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Roger Gitlin: Does criticism mean that I am a racist?

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Posted: July 24, 2010 5:33 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 


Last week, I received an e-mail after a Signal column I wrote, titled “Lamenting a ‘stupid’ county decision” (June 6).

My column focused on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voting to condemn Arizona on its passage of Senate Bill 1070, a law under federal challenge which supports American immigration law 1324.

Normally, I disregard those who name-call me. When someone calls me a name for expressing an opinion, that person automatically loses credibility and the argument. In this case, I responded to the e-mail writer and asked why he would call me a racist just for expressing my opinion on securing our border with Mexico. Emotion took over, and he growled back, “because you (sic) just an old racist and a bigot and we will win.” Again, no discussion, just raw rhetoric — baseless and condemning.

It just amazes me how that word “racist” is bandied about. When I was growing up, racists were men like George Lincoln Rockwell of the American Nazi Party and Robert Shelton of the Ku Klux Klan. Today, the parameters of the word “racist” have really expanded to label as being a racist anyone who might disagree with the direction the country is going.

Earlier this year, open borders advocate Robert Gittleson of the Full Rights for Immigration Coalition called Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar a racist for remarks he delivered concerning one flag, the American flag, and one language, the English language. Kellar delivered those remarks at a January rally opposing illegal immigration. The following week, Gittleson and about 30 of his supporters drove up from Los Angeles and delivered scathing remarks about Kellar, the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen and myself, during the open forum section of the City Council meeting. The “racist” moniker was used many times.

Earlier this month, the NAACP labeled the tea party as racists.

The tea party believes in smaller government, balanced budgets and government of the people, by the people and for the people. The tea party believes in allegiance to the American flag and the English language. The tea party I subscribe to believes in no race or gender bias.

Left-wing ideologue Keith Olbermann has also called members of the tea party racists.

Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s aide, Andrea Batista-Schlesinger, called Sarah Palin a racist. The former vice-presidential candidate voiced her opposition to the erection of a mosque at Ground Zero, the World Trade Center.

How does expressing an opinion different than yours make me a racist?

Last week I was listening to conservative talk-show host Michael Gallagher talk about the cavalier use of the word “racist.” He referred to two members of Congress, Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. Both representatives are black.

Both made some arguably imbecilic statements that really raised the eyebrows of Americans. So Gallagher conducted a little experiment on air. He related the gaffes of each and wondered aloud how long it would be until he received his first phone call labeling him a racist. It took a matter of seconds before the phones staring ringing and the charge of, “Gallagher, you’re a racist,” popped its ugly head.

Here are the details on the “faux pas” made by Johnson and Jackson Lee:  
Johnson, 54, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was questioning Admiral Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, about the stationing of 5,000 additional troops on the small island of Guam. Johnson was questioning the admiral about the physical size of Guam, noting the dimension of 30 miles long and 12 miles wide. Incredibly, Johnson expressed his concern that the addition of so many troops might tip over the island. The admiral, straight-faced and without hesitation, politely dismissed the congressman’s concern by stating he did not feel that would happen.

Hasn’t Johnson ever heard of plate tectonics? Does he not know the Earth has a crust which measures anywhere from 5 to 40 miles thick, and that crust is attached to the Earth’s mantle? Later that day, the congressman, instead of admitting his ignorance on geology, made a lame statement telling the press he was simply using Guam as a metaphor. But any criticism of the congressman is considered racist. Can’t you call a public official making $174,000 a year which we taxpayers spend, just plain stupid without being pelted by “racist” stones?

Jackson Lee is no different. The Democrat from Texas’ 18th District, representing much of Houston since 1995, is a political-science graduate from Yale and a University of Virginia Law School graduate, and made some questionable statements during her term in Congress.

In 2005, Jackson Lee, 60, paid a visit to JPL in Pasadena and asked if the Mars Pathfinder had taken an image of the flag planted there in 1969 by Neil Armstrong. Apparently she was unaware Armstrong traveled to the Moon, not Mars. NASA derives its funds from Congress, so it must walk a narrow line of politeness even in the face of outrageous ignorant statements by the likes of Jackson Lee.

Recently, she stated: “Victory has been ‘achieved’ by the United States in Vietnam. ... Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, north and south, exchanging and working. We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace,” I am certain Hanoi is aware there are not two Vietnams. Last time I looked at the map, there was one Vietnam in the aftermath of that country’s civil war, which officially ended in 1975.

Such telling ignorance is frightening. Sheila Jackson Lee controls purse strings as a member of Congress. If anyone dares to criticize her, that person would be called a racist.

If I point out these idiotic statements made by these politicians to you, does that make me a racist?

I contend the more the ideologues on the left spew the word “racist” about, the less impact that word will have. The public knows this. It’s strange there are many in my community who think I am akin to George Lincoln Rockwell or Robert Shelton, simply for asking our country to secure its border, stop spending money this government does not have and reject massive government incursion into my personal life. In the minds of some, that makes me a racist.

That’s really bizarre.

Roger Gitlin is a teacher, founder of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen and state director of the Patriot’s Coalition. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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