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How Arpaio, Ethnic Studies & Confederacy illuminate the Right's racial issue

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What the Devil won't tell you

How Arpaio, Ethnic Studies & Confederacy illuminate the Right's racial issue

If Republicans were more 'conservative' they wouldn't constantly be tagged with the label they so grouse about

  • Demonstrators outside President Trump's speech in Phoenix, August 22.
    Parker Haeg/TucsonSentinel.comDemonstrators outside President Trump's speech in Phoenix, August 22.

If Joe Arpaio were a real man, he'd have rejected President Trump's pardon.

The former Maricopa County sheriff built his career on shabby to downright inhumane treatment of those accused of crimes and inmates convicted of minor offenses. He would always say he did it to prove a point: “If you break the law, you deserve all the punishment society can muster.”

In accepting the pardon, Arpaio admits guilt. Handing the judge the pardon to halt his sentencing is a confession under the law. He's copping to the charge. He broke the law. And he's dodging punishment. He won't be sentenced because he has friends in high places and he's a hypocrite because he's cool with his rules not applying to him.

"America's Toughest Sheriff" should either keep fighting or take the medicine that he once said was an imperative for society to prescribe to others.

It's rare that events of the day line up to show a truth so clearly, but Jupiter, Mars and Saturn have done just that in the last 10 days to dramatically show just how the GOP gets accused of racial hypocrisy.

Don't be a bunch of snowflakes, GOP. I'm not accusing you of racism. Conservatives can be racially conflicted but so can a lot of us. That's just something we all work through in a heterogeneous society. Some try harder than others. What I am trying to lay out is how any one conservative assertion alone, may be defensible but in context of others, conservatives can come across as racist.

The Right shouldn't be anywhere near racism, because it espouses judging each as an individual. And Lord knows, the Left needs to be more vocal in confronting the Antifa movement of anarchists who are defining "fascism" more loosely by the day.

This column is a bit of advice to the non-Nazi right wing. Confederate statues, TUSD's Mexican American Studies and Arpaio's pardon light up the double standard so clearly that Trump can read it on a teleprompter three states away. So too do others and it's not hysteria. It's pattern recognition.

Bleaching a stain

First, the Confederate statues. Trump insists America should continue to commemorate Southern leaders who prosecuted what in some parts is referred to as the War of Northern Aggression. If that fosters racial resentment, so be it.

The same rule does not apply to Latino kids.

The Charlottesville Nazis, see, claimed to be strolling through the streets to protest the removal of a statue to Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general — who should be taught at the War College but should not be heralded as some sort of hero.

Yet he is and conservatives applaud that. Donald Trump celebrated not just Lee's statue but all the memorials commemorating the Confederate cause in a series of tweets ('cuz that's how we live now):

"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments."

And in a subsequent tweet: "...the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"

Conservatives reveled in a poll released this month showing “the vast majority of Americans” support leaving Confederate statues where they are. Don't remove them. Study them. It's part of history. The nation should remember it.

Some say these statues foster treason and racial hostility because the history of the Confederacy is the story of an attempt to preserve slavery. Slavery had more than something to do with race. I'll let South Carolina's articles of secession speak for themselves:

It discusses the Founding Fathers' intent and explains: “whenever any 'form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.'”

Sounds reasonable on the face of it — consent of the governed and all — but still it advocates nullifying federal power. Here's the bigger issue: The South invoked this natural right in the name of racial supremacy. Make no mistake, slavery is all that was on their minds:

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

That's what Lee was fighting for, and in case anyone has any doubts the real Confederate flag was largely white for a reason. The Stainless Banner's designer said it was white in symbolic representation of the white race's supremacy.

So when we are talking about white Southerners, it's okay to discuss the overthrow of the U.S. government and foster racial strife.

If we are talking about Mexican Americans in Tucson learning about how racial strife was done unto them, well that's just identity politics.


Back in 2011, the Arizona Legislature approved and Jan Brewer signed a law barring schools from teaching courses which: (1) “Promote the overthrow of the United States government,” (2) “Promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” (3) “Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or (4) “Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

The state's superintendent of public instruction, John Huppenthal, ruled in 2011 that the Mexican American Studies program violated the aforementioned state law, even though an outside audit he had ordered declared that it did not.

U.S. District Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima just this last week ruled the ban on MAS violated students' 1st and 14th Amendment rights. The law has spoken.

So help me understand: It's OK to celebrate white Southerners seeking to overthrow the U.S. government in the name of racism but it's "identity politics" in Arizona to teach Mexican American kids their story in America, which includes a good deal of oppression.

The judge ruled that the effort by Huppenthal and former Attorney General Tom Horne to target MAS courses — the pair did not seek to prohibit courses designed for Native American and Asian students — was "motivated by a desire to advance a political agenda by capitalizing on race-based fears."

Do you see where a Mexican American might say: "Hey, wait a minute. That's not right. Why is it OK to study white Southern valor in the name of racist treason devoted to oppression but it's not OK for our kids to learn about the history of their condition in the U.S.?"

It would be awfully hard for Tucson Republicans to claim now that there was no oppression of Mexican Americans in the Old Pueblo after years of arguing that Tucson's City Charter instituted city-wide elections to lock Latinos out of the City Council. Remember the fervent claims that was “Jim Crow,” and that the GOP was now being discriminated against?

Look, I'm so white; my name is Blake. But maybe, just maybe, it's important for Latino students to understand their current marginalization didn't just materialize as a testament to their inherent sloth or bad decisions their grandparents made.

No, see, they are where they are because of some historical context.

When conservatives stand up for the Nazis' right to protest but open fire on minorities' rights to learn about their history, it says something.

Individual identity

During the MAS trial, Huppenthal gave testimony that was part Captain Queeg, part Col. Nathan Jessup and one part riffing Bond villain as he sought to explain the genius of his ban of the program.

I would really like to explain how he screwed up the Second Punic Wars but I won't digress other than to point out “Hannibal lost.”

Instead, I'm going to focus on one line he laid out that pretty much explains his motivations:

"It goes back to the plains of the Serengeti[,] . . . when we were evolving as a human race, the battle between the forces of collectivism and individualism. It defines us as a human race.”

Teaching kids they are part of an oppressed group, Huppenthal argues, is teaching them the inevitability of their own failure. The individual, if unchained by such burdens, will find success. Kids should stop worrying about their racial identity and that racial group's history so they can succeed.

That's a legit point. It can be debated.

It's just the Right today spends an awful lot of time trying to stuff the individual back into the box of their racial identity.

Profile in publicity

Conservatives may want to stop with all that celebration of the individual if they insist on hailing Arpaio as a hero of the movement. Arpaio's downfall came about because he, himself, insisted on racial profiling. Profiling groups as lawbreakers would seem to  be an anathema to individualists.

Friday, President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio.

Arpaio was found guilty of criminally violating a 2011 court order barring his deputies from detaining people suspected of violating federal immigration laws. His department was limited to enforcing state law.

In 2013, Judge Murray Snow ruled that Arpaio had racially profiled Latinos and issued another court order to stop that.

Arpaio pleased the masses by being "man enough" to stand up to the politically correct and get his hands dirty by profiling.

We know the arguments: We know what illegal immigrants look like. We all know which group is behind all the street violence. We all know the complexion of a terrorist. We know what groups are dangerous and those groups need to be targeted to keep the rest of us safe. It takes a real man, no, an Alpha Male brave enough to do it.

Again, do you see how some might say you are bigoted when you preach individuality but then argue that "law and order" requires tagging each individual with the purported legal history of their race or ethnic group?

I think I see the problem

Remembering our Confederate history, killing Mexican American Studies on the altar of individualism and then denying individuality when it comes to profiling all prove tactically advantageous. They gin up white resentment and grievance politics to turn out votes.

The hypocrisy, though, isn't a dog whistle. It's a clarion call to anyone who knows where the right side of history always shows itself.

I think it happens because the Right isn't conservative enough. By that I mean the Right only applies the protections of conservatism to other conservatives but won't extend them to those who disagree with them. Moreover, conservatives are absolved of the obligations that their own philosophy requires of the rest of us.

Personal responsibility is the Left's problem. The Right are victims of culture. The rule of law is supreme, unless it blocks conservatives' righteous cause and if a few minorities prove to be collateral damage then that's just happenstance in the name of a bigger victory.

The individual only has primacy if that individual belongs to a group that can't be conveniently demonized.

With that thinking, conservatism runs the risk of losing its universal application and may deteriorate into a tribal creed.

God knows liberals can be annoying, whipping up the cult of the oppressed that demands white male voices sit down, shut up and say "sorry," but maybe the cure to that on the Right is more actual conservatism.

Look at a guy like Jeff Flake. Here's a guy the Left couldn't disagree with more on a whole lot of issues but every once in a while, his conservative bona fides crash through a strategic Republican attack. For that he gets a primary challenge and Trump dumps all over him. He's not conservative enough, see.

I would argue sometimes he may not be Republican enough.

On good days, Gov. Doug Ducey is a man of universal conviction. On bad days, he seeks to ban Syrians fleeing terrorism from his state because they are clearly terrorists in the way those left homeless by forest fires are clearly arsonists.

The man who epitomized this is an Arizonan too, Barry “The Badass” Goldwater, a man who went to the grave opposing the Civil Rights Act and supporting gay rights.

Fishy is as fishy does

Conservatives argue white people can celebrate Confederate leaders who espouse Jim Crow. Minorities who suffer oppression shouldn't study the history of that oppression because it's too much collectivism at the expense of the individual. Yet the criminal justice system should be free to lump entire races together with some taint of guilt, screwing the individual.

Legitimizing white grievance politics while disparaging ethnic grievance politics as "un-American" would lead a reasonable mind to conclude something fishy is going on.

Thing is, I know conservatives aren't, by and large, bigots seeking racist outcomes. They just seem to have too much fun seeking a strategic advantage by buzzing racial politics at Mach 1. Unfortunately, they lack the self-awareness to understand how it translates.

Far be it for me to tell conservatives how to conservativize, but if you aren't going to stand up for the rights of Mexican Americans rights to learn about their history, or members of a race to be treated as individuals, maybe don't stand up so much on behalf of Nazis or secessionist slave owners. When you coddle Nazis marching with torches chanting about the Jews, when you repeat that there are "very fine people" among them, when you're frightened that children with a heritage of being oppressed might learn something about what their families endured, when you praise the record of a sheriff who ignored the rape of little girls while strutting like a tough guy over his illegal profiling of brown people, don't be surprised if something rubs off on you.

Apply conservatism to racial issues in a more productive way and, who knows, maybe the Right will redraw the map without gerrymandering. Keep up the hypocrisy and people are going to call you racist for the outcomes you seek, if not what inspires your heart.

Blake Morlock covered Arizona government and politics for 15 years, including 11 in the Tucson Citizen. He also worked on Democratic Party campaigns in the field of political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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