Monday, February 1, 2010

I'm dedicating African American History Month to Bob Kellar

Today is February 1, 2010, the start of African American history month. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins. And I should note that a new museum has opened in Greensboro, NC at the site of this protest, The International Civil Rights Center and Museum (click here for the New York Times review).

I could say that in honor of this month I will be periodically writing posts that highlight African American history and culture. Although truth be told, I think I do that every month--which is, perhaps, part of what these heritage and awareness months (like Women's History and Culture month) are supposed to do: make us aware of the ways in which previously oppressed and marginalized people are actually not just on the periphery of U.S. history and society but an integral part of its cultural fabric.

In particular, I think African American history and culture month affords us an opportunity to really try to understand the nature of racism as an institutional force--to really educate ourselves about race and racism and other aspects like white supremacy/white privilege.

And to that end, I'm personally dedicating all my posts this month to Santa Clarita, CA City Councilman Bob Kellar. Because Bob is not afraid to announce very clearly what his beliefs about race in the U.S. are:

"I'm a proud racist. You're darn right I am!"

Now, Councilman Kellar has claimed that his words have been taken out of context, so let me quote from a SF Chronicle article that provides the full scope of his remarks:

"At the rally [against illegal immigration], Kellar recalled that Theodore Roosevelt once said the United States had room for only one flag and for one language — English. He said he mentioned the former president's comment at a City Council meeting several years ago.

"The only thing I heard back from a couple of people was, 'Bob, you sound like a racist,'" Kellar told the rally. "I said, 'That's good. If that's what you think I am because I happen to believe in America, then I'm a proud racist. You're darn right I am.'"

[tip of the hat to Angry Asian Man for this link]

I'm sorry Mr. Kellar but within the context of your remarks, saying "I'm a proud racist" isn't negated or clarified but actually ENHANCED.

So Mr. Kellar, this month is an opportunity for you to really understand how hurtful and ignorant and bigoted your declaration truly is. You may not see the link between African American heritage month and your statement and your intolerant stance on illegal immigration and your erroneous belief about language and nationality and who qualifies as an "American," but trust me, if you are serious about learning the lessons of what this month has to offer you, then you can climb your way out of the abyss of willed ignorance and into a more compassionate understanding of the intersectionality of race, racism, privilege, oppression, and U.S. history, society, and culture.

Ahhh...wouldn't it be wonderful if Bob Kellar actually did this? In the meantime, we can all stand a little more education on these issues now and then. Because I believe it's never too late and you're never too old, and more importantly, you never KNOW enough about race not to learn more.


IzumiBayani said...

Hey I love your blog! I couldn't find a way to contact you but I just wanted to raise some awareness about a situation at Colorado State University. Someone is trying to rally the student body to dress up as "indians" in a basketball game against the Wyoming Cowboys. the link is a facebook page:

Anonymous said...

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david said...

from what i'm reading about the "i'm a proud racist" comment, it seems to me that he was being smart or sarcastic to his critics. i haven't seen the video of him saying it so i could be wrong.

Jennifer said...

IzumiBayani and Hattie,

Thanks for the props and for sharing the love. IzumiBayani, I'm definitely going to be blogging about the issue of inappropriate uses of indigenous culture this week, so I'll be sure to shine some light on the CSU issue. And Hattie, feel free to leave a comment anytime the spirit moves you.

I agree that he was being smart/sarcastic about his "proud to be racist" comment, but the whole idea that he would SO NOT GET the horror of racism and to make a sarcastic joke about being proud to be racist--it's like someone not understanding sexual violence joking that they were proud to be a rapist. Or someone who doesn't understand the Holocaust saying "I'm proud to be a Nazi"--it's just patently offensive and really not funny.