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Remember when you started calling your cousin macaca?

June 7, 2011

If you are brown, you do. I even remember being outraged kind of. A  hundred years ago (2006), GOP Senator George Allen had a random racist moment during a press conference that ruined his life! It must be an unspoken rule in American politics that white politicians will make bizarrely politically incorrect statements in public spaces, which they will spend months explaining, and re-packaging before finally throwing in a lesson learned about racial harmony to the press. It has happened so many times.

So this is what happened with Allen:

Last Friday, it all began innocently enough at another outdoor rally with a hundred or so people just a few miles from the Kentucky border. As is the habit of both campaigns, Allen’s Democratic opponent, Jim Webb, had sent a 20-year-old volunteer named S.R. Sidarth to cover the campaign event with a camcorder. Sidarth, an Indian-American who was born and raised in Virginia, affirmed in an interview with Salon on Tuesday that he had introduced himself to Allen and his staff earlier last week. They all seemed to be getting along well, Sidarth thought at the time.

Then Allen took the microphone. “My friends, we are going to run this campaign on positive constructive ideas,” Allen said, before pointing in the direction of Sidarth, who stood in the crowd, the only nonwhite person on the scene. “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.”

Macaca means monkey (code for dark-skinned peoples) which no one knew until George Allen helped us expand our desi slang. So now, some 90 years later, the good senator is apologizing. That too, emotional and all.

So bizarre.

He is running for office again, so I guess he thought this was wise. What is strange is that this whole theater is not for people of colour, of course. It’s for white Americans. He is apologizing because he broke the racial manners behavior code. I mean, is he apologizing to me? Obviously not. Because then he better start by apologizing for regressive and inhumane immigration policies that the GOP consistently support. Or the lack of brown/black people in his campaign staff. In fact, I have not heard an emptier or more meaningless apology in recent memory.

Politicians need a victim narrative, it seems, in order to be authentic. If there is none, it will be borrowed from parents or grand-parents.

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