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What the Devil won't tell you

Supervisors should let Ally Miller's 'proud white' comments drop

Board told it lacks censure authority — they should now move on

Dear Pima County supervisors:

It's time to let go Supervisor Ally Miller's comments boasting on Facebook about her pride in being white after the fatal "alt-right" neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Supervisors took a pass on voting on a censure Tuesday, more than two weeks after learning confidentially that the board didn't have the power to reprimand a co-equal board member. It's not in state law.

It sure seems like they went through the motions to show certain constituencies they couldn't formally reprimand Miller for her bloody ignorant — and I mean that literally — take on her whiteness.

Supes: now keep moving on because officially rebuking her is not your job. Let it drop. If those constituents keep pestering, then tell them the following:

Any official action against Miller would only make her stronger among those who believe her cries that she's a "victim." Rather than handing her arrows, talk to potential allies you can recruit to the fight for justice. Racism must be coaxed into the light and defused. Driving it further into the darkness helps nothing.

Miller issued her statement on local conservative activist Shaun McClusky's Facebook page and proclaimed her pride in whiteness. Her post came in the immediate context of President Trump's initial vacillation about who was to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., finding moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and antifascists. That was Trump's first call, not all the flip-flopping that followed.

So Miller came off as insensitive at best and pro-white supremacists at worst. I get the argument that favors a swift rebuke.

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During her time in office, Miller has sought one goal above all else and that is playing the victim. She's the victim of the media. She's the victim of her colleagues. She won't talk to or work with either. She's the victim of political correctness. She's the victim of the state's public records law. Her scripted talk-radio appearances actually describe her as a "victim."

She would wear an official reprimand with honor and go to right-wing audiences waving it like a bloody shirt.

Miller's post claimed a white victimhood, bristled at racial guilt and then went and preached a pride in her skin color too similar to the "White Pride" sloganeering of the Ku Klux Klan for much of this community to stomach.

"I'm sick and tired of being hit for being white....It is all about making us feel like we need to apologize. I am WHITE - and proud of it! No apologies necessary."

Really? Ally? You think you suffered discrimination and marginalization as much as people of color? Prove it or shut up about it.

That middle part, though, resonates. "It is all about making us feel like we need to apologize." Her words play not just to the talk-radio crowd but to the great multitude of whites in America who are racially conflicted.

I'm not just talking about people who fear the stranger of darker pigment. I'm talking about the professional who sees a new co-worker is black and says "Great, we hired one." One what?

The racially conflicted also wonder about why it is they can't be proud of being white, if African Americans can claim “Black Pride,” Latinos can claim “Brown Pride,” the LGBTQ community can claim plain-old “Pride." They can be told 'white is a construct of power' because specific ancestry exists but whiteness itself is just a collective assertion of strength over non-whites. Then why do people of color refer to them as white people?

I never thought about being proud to be white, just as I never considered being proud to wear a size 10 1/2 shoe. I've just been to enough barbecues, family reunions and all-white shindigs to know that even potential allies in the struggle against racism bristle at the notion that the only acceptable public self-reference to whiteness is shame.

But there's a difference between pride in heritage, and pride in a heritage that has been historically punished.

Yankee Doodle hipster

The term “White Pride” means something completely different to a WASPy kid from suburbia than it does to Supervisors Richard Elias and Ramon Valadez, both Latinos, and Sharon Bronson, who is Jewish. To Bronson, especially, White Pride and neo-Nazism means pliers coming at the teeth and the horror show that Jews have faced for thousands of years.

There's a reason we cut Israel so much slack.

In the case of blacks, Latinos and gays, the pride they boast is a very human reaction to being backed into a corner by a society that wants to ostracize them over their blackness, brownness or gayness. If you tell me that my rather pronounced nose means I have fewer rights and leaves me open to hostility, then at some point I'm going to flip you the bird and say “I'm quite proud of my nose, thank you very much.”

There is, in fact, a well-known white corollary. Ever sing “Yankee Doodle?”

“Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his cap
and called it macaroni.”

It may not seem like it today but in the late 1770s, that's practically a mic-dropping diss.

The term "doodle" was not meant as a reference to people who like to sketch on the back of envelopes. It means idiot. Macaroni refers to a style of extreme fashion the most annoying members of the aristocracy flaunted back during the revolution. It was flamboyant and ornate.

"Stupid redneck went to town
in a '71 Duster
Stuck a pickle in his Coors
and called himself a hipster.”

The  British sang "Yankee Doodle" about the unkempt, low-brow Americans back in the day as the Continental Army lost battle after battle in the early years of the Revolution. But when they finally won a major engagement at the Battle of Saratoga, guess what rebels sang? They took pride in their doodleness, because F U, that's why. Yankee Doodle Pride was born.

If Miller had claimed “Red Neck Pride” (there are rednecks in her native Vermont), she would not have been met with such outrage. Red neck is a derisive term meant to signal a group we all know are screwed by economic circumstance and they have a weird habit of siding with the oppressor and blaming others equally screwed. But we get that they can feel, as a culture, backed into a corner and misunderstood.

White pride, on the other hand, is a term co-opted by those who would violently cleanse the country along ethnic lines. Miller is so eager to be the victim, she seems not to know the difference, and unwilling to think about it. That makes her a piece of work but it doesn't make her a Nazi.

It will also be taken by many more — who don't know the difference — to mean Miller is a martyr to puritanical tolerance.

The perfect stand in judgment

The Left is typically on the right side of history in that it fights for progress and to establish through government action a sense of justice being done. On the other hand, the Left is taking up a dangerous cause when it decides to cleanse the country of sin on issues of race.

I get the instinct to stand up to racial intolerance where ever it rears its head, but a zero tolerance approach to intolerance doesn't foster much understanding. Not every wayward word is evidence of racist intent. The risk of calling anyone a "racist" who seems to whiff of it, at any given moment, is that they will embrace the notion as their own.

It can be frustrating because racism is still a problem but it's a problem without indicators as obvious as segregation, white hoods and burning crosses. It hides in darkness. So the Left likes to pounce whenever anything close to it staggers into the light. Close enough becomes good enough.

So along stumbles Ally Miller, claiming something akin to white pride in highly inappropriate circumstances, and the Left takes the bait.

During Tuesday's hearing, Latino-rights champion Isabel Garcia tried to clue Miller into some history and threw a grenade into the conversation when she said, "Do you know how we were really founded? On a genocide of indigenous people." Thanks Isabel, but the migrants didn't wake up in Ireland and say "I think I'll go to America and shoot some Cheyenne." Genocide is in our founding documents.

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Garcia has long fought the good fight but that wasn't helpful. Reducing the white American experience to acts of genocide isn't going to win friends or influence people. Instead it makes the white guy in the car driving home from work who might hear that soundbite think, "Oh great. What else am I responsible for?"

Race, see, is the one issue everyone thinks is a problem but no one thinks it's theirs. It's all those other people screwing it up. I've found very few of us are perfect on race.

Go ask African Americans if their white liberal friends and co-workers are perfect on race – especially the ones who think they are (I thought I had it covered by still got smacked around a couple times in ways that were blindingly obvious almost immediately). African Americans aren't perfect on the issue of race either but not because we're all evil but because we are all imperfect.

No one hates anything more than being confronted by people who claim to be perfect and therefore are free to judge the rest of us with righteous fury.

Fight in the light

It's a fight that has to be fought, though.

Racist outcomes today are aided and abetted by the voices out to prove racism doesn't exist. They try to define the terms of the debate by seizing an issue that's racial in nature, like affirmative action, and then claim race has nothing to do with questioning college admissions. So we're always discussing adverse racial reality but are told discussing it in racial terms is out of bounds. They defend the pretext while attacking the context and advancing the subtext that fighting racism is a tired old theme of the intellectually empty.

And it works because racism becomes ignorant of itself.

The ugly truth is bigotry is not necessary to create racist outcomes but it can accelerate them. I want to belong to the movement that is ready to lose ground, if it gaining ground means abandoning the fight for racial justice. In that fight, not every battle must require a frontal assault. Most military tacticians will tell you that a frontal assault is the thing to be avoided. And, of course, to defend everything is to defend nothing.

Truthfully, I'm more worried about the darkness because racism has gone underground and learned how to thrive there like a naked mole rat. If people think they have to watch their words, to hide impure thoughts, it does nothing to extinguish those thoughts. It just means they are hidden away. Banning ideas just makes them more popular and the Left is the last group that should need to be told that.

When talking about being proud to be white, a conversation can ensue that sheds light on the issue. If they instead just shut up about it, then the Donald Trumps of the world suddenly have an audience ready to listen because he gets them. And someday folks, a Donald Trump will come along with a lot more smarts and a lot more patience.

The idea is to defuse the bomb and defusing bombs requires steady hands, not sledgehammers.

I'm not one to believe in teachable moments or a national conversation about race. I don't think it's gotten us anywhere. Personally, I've gone far sitting down over beers with friends of different pigmentation and just talked and listened.

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Miller's comeuppance is best left to conversations and arguments out among Pima County voters, rather than in the hands of county government that just would force the controversy back into the shadows.

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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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Miller at Tuesday's meeting.

Ally Miller: 'I am WHITE - and proud of it! No apologies necessary'

From TucsonSentinel.com's initial report on Miller's statements, August 13:

Responding to comments about President Donald Trump's initial platitudes about the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller said Saturday, "I'm sick and tired of being hit for being white....It is all about making us feel like we need to apologize. I am WHITE - and proud of it! No apologies necessary."

Miller commented on a Facebook thread following news reports of the fatal attack Saturday, in which a Charlottesville woman was killed and more than a dozen others injured when a white supremacist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters. That Ohio man faces a murder charge, Virginia authorities said.

Miller's comments were part of a brief Facebook thread, which included a comment from Latino activist DA Morales, who noted that Trump's response did not "directly address white supremacy."

"That is vague AF and could be used in any situation. Why not use the term 'white supremacy'" just like he boasts about using the term 'Islamic terrorism'?," Morales asked.

Rather than taking the opportunity to condemn the alleged killing of a woman by an white supremacist and express sympathy for the other victims, Miller instead seemed to take personal offense at the phrase "white supremacy."

Miller's statement followed a handful of comments, and several hours, later, after 6 p.m.

The Republican county supervisor did not respond to queries from reporters about her statement last month.

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