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Virginians Must Send a United Message on 11/7: Demonization of Any Group Will Not Be Tolerated


by Atif Qarni

Since Donald Trump’s win last November, we have witnessed an increase in hate speech and racially motivated attacks across the country and here in Virginia. That includes an increase in racist bullying in school divisions across Virginia, including right here in Prince William County, where I teach.

In recent months, we’ve seen Muslim kids called terrorists, Latino kids called “illegals” and told to go back to their country, and black kids having pencils thrown in their hair. This emboldened, post-Trump-election, racist attitude is present in our schools, and is creating a hostile learning environment for many minority students.

Meanwhile, over the past year, we have seen right-wing political candidates fan the flames of xenophobia and bigotry by demonizing marginalized groups. For instance, Corey Stewart – Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors in Prince William County – ran a Trump-like campaign during the Republican primary for Governor this year.  Astonishingly, Stewart nearly beat Ed Gillespie, despite being outspent 3:1 and not having much establishment support.

Now that Gillespie is the Republican nominee for Governor, he has decided to energize Stewart’s base for the general election by using the same race-baiting tactics.  Sad to say, but the fact is that the Trump-supporting base of the Republican Party is rotten to its core and devoid of humanity. For nearly a month, Gillespie’s campaign has run a despicable ad against the Latino immigrant community, depicting them as gangsters, rapists, and murderers.

With this type of hateful campaign on our airwaves, it is imperative that people from every community stand up and send a united message to politicians that demonization of any marginalized group will not be tolerated. The fact is, if we fail to stand up for each other, we are making any and all of us vulnerable to demonization and attack.

That’s why, as a Muslim and a South Asian, I take particularly strong objection to members of my community supporting Ed Gillespie.  This is a man who clearly showed us who he was and what he’s all about when he ran that race-baiting attack ad against Latinos. And, as was the case with Donald Trump in 2016, we should believe that this is what Ed Gillespie actually believes.  Now, of course, it’s ok if we don’t agree on all issues and if our values are different —some of us are liberal and others conservative, and that’s ok. We can accept and embrace our differences. But racism is NOT a conservative or liberal issue—it is a human issue.  We cannot vote against our own self-interest as human beings.

For South Asians particularly, we must remember our own history as a colonized people of the British empire. Colonizers used fear tactics and brute force to exploit and demonize people in the Indian subcontinent – turning one minority group against the other – because they knew that a divided people was a conquerable people.  The British viceroys hand-picked local officials called “rajas” from the native populations to ensure that British laws were being enforced.  These officials were well-financed sycophants, token representatives who directly benefited from the subjugation of their own people.

In 2017, we cannot afford to have members of our community — the South Asian or Muslim community — work alongside politicians like Gillespie.  We cannot be angry about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and not at the same time be angry about Gillespie’s ad that depicts Latinos as violent criminals. White supremacy is not only about tiki torch rallies and whites chanting racist slurs.  It is about the belief that white people are superior to all other races and should therefore dominate society.

This MS-13 ad by Gillespie is the definition of white supremacy, and we must label it appropriately and denounce it publicly. We cannot stand next to the oppressors while others in our community are attacked. We must stand up to bigotry and hate. For that reason, on November 7th, we should all let Ed Gillespie know that we will not be tolerate intolerance — by voting Democratic up and down the ticket.

  • Edward N Virginia

    THEN STOP – STOP STOP STOP! – demonizing, belittling, stereotyping and abusing RURAL Virginians, RURAL and recently rural Virginia working classes, and their Constitutionally protected values! I helped lead a tour of CITY people to our small (under 500 pop.) very historic rural Virginia town. They had a delightful time and exclaimed how mis-informed they were. We have a yoga studio: they were so surprised! There is a local Bahai group that is having a celebration open to the public. AMAZED they were! BUT at a store that defends 2A rights and posts signs about different types of guns to take out threats are different distances they could be more INCENSED. And one person feigned a panic attack when they saw a truck pull into the parking lot with several hunters and a dead dear. And you won’t believe their STUPID and BIGOTED and BOURGEOIS SELF SATISFIED SELF ENTITLED ideas about rural people, regarding race, jobs, education, etc. And these ‘Progressives’ lived less than an hour away and most had never even been to our lovely, historic, diverse rural town! YET THEY – in their – in YOUR – self-entitled, self-obsessed, self-indulgent ELITE BOURGEOIS PRIVILEGE blubbered their IGNORANT, SELF-SERVING, BIGOTED stereotypes about us. SO, we see in this single TRUE STORY why the Virginia House will not fall! And, perhaps, why Mr Northam will not be successful! Ain’t it?

    • Michael Beer

      Thank you for leading a tour of city people in your community. The rural-urban divide is significant here and in most countries. But let us not paint all or most rural or urban people with a broad brush. We still are united in the commonwealth and country in many profound ways, and I do believe that we can win convincingly in November because Democrats will raise all boats.With the exception of differences over guns, almost all Democratic proposals around health care, jobs, environment, business, infrastructure and education will help rural virginians.

      • Edward N Virginia

        So, we must ask:

        WHERE are the HUNDREDS of Virginia Democrats purposefully hosting tours of their neighborhoods across rural/urban cultures? Why hasn’t the state party – or others – designed a social media platform to ‘hear from rural and hear from urban’ communities on issues. This ‘blue virginia’ is not such a platform, btw, because it explicitly ‘colonizes’ and ‘oppresses’ rural points of view, and other other cultural minority points of view, with majoritarian authorianism.

        WHEN Virginia Democrats – ONCE AGAIN – FAIL FAIL FAIL to gain the legislature – and increasingly likely LOSE LOSE LOSE on or more stateside offices – will they wake up, or not?

        The Daily Caller – that you perhaps never visit – had a short explanation of why democrats keep losing. Had this platform, bluevirginia, have purposeful discussion of why republicans win; that does not live in fantasy wish fulfillment (e.g. republicans are racists and that is why they win. FALSE. republicans are ignorant and that is why they win. FALSE).

        The Daily Caller featured discussion of Jonathan Haidt’s work. Haiti used to be professor at UVA and is now at NYU (VERY URBAN, uh huh). He just this weekend returned to do a wonderful talk at UVA about social scientific work and theories that describe the threats to the American polity – there are many reasons, he describes, and the ‘bubble conversations: like talks with like’ and ‘inflated, inflamed partisanship’ of social media explains a large portion of the threat, per his research. But there are many other factors.

        Here is a block of the daily caller’s explanation from Haidt’s work:

        In his book, The Righteous Mind, Dr. Haidt proposed that moral foundations are most important in human thought. The reason why, as Haidt extends, is that the brain is wired to consider intuition and moral beliefs before rationale. In fact, he argues that what we consider to be rational always leans in the direction of what we perceive to be moral.

        Dr. Haidt demonstrated this point in a series of experiments. What he found was this: moral intuitions always set the direction of rationale. Almost no one will argue for something that defies their morals. Almost everyone will argue for something that follows their morals.

        Haidt explains six major moral foundations that apply to human beings universally. Based on data in his book, conservatives have an advantage over liberals because they appeal to all six moral foundations; liberals only appeal to three.

        If morality is stronger than rationality, and if the GOP focuses more on morality, than the Republicans clearly have the advantage in elections. That is why many vote for the Republican Party even if the Democrats have progressive policies.

        At his talk this weekend he emphasized this time and time again. And questions from the audience illustrated the failures of democrats time and time and time: THEY ARE NOT ALERT to the social science! But they were just in the lecture by the expert. BUT THEY STILL DIDN;T LEARN ANYTHING judging by the questions.

        Virginia Democrat Party – to win the Legislature – and perhaps the statewide offices – MUST learn and appreciate the values of rural Virginians, rather than ignoring them and/or stereotyping them, blaming them and or demonizing them.

        And oh, btw, as you thyself note, and following Haidt’s research and ‘moral foundations theory’ the very way you talked down to me, and ignored/devalued our rural communities’ ‘moral intuitions’ – e.g. about the second amendment, about personal and family safety and security, about the inequities, inadequacies and dangerous failures of local and state government – driving the need to be able to protect oneself and one’s family – suggest a blindness that assures further democrat LOSSES.