Archive for Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hate, racism still find fertile ground in U.S.

June 14, 2009


— “Them Jews aren’t going to let President Obama talk to me.” — the Rev. Jeremiah Wright

“I hate gay people ...” — Tim Hardaway, former NBA star

“A Third World country.” — Tom Tancredo, former Colorado representative, speaking of Miami

“She’s frightening. And she’s racist.” — Dennis Baxley, former executive director, Christian Coalition of Florida, speaking of Judge Sonia Sotomayor

“Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” — Glenn Beck, talk show host, to Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim

“Fifty years ago they’d have you hanging upside down with a (expletive) fork up your (expletive).” — Michael Richards, comedian, to an African-American in his audience

I’ve always liked this place.

“Enjoy” is not a word one uses in connection with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, but I’ve always found a visit here conducive to contemplation and reflection. So it is even on a fog-shrouded morning when you can’t get in, when yellow tape rings off the entrance, police vehicles sit with lights flashing and armed security stands watch.

Last week, a man with a rifle walked in and opened fire, fatally wounding security guard Stephen Johns. Other guards shot the intruder.

Authorities say the shooter, James von Brunn, was an avowed racist and anti-Semite well known to the pustular netherworld of white supremacy and to those who monitor it. He believed the Holocaust a hoax and America a “Third-World racial garbage dump.” He believed this, even at 88 years of age. “It’s time to kill all the Jews,” he wrote in one e-mail. And can you imagine what might have happened had he managed to shoot his way past the guards?

It is jolting to recall that I once thought we were living in the last days of creatures such as this. My only excuse: it was the 1970s and I was young, raised on civil rights marches and Norman Lear comedies. Kids like me felt, with the offhand smugness of youth, that we were harbingers of a new world too enlightened to ever again hate people because they were. We were past all that.

Or so we thought. Because what a shock it is to wake up 40 years later in a world where the intercultural dialogue we thought we’d mastered has become a shrill circus overrun by haters and opportunists, a world where on any given day one might be assaulted by the casual anti-Semitism and homophobia that afflict so much of the African-American community, or the racist patter of a washed-up TV star who has mistaken freedom of speech for freedom from thought, or the gassy posturing of political and media figures who happily, disingenuously trivialize the rawest wounds of the American experience for ratings and political position.

We act as if it were all a game, as if it means nothing when people of position and visibility spew garbage, validating and galvanizing the unhinged and the disaffected who need little encouragement to believe all their problems are caused by Them. We act as if we do not toy with fire when people of authority claim white Christians are a victimized minority or Hispanics a threatening and faceless Other. We act as if we were not heirs and witnesses to a blood-soaked history that tells us exactly where this hate some of us so fecklessly stoke will logically, inevitably lead.

Hate groups standing now at record numbers. One dead. Ten dead. Six million dead.

I’ve always liked the Holocaust Museum because it is a stark reminder in an era where too many are in a hurry to forget. And so it is even today, even quiet and locked up tight. Behind yellow tape it sits, scene of a hate crime authored by an old man who thought he was great because his skin was pale. An American flag droops limply at half staff as if tired of waiting, waiting for the last days of creatures such as this.


Dan Eyler 8 years, 10 months ago

The one hate group Pitts failed to mention is the church where our president attended for the past 20 years. Our nation refused to believe that the pastor of Mr Obama was a racist. But the racist and anti-semite Pastor Jeremiah Wright raised his ugly head again this past week as he discussed his views of those Jews who control the pastors access to President Obama. When Jeremiah Wrights racist view came out again he attempted to explain it away by saying he meant to call "them jews", "them zionists". Jeremiah Wright makes it easier to believe every time he opens his mouth that our president lied and mislead Americans into believing that in the 20 years of sitting in the church of the racist Jeremiah Wright that Obama never heard any racist views or hate speeches. Clearly the views of President Obama's pastor for the past 20 years and his views toward Jews was made clear again this week and we as a nation have every right to be concerned about the truthful views on race by our own president. Those who don't have a church don't share those values. But one thing is for sure. Those who do have a church they have attended for 20 years are very grounded in those values and teachings. The man who killed the security guard at the Jewish Holocaust museum has spent at least 20 years formulating his views through somebodies teachings just as our president has done through Jeremiah Wright.

mom_of_three 8 years, 10 months ago

My parents are typically racists of the 50's era, and I spent 20+ years in their home. Did I come out of it with any racist feelings? No, I am entirely the opposite of them. Churches are different, where one might share the opinion of the pastor. BUT if the church believes gays should not marry does not necessarily mean that those attending believe it. I am not worried about any racist views coming from our president, because he is not the man who preached to him.

Brent Garner 8 years, 10 months ago

Sotomayor was called a racist based on her repeated public speeches and written words in which she repeated the theme of a "latina woman with her rich heritage making better decisions than a white man". Let's be blunt folks. How would you react if those words were "white man with his rich heritage making better decision than a black woman"? Would that offend? Well, it should. And just as my little modification should offend so should Sotomayor's words and attitude. This woman is unfit for any bench in the judiciary anywhere, except maybe in Chavez's Venezuala.

Mr. Tancredo's comment is taken out of context. He was referring to the well known problem of massive illegal immigrantion and the fact that Miami, FL has such a very large population of illegal immigrants. If you doubt the fact that a concentration of illegal immigrants can degrade an area then you need to talk more to people in southern California. Most of them would agree with Mr. Tancredo. Tancredo's comments were not racist, they were factual.

As for Mr. Beck's question. Mr. Ellison is the only known Muslim elected to Congress. That, of itself, means nothing. What does raise eyebrows is when he under takes the Hajj and it is paid for by people and organizations with know sympathies for and affiliations with Islamist extremist organizations. I think the question is more than legitimate.

As for the other comments cited by Mr. Pitts, I would be inclined to agree that they appear to be racist. But, let's not fall into the trap of thinking that only whte people can be racist. My own life experience has taught me that such is not the case. Anyone of any skin color is able to be a racist.

John Kyle 8 years, 10 months ago

Kansasfaithful: "The one hate group Pitts failed to mention is the church where our president attended for the past 20 years"

did you even read the first sentence of the article?

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 10 months ago

I would never judge someone by the words that came out of his pastor's mouth. Don't pretend to know all about a Black church unless you attend one on a regular basis. Tancredo was taken out of context, but a speech Sotomayor made 8 years ago wasn't. I would imagine we have all said something stupid at one time or another.Thank you Mr. Pitts for yet another thought-inducing article.

jonas_opines 8 years, 10 months ago

"The one hate group Pitts failed to mention is the church where our president attended for the past 20 years. Our nation refused to believe that the pastor of Mr Obama was a racist."

Go back and read the first quote again. You must have missed it.

I also don't remember anyone claiming that Wright was not a racist, just that it didn't necessarily mean that Obama himself is a racist.

monkeyhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

If it wasn't for hate and racism, Jackson, Sharpton & Pitts, himself, would all be out of a job.

"but a speech Sotomayor made 8 years ago wasn't."

Somebody needs to do some homework....

Not that I object to her appointment. After all, we will all know what we are getting, and I doubt that she could be any better or worse than the one she is replacing.

jaywalker 8 years, 10 months ago


Appreciate your post but I'd like to point out that the Hajj/Hadj is a pilgrimage to Mecca that every muslim is required to undertake at least once in their lives. To my knowledge, it serves as a rite to enrich a muslim's connection to their faith and feel the comaraderie of their fellow believers. I don't believe Beck's question is justified because an American muslim made the trek, nor is he 'suspect' because of such an endeavor.

jonas_opines 8 years, 10 months ago

It could be cause for suspicion, Right-thinker. It is not cause for absolute belief, and that is what is typically encountered. I have seen little evidence of it in his speeches or his proposed policies.

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 10 months ago

Interesting that he fails to mention the Arkansas shooter.

daddax98 8 years, 10 months ago

"Interesting that he fails to mention the Arkansas shooter."

why is that interesting? i don't think he intended this to be an exhaustive list.

notajayhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

Gee, how did I know just from the headline, before I even clicked on the link, that this was a Leonard Pitts opinion piece?

beatrice 8 years, 10 months ago

nota, I guess you knew the author from the headline because you realize that Pitts is one of the few columnists in our country willing to write intelligently against accepting hatred and racial predjudice as part of the status quo.

If you disagree with his column, which parts do you disagree with?

glock, the Arkansas shooter was a religious extremist, while the museum shooter was driven by hatred for Jews and non-whites. Either way, they are both extremists obsessed with conservative (religious/supremacist) positions who had access to guns. Perhaps you are correct and the two are indeed worthy of being discussed for their similarities in another column. You could add Tiller's murderer in that bunch as well. Fanatics and guns do not make a good mix.

oldvet 8 years, 10 months ago

Ya know, glock, I was thinking the same thing... with Pitts, it's always racism unless the racist is a black man who killed a white soldier because he hated them... then Pitts is quickly silent...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 10 months ago

After 30 years of having things pretty much their way, the world is on the verge of total economic and environmental collapse. So now the right-wingers are out any ideas that haven't already ended in total catastrophe. Their pundits and leaders have nothing more to offer than whipping up the many nutjobs in their midst into a murderous frenzy--

The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers by Frank Rich

Godot 8 years, 10 months ago

Pitts is a race baiter and a hater. He failed to mention the hate murder of a US soldier in Arkansas by a converted Muslim who not only does not repent his actions, but calls on others to carry on his jihad against America. Hate? Pitts picks and chooses his haters, depending on the ideology of the hater. Apparentely Pitts excuses the haters of America if they are black and believers of Islam.

notajayhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

beatrice (Anonymous) says…

"nota, I guess you knew the author from the headline because you realize that Pitts is one of the few columnists in our country willing to write intelligently against accepting hatred and racial predjudice as part of the status quo."

Substitute "eager to" for "willing to," and you're getting close. As for "intelligently," that's a leap. Pitts has made a career out of standing on his soapbox and screaming about racial problems - some accurately, some blown out of proportion. Unfortunately, all he ends up doing is giving the nutjobs like this shooter the notoriety they crave.

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