By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Out West, meanwhile, as home prices dropped faster than a burst piñata, an easy scapegoat was found: Mexicans. Long the scourge of aging white folks, who don't seem to understand the economics behind their cheap groceries, immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, and other sweltering southern destinations became enemies of the American Dream.
Suddenly, it was open season on brown-skinned fruit pickers and seamstresses. Arizona passed S.B.1070—a law that would force its residents to carry identity papers with them at all times. Jurisdictions around the nation are salivating to copy suit.
Back East, meanwhile, we have our own brown-skinned devil: the Muslim. When an imam who had done diplomatic work for the Bush administration put together plans to build the Muslim version of a Jewish Community Center a few blocks from Ground Zero (but farther away than an off-track betting joint, a strip club, and the very financial institutions that had detonated the economy), white people freaked out.
At Landmarks Preservation Commission meetings, white housewives from Staten Island suddenly took a great interest in preserving mid-19th-century cast-iron façades and the architecture of Daniel Badger—all to try to keep New Yorkers from taking swimming lessons in the same building where Muslims would have a place to pray. They argued that Muslims could never understand the impact of 9/11 (even though more than 20 Muslims were killed that day) and could never understand the concept of Ground Zero being holy ground (as if a building that would contain prayer services was somehow less holy than an outlet for betting on horses or stuffing dollar bills into G-strings).
But by now, those sorts of distinctions are nearly impossible to make for a white mind so cluttered by decay. Race was always a tough one for white people to deal with, but now the backflips some people are doing over it requires a scorecard.
There may be no better example than Laura Schlessinger and the great white outpouring of support following the bizarre flameout of her radio show.
It all started with the most incomprehensible of happenings: that a black woman would, out of all reason, call the Dr. Laura show seeking advice.
The sister called Schlessinger to ask how to handle her white husband's white friends, who sometimes say racist things that she's uncomfortable with, including using "the N-word."
Schlessinger almost immediately went to, "A lot of blacks voted for Obama simply 'cause he was half-black."
She told the caller not to "NAACP" her by taking her out of context.
She said "nigger" is fine to say because "black guys use it all the time."
She then wrote the caller off as having a "chip on [her] shoulder" and declared, "We've got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever."
She told the caller that if "you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor" (i.e., you even question that your husband's white friends say "nigger" to you in your house), "don't marry out of your race."
The caller, Schlessinger thought, was suffering from "hypersensitivity—which is being bred by black activists." Her discomfort with the word "nigger," Schlessinger said, was just another "attempt to demonize whites hating blacks."
The reaction from white America, who clearly had not remembered to take their thorazine that morning, was overwhelming: Who, if not Laura Schlessinger, should say "nigger" with impunity?
Constitutional experts are still trying to parse that one.
Sarah Palin then rushed to Schlessinger's, side, Tweeting in her inimitable style, "Don't retreat . . . reload!" Palin, we can only assume, wanted Schlessinger to utter "nigger" as often as she wanted.
Perhaps the two of them, having both quit their jobs, can get together and put on a road show, opening with "Zip Coon" and finishing with a rousing rendition of "Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny"?
On February 19, 2009, not a month into Obama's presidency, Rick Santelli—a former hedge-fund manager—had a meltdown on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange while broadcasting for CNBC. Santelli was incensed not that the government was bailing out the multimillionaires who had run giant financial institutions, but that assistance would also be going to help out ordinary people who found themselves defaulting on their home mortgages. Calling such folks "losers," he said, "How many of you want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?"
He then added that he was not only mad as hell, but wanted to do something about it: "We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I'm gonna start organizing."
Suddenly, other angry (and obviously very confused) white people began organizing their own "tea parties" and, from the start, had to defend themselves from charges that there was more than a little racial component to their movement.
Few were really surprised, for example, when Tea Party Express President Mark Williams turned out to have penned a letter that could have been written in the worst decades of Jim Crow: "We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!"