Norton's a racist.
January 11, 2001 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Norton's a racist. So now if you even mention the Confederacy in a less than evil light, you're a racist. I am really sick of people using the charge of racism to oppose those with other viewpoints. (More inside)
posted by CRS (50 comments total)

 
The Civil War was fought over the power of the States to keep slaves. There’s no doubt about that. But the fact remains that the war was the most powerful statement in the long argument of State’s rights vs. Federal power. It infuriates me that the mere mention of the Confederacy is now equated with hating blacks and all other non-white peoples. Just because someone believes that the States have rights that cannot be superceded by the Federal government and uses the Confederacy as an example of people’s belief in that is not a logical reason to declare those people racist.

And in this case, as in so many others, the label of “racist” is being bandied about simply to tear down a person with opposing viewpoints on an issue. If your arguments on the issues aren’t enough to defeat your opponents, then you should lose.

posted by CRS at 6:47 AM on January 11, 2001


I sort of agree with you, CRS. The issues concerning the confederacy were complicated, and we should be able to discuss the topic without being labelled a racist if we see some merit in what the confederacy stood for, or did. Personally I'm not even a big supporter of states rights, but clearly when discussing them its pretty necessary to mention that whole civil war thing.
posted by Doug at 7:04 AM on January 11, 2001


Yeah, I see your point, but it still seems like she was a bit over the top in making her point...the states lost too much when they lost the right to have legal slavery? Surely there's some better way to make her point.
posted by ChrisTN at 7:06 AM on January 11, 2001


You ever see that Simpsons Lollapalooza episode where Homer tries to blend into the crowd of young, politically-correct teenagers and within seconds a shrill young lady with a nose-ring is pointing at Homer and screaming, "Hate crime!" In a nutshell, that's the sort of thing that makes me embarassed to be a liberal sometimes, and hearing people cry Racist and Fascist without seeming to *ever* know the historical background of anything pushes me further and further to the Middle.
posted by chartres at 7:19 AM on January 11, 2001


Regardless, she showed really bad judgment. Oh, you don't think so? I expect a politician to know better than to say things that will raise eyebrows, or sometimes even inflame, a majority of the American public. Her point could have been expressed in another manner. She chose her words and now she's eating them.
posted by fleener at 7:20 AM on January 11, 2001


ChristTN: She isn't refering to slaves when she says that "we've lost too much." That would just be nuts.

Chartres: I'm very liberal, and I think that calling her a racist is pretty reactionary. The empty barell makes the most noise, and all that.
posted by Doug at 7:26 AM on January 11, 2001


Hey Fleener, do we really want politicians that walk on egg shells whenever speaking, and never really say whats on their minds? I personally like politicians that "say things that will raise eyebrows."
posted by Doug at 7:28 AM on January 11, 2001


Hmm. Well, these things happen and maybe she didn't really think it through. I do see her making the point that state's rights were mostly lost, and she does say that she's not for slavery. Washington Post can extract that she's a racist from that, but, again, it's them assuming something based on something taken out of context. Just like everything else,

I think most people here on metafilter know that these attacks on Bush appointees are unfair.

"I expect a politician to know better than to say things that will raise eyebrows"

Would you rather have them keep their prejudice to theirselfs? I know that's not what you're saying, but, I thought it was funny.
posted by tiaka at 7:30 AM on January 11, 2001


Wasn't she saying that the states lost too much when they chose to assert state's rights over the federal government under the banner of slavery instead of something that wasn't so 'dirty' (as she put it)?

Sounds like a perfectly good argument to me.. acknowledges the evils of slavery while pointing out that the federal government has overrun its power when it comes to the states a number of times.

Although I'm more of a centralist.. the whole states rights makes government bigger in smaller ways and afford them more intrusion into our lives... I mean, just imagine that we didn't have to support the bureaurocracy of the state governments...
posted by rich at 7:31 AM on January 11, 2001


I think she may have been referring to what they lost because of the WAR not because they lost slavery. I figure the slavery "issue" was the straw that broke the camel's back so to say. It wasn't the only thing the south was inflamed about.

As for our public officials saying or not saying things that raise eyebrows...we as citizens embrace the right to speak our minds. What makes the fact that they are public officials deminish the fact that they are American Citizens first and foremost? If they raise the wrong amount of eyebrows they may not get elected or appointed again, but you have to respect their RIGHT to say it.
posted by Princess Buttercup at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2001


The Confederacy doesn't symbolize state's rights to white supremacists, Klan members, and other hate groups. It doesn't symbolize state's rights to African-Americans either. This undercurrent of sympathy for the Confederacy by conservative Republicans sends a terrible message to a lot of people in this country. They should find another way to show their opposition to federalism.
posted by rcade at 7:55 AM on January 11, 2001


Doug, yeah, we really do want politicians to walk on egg shells. Politicians that speak their mind end up changing careers after the next election. The People are pretty clear in that respect.
posted by fleener at 8:07 AM on January 11, 2001


I hope none of this rancor applies to the Confederate Air Force. I rather like them.

Unfortunately, it appears that they'll be changing their name, probably because of the connotations. It's a shame because it's such a good name, and the organization isn't even remotely racist.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:09 AM on January 11, 2001


Why did the Community Rights Counsel feel the need to ask who the "we" was, and what was "lost'? I thought she stated it rather clearly. She said, "We lost the idea that the states were to stand against the federal government gaining too much power over our lives." Am I the only one who found it obvious she meant the American people?
And yes, Buttercup, contrary to popular belief, the argument over slavery was not the only cause of the war. Though it was (obviously) a large factor.
And as for the raising of eyebrows, I would much prefer a politician be truthful and let us know exactly what their beliefs are. If they anger enough people and end up losing their position, isn't that democracy at work? If the voters don't like the person they won't be elected to office. We elect men and women to represent us, not to dictate our lives.
posted by crushed at 8:10 AM on January 11, 2001


And that, Fleener, is why we have politicians of such high moral and ethical character. And what a wonderful world we do live in.
posted by Doug at 8:11 AM on January 11, 2001


The issue of the supremacy of the states in a confedration of states to represent one nation was effectivly changed, for better or worse, as a result of the Civil War.
Bush W calaims he will rteturn power to the states under his administration. However, the power of the purse will be the controlling factor on who gets to do what.
Democrats seemingly favor a strong federal government; Republicans seemingly favor the right of states over the govt.
Note, though, that Bush W says he will give or not give money (federal) for school unless they meet standards? Whose standards? the federal govternment's or those of the states? If the states, then how will he be in control of it unless he suggests a federal overseeing.
The South has effectively won the war. Major industry has moved South for cheaper workers, housing etc; the North continues to send in more money to the feds than it gets back and this allows the South to keep taxes low. Now the South is carping because the jobs and companies are moving further south: to Mexico.
You can love or dislike various things in the south but it is asinine to call them racisist so long as you look around at what is non-racist in the North
ps: I am and always will be a yankeedoodledandy
posted by Postroad at 8:15 AM on January 11, 2001


I think most people here on metafilter know that these attacks on Bush appointees are unfair.

Speak for yourself, Tiaka.
posted by solistrato at 8:26 AM on January 11, 2001


Regardless, she showed really bad judgment. Oh, you don't think so? I expect a politician to know better than to say things that will raise eyebrows, or sometimes even inflame, a majority of the American public.

Then you must be really upset at Senator Boxer's remark last night that the Ronnie White was "lynched" by Ashcroft. That certainly raised a few eyebrows.
posted by mikewas at 8:26 AM on January 11, 2001


Whatever opinion one might have on states rights, I think the suggestion that Norton supports slavery is a stretch. I would have enough to worry about in other aspects of her record; for example, she considered "filing suit opposing federal requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act that a renovation of the Colorado statehouse had to include a wheelchair ramp. She called it 'a really ugly addition to the state capitol.'"


posted by tranquileye at 8:49 AM on January 11, 2001


Maybe she knew in advance about the ibot? Maybe she even knows what 'it' is. Heh. That seems like a really bad thing to say.
posted by tiaka at 8:56 AM on January 11, 2001


'If your arguments on the issues aren’t enough to defeat your opponents, then you should lose.' Unfortunately, that’s not the case in politics – if it were, it wouldn’t be Dubya and his handlers appointing a cabinet right now.

W. et al have no mandate to govern as hardline conservatives (indeed, many think they haven’t got a mandate to govern full stop). Since Norton’s nomination is apparently seen as a victory for the right, it’s hardly surprising that Dems and Dem supporters are opposing her – even by such underhanded methods as pouncing on the ambiguous connotations of a speech to a right-wing think tank.
posted by Mocata at 9:13 AM on January 11, 2001


It may well be extreme to label her a racist (and foolish to look to the Washington Post for balanced reporting), but there seems to be plenty in her opinions about which to be concerned. All of her state vs fed points of reference are "Bad Facts" IMO.

- She didn't want to have wheelchair access to the Colorado statehouse because it's "ugly"?
- She didn't want the fed jamming emissions requirements down ("our") smog-choked throats?
- She didn't want some distant government deciding whether or not it's okay to own other people?

I am generally pretty pro-smaller federal government, but what are the "Good Facts" in these situations that outweigh the "Bad Facts"?

If she is being mischaracterized through out of context comments, then I think the fact that they (the comments) were there at all show poor judgement on her part. If she was arguing for the protection of Colorado residents to decide if darkie gimps would be able to effectively complain about air quality, then I'm not sure I want to give her keys to the National Parks system.

Of course, I wouldn't be suprised to find out that John Ashcroft eats babies, so I'm clearly colored by my partisanitude*.

*Having GWB in office means never having to say you are sorry for making up words.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 9:51 AM on January 11, 2001


Whenever someone brings up the Civil War nowadays, the only thought I can think of is:

"We fought a war to keep these states here?"
posted by solistrato at 9:59 AM on January 11, 2001


Speaking of bigotry, it's interesting how much anti-southern bigotry I see here on Metafilter. You may all piss off.


posted by norm at 10:24 AM on January 11, 2001


ChristTN: She isn't refering to slaves when she says that "we've lost too much." That would just be nuts.

Doug: First, it's "Chris" and not "Christ," although I take that as a compliment. :-)

Second, I wasn't trying to claim that she was pro-slavery...that would be nuts. But if the quotes in the article are accurate, she does seem to be bemoaning the loss of state's rights as having lost "too much" in the Civil War. And as CRS stated, when you talk about state's rights in the context of the Civil War, "The Civil War was fought over the power of the States to keep slaves." That was my point: she implicitly is arguing that the states lost too much power when they were told by the federal gov't that they could no longer own slaves. And I still say that's over the top, if nothing else.
posted by ChrisTN at 10:25 AM on January 11, 2001


Speaking of bigotry, it's interesting how much anti-southern bigotry I see here on Metafilter. You may all piss off.

I second that off-pissing, norm.

posted by ChrisTN at 10:26 AM on January 11, 2001


...do we really want politicians that walk on egg shells whenever speaking, and never really say whats on their minds? I personally like politicians that "say things that will raise eyebrows."

No. I want politicians to think before they attend paid speaking engagements at bigoted organizations (Bob Jones and Ashcroft / Trent Lott and the CCC comes to mind ) and make stupid comments that may offend people.

That being said, I am liberal/moderate and agree that people should be able to have open dialogues about event even from the darkest periods of our history without being labeled racists, etc.
posted by terrapin at 10:30 AM on January 11, 2001


What rcade said.

You know, Hitler's rise to power and World War II was about a lot more than the Holocaust. Hitler made good roads. You sure won't be seeing any US transportation secretaries spouting off about the Autobahn in the Third Reich, even though that's where Eisenhower got the Interstate idea. I really and truly don't understand how the Confederacy has been so romanticized by so many, nor where this knee-jerk battlecry of "states rights!" is coming from.
posted by mimi at 10:40 AM on January 11, 2001


ChrisTN, I guess you and I disagree. I think you are Christ. No, wait. I mean, I think that she WAS bemoaning the loss of states rights. Which I personally think is silly, anyway, but that's what I think she was saying.
Why, for instance, don't people get all upset and out of shape when people compliment aspects of the ancient Greek civilization, for instance, which depended heavily on slaves? It's certainly deplorable for a civilization to own slaves, but does it then make them unspeakable, and only deserving of disdain?
posted by Doug at 11:04 AM on January 11, 2001


Doug: I think we're closer than it appears. I said that she DID bemoan loss of states rights (which, in a lot of cases, is a silly argument). I agree with you on that. And I also agree with the basic premise of this thread: we should be able to discuss, critically, dark periods in our history without being labeled racist. The only point I was trying to make above is that to use the Civil War to argue for states' rights these days is slightly overkill, to me, because the states' rights in question during that period had to do with slavery. If you want to argue for states' rights, can't you find another way to do it more gently?

Of course, the fact that I can't think of a single other compelling example may have answered my question for me...
posted by ChrisTN at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2001


i third norm's emotion.

in fact, this whole discussion constitutes a hate crime against me because i identify as a Southerner :> now... who do I sue?
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:15 PM on January 11, 2001


oh, and: while the Civil War certainly serves as the most compelling example of what a divisive issue state's rights can be---another, less apt-to-be-jumped-all-over, more modern example is medicinal marijuana. To sum up the example without the hindrance of going to find facts: Voters in California said yes; the federal goverment would like to come in and say no.

which is horseshit.

so there you go. long live states' rights. it's really not just a veiled way of saying "the south shall rise again".
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:20 PM on January 11, 2001


Norton may not be a racist but her work as a rabid anti-enviromentalist speaks for itself.Unfortunately, the 'liberal' news media doesn't care about that.Southerners, you lost the Civil War, get the fuck over it and your stupid Confederate flag too (and I say that as someone who was born and has lived all my life in the South).
posted by Mr. skullhead at 12:22 PM on January 11, 2001


in fact, this whole discussion constitutes a hate crime against me because i identify as a Southerner :> now... who do I sue?

Sapph - I'm admitted in both Florida and Virginia, so you've got an answer to the preceding question - who do you get to sue FOR you?

As for who to sue, sue everyone... let's the judge sort 'em out.
posted by mikewas at 12:45 PM on January 11, 2001


Skullhead: Norton's not an anti-environmentalist - she simply believes that there;s a better way to protect the environment than contructing a massive federal bureacracy.

I know that's not an orthodox viewpoint, but I have learned not to expect tolerance of other viewpoints from the self-appointed guardians of the earth.
posted by mikewas at 12:47 PM on January 11, 2001


Since no one seems to have read it, here's the speech itself (in pertinent part here):


I recall, after I had just gone through this massive battle with the EPA on state sovereignty and states rights, visiting the east coast. For the first time, I had the opportunity to wander through one of those Civil War graveyards. I remember seeing this column that was erected in one of those graveyards. It said in memory of all the Virginia soldiers who died in defense of the sovereignty of their state. It really took me aback. Sure, I had been filing briefs and I thought that was pretty brave. And then there were times we looked beyond the substance. When we looked at the decision making process. And understood the 10th Amendment was part of that separation of powers. It was part of what was supposed to guarantee that our government would remain limited. What would guarantee our freedom? Again, we certainly had bad facts in that case where we were defending state sovereignty by defending slavery.

But we lost too much. We lost the idea that the states were to stand against the Federal government gaining too much power over our lives. That is the point I think we need to reappreciate.



posted by mikewas at 12:50 PM on January 11, 2001


Thank you for posting that. The last three sentences say a lot. And do they NOT mention or infer slavery. And based solely on that...I agree.
posted by Princess Buttercup at 1:01 PM on January 11, 2001


Norton's not an anti-environmentalist - she simply believes that there;s a better way to protect the environment than contructing a massive federal bureacracy.

Let me guess -- let corporations police themselves, give them protection from tort liability when they admit past wrongdoing, and let them sell "pollution credits" to each other.

Why is it conservatives believe the defense of the country requires a massive federal bureacracy but the defense of the planet doesn't?
posted by rcade at 1:48 PM on January 11, 2001


I feel obligated to point out that the original Washington Post article to which CRS linked does not use the word "racist". None of the quoted criticisms label Norton a racist. One quote was "insuffiicent sensitivity to the issue of slavery" -- whoa! burning hot criticism! Keep your voice down!

To my eye, CRS raised the stakes of this discussion inappropriately by suggesting there was a charge of racism. There was not.

That said, I didn't notice any anti-Southerner bias in any of the above Metafilter comments. I noticed anti-Confederacy bias, and I noticed anti-states-rights bias, and I noted anti-maybe-the-Confederacy-had-a-good-idea-or-two-if-you-don't-count-slavery bias, but I don't think those are quite the same thing. Maybe some Southerners feel they are, but I don't see it. If they want to find anti-Southern bias, I suggest they look at all those bad Dukes-of-Hazzard take-offs.

Bias against a political position is NOT the same thing.
posted by dhartung at 1:57 PM on January 11, 2001


true enough, dhartung, but norm's original point was "here on metafilter", not "here in this thread" --- and I've felt compelled to bitch about that very thing more than once for about as long as I've been here, so I stand by norm's assertion.

moving right along.


posted by Sapphireblue at 2:13 PM on January 11, 2001


dhartung is right about the article not stating that Norton was a racist. I said that in my post because that is clearly what the groups who brought this speech to light are implying. I should have been more clear.
posted by CRS at 2:21 PM on January 11, 2001


dhartung: I didn't notice any anti-Southerner bias in any of the above Metafilter comments.

solistrato: Whenever someone brings up the Civil War nowadays, the only thought I can think of is:
"We fought a war to keep these states here?"


Ok.
posted by norm at 3:44 PM on January 11, 2001


You told everyone to piss off over that one comment?
posted by rcade at 3:48 PM on January 11, 2001


Memo to people from the south: the war is over, it's been over for almost 140 years. You're the only ones keeping it alive. Let's learn its lessons, but keep it the history books where it belongs.
posted by Bag Man at 4:29 PM on January 11, 2001


No, I didn't, rcade, but nonetheless I agree my comment was unacceptable. I sincerely apologize whomever I offended. It was out of line and too strong for the sentiment I was attempting to express.
posted by norm at 5:28 PM on January 11, 2001


[dhartung] I didn't notice any anti-Southerner bias in any of the above Metafilter comments .... Maybe some Southerners feel they are, but I don't see it. If they want to find anti-Southern bias

Dan, it's quite clear to me that you are blinded by your Northerness. When you are part of the privileged class, you benefit from your status whether you actively discriminate or not. Your blindness is just another symptom of your elevated status. You may not have asked for it, but you've got it. Recognizing that you benefit from it is the first step.

:) Just havin' some fun, folks. :)
posted by daveadams at 8:47 AM on January 12, 2001


There's an article here that is relevant to the charge that Norton is anti-environment. She's been taking money from Alaskan taxpayers to defeat environmental legislation. I mean, one expects a shift in ideology when the presidency changes parties, but to appoint someone to a cabinet department that she has actively litigated against seems like a bad judgement call, no matter what your environmental views are. Thank you for your time. Now back to Yankee vs. Southerner....
posted by varmint at 12:22 PM on January 12, 2001


Hmmm..

Just think, if we didn't have the South, we wouldn't have had George, Dubya, Billy, or Al.

I'm with solistrato.
posted by rich at 12:47 PM on January 12, 2001


Or Carter, LBJ, Ike, or Woodrow Wilson.

Or Newt, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Florida.
posted by daveadams at 1:13 PM on January 12, 2001


Am I the only one who thinks it's *really* funny to see a posting start "Hey, Fleener" in a thread which also invokes the Simpsons?
posted by baylink at 1:19 PM on January 12, 2001


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