Apathy v. Racism

What follows is, more or less, a comment I posted on the now-epic Tea Party and Race post.  I am turning it into a separate post (1) because I think it is a conundrum worth exploring and (2) that comment section may be a bit unwieldy at this point.

…As for the federal Civil Rights Act and expressions of malcontent with said Act… well, my opinion is that intent only matters to a certain degree – at some point you have to address results. In other words, one can philosophize all day long about the nobles ideas behind one’s opinion, but noble ideas don’t trump results.

So, if the ‘noble idea’ that you are espousing is no federal governmental intrusion, but a lack/repeal of federal gov’t intrusion would result in some state’s infringing upon the basic federal rights of some of the citizens, you don’t get a [total] pass [on the actual results of the implication of said idea]. This kind of ‘let them eat cake’ mentality simply doesn’t work in reality.

It’s all well and good to say that people should not shit on each other; but I think we all have to agree (or maybe just those of us in certain areas) that *if* the federal government were not “intruding,” our kind would not be welcome. And by “our kind” I mean whatever particular group/belief/etc that is pilloried for simply trying to exercise the same rights as everyone else.

And don’t get me wrong – I still hold a serious thing for Libertarianism. We were very close for a long time, and even though we have parted ways, I would like to think that we are still friends. I just realized that it wasn’t me; it was everyone else. As I moved through education and from the service industry to the professional industry, I realized that but for federal protection of federal rights, those rights would be utterly meaningless.

And if we allowed a “patchwork” approach on nationwide interests like public education, we would only see the poor states get poorer and less educated while the rich got richer. And we would not be a Union in any sense of the word because we would self-segregate faster than you can say the Pledge of Allegiance.

… I should make it clear that I do not think [a person is] a racist; I don’t think [their] position is racist, and I don’t think [their] statements can be interpreted as racist [simply because they are advocating a stance that the Federal Gov’t has no business enacting legislation regarding civil rights].

I think there is a space between racists and people actively advocating for equality, though. And while I don’t believe in a my way or the highway/you agree with me or you are a racist approach, I *do* believe that people in the middle should be aware that sometimes their stance encourages and supports a status quo that is not equal for all people. Again, this doesn’t mean that they are racist, but it may mean that something they support – for whatever reason – will likely have a disparate/unfair impact on people who are already generally in a weaker bargaining position.

If I Would Have Known You Were Coming, I Wouldn't Have Eaten the Whole Damn Cake.


  1. Salvador Dalai Llama said,

    May 23, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Martin Luther King, Jr. said in Letter from Birmingham Jail that his biggest problem wasn’t the racists, it was the white moderates. This was precisely because they served to support the status quo which was, effectively, racist.

  2. jake said,

    May 23, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    I can’t imagine and red-blooded American today would argue against the Federal Government enacting and enforcing legislation regarding civil rights for example the Bill of Rights and making sure those rights apply to people of all races and sexes equally.

    However I do think it is fair game to debate the sphere in which Federal Government can enforce those rights. I think the First Amendment is a classic example where the extreme forms of racism and sexism are protected, at least in our mental environment.

    For example the KKK types have the right to assemble and publicly express their views. But I would -never- advocate any legislation limiting their First Amendment Rights even though I would prefer for my children never be exposed to their ideology.

    The fact of the matter is that even with Federal protection people who align themselves with the KKK are becoming progressively marginalized by American society and the common sense of morality. And, 45 years after Jim Crow, a predominantly white electorate has elected a black president because he was the best candidate, based only on his merits and without any regard to the EEOC.

    Therefore, Federal government intervention in the private sphere is not mandatory for the progression of the United States toward a more egalitarian society. And I personally do believe that people in putting America’s first principles first, should not necessarily be labeled apathetic toward racism or sexism.

  3. JJ said,

    May 24, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Private sphere?
    Let’s compare and contrast my daughter’s rights and responsibilities hoping to enjoy one of our state’s white-sugar (public) beaches this weekend, maybe with a seafood dinner later, with BP and its “private” partners destroying that beach and possibly the world’s ecosystem, for profit. Which one would Paul at al define as the “private sphere” being impermissably intruded upon by the other?

    Hardcore libertarian philosophers would have a better argument if they were defending the rights of individual business execs in the true private sphere where all us individual citizens have equal rights and responsibilities to each other, such as choosing schools and jobs and life partners and businesses to patronize, free to dress and speak and spend or not in the truly private sphere.

    The latest weird part is Sarah Palin over the weekend (and Joe Scarborough this morning on my tv) suddenly calling for government martial law to seize control of this anti-life disaster “private” business has wrought. Huh?? Well, I guess they aren’t really libertarians or tea-partiers; they just play them on tv.

  4. NanceConfer said,

    May 24, 2010 at 8:10 am

    There’s a huge gap in logic right before that “therefore.”

    Consider President Obama’s chances of reaching the position to run for President without any enforcement of equal rights legislation during his journey. Extremely slim or none?

    Agreeing as citizens to have a government that enforces the ideals we are evolving toward does not mean we stop evolving. We can have both.

  5. JJ said,

    May 24, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Ahem, just noticed my last paragraph inadvertently brings two “exceptions to the rule” together, both exceptions even to the applicable rule-and-exception mnemonic. English is so interesting.

  6. NanceConfer said,

    May 24, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I thought I saw SP (and was it Rush?) advocating for government takeover of a private company. But that didn’t make sense. I went back to watching Lost. Which I have never watched before last night and, boy, am I glad. 🙂

    But this failure of a private corporation and the federal government to adequately regulate the corporation, should be solved by the federal government taking over the corporation? I’ve seen this idea on DailyKos — and thought it sounded dandy — but from Sarah? Shocking! 🙂

  7. southern female lawyer said,

    May 24, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Jake – I think the election of Obama was only possible because of federal action. I don’t call it “intervention” in cases where the federal government is forced to step in to protect its citizens’ fed const rights because the states are refusing to do so. Or a “private” entity, which chooses to do business in the US and is therefore subject to all of its laws and regulations, but would prefer to ignore those rights.

    Insofar as what constitutes America’s “first” principles, I would politely suggest that most historical documentation would support my position – which is that “federalism” was a reaction and not a cause. In other words, the notion of federalism arose as an objection to forming the union, not as a reason for forming it.

    In the beginning, we were a collection of would-be sovereign, self-defined states is united by oppression. They all wish to throw off the suppression and form their own union. This is really the only thing they agree on 100%. Well, that and that some/all of us (another key point of contention) have certain rights that cannot be trammeled by any government, including one of their own making. Distrust of a powerful federal government was the natural fear of the minority states when it was clear that there were many fundamental issues on which ALL states did not agree.

    In other words, federalism was born of a distrust of majority control. It certainly became one of the most discussed issues when penning the Constitution, but to me it has always seemed more a concession than a core unifying belief. Under the same logic, one could say that certain states only agreed to sign up and uphold the core beliefs (liberty, etc) so long as the rest of the states agreed that the states had to retain some autonomy.

    So, back to today… Jake, “apathy” was the most neutral sounding word I could come up with. I get where you are coming from, but it really does depend on priority. I think honestly would compel one to agree that one is putting other things first and cares less about race and gender inequality than one does about other things. And certainly if it is okay to believe that there are ideals more important than individual access to civil rights (and it is okay to believe this), then it is okay to be up front about what this means.

    In my opinion, civil rights are the most fundamental issue and that all other things must be predicated on this issue. And I am concerned with the actual reality of civil rights on a tangible and individual level. In other words, to me our BOR rights are meaningless unless every citizen has meaningful access to the exercise of those rights.

    If your priorities are not the same, that does not mean that you do not care about equality issues. And I think it clear that one can oppose federal protection/enforcement of laws/rights that would advance equality issues without being a racist. I just don’t think that one can do so without being honest about the impact of that opposition. So yes, perhaps “apathy” is not the best term as one does not necessarily not care about civil rights so much as one cares less.

  8. May 24, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I just wrote a blog post about the realities of racism in my state, the implications of a lack of federal regulation prohibiting discrimination and that Rand Paul is a nutbag. He has no concept of what his theories actually would mean if implemented as policy. Like most of the teabaggers, he’s all “oh nos! government intervention bad!” except when it suits his own agenda. And now Ron Paul and Sarah Palin are trying to say his comments were a result of “gotcha” journalism. Considering he’s given the same libertarian diatribe during three separate interviews, I hardly think it was a trick question that he just got confused and answered wrong. (Also, Sarah Palin is a stupid cow who thinks “What newspapers do you read?” is a trick question.) Regardless, it’s more likely to help him, not hurt him, in November.

    Re. teabaggers and racism: I disagree that teabaggers are a “racist group” per se. But I also disagree that this is a group composed of both Republicans and Democrats, simply disenchanted with both parties and angry about high taxation. This is a group that wants extremely conservative candidates elected to office, and are overwhelmingly social conservatives. I have many fiscally conservative, socially progressive Republican colleagues who find Rand Paul and the teabaggers repulsive, and who are subsequently backing Democratic candidates.

  9. JJ said,

    May 24, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Paul not only blames the media for giving him a national platform but HuffPo reports but he gave a local interview Friday in which he used the word “torture” for what Rachel Maddow did by interviewing him, never mind waterboarding or Abu Ghraib.

  10. NanceConfer said,

    May 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Well, this is very ranty but if the connection to Stormfront is real. . .


  11. May 24, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    The very best thing I read about the Rand Paul/Civil Rights Act brouhaha was this post at Swash Zone.

    I recommend everyone read it.

  12. southern female lawyer said,

    May 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I enjoyed DWAFM’s (a Kentuckian) take on Rand Paul.

    Proto Atty – Rand Paul is NOT a real libertarian. And if he can’t take the heat, he needs to get the hell out of the kitchen. These people are politicians for crying out loud, not disaster survivers.

    SoBe and Nance, I am off to scope your links…

  13. southern female lawyer said,

    May 24, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    SoBe – the Swash Zone post was fantastic. Have reposted all over the interwebs thanks for sharing.

  14. JJ said,

    May 24, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    No kidding, I’ll help spread it around too . . .

  15. NanceConfer said,

    May 25, 2010 at 5:27 am

    I am bookmarking Squash Zone based solely on their comment policy. Off to read there now. 🙂

  16. Kristina said,

    May 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Okay, so I am way behind. That’s not surprising, since I’ve been exhibiting an amazing amount of apathy toward anything political lately. At any rate, since I sort of started this, I’ll weigh in. 🙂

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I think that the Civil Rights Act upholds the ideas of the Declaration of Independence, and in that vein, is the province of the federal government. Also, after much consideration of this, I believe that while the idea of being able to deny someone something based on individual rights is interesting, it is flawed. The reason I believe it is flawed is because it encroaches on others’ rights. You cannot have a ‘right’ that encroaches on another person’s rights. At that point, it becomes a privilege, in so far as discussing rights as they are laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

    So, while I think that people (myself included) are/were lured by the idea of individual rights into thinking that the federal government has gone too far in restricting citizens, I believe that if they think about it in the vein of the “original” rights, they’ll/I’ll think about it a little different.

    Thank you for giving me a place to think through things. My way of thinking usually involves much talking. 😉

    As far as disparate states and education… I view education a wee bit differently now than I did 15 years ago. Then, I thought the fact that all the schools in Germany were learning the same things at the same time was great. Now, I know that all children learn at different speeds, and having a universal curriculum will not solve our problems. Instead, they need to modify the school system to accommodate the children. Unfortunately, in a society where equality means getting the exact same thing at the exact same time, rather than equality of opportunity (in this case the opportunity to learn to the best of your ability), we will not see that any time soon.

  17. southern female lawyer said,

    June 1, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Kristina – I keep telling myself I need a political moratorium. I think it would be good for my inner peace. Regarding individual rights, I always trot out my favorite truism: ‘My right to swing my fist ends at your nose.’

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t give us a whole lot of insight when it comes to taxation.

    And on education, I am right there with you. I am thinking about seeing if I can get Nance and JJ to educate my kids. I do think, though, that if education were given the same reverence and money as the military, we could actually create and fund programs that work for most kids. Imagine what we could do with different standards for educators, better student-to-teacher ratios, etc.

  18. JJ said,

    June 1, 2010 at 10:24 am

    My folks were all (conservative) military and school professionals, way back on both sides of the family. So I’ve done a LOT of thinking about all this over time. It’s how we think that we need to be studying and improving, or the rest is hopeless no matter “what” we think.

    The military literally is fists and noses. The Gaza Crisis is only the newest manifestation of fundamentalist world view clash.

    “Paul’s statement does reveal the disconnect that exists whenever an individual is strictly beholden to an ideology; there will inevitably
    come a point where that philosophy is unable to confront reality.

    Paul is not the only one guilty of committing this infraction; it is
    commonplace in America’s public discourse, in particular in politics and
    religion. In our public discourse, fundamentalism represents a fool’s gold that unrealistically offers conformity in a world that is unpredictable and

    Need I make explicit the link to what we might call “education
    fundamentalism” — required curriculum, classrooms, grades, political lay boards, standardized testing and textbooks, dress codes, so many forms of
    institutional control so dysfunctional yet so hard to challenge or change?

    Both the military and the schools are public, taxpayer-funded “provide for the common defense” institutions. Not meant to build or reward (tolerate?) creative individuals! They both are weighted like loaded dice toward hidebound, authoritarian, absolutist, rulebook-revering, forced choice, no-compromise, black-or-white, traditionalist form over function.

    The State can be destructively fundamentalist even apart from theocracy, and imo it usually is.

    Which oddly is what libertarianism is most right about, and likely why thinkers like us are drawn to it — even as it’s blindly wrong about its own equally fundamentalist approach to a different ideology.. 😉

    People can only see fundamentalist problems when it’s not THEIR fundamentalism being challenged as unrealistic and unsustainable.

    It is in the best interest of our shared security to invest more in eradicating extreme poverty [and hunger] and oppression through development efforts.
    . . . It is a greater challenge than any we have faced militarily. And it is our greatest security threat, as well. The World Bank estimates that one in five people on the planet live in extreme poverty. To paraphrase and extend the idea expressed by President Obama, we need a new ‘army’ of many, including especially development experts and agencies prepared to work in partnership across sectors.

    Of course, the American military has already retooled to some degree to
    more frequently provide humanitarian assistance instead of simply
    military engagement. However, a more radical realignment of our
    resources will be necessary to attack our real enemies: poverty and
    oppression. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist movements would simply not be
    as successful in espousing their violent and separatist ideologies if
    our world were not so rife with angry, disaffected, and unemployed young
    people vulnerable to persuasion of joining their ranks.

  19. JJ said,

    June 1, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Military quote above is from the Rev. Donald Heckman.

  20. JJ said,

    June 1, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Btw Nance and I are in the state that killed a fourteen-year-old boy in a government-funded militarized boot camp, in the name of education. We are in the state where the governor conspired and almost followed through on his plot to have the public department of children and families kidnap a private individual, to force medical intervention of her in the name of his own religion . . .we’ve been there, done that and bought the t-shirt.

  21. Nance Confer said,

    June 1, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    SFL — Your kids can educate themselves if you give them the chance, the supplies, the support, the rides, the computers, the everything that you possibly can, slathered with love, and, mostly, the time. Have fun! 🙂

  22. JJ said,

    June 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Guess Rand Paul really does speak for the TPM! New poll results say three-quarters of true tea-partiers don’t think government should protect rights of people not like them:

    The latest data on the Tea Party reveals that the anger coming from the movement isn’t unilaterally directed at government spending — one of the group’s core issues.

    According to University of Washington professor Matt Barreto, who directed the poll, the Tea Party’s frustration with Washington “is going hand in hand with a frustration and opposition to racial and ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians.

  23. mike w. said,

    June 4, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I am thinking about seeing if I can get Nance and JJ to educate my kids.

    Good lord I hope you’re not serious. They’d be better off in public school.

  24. mike w. said,

    June 4, 2010 at 9:37 am

    New poll results say three-quarters of true tea-partiers don’t think government should protect rights of people not like them.

    So I guess that means they’re just like Liberals.

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