Friday, January 26, 2007

The meaning of race


Rep. Tom Tancredo is a partisan buffoon. But even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes, and his latest hobby horse manages to hit a target worth skewering -- even if it's not exactly the target he was aiming at.

Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado and an outspoken opponent of diversity who has called Miami a "Third World country", is calling for an end to race-based caucuses. He's specifically taking aim at the Congressional Black Caucus, which has 43 members, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which counts 21 members.

First, let's outline how Tancredo is wrong. To begin with, he apparently doesn't understand what a caucus is.

The purpose of caucuses is to provide a gathering point and support for minorities within a larger group whose views and interests might otherwise be diluted or ignored by the larger group. I'm not talking just race: you could have a female caucus, an opera fan caucus, a sneaker caucus, or what have you.

Check out this list of Congressional caucuses. They're all over the map. The only common principle is that they represent smaller interest groups within the larger body of Congresscritters.

A white caucus would be pointless, because the entire Congress is a white caucus. That said, Tancredo has every right to form one; he would just be displaying ignorance.

Being informal interest groups, caucuses should have the right to include or exclude anyone they want, since their sole purpose is to promote a particular interest, and it should be up to the caucus members to define what that interest is. So race-based caucuses are fine, in my book.

But not all caucuses are equally deserving of respect. And this is where the blind squirrel finds a nut.

Tancredo's latest outburst was prompted by what he said were the efforts of a white Republican, Stephen Cohen, to join the CBC (Cohen's district has a large black majority), only to be rejected because he was white.

Never mind that Cohen never actually sought to join the group. The thought that he might was enough for the CBC's chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, to confirm that only blacks are welcome.

I've been underwhelmed by the actions of the CBC in recent weeks; they've seemed determined to put skin color above everything else, including ethics and common sense, as when they gave William "my freezer is my bank" Jefferson a standing ovation, or pressuring Nancy Pelosi to make Alcee Hastings chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Then there is their historic snubbing of a black Republican, Gary Franks, in the early 1990s, which seemed to suggest that to be a CBC member you not only had to be black, but you had to be a Democrat -- or at least hold certain views on civil rights.

So while I respect the CBC's right to have to a "blacks only" policy -- and the policy even makes some sense, if the purpose of the CBC is less about advancing black causes in general and more about increasing the number, power and visibility of black members of Congress -- I'm not so impressed by their actions of late. And the reaffirmation of the "blacks only" policy forces me to wonder:

What constitutes "black"?

It's similar to a question I like to pose to anti-Semites, who rave about Jews controlling the world: How do you define Jew? If it's cultural, how do you determine they are part of the culture? If it's religious, can we exclude nonobservant Jews? If it's racial, how much Jewish blood do you have to have to be considered a Jew for the purposes of world-domination statistics?

So here's the question I would pose to the CBC: How much black blood is required before you can join the CBC?

Is Tiger Woods black enough? Or too Asian? I suspect he'd make it in, because Barack Obama is a member and he's half white. But then where do they draw the line? A quarter black? An eighth? A sixteenth? Just give me a number, that's all I ask.

I suspect it will come down to "looking" black. Which is fine and arguably valid, since "looking black" is at the heart of most racism and discrimination. But seeing them try to define the dividing line would be both entertaining and a reminder of how truly silly and meaningless racial distinctions are.

Thanks, Tom. You're an idiot, but sometimes you're a useful idiot.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And thanks for analyzing what we already knew: that the CBC is a racist organization. And it's a real shame we have such a racist organization sitting right there inside the U.S. Congress.

JP5

1/26/2007 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean,
You're a disingenuous lefty-moron. Clearly, you've bought into the "multi-cultural" claptrap, and you're blinded by the mental disease of liberalism. When a man stands up to racism as Rep. Tom did, you leftys stretch the boundaries of credulity
yet again. So now the anti-racist is magically transformed into a racist? What kind of Orwellian "Newspeak" is this? Stop drinking the neo-Marxist cool-aid and enter a good, conservative rehab!

1/27/2007 2:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean
You hit right on the spot.
The country is right in the middle of a huge change in the demographics.
More and more people have mixed ethnicities and if they come out to vote in sufficient numbers, they will determine the direction of the country.
Such people living in other countries, have identity crises, (France for example). It is mainly because of the centralized constitutional systems. But not here, people here have a lot more say in their democratic institutions.
People like Barack Obama are looking at these facts while deciding on making a run for higher office (even with a paper thin resume).
Tom Tancredo and frankly the republican party as a whole represents the old guard. For many of them the idea of being American means to be white.
An earthquake in the presidential politics is long overdue.
Keep up the good job, this is not lefty clap trap, this is reality.
GK

1/27/2007 8:58 AM  
Anonymous David Z. said...

I like Tom Tancredo. Tom, you know that you're doing the right thing when they write about you as being an idiot, which you are not.
Mr. Aqui seems to think that everything whites do is wrong, and everything that minorities do is lily white, and that they should get some special treatment. No, the Black Congressional Caucus is a racist organization to many whites. It is a force of evil to many of us. Perhaps it is time to form the White congressional Caucus and also the Jewish Congressional Caucus. I as a white man would love the Jews to be identified, so we can know who they are. Not that I'm anti-semitic, but we can better protect ourselves from their liberal tendencies.

1/27/2007 10:29 AM  
Blogger Not Your Mama said...

Oh dear Sean, you're collecting quite a menagerie here.

Seems you've hit a raw nerve and brought out all the xenophobes. Tried to warn ya they were out there ;).

I actually READ what you posted and it made perfect sense. I'm ambivalent about the whole issue for the same reasons.

I would favor getting rid of all race-based caucuses except for the fact of: look at above commentators, it's obvious there is still a need for them.

Entering the 21st century one would have hoped we'd have matured to a point it was unnecessary, sadly we have not.

1/28/2007 2:22 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Mama: Hey, attention is good. It means people are reading. :)

Thanks for understanding what I wrote. The CBC's position exposes the silliness of racial distinctions, while at the same time the actions of Tancredo and others show that such distinctions remain important to some people, and thus relevant to the lives of those who have a certain skin color.

I'll support getting rid of race-based caucuses the minute race stops being an important factor in the treatment people get from others.

1/28/2007 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear not your mama,

Okay, you be in the majority, and have all of these caucuses plotting against you and using the xenophobe language to put the guilt on.

I've listened to several Honorable African American men such as Jesse Lee Peterson www.bondinfo.com and Terry Anderson www.theterryandersonshow.com. Many will tell you that the main reasoning behind black congressional caucus members making the decisions that they make in Congress is to get whitey. I believe them from looking at the record of many of these BCC members. In fact BCC members will actually sell out their own people if it will put them in a position to get whitey.
Look at Los Angeles with Hispanic and Black fighting out of control, but still the BCC members in that area continue to ignore this so they can hopefully coalition with the hispanics to hopefully get whitey.

Are there good Black and Hispanic politicians? Certainly! However the caucuses are being used as tools of power leveraging at all costs rather than service to constituents.

1/29/2007 12:38 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

I am constantly amazed at the number of people who think a majority can be persecuted in a democracy.

Or that a strategy to aggregate power can work without serving constituents. Demagoguery can take a politican a certain distance, true; but it rarely lasts.

1/29/2007 8:56 AM  
Blogger Not Your Mama said...

Dear Anonymous:

I am a "Whitey in the majority". Idiots come in every color, at the moment "we whiteys" exist in greater numbers therefore "we" have the greatest number of idiots.

In my nearly half century of existence I've yet to be "plotted against" anywhere close to as much by anyone of a darker skin tone than my own than by people of my own color. Matter of fact, any time I needed a helping hand up it was usually a darker hand than my own that was extended and the feet waiting to land in my face have most always been white.

Sure there are minority people who are racists, jerk-offs, try to take unfair advantage, etc. but Sean is right, we've got the market cornered on trampling on everyone else.

1/29/2007 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear not your mama,

You know if you've lived nearly half a century and can't detect "anywhere close to as much" then maybe you need to start reading the papers and start putting the pieces together and quit falling for everything the government-media complex feeds you i.e. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS. Stop buying into this fluff. If you're really that old you should be able to see the crookedness all over the place and in all people.


As a religious person, I'm not going to go into denial about the intentions of the CBC (get whitey, this is so blatant from them its not even subtle) as well as my own White politicians sometimes (money over constituents). What we often see from politicians is guilt/manipulation being used for them to get their schemes through.

1/29/2007 9:18 PM  
Blogger Not Your Mama said...

M'kay. First you tell me to "read the papers" then you tell me to "stop believing the media". Which is it? At last check the papers were part of the media.

I do see crookedness in all people. The ones that usually give me the biggest pain in the bottom are the good white Christian conservatives. If for no other reason than there are more of them. They are also the ones who seem to have the greatest penchant for wanting to dictate to everyone else.

No one is running around persecuting Christians and conservatives. Atheists are not banging on their doors on Saturday mornings trying to convert them. Liberals aren't trying to close the churches, force them to have abortions and fer sure, fer sure, the gay community is not recruiting.

Do Blacks fairly often vote for terrible people just because they are Black? Yes, they do. Because, doh, check it out, they are still a MINORITY. Sometimes you take what crumbs you can get. We whiteys made the rules, they're just playing them.

I've put plenty of pieces together. For every Black or Hispanic or Native American playing "get whitey" there are 100 whiteys playing "get everyone who isn't just like us". It's a stupid game but as long as we have those 100 whiteys it's a game that will continue.

1/30/2007 3:36 AM  

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