Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I'm (Almost) Feeling Sorry for the Ku Klux Klan

America has for far too long dumped the burden of racism on the shoulders of a motley bunch of  illiterate, rednecks.  It's true that at the turn of the last century the Ku Klux Klan terrorized, lynched and invariably castrated innocent black men.  Southern politicians even packaged their brand of hate to keep themselves in office.  But America is today confronted with a deeper truth about racial bigotry that our nation seems unable or just unwilling to face, despite having a black man in the White House.

What are we as citizens of a democracy supposed to do when broad swatches of the electorate embrace slick campaigns claiming that President Barack Obama is not qualified to sit in the Oval Office, because he's hiding a Kenyan birth certificate?  Or how about the claim that he's a Muslim uttered in one sentence, and a  Christian uttered in the next, who has for years attended the church of the notorious Reverend Wright?  Republicans despised former President Bill Clinton, but nobody asked to see his birth certificate nor claimed that rather than being a Christian, he belonged to a Satanic cult. 

What I'm trying to say is this.  Democracy is the best form of government we humans have yet come up with, but it has its failings.  Epistemological questions -- what is truth; what is good; what is evil; what acts should be considered crimes; and how severely should they be punished -- are essentially determined by the majority of voters.  Some concessions will invariably be made to the sensitivities of electoral minorities, if their voting numbers are large enough.  But, that's what brings me around to "racism."   What should any democracy do  when a substantial segment of the opposition party embraces bigoted nonsense?  

Thus far, the only reaction I have seen consistently in the mainstream media is "denial."    No act, however prejudiced and vile, is considered racist unless the perpetrator hollers  the "n" word at the top of his lungs.   Surely we can do better than that, or maybe pretending not to hear what we'd rather not deal with is just how our American brand of democracy works.  

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