About four years ago I posted about the future Republicans don’t want, which is this one:Because nothing’s more upsetting to the 21st century’s conservatives than the idea of people Not Like Them existing unafraid.
But recent incidents make me think of the future Republicans do want, which looks a lot like the Jim Crow days. We have kids in Cincinnati posting White and Colored signs over school water fountains for a video. In Florida, some middle-schoolers made the letters of the n-word in art class, then held them up for a photo. Yes, they’re kids, and quite possibly they thought it was a funny joke, but when your jokes take that shape, you’re also telling a racist joke.
As Fred Clark points out, around the time he and I were born, jokes about blacks/Poles/Asians/Hispanics were perfectly acceptable, provided you weren’t the butt of the joke. And they can’t stand that “the racist jokes that ‘everybody’ used to laugh at can now get you in hot water.” They can’t stand being in hot water — they’re fine, respectable pillars of the community, how dare you say they’re racist? Never mind Goethe’s advice that “Nothing shows a man’s character more than what he laughs at.”
Of course shit like these kids pull isn’t just about the freedom to tell jokes. It’s about having the freedom to punch down at blacks (ditto gays, Latinos, women, trans, etc.) and not suffering any consequences for it. Letting them know you and your kind outrank them and their only option is to suck it up. That was the past; it’s not the present, as Republican David Perdue recently found out. They’d love it to be the future, somewhere like say, totalitarian Hungary. A dictatorship, so long as it’s on their side, will enable them to punch down forever; if it screws them over too, they can live with it.
Of course they’re still not at that point — and hopefully they never will be — so we get things like the shrieking lies about how liberals are spreading CRT everywhere and Typhoid Ron DeFascist pushing against any serious teaching about racism. Because racist parents want their kids to grow up racist; kids exposed to reality in schools might come to see racism is bad and that yes, society is unfair to POC. And that this should change.
Of course, it’s also politically advantageous to Republicans: they’re the party white supremacists vote for so even if they believed in equality it’s against their interest. Sen. Rick Scott pretend the solution is to just stop talking about race and “we ought to judge people by their character, not their skin color.” I agree — but of course, condemning Republicans as the party of white supremacy (as John Scalzi says, they’re not all white supremacists but they’re all accepting it) is judging them by their character. I don’t want to judge Scott for being white, but I’ll judge him for stealing from Medicare and proposing higher taxes on the poor.
Meanwhile we have primary-loser Madison Cawthorn contrasting Republican “gentile” politics with the globalist enemy — I always consider “globalist” a euphemism for Jews but it’s pretty clear here. And Georgia gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor thinks it was God’s will our ancestors committed genocide against Native Americans to claim the country for Christian immigrants (she also says any sheriff who refuses to obey her interpretation of the Constitution should be executed for treason).
A small part of me, watching the shit-show the Republicans have become, feels oddly optimistic. It’s quite obvious that the right wing’s bigotry, racism and misogyny haven’t budget since the 1950s. But for years they stayed relatively quiet because they didn’t like the blowback of being called out. They weren’t sure anyone had their back.
Trump changed that. His sexism, racism and misogyny have convinced them they’re on the right side, that now is the time to speak up and insult Muslims, women, gays, blacks, whoever. If we win in the coming years, that won’t change their minds but they will be more inclined to shut up and draw back from bullying.
That would be a good thing. And while there’s no certainty we’ll win, it’s not impossible, no matter how much they strut and gloat.
Keep fighting. It’s worth it.