Monday, June 01, 2009

Tom Tancredo's Dangerously Racist Aide

A couple of years ago, Marcus Epstein, formerly a speechwriter for anti-immigration zealot Tom Tancredo (R-Co) and now the executive director of Tancredo's political action committee, was convicted of an attack on an African-American woman in D.C.
On July 7, 2007, at approximately 7:15 p.m. at Jefferson and M Street, Northwest, in Washington, D.C., defendant was walking down the street making offensive remarks when he encountered the complainant, Ms. [REDACTED], who is African-American. The defendant uttered, "Nigger," as he delivered a karate chop to Ms. [REDACTED]'s head.
The Talking Points Memo headline focuses more on the "n-word" than anything else. But Epstein also gets out some of the meaning of the n-word and what makes it so offensive. What's particularly interesting about Epstein's assault is that he uses the n-word as he is "delivering a karate chop to the head" of the poor African-American woman. Here, Epstein didn't just use the n-word as a pejorative that demeans African-Americans. What the "n-word" meant to Epstein was that he had a "right" to attack the woman without any other provocation than the fact that she was African-American. In Epstein's view, his status as a white man gives him such superior human status that he is free to assault an unknown black woman just for being black. If the laws had not changed to the disadvantage of racist murderers, Epstein probably would have contended that he had a right to killer her as well. This is what the whites in the Algiers Point neighborhood in New Orleans thought during the chaos of Hurricane Katrina. They thought the "n-word" meant open season on black people--"like pheasant season in South Dakota."

Epstein was also walking down the street "making offensive comments" before he delivered his karate chop. This is slightly different because it raises the chicken and egg of what comes first--the general belligerence or the specific racism. My own argument would be that racism and a generalized belligerence and aggression are mutually reinforcing. But how does this work as a young conservative activist walks down the street calling out "racial epithets." What are black people doing to offend him. Mostly, they're enraging Epstein by walking down the street as though they had rights and felt secure in those rights because they were enforced by both law and social opinion. Near the end of The Souls of Black Folk, DuBois' portrays a fictional white judge threaten to lynch every black person within his reach if African-Americans started thinking they had a right to enter his front door. Like the judge, Epstein claims a general right of superiority over black people grounded in nature and seems enraged that blacks can now claim a right over their own persons. That's part of why he lashes out at this one woman.

Epstein was convicted for hitting an unnamed African-American woman instead of believing he had a right to do so, being enraged that African-Americans could claim rights of their own, and using the "n-word" to signify all of this. However, the fact that Tom Tancredo hired Epstein over other qualified people, put Epstein in positions of responsibility, and didn't even remove Epstein over his attack on the black woman is a strong indication that Tancredo holds the same blatantly racist opinions as Epstein. It doesn't take much imagination to think that a really big chunk of the population of conservative staff apparatchiks holds the same kind of views as well. People on the left generally view conservatives as covering their racism with a very thin veneer of political correctness. The case of a dangerous racist like Marcus Epstein confirms that view.

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