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AN OPEN LETTER TO MISS MANNERS (Judith Martin)

Dear Miss Manners,

Please let me preface this letter by saying I am a longtime fan of your column, as I am distressed by the lack of courtesy in today’s society and always appreciate your witty replies. You may or may not be aware that I have even affectionately parodied your column with “Miss Mannerly,” here on this very website. That said, here is the original, very thoughtful letter you received and your answer ("Clarifying racism for a white man") that has prompted my missive to you:

I do agree with you that talking about what racism is (or is not) is a semantic discussion. We currently have two “working” definitions of racism being used simultaneously, and we also have many people far too willing to throw around the “r-word.” Under one (the “classic”) definition, anyone of any race can be racist; it means the notion that people of another race are inferior to you and don’t deserve the same treatment as people of your own race. Under the other (the “evolved”) definition, only a white person can be racist, and, in part because he has lived his entire life with racial privilege by virtue of being white, he cannot be considered the victim of racism, either. Add nuance to taste, and stir.

The man who wrote to you, a self-described white male, told you he’d been informed that he would be viewed as racist for bringing up examples of how he personally was abused, targeted with racial epithets, and even lightly hit by a car while living in a mostly non-white country where he was in a racial minority.

The man was obviously trying to show empathy for others who have been treated badly because of their race. But because he is white, his view was considered unwelcome. They told him that the treatment he received was not out of racism, but “rather out of resentment for white people’s history of cruelty and injustice towards others.”

In your answer, you essentially agreed with his friends, saying that even though the treatment he had experienced had been “horrid and unfair,” it was not the same as “the experience of most marginalized groups” because it never took away his basic rights and equality. (Not having been in whatever country this was and experienced what he went through, I don’t know if that is necessarily true. As a woman, I could easily name countries that would take away MY basic rights and equality.)

You made what you called the "key" distinction between “retaliatory” bias and “inherent” bias. With all due respect, being on the receiving end of “retaliatory” bias for something one’s ancestors, as opposed to oneself, did is, to me, as unacceptable as any other kind of bias. I would make the case that it is also extremely racist.

You said his argument makes this gentleman look naive. I am hardly naive, and I agree with him.

If the treatment this man received was “...out of resentment for white people’s history of cruelty and injustice towards others,” I’m sorry, but that was still racism. The man himself had done nothing to anyone; he was being judged –- judged –- by the color of his skin. The argument being used to defend that, which you helped further, is a rationalization for racist behavior. One may agree with that rationalization or disagree as I do, but a rationalization it is.

One problem we have right now is that we’re all encouraged to be having “conversations” about race, but these “conversations” all have to be very carefully articulated in certain ways in order to avoid charges of racism. The man who wrote you obviously is not a racist, but he must speak in exactly the "right" way in order to avoid a minefield. The slightest deviation is heresy. I’m sorry, but that is not real conversation, Miss Manners. It is control. A real conversation is a two-way street, with give and take, and people try to understand each other. I don’t see that happening with this subject. To create a “safe space” for others --- even his own partner --- this person’s thoughtful view is being shut down.

Thank you, Miss Manners, for your attention. Though you are correct in saying this gentleman risks alienating some people –- that they might challenge his point and perhaps call him naive and even racist –- simply telling him to “stop” is to inhibit honest, heartfelt conversation. I, for one, am willing to (very politely) have that conversation, and if someone wants to wrongly accuse me of racism, that is the person who needs to learn some common courtesy –- and some common sense.

There’s this small little gang of people who once made lots of money in DC as Republican political consultants, pollsters, party insiders and commentators who really hate President Trump. They have always been tied to the establishment of DC, or the swamp as some like to call it. They once were the toast of the town because they were joined at the hip with the well-established elites who really didn’t have deep convictions about issues, but rather just enjoyed playing for the Republican team because the pay was good and they got invited to all the cool parties in Georgetown, Manhattan and Hollywood. They were also the reason nothing ever changed or was even challenged in Washington. They worked for candidates and elected officials who pretended to care about issues like the sanctity of life, our alliance with Israel, the middle class, jobs leaving the US for China or Mexico, and health care. In reality, neither they nor the candidates or elected officials they worked for really cared at all. We voted for them, because our alternatives were candidates with far-left positions that threatened free enterprise, the lives of unborn babies, small businesses, factory jobs, important court appointments and more. But the election of Donald Trump messed up their legalized looting of the political donor class. Donald Trump didn’t become President because he was bought and owned by the political class. He mostly used his own money to become President and hasn’t had to do the bidding of the typical political hacks and they aren’t happy! In fact, he’s called on very few of them for anything and they aren’t going away quietly. They don’t hate him because he failed to do what he said-they hate him because he did exactly what he said he would do. The so-called Lincoln Project is about as true to Abraham Lincoln as I am to Weight Watchers. They loved the power and money and when Donald Trump became President, they just didn’t matter that much.

I do have friends who claim to be conservative but say they will vote for Joe Biden because they think President Trump is vain and vulgar. The same Joe Biden caught on a hot microphone uttering a truly vulgar term when talking to President Obama about signing Obamacare and who has cursed at the very people who attended his lightly attended events? But are elections even about a candidate’s tone, Tweets, or temperance? Sure, I’d love for all the people I vote for to be near perfect in personality, piety, and personal manners. But I care even more about whether the performance matches the promises on issues that really matter.

Believing in the intrinsic worth and value of every human life from conception is sacred to me. A candidate right about everything else and wrong in respecting the God-given worth of every human life is a candidate I can’t support. No candidate—not even Ronald Reagan, has taken the number of bold concrete steps to protect innocent human life as has President Trump. Donald Trump has done more for preserving religious liberty than ANY President in my lifetime. I believe strongly in the 1st amendment and with it, untouchable religious liberty. Other Presidents have claimed to be champions for churches, synagogues, and mosques to be free from government control, but President Trump has delivered. Most all Presidents promise to create jobs, and preserve middle class jobs, but until the shut-down of the economy because of the Chinese Virus, President Trump had delivered, marking record jobs for blacks, Hispanics, women and youth with record pay increases. And while the previous administration said our manufacturing jobs would never return, they actually have come back under President Trump. He has unflinchingly stood for the 2nd amendment. He’s insisted that America stop being the chump for China and its cheating. He’s stood for our border security while his opponent believes in open borders. Instead of folding like a cheap ten in a windstorm in the face of violent riots and mass looting, he’s called for protection of private and public property and the arrests of anarchists who have turned streets of major cities into war zones. And he has cut 7 regulations from the backs of Americans for every new one enacted.

So I understand why the ruling class of elitist snobs who run the DC Swamp would vote for Biden to restore their control. But it means the not-so-connected American being abandoned, so I don’t understand those who call themselves conservatives or even moderates voting for Biden, a candidate 180 degrees from what they claim they believe, and 100% a return to a government for the elites and the swells. Donald Trump went to Washington to shake things up. His problem wasn’t that he failed at that. It was that he succeeded.

When I heard the sad news that my friend Herman Cain had lost his fight with coronavirus, it was the same day, Thursday, as Rep. John Lewis’ funeral. Lewis, a strong partisan with whom I disagreed on most issues, had indeed been a brave leader for civil rights since he was a very young man and deserves recognition for that.

President Obama shared many positive words of tribute to the man and his fight for civil rights, and that was all fine. But he somehow...just...couldn’t...resist...getting political. What is it about Democrats and funerals that they just can’t avoid politics long enough to honor the dead person?

Here’s a link to the transcript of his entire speech, but I’d like to call attention to the brazenly political part, which he led into by saying we have to “keep vigilant” for the “darker currents”…

Obama:

"...Bull Connor may be gone, but today, we witnessed with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans. George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators. We may no longer have to guess the number of jellybeans in the jar in order to cast a ballot, but even as we sit here, there are those in power who will do their darnedest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining our Postal Service in the run-up to an election that’s gonna be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.

"I know this is a celebration of John’s life. There are some who might say we shouldn’t dwell on such things. But that’s why I’m talking about it. John Lewis devoted his time on this earth fighting the very attacks on democracy and what’s best for America that we’re seeing right now.”

ME:

Okay, Mr. Obama, you couldn’t have planned your words to be more divisive. The segregationist BULL CONNOR (a Democrat, by the way) was the city official in Birmingham, Alabama, who in the 1960s directed that fire hoses and attack dogs (!) be turned on civil rights protesters, even children, who were peacefully protesting. To bring up that kind of ugly and truly “systemic” racism of old now in light of what is happening today is as divisive and inflammatory as it gets. You should be ashamed.

By the way, since you mentioned George Wallace, I will add that this old-time segregationist actually helps exemplify the progress we’ve made in our society, in that in his later years, after being paralyzed by an attempted assassin’s bullet, he came to denounce his earlier views. But no, we have to ignore progress and dwell on the ugly past.

We aren’t seeing, as you described it, “police officers” kneeling on the “necks” of black Americans. We saw one very bad cop with his knee on the neck of a black man, and that bad cop, along with others who were complicit, have rightly been charged with MURDER. And our government did not send officers to use tear gas and batons on “peaceful” protesters. This is hardly a “peaceful” protest, and black lives are being destroyed. The neighborhoods being destroyed are largely black neighborhoods. Many of the cops are black, too, and I’m sure the last place they want to be is in the middle of that mess, having to deal not just with the violence but with racist abuse being hurled at THEM just for trying to keep the peace.

But you just had to say those things, didn't you? Thanks, Obama!

Then you went on to talk about “those in power” who will “do their darnedest” to keep people from voting. You didn’t have to get specific; we know and your cheering audience knew you meant my party, Republicans, led by President Trump, trying to stop blacks from voting…”with surgical precision,” as you put it. And in the most laughable comment you made, you said we’re “even undermining our Postal Service” when we warn against problems with mail-in ballots.

Undermining our great Postal Service? The problems with mail-in voting are real and well-documented; thousands of ballots can be “lost” at a time. THIS can be carried out with "surgical precision," as can other types of voter fraud. Imagine this in 2020 on a massive, nationwide scale.

What we want is a clean election. Most of all, we have to be able to trust the results. We want everyone to be able to vote safely --- either with distancing and masks, or with a documented absentee ballot --- and for every vote to count. EVERY vote. That’s it.

Yes, as you said, we are seeing attacks on democracy now. But I see them coming from organizations such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter, largely run and funded by white people on the left. The left, where you reside.

Oh, something else: You said that if making changes to the Voting Rights Act means getting rid of the filibuster, “another Jim Crow relic,” then we should. You also likened this summer’s protests to the ones led by Dr. King. I certainly can’t speak for Dr. King, but it seems to me that he would be sickened by the violence.

As for the filibuster, yes, it was used by senators (mostly southern Democrats) to hold off passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But it has been used many times for many reasons; mostly it’s a tool to keep a bare majority from running roughshod over the minority. But the ends justify the means, right?

How I wish I could ask Herman Cain what he thought about this. On second thought, it would probably just tick him off (along with all the leftists blaming him for his own death), and he's in a much better place now.