Thursday, August 17, 2006

Do you smell a racist in George Allen's comments?

A hat tip to Indy Voter at CHT:

George Allen shows his true colors-- and they aren't friendly to colored people.

ARLINGTON, Va. - Sen. George Allen (news, bio, voting record) met Wednesday with Indian-American political leaders concerned that he referred to a rival's campaign staffer as "Macaca" and told the Virginia native of Indian descent, "Welcome to America."

Members of the US Indian Political Action Committee said they have received hundreds of e-mails about the comments Allen made Friday at a speech that S.R. Sidarth was videotaping for his Democratic challenger, Jim Webb.

"Obviously this is something that has us very, very concerned," said Sonjay Puri, a northern Virginia businessman and founder and director of the PAC, which claims 30,000 members. "The remarks are very insensitive."

Sidarth and others consider the remark offensive. Macaca is a genus of monkeys including macaques, but Allen has said he just made up a word that sounds similar to "Mohawk," a nickname Allen staffers gave Sidarth because of his partially cropped hair.

"This fellow over here with the yellow shirt — Macaca or whatever his name is — he's with my opponent," Allen said during a GOP rally at Breaks, Va., near the Kentucky border. "He's following us around everywhere."

After mentioning that Webb was in California on a fundraising trip, Allen exhorted the crowd: "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

Allen, who is positioning himself for a possible presidential run in 2008, has said he apologizes to Sidarth if he took any offense, but the 20-year-old college student has said he thinks Allen's remarks were an attempt to highlight Sidarth's race in what he says was an all-white crowd.

Puri said before the meeting that the context of Allen's remarks are intended to offend.

"If you read his comments in their totality, it becomes very clear no matter how you explain the phrasing it is insensitive to a young kid who is of Indian American descent," Puri said.

The term 'macaca' (or 'makaka') is pejoratively used in France to describe people of North African descent. Allen claimed not to know this, but since his mother is French and he is fluent in the language, that explanation does not bear close inspection. In other words, it is clearly in reference to Sidarth's dark skin pigmentation. And further, since Sidarth has been videotaping all of Allen's campaign speeches for rival Jim Webb, why would Allen wait until he had an all white crowd, in one of the most historically 'southern' parts of Virginia to try out the racial slur? Dare we say that he is playing the race card? Of course he is. I wonder if he thought about using the slur in a mixed race crowd, or in cosmopolitan northern Virginia.

And this guy is being talked about by some Republicans as a Presidential candidate. A few weeks ago I gave GOP Presidential contender Mitt Romney a pass when he made the 'tar baby' comment when describing cost overruns on the 'Big Dig' in Boston, because clearly he was talking about the project and seemed sincere enough in his assertion that he did not know it had racial connotations (though he probably hasn't taken the time to learn that either). But read through Allen's remarks, in which he uses the term twice, and consider that he grew up with a French speaker who would have at least known the term as a demeaning phrase for colored people, spoken to an all white crowd, and tell me if you perceive a racist intent. Because I sure do.

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