A question about Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback apologists…

Posted in Editorials on December 9th, 2014

There’s a line of rationalization I’ve been hearing from (white) people in the wake of police killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland Ohio this past November 22. Tamir was playing with a toy gun in a public park. Police, responding to complaints of a juvenile with a gun that was “probably fake” arrived and shot him dead in seconds.

What did he expect? He was playing with a gun in a park! He was waving around a gun! The orange tip was off!

I wonder how many of these same people will sit down on the 25th an watch “A Christmas Story” and root for Ralphie, a nine year old white boy to get a gun for Christmas and then go outside and play with it, even fire it Christmas morning. How many of them will spend money on or already own merchandise from the film? How many will go to see the touring production of “A Christmas Story: The Musical”?

And how many of them will see no contradiction?

What I Didn’t Say To The (White) Dude Who Told Me Nicki Minaj Should “Shut Up And Get Naked”

Posted in Personal Essays on January 6th, 2014

Fade in on me among a group of merry makers. “Starships” begans to play. Although it might have been “Pound the Alarm.” Bright eyed with beer and enthusiasm I say, “I’m 31 now so it’s time for my Nicki Minaj phase!”

It’s true. I’ve recently discovered that something about her music really resonates with me. I think Amanda Marcotte explains it here in her post about Beyoncé.

“Single Ladies”… is clearly for the women in the audience to sing along to… the idea is to boost yourself up and say that you deserve to have standards.

When Diana Ross sings, “I’m coming out, I want the world to know,” it is taken by the audience as a call to say fuck you to other people’s perceptions and just be yourself. It’s not just about Diana Ross. When Pink claims the party isn’t started until she gets there, she isn’t actually trying to make the people at your party feel bad because Pink is never going to show up. The listener is supposed to project herself into the song and borrow the confidence from it. The listener says to herself, “The party starts when I get there.” If Pink didn’t expect you to relate to the song, then it would just seem assholey. Now it seems fun.

Commenter Stuart Underwood pointed out the double standard:

Mick Jagger was no shrinking violet when expressing his appraisal of his own prowess, at least in the character of Jagger the rock star. In an uncharitable and overly literal interpretation, one could label the lead singer of damn near any 1960s-1980s “rock” band as a strutting egomaniac.

Was the braggadocio what these singers really thought about themselves or was it a vehicle to reach out to the audience to put them in a certain frame of mind?

Why should Beyonce be held to a different standard than Jagger or Plant or Presley?

I’ve told people that what I love about Nicki Minaj is her bravado. I think it’s powerful. Minaj’s music makes me feel more awesome about myself. She’s also one of many modern women artists who really own their sexuality. One of my feminist lightbulb moments was listening to the “Oh What A Night” remix when I was in middle school and realizing that if a woman had a song about joyfully and wrecklessly losing her virginity…the universe might explode. I’m glad it’s not 1994 anymore.

My pleasantly buzzed head bobbing was interrupted when a dude said to me, “No. She’s so annoying. She’s terrible, she should just shut up and get naked.”

This was more than a cheesy record scratch moment. It wasn’t a personal insult as in “The bands you like suck.”

No matter the topic, an argument I often find myself making is that words have meanings and context matters. “Shut up and get naked” in another context might be playful and fun. But when dripping with contempt it’s repugnant. Add in the racial and gender dynamic of this specific situation, and it’s even uglier. He said Nicki Minaj needs to stop talking and show more of her body. Her words, no matter how much acclaim they have garnered, mean nothing compared to the feelings he gets by looking at her. “A (black) woman’s confidence and pride threatens me. Quickly! Reduce her to a sex object!”

I ain’t gotta get a plaque, I ain’t gotta get awards
I just walk up out the door all the girls will applaud.
All the girls will come in as long as they understand
That I’m fighting for the girls that never thought they could win.
Cause before they could begin you told them it was the end
But I am here to reverse the curse that they live in.
-Nicki Minaj, “I’m The Best”

So Threatening. Such Girl Power. So Man Tears. Wow.

There were many things I could have said and many ways I could have said them.

Earnestness. “When you say things like that, it makes me think less of you as a human being.”

Sarcastic. “Who knew you were a man of such refined taste and erudition?” or “I know you’re a straight guy and all but you don’t have to flaunt it.” or “Wow, I didn’t know you’re a misogynist. How did I miss that?”

You got that hot shit, boy ya blessed
Let me feel up on your chest
Flex it, you the man
You the man 100 grand
This same poll, game goal
Yes I play it very well
Come baby lay down, let me stay down
Lemme show you how I run take you to my playground
Come and get this va va voom, voom
-Nicki Minaj, “Va Va Voom”

What kind of man finds this threatening? Oh, wait.

Later a few things came to mind that misogynists call “feminist shaming tactics” but most other people would probably call being a smart ass. There’s the classic “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Or just a condescending “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you feeling insecure in your masculinity today?”

What I did say, as cheerfully as possible, was, “You know she’s the best selling female rapper of all time, right?”

He didn’t have much of a response. I think he said “So what?” or “I don’t care.” Sure he doesn’t. Fade out on me swallowing everything else I wanted to say with another sip of my drink.

I’ve written before about embracing my inner smartass. But sometimes it’s difficult to know the right tactic to take. Tone, word choice and delivery interact to make you either a loveable troublemaker or a mean spirited jerk. You may win over the crowd with your wit, but if you come on too strong people will roll their eyes and think you’re a killjoy. Even in this situation, my response didn’t explain why I objected to what was said, though I doubt that would have helped. Knowing when to blurt out the first thing that pops into your head, when to give a more measured response, and when it’s best to respond with only a raised eyebrow takes practice. In the meantime, jam to Super Bass.

Disingenuous Racism Should Fool No One

Posted in Editorials on December 23rd, 2013

As noted by Amanda Marcotte, Dan Savage, and others, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson not only made homophobic comments that lead to his suspension from A&E, he also made racist remarks.

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Some have speculated that perhaps the reason that the anti-gay comments got more attention in the press is that they were more blatant and more easily quotable. And by quotable, I think it means some people will no doubt be titillated or exaggeratedly scandalized by Robertson’s inane remarks about bodily orifices.

But another reason why the anti-gay remarks have gotten more attention than the anti-black ones is that conservatives in America have a history and a tradition of using “dog whistles” or coded language to express racist sentiment. I have no doubt that there are or will be ways to convey homophobic messages but we have not yet reached a point where when a Republican talks about “traditional marriage” we pretend he’s talking about the bride wearing white rather than opposing same sex marriage. But for some reason the press plays along with racists when they are even slightly ambiguous about their obvious meaning.

Steven Pinker’s explanation as to why people use euphemism and innuendo is that language both conveys meaning and negotiates relationships. He explains the concept of mutual knowledge – you and another might know a fact but you don’t know if the other person is aware of it.

But I think that dog whistle racism is not like asking someone if they want to come up for coffee and to listen to a new album you just got after a date. In a dating relationship people are trying to make a good impression on each other and being too forward might end things prematurely.

Who are the racists trying to impress? Other racists? People of color? White people who are anti-racist?

It doesn’t quite make sense to me. Everyone knows what Phil Robertson was getting at. No one can pretend otherwise without sounding foolish. Did anyone really think that Rick Santorum regularly used the expression “blah people?” If anything it’s an outright display of contempt. Dog whistles and euphemistically racist remarks aren’t about trying to be polite, they are an outright show of hostility toward both their intended targets and anyone who would disagree.

An experience many people who are oppressed in some way have in common is being on the receiving end of a rude comment or behavior and not knowing if that person directed their behavior at you because of their identity or for some other reason. Although I pass for white I do have a common Latin@ last name. One day at my job I received an email correspondence from someone I had not met complaining about a bit of bureaucratic wording and exclaiming that “Your organization needs to hire someone who speaks English as their first language!” I had no idea if this person was raging against the jungle of acronyms and jargon that are present in my industry or if they had a complaint about my work and were attributing my deficiencies to my ethnicity. In this way, euphemistic language is a one-two punch for racists. First, degrade your target. Then gaslight them and claim your “plausible deniability.”

But most of the time, there is no explanation that is remotely plausible. Everyone knew what Trent Lott meant when he said that if Strom Thurmond would have been elected president, we “wouldn’t have had all of these problems.” Similarly, we know exactly what Robertson means. He is explicitly praising the way he thinks black people thought and acted before they had even their rights enshrined into the law. We are meant to infer that he disapproves of black people today and that he blames the social safety net and perhaps the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act for the fact that they are more active in voicing their concerns and participating in society. There is no other way to interpret his remarks. Anyone who says differently holds you in contempt and is insulting your intelligence.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the rhetorical tactic of forcing someone to defend their own indefensible position. If you have a question you think the other side can’t answer, ask it anyway. This is pretty much what A&E did here. Their suspension forced not just Robertson, but many on the right to defend his remarks, and they are failing spectacularly. The best the can come up with is that Robertson has the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. But no one is arguing that he does not. No one can defend the content of what he said, so they are changing the topic. In a round of debate, this is known as dropping the argument. And it means that you have lost.

The Toolbox of Justice

Posted in Editorials on January 29th, 2013

This post is modified from a talk I gave at my UU Congregation. I have been thinking about this idea for a long time, but it was most recently influenced by “Dear Liberal Allies” by Trung Nyugen.

What I mean when I talk about the toolbox of justice is that social justice movements, like civil rights and anti-racism, feminism and the women’s movement, the GLBT rights movement, the movement for the rights of the poor and disabled are both political and social movements to create change in people’s every day lives, but also tools to understand how we interact with each other and how society works on a personal and on an institutional level.

For example, in 2010, an anthology was published called “Click: When we knew we were feminists” edited by Courtney Martin and J Courtney Sullivan. The book is an anthology of the “click moments” that women of all ages and backgrounds have had that made them realize they were feminists. These moments weren’t always about sweeping political or social change, like fair pay, but rather when they realized that their experiences made more sense through a feminist lens than without it. In my own toolbox of justice, feminism is like a pair of glasses through which so much becomes clear. I remember watching the winter Olympics with a group of friends and one woman asked, “Why are the women’s costumes so much skimpier than the mens?” “Because women’s bodies are decorations!” I blurted out. I could only see that through my feminist glasses.

Men can wear the feminist glasses too. In 2008, my brother remarked, during Hillary Clinton’s concession speech to Barack Obama, “It must be very strange for you. None of the presidents have been women. Does that make you feel weird, or excluded?”

There are all kinds of glasses and goggles and prisms and magnifying glasses in the Toolbox of Justice. And as Trung Nyugen reminds us, they work differently depending on whether or not we are using them to understand our own oppression or our own privilege.

There are hearing aids and decoder rings and Rosetta Stone like primers inside the toolbox of justice as well. These help us understand the sometimes hidden or invisible ways others are excluded, oppressed or discriminated against.

After sparring for years with her atheist son-in-law, my mother walked away from a Memorial Day commemoration wondering aloud why the Catholic priest giving the invocation spoke so specifically about his beliefs Jesus and the trinity. “When you talk in public like that, the prayer is for everyone,” she said. “Who knows if anyone in the audience is Jewish or atheist? “

When I was knocking doors for a political campaign I was volunteering for, I went out one day with an acquaintance from my local Democratic Club – a tall, African American man. He asked me, “Would you please go back to those two houses for me?” I knew he was asking because he had the feeling that the people who lived there might open the door for a white woman, even though they hadn’t for a black man.

The toolbox allows us to hear the bigotry sometimes referred to as “racist dog whistles” like when politicians immediately decide that their top priority is immigration once they know their opponent will be Latino, or to understand why well meaning organizers sometimes ask my brother or my father or I how they can “get all the Hispanics to help them.”

The toolbox helps us to understand seemingly nonsensical news stories – like why the University of Notre Dame has spent more resources talking about their reaction to Manti Teo’s imaginary girlfriend than the suicide of Lizzy Seeberg, a 19 year old student who alleged that she was raped by a member of the Notre Dame Football Team.

The toolbox of justice is what connected Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall in President Obama’s inauguration speech.

Sometimes you find tools you didn’t know were there. A friend of mine from graduate school has Cerebral Palsy and she has done a lot of research on accessibility for people with disabilities in public parks or historical sites. I nodded along with moderate interest until last summer. My mother was suffering from tendonitis in her foot after a knee replacement surgery and I was spending Fourth of July weekend pushing her wheelchair around Atlantic City. It will be no problem at all! I thought. Lots of older people vacation there who have trouble with mobility, and after all the Americans with Disabilities Act was over 20 years ago! For the most part I was right. But when we were trying to get into a theater to see a show we had bought tickets for that was starting in 5 minutes, and the elevator wasn’t working, and the phone number on the elevator just lead to a busy signal, I felt totally helpless and angry, and I wasn’t even the person in the wheelchair. Luckily a security guard came to help us – there was another elevator just a little of the way down the hall. We thanked him profusely and I asked him to add a sign to the elevator explaining how people could access the theater. I enjoyed the show, but when I reflect on that experience I find myself thinking about all of the people for whom this type of frustration is a daily occurrence. We might see a wheelchair ramp at the entrance of a building and think everything is okay. But if we think that one ramp is enough – we are not using all of our tools.

The toolbox of Justice is a way that we can live our principles.

The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

Privilege is, in part, not having to notice the attacks on the dignity or the injustices done of others who are not like us. But if the toolbox allows us to recognize them, then we can take steps to support our brothers and sisters in fighting them

Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

It’s important to hear the lived experiences of people who are different than we are. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why someone feels excluded or hurt but we must make an effort not to be defensive or to make assumptions – we do this by listening with open hearts.

A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

The toolbox of Justice allows us to see the truth of others lives.

The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

The toolbox of justice is one of the ways in which we can build that world.

Wounded White Privilege

Posted in Editorials on November 15th, 2012

I haven’t done much gloating about last week’s election results. My feelings are more of relief and gladness that we can talk about topics other than the horse race. But in reading the post-election coverage about how so many conservatives who are in a state of shock because they were so certain they would win, I have noticed something disturbing. The undercurrent of racism and hate makes it difficult for me to be gleeful about conservatives loss. It would feel like taunting an injured but still dangerous animal.

Potok, who is white, said he believes there is “a large subset of white people in this country who feel that they are losing everything they know, that the country their forefathers built has somehow been stolen from them.”

I can’t relate to this. Not in the least. I certainly benefit from white privilege. I am committed to being anti-racist. But white privilege can warp and change when it intersects with class, gender, sexuality, and nationality/ethnicity. It’s the latter I’ve been thinking about this week.

When I think about my racial privilege as a white woman with Latina heritage, I think about passing and how sometimes other white people challenge my identity.

“How can someone with your last name celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?”

“You aren’t what I expected. I thought you’d be more, you know [does imitation of Carmen Miranda] ‘Ay! Yi! Yi!’ …authentic.”

It feels disorienting and irritating. My family is real, and there are millions like mine. You don’t get to erase us or deny we exist because of your racist fears about interracial or inter-ethnic marriage, or petulance about losing an election.

they are losing everything they know, that the country their forefathers built has somehow been stolen from them.

My “forefathers” were immigrants from South America, Eastern and Western Europe. Some of them faced racism or antisemitism. To be alive during a time when the people in power are starting not to be monolithic or bigoted validates everything I know. This is the America that my family has built.

Reality Bites Back

Posted in Book Reviews on July 19th, 2012

I don’t often disclose that I can occasionally be found watching reality television. I first started watching Tool Academy because of this withering critique of it in Bitch Magazine, but somehow I stayed a loyal fan through all three seasons. And while I knew there was something disquieting about the show’s sexual politics and the cartoonish way race relations were portrayed I didn’t give it much more thought than a few eye rolls. I didn’t expect a sophisticated or egalitarian view or sex, gender or racial politics from a VH1 reality show, so I didn’t bother getting upset. But maybe I should have.

Jenn Pozner’s book Reality Bites Back breaks down the dismissive argument that “it’s just television.” She not only critiques the harmful sexist and racist (and classist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist…) messages perpetuated by reality television, but she explains why it’s profitable for these shows to be made (constant product placement, to the point of surreality) and how networks consider themselves beyond reproach.

The things Pozner uncovers are truly shocking, even for people who are generally grossed out by reality television. For example, the women who auditioned for “Joe Millionaire” didn’t think they were trying out to win a marriage proposal from a wealthy man. They were told that they were going to a casting call for a Real World meets Sex and the City in Paris show. Instead they wound up fodder for water cooler gossip and national mockery for being “gold diggers.” This is unconscionable.

All hope is not lost, and Pozner encourages readers to take action and let networks know what kinds of programming they find objectionable and why, and what they would like to see more of on television. There’s an extensive appendix of resources for would-be activists, and an accompanying website with even more information.

What I liked most about this book was that while the issues of sexist and racist messages in reality shows are taken seriously to task, there’s still a genuine appreciation for the medium of television. Pozner isn’t telling us to kill our televisions, just that we should expect better.

How Not To Be A Whitesplainer: A Non-Comprehensive Guide

Posted in Editorials on June 18th, 2012

When I was at Netroots Nation, I got to experience what’s known in some circles as “the liberal white dude.” He is generally well meaning but also totally unaware of his privilege.

I got to see one of these “liberal white dudes” have a complete fail on race during a panel I attended. The panel was called, “Salsa, Cumbia and Merengue: Connecting to the Different Beats of the Latino Electorate,” and focused of various initiatives designed to increase voter registration and turnout among Latinos. The secondary point of the panel, as made evident by the clever title, is that Latinos are not all the same. A speaker on the panel explained that Latinos are more progressive on many issues than Americans as a whole, and the idea that they are conservative simply because of religion is untrue.

However, the first person to ask a question didn’t seem to have been listening. He appeared to be white. He said that he was working for a progressive Democrat running for office in a majority Black and Latino district and he wanted to know how “you people” think he can get “them” to vote when “their churches and priests” tell them that Democrats are bad and they have to vote Republican. Now, I can accept that this is possible, but this is not the type of question the panelists were looking to answer – they were presenting about their specific community outreach programs, not partisan political strategies. Secondly he took a long time to get to his point, when the panel was already running late (and they specifically asked for short questions). Third, his manner and tone were so demanding, it was very odd – as if he really thought that the panelists knew “THE ANSWER TO GETTING HISPANIC CATHOLICS TO VOTE DEMOCRAT” but they were just withholding the information enigmatically. The moderator told him they could speak after the panel about his specific question.

An audience member tweeted:

Definitely step one for how not to be a whitesplainer.

I don’t know if this man ever figured out why he was coming off as patronizing and rude. Or what the panelists told him afterwards, as I left to attend the next event.

But what I can say to you, dear reader, is don’t be that guy.

Don’t sit through an hour long presentation about differences in various parts of the Latino community and then ask a question that assumes all Latinos are the same.

Don’t be patronizing – especially to groups you are not a member of and don’t treat their culture as a puzzle to be solved.

Don’t demand one person (or even a small panel) of people be able to speak for their entire ethnicity.

Don’t make assumptions about another culture and presume you know exactly why someone behaves differently than you would like them to.

Don’t otherize people just because they have a different ethnicity or religion than you.

Don’t define someone else’s reality for them.

Here’s some questions I think he could have asked:

-Do you have any information about the impact of church attendance on voting among Latinos?

-In your experience, what kinds of outreach work best in a community with a large Catholic/Pentocostal Latino population?

-Have you had success working with churches to increase voter registration and turnout?

There’s probably still a way to ask the above questions and sound racist. But they’re more carefully phrased, and more suited to the length of answer a person can give during a 75 minute panel. They also don’t require a long and patronizing back story.

There’s an almost unlimited number of ways to be racist, and I doubt I could list them all – thus the fact that this post is not a comprehensive guide.

During the keynote the next day, Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Counsel of The Brennan Center and Jakada Imani, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center said that white people and white liberals have to get more comfortable discussing race and racism. I believe that is true. We might make mistakes, but if we don’t try at all it will be much more difficult to overcome. Talking about race is uncomfortable for many white people – there’s fear of saying the wrong thing and being perceived as racist, discomfort with or denial of actual racist thoughts or feelings, and sometimes guilt about what atrocities other white people have committed. But by refusing to talk, we are making the problem worse.

…And if you try and fail like the frustrated organizer from Texas, Do apologize, Do listen to people who are explaining what you did wrong, Do ask questions if you need to, and Do try not to make the same mistake again. Don’t disengage.

The Washington Post Quotes Me On Elizabeth Warren

Posted in Links, Site News on June 9th, 2012

Just wanted to share this link right now, I have a lot more to say about Netroots Nation and race, even as it pertains to Elizabeth Warren. But I’m glad the reporter got the gist of what I said, even though I wish she would have done some research to confirm what I was referring to about Native Americans.

Elizabeth Warren to ‘Romney-Brown Republicans’: ‘We don’t run this country for corporations’

Nassau Democrats Celebrate Poetic Victory

Posted in Editorials on November 10th, 2011

Tuesday night Carrie Solages was all smiles at the Nassau County Democratic Headquarters Victory Party. As he thanked his supporters and family, he was exuberant and gracious. And he had every right to be. He had done something that Nassau Democrats had been trying to do for years with little luck – he unseated 16 year incumbent Republican Legislator John Ciotti, and as a person familiar with the history of the district, believe me when I say it was a truly Sisyphean victory.

The district is majority Democratic, but John Ciotti is popular in the community and for various reasons Democratic voters do not turn in as high numbers as Republicans do in the odd year elections when the county legislators are elected. However, there is more at play than a simple lack of enthusiasm. The Nassau County Republicans are notorious for their intimidation of Democratic voters, especially people of color, as I have written about previously. The difference is that this year, Solages campaign was able to capture this intimidation and racism on film.

Solages win is symbolic of so many things – a grassroots victory over an entrenched political machine, the power of the internet and ubiquity of digital cameras to influence a large number of people quickly, a community standing up and fighting back against racism, and also proof that sometimes – the good guy does win. Sometimes, justice is served, and the person standing up to the bully doesn’t get trampled, but is the triumphant hero. And this year, it wasn’t merely a dream, or an inspirational story liberals tell themselves to keep their spirits high, it came true right here on Long Island.

The final lesson to learn in this happy chapter of the 2011 elections, is that the Nassau County Republicans are not unaware of how and why they lost this seat. Tuesday night, two candidates who won reelection spoke of their unwavering support for John Ciotti.

Other Republicans stood up for Ciotti even as the numbers looked grim “Ciotti ran a great race,” said fellow North Valley Streamer and Town of Hempstead Councilman Ed Ambrosino. “I don’t care what it says up here, John Ciotti is a winner each and every day.”

“John Ciotti is a man of tremendous integrity, of tremendous character,” said Nassau County Legislator Fran Becker.

What fascinates me about these quotes is that they were uttered at the exact moment they will have maximum impact in both raining on Carrie Solages victory and minimizing the damage to their own reputations. In two years, no one will remember John Ciotti’s racist tactics and so statements supporting him will be meaningless as ammunition for challengers. There will be no consequences for absurdity of these statements. That they were made at a time when they cannot be held accountable for them shows a shrewd calculation, that they are aware of the power of their words. Ambrosino and Becker did not say these things two weeks ago when Ciotti’s campaign was going down in flames, because outright support for racist and intimidating tactics would have hurt their own electoral chances. By waiting until after the polls have closed on election night proves they know it, and this is important to remember. Future dirty tricks may be more subtle or not as cinematic, but still just as underhanded as what happened in front of Solages’ campaign office this October.

Racism and Intimidation In Nassau County – An Ugly History

Posted in Editorials on October 20th, 2011

Two years ago, I posted a diary over at Feministing about why I disagree with people who claim that those of us who have respect for others regardless of race, gender or sexuality can be Republicans. The idea of the Republican “big tent” is easily disproved.

The video below and the campaign that followed were a lesson to me in Republican dirty tricks. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen mud slinging before on Long Island. I had heard Republicans use racist code words about to discredit Democrats, especially candidates who were people of color – if a person was Black, they would talk about how “the neighborhood is changing” and if the candidate was Latin@, “immigration” would suddenly become the top priority for local government. But the summer of 2009 and the time I spent on Nina Petraro Bastardi’s campaign was when I realized how much their prejudice meant to Republicans and how far they were willing to take it. I watched as the Nassau County Republican Party lost all claim to plausible deniability with regards to their bigotry. They really are burning with hatred. Listen to this man’s voice.

It doesn’t stop with screaming. One of the reasons that Ms Petraro Bastardi became a Democrat was because of explicitly racist voter suppression tactics used by the Republican party:

Nassau County Republican Board of Elections Commissioner John A. DeGrace [attempted] to reproduce and mail the bogus ACORN letter to newly registered African-American voters in the Hempstead-Uniondale district. The letter allegedly told the would-be voters not to go to the polls on Election Day, that their votes would be cast for their respective parties’ candidates.

Some blamed the outburst on anger that Ms Petraro Bastardi had left the Republican party. But this is just not true. Claims of intimidation have surfaced again, this time made by Carrie Solages, a local attorney who is running for the Nassau County Leigslature in the 3rd district against incumbent John Ciotti, the same contest Ms Petraro Bastardi attempted to win previously.

Does the man calling for “animal control” to come and take away the Black people look familiar?

John Ciotti denies that he knows Vinnie Prisco. But that’s patently false. In this followup video, it’s reported that Mr. Prisco’s mother said that he’s John Ciotti’s right hand man. In addition to the coverage by WPIX, ABC also gets the story right, putting it into context with past racism and voter suppression. NBC interviewed John Ciotti, and he insisted it was “an isolated incident” but the video from Nina Petraro Bastardi’s campaign announcement above, her statement, and statements from Patrick Nicolosi and others who have campaigned in Nassau prove otherwise.

Kudos to those who got the story right. It would be easy to let this devolve into a “he said/she said” story, but the evidence is clear – the actions of the Nassau County Republicans have been despicable and show a clear pattern of racism and voter intimidation. It’s time we started calling them out for it.

And if John Ciotti cares so much about justice, if he really was sickened by these events, then he should stop worrying about Vinny Prisco and start worrying about all of his other thugs. If Mr. Ciotti has seen the light, and really wants a fair election, then he should support Carrie Solages call for for Federal Election monitors on November 8th.