It is easy for me to forget, amidst the success and status of such
minority Republicans as Condi Rice, Lynn Swann, and Alberto Gonzales,
and the prominence of minority colleagues of mine who are registered
Republicans, that the GOP is still prone to being unnervingly
unwelcome to people of color.
Witness Senator George Allen's recent teasing of a South Asian student
who happened to be attending one of his "listening tour" stops as a
cameraman for Allen's opponent. After grandly speaking of running a
decent campaign, he says the following, gesturing at S.R. Sidarth, a
20-year-old Virginian native of Indian descent:
"This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or
whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around
everywhere. And it's just great. ... Let's give a welcome to macaca,
here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."
So let's summarize here: 1) he ridicules the lone minority in the
audience by using a racial slur (a macaca is a monkey indigenous to
Asia), 2) he assumes the young man is a foreigner just because of his
skin color, and 3) he equates Virginia with being "the real world" and
thus everywhere else, especially wherever this young man might be
from, as not. In what campaign handbook, let alone any reasonable
social gathering, is that trifecta acceptable?
I once attended a Bush rally in York, PA, with three other young
Asian-American businesspeople, and let me tell you, we four stuck out
like a sore thumb. I think I counted five other minorities there, in
a rabid sea of 15,000+. Needless to say, I felt quite uncomfortable
-- and this, from someone who is pretty good at mixing with whoever
So kudos to Bush and others for paving the way for minorities to reach
prominent positions of political power. But at the grassroots level,
the party has a long, long way to go. For awhile, I had forgotten
this. Sometimes it takes a dummy like George Allen to remind us.