When some idiot in the public eye spews forth an outrageous racist remark or two, they’re always called to task! And rightly so. Well… are they really? What happens when people are afraid to call a racist a racist, because they’ll be called racist? This story was in True’s 29 February 2004 issue:
Leading By Example
After a briefing on the coup in Haiti, U.S. Representative Corrine Brown (Democrat from Florida) said President Bush’s policy for the country was “racist” and engineered by “a bunch of white men.” That didn’t sit well with the president’s man she was berating, Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega. “As a Mexican-American, I deeply resent being called a racist and branded a white man,” he told her, but promised that he would “relay that to [Secretary of State] Colin Powell and [national security adviser] Condoleezza Rice the next time I run into them.” Brown, who is black, said she was “absolutely not” apologetic for calling Noriega white, telling him “you all look alike to me.” (Florida Times-Union) …Racism: an appalling slur on humanity, unless committed by a black Democratic politician.
I wasn’t sure if I’d get angry letters. Surely people have figured out that I skewer stupidity and injustice no matter who commits it. Right? Hm. The following letters and “mini-rant” appeared in the 7 March 2004 issue:
I know, more times than not, you are accused of being anti-Christian and very liberal (or anti-Bush or anti-Republican). I have to admit that, at times, I have wondered myself about that after reading some of your comments but I have never been able to come to that conclusion because you pretty much skewer anything stupid and because there is no way to understand someone’s true beliefs because of a couple of comments made in reaction to a story. Regardless, you will, undoubtedly receive much mail now accusing you of being a Christian and a racist, Democrat hater. Can’t win, huh?” —Brad, Pennsylvania
Correct, Brad. Read on. Paul in Maryland was the most articulate of the anti crowd:
Being a fairly new subscriber, I was disturbed by the ad hominem tag line at the end of the story ‘Leading by Example’. You infer that Democrats are willing to excuse racism and insensitivity from those apparently aligned with us. We are not. But as much as I resent the antagonist’s comments, I also resent your inference that I excuse them. As your publication gets bigger, there are more folks, opinions, and feelings that you’ll have to account for. [I’m] one step closer to ‘unsubscribe’. —Paul, Maryland
No, Paul, I don’t “have to account for” the “opinions and feelings” of my entire reader base. True isn’t about making everyone agree with me, it’s about two things: entertainment, and making people think. If I can do both in a single story, great! But that’s not a requirement. Yes, the story was controversial; while it was meant to make people think, I also think it is, in its way, entertaining — many say they enjoy the ranting letters as much as the stories.
As for my “inference that you excuse” Rep. Brown’s outrageous remarks, you didn’t do much to condemn her. Do you condemn her? Few in the media did, before me or after. But thoughtful subscribers did, after reading about it in True. Read on.
As a resident of Jacksonville, Florida, I was very appalled to read the comments made by Corrine Brown. Since Ms. Brown is supposed to be representing ALL of her constituents, I wonder if the white constituents all look the same to her as well? Had these remarks been made by a white politician, that politician would have been embroiled in a huge scandal which would have probably resulted in that politician’s resignation. I am certain that the white constituents are angry over the comments, but I wonder what the minority constituents think about it. For anybody who truly believes in the concept of racial equality, the remarks made by Ms. Brown were an insult. I believe that Ms. Brown should step down and let someone who cares about the needs of all the constituents take the helm. The people of Florida need to show that racism is unacceptable from any politician, regardless of his or her race, and I just hope that Ms. Brown does not get away with her actions just because she is black. —Tracy, Florida
Now that’s taking a stand.
Thank you for the insight into my own blindness. I’m afraid I have a tendency to angelicize all in my party, as I think many do, and it’s good to be brought back to Earth sometimes that people, even Democrats, can be complete racist morons. —Amber, Massachusetts
And that’s taking a stand.
Craig in Kentucky was one of several who anticipated Paul and others who wrote:
Thank you for having the courage to point out that racism is given a free pass when committed by some in our society. After all, Corrine Brown can say ‘you all look alike’ and Hillary Clinton can say that Ghandi owns a gas station in St. Louis, and no one in the media says a word. You had the courage to comment on the blatant hypocrisy. I feel sorry for the letters I assume are heading your way, calling you racist bigoted rich white Republican man. —Craig, Kentucky
Yes, I’m proud to be one of the few to take a stand, and I won’t be backing down. You can say “it’s different” when Rep. Brown shows herself as a “racist moron,” to use Amber’s phrase. But it’s not different. Racism is wrong no matter who the racist is, and she should step down — just like any white racist moron would be forced to do.
After the above ran in the 7 March issue, there was plenty of response; the most interesting are included below.
Before I give you my two cents worth, let me say this: I’m trying to identify myself, but don’t know if I’m Black, African-American (Charlize Theron is African-American too, as is my Jewish neighbor) or a Negro. I’ve been called all of those and other things, and I’m not sure which is politically correct this week. Living in southern California my entire life just makes me American, as far as I’m concerned. It’s nice to know that your readers are intelligent enough to recognize racism in whatever form it appears and idiots in whatever forms they appear. Ms. Brown is an idiot, and doesn’t even speak for her constituents, let alone the Black population. No one is totally useless; anyone can serve as a bad example. —Michael, California
You know what I like best about your attitude, Michael? You don’t identify yourself as “Black”, “African-American”, or whatever other hyphenate, but rather simply as “American”. That’s what I call myself; I also can choose from Irish-American (my paternal grandmother’s side), English-American (paternal grandfather), Danish-American (maternal grandfather) or Norweigan-American (maternal grandmother). My genetic background is mildly interesting — but only to me — so when forced to apply a label other than “person” I choose to simply call myself what I really feel I am: American, plain and simple.
My guess is that this country will never be truly color-blind as long as “minorities” are still working to set themselves apart as different!
Heaven help us if Paul in Maryland was the ‘most articulate’ of the bunch opposing your comments. First, he says he was disturbed by your ‘ad hominem tag line,’ but apparently doesn’t know what the term means. Your tag line read ‘Racism: an appalling slur on humanity, unless committed by a black Democratic politician.’ Rather than accuse her of being a racist, you stated that what she said was an example of racism. Such is not ad hominem, not name calling. The only name calling you engaged in was to call her black, Democratic, and a politician. Hmmm, maybe an apology is in order, Randy. I would never let someone get away with calling me either Democratic or a politician. Also, the guy needs to learn the difference between inference and implication. ‘You infer that Democrats are willing to excuse racism…,’ followed by ‘I also resent your inference that I excuse them.’ Good Lord! Is this gentleman the best that the Dems have to offer? —Andy, South Carolina
Quite a few people wrote about him missing the difference between infer and imply. But yes: he was indeed the most articulate of the several complainers at that time.
After reading several opinions from your subscribers on Ms Brown’s remark (as asinine as it was), I pose a question to you: is she not entitled to her own opinion, or has free speech been abolished?? —Jess, North Carolina
I consider this a silly question, but I’ll answer it anyway. No one is arguing that she shouldn’t be able to say what she thinks. That, indeed, is a right. It is also a right for others to react to her opinion; even you call it “asinine,” which is your opinion of her remark.
If Ms Brown were a grocery clerk, this would not be international news; rather, she is an elected representative of the people; her job is to (key word here!) represent the people of her district and, to a lesser extent, the people of this country.
Does her “asinine” remark represent your opinion? Or does it offend your sensibility and beliefs? If the latter, it’s not just a right but many would consider it a responsibility to speak out against her blatant racism and ensure that others know you repudiate the remarks she made in the name of the people of the United States. That’s why the only honorable thing for her to do is resign.
I can’t believe that you, and so many of your readers, are taking Rep. Brown as racist for these comments. Are people incapable of recognising metaphoric speech when they hear or read it? Personally, I think Brown has hit the nail right on the head. Powell and Rice might have brown skin, but they have well and truly signed up on the side of conservative white men from the East coast. That is their right, of course. Just because Powell and Rice are members of an oppressed minority doesn’t make them nice people, and it certainly doesn’t mean they have to work towards political policies that are good for that oppressed minority. But when you work for a government that makes political decisions that are for the benefit of conservative whites and does little or nothing for blacks, then you have to expect to be called racist, and shame on you for suggesting that Powell and Rice’s brown skins mean that they could not possibly enact policies that hurt blacks. Whites have almost all the power in the Western world, and so being ‘white’ is more a matter of being one of the powerful who act against the powerless than skin colour. American blacks understand this: you might remember the term of abuse ‘oreo’ for a person who is black on the outside but white on the inside. —Steven, Australia
Finally, someone with an “anti” position more articulate than Paul! But I’ve seen no evidence that Ms Brown was speaking metaphorically; I sure didn’t take it that way, and neither do the vast majority of my readers — of any race.
Surely if the situation were reversed, a white politician who said something like that wouldn’t be excused as “speaking metaphorically.” But that aside, you seem to be saying that one cannot both be black and work in the system. Please! You mean only whites can work toward making a color-blind society? Blacks can only be black if they only work for the improvement of black people, ignoring everyone else? Nonsense.
Rev. King had an honorable “dream” — that all people are created equal, that his children will be judged by their character, not the color of their skin. That’s a job for everyone, not just white people — or just black people.
To say that the government works only for white people is ridiculous — and ignores massive strides away from our country’s institutionalized racism of the past. Clearly (obviously, considering the story that started this!) we are not 100% of the way toward equality yet, but one has to remember that the key word in “reverse racism” is not “reverse”, it’s “racism”.
All racism is repugnant, and the sooner we get that through everyone’s head, the sooner we get to a truly equal society. Ms Brown’s attitude pushes that day further away.
I got this amazing letter replying to the above:
I have to compliment you on your ability to keep your superiority complex well hidden. I always consider it a stroke of genius when you find someone else (like Mark from Aus.) to insult your readers for you so that you can maintain your illusion of moral superiority. [Also,] I have noticed that you chose not to reply to my last email. –Rev. Prophiet in Kentucky
It does always astonish me when someone gets insulted when I express my opinion that the vast majority of my readers are “far above average in intelligence,” but clearly there are always exceptions — which was Mark’s point in the first place.
And while I wish I were able to give a thoughtful, detailed reply to everyone who writes to me, that is certainly impossible; I get hundreds of emails every day (not even counting the 200 or so daily notifications I get that indicate the health of various functions on my servers and such, not counting the hundreds of spams that my filters catch, and, alas, not counting the huge number the filters don’t catch).
I do at least glance at all the mail, and hope I get the meat out of most of them. Considering, as I mentioned recently, that True is pretty much a one-man show, it’s rather amazing that I can still do that.
But Let Me Address the Point
As for my supposed “moral superiority” complex, I’m not the one calling myself a prophet or demanding replies to whiny email, now, am I?
It’s my belief that there’s far more power in stating an opinion and letting others judge its worth than expecting people to follow me because of a made-up name or honorific.
That I have tens of thousands of readers in 200 countries that stick with me, reading what I have to say week after week with the strong admonition to think for themselves about what I report on — and that a significant and growing fraction of them pay their hard-earned money to get more of my writing by upgrading to Premium status — says a lot about that approach.
I would certainly rather stand up and proudly state my name and opinion and let others ponder it than take potshots at others using a pompous pen name hidden behind a Yahoo Mail account.
Now, is that the sort of reply you were looking for, “Rev.”?
– – –
No surprise: the “Rev.” never wrote back.
Ten Year Update
After first refusing to apologize, Brown finally issued a statement saying “I sincerely did not mean to offend Secretary Noriega or anyone in the room. Rather, my comments, as they relate to ‘white men,’ were aimed at the policies of the Bush administration as they pertain to Haiti, which I do consider to be racist.”
Brown also survived admonishment by the Federal Election Commission after her campaign treasurer quit after he discovered his name had been forged on her campaign reports to the FEC. The staffer who forged his signature was promoted — to become Brown’s Chief of Staff!
In July 2016, Brown and her chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, pleaded not guilty to a 22-count federal indictment charging them of participating in a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, concealing material facts on required financial disclosure forms, theft of government property, obstruction of the Internal Revenue Service laws, and filing false tax returns.
On December 4, 2017, she was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay restitution. She was imprisoned on January 29, 2018 at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County, Florida, to begin her sentence. She is appealing her conviction, and will continue to collect her Congressional pension until her appeal is concluded.