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The 411 Last Updated: Nov 19th, 2012 - 12:55:02


The Normalization of Hate
By Esther Iverem--SeeingBlack.com Editor
Sep 6, 2012, 11:11

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At protests, the Tea Party ramped up public racist language and acts.
When two attendees at the Republican National Convention pelted a Black female CNN camerawoman with peanuts, verbally assaulted her, telling her, “this is what we feed animals,” they exhibited more than disgusting behavior. Their actions reflected what is becoming a normalization of racist language and violence directed toward people of color and the complicity of news organizations in this normalization, by either ignoring or belittling the racial contours of such incidents, including the recent massacre of Sikhs by a White supremacist in Wisconsin. Of course, this cowardly act at the RNC reminds us of the Jim Crow-totalitarian underpinnings and pandering that is par for the course in increasingly right-wing Republican circles. In these circles, there seems to be an agreement that these incidents, including the crazy statement by Rep. Todd Akin about “legitimate rape,” are only problematic to the extent that they draw public scrutiny. The ideas or acts themselves are not the problem. Sometimes hateful offenders like Rush Limbaugh apologize for specific words or actions but never for their deep-seated and disturbing beliefs that remain unchanged.


It is actually telling that these men, described by camerawoman Patricia Carroll, as two, older white men—not exactly drunk frat boys—thought that it was perfectly acceptable to do what they did in full view of hundreds of attendees around them. Don’t sleep. We are living in an environment of these increasing micro- and macro-aggressions, including ramped up police killings. TV shows like “Cops” have conditioned the increasingly militarized U.S. population to see Black men in handcuffs. This ramped up order of violence is conditioning the population to accept the random and regular assault on Blacks, other people of color and, ultimately, White people as well. In reaction, we cannot do what so many at the RNC did: either be unconscious of it or ignore it. The attitudes dovetail with those who think that George Zimmerman was justified in stalking and killing Trayvon Martin, those who mock the suffering and murder of Black people and other people of color, be they here on American soil or—yes—on the far-flung fields of our battles where our country is guilty of the rape, torture and murder of innocent men, women and children. [In other countries, including Greece, Israel, Russia and England, Africans and other peple of color have been targeted for streets assaults, killings and random arrests.] Let’s face it, in the virtually lily-white confines of the Republican National Convention, where the desperate dog whistle of White nationalism was sounding more like foghorn, this incident is likely just the tip of the iceberg.


More than a week after the incident, we still don’t know the names of the two men. They weren’t charged with assault or harassment. We know that they were a part of the delegation from Alabama but we don’t know if they were official delegates. We don’t know if they were permanently expelled from the proceedings or, with their credentials, simply allowed to return after a time-out. Probably the latter. The matter was quickly shoved under the rug. CNN issued a three-line statement, saying that the matter was dealt with and that they would not have further comment. But, after drawing criticism for failing to mention the incident in its coverage, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer did mention it days later.


But why the silence? It’s true that it is an old-school journalism rule that reporters should avoid making themselves a part of the story but when a member of your news organization is assaulted, isn’t that news in such a racially charged election? If the few Black and progressive news outlets had not reported it, we wouldn’t even know about the incident. And I find this erasure of racial history, in a country already in denial about its racism, more dangerous than the cowardly act of these grown men. Some might consider the pelting and verbal assault of Carroll as a minor act, rather than a violation of physical, mental and emotional space. And while these acts of racist micro-aggression have always been with us, lots of people of color say that they have ramped up since the election of President Obama. Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglass revealed recently in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that she was bullied and taunted at her gym in Virginia Beach before deciding to leave to train in Iowa. Douglass said that in one incident a fellow gymnast in Virginia referred to Douglass as the group’s “slave.”


You know, there was a time in places like Alabama when Black women such as Carroll, who is a native of that state, could not walk down the street without being disrespected, harassed and sometimes assaulted by White men. Actually, it is from this Jim Crow world where ignorant and dangerous notions of “forcible rape” and “legitimate rape” originate. In this world, Black women were thwarted by corrupt police and courts in any effort to get justice. It is this world where these two White Supremacists at the Republican National Convention are stuck, enjoying what they felt was their full privilege to assault a Black woman. In response to their barrage of insults, Carroll reportedly turned to them and said, "What are you doing? Are you out of your damned mind?"

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