On one occasion I worked for an American company in Jamaica, and mingled with white executives from places like West Virginia and Tennessee. The experience was educational. When these men were among darker-skinned Jamaicans, they were circumspect in their remarks. You would never guess how little regard they felt for non-white people. But among themselves, their conversation could be quite different. As a light-skinned Jamaican, I got to overhear some of this banter, and it was ugly. The underlying tone was one of cruel ridicule and even contempt. To my shame, I did not physically attack these bigots. I had a family to feed. The best I could do at the time was excuse myself and find somewhere else to be.
Of course that was long ago, and America has changed. After all, the country has elected its first black President. But old prejudices linger – especially in Southern states. Failed politician and conservative curmudgeon Pat Buchanan (photo at right) provided evidence of that on MSNBC last night.
Here’s an excerpt from remarks he made on the Rachel Maddow Show as he tried to explain the resentment felt by some white Americans over Judge Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court:
These are the folks whose jobs have been outsourced to China and Asia, who pay the price of affirmative action when their sons and daughters are pushed aside to make room for the Sonia Sotomayors. These are the folks who want the borders secured and the illegals sent back.
You may wonder why Judge Sotomayor was lumped in with “illegal aliens” when she is from Puerto Rico, which happens to be part of the United States. But that doesn’t seem to register with Buchanan. In his view of history, it was white men who built this country, and they deserve the position of privilege and power they hold today. He belittled the contributions of women and non-whites in America, shrugging off the fact that for the first part of the country’s history they couldn’t even vote. When Rachel asked why he thought the vast majority of Supreme Court justices over the years have been white males, Buchanan launched into a tirade about how this country was built by “white folks.”
Pat Buchanan is an old guy, and he is the product of Virginia-born parents and private schools. Rachel kept suggesting that he represents the views of a past generation. But I wonder how true that is. Living in Florida as I do, I find racial antipathy very much alive, although it is often thinly disguised. I am afraid Pat Buchanan told it like it is – still is – in much of today’s America.
As Barack Obama keeps saying, there’s a long way to go before that “perfect union” conceived by the Founding Fathers will be achieved.