Your House is on Ground Zero (and Quite Without Permission)

In all the rancor over whether or not one group of Muslims should be allowed to build a cultural center and worship space near the site of the 9/11 attacks — which were committed by a separate and totally unrelated group of Muslims — there is one thing above all else that no one appears anxious to point out: namely, that for any white Christian to say “Ground Zero” is off limits to anyone is possibly the most deliciously and yet grotesquely ironic thing ever suggested.

After all, there is scarcely a square foot of land upon which we tread that is not, for someone, Ground Zero. I am sitting atop one now: a killing field for Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek; a graveyard in which are buried the bones — and if no longer the bones, then surely the dust — of peoples whose evisceration occurred not so long ago, and is still remembered by those who have not the luxury of forgetting.

And so the New Yorkers who believe against all evidence that their trauma is unique in the history of the world — or even their city for that matter — prattle on about the “defiling” of the former World Trade Center location. Meanwhile they overlook that their precious island was itself cajoled from indigenous peoples for a handful of worthless beads. And white men have been swindling those we viewed as inferior — be they of color, or even other white men — ever since, especially (and this is where the geographic symbolism of their protests becomes revealing) in and around Wall Street, where the actions of wealthy investors and financiers have done far more damage than Osama Bin Laden ever could. Would that we might prohibit the construction of banks anywhere in New York so as to make a point about terrorism and our unwillingness to collaborate with it.

Indeed, if those protesting the Cordoba House were the least bit interested in consistency — as opposed to being content to wallow in a type of hypocrisy both profound and typical — they would, to a person, vacate downtown Manhattan immediately. And this they would do out of respect for the lives destroyed by people such as they: black peoples forced to build Fort Amsterdam for the Dutch, which is where Battery Park is now, or the walls that gave the famous street its name, or the roads, or the very auction blocks upon which their compatriots would be sold, thereby allowing 40 percent of white New York households to possess other human beings as property by the mid-1700s.

And they would vacate midtown too, especially any with Irish ancestry, since it was their ancestral fathers who — and so as to show how badly they desired to become white — burned down a black orphanage on 5th Avenue between 43rd and 44th during the 1863 Draft Riots. But I’m guessing there is an Irish Pub within walking distance of the former orphanage, and yet no one seems particularly concerned about the slight.

Truth be told, that whole city is a Ground Zero, and has been for far longer than the existence of al-Qaeda, since long before those phallic monuments to architectural ingenuity and big business were constructed, and since long before there were any airplanes capable of bringing them down. It was Ground Zero for Amadou Diallo but we still allow police to operate in the vicinity of Wheeler Street in the Bronx. It was Ground Zero for Sean Bell but we haven’t banned the NYPD from around the environs of the Kalua Cabaret in Queens, where they shot he and his friends 50 times in 2006. Neither have we seen too many New Yorkers losing sleep over the inherent insensitivity towards the respective Ground Zeros for Patrick Dorismond or Timothy Stansbury Jr., both of whom were felled by police bullets, and yet which spots have hardly been made off limits to law enforcement out of respect for the dead.

That many New Yorkers in 2010, and especially white ones — since there are few residents of the South Bronx or Washington Heights who are making their way downtown for these protests — cannot feel those other pains hardly acquits their arrogance. That they cannot see how their livelihoods, their homes, their bank accounts, and the clothes on their backs have been paid for with the blood of innocent people, is their problem. It is not the fault of those who would build Cordoba House, and in so doing disturb the hallowed ground of what has been, most recently, a Burlington Coat Factory.

Their houses, and mine, and yours, sit atop Ground Zero. And those who died to make it so gave no permission for the construction of the homes, to say nothing of the churches that for so long were instrumental in rationalizing the slaughter. There were no building permits issued by those who died here so that we could be, as we like to say, “free.” But here we are nonetheless. And it takes some nerve to pretend, even as we sleep above the graves of those extirpated to make way for us, that 9/11 was the day everything changed. Or to believe that we have the right to tell anyone where they can and cannot live, pray or work. Or to suggest that we are the only ones who have ever died, or known terror, and that having done so we now have the right to draw a circle around us, a bubble of specialness, which can keep us warm and protected as though it were an amniotic sac inside of which we will forever be insulated from harm.

We wish to be free from the pain, which is understandable. But it is not acceptable that in seeking that freedom we should ignore the pain by which we have come this far already.


41 Responses to “Your House is on Ground Zero (and Quite Without Permission)”

  1. “After all, there is scarcely a square foot of land upon which we trod that is not, for someone, Ground Zero.”

    That’s true of nearly all people in every single part of the world throughout history.

    The point here is that this piece of land, in this time, is where a group of people attacked the U.S. in the name of Islam. According to your own writings on white privilege, where it doesn’t matter if a white man’s ancestors never owned slaves, or otherwise participated in the oppression of others, he, by dint of belonging to a defined group, must be mindful of the feelings of others. So while these particular Muslims who want to build this community center may be totally unrelated to the terrorists, they still share the same religion, and should therefore be mindful of the feelings of those others who don’t want this built there.

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    @ Allen – No, that isn’t a proper analogy at all. My argument is not that whites have to be mindful of black feelings because of slavery. We have to recognize that the system of white supremacy elevated us above people of color. In other words, even if our families didn’t own other human beings, we have received the benefits of a system that elevated us. That is why we have to bear responsibility for creating equity. On the other hand, Muslims have not been elevated above non-Muslims by virtue of the 9/11 attacks, such that they owe anything at all to anyone. If anything, the opposite is true: they have been profiled and harassed more since 9/11…

    [Reply]

    Allen Reply:

    Tim here’s the first comment of mine that wasn’t approved or otherwise didn’t make it on here:

    Thanks for replying Tim,

    One of the prime aspects of Islam (and I suppose most other religions for that matter) is its idea that the religion and its followers are superior to others. But for Islam in particular, the idea of dhimmitude – that Muslims are above Jews and Christians who are above other, non-Abrahamic religious practitioners – is a central aspect. That they have not accomplished making themselves elevated above others here in the U.S. should not exclude them from your standards of responsibility for groups.

    An additional problem many people have is that Muslims have a history of building mosques on the spots of great “victories” for Islam. Other religions and other people may do that too, but again we come to the fact that this spot, in this time, was attacked in the name of Islam. As I saw elsewhere on the internet, suppose some Canadian wanted to open a museum of American aviation history in Hiroshima, Japan. Suppose they argued “hey it’s not about dropping the atomic bomb – it’s a place for all to celebrate aircraft, and besides we’re Canadians, not Americans.” You would laugh that argument out of the room. In the same respect, these particular Muslims may not be doing it for nefarious reasons, but the appearance is there.

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    Ok, sorry, I hadn’t seen this for some reason:

    First, all religions have those kinds of exclusionist views to some degree…i was told all my life growing up that I was going to hell because I’m Jewish. If you think that isn’t terrorism, it’s only because it never happened to you.

    Muslims have no such “victory mosque” history: that is a yarn spun by Newt Gingrich, which is a vast exaggeration.

    The Hiroshima example is absurd: the U.S. really bombed Japan. The U.S. government, as an act of the U.S. government, representing the U.S. in the process. The 9/11 hijackers represented al-Qaeda. Not Islam. If someone was proposing an al-Qaeda museum or al-Qaeda cultural center two blocks from the former WTC site, that would be different: I think most folks would think that was fucked up. But that is not the same as building a Muslim cultural center. The only way one can believe they are the same is if you believe Islam=al Qaeda. And anyone who believes that is a bigot and a fool.

    Darryl Reply:

    You know, Americans–white or otherwise–don’t seem to realize that every square inch of North America was sacred to the pre-Columbian people who have been here since before the end of the last Ice Age. It was sacred in the sense that it was believed to be the responsibility of the people living here to care for the land as faithful stewards. The people, it was believed, were subject to the land, not the other way around. The very existence of concrete jungles like New York City is an affront to that spirituality.

    It is my view that when you are covered in gore from head to toe, you should be the last person complaining about the blood on someone else’s hands. That being the case, I think that all these “American Patriot-types” should just take a step back and think again because the Muslims aren’t any more the villainous, interloping, defilers here than any of the rest of you.

    There are almost no more Lanape people today; the Lanape language is extinct: white men either killed them all or drove them away from their ancestral homeland (the island you and I know as “Manhattan”). If you are so mindful of “Holy Ground” then why don’t you raze everything below 125th street, replant that land with trees, and other foilage, populate it with animals and reserve it for the last remnants of the Native inhabitants of the place who have, as of yet, never even received official recognition from the US government (i.e. a people whose very existence is officially denied by your government)? There are remnants of Lanape in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, after all.

    I can hear your thoughts: “that’s aburd.” The reason that notion is absurd is the same reason why people who are complaining about this mosque should just STFU: there is no such thing as “holiness” in the US. The US is neither a “holy” nor a “righteous” nation. After all, you can’t build something “holy” out of slavery and genocide.

    Muslims bought their land “at Ground Zero” in what was perhaps a more “fair and square” transaction than the original Manhattan Purchase by the Dutch. All these anti-Arab, Islamophobes should just go away somewhere and stew in their own bigotry because those of us who know better really have had enough of people in the US whining about how no one is sensitive to their feelings and religious sensibilities.

    [Reply]

    No1KState Reply:

    Yeah.

    But the reason it’s “absurb” is that any notion of whites repairing any damage done in the name of America is regarded by whites as “absurb.”

    What’s also disturbing is that, like the tea rallies, the absense of any people of any color doesn’t cue them into the fact that there’s something possibly wrong with their protests.

    [Reply]

    Allen Reply:

    Would this lack of non-whites also apply to the environmental movement, gay marriage rights, and other nearly all-white causes. Do beliefs need the benediction of people of color to validate them?

    Tim Reply:

    I think it does apply to those things, but not because of numbers alone. The problem with all these movements (right or left) is how they often manifest privileged perspectives and white perspectives as they do their work.

    Nquest Reply:

    Why would it c(l)ue them in? Since when has the White right (or much of the left) ever considered the thoughts and buy-in from POC as important?

    Seems pretty clear to me that people of the Tea Party persuasion don’t view POC as important (except as props to defend them against allegations of being racists or a racist movement or movement with a significant racist/racial element) otherwise the irony of claiming they are victims of “taxation without representative” (in the sense of having someone directly representing their interests) would not be lost on them.

    I had a co-worker who regurgitated the “cramming it down our throats” talking point re: health [insurance] care reform and all I could think was: try being Black for a change. And I’ll add with or without a Black president.

    Frederic Christie Reply:

    So because they attacked in the name of something, we should allow them to get away with that propaganda?

    By saying that the Mosque would insult the victims of 9/11, we are actually enforcing exactly what Osama wants us to: That this is a battle between Islam and the West, or Islam and Christianity. We are letting Osama speak for Islam.

    That’ll end well, right?

    [Reply]

    Steve Nance Reply:

    The only sensibility that could be offended by the Muslim center or its location is one that asociates all Muslims with terrorism — the whole premise is bigoted. Any compromise made in order to “be mindful of the feelings” of opponents, would only legitimize this offensive premise, and siganl to the world that Americans do indeed believe themselves to be at war with Islam itself.

    Mr. Wise deftly expands upon this theme and places it in its bloody historical context. An eloquent and compelling essay.

    [Reply]

    Nquest Reply:

    The only sensibility that could be offended by the Muslim center or its location is one that asociates all Muslims with terrorism — the whole premise is bigoted.

    I’m with you, Steve. People keep referring to some ridiculous poll regarding public opinion about the Muslim community center/masjid/mosque (70% of Americans are “against” it). They keep saying all those people can’t all be racists but I’ve never seen/heard one person claiming there are “legitimate” reasons to be against the building of the center/mosque ever state what those legitimate reasons are and, when some supposedly not-racist person is given enough time to explain why they are against the center/mosque… the guilt by association argument is one of their strongest sentiments if they ever say something remotely coherent.

    [Reply]

    Steve Nance Reply:

    Thanks, Nquest, and good points. I too have noticed that none of the pundits who point to vague “sensibilities,” or objections of “well-meaning” people, ever specify what exactly the basis of those objections might be. Because it’s pretty obvious, and wouldn’t sound so good if you said it out loud.

    It wouldn’t matter if some poll claimed 99% were “against.” The Constitution of our democracy enshrines certain rights as inviolate, specifically to ensure that those in a minority cannot have their rights revoked or circumscribed by the tyranny of any majority. (Indeed, the world was disabused of that “so many couldn’t be so wrong” myth by the re-election of Bush; oh yes, we can, electoral shenanigans notwithstanding.)

  2. At last, Tim Wise sees the light.

    [Reply]

  3. @ Nquest – You know it.

    @ Allen – I’m not saying they need the approval of poc to valid. Just that, like Tim said, if your cause/movement is predominantly white, there’s a problem. Now, on the other hand, if you claim not to be a racist/racialist group or movement, yes, you do need more than 4 black folks/any poc to validate that claim.

    [Reply]

    Allen Reply:

    No1kState – you are basically stating the people must prove a negative. The various Tea Party groups are specifically a smaller government, lower taxes movement. They should no more have to prove they’re not racist than Green Peace or PETA should have to prove they’re not racist. But if you want a specific validation of the non-racist nature of the Tea Party movement –

    [Reply]

    No1KState Reply:

    I didn’t watch the video, but I have read about the press conference.

    1 – I do think PETA is racist. Green Peace, I don’t know. But at least they don’t compare nature to human beings. They don’t make adverts about enslaving forests and trees.
    2 – Several studies link the desire for smaller govt and lower taxes to racism/racialism. As other interviews demonstrate, many of these people still want their govt benefits. They don’t mind big govt forcing others to pay higher taxes to their advantage. They just don’t want govt taking money from them and giving it to racialized others. Seriously, the only difference between the size of govt before Republicans used race to take the South from Dems – the only difference between the size of govt prior to 1965 and just afterwards, when many working class and Southern whites switched parties, is that govt is not interering in their rights to be racist.
    3 – Black people can and do hold pro-white/anti-black biases. If this is the conference I’m thinking of, note that they complain about even noticing race, not institutional racism.

    Things that illustrate the racism in the conservative and Tea Party movements -

    4 – Complain that you’re “taxed enough already” not 4 months after the inauguration of the first black president when this president and Congress has lowered your taxes? That smells fishy.
    5 – Despite their desire to speak on issues other than race, the only time black conservatives are given the podium like they have it in this press conference is when white conservatives need black conservatives to defend them from charges of racism.

    Make no mistake about it, it’s not as though the black community thinks the tea party movement is a racist brand of conservatism; we think it’s a publically racist brand of conservatism. Everybody else knows how to at least avoid seeming racist in appearance if not policy.

    Policy, right? Let’s talk about policy.

    I think tea partyists, and conservatives in general, promote racist policy. State govts have a greater impact on people’s daily lives than the fed govt does. If they wanna cut back on social services, that’s mostly done at the state level. Not to say that fed govt can’t have an impact one way or the other, just that if you think too much money is spent on welfare programs, you should talk with your state legislators.

    Moreover, the white electorate continues to demonstrate its inability to evaluate policy and candidates in a “colorblind” manner. (I use “colorblind” sarcastically here.) There are still schools that hold segregated proms, and when national attention forces change, white parents put on a private segregated prom. One school only in the last week or so rescinded its policy of allowing students of color to run for only 2 or 3 positions in student govt. So setting aside the fact that state govts set forth policy that have the most direct impact on daily lives, there’s absolutely no reason for the black community to advocate weaking the federal govt. We do so only to our detriment as local and state govts continue to set forth racist policy. Ie, cutting back education spending to increase prison spending; white flight; paying for schools through local property taxes which only reinforce economic inequality (duh!); etc and so on.

    I forgot to mention that several white nationalist groups have looked to appropriate the tpm for their own ends.

    In addition to all that, most teaists get their news from Fox which is overtly racist in my judgment. And really. They complain about the size of govt and govt intrusiveness but have no problem with AZ cops stopping random people on basis of reasonable suspicious? That’s cognitive disonance. Mind you now, AZ already has a record of racial profiling, so it seems obvious that this policy will be used racially. The motivation behind it was racist from the beginning. All this belly-aching about illegal immigration when it has gone down in recent years and the Obama administration has deported tens of thousands of people and probably more? That has racism writting all over it.

    Not to mention that ban on ethnic studies which, to pass muster, had to be soften and so is more symbolic than anything, that was demonstrably aimed at one specific ethnic group without regard for educational achievement or historical accuracy.

    And all the questions about Obama’s citizenship and his motivation. Taxes equal white slavery? Cause white people are the only ones who’ll be taxed? I don’t get that.

    [Reply]

    Allen Reply:

    Tim this wasn’t approved for some reason – I’m reading your comments policies and I don’t see that I’m being personal.

    “I didn’t watch the video, but I have read about the press conference.”

    If you didn’t watch the video then how can you respond accurately to it? All reading about the press conference does is give you a biased opinion about what the reporter feels is important. This is the problem too many people on all sides of issues have – they don’t bother looking at the original source material and instead rely on what others have told them. I provided the video for the express purpose of providing evidence that the Tea Party movement isn’t a racist/racialist organization.

    As to your points:

    1. Just because someone believes an organization is racist based on the majority of members, doesn’t make it so. By that argument the Congressional Black Caucus is racist, regardless of the merit of their goals. You don’t need any particular racial make-up, nor do you need to pro-actively defend yourself from charges of racism, in order to be a non-racist group.

    2. I wish you would cite these studies so that I could see them. But even cited, the truth is that most social studies are non-scientific pieces designed to confirm the biases of those sponsoring them. Smaller government and lower taxes as goals by themselves are not racist. Can they have effects that disparately affect different racial groups? Certainly, but that still doesn’t make them racist any more than a tax on tanning salons is racist against white people. There are plenty of people in all white towns that want lower local property taxes and smaller government interference in their daily lives. Would you argue that their motivation is racist? The simple fact is I don’t know any group of people anywhere in the world that likes the money they work for to be taken from them and given to anyone else.

    3. All you have to do is actually watch the video – they’re not talking about what you assume.

    4. The underpinnings of the Tea Party movement were under way long before President Obama had even won the election. The bailout under President Bush and Congress really started focusing peoples’ attention, but even then there was a long history of discontent – at least as far back as 1992 when Ross Perot was able to play spoiler To President George H.W. Bush’s re-election after he had broken his “no new taxes” pledge. Even more just look up the Porkbusters movement and you can see that fiscal conservatives were calling for lower taxes and smaller government under Bush well before Obama was anything more than a blip on anyone’s political radar.

    5. This is a matter of where you look to get your news. Black conservatives have been speaking on all manner of issues for quite a long time. That places like CNN, MSNBC, and other networks choose not to give any publicity to them says more about their biases than anything else.

    While you may speak as an individual black person, I don’t give any more credence to you speaking for the black community than you would for me speaking for the white community. I know many black conservatives, black liberals, and even more apolitical black people in general that don’t view the Tea Party movement the way you do.

    If you truly would like to get into discussing the effects of policy, which is even further off topic, I can point to the huge negative impact any number of Democratic Party policies have had on minorities. Everything from opposing Welfare reform which unequivocally helped minority families out of poverty (originated in Wisconsin under Republican governor Tommy Thompson) to canceling school choice programs (like recently in Washington DC) which increased educational gains among minority communities.

    No1KState Reply:

    Here, I just want to make two things perfectly clear:

    1 – The absense of people of color isn’t in itself proof of racism. I only suggest that it’s an indication that something may be wrong. Think of your right arm going numb. It doesn’t mean you’re having a heart attack, but you might wanna check to be sure.

    2 – Let’s recall, the NAACP didn’t demand that tea leaders prove neither their movement or anyone in it is racist. The only asked that racism in the movement be denounced. That’s reasonable. It’s sickening to hear white public figures respond to questions of racism with, “Well, their angry and rightfully so.” Then you have Palin want Rahm Emmanuel fired for calling liberal activist “retarded” but telling Laura “don’t retreat, reload” after she went on an n-word binge.

    All the NAACP did was ask that racism be denounced and what happened? Conservatives went bananas! Mark Williams and Andy Briebart the most public of those who were just steamed. This may be just a Southern saying, but hit dogs holler. That’s to say all the tea leaders had to do was condemn obvious racism but instead, having been hit they hollered, “Foul!”

    And besides, I thought the fact that policy and ideas that seem nonracial can often be discriminatory had already been covered? So the nonracial nature of the tea party being a bunch of black folks? (So it’s like 1 black friend for every 1000 or so white people?) One of whom complained that his white friends can’t greet him with, “My nigga!”

    @ Tim – Sorry for the lengthy, blog-jacking posts.

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    @ No1KState – no need to apologize for anything…I appreciate your insights and appreciate the fact that other folks, including yourself, are making the arguments that i would have made, so that I don;t have to! Seriously, if that’s “blog-jacking,” cool, feel free to blog jack any time!

    Allen Reply:

    The Tea Party had already denounced racism and any racist elements prior to the NAACP requesting that they do so.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x67xLQiMp6Q

    Watch the video. Again this was ignored by most news outlets, but there it is. And if you want a copy of the letter condemning racism here it is:

    http://bigjournalism.com/natteafed/2010/04/26/please-prove-tea-party-racism-a-letter-to-the-congressional-black-caucus/

    Notice the date on that letter vs. when the NAACP came out with its demands. That they had already repudiated any racism didn’t matter when it came to publicity.

    Tim Reply:

    First off, there are various tea party groups. Secondly, they had racists in their midst like Mark Williams, who had made blatantly bigoted remarks and was never called out for it by the TP groups. Likewise, the convention in Nashville was stocked with racists, and featured a blatantly bigoted speech from Tom Tancredo, where he called for bringing back literacy tests for voting, among other things, so as to limit the voting of Latinos. And of course, the racist signs and e-mails sent around by TP folks are legion — and were documented going back to the summer of 2009. Not to mention the birther nonsense, which is racist to the core, and which still shows up at every TP event it seems. So for a group that has denounced racism, they have a funny way of showing it or following through.

    No1KState Reply:

    @ Allen – I cosign everything Tim said.

    I’ll add that if they’ve already denounced it, what’s the big deal in denouncing it again – and that’s every group. This righteous indignation is built on privilege and a false sense of entitlement. Ie, “How dare people expect a mostly white movement to denounce racism more than once.”

    Frederic Christie Reply:

    @ Allen:

    “2. I wish you would cite these studies so that I could see them. But even cited, the truth is that most social studies are non-scientific pieces designed to confirm the biases of those sponsoring them.”

    Damn if THAT isn’t a generalization WAY beyond “you read about it but didn’t see it?!” When Pager did her work that demonstrated that African-American non-felons would be called back less often than white felons, she was SURPRISED. The study was initially ABOUT felony status per se, but changed pretty sharply to race upon discovery of that bomb. Zimbardo didn’t expect himself to become a de facto warden. The fact that you say this shows that you have NO familiarity whatsoever with the sociological process, and I don’t even think you’re that far off base given that I have a pretty healthy distrust for social science given how little we know compared to the “hard” sciences!

    Of course, never mind that you cite NO studies, nor does the right more generally, so it’s ONLY the left doing this work and trying at all. You don’t like the data? Participate.

    “Smaller government and lower taxes as goals by themselves are not racist. Can they have effects that disparately affect different racial groups? Certainly, but that still doesn’t make them racist any more than a tax on tanning salons is racist against white people.”

    Ummmm, yeah, it can be exactly that, actually.

    If you cut government aid knowing it’ll slam the black poor disproportionately, that’s racist.

    You COULD cut aid to people not within a disability category, or include a reparations scheme as part of such a bill, or do SOMETHING to offset the racial impact. The opposite overwhelmingly happens.

    Remember: Not everyone defines racism as intent only, as you seem to. So already we have to have a discussion about definitions, and ways of approaching the issue, which shows you aren’t aware of this, which proves our point.

    But it’s also the whole mythology. Claiming that you hate the last hundred years of American history means you like Jim Crow and women not being able to vote. Claiming that you want to get back to small government is something only white men can do, since for many women and almost all people of color, government has NEVER been small. Claiming that it’s time to take your country back… Since when did you lose it? Why do YOU own it? Etc.

    “There are plenty of people in all white towns that want lower local property taxes and smaller government interference in their daily lives. Would you argue that their motivation is racist?”

    No, but those people have always been around. By definition, that CAN’T be the Tea Party. The Tea Party is a swarm of people who got angry and started protesting ONLY when the black President introduced progressive social policy.

    Anyone who is anti-big government but writes off talking about the biggest government expenditures, the military and protecting the rich, is kidding themselves and wasting our time. I’m not saying that being pro-military is necessarily being pro-pork. But when the discussion never even GOES towards cutting military budgets, and only focuses on social programs? Yeah, some classist, racist, sexist bullshit is going on, and I really want to see what torturous circles of logic you make to explain that one…

    “The simple fact is I don’t know any group of people anywhere in the world that likes the money they work for to be taken from them and given to anyone else.”

    Yeah. Black folks sure didn’t like their money (or their labor) taken and given to someone else.

    Workers don’t like their labor being taken by greedy capitalists.

    Oh, wait, those aren’t the people you’re talking about.

    Huh.

    But there are plenty of people who like to cooperate and live in a society, and recognize that protecting everyone is in their best interest. It’s a simple Rawlsian ethic: If you can’t justify the position of a person, the fact that you’re not in that position is moot. If you can’t justify the position of a homeless person, or wouldn’t want to live that way yourself, you cannot logically arrange society to include homelessness as an option, unless you have some compelling reason (and no, “rights to property” are not compelling reasons, not literally being able to house everyone is a compelling reason).

    Fact is, thanks to workers and courageous activists for decades, we have a minimal social safety net. This is so well-established that to be against it is to be RADICAL and to be for it is to be CONSERVATIVE. But that indicates how messed up our political lexicon is…

    Frederic Christie Reply:

    But if you’re making arguments that smell like a racist and sound like a racist, you better damn well be sure you’re not a racist.

    People arguing for small government are overwhelmingly arguing against the parts of government that protect the poor, women and people of color. These people said NOTHING while Bush kept government grossly huge in the interests of oil companies, defense companies, global finance hucksters, militarists and armchair proto-genocidal crusaders. NOW they care about small government? Why?

    Is it because government is expanding in ways that they happen to not LIKE? If so, abandon the principled stand. When you keep the principled stand, you imply that all those other things are what government SHOULD do. Which implies that government is for rich white males. Get it?

    If your movement is overwhelmingly white, isn’t there some reason to ask why your interests aren’t resonating with black folks?

    When black folks tell your movement those reasons, and you respond with contemptuous dismissal, what are we supposed to think?

    When movement leaders stoke the fires of racial resentment and call health care stealth reparations, what are we suppoded to think?

    The whole “Take back our country” rhetoric not only sounds pretty ominous when said by overwhelmingly white voices, but also begs the question: Since when WASN’T this your country? You just started complaining after 2008, right? Right after the black guy got elected, but not after the incompetent white guy expanded government powers and threatened civil liberties?

    And if you want to go back to some point where the country was yours (and by what dint was the country yours? the country that your ancestors gained by genocide?), when was that exactly? When the country was a de facto apartheid state? Or a slave-owning country? When women didn’t even have the theoretical right to vote?

    Glenn Beck seems to think that everything before 1910 sucked. Well, gee, damn if that’s before the extension of the franchise to women, the end of Jim Crow, and during some of the worst periods for labor in American history.

    Basically, when the entire premise of your movement subscribes to a mythology that only POSSIBLY makes sense from the worldview of a rich white male, it’s no longer you having to prove a negative. Its you having to prove that the things you’re saying that dismiss the worldviews of everyone else aren’t doing so. I await the Tea Party’s response to that challenge.

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    No1KState Reply:

    The whole “Take back our country” rhetoric not only sounds pretty ominous when said by overwhelmingly white voices, but also begs the question: Since when WASN’T this your country?

    I think it’s also important to point out that it’s our country, too. (With all due apologies to First Nations and Mexico.)

    Frederic Christie Reply:

    By right? Yes.

    In reality? No.

    It’s an important correction, but my point is that the power that those of European descent had was to force events on the ground so that this country was theirs first and foremost, not the property of the First Nation Aboriginals who actually lived on it, not the property of the slaves they brought over, and only the property of any later immigrants they happened to like. So when white people in particular yell that they’re going to take their country back, people who are aware of what it is was like when it was fully “their country” cringe. It’s racially charged rhetoric, sounding like a group that is fearing the loss of its hegemony trying to secure it again, no matter how toxic their near-permanent hegemony has been…

    No1KState Reply:

    agreed

    A Canadian Reply:

    Allen – I consider myself a liberal, and I had never once thought of the LGBT, environmental or other liberal “lefty” movements as having any racial bias whatsoever. Then I read Tim’s essay “With Friends Like These, Who Needs Glenn Beck? Racism and White Privilege on the Liberal-Left” (August 17, 2010) and it was like the blinders came off! Tim very eloquently discusses the racist nature of the American LGBT, feminist, environmentalist and other “leftist” movements. It actually reminded me of a discussion I had not so long ago with a friend who is a Poli Sci PhD student at a local university, and he said exactly the line (word for word, almost!) that Tim says ie “We send out emails, but if people of color don’t show up, what are we supposed to do?” Now I would know to ask my friend “hmmm, and why do you think that is? Why aren’t people of color showing up to your sit-ins?”

    Anyway, have a read of the essay and decide for yourself!

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    Nquest Reply:

    Now, on the other hand, if you claim not to be a racist/racialist group or movement, yes, you do need more than 4 black folks/any poc to validate that claim.

    To address Allen’s charge regarding asking the Tea Party et al to “prove a negative” — besides the fact the question of whether there is a significant racial/racist element to the Tea Party is a rhetorical, we already know it to be true/proven proposition — all we have to do is take a look at Glenn Beck’s 8/28 gathering which was billed, at least at one point, as an event meant to “reclaim the civil rights movement.”

    Now, even though the Beck-ian mythology claims that the civil rights movement was “perverted” by the traditional civil rights leaders/organizations, those who were a part of the 50′s and 60′s movement and those who followed, it is beyond ridiculous to think that the Beck gathering ever even tried to “reclaim the civil rights movement”:

    1. Seeing as how securing/protecting the kind of “civil rights” the 60′s movement wasn’t a major (or even a minor) theme for the event and, by all YouTube appearances, “civil rights” wasn’t the motivating/drawing theme for those in attendanceat the Beck rally whether they were Black or White, e.g.

    2. Seeing as how POC/African-Americans who were, to say the least, heavily involved AND heavy in attendance at the multi-racial march in 1963, we no more than props and token bit-players vs. the major organizers, speakers and conveners they were in ’63.

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    No1KState Reply:

    3. The following Sunday, Beck admitted that he only agreed with the part about judging people by the content of their character and wholeheartedly rejected everything else. (By the way, can we all agree that judging someone by their character doesn’t preclude making judgments about their character based on the color of their skin?)

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    No1KState Reply:

    Thanks for all the responses, especially the policy for “blog-jacking” (LOL!).

    Obviously, I had a lot to say, but Eugene Washington’s most recent op-ed reminded me of one point I forgot to mention: in my estimation, and understand at this point, it’s mine alone, but. In my estimation, tea activists should be glad we think they’re racist cause the only other explanation for the actions, beliefs, and statements is that they’re stupid. Ie, “Keep government out of my medicare!”

    I want to be clear: I don’t ascribe stupidity to everyone who advocates small-govt and low taxes, just the ones who do so but can’t describe the benefits of small-govt and low taxes beyond some abstract notion of freedom. Cause really, the equating of “freedom” to not paying taxes or only paying a small amount is insulting. If you’re only as free as your taxes are low, the slaves were free the entire time!

    That said, I think those who want to take their country back are both stupid and racist. So, before complaining about having to prove teaists are racist, let’s be happy that that’s all they have to prove.

    [Reply]

    Allen Reply:

    My first reply to one of your comments wasn’t approved for some reason No1KState, but I resubmitted it because I’m interested in your reply – enough to go check out your blog.

    Slaves were “taxed” at almost 100% – nearly all of their labor went for the benefit of someone else. That’s what people mean when they equate freedom with low taxes. And small government is desirable because the closer elected representatives are to the people they represent the more beholden they are to them.

    Let me put this question to you – if a bunch of neighbors of yours got together and said you all were going to start pooling your grocery money together and assign one person to do the shopping for everyone (based on what they determine is best), how happy do you think you’d be with what that person decided to purchase for you in comparison to how you’d feel shopping for what you want? Well that’s how a lot of Tea Partiers feel about what is being done with their taxes.

    Nobody (well few) thinks we should pay no taxes, but the problem is that taxes keep piling up with little accountability among those who actually end up getting to spend the money. This has nothing to do with race. There are certainly those in the Tea Party who don’t want their tax money “to go support [minority] welfare queens” or “educating illegal [re: Mexican] immigrants”, but for the most part it’s about the waste and fraud that inevitably follows those who control large amounts of other people’s money. Again – that’s not racist. And when they do find these racists they call them out. In point of fact though, a number of liberal websites have purposely called for the “infiltration” of Tea Party events in order to manufacture the racist meme.

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    No1KState Reply:

    1 – No, not groups of people of color. Groups that are lily-white need to ask themselves if there is a problem.

    I’m sure NBPP isn’t the only racist minority group. That said, most majority-minority groups like the CBC are bulwarks against the psychological and practical impact of racism.

    2 – Tim has sited these studies. You can search them yourself. Social science is a science. It uses math and the scientific method and all that. One study that may be easy to find is one that demonstrated that healthcare reform policy receives more support if the hypothetical president is Clinton than it does under hypothetical president Obama. Same exact policy described the same exact way.

    But lets be clear about what social science does. If I grab a representative sample of a group of people, 100 people to collect information about their group of 10000, and find 75 feel one way and 25 another – that’s not shaping the study to meet my biases.

    3 – I refuse to watch a video of black people shucking and jiving for the camaras. Fox is thoroughly discredited as a news organization, but I know of Jaun Williams and Michelle Malkin. I know of the Michelle Benard. Mark Lamont Hill and Dr. Boyce aren’t conservatives. Did I miss anyone?

    Now, let’s do a roll call of white conservative commentators. Well, I’m actually not cause that would take to much time. You get my gist. I hope.

    4 – Slaves taxed at nearly 100%? Nearly all their labor went to the benefit of someone else?

    Let’s make sure we understand what slavery is and isn’t. It’s more than an issue of who benefits from your labor. If that’s the case, then I would imagine small govt/low tax proponets are also pro-choice as forcing a woman to carry a baby she doesn’t want is slavery. Right?

    “No1KState! I can’t believe you made such a . . . ” blah, blah, blah. If you disagree with my analogy, then you understand how I feel about yours.

    It’s not as though slaves “owned” their labor, they didn’t. They didn’t own their bodies, including their reproductive choices. If you are a slave, you are property. You don’t have a say in anything – not where to live, whom to mate (cause marriages weren’t permitted), how/where your children will be raised, what or when you’ll eat, where or when you’ll sleep, what you’ll wear (most were provided clothing, not forced to going around naked), or when you’ll get a bathroom break. As slave laws prohibited slaves from learning to read, they didn’t even own their own intellect. Do I need to continue? Suffice it to say, comparing taxes to slavery is historically inaccurate, intellectually dishonest, and racially crass, emphasis on ass.

    Lets also make sure we understand what the original mud-faced tea dumpers were protesting: LACK OF REPRESENATION. They didn’t have a problem with taxes. What they didn’t like was taxation WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!!!

    As for your community grocery shopper analysis – it’d be fine if I had some say in what was bought. The US is a democracy, so I do have a say. What’s more, if banning together with my neighbors would save me money cause we can by more together than anyone individually, I’m all for it.

    Granted, waste and fraud happens as in the billions that have been lost in Iraq alone. And there is govt incompetence as demonstrated by Katrina. But voters, however ill-informed, decide these things. We’ve decided to spend the money own ourselves. But since Reagan got people under this whole small govt/low taxes kick – we’ve seen severe deterioration of our infrastruture. You can drive I-85 through NC and SC and tell the difference taxes make.

    What’s more, taxes fund(ed) public education. The US used to top the world in primary and higher education. Not any more. Taxes funded the GI Bills and VA loans, etc, the built the white middle classes. Support for small govt/low taxes really kicked up in the 70s and 80s, not so coincidently right after the country expanded the number of people who’d enjoy the benefits of public programs.

    5 – Yes, I’m aware that there were libertarians prior to Goldwater. We’re not talking about them. We’re talking about the people who disrupted town hall meetings last summer – who admit they’ve only recently started paying attention. Recently as in the election of our first black president.

    ——

    Finally, blah blah blah, whatever and whatever. My original point still stands. Anytime there’s a group that’s disproportionately white, and the tea party is 80% white? – anytime you have such a group, they need to examine themselves to see if there’s something racist/racialist going on. The same goes for colleges, businesses, etc and so on.

    I googled “small govt and racial resentment” just to make sure you could.

    When it comes to white people in white towns who want small govt/lower taxes, first we should why they chose to live in a white town in the first place. Second, it depends on the level of govt and who else shares their district/jurisidition.

    Even conservative economists agree that the stimulus package has worked. And a look at the growth of income under recent presidents shows that everybody, top and bottom, has done better under Dems than Repubs.

    If by waste and fraud you’re reform to earmarks, that’s less than 1% of all govt spending. Not all earmarks are wasteful and they exploded under Republicans. The largest source of govt waste and fraud is the Pentagon. Waste and fraud in govt spending is not nearly as much as is mythologized.

    If the clip you’re upset that I won’t watch contains something other than a group response from black conservatives to the NAACP and the Sherrod incident; if Williams Owens didn’t explain that because his white brother can’t call him the n-word without being accused of being racist and so therefore the term “racist” had lost its meaning; if AlfonZo Rachel didn’t declare that the unedited tape proves Sherrod is racist; please let me know. If, however, we’re talking about the same thing – tough. I’m not going to watch the clip. I didn’t watch it when it first came out, though I initially did try; and, I’m not going to watch it now.

    Say what you like about MSNBC’s transparently liberal anchors of transparently op-ed shows; at least the majority of MSNBC and CNN viwers know Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

    If I’ve neglected to respond to any of your points . . . let it go!

    Frederic Christie Reply:

    Yes, but it wasn’t just not being paid but not being able to control their off-hours, their reproductive rights, etc. So taxation is a bad metaphor. (But you do make my point: 100% taxation, and big government, has been the reality for some people here forever. Which is what makes a mythology of a return to small government racist. Get it?)

    I don’t know how happy I’d be. But if getting everyone together got us something we couldn’t get individually, that’d be awesome. And if doing so let some people eat who wouldn’t otherwise, hell yes. I go through this every week with my friends: People’s capacity to pay varies, so people throw in and everyone eats some. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than people being hungry and not showing up. How antisocial can you get?

    To use your OWN ANALOGY: Government is a potluck. Everyone gets some food, and NO ONE HAS TO GIVE ALL OF THEIR WEALTH. Not even close. For God’s sakes, America has among the lowest tax rates on the planet! How come the French aren’t belly-aching the way we are? (Answer: Racism, classism, people not understanding that they’re not getting by because the economy hasn’t been functioning for three decades…)

    More importantly, I’d be even MORE unhappy if that guy who got all the money bought guns instead, or bought food and give it to the richest person in the group. That is what the federal government ACTUALLY does, but no one in the Tea Party talks about that. They talk about the cheap-ass Rainbow Bread the food buyer got for the three poor contributors and ignore the .38s going around. I’d accuse the people complaining there of being anti-poor. Why would I be wrong?

    Of course, you know what the people throwing in in the neighborhood can do if they don’t like it?

    MOVE.

    Otherwise, if everyone in the neighborhood likes the policy, maybe you don’t belong in that neighborhood…

  4. Tim I had a comment on here, in between the two you approved, that wasn’t approved. It in no way violated your terms and was in answer to your reply to my first comment. It directly concerned the subject of your post so I don’t understand why it wasn’t approved.

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    What was it Allen? I might have missed it, and apparently the system deletes messages that are pending after a few days if they aren’t approved. I don’t think I intentionally trashed anything. Please send it again. And know that if I don’t get to something right away, it’s sometimes just because I’m extremely busy

    [Reply]

    Allen Reply:

    No I understand and didn’t think it was any intentional malice. I don’t want to come across as trolling on here either since I’m enjoying your site since finding it. I realize my differing opinion on certain subjects is going to conflict with a lot of people on here too, but want to do it in a respectful way. I’m a fiscally conservative, socially liberal guy who more closely identifies with the current republican outlook, while still considering myself extremely anti-racist. One of the reasons I commented on this post in particular is because I think there are plenty of overt racist issues to deal with without assigning cases like the mosque location a racist bent.

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    Hi Allen, I went back and fixed this. You will now see your comment that was initially not approved for some reason, up top, and my reply. Thanks for re-sending

    [Reply]

  5. I came across this article a while back I find it really interesting. It pretty much goes with what you have said here.. http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/08/ground-zero-was-built-graves-slaves

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  6. Few things are more indefensible than the current anti-mosque hysteria. Religious freedom is something that is at the core of our national being, written into our national DNA, taught almost since birth as being part of what makes America America. Allowing a mosque, or Islamic cultural center, to be built within a short walk of ground zero should be automatic; it should never have become an issue. But, some fools decided to make it one. That doesn’t, however, give one an excuse to take pot shots at white people or America. So lets look at some of the pot shots…

    ================================

    >After all, there is scarcely a square foot of land upon which we tread that is not, for someone, Ground Zero.I am sitting atop one now: a killing field for Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek; a graveyard in which are buried the bones — and if no longer the bones, then surely the dust — of peoples whose evisceration occurred not so long ago, and is still remembered by those who have not the luxury of forgetting.And so the New Yorkers who believe against all evidence that their trauma is unique in the history of the world— or even their city for that matter — prattle on about the “defiling” of the former World Trade Center location. Meanwhile they overlook that their precious island was itself cajoled from indigenous peoples for a handful of worthless beads.And white men have been swindling those we viewed as inferior — be they of color, or even other white men — ever since, especially (and this is where the geographic symbolism of their protests becomes revealing) in and around Wall Street, where the actions of wealthy investors and financiers have done far more damage than Osama Bin Laden ever could.Would that we might prohibit the construction of banks anywhere in New York so as to make a point about terrorism and our unwillingness to collaborate with it.Indeed, if those protesting the Cordoba House were the least bit interested in consistency — as opposed to being content to wallow in a type of hypocrisy both profound and typical — they would, to a person, vacate downtown Manhattan immediately.And this they would do out of respect for the lives destroyed by people such as they: black peoples forced to build Fort Amsterdam for the Dutch, which is where Battery Park is now,or the walls that gave the famous street its name, or the roads,or the very auction blocks upon which their compatriots would be sold, thereby allowing 40 percent of white New York households to possess other human beings as property by the mid-1700s.Truth be told, that whole city is a Ground Zero, and has been for far longer than the existence of al-Qaeda, since long before those phallic monuments to architectural ingenuity and big business were constructed, and since long before there were any airplanes capable of bringing them down. It was Ground Zero for Amadou Diallo but we still allow police to operate in the vicinity of Wheeler Street in the Bronx.It was Ground Zero for Sean Bell but we haven’t banned the NYPD from around the environs of the Kalua Cabaret in Queens, where they shot he and his friends 50 times in 2006. Neither have we seen too many New Yorkers losing sleep over the inherent insensitivity towards the respective Ground Zeros for Patrick Dorismond or Timothy Stansbury Jr., both of whom were felled by police bullets, and yet which spots have hardly been made off limits to law enforcement out of respect for the dead.That many New Yorkers in 2010, and especially white ones — since there are few residents of the South Bronx or Washington Heights who are making their way downtown for these protests — cannot feel those other pains hardly acquits their arrogance. That they cannot see how their livelihoods, their homes, their bank accounts, and the clothes on their backs have been paid for with the blood of innocent people,is their problem. It is not the fault of those who would build Cordoba House, and in so doing disturb the hallowed ground of what has been, most recently, a Burlington Coat Factory.

    Their houses, and mine, and yours, sit atop Ground Zero.And those who died to make it so gave no permission for the construction of the homes, to say nothing of the churches that for so long were instrumental in rationalizing the slaughter. There were no building permits issued by those who died here so that we could be, as we like to say, “free.” But here we are nonetheless. And it takes some nerve to pretend, even as we sleep above the graves of those extirpated to make way for us, that 9/11 was the day everything changed.Or to believe that we have the right to tell anyone where they can and cannot live, pray or work.Or to suggest that we are the only ones who have ever died, or known terror, and that having done so we now have the right to draw a circle around us, a bubble of specialness, which can keep us warm and protected as though it were an amniotic sac inside of which we will forever be insulated from harm.We wish to be free from the pain, which is understandable. But it is not acceptable that in seeking that freedom we should ignore the pain by which we have come this far already.<

    Except that you deliberately ignore the true pain that accompanied the founding and building of this country, ranging from the suffering from the war for independence, the war to end slavery, massacres by native Americans, foreign wars in defense of freedom, and terrorism against us on our own soil. For you, pain can only be felt by non-whites and/or non-Americans.

    There have been and likely will continue to be articulate, thoughtful, moral, reasonable, logical, factual attacks against the anti-mosque hysteria that is taking place. This article, however, was not one of them. It was, in fact, an example of the same kind of bigotry and collective guilt as demonstrated by the mosque haters, but with a different target. As usual. As ever.

    [Reply]

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