America is like Alice in Wonderland. Up is down and down is up. The recent decision to axe an ethnic studies program in Tucson is symptomatic of a bewildering turn of events in our country.
The Tucson district school board folded like a cheap suit when John Huppenthal, Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction, threatened to withhold $1 million in funding to the district. Huppenthal claimed that the ethnic studies program was illegal. This claim was upheld by an administrative law judge who ruled that the ethnic studies program promoted "racial resentment" and advocated "ethnic solidarity."
You'd think that folks in the minority are engaged in a plot to consolidate their considerable social and economic advantages. Go figure.
This is not just an Arizona phenomenon, although the great state of Arizona has a pretty clear record, given their efforts to crack down on the illegal immigrants whose nearly slave labor they've exploited for many, many decades. Profile 'em, search 'em, lock 'em up, deport 'em! Evidently Arizona's leaders think Mexican immigrants have run roughshod over God-fearing Americans long enough, looting the hard-earned spoils of our exceptional American accomplishments. Now they think they have the right to talk about their cultural heritage in school too! What on Earth will they want next?
In racial matters, we have the glib accusation of "reverse racism" emerging with great frequency. A quick search of the Huffington Post alone produced more than 2,000 "hits" on "reverse racism." This is impressive, since there is no such thing as "reverse racism." Racism requires the possession of political and economic power, inherited through generations of structural advantage. While black folks may act unwisely, angrily or even vindictively, they are in no position, individually or collectively, to systematically oppress us white people.
Just as with the ethnic studies program in Tucson, some folks in the white majority in schools and colleges around America are critical of racial affinity groups, gay and lesbian organizations, diversity programs or affirmative action, citing them as separatist and somehow threatening the endangered status of white men. I suppose these activities also promote racial resentment and ethnic solidarity.
On the political front, GOP candidates, particularly Newt, are reclaiming America for Christianity. In Newtworld, Obama is the anti-Christ, subverting the moral foundation of the nation through his relentless attacks on religion. This ridiculous assertion, made with a straight face (to the extent that Newt's face can be straight), is directly contradicted by Obama's nearly constant, arguably inappropriate, probably unconstitutional allusion to his own faith in his public utterances and actions. No matter, of course, that Christians, particularly evangelicals, are the majority in America and have dramatically influenced social policy and legislation through lobbying and fiscal blackmail, crossing the border between church and state with total impunity. (Where are those Arizona sheriffs when we really need them?)
Perhaps the grandest of the upside down cakes is the GOP circus around Mitt Romney's campaign. When other candidates criticized his "vulture capitalist" career at Bain, they were accused of trying to kill free enterprise. Romney himself is basing his campaign on the notion that Obama is a European-type socialist who is trying to destroy the American way. But, of course, Obama is essentially a moderate Republican when it comes to economic matters, and regularly serves up platters of red meat to free market capitalists. (Disclaimer: well regulated free market capitalism is not a bad system.) But free market capitalism is hardly under attack. Quite to the contrary, regulators remain largely defanged and, thanks to Citizens United, legislation and legislators are still for sale in the open market.
In this bizzarro world, people mired in poverty are envious, compassion is socialism and critics of greed are anti-American. In Wonderland, ethnic minorities are a threat, black folks are reverse racists, Obama is a socialist, and a sinister secular plot is threatening the free exercise of religion.
In the real world ethnic minorities are under siege by an increasingly confident far-right wing. In the real world, racial justice has eroded dramatically, poverty is epidemic and schools and communities are being rapidly re-segregated. In the real world, the evangelical right is hell-bent on creating a Christian theocracy, marginalizing non-believers and those of other faiths. In the real world, slavish devotion to free markets and deregulation have brought America's economy to its knees. In each of these areas, the entitled members of the majority are claiming to be oppressed by the increasingly disenfranchised minority. Up is down and down is up.
If the right wing keeps this up they are really going to see some racial resentment and ethnic solidarity. I'm a middle-aged white guy, but I know what side I'm going to be on.