Spelling Bees and Poets Bring Out the Ugly
Let me start by quoting myself from my most recent substantive post: My Remarks at the City of Carmel’s Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony:
[I]t becomes our obligation to be sure that those sorts of bigotries, hatreds, and even simple mistrusts aren’t allowed to take root in our communities. Rather than denigrating people for how they look or dress, how they worship, or the music they choose to listen to, we should celebrate the differences we find around us. We must use those differences to make us and our communities stronger. And isn’t that really the core that has made America great for all of these years, anyway? E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.
So why am I quoting myself? Several related reasons, all of which occurred within close temporal proximity to one another, and which caused me to remember not just what I’d written previously, but brought to mind the core concept that I was talking about then and which I’ve focused on frequently on this blog.
First, over Memorial Day weekend, I received the following anonymous comment to my post More Stupid & Hate from the Right (posted last September):
You’re an utter moron and would never be able to engage in a debate on actual policies or supply hard data/demographic findings to prove any of your race baiting.
The commenter didn’t challenge any of the racism that I pointed out in that post, but described what I was writing as “race baiting”. Apparently, pointing out actual racist statements, including statements directed at the ethnicity of children and beauty pageant winners is “race baiting”. It’s yet another example of the Orwellian world in which racism doesn’t exist except for those who talk about racism (much like it’s apparently a form of discrimination to tell people that they shouldn’t discriminate).
Then, a few days later Maya Angelou died and, as you can probably guess, some on the right let their hate boil over. For example, here are some excerpts from Debbie Schlussel:
Once again, Billy Joel’s lyrics – “Only the Good Die Young” – are proven true, as Marguerite Ann Johnson a/k/a “Maya Angelou” dies at age 86. Angelou was America’s most overrated crappy writer, all because she was Black … and a far-leftist. Angelou was a racist, America-hater, Jew-hater, anti-Israel, a close friend of Malcolm X, and a strong supporter of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. No, she actually hadn’t a clue why the caged bird sings since she supported the caging and the cagers all the way to her grave.
I was one of the lucky American kids who was never forced to read this Friend of Oprah cretin’s god-awful “writing,” the most overrated dreck on paper. Sadly, high school and college students all over America are forced to wade through her written bath of dung because it’s chic among the brainless radicals who dominate American education at all levels. It’s absolutely unreadable. The ugly empress–inside and out–definitely wore no clothing. And you probably don’t know this: the overrated, talentless hack, Angelou, was a madam and a prostitute, and an America-hater who left the country to go live in Africa and didn’t intend to return. But she came back, according to the book, “Maya Angelou” by Vicki Cox and Miles Shapiro, only because her good friend, Malcolm X, implored her to return to America, so she could help him attack U.S. racism in the United Nations and help him build the Nation of Islam, which he claimed was the civil rights movement.
Can you name a single thing this leftist radical, Angelou, contributed other than hate (and very bad “poems”)? I cannot. And even though she made an appearance at every violent, far-left, radical cause’s events, ignorant conventional wisdom heaps praise on her as some sort of “peace activist.” She was no such thing. Angelou spoke at the racist, Jew-hating bigot Louis Farrakhan’s 1995 Million Man March and was a strong supporter of his Nation of Islam. Given this, it’s disgusting that, in 2001, Bill Clinton appointed Angelou to the board of the U.S. Holocaust Museum just before he left office, so there could be no firestorm or examination of her appointment.
Maya Angelou did nothing good for America – not in her Grade A Gitmo Torture Material “writing” and “poems,” not in her many pretentious speeches and pronouncements.
But she’s being lauded today by the many liberal morons across America who worship at the altars of yoga, gluten-free, Priuses, and ADHD.
They like their gods empty.
Maya Angelou is one of those IQ tests pop culture presents us with all the time. If you’re a fan of Angelou, you failed miserably.
I hope she packed light because it’s very hot where she’s headed.
Maya Angelou, Rot In Hell.
(Emphasis in original; internal links deleted.) Note, for the record, that I also have some problems with some of the positions that Angelou took and groups that she supported. But that doesn’t diminish her role in American society and culture or the love and affection many felt toward her. I have no idea whether the allegations that Schlussel makes are accurate. More importantly, just because she was opposed to things that I favor or vice versa, doesn’t make me hate her or feel the need to let loose with the sort of venomous diatribe that Schlussel offers. When someone dies, I rarely (if ever) feel the need to go on the attack to denigrate that person’s life. The sort of dancing on the grave exhibited by Schlussel represents the ugliest part of humanity and is, unfortunately, a part of humanity that we’ve seen all to often recently.
Anyway, there’s more of the hate directed at Angelou that you can find online if you’re so inclined. What you’ll find, should you step into that cesspool, is a frightening degree of hatred expressed toward Angelou because of her “leftist” views linked with allegations of her own racism. But as I read the hatred directed at her, I find it hard to believe that at least some of the scorn comes not just from her being a liberal or leftist, but because Angelou was a black woman who was proud of her heritage and ethnicity, wasn’t afraid to talk about it, wasn’t afraid to associate with other powerful and important figures in the African American community, and wasn’t afraid to use her voice and her words to advocate for change.
Finally, last week two Indian-American children were the winners of the annual Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee. And, unsurprisingly, the response to to the competition generally and their victory in particular was not always as supportive or congratulatory as we’d like to see. Here are a few of examples of the sorts of tweets posted in response to the Spelling Bee:
@CalePie: Nothing more American than a good spelling bee.. Oh wait all the Caucasians are eliminated
@GarciaJerr: Why are the people in the spelling bee foreign?
@yaboyzac_uoeno: The kids in the spelling bee should only be AMERICAN.
@cz3ck: One year I wish an American kid could win the spelling bee
@heasal87: Why are there no American kids left in the spelling bee? I’m ashamed of our kind. Parents – step it up
@the_best_uhl_c: wow that blows the spelling bee ends with a tie thats so friggin un-American no wonder the kids that won it are Indian
@lino_and_louie: No American sounding names who won the spelling B. #sad #fail
@ehorne92: Why can’t an American ever be in the final four of the #spellingbee
And a bonus tweet that I really don’t understand:
@Nimibrown: If you’re Indian I’m cool with you winning spelling bees but don’t mock my American heritage.
These tweets were compiled by the Jeff Chu (and there are more than what I’ve collected here).
Of course, these responses are eerily and frighteningly reminiscent of the responses to the 2013 America’s Got Talent winner (Asian), the winner of Miss America 2013 (Indian-American), and other instances in which a person of color stepped onto a national stage (as detailed in that September 2013 post More Stupid & Hate from the Right).
Stop and think for a minute what these sorts of comments say about our American “melting pot”. It seems to me that there remains a segment of our population that draws a distinction between “real Americans” and, well, those who aren’t “real Americans”. To gain the status of being a “real American” you have to be white (and probably Christian, too, though I suppose most Jews would be included). Do we really have classes of American-ness, based on skin color or ethnicity?
It seems to me that racism is largely on the decline in American, especially among our youth. But, at the same time, the rise of social media combined with the growing prevalence of people of color taking an active role in our society has given those who still harbor racist or nativist views a platform to express those views. Then, as people who share those views seek them come out into the open, it appears to be a sort of liberating phenomena that triggers yet more racism (or bigotry directed at gays or Muslims or other minority group).
When we hear people express notions that suggest that someone who comes from a non-White or non-European ethnic background is somehow less American (or not “really” American), we need to explain, firmly, that all Americans — regardless of color or religion or ethnic background — are Americans. You are no more and no less American than they are; they are no more and no less American than you. Though if you are one of these people who thinks that people of color are somehow less American, then perhaps it is you, who simply doesn’t understand what our country is and represents, whose “American-ness” should be questioned. But those children? The ones who stood on that stage and spelled words correctly? If they are American citizens (and I presume that they are…), then they are just as American as you are, notwithstanding that their skin isn’t white, they have “funny names”, or they come from families that appreciate hard work and diligent study, perhaps in lieu of football or basketball.
Racism is declining. I hope. But it isn’t gone. It’s up to each of us to fight against it whenever, wherever, and however we can. Simply saying “no” when confronted by a racist remark is often a good start. I’ll conclude by further quoting my remarks at the City of Carmel’s Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony, once again:
We need each of you, each member of your family, each member of your neighborhood and our community at large, to help us achieve the goal of a community that respects people for who they are, helping people to “just get along”. For if we learn to respect one another then “never again” should never become a concern here in our City.