Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Palin’s Blank Sheet on Diversity and Civil Rights

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There’s no record that Alaska Governor and Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin uttered anything more than the obligatory complimentary congratulations to the woman that beat her out for the Miss Alaska title in 1984. The winner was Maryline Blackburn, an African-American. A ritual congratulatory wish from Palin would have been about the only public acknowledgement to date from her about an issue, in this case a beauty contest, where Palin was confronted with the issue of diversity in the person of a competitor.

Since then Palin’s record on race and diversity has been the blankest of blank sheets. The probes into Palin’s record on diversity and civil rights have almost exclusively focused on her views on gay rights, gay marriage, and equal pay. These are crucial civil rights issues. But so is racial diversity and civil rights. The on-line site On the Issues gives a comprehensive look at the positions of elected officials on the major issues based on their statements, speeches, campaign materials and policy position papers. Palin has taken no position on immigration, affirmative action, job and housing discrimination, school re-segregation, police-minority community relations, and racial disparities in the criminal justice system,

On the Issues did list two terse positions Palin took on hate crimes legislation and cultural diversity. Both give a tiny window into the would-be vice president’s thinking on diversity and civil rights. During the 2006 gubernatorial campaign she told the Eagle Forum that she opposed expanded hate crime legislation. She branded all heinous crimes as hate crimes. This legal counterintuitive view of what constitutes a hate crime goes squarely against the wide body of law and public policy that defines a hate crime as a willful act or threat based solely on racial, gender or religious animus. By lumping common crimes, no matter how repulsive, into the hate crime category, Palin would effectively gut enforcement of federal hate crime laws.

In her gubernatorial campaign booklet in 2006, Palin gave her equally terse view of discrimination. She simply said that she and her gubernatorial running mate value cultural diversity and would provide opportunities for all Alaskans. She made no mention of affirmative action, job discrimination, and the enforcement of civil rights laws.

Palin made no mention of Alaska’s affirmative action plan. It’s been in place since 1998 and mandates that the state make special efforts to insure that veterans, especially disabled veterans, have equal access to state jobs. Presumably, Palin backs the plan. Yet, she makes no mention on her website are any other place what her office has done to enforce the state’s tightly constricted affirmative action plan.

Knowing Palin’s views on race and civil rights, whatever they are, is more than just a matter political one upmanship. If elected, her views will carry much weight when it comes to making and enforcing legal and public policies that impact minorities and women.

That’s certainly been true in her home state. Alaska’s Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts make up more than fifteen percent of the state’s population. Indian activist groups there have protested discrimination and the disparities in health and education, as well as over their hunting and fishing rights. There is no record that Palin has spoken out on their plight.

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, his VP running mate Joe Biden and Palin’s Republican mate, John McCain come from state’s that have diverse populations. In the Senate they have spoken out on, taken positions on, and haggled over legislation on immigration, hate crimes, affirmative action, job discrimination, and education disparities. They are keenly sensitive to the importance of civil rights and diversity issues.

The same has been true even with Bush. Before his election in 2000 he promised to make cultural diversity the watchwords in the GOP. That year, and in his reelection bid in 2004, he courted black conservatives and independents. He promised to boost minority business, HIV/AIDS funding, more aid and programs for failing inner city public school, praised the Voting Rights Act, and on occasion spoke out against racially motivated violence.

McCain and Palin, if elected, will likely have to do the same. They will also face sharp challenges on affirmative action, police misconduct, job discrimination, and racial disparities in drug laws, and school funding. They will also be called on to make administrative and court appointments that reflect diversity.

Democrats, much of the media, and a big segment of the public have pounded Palin for her non-existent experience and public pronouncements on foreign policy and national security matters. But she has been absolutely expansive on these issues in comparison to her past and present mute silence about diversity and civil rights.

During her tenure as Alaska governor, Palin didn’t have to say or do much about civil rights. She does now. And we shouldn’t have to wait for her to get to the White House before she does. That’s too great a risk for the country.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).


W.Watson said...

Govenor Palin is definitely getting a pass on her views and history of civil rights participation. As an African-American woman who homeschools, is pro-life,is an ndependent with conservative leanings I find this disappointing. However in the Republican's efforts to make Ms. Palin and her candidacy palatable she has served as the the ultimate trump card in the racist/racial dynamic of this election. The specter of the 'innocent white woman' being accosted by the ba-a-a-d black man still looms large and has perpetuated more fear than just a little bit of fear and even violence throughout (as in to the present) this country's history. The McCain camp has knowingly or unknowingly stumbled upon America's greatest taboo.
Put plainly: black men are not allowed to confront white women with impunity.
While it may be frowned upon for a white man to challenge a white woman in the political arena, for a black man to challenge a white woman publicy, about anything, is probably something that a vast majority of white voters, no matter their political affiliation, may not be able to get past. There are so many aspects to America's dirty little secret regarding the casting of black men as the societal boogeyman and the white woman as someone to be protected from his aggression. How Sen. Obama handles this will be interesting, but this definitely a factor. My guess is that it will be up to the media that Gov. Palin conveniently slammed in her speech yesterday to keep everybody focused
So much about this election is about winning at any cost instead of doing what is right for the American people.

Anonymous said...

she thinks human rights are a joke. didnt you hear the crowd's approval?

i think in her mind the idea is that as long as you have the right to bear arms you can use those guns to earn your other rights the hard way.

were geneva, the hague, and the un watching last night? are they complicit?

perhaps it is time i find a new home before my home is taken from me.

Anonymous said...

Under no circumstances would a working class teen pregnancy be treated the same way by republicans.
They have preached for decades what a plight on America teen pregnancy is, but now we see these morals only apply to the working class.
The sad part is that the working class may identify with the right because republicans hide behind the cross, ignoring how the majority of their policies go against Christs teachings. Jesus doesnt want us to sin NOR to judge others.
It was the whore that washed his feet.

Anonymous said...

She's apparently an arch conservative.

In other words, suitable to lead a small local movement of other arch conservatives, not be in a position of leadership of a superpower that has international influence, and whose decisions often impact tens, if not hundreds of millions of people. The vp, like many other high political positions, position shouldn't be about someone's private aspirations. Let alone not someone whose narrow conservative views simply cannot match the complexity of the world.

Stephenie Hendricks said...

If you examine Palin's record on protecting her citizens from toxic chemicals, you will see that the Indigenous people of Alaska suffer from some of the highest rates of birth defects and other chemical exposure related illnesses in the world. Even United Nations treaty makers on toxic chemicals are concerned about the Indigenous people in Palin's state, but not Palin herself. Toxic waste dumps, oil refineries, and a general disregard for human habitat has shown Palin's attitude toward Indigenous people to be of the mind that they are disposable human beings, and that speaks volumes about her views on race.

Stephenie Hendricks

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Anonymous said...

What is it that prevents Americans from research and READING what is in the public record provided by that "god damn piece of paper" Constitution?

It is NO SECRET in Alaska that Palin calls highly educated African Americans who DARE to participate in a two-party democracy "SAMBO" and her own state's pimping local tourist dollars at the behest of Eskimo tribes whom Palin calls
ARCTIC ARABS. Yup, it's the well-known double whammy racial insult any good Christian Identity beauty queen bigot with boobs spews in public venues then giggles.

Anonymous said...

she has gotten not just a pass but worser that the bold lies on on what Obama is always ask to respond on she is no baby and this is American Politics i the thing ;s that could harm peopleviews of her somehow it;s always a pass this I know and not find yet can see the form of just pure racism not hatred for at least when and Obama tries to explain anything it still goes on and on with her it's like she's got 12 brother's and and uncles who own some stake in the media from the not calming of rallies to nose up jus t the I the Queen and how dare you ask me about that Abusing power I am sure a real reformer would rein her in you judge her for yourself or just catch some of the yells at her rallies and see how she feels about this election Lewis was right I see it now they have been playing on those exact time of hatred problem is America has grown and the fear tactic's won't work on over half of I know of the Afro American race but just about the same can be said for the Caucasion race we along with other nationalities are fighting in our war's that are going on now and depend on each other so she might be the one talking morse code to Russia says she can see it shuck's this lady I mean if some say McCain doesn't get it then she never had a clue Uniting the country is worth the sacrifice not dividing and listen to Obama closely he say's all the tme Republican's,Demorcrat's,Independants,rich,poor and in between we are all in this together and should proced that way so bust her bubble seem's like she has enough air to blow it back up.