A lot of people just don’t get prejudice. They don’t know when to let its rationalization lay. But that should not be surprising when they also don’t know how to support their arguments; reducing them to mere beliefs. Beliefs require faith and we lost faith in conservatives long ago.
You see, the value of conservatism, and yes, I acknowledge there’s value, is that it should help keep us from throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Unfortunately, too many “conservatives” see the water as sublime soup and the baby as a too demanding obligation.
One of the problems with prejudices is that you can dress them up, but you can’t take them out. Unfortunately for the Republicans in Virginia Beach, someone or two walked their dog of a prejudice and that has revealed the ugly face of racial animosity subtly harbored within the local leadership. There are no two ways around it and a simple admonition complaining “stop sending those E-mails” ignores the root problem. Despite all the obfuscation and attempts to blame the E-mail on an accident and denials of receipt, the way it works is that you send E-mails to what you have determined to be a like-minded community. And when members of that community fail to distinguish themselves by taking exception, their silence speaks volumes. Not one person who received either E-mail has produced any E-mail that divorces them from like-mindedness.
“As a matter of fact, the point that they made was that Karen Beauchamp hasn’t been in a leadership role in the party since 2001. Well I got news for you, Karen Beauchamp was one of the hardest workers we had in the Republican Party, and she was the one who organized the headquarters every single day. And both she and Dave Bartholomew were responsible for Bob McDonnell’s success in 2009. It certainly wasn’t Kenny Golden; I’ll tell you that.” – Kenny Golden to Tony Macrini on WNIS
I am reminded that Bobby Kennedy, raised in affluence and a very white world, did not know the extent of racial prejudice in this country until he’d left home and college. A lot of people who claim to be conservatives have never left home. They remain withdrawn from the larger society. From that vantage point, their beliefs are never challenged. They have chosen their facts by their associations and remain in what they consider an easily defended corner. That wasn’t Bobby’s path; just read the quotes on his tomb in Arlington for the short course.
I had a taste of prejudice growing up. I was raised in a very segregated Arkansas town. But I was, what I learned years later living in Canada, a non-visible minority. That vantage gives one a real advantage over visible minorities because often the prejudiced, using those same beliefs that allow their prejudice, assume you are one of them. I remember being at a county fair in 1968 when a Republican candidate for US Senate came through. A man standing next to me with a handbill featuring a photograph of the candidate and his family of eight or so sneered, “Must be Catholic.” The Klan grew active locally after court ordered desegregation, but the only Catholic who was singled out for a cross burning (actually a cross in the grass burning) was one of my mother’s friends who had been elected President of the local flower club in a bitter contest with a Protestant rival. Then, in my senior year of high school, a girl I was dating for a while suddenly broke it off. It was her father, she told me. I thought that it might have been my involvement in the race reconciliation efforts at school. Later she admitted that it was because I was Catholic. But I could generally easily “pass” and the offense was rarely onerous, generally laughable. This at the end of the decade that began with the first (and only) Catholic President.
Sitting with a Canadian military officer and his wife at the table one evening in Israel, race came up in the after dinner discussion. I commented that it seemed Canadians were less racist than Americans. He leaned back and grinned. “Oh, no,” he chuckled, “we’re just much more polite about it.” That, I am afraid, defines the situation in the Republican Party. Teddy and I and a few others here, a lot longer out of adolescence than many conservative commentators and bloggers, remember that “Southern Strategy” and personally knew fellows who walked away from the Democratic Party and understood their motives. “States rights” was and remains the code (Hello…Bob McDonnell, formerly of the Virginia Beach Committee). Safe harbor and a new wardrobe were found in the Republican Party.
The problem isn’t, as has been suggested, that the E-mails were sent. Stopping the E-mails does not solve the problem at all. And soup induced visions of Lowell Feld, the DPVA, Brian Moran, and Glenn Nye coming together to cook up a conspiracy to discredit Scott Rigell defies credulity and that is what has been offered. It discredits the argument that there is no problem. It raises a flag that any reasonable member of a minority, any minority, should recognize. Polite tolerance and pandering are not inclusion. The positive news from the Republican side is that someone who received that E-mail knew it was a bad thing. The bad news is that it was forwarded on for all the wrong reasons. Good luck with that big tent, Republicans.