Friday, January 11, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #90 - Part 2

Outrage of the Week: the persistence of bigotry

Taco Cid, a Mexican restaurant in west Columbia, South Carolina, has serving up tacos with a side of racism.

In case you can't make it out, the t-shirt reads "How to catch an illegal immigrant" above a drawing of an old-fashioned box trap baited with tacos. And just in case the meaning isn’t clear enough, the letters are colored white, red, and green - the colors of the flag of Mexico.

Not only do employees wear the t-shirt, it's also for sale to patrons.

We like to tell ourselves that racism, that various forms of bigotry, are in the past, that we are a "post-racial" society. The election of Barack Obama was supposed to have proved that. Instead, it only served to point up how far we have to go. Or have you forgotten this:

And this:

And this.

Oh, but wait - no! There's nothing racist about that. In fact, there's a guy in NJ who will tell you that. He used the picture in a Halloween display at his store attacking the health law while insisting it was just a "personal, political statement" and "This has absolutely nothing to do with race."

Of course it doesn't. And a hot day in July has nothing to do with the Sun.

He claimed that those in the community who objected to it were trying to run him out of town, which is always the logic of the bigots, where they have the freedom of speech to say what they want but you don't have the freedom of speech to object - because if you do, then they are the victims whose rights are being trampled.

Yeah, and I suppose the image to the right here was just another case of freedom of speech to which no one could object. Oh, had you forgotten Travon Martin? Maybe the image of the gun targets that were sold in the wake of his murder will help remind you.

Get back to restaurants for a second. Unfortunately, racism is a common ingredient at some. Last spring researchers at North Carolina State University released the results of a study of servers in chain restaurants in the state. It revealed that more than one-third of restaurant servers - in fact, nearly 40% - admitted to discriminating against African-American customers and giving them poorer service at least some of the time and over half reported having seen co-workers do so. What's more, nearly 90% reported either participating in or witnessing racially-bigoted conversations among their co-workers.

That kind of subtle bigotry, what you might call invisible bigotry since the targets are not supposed to know it's happening - they are not in this case supposed to know they're getting inferior service - the often-unspoken assumptions that lead you to treat people differently while either thinking you're not actually doing it or worse, telling yourself that it's justified because of what "they" are like, that kind of supposedly (but not really) invisible bigotry is an everyday experience for blacks in this "post-racial" country.

And of course it's not just race. Remember that the Taco Cid bigotry was against Latinos.

And we shouldn't need to have to remind ourselves that bigotry against Arabs, including labeling them as all being hook-nosed terrorists is also all to frequent.

But this is what got me, this is what really inspired this particular rant, another form of bigotry.

The House of Representatives opened the year 2013 by letting the Violence Against Women Act die. The VAWA, intended to provide legal protections for victims of domestic violence, was passed in 1994 and renewed twice since then. The Senate had renewed it earlier this year but the House misleadership refused to bring it up and so it died. Now the process has to start all over again in the new Congress.

The Senate passed its version of the bill in April with bipartisan support. It included provisions that extended protections to three groups of domestic violence victims who had not been covered by the original law: 30 million LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants, and Native American women.

It was the last provision that was the sticking point. Right now, tribal courts have jurisdiction in cases involving attacks on Native women by Native men on tribal lands. They do not have jurisdiction over assaults by non-Native men. That's up to federal and state law enforcement, who are often hours away and lack the resources to respond effectively. The result is, as Senator Pat Leahy put it, non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on tribal lands are essentially "immune from the law, and they know it."

One in three Native American women have been raped or experienced attempted rape. The rate of sexual assault on Native American women is more than twice the national average and of the Native American women who are raped, 86% of them are raped by non-Native men. That statistic is precisely what Sen. Leahy was talking about and what the Senate's tribal provision targets.

But the House wackos wouldn't approve of that because of some paranoid delusion that allowing tribal courts greater jurisdiction on tribal lands is "giving up American sovereignty." And so they would declare their indifference to the safety and health of women, they would declare their preference both for letting those Native American women remain victims and having scores of millions of US women be stripped of legal protections, would rather declare to the world their utter, sexist, disdain for the safety and health of women rather than surrender their thumb-sucking fantasies.

Racism, sexism, bigotry, against blacks, against Hispanics, against Arabs, against women, against so many others, they all remain common features of our society while at least one house of Congress is bossed around by anti-intellectual buffoons who celebrate their own lack of social conscience. It is an outrage.

Oh a footnote: Taco Cid used to have at least four locations in South Carolina, but is now down to just the one. As one observer said, Since it’s safe to say the owner isn’t going out of his way to attract an authentic Latino clientele, it’s not exactly hard to see why.


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