Dick Durbin Decrier or Distraction: Who Has the Better Understanding of Race in America?

Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

When Dick Durbin, democratic senator from Illinois, spoke on the congressional floor almost 2 weeks ago saying lawmakers had put the confirmation vote for Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s pick to replace Eric Holder as attorney general, in the back of the bus, were forcing her to sit in the back of the bus as far as the congressional calendar was concerned he set off a firestorm. Many blacks, both liberal and conservative, saying he was wrong, others asking why he threw a racially charged grenade into an issue that had nothing to do with race, more saying this is why we can’t have a serious conversation about race in this country, “because we keep wrapping the wrong stuff around it.” Lynch’s nomination actually being held up by the republican controlled legislative body because she aligns with the president on his interpretation of the use of executive orders specifically in regards to his controversial, according to them, constitution shredding immigration bill; republicans would have us believe for no other reason. Hints fellow lawmakers, including John McCain, calling out Durbin naming his comments inflammatory rhetoric “having no place in this body and serving no purpose other than to further divide us,” pointing to Durbin’s own voting record in nominating a judge to the Washington D.C. court of appeals where he filibustered then voted against the first African American to hold said post. Ending in demanding Durbin apologize for his offensive comments, a sentiment with which political operatives, analysts and citizens majority agree. Apparently sidestepping McCain’s own dubious record prompting people post 2008 to wonder what happened to him from underhanded presidential race comments to re-election tactics a complete departure from his former self, prior priorities, values to being on the wrong side of the don’t ask don’t tell repeal, supporting the later deemed unconstitutional Arizona immigration bill, to his relentless, now bordering on absurd, pursuit of those involved in the republican manufactured Benghazi scandal. News articles over a week later still asking if senator Durbin will ever apologize, blasting democrats for once again “playing the race card;” pundits calling this simply how things work in Washington, the political tit for tat between republicans and democrats, largely republicans and the president, not that Lynch would be, fact remains, the first female, African American attorney general. Yet it seems onlookers possess no viable answer to surrounding questions from entities like New Jersey mayor Cory Booker who took advantage of Durbin’s open door to publicly ask why there was a double standard. Further missed in all the hype about the inappropriateness of his comments, is what he was really asking for, what he was highlighting; he matter-of-factly  demanded only it be brought to a vote, to either confirm or deny Ms. Lynch to the post the president wishes her appointed. Regardless of his prior record, his personal or political growing pains getting on the right side of issues, he was still brave enough to stand up, brave enough to speak, voice what’s on many Americans’ minds, at least passively wondering if the holdup is somewhere along the lines about race.

 

On a sad day in America, in the highest seats of freedom and justice for all will someone have to apologize because they told the truth or struck damn near to it; on a sad day in America will someone’s reminder to his lawmaking collogues that we are years beyond the civil rights movement and should act accordingly, be distilled to race-baiting, creating a distraction, talking about what he dared say, instead of working to confirm a qualified, historic candidate to a political post bettering the country in the process. Because the unvarnished, uncomfortable truth is not how the Lynch confirmation could possibly be construed as about race, but rather how could it not be interpreted as, not only about, but exclusively about, race?  Astute democrats, liberals, though the phrase may seem oxymoronic to their opposition, have already pegged republicans’ move attacking president Obama by proxy, president Obama who has been subjected to unprecedented disrespect, animus, vitriol far from just on issues, continuing references to king, emperor or dictator Obama, posters depicting him as Hitler, and yes those ideas surrounding him concerning race. He is the first black president, that is a fact; another fact, they don’t like that, didn’t like that going back to his campaign when we saw circa 2008, not 1958, 68, perhaps even 78, posters depicting him as a monkey. Whether it was because they viewed him a shoe in because he would be the first minority potentially elected, elected to the position sans a hard look at his qualifications, i.e. too inexperienced, too young for the job coinciding with despising his recorded stance on key topics, his stated direction for the country; they like him even less currently for his handling of singular events, relationships with lawmakers, his habit of going around congress where he legally can. They would say circumventing, calling it a decidedly illegal usurpation of power, untold overreach; part of the reason they dislike him is because he is black. Now that may be the 10th reason in the top 20, the 20th in the top 50,  possibly ranking dead last on  the ‘reasons we hate the president’ tally, but make no mistake it is a reason. One of the biggest components fueling the he’s a Muslim, he doesn’t love this country, wasn’t brought up to respect it the way we were, trope is that his skin is something other than white; he looks like he could be from another section of the globe, he looks like he could be one of those people from an ambiguous ‘over there.’ Identically, continuing to stir the birther crowd, still convinced the president was born somewhere outside the United States, the he’s from Kenya related trope, isn’t just that the rich business tycoon, well-known Donald Trump, was the one saying it, saying it to this day, that he was then, unbeknownst to us, fighting a battle for relevancy solely interested in what kept people saying his name, his brand, but the fact the president’s skin is something other than white. He is African American, looks like he could be from an African country; the same way Ted Cruz, the Donald’s latest birther target, despite being the son of a known Cuban immigrant and possessing a Hispanic sounding surname, fights rumors he was born in Canada therefore ineligible to be president of the United States. His clear ambition since being elected senator from Texas, evidenced by his announcement last week formally putting himself forth as a 2016 candidate; he looks wholly Caucasian. For the record, regulations governing eligibility to be president regarding citizenship are as follows; you must be a natural born citizen. Natural born citizen defined as anyone born in the United States, U.S. held territories, or, here’s the second half birthers always forget, having been born abroad, have one parent who was/is a U.S. citizen at the time. Meaning if by some paperwork fluke, familial deception, cosmic joke either the president or Ted Cruz were born in Kenya and Canada respectively, provided one of their parents, in this case their mothers, held U.S. citizenship, they would still be eligible to hold the highest office in the land.  More reality checks, Loretta Lynch’s pending conformation vote has been on the books, collecting dust in the congressional calendar for 131 days, as of Durbin’s senate speech, longer than the last 5 people posted to the AG position, including the now hated Eric Holder, longer than anyone nominated in the last 30 years. Republicans who hate Eric Holder refuse to vote in someone different, who somehow expected the president to nominate an AG with opposing views, who think what, if they ignore it long enough Lynch’s confirmation will just magically disappear?  Eric Holder who also happens to be African American; are we starting to see a pattern here? Is said pattern deeper than their shared skin color, shared views akin to the president’s going to the still held concept, they are tired of him hiring, nominating other, under qualified  African Americans to positions because he is the African American in the Whitehouse ‘doing for his people?’ Yes it every well could be Eric Holder’s beliefs are congruent with President Obama, Lynch’s are likewise lock-step with the president;  unfortunately congressional republicans, their defenders of ‘the way things are done in Washington,’ the political game have additional problems with what Durbin shoved under our noses. Hint: it’s not just congresses’ abysmal approval rating; to paraphrase one news anchor, being ticked at the president, ticked at the sitting attorney general is not a legitimate reason to grind legislative business to a halt. Not to mention the solution to not confirming Ms. Lynch, if it really is singularly about the issues her stance on immigration and its ramifications, is to convince fellow voters why they shouldn’t vote for her, then proceed with a vote. True Mr. Durbin did vote to filibuster, then vote no on an African American to the D.C. court of appeals, she did wait 684 days, but he couldn’t have been alone in his vote to filibuster since it was apparently successful, she was confirmed independent his final vote. And examining the situation now, nowhere did he say they should confirm Lynch, vote yes based on her race alone; in fact addressing their logical, or rather illogical, conclusion, he stated the opposite, no one should vote for her simply because she would be the first female African American attorney general, only that they bring it to the floor for a long overdue vote.

Under this cloud does Dick Durbin confront his fellow legislators asking A- why he has to stand up and make such a case, such a plea, and B- why the issue hasn’t been decided already? In this environment when he sees the disrespect leveled at the president, an environment where his adjacent governmental branch the judiciary, specifically the Supreme Court, has rendered landmark, devastating to civil rights by many estimations, rulings on voting rights and affirmative action within the last 2 years. Taking into account such context did he pose a pivotal question, the polite version of what the hell are you, what the hell are we doing?  We call his actions inappropriate when the court’s ruling, curtailing paramount pieces of civil rights law, lead to states almost immediately implementing voter I.D. laws set to prevent poor, elderly, disabled, minority, black persons from voting. When the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action was rendered amidst the internet going apoplectic with people’s negative response to a biracial cheerio’s ad, saw rancher, initially heralded as a hero for standing against big government, Cliven Bundy grab the microphone and start disparaging blacks, as if we had been suddenly transferred to the anti-bellum south. Never mind we removed affirmative action from public schools yesterday to see them re-segregated along racial lines, we remove it from colleges today by popular vote, how long is it before we see blacks only and whites only public establishments coming back by “popular” vote?  With this regressive reality looming it is still out of line for Dick Durbin to stand on the senate floor articulating what the American people can’t in the same place; one commentator painting the following image: Imagine that President Obama had nominated Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz as America’s next attorney general. Imagine further that, during an unrelated Democratic filibuster, Senator Dick Durbin complained that a Republican delay of Dershowitz’s confirmation vote made him suffer a modern-day Kristallnacht. Such an unnecessary, inappropriate, and grotesque comment would appall people across the political spectrum.” Except he wouldn’t/doesn’t have to first, because, Kristallnacht happened in Germany during the horror of World War 2’s Hitler controlled Europe, the U.S. having no equivalent in it’s correlating history, and second, because there is no evidence suggesting there is a present day, all-out assault on the Jewish community, at least in American anyway, never mind in the U.S. legislature, other branches of the U.S. government. Claims that equally cannot be made about the African American community from government on down to citizen X walking down Main Street; Durbin certainly not oblivious to the high profile clashes between police and people of color, black or brown. 2014 edging into 2015 seeing news story after news story of cops’ confrontations with these citizens resulting in death, seemingly unprovoked, unnecessary force used to apprehend people for petty crime, bordering on slaughter of  black or brown individuals, galvanizing protests including the mantra ‘black lives matter.’ Surpassing the stone cold, in your face clinical fact their municipalities couldn’t assemble enough evidence to indict, bring criminal charges against officers who either faced no injuries or minor ones contrasting a suspect who was dead, you have a New York judge who refused, also that week, to release grand jury transcripts in the Eric Garner choke hold case. A case including video virtually showing officers killing a man in the course of his arrest, a case where understandably his community, to say nothing of the country at large, would want to know why no charges were filed; when even in Ferguson, known for botching the Michael Brown case beginning to end, they released grand jury documents essentially explaining their ultimate decision. Durbin’s eyebrow raising address to congress hardly coincidentally on the heels of more long awaited department decisions; Department of Justice (DOJ) investigators finding no grounds to charge George Zimmerman with civil rights violations in the controversial shooting of Tryvon Martin after the former was acquitted of criminal wrong doing. Soon to follow, while DOJ findings came down critically on Ferguson’s police department citing systemic racism, targeting of minority residents, aggressive policing used against them, systemic leaning on traffic fines, court fees for excessive revenue quantities, they could find no proof Darrin Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights, began the fatal confrontation due to racial bias, police department mentality exuding same. Was Durbin a member of the French legislative counterpart though, the Kristallnacht comment would have been wholly appropriate considering the treatment of Jews right now today  in cities like Paris; something to think about. Returning to America, but Dick Durbin is creating unnecessary noise, just using Lynch as filibustering tool to delay a vote on a bill aimed at lessening human trafficking, because it incorporates anti-abortion language; snide remark leveled on republican commentary guessing democrats didn’t bother reading it before supporting it previously. Forget that because it had some democratic support doesn’t mean it had all democratic support or his, anti-abortion zealots didn’t try to slip in the language to a final draft, earlier ones not containing it; also how things work in Washington. No he was trying to wake up congressional members to the perception they are generating, to the step backwards they were about to fall into, doing what he could to see the first African American attorney general reach both the office and the history books.

The above race relations backdrop behind him, that shows no signs of going away; even letting the past be the past, putting behind us cases now determined to be resolved for good or ill, he’s on the senate floor trying with all his might to confirm a qualified candidate to a vacant government job as the public is hearing about an African American UVA student’s violent arrest, where cops slammed his head into the pavement, video showing his head bleeding profusely. What was he arrested for, obstruction of justice, ironically without force, and public swearing or intoxication; independent of there is zero evidence he was drunk, had consumed any alcohol since being denied entry into a popular, near campus bar, profanity all heard after officers had pinned him to the ground, hands subdued behind his back, his head bloodied. How about the ‘exclusively for white people’ stickers suddenly plastered on select Austin Texas businesses with no explanation aside from it wasn’t the city’s doing; were said offensive stickers a visual statement from someone, a group who feels oppressed by current tensions or from a group wishing there really were businesses just for white people, a mentally unwell individual making a point only clear to them?  Just a week before outraging video showing Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members gleefully reciting a racist chant implying blacks should be hanged rather than allowed to join their fraternity; justice swift culminating in 2 expulsions from Oklahoma University, removal of the frat from campus within 24 hours. Enter Dick Durbin as he states the obvious, causing Lynch to wait so long, connotation communicated, causing the American people to think it could be about race, is unfair; thus challenging his supposed to be co-working lawmakers that if it isn’t about race, race doesn’t factor into it whatsoever, let’s get this done. Still no vote to confirm, reject Loretta Lynch; echoes of Durbin’s surprising words continuing to be felt, news viewers are treated to chilling blasts from the past in the man found hanging from a tree in Mississippi, complete with white sheet around his neck. Police later identifying him as missing person Otis Byrd; undetermined to date, what exactly happened, autopsy results pending. Mere days post Durbin’s unconventional words to Senate members, Four Fort Lauderdale police gained national attention firing 2 officers, 1 resigning over racist texts and a movie trailer like video featuring flashy titles, dramatic music; oh and the N word, KKK hoods, lastly yet another derogatory picture of who, President Obama. (See end of article bonus video for footage)  Or the account of 57 year old Floyd Dent dash cam video capturing his arrest on a traffic violation immediately turning violent; tased multiple times, placed in a choke hold, repeatedly punched in the head based on officer suspensions he was reaching for a gun. No gun ever found; instead cocaine allegedly removed from his vehicle. Dent coming away from the altercation with a bloodied face, bloodied and torn clothes; ok man resisted arrest, why the punching, district judge seeing fit to throw out the resisting arrest and assault charges brought by officers. Drug charges pending, which is where it gets even more interesting; Mr. Dent adamant he was framed, his arresting officer accused of planting drugs while at his prior police department in Detroit, indicted by federal prosecutors, finally acquitted.  Exposing more and more of a consistent pattern nationwide, police forgetting there is video when they assault, abuse, threaten suspects, then writing reports, making statements to support their “justified” use of force; most prominent in the case of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old shot in a local park playing with a toy gun. Initially officers told their superiors they ordered Rice to put his hands up, logically to drop the weapon they were led to believe was real, when he refused to comply, they opened fire. Surveillance video starkly contradicts that version of events showing the cops pulled up, one, extremely close to the gazebo where Rice stood completely alone, and two, less than 5 seconds after they pull up, they open fire. Once the video was made public their story changed saying they gave those hands up orders from the car; entirely possible but extremely unlikely. There too the officer had an abysmal record at his prior precinct especially in gun handling, ability to manage personal stress; illuminating a second alarming national trend, officers who shouldn’t have been on the job to render their fatal acts in the first place, who were either unworthy to ever wear the uniform or had proven so by their previous actions.  We wonder what will be revealed about the former Alabama officer facing federal charges for the violet arrest of a grandfather originally from India, here legally on a visa visiting family, walking down the sidewalk doing nothing wrong, whose unprovoked slam to the pavement left him partially paralyzed. As one story commenter put it, race is a more paramount, polarizing issue today than at any other time since the civil rights movement.

In this climate Dick Durbin’s comments are ill-timed, out of line, a distraction; anyone paying attention will say the opposite, they are precisely timed, in tune with the American people’s sentiments on issues dealing with race, how people who are something other than white are treated by authority, viewed by other ethnicity citizens. Far better than the post racial mythology day dream largely republicans, those opposed to voting rights portions of the civil rights act, affirmative action are clinging to, falsely convinced we’ve moved past the need for such things. If we want to talk distractions, let’s look at the quick, dramatic implosion of Aaron Schock who resigned last week post questions raised regarding mileage expenses billed to U.S. tax payers, mileage cataloged thousands of miles over the total mileage on the listed car. Worse his father, speaking to press, blamed his ouster from congress on his penchant for stylish clothing, despite not being gay. Hold on, soon to be former congressman Schock’s problems don’t originate in his sexual orientation, hetero or homo sexual, his clothing choices stereotypical of either; his problems stem directly from his lavish lifestyle possibly had on the tax payers’ dime. Be that his Downton Abbey office replica, he only reimbursed the government for after ABC News confronted him about it, an alleged $5,000 for a presidential podium replica, Instagram photos showing his thrill with life as a congressmen, tangoing in Argentina, partying with a pop star,  the mileage discrepancy. Schock the latest implosion of rising star tea party candidates, supposed to be part of the values party who wasn’t; can you say Vance McAllister, ousted after video surfaced of him making out with someone not his wife, establishment republican Bob McDonnell sentenced to 2 years in prison on federal corruption charges stemming from gifts received by political donors. Somewhat changing topics, another ominous sign for republicans, why it was a talking point, a humorous punch line late last week congress actually passed a bill plugging a huge hole in Medicare; because, it’s so rare they accomplish anything except getting themselves in the headlines for their inactivity. Remember these are the same republicans who pledged to voters, if they were given control of both congressional houses, they would achieve where the prior divided control had failed. A promise showing all indications of falling flat when they couldn’t pass new education standards because of an abortion rider, played politics with Department of Homeland Security funding to strong arm the president on immigration, are holding up a bill on preventing human trafficking because of abortion language and couldn’t pass their own ultra-strict abortion legislation blocked by moderates, women in their own party, utterly refuse to vote on confirming a new AG,  despite senator Durbin’s impassioned call to action, or why the Medicare fix took so long to get passed in the first place, still more abortion language that should never have been included. Here is the work thus far of the 114th congress on top of moving ahead with plans to further investigate Benghazi, absolutely spastic about Hillary Clinton’s use of private e-mail vowing to convene a committee, select republicans’ seditious letter to Iran possibly derailing an opportunity to prevent them from possessing a nuclear weapon, that is when certain representatives a-la Ted Cruz aren’t forgoing one job announcing their desire to hold a more prestigious one, i.e. president of the United States.  Holding things up indefinitely being exactly why the president depends so heavily on executive order at all; if congress would expediently act regarding the things on their calendar, taking the due time to debate, discuss then vote, president Obama would have no reason to pass the number of executive orders he has, the that number incidentally lower than even his immediate predecessor. But he refuses to leave the American people in limbo, refuses to deny people abroad looking with hope at America for improved relations with Cuba for example, our role in attaining Middle East stability, some kind of solution to immigration; perhaps if republicans, those in congress got about the people’s agenda instead of forever running their own, beating the twin dead horses abortion and birth control, banging the twin drums Benghazi and ‘we hate Hillary,’ people would look more favorably on them in all lights including on the notion of race, race relations. Dick Durbin is to be commended for using a filibuster to talk about something that matters instead of reading Green Eggs and Ham, filling members’ ears with nonsense delaying legislation that was inevitably going to happen anyway and desired by a majority, mistakenly calling it standing up to big government, presidential overreach.

Putting Loretta Lynch’s nomination through the lens of all the other things happening in our country in the last couple of years, we further expect minority persons, people in general across America to believe what’s happening to her has nothing to do with race, isn’t at the very least, on a subconscious level about race, uh-huh. When the number of television shows featuring black actors, black life, other ethnicities, actors and storylines exemplifying their cultures prompted the writing of an article entitled ‘Pilots 2015: Ethic Castings About Time Or Too Much Of A Good Thing?’ from someone in Hollywood, the television industry; Hollywood arguably being one of the most progressive places in America, willing to push the envelope, willing to use film and television to address social issues, suddenly squawking reverse racism, claiming there aren’t enough, a fair amount of roles for white actors, really? We are somehow supposed to believe there is no racial undercurrent in this country, that, it hasn’t gone sadly to the highest levels of government, get real. Loretta Lynch remains the latest example of what the American people are talking about, protesting about, demanding a change to, reinforcing the civil rights ideal, black people are people too; too bad we have to reiterate that in the 21st century. And as we have also see via material explained here, it isn’t just old people who have failed to notice there was a civil rights movement, who have never deviated from old patterns, SAE and the age of Darrin Wilson, George Zimmerman proves racism is still being passed down to our young people. A problem bigger than who ultimately gets elected attorney general, what we watch on television wholly demonstrated in Mychal Denzel Smith not only talking poignantly about the Jordan Davis case, the perception of him as a thug, the same stereotype used to characterize Trayvon Martin but relating his own experience; a man who by all markers is functional member of society, writer, blogger, social activist who still feels like he has nothing,  he has spent the entirety of his life, can’t be much over 30 years, feeling like he has nothing because he is black and male in modern America. Who early last year penned a thought provoking article on how to create a thug telling a story of a racist person who thought he would know where to buy drugs and his conscious decision not to become violent, how that choice differed from him at 19 coupled with the shocking why.  That in his life growing up in the late 80’s the 90’s, seeing the early 2000’s he was given the impression by everyone around him he wasn’t supposed to live to 18, 21 wasn’t an option leaving him in the middle feeling like he was living on borrowed time and what it’s like to quell that anger, resist that instinct telling you to react, asking if he was still a thug. Horrifying he could feel this way in a still bright golden age in America many miss currently T.V. shows like In the Heat of the Night, the iconic, game changing Cosby Show showing black people being successful holding jobs as police officers, doctors, lawyers, later programs A different World, Family Matters, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air depicting middle class African American life and significantly changed racial views, there were/are pockets of the nation perpetuating that anger, aggression, fear, manufacturing “thugs” who feel they have to respond thus just to survive.

Bonus video: warning offensive material

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About Natasha Sapp

Proclaiming an edgy voice of reason to America,while bringing back the common sense to social issues.

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