I’ve been lamenting the lack of substantive news lately – I feel like we’re being fed a steady diet of stale Cheetos and aspartame-laden soda, between the “controversy” over Lance Armstrong’s doping admission, Manti Te’o's non-existent dead girlfriend, and such. So I had some qualms about posting this – it isn’t really newsworthy at all. But look, it’s Friday, and substantive isn’t usually the rule on Friday.
So, here’s what we’re talking about – “The Week” story about GOP leaders holding a panel discussion on communicating with women and minorities in a location named for a slave plantation.
We’re supposed to be shocked, appalled, and generally disgusted by this. Or possibly bemused. Silly old white GOP men, do they not understand the problem here! I’m kind of surprised that there isn’t a call in the story for the room’s name to be changed. Regardless, the point is that Republicans are clearly so out of step with the nation that they can’t even grasp the deep irony of holding a conversation about communicating with minorities in a room named after a slaveholding family’s plantation.
I’m among those who have a bit of a face-palming reaction to this, because seriously? P.R. 101, I would think. Not that politicos listen to the P.R. people very often, certainly not on things like meetings and where they’re being held. And perception is reality, not just in politics but in our culture as a whole. This sends a signal that the GOP is a bit tone-deaf, even now.
At the same time, if you’re truly outraged by this, if you honestly believe this is a sign of latent racism in the GOP, you’re deluded.
First and foremost – a great many things in our country are named after slaveholders. After people who committed atrocities to Native Americans. After people who held deeply sexist and racist views and often acted on them. We’ll start with Washington, D.C. – a city named for our first president, yes, who you might have forgotten was a slaveholder. Like a good many men of means in the 18th century. There are state capitols named for slaveholders (or have you forgotten Jefferson City, Missouri?). There’s a political party in the United States that, once upon a time, prided itself on it’s pro-slavery platform – and up until the mid-twentieth century, prided itself still further on the principles of segregation, Jim Crow, and more. That’s really just for starters, because folks, in case you’ve forgotten literally everything you were taught in history class growing up, this is a nation built by men and women who were flawed, complicated human beings. People with faults can become great and do important things, too.
Secondly, I’m more than a bit disgusted by the faux-outrage that this “story” is generating from the left, and really tired of the folks on the right who don’t call out their opposite numbers for their idiocy (and yes, hypocrisy).
I don’t think I really have much more to say on this. The GOP leadership could have been more self-aware in their efforts, and the left could be less inclined to hyperbolize their indignation over it. Mostly, we could be more accepting, as a nation, of our past, and recognize that it hasn’t been all sunshine-singalong-happytimes, but has often been full of controversy and contradiction – and we shouldn’t get hung up on it, for any reason.
(H/T Naked D.C.)