Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Déjà Vu: Racism in America

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

I always root for losing teams, the Mets who amaze more for their ability to blow leads than win tight games, the Brazilian women's soccer phenoms who despite the fact they have no budget and never get a chance to play together made it all the way to the World Cup final, where Germany beat them. Then there are queer activists. Go team!

I want to win for a change. Win for keeps. But it seems like even good news is just a drop in the déjà vu bucket.

So what if yet another study finds that lesbian parents are just as good as straight ones, at least in Holland? The study also showed that lesbians were happier with their female partners as co-parents than their het counterparts who remain challenged in the fields of diaper-changing, and cooking, and pre-bedtime reading. But is there a rush to change adoption laws either in the U.S. or Europe? Did women rush to leave their men? No.

Likewise, in New Orleans, Episcopalians waffle on queer rights yet again to appease their Anglican relations that would rather see us burn than marry or officiate over the divvying up of a dead man's flesh and blood (that's communion for you barbarians) for the suspect purposes of salvation.

Lesbophobia is still alive and well in South Africa where a group of mostly dykes marched to protest the rising rate of violence against them. Two lesbians were killed a couple of months ago. Many have been raped or beaten, no matter that gay rights are enshrined in the Constitution.

What does that count when it's used as toilet paper? In the U.S., that rasping, sucking sound you hear in the background is not one more closeted congressman getting off, but our rights going down the drain in a more or less continual flood.

The real punch in the gut these days is racism in America. What a disappointment. What a backward march, especially in electoral politics. It's not that I thought the Republicans had come anywhere near to embracing equality. I just thought they'd gotten more sophisticated about their bigotry after Bush's successful courting of people of color.

At the last Republican convention there were black and brown faces all over the screen, and a couple of queers, too, before they got their teeth into that annoying Amendment banning gay marriage. The appearance of diversity worked pretty well, paying off in minority votes.

What we got for it were some not so token appointments like Gonzalez and Rice and what's his name, Colin Powell, remember him? Which no matter what anybody says are better than nothing.

They at least created the illusion of civility, offered role models, and meant racists were evolving enough to keep their hate just a little more underground, raising the glass ceiling just a few feet, a few inches. Now it's stone. Like the cowboy's, "Keep your hands on the table where I can see 'em." If nothing else, they're easier to fight that way.

But in this '08 campaign for the White House, Republicans reveal themselves not only as bigots, but the village idiots, their presidential candidates openly alienating more than a quarter of the population by gestures like refusing to participate in a nationally televised debate focusing on minority issues. Head on back to the back of the bus. No debates about racism or class. No stump speeches. Just naked scorn.

Too bad if African Americans make up thirteen percent of the population, and Hispanics are rapidly growing towards fifteen percent. Screw 'em. And the queers, too. Rudy, despite his cross-dressing tendencies and faggot friends is backpedaling away as fast as he can.

I'd crow over how they're shooting themselves in the electoral foot, except somebody somewhere has calculated that they can pull off this election without all us minorities and our troubling issues. And the scary thing is, I think they may be right.

A little luck, a few shenanigans, and one of them can emerge from the pack and beat plastic Hillary like the young, personable George unexpectedly, and against the Los Vegas odds, took plastic Gore, as the Times recently reminded us.

And if it's too close to call, if it's close at all, the Republican machinery may well kick in with the police blockades preventing African Americans from getting to polls, kicking African Americans off voter registries, losing ballots, deleting votes.

In other words, they'll steal the election--again. Sure, the Democrats are controlling some of the machinery Republicans had in hand last time. But the only way to be sure of a clean election is to win with such a margin no thieves can shift a few thousand votes and take the country.

For that we need a Democrat who does more than avoid mistakes, but knows how to close throwing the hard stuff.

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