Last month, Republican House member Don Young of Alaska fondly remembered that when "My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes ... " He later tried to apologize, saying in a statement that "I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect."
That's a lie. If he knew the term was "not used in the same way nowadays" he shouldn't have used it. And I suspect immigrant workers considered it an insult even in the good old days when the future Congressman Young worked on his daddy's ranch. He used the term because it had become so ingrained in his thinking that he believes it's acceptable to say stuff like that.
Now comes the news that Oklahoma State Rep Dennis Johnson - the Republican Majority Leader of the State's House of Representatives - said it's "fine" if his customers try to "Jew me down on the price" because "that's free market." After someone points out the ignorant bigotry that just came out of his mouth, Johnson says "I apologize to the Jews ... they're good small businessmen as well."
Of course, we are Representative. Everyone knows we're good with money, right?
Johnson's apology is no more sincere than Congressman Young's. Just look as the smirk on his face as he "apologizes" while spewing yet another bigoted comment. He doesn't even know that it's an insult, and admitted as much later when he told reporters the term was something he heard frequently as a youngster and that the comment "was just something that came out from the wrinkles of my brain."
Both of these "gentlemen" try to excuse their bigotry and ignorance by saying it's just the way people used to talk when they were growing up. They're supposed to be representing their constituents, but seem to have no idea that the 1950s were long ago - we're living in the 21st century now, and there is no excuse for using language like this.
But they're not the only ones with nostalgia for racism and bigotry. They're just two of the most recent examples who have been unable to engage their wrinkled brains before opening their pie holes and then tried to apologize later.
I almost have more respect for a participant at the recent CPAC conference who refused to apologize after wondering why a slave like Frederick Douglass would have forgiven his master. "For what?", he asked, "For feeding and housing him." His comments were met with applause, and he concluded by muttering "why can't we just have segregation?" When a woman tried to remind him that the GOP was founded as an anti-slavery party (now THOSE were the good old days) he responded, "I didn’t know the legacy of the Republican Party included women correcting men in public.”
Keep these comments in mind the next time we hear people talking about "returning to the America" they remember from back in the "good old days". Because those were the days when some peoples' "values" included calling immigrants "wetbacks", using "Jew" as a verb, and making sure women and African-American knew their places.
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