Overt Racism In The Tea Party. And Beyond.

by tristero

We need to make this very clear: the self-styled "Tea Party" is white, elitist, and racist:
Demonstrators began gathering early Thursday for speeches at Freedom Plaza. Among them was Jerry Johnson, 58, a lawyer from Berryville, Va...

Johnson expressed opposition to Obama. "It's not just because he's black," he said. "I wish I could tell you that I loved this guy, that he was a great president, that I had faith in him. But I have none. Zero."

I'm sure Mr. Johnson will protest that he simply misspoke, totally unintentional. Uh huh. Lawyers are many things: inarticulate is not one of them. This is a a guy whose entire professional training - and let's not forget, he's way more educated than the average American - goes towards using words with an obsessive precision most of us can't even begin to approach.

But before we begin to think that teabaggers and only teabaggers are racists, here's one that I'll bet hardly anyone will notice. And yet it's just as ugly an expression of racism and bigotry as Jerry Johnson's: Author Simon Winchester writes about the Iceland volcano and compares it to the Krakatoa explosion of 1883:
The last time the world was so mightily affected in this way was in 1883, when a similarly tiny vent in the earth’s surface opened up on the island of Krakatoa, between Java and Sumatra, in what is now Indonesia. Some 40,000 people died because of that eruption — it was a much more fierce event, and in a much more populated place. But the clouds of dust that cascaded upward into the stratosphere affected the entire planet for the rest of the year on the same scale — except that the effects themselves were of a profoundly different kind.

Where Iceland’s volcano has set off a wave of high-technology panic, Java’s event set off something benign and really quite lovely: worldwide displays of light and color that reduced mankind to a state of stunned amazement. Where Iceland has caused shock, Java resulted in awe. And where Eyjafjalla’s ashes seem to have cost millions in lost business, Krakatoa’s dust left the world not just a remarkable legacy of unforgettable art but also spurred a vital discovery in atmospheric science.
There are many ways I would describe a volcanic eruption that killed 40,000 people, and I have a very vivid imagination, but this way? No, I can't imagine it. The level of bigoted callousness on display here is something I can't begin to conceive.

The most profound effects of the Krakatoa volcano on the entire planet were neither "benign" nor "lovely." They were horribly tragic. And while surely Krakatoa's eruption inspired awe, there is also no question that it sent hundreds of thousands of human beings into deep shock. As for the financial cost, Winchester's comparison assigns virtually no economic consequence to the deaths of 40,000 people and the destruction of their ecosystem.

This is jaw-droppingly blatant Eurocentrism. Winchester minimizes the significance of a dreadful tragedy in order to make specious comparisons with Eyjafjalla. Thus, Krakatoa's importance becomes its impact, not on the world, but only on the most refined aesthetic and intellectual palates in Europe. White Europe. This is racism.

Don't get me wrong. There are many ways to discuss the multifarious impacts of Krakatoa's eruption and my recollection of Winchester's book is that he did a pretty good job (he also got a few minor facts wrong, but that's another story). But this op-ed is simply disgusting. Unintentional? Well, possibly unconscious. Nevertheless, a professional writer, like a lawyer, has no excuse. It is an indication of how far Western culture has to go in order to understand what racism is that Winchester, not a stupid man, felt comfortable writing such self-centered trash, and that the New York Times apparently had no problems publishing it.

We'll see if they print any letters that notice this. I certainly hope so.