Daily Archives: July 17, 2009

Those pesky women of color. What next – equality?

It’s Casual Friday here on the Swami. To celebrate, I’m writing this naked. Go feast on that!

My head’s still spinning from last night’s historic on-screen bust-up between BuchananRachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan on MSNBC, over Sotomayor’s about-to-happen appointment to the Supreme Court bench, which Buchanan thinks is a disgrace. A disgrace, I tell you.

Why? Well, because Sotomayor’s not a white man, for a start, and only white men are fit to decide what’s right and wrong in this country, everyone knows that. And how do we know? Because, of 110 Supreme Court justices so far, 108 have been white men, a fact Buchanan is proud of and wants to keep that way, thank you very much.

Which is why he’s angry. Angry at the Obama Administration for:

  •  refusing to stand by historical precedent, a precedent of active discrimination against pesky women, especially pesky women of color;
  • for breaking up a revered Old Boys’ Club; and, worst of all:
  • for promoting Sonia Sotomayor, a Latina with more experience on the bench than any previous appointee, male or female, to the highest judicial position in the land.  I mean, good grief, what were they thinking?

“White men were 100% of the people that wrote the Constitution,” Buchanan bleated in his bizarrely high-pitched drone, “100% of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100% of the people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and probably close to 100% of the people who died at Normandy. This has been a country built basically by white folks, who were 90% of the nation in 1960 when I was growing up and the other 10% were African-Americans who had been discriminated against. That’s why.”

He is further outraged because he sees Sotomayor’s appointment as unashamedly shoe-horning diversity into an institution that didn’t need it, simply to have her there. It’s affirmative action in action. Mixing things up just for the sake of it. An abomination.

Well, needless to say, Maddow came the closest I have ever seen her to combusting on screen, which is why it’s riveting television.

The video is HERE, so you can watch it for yourself. 

Obviously, Buchanan’s point of view is archaic, creaky, and embarrassing. Although it’s laudable, I think, that he had the nerve to speak the unspeakable.

In Britain, he’d have been branded an insane, racist hack and given very little air-time to make his point. Here in America, however, even those with fringe, incendiary, or lunatic viewpoints are allowed to grandstand for a little while, provided it keeps the ratings bubbling along nicely. And the Maddow-Buchanan argument certainly did that, I’m sure.

What’s interesting to me, though, is that there were times when I found myself siding with Buchanan, something even I find hard to believe, since I disagree with him on almost everything. Generally speaking, the second he opens his mouth on any topic he offends me.

Nevertheless, last night I could see his point.  Just a little.

A policy of levering people of different races into various positions simply on the basis of the color of their skin is as wrong and indefensible as excluding them for the same reason. People should rise to the top on merit, and be afforded the opportunity to do so, because they’re the best at what they do, not allowed to kangaroo hop over everyone else for reasons of variety, or, conversely, dragged down and pushed out of sight because they’d spoil the status quo.  

I left Britain twelve years ago, just as Tony Blair was getting his feet under the desk at 10, Downing Street. Other than very briefly, I have not been back since, so all I know about the place is what others tell me.

But what others tell me isn’t good. Not at all.  

Every one of my friends wishes they could leave too. They cite Blair’s policy of affirmative action and the European policy of zero border controls as the reason. As a result, apparently, Britain is now flooded with immigrants from all over the world. A tiny country is drowning in a sea of foreigners who have brought not merely diversity – which in these enlightened times was the plan: cosmopolitan is best; even an island can’t stay insular forever – but a debasing of the very society the immigrants sought to join. 

In the process of allowing almost anyone to settle within its shores, the UK lost its identity, or so goes the argument. Britain isn’t Britain any more.

Instead of integrating, learning the culture, and accepting standards, principles, and traditions built up over a rich history dating back dozens of centuries – the very elements that made Britain Britain – the immigrants stuck with their own. They brought their culture and traditions with them and set up camp, making their own little world within the British world, living as part of but separate.

I hear this time and time again. “Britain isn’t Britain any more.” And the British – what would be in Pat Buchanan’s terms the real British – feel they’ve lost control of their destiny, that it’s been hijacked.   

Next year I’ll be returning for the first time in a decade, when Naked in Dangerous Places is published there, so I guess I’ll find out for myself how much of this is true, or if my friends are hysterically exaggerating, which quite honestly is not beyond them.

All the same, it was against that backdrop that I watched the Maddow-Buchanan slap-down last night and was able, at least in theory, to see where Buchanan was coming from. To him, the heresy that is affirmative action meant overturning a noble institution that had functioned perfectly well all these years without being updated, destablizing it with random diversity. A dangerous policy.

As long as white males are in charge, he believes, the country will be stable, sturdy, solid, and….well, America. But give too much leeway to minorities, let them subvert the old ways, and America won’t be America any more.

Broadly speaking, that’s goofy nonsense, and Maddow was right to shoot it out of the skies.

Having said that, though….I get it. I know what he means. 

Or, rather, I empathize with his fear. He doesn’t want to see happen to the great US of A what has allegedly happened to Great Britain. He doesn’t want, in other words, America to lose its greatness or its identity on the road to doing the right thing and seeming progressive and open. Because, as we all know, some of the biggest mistakes have been made with the best intentions.



Read Cash’s new book: Naked in Dangerous Places.

Watch Cash’s little movie, Fast and Very Loose.


Filed under Television commentary