RED AND BLUE WITH RACE ALL OVER: At several junctures, Kaur gets it right!


Epilogue—Tries a little tenderness and a larger chunk of the truth: Three years ago, in South Carolina, a wonderful thing occurred:

Tim Scott became the Republican nominee for the House in the state’s first congressional district.

In November 2010, Scott won the general election. Today, he represents South Carolina in the United States senate.

Don’t get us wrong! We wouldn’t have voted for Scott ourselves; we don’t share his politics. But South Carolina Republicans do. Here’s why it was a wonderful thing when he won that primary.

In that Republican primary, Scott was running against Paul Thurmond, son of the late Strom Thurmond. But Republican voters liked Scott better. And good God!

If you want to score things this way, Senator Scott is black!

Let’s review what happened. Those voters could have elected the son of Strom—but they liked the black guy better! We wouldn’t have voted for Scott ourselves. But that was a tremendous triumph for our improving Americanism.

Could Dr. King have imagined a day when white voters in that southern state would have cast their votes that way? Our civil rights martyrs died for the day when voters would function that way.

That said, very few liberals spoke words of praise for those South Carolina voters. We are more likely to find ways to insult Republican voters when they vote for black candidates.

To us, that seems like a dumb way to do politics and to advance our values.

In the wake of the Boston bombings, we thought of how stingy we liberals had been with our praise when those voters selected Tim Scott. As in the 60s, so too today:

Sometimes, we liberals like to display our own superior values through odd displays of denigration and overstatement. We refuse to praise our fellow citizens and we refuse to take yes for an answer! We revert to our tired old habit of talking down the Amerikan people.

We thought of these things when David Sirota built a potentially useful column around the framework of “white male privilege.” That framework didn’t fit the circumstance all that well, but Sirota went with it anyway.

In the process, Sirota’s extremely valid concern came out just a bit jumbled. This week, he is still being mocked on Fox. In truth, his tribalized approach to a basic concern made his piece easy to mock.

When it comes to matter of race, we liberals rarely have kind words to say for the rest of the American people. We don’t spell “Amerika” with a k, but it sometimes may seem that we want to.

We thought of these things when we watched Melissa Harris-Perry speak to Valerie Kaur on TV last Saturday morning.

Kaur had been introduced as “a writer and filmmaker and a fellow at seminary.” It also seems that she is a Sikh, although this was never clearly explained.

We thought Kaur got several things right in her appearance on Saturday’s program. But during this early exchange, we thought of the way we liberals tend to err in matter involving race:
HARRIS-PERRY (4/21/13): Valerie, I know your work after the Oak Creek shooting of a Sikh temple, one which many people believe to have been basically a case of American ignorance, misunderstanding about the Sikh religion versus Islam, right, gets right at that core. What can we learn about how to recover?

KAUR: Well, let’s remember that the Oak Creek mass shooting was actually the last incident of domestic terrorism in this country. And it was committed by a white supremacist who walked into a Sikh house of worship and opened fired. In the wake of that tragedy, we did not hear calls for white people to be profiled, we did not hear Christianity denigrated, we did not see Christians living in fear. The way that our country diagnoses a problem when it’s a white perpetrator, it’s an individual problem. When it’s a person of color, suddenly an entire community is deemed dangerous.
The shooting to which Kaur referred occurred in August 2012. The white supremacist in question had recently broken up with his white supremacist girl friend. She worked down the street from the Sikh house of worship the shooter attacked.

The gunman had been active in several white supremacist bands. In his madness and his fury, he seemed to hate everyone who wasn’t Aryan and Christian. Reading major reports on the case, we find no evidence that the gunman’s attack on the Sikhs involved a case of mistaken identity, or that he would have had any trouble hating Sikhs as much as Muslims.

It may be that the shooter mistook these Sikhs for Muslims. But in the reporting, we find no sign that this was found to be true.

Whatever! Here’s why we were struck by that exchange between Kaur and Harris-Perry:

First, we were struck by the casual way Harris-Perry referred to this “case of American ignorance.” The killer was an American, of course. It's possible that he was ignorant of the diferrence between Muslims and Sikhs.

That said, we were struck by Harris-Perry’s casual reference to “American” ignorance. She didn’t spell Amerika with a k, but these casual, snooty denigrations have littered progressive speech since the 1960s.

This was a minor matter, but such casual denigrations were widely sprinkled through the discussion this day. We will suggest that such denigrations have never helped progressives connect with a wider audience and that they never will.

We were struck by that casual denigration. We were more struck by Kaur’s reply. Let’s look again at what she said:
KAUR: In the wake of that tragedy, we did not hear calls for white people to be profiled, we did not hear Christianity denigrated, we did not see Christians living in fear. The way that our country diagnoses a problem when it’s a white perpetrator, it’s an individual problem. When it’s a person of color, suddenly an entire community is deemed dangerous.
Part of that statement is plainly accurate. In the wake of the Oak Creek killings, we didn’t hear calls for white people (in general) to be profiled. We didn’t hear Christianity denigrated. We didn’t see Christians living in fear, afraid that they might be collectively blamed for the conduct of one disturbed killer.

We didn’t see those manifestations, and of course we shouldn’t have.

That part of Kaur’s statement was plainly true—but how about the rest of her statement? Is it true that “our country” deems entire communities dangerous when a person of color commits such a crime?

Was Kaur perhaps overstating? We’ll ask again: Were African-Americans collectively blamed in the wake of the Beltway sniper killings? Was the entire black community “deemed dangerous” at that time?

We’d have to say the answer is no—and as with the election of Scott, that was a very good thing. But quite often, something keeps us progressives from noticing outcomes like that.

As we watched this particular program, we saw several instances where “America” was collectively blamed or denigrated in ways which were inaccurate, overstated, dated, embellished. But we started with Kaur, and we thought she stood out at several junctures.

A fair amount of collective blame was being directed at “America,” “our country” and “the nation” as the liberal panelists showcased their plainly superior values. But at one point in the proceedings, Kaur tried a bit of tenderness and a wider dose of the truth.

As part of the exchange with Harris-Perry we've already quoted, Kaur discussed the way a wide range of people responded to the Oak Creek killings last year. This was her fuller statement:
KAUR: Well, let’s remember that the Oak Creek mass shooting was actually the last incident of domestic terrorism in this country. And it was committed by a white supremacist who walked into a Sikh house of worship and opened fire. In the wake of that tragedy, we did not hear calls for white people to be profiled, we did not hear Christianity denigrated, we did not see Christians living in fear. The way that our country diagnoses a problem when it’s a white perpetrator, it’s an individual problem. When it’s a person of color, suddenly an entire community is deemed dangerous.

But that said, I want to speak to this issue of how we have recovered. The kind of love and outpouring that we experienced, Sikh and Muslim and South Asian Americans across the country, from all kinds of Americans of all backgrounds, was so overwhelming. It was an experience where our fellow Americans were not looking at us as foreigners or suspects, where they were seeing us as neighbors, as colleagues as friends, as patriots. And that is the kind of hope, that’s the kind of vision of unity that I’m hanging on to in the days to come. That’s our higher self.
Millions of people have learned many things in the days since Dr. King died. Sometimes, we liberals like to pretend that none of this has happened.

We thought Kaur showed a brighter, wiser instinct as she praised the outpouring she observed last year. We think she gave viewers more of the truth, offered a wiser politics.

Kaur looked on the brighter side at one other juncture—but good lord, there we went again! In the statement which follows, she said the nation has changed for the better since 2001. But in some ways, her statement suggested that our crabbed liberal instincts have not:
KAUR: You know, this week, I experienced as a crisis in two different ways. I was north of Boston when the explosions went off. I lived in the city of Boston for three years. I was terrified, as were my friends and family who were held up in Watertown on Friday. I was breathing a sigh of relief as were all Americans when the terror finally ended.

But, like millions of Muslim, Arab and Sikh Americans, I have been waiting, praying, hoping that we wont see the fear and violence and hate that we have seen many times before, after Oklahoma City and after September 11th, regardless of who the perpetrator was in those moments.


But when I take stock of this last week, the one thing that gives me hope is that we are not the nation we were in 2001.


KAUR: President Obama has come out asking our nation to stay true to unity and diversity, words we did not hear after 9/11. Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, said if we are to heal and recover as a nation, we need to turn to each other rather than on each other. I’m going to hang on that hope, I believe there, as we navigate the next few months.
As she started, Kaur defined the deeply legitimate concern Sirota jumbled in his column. But then, she acknowledged positive change! She said we’re a wiser, better nation that we were in 2001.

We think that is probably true—but we were struck by the selective way Kaur praised Obama and Patrick. In fact, President Bush did make similar statements shortly after 9/11. And uh-oh! So did a certain Republican governor in the wake of Oak Creek.

Kaur described the great outpouring which followed the killings at Oak Creek. In a news report, the New York Times described one part of that reaction:
YACCINO (8/11/12): People of a range of races and faiths wore colored head scarves out of respect for the Sikh religion. Some were red-eyed from crying. Others clutched rosary beads. It was the most recent example of the outpouring of support from a community that has held vigils, sent comforting e-mails, and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the victims' families over the past week.

''I don't see how we can forget this,'' said Barbara Henschel, 41, of who lives in nearby Milwaukee and took time off work to attend the service. ''There's a lot of healing that will have to begin.''

Representatives of the victims' families, Sikh religious leaders and government officials spoke during the memorial service, among them Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

''No matter what country your ancestors came from, no matter where you worship, no matter what your background, as Americans, we are one,'' said Mr. Walker. ''When you attack one of us, you attack all of us.''
Attorney General Holder spoke that day—but so did Governor Walker. For ourselves, we wouldn’t vote for Walker. But just as Obama and Patrick did last week, Governor Walker came to the service and made statements which expressed our improving American values. Kaur praised the statements of Obama and Patrick, skipped those of Walker and Bush.

How quickly, how tribally, how determinedly we liberals sometimes arrange to forget! To us, this seems like a bad way to do politics and to advance our improving values. But on its face, this kind of thing is selective, inaccurate. False.


  1. HBraintree from a public computer.

    Too many liberals suffer from what I call MLK envy and are on a mission to show that they are on the right of a history that has already passed. To these people good news is bad news because every indication that America is getting over its racist past makes them no only less and less relevant it makes them look downright silly, albiet in an aubsurdly desperate way.

    My favorite was when Republicans seriously considered madman Herman Cain for president. Although he would have been a disaster as president he is a highly articulate, charismatic politician who definitely knows how to speak TeaBagger. Instead of acknowledging the immense positive change this indicated among southern whites liberals reacted as they always do in these matter by accusing his supporters of racism! See it isn't that they'ved let go of their racism and are willing to give a black man a chance. It's that they're racism is "covert."

    What a bunch of inanae snots.

    1. Herman Cain was "highly articulate"? Watch here:

      and then get back to us. I know Cain led some polls in southern states as Republican voters desperately tried for ABM (anyone but Mitt). But remind me again how many votes Cain actually got in southern primaries.

      Which "liberals" accused Cain's supporters of racism?

    2. Janeane Garofalo and Norman Goldman to name two.

      Everybody has their moment of inarticulateness but Herman Cain had his own radio show. You can't do that w/o being articulate. Babe Ruth struck out a few times but was a pretty good hitter overall (not that I'd put Cain in that league as a speaker).

      And he was leading Romney in polls:

    3. "...(not that I'd put Cain in that league as a speaker)."

      Yeah. In the same way my niece's pre-school finger painting makes her an artist, but I'm not putting her in the same league as Rembrandt.

    4. Anonymous on 4/28 @ 3:44P,

      Sadly, no. At least for Garofalo, who said that certain racist elements of the Republican party liked Herman Cain because it enabled them to deflect their racism. She specifically named Karl Rove. As I recall, there was no love lost between Rove and Cain. Now it may be fair to say that Garofalo throws the R-word around with too much abandon, but she wasn't accusing Cain's supporters of racism.

      I confess that my interest waned before the google could find relevant quotes from Norman Goldman. Perhaps you can supply them.

  2. A related personal incident. My closest friend and my wife are liberals. I tried to get them to read Clarence Thomas's autobiography. It's a fine book. He grew up as poor black in the South. By dint of intelligence and hard work, and some help from white people, he rose to the Supreme Court. Thomas's life exemplifies liberal values. Yet, my friend and my wife backed away from Thomas's book like Superman backing away from kryptonite. They wouldn't consider reading a book by a leading member of the other tribe.

    1. DAinCA, Perhaps your liberal friends should have been more open minded and more open to reading CT's autobiography. He did grow up poor. HIs father abandoned his family, and he grew up with his grandparents. Thomas certainly developed an iron resolve that took him though Holy Cross College and Yale Law School. It hardly seems that an unintelligent person could do that, but whatever intelligence or work ethic he had appear not in his time on the Supreme Court.

      Yeah, he "some help from white people," and hypocrite that he is, he took that help that he now works to deny others. I don't think his hypocrisy and his penchant for sexual harassment "exemplify" liberal values. Neither do his views on selective incorporation of the Bill of Rights against the states or his repellent vote in Romer v Evans.

      So, it's possible that your friends wouldn't consider reading a book merely because it's written by a member of the other tribe. On the other hand, they might just have normal gag reflexes.

    2. To say that Thomas's intelligence didn't appear on the SC is tribalism. Why not simply acknowledge that Thomas has a different legal philososophy than you do?

      You demonstrate that your legal philosophhy differs from Thomas's when you complain that he denies affirmative action from which he benefited. Evidently you think decisions should be based on what benefits a Justice received in the past. Thomas has a different philosophy. His decisions are based on tne Constitution.

    3. DinC,
      I'm a liberal, and I don't "hate" Republicans. I would just NEVER vote for one for a government position. Some may call that "tribal', but my reasoning is they hate government. BTW, is it "tribal" of me because I won't hire a Marxist as the CEO of my business?


    4. DAinCA, Virtually nothing of Thomas' intellectual ability is evident from his time on the Supreme Court. He almost never writes opinions, even in dissent; he is famous for not participating in oral arguments. Certainly Thomas has a "different" legal philosophy from mine. So does Scalia, but at least I can follow the latter's line of thinking, even when I disagree with it.

      What's evident is that I don't think much of hypocrites.

      How do you know that Thomas' decisions are "based on the Constitution"? He gives us no indication of how he arrives at most of those decisions. And I doubt you know enough to say even if he did. Certainly anyone who doesn't adopt the selective incorporation of the Bill of Rights against the states under the 14th Amendment has made a decision against a large body of Constitutional law.

    5. BTW, DinC. You almost had me with your defense of Thomas. Then you threw the whole thing away with that line about him basing ghis decisions on the Constitution. If only.


    6. deadrat, it's true that Thomas almost never participates in oral argument. However, he does indeed write decisions and very fine ones. Even liberals have acknowledged that he's become a leader in legal conservative philosophy because of the clarity of his decisions.

      Yes, Thomas sometimes goes against the body of Constitutional Law, because Constitutional Law has sometimes deviated from the Constitution itself. E.g., the Fourtheenth Amendment clearly says "No State shall...deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Yet Constitutional Law has found a way to rule that states can treat citizens unequally, based on their race and ethnic heritage.

    7. Well, as long as we don't mention his ruling in Bush v Gore 2000, and his refusal to recuse himself from cases where his judgements reward himself and his family, sure we can make believe Thomas thinks the Constitution is paramount.
      One question, why are we giving this ungrateful cretin the benefit of the doubt?


    8. Since Thomas was in the majority of all the Bush v. Gore rulings, you may not agree with his position, but it's hard to argue that his position is cretinous. Unless you think a majority of SC are made up of cretins.

      I know of no cases that rewarded Thomas or his family. There was a case where his wife was affiliated with an organization that supported the conservative position, but there was no financial reward involved.

    9. DAinCA, OK. I'll call your bluff again. Please list the "very fine" decisions that Thomas has written. Hell, I'll settle for any decisions he's written.

      When you're done with that fruitless search, please list the liberals who "acknowledged" that he's become a leader in legal conservative philosophy. That search will be fruitless as well because Thomas more than any other Justice on the Court is willing to overturn federal law, hardly a hallmark of conservative philosophy. Perhaps you meant right-wing ideology.

      Thanks for admitting that Thomas "goes against the body of Constitutional Law." In the case of the First Amendment, this going against puts him on the side of the NC legislators who wanted to establish Christianity as the North Carolina state religion. Thomas' views have little to do with some supposed "deviation" from the Constitution. Your comment on equal protection law confirms my judgment that you haven't taken the time to learn much about Constitutional Law. Equal protection does not mean identical treatment, which you would know if you'd made the effort to become familiar with the subject.


    Maybe Rice is serious, maybe she's just reading talking points, who knows? But she must be outraged, she said so herself. Sadly, Rice doesn't tell us what does motivate the people who say they are motivated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Too bad...she's such a straight shooter, too.

    Funny, there was a time when it did seem she knew what motivated violent protests...but that was then, this is now.

  4. Maybe, it's because bad memories of Bush and Walker crowd out memories of good things both have said, but did not and do not act upon. I see little benefit in pretending that America has not behaved badly in particular situations and continues to do so in others. The ignorance of racism cannot be taught to a single generation in the past, but must be taught to each succeeding generation, as well.

  5. One doesn't have to look very far to find people that want to restrict the freedom of all Muslims every time a terrorist act occurs.

    Really? Can you provide a bunch of examples?

  6. DAinCA, Well played! I like a good bluff. But sometimes you get called. Would Herman Cain do as the start of a "bunch" of examples. One-time Republican candidate for President, dontchaknow?

    Mr Cain thinks that the good people of Murfreesboro, TN have the authority to ban the building of a mosque in their fair city.

  7. How about the "WTC Mosque". Or does that not count because it was being pushed by a whole cable "news' network and the entirety of AM Right-wing talk radio circuit?

  8. Anonymous and deadrat, you have a point. "Every time a terrorist act occurs" may have been an overstatement, but you basically proved your point.

  9. Sorry, but South Carolina Republicans electing Tim Scott Senator doesn't prove that they aren't racists. Scott supports economic policies that are detrimental to most white as well as black South Carolina Republicans. Why do you think non-rich Republicans vote for such policies? Did they vote for Scott because he champions the rights of non-whites? Anytime a black person is willing to go along with radically reactionary Republican policies he can draw votes from whites who think they are showing they are not racists - and Bob appears to agree with them.

    1. skeptonomist, Tim Scott was appointed to his seat by SC governor Nikki Haley. He won't face election until 2014.

  10. deadrat -- a few seconds with google produced
    John Paul Stevens Praises Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito

    Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens gave a remarkable pair of speeches earlier this week in New York, where he weighed in on several of the Court’s recent high-profile decisions. Among them was the gun rights case McDonald v. Chicago (2010), which Stevens criticized while also offering an approving nod to “Justice Thomas’s scholarly concurrence.” Remember that Thomas, unlike the other eight justices in McDonald, held that it was the 14th Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause—not its Due Process Clause—that should be used to apply the Second Amendment against the states. This praise for Thomas’ concurrence is well-founded.

    deadrat wrote: Equal protection does not mean identical treatment, which you would know if you'd made the effort to become familiar with the subject.

    Under the liberal version of Con Law, phrases in the Constitution mean whatever they want those phrases to mean. (cf Alice in Wonderland). For a long time, the phrase "equal protection" was understood to ban racial discrimination. When liberals decided they liked racial preferences, they (ab)used Con Law so that "equal protection" allowed the types of racial discrimination that liberals were in favor of.

    For an extreme example, go read Roe v. Wade. I like the outcome, but the liberal legal reasoning was worse than poor; it was virtually nonexistant.

    1. DAinCA, That's it? JPS is your "liberal" champion of Thomas? A Justice who supported capital punishment and voted against affirmative action in Bakke? And his endorsement is an "approving nod" on Thomas' position in McDonald?


      But thanks for revealing your own tribal tendencies. For you "liberal" just means someone you disagree with politically. You don't take the slightest effort to understand equal protection jurisprudence. You don't even try to understand the place of judicial review in our system. So when "liberals" (someone from the other tribe) does something you don't like, they've "(ab)used Con Law."

      Maybe you have "understood" for a long time that "equal protection" banned racial discrimination. But then you understand a lot of things that aren't so. Yes, the modern interpretation of the 14th Amendment disallows most racial discrimination ("modern" here means dating from the late '30s), but not all. It's one thing to understand the law and have a reasoned opinion for Regents v Bakke and against Grutter v. Bollinger; it's entirely another thing -- a tribal thing, shall we say? -- to simply declare in your ignorance that "liberals" abuse the law.

      I'm not sure why you feel that Roe v Wade is apt at this point. That you don't understand how the right of privacy flows from the 14th Amendment doesn't mean that the legal reasoning behind the concept is "nonexistant [sic]" If you had any understanding of the legal issues involved, then I might credit your opinion the reasoning is mistaken. But you don't, and all you've got in place of understanding is a tribal reaction.

      Well played!