Historical Amnesia

Historical Amnesia

This is a very silly thing to say:

“Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court is a historic milestone for Latinos, but it resonates well beyond Hispanic pride. It is perhaps the most potent symbol yet of a 21st century rapprochement between the U.S.’s two largest minorities, Latino Americans and African Americans, who in the 20th century could be as violently distrustful of each other as blacks and whites were.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

“One must be clear about what constituted “violent” distrust “between” blacks and whites in the 20th century. It meant thousands of whites, in Atlanta, in 1906, assembling on the streets to randomly murder black people. In Springfield, Illinois, in 1908, it meant whites pillaging a Jewish businesses for arms, and then proceeding to the black side of town, attacking black business and black homes, and thousands of black people fleeing for their lives. It meant whites–across the nation–in 1910 assembling in mobs and murdering random black people (On the 4th of July!). The cause? Jack Johnson had the temerity to win the championship. It meant whites in East St. Louis, in 1918, perpetrating a pogrom against the city’s black population, and killing over 100 black people because, “southern niggers need a lynching.”

I have not known Latinos in the 20th Century to perpetrate a Red Summer. I have not known blacks to lynch Latino veterans, returning from war, in their uniforms. The fact is that there was no violent distrust between blacks and whites in the 20th century. Rather there was a one-sided war waged against black people by white terrorists, which government, in the best cases, failed to prevent, in many cases, stood idly by, and in the worst cases actually aided and abetted. I’m sorry but comparing that to whatever’s happening between blacks and Latinos, is a slander against both those groups, and an amazingly naive take on the history of white America in regards to race.”

There seems to be a rash of naivete on this subject lately. Here’s Rush Limbaugh, quoted in TAPPED:

“If ever a civil rights movement was needed in America, it is for the Republican Party. If ever we needed to start marching for freedom and Constitutional rights, it’s for the Republican Party. The Republican Party is today’s oppressed minority. It knows how to behave as one. It shuts up. It doesn’t cross bridges, it doesn’t run into the Bull Connors of the Democrat Party. It is afraid of the firehouses and the dogs, it’s compliant. The Republican Party today has become totally complacent. They are an oppressed minority, they know their position, they know their place. They go to the back of the bus, they don’t use the right restroom and the right drinking fountain, and they shut up.”

Leaving aside the peculiar claim that the Republican Party is non-confrontational at present, the idea that Republicans are being denied their civil rights the way blacks were under Jim Crow — that they do not have the right to vote, and are beaten up or killed when they try to exercise it, for instance — is just bizarre beyond belief.

Hyperbole is one thing, but complete distortion of history is another. I don’t expect better from Limbaugh — John Cole wrote that “the right wing apparently spent the last eight years combining the highly successful tactics of Code Pink and the comedic stylings of Hee Haw!”, and he’s right — but the first paragraph I quoted appeared in Time. And Time’s columnists should know better than to confuse friction between members of two groups with a government-enforced regime of terror that lasted for centuries.