Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

George Allen's troubling history of racism

Yesterday I wrote about Senator George Allen (Republican of Virginia) calling an opponent's campaign aide "macaca." Today I want to take readers deeper into Allen's troubled history on race and his longtime embrace of the Confederate flag.

Americablog reminds me of this great piece by one of the few writers at The New Republic whose writing I like, Ryan Lizza: George Allen's Race Problem. It talks about him driving around with a confederate flag on his car in high school, hanging up a Dixie flag when he was governor, and refusing to vote for Martin Luther King, Jr's holiday. Lizza wrote the article back in April, but it paints a picture of a man who can't escape his authentic self.

Some choice snippets:
Campaigning for governor in 1993, he admitted to prominently displaying a Confederate flag in his living room. He said it was part of a flag collection--and had been removed at the start of his gubernatorial bid. When it was learned that he kept a noose hanging on a ficus tree in his law office, he said it was part of a Western memorabilia collection . . . He issued a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month. The text celebrated Dixie's "four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." There was no mention of slavery. After some of the early flaps, a headline in The Washington Post read, "governor seen leading va. back in time."

. . .
In 1984, he was one of 27 House members to vote against a state holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "Allen said the state shouldn't honor a non-Virginian with his own holiday." He was also bothered by the fact that the proposed holiday would fall on the day set aside in Virginia to honor Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That same year, he did feel the urge to honor one of Virginia's own. He co-sponsored a resolution expressing "regret and sorrow upon the loss" of William Munford Tuck, a politician who opposed every piece of civil rights legislation while in Congress during the 1950s and 1960s and promised "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court's 1954 decision banning segregation.
It has a photo of Allen from a high school yearbook, and he's wearing a Confederate flag pin on his lapel. Allen tries to play like he's one of the good ole boys from the South but in reality he went to high school in California.

In high school, Allen's "Hee Haw" persona made him a polarizing figure. "He rode a little red Mustang around with a Confederate flag plate on the front," says Patrick Campbell, an old classmate, who now works for the Public Works Department in Manhattan Beach, California. "I mean, it was absurd-looking in our neighborhood."

. . .
It was the night before a major basketball game with Morningside High. The mostly black inner-city school adjacent to Watts was coming to the almost entirely white Palos Verdes High to play. When students arrived at school on game day, they found graffiti spray-painted on the school library and other places. All five people who described the incident say the graffiti was racially tinged and meant to look like the handiwork of the black Morningside students. But it was actually put there by Allen and some of his friends. "It was something like die whitey," says Campbell. The school administrator, who says he is a Republican and would "seriously consider" voting for Allen for president, says the graffiti said, "burn, baby, burn," a reference to the race riots.
Thus it should come as no surprise that he felt the need to racially taunt a 20 year old college student with the epithet of "macaca" (which can also mean the n-word) in front of an all-white audience in his beloved, non-native South. I guess that's what is also probelmatic about the whole thing to me -- Allen, a California transplant to Virginia, is telling someone who was born in Virginia, grew up there, and went through the public school system: "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." It's just another example of how people believe Asian Americans to be perpetual foreigners, although this time it's not the simplistic and naive, "Where are you from? Where are you really from?" routine but rather demonstrates a darker "mean streak" as even Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review has commented.

Here's the newest WashPost article on the Allen gaffe with a picture of SR Sidarth.


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