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August 31, 2007

the racism fairy visits larry craig's bathroom

Old racism fairy:

the racism fairy strikes again!

New racism fairy:

Sgt. Dave Karsnia: I just, I just, I guess, I guess I'm gonna say I'm just disappointed in you sir. I'm just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood. I mean, people vote for you.

Sen. Larry Craig: Yes, they do. (inaudible)

DK: unbelievable, unbelievable.

LC: I'm a respectable person and I don't do these kinds of...

DK: And (inaudible) respect right now though

[full story]

The thing about the racism fairy is that the same wave of the magic burning cross that converts a poor white person into a racist (pobrecito Kramer!) also forces all the coloreds within a 20 meter radius into an abrupt, unwelcome confrontation with something ugly, exhausting and depressing. The closer white folks are to power's normative tentpoles (maleness, straightness, richness) the less likely they are to know what it's like to be sitting there minding your own business - say, perusing the transcript of chatter between Sen. Larry "I'm not gay in the bathroom" Craig (R-Idaho) and the cop who nabbed him - only to be suddenly sucker-punched by an -ism, in this case white supremacy. Sgt. Dave Karsnia's comment that he'd expect lying and dissembling from a guy "gotten out of the hood" neatly embeds a range of classic white supremacist tropes about hoodish suspects. These tropes are completely from left field in this particular scenario. It's as if Sgt. Karsnia, apropos of nothing and engaged in some inaudible internal dialogue, just figured he'd offer Craig a randomly shaming contrast for good measure. Getting busted cruising for sex in a public bathroom just isn't enough of a faux pas for a sitting, anti-gay Republican senator, but acting like a guy from the hood? Now, that's shameful! Because we all know white Republicans don't lie when caught red handed, don't try manipulate the system to get off, and they definitely don't disrespect the established processes and procedures of law enforcement.

Given how the stakes are constructed in the Larry Craig story, pointing out the bias in Karsnia's admittedly, uh, tossed-off comment isn't likely to send anyone into a tizzy. This story doesn't require any particular presumption of progressive or racial virtue on Karsnia's in order scan legibly, and so white people won't experience much in the way of cognitive dissonance around this particular winkle. If Karsnia was a blogger supporting the good guy in a key senate race, as Jane Hamsher was, or a progressive organization engaged in its yearly convention, well, it would be a different story, wouldn't it? This post would be viewed as divisive, distracting, mean spirited. I would be accused of refusing to give a political ally the benefit of the doubt, for fuzzy logic unsupported by statistics, for political correctness, for being an all-around buzz kill. Shut up and leave your betters to the important work of saving the republic in peace, basically.

Thank god Dave Karsnia is just some schmuck on the job in the Twin Cities, huh? Otherwise, there might be a problem!

Posted by ebogjonson in politricknal sciences, race and other identities, on August 31, 2007 11:35 AM

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