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Gil Mertz: Hollow racism claims cloud political discourse

Posted: May 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Emotionally charged accusations such as “racist” or “homophobe” are specifically designed to be debate-stoppers.

When a political opponent is losing an argument based on the facts, he or she resorts to mindless and baseless name-calling to stop the debate or change the subject.

It often rears its ugly head whenever people try to engage in a civil discussion on President Barack Obama’s policies or anything remotely associated with sexual orientation. Because it is so difficult to defend these positions, many opponents always go for the debate-stopper method.

Last week, David Gregory of “Meet the Press” raised the issue of racism with 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Gingrich claimed Obama was the “food stamp” president because food stamp usage had grown so dramatically since he has been president.

It is fair to argue the numbers and, in defense of the president, much of this growth can reasonably be linked to the devastating economy he inherited. But why would Gregory suggest this is a racist remark?

Any reasonable observer can conclude that “Meet the Press” has long been “Church for Democrats” on Sunday mornings, and David Gregory has proved to be a useful idiot to advance Democratic ideology and candidates. Rather than build a case centered on facts, Gregory sheepishly asked the question that “some people are saying your comments are based in racism.”

Really? Who are the “some people” saying that? What is their proof?

But that isn’t the point. The point is to drop the racism bomb to demonize your political opponent.

Last month, political activist and commentator Tavis Smiley said the 2012 presidential race is “going to be the ugliest, the nastiest, the most divisive and the most racist in the history of this republic.” He is a former host for BET, which stands for Black Entertainment Television, and hosts an annual “State of the Black Union.”

Could you imagine the outrage if there were a White Entertainment Television network or a “State of the White Union”?

Rather than prepare to debate the issues, he is already getting his followers worked up that the upcoming presidential campaign will be the most racist in history, while indulging in the very racism he condemns.

During the recent union protests in Wisconsin, the media looked away at signs of Republican Governor Scott Walker made to look like Hitler and turned a deaf ear to hateful and inflammatory shouts from the crowd. MSNBC’s Chris O’Donnell instead chose to report on the charge that Obama was following his union bosses, which O’Donnell likened to a slave
referring to his master as “boss”. Even his liberal guest looked taken aback to the absurd racist leap O’Donnell was trying to make, but then jumped on board and agreed that was indeed racist.

Last year, during a large gathering of the Tea Party in Washington, D.C., members of the Black Caucus claimed that people shouted racial names at them as they were passing, and one claimed he was spit upon by a member of the Tea Party.

There were hundreds of news affiliates filming every minute of this rally desperately looking for any evidence to defame the Tea Party. This incident would have been their golden moment, but it was never caught on film by anyone. There was no substantiating evidence to these claims, and yet the media ran with the story any way.

No one believes racism has ceased. There will always be a small element of our nation committed to ignorance and bigotry, but, thankfully, it is becoming more of an outrage in this country.

The N-word has now become a curse word in our vocabulary. And though I have some serious misgivings about the political tactics and policies of this administration, I’m very proud that America has elected its first black president. 

Because of our growth as a nation in this area, racism has become an extremely serious charge that demands evidence. It should never be used as a debate-stopper when discussing the serious issues and policies that affect all of our lives.

In the coming election cycle, we should have the freedom and intelligence to debate the direction of our country, health care, jobs, the economy, our national debt and foreign affairs based on the merits of the facts. If Obama supporters cannot defend these issues based on his record, they have totally lost the argument when they defer to his race.

We all deserve better.

Gil Mertz is a resident of Santa Clarita.


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