, since 94,000 is more than 18,000, the only possible explanation is that "urban" farmers are trying to steal white people's money, and that Barack Obama is helping them do it out of "urban" solidarity.

The infinitely more obvious answers - that there were more individual farmers in general back in the 80s, more black farmers during that time, and that the rampant discrimination the USDA admitted to might have been a major factor in thinning their numbers? - Sorry, that's not part of the narrative. The narrative is that black people are coming to take your stuff.

Bachmann's in-laws, by the way, run a family farm in Minnesota, and have received over a quarter of a million dollars in farm subsidies from the federal government. Bachmann's response?

"I'm very proud of them. They came to the United States essentially to get away from socialism in Europe."

I guess the European socialism didn't pay out nearly so much as ours does. I don't know whether she qualifies for an intellectual dishonesty award, or if we should call Guinness and get her listed as the world's smallest amount of self-awareness.

Still, I'd like to thank her, and especially King, because I wasn't actually sure if an elected congressman could walk onto the floor of the House of Representatives and accuse the President of trying to steal white people's money so he could give it to all his fellow urbanites. Without getting into some kind of trouble. And it looks like they can! Benchmarks like this will be important to future generations who want to map out the slope of our decline.