Every time an Islamic terrorist attack happens, the chorus of voices begins: “This doesn’t represent all of Islam.” “Why don’t more Muslims denounce these people?” “How many attacks does it take before they’re willing to do something about it?”
Well, we should know that terrorist attacks don’t represent all Muslims because the victims are usually other Muslims (80% of those killed in Islamic terror attacks are also Muslims). My gut feeling of why more Muslims don’t denounce Islamic terror–assuming they don’t–is because they’re living in countries where they might be in danger, unlike the relatively risk-free Twitter-sphere of America. But the last question of “what does it take?” is one that many Americans may now have to ask themselves about our own right wing.
It’s true that the man at the very top of it—don’t want to name names, but it rhymes with Tonald Drump—is a not-so-closeted bigot that seems singularly obsessed with tearing down his black predecessor’s legacy. And although Trump may remind me of a C-student, Ivy League legacy obsessed with all the “unfairness” of Affirmative Action that allows a single black student into his fraternity, we also have to admit that this problem didn’t really start with him. He took advantage of it, but the rightwing had been going nuts as early as the Clinton, and possibly even LBJ administration.
The Paul Ryans of the party can “denounce” Charlottesville racist protesters all they want, but the disconnect between their “shock” at racist rallies and their policy platform of dismantling “inner-city” programs that “welfare bums” take advantage of is the thing that’s really shocking. How can Ryan say—as he has said—that “generations of inner-city men have forgotten how to work” and then be surprised that a big part of the Republican base thinks black men were better off as slaves (as polls have indicated)? The problem is Trump, but it is also a party that would choose Trump as their standard-bearer (against 16 other candidates) in the first place, and a generation of “Alt-Right” militia-men that sprang up with Clinton and really went nuts when Obama entered The White House.
But I bring up Clinton’s name because it’s important to remember that a lot of these same people really hated his guts before Obama’s and then, of course, his wife Hillary’s more recently. Even though a big swath of the liberal base sees Clinton as a “Good ‘Ole Boy” bigot, it’s actual paramount to understand how wrong they are, and that actual bigots really hated Bill’s guts when he was in The White House. It’s easy now for a generation of millennials to say things like “the only thing Clinton did for black people is play sax on Arsenio Hall,” and they may really feel that way, but it’s important to remember a Southern Democratic Party that produced LBJ, Jimmy Carter, Clinton, and Al Gore, who Dixiecrats loathed and did not chose over the carpet-bagging son of a former President. [The last of the Dixiecrats like Zell Miller or Rick Perry even changed parties during the late Clinton/early-Bush period.]
As someone who’s lived in a few non-Southern cities over the last 6 or 7 years, I can’t tell you how terrible the South’s reputation is outside the region, and the smug, macabre delight a place like Minnesota (actually much more racist than Alabama, not kidding at all) takes whenever a Southern state is in the news for KKK rallies or whatever. Nevermind that they might have just had one last week, “the South is racist, damnit! We aren’t the problem, they are!” The media’s equal glee in reporting these stories often forgets to mention that police shootings from Minneapolis to Ferguson, Missouri or poisoning the water in Flint, Michigan aren’t Southern stories, and it’s always struck me as bizarre the way New Yorkers try to pretend Trump isn’t one of them. He’s about as New York as it gets, but it’s usually “Yeah, but he’s really from Queens” as if that’s some lost colony of Mississippi or something, and what part of the South are Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter from again? Oh yeah, New York, but maybe their birth certificates are forgeries fabricated in a neo-Confederate lab somewhere in the nefarious foothills of Bumblefuck.
The truth about Trump is he’s a sincere racist, but insincere working-man, a carpetbagger of the first degree, and Southern people that think he cares about them are getting bamboozled. And even though a lot of people may think it callous and openly question “Why on Earth would you care about the South’s reputation at a time like this?” they don’t usually ask that question when people immediately begin defending Islam after a terrorist attack.
And I understand why Muslims are a bit defensive, I really do. The image they’re seeing projected of their culture, their people, the communities they’ve spent a lifetime building are of a dangerous, ignorant people hellbent on destruction because of hysterical, zealot-minded stupidity. You may think I’m reaching, but portraying Southern people that way has been one of the left’s biggest blindspots. That’s why it’s important to say I denounce the white nationalists causing chaos in Charlottesville and it truly doesn’t represent all of us.