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Memphis sanitation workers march past National Guard troops in March 1968 to say what they shouldn't have had to say. Less than a month later, the Rev. Martin Luther King returned for another march, and was assassinated. Getty Image

Mitch, Please: Yeah That's Me. American.

Abby Zimet

In an ongoing tragicomedy of malignant errors, Senate Minority Leader, racist turtle and "sloppy first attempt at a pancake with blueberry eyes" Mitch McReaper scrambled to defend his indefensible "Klanian slip" this week suggesting he views African-American voters as a different species from "American" voters, and never mind this country was built on their black ancestors' oft-whipped backs. Asked how African-American voters might respond to his retrogade party of thugs blocking the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, he infamously replied, "The concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African-American(s) are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans"; also, if you look at the video, you can see him re-enforce his screaming dogwhistle with a repugnant them-and-us flip of his limp hand. At a Friday press conference amidst a storm of entirely understandable outrage, he huffed it was "deeply offensive" and an "outrageous mischaracterization" of his stellar civil rights record - except for all the times he's said Jim-Crow-y things or smirkingly posed in front of a giant Confederate flag - to suggest he was partaking in the othering of people of color just because he "inadvertently" omitted a word that he then had to come back twice to the mic to fumblingly identify as  either "almost," or "all," or, the day before, "other." Ok, so he doesn't have the best words. At this point, that's the least of his crimes.

First, he lied: The Brennan Center cites "a large racial turnout gap" - one a slimy GOP is now busy working to widen through flagrant new voting restrictions - with almost 71% of white voters casting ballots in 2020 and just 58.4% of nonwhites voting. Second, he mindlessly misspoke, lumping together anyone who (thankfully) doesn't look like him - Latino, Asian, Native, black - into a foreign, lesser "other"; in fact, their voting numbers, like their ethnicities, range widely, from 63% of Black people to 54% of Latinos. This is also not McCracker's first racist rodeo. He's been repeatedly called out for galling transgressions: In 2015, he boasted, "My party does really good with white people, and I'm proud of that"; in 2019, asked about reparations for the atrocities of slavery, he whined, "We've elected an African-American president" so what else do you want? And in recent fights over the filibuster, he willfully blindly claimed, "It has no racial history at all. None," despite 100 years of evidence it's specifically designed and used to maintain white supremacy and block civil rights for the marginalized. Finally, vitally, writes Elie Mystal, his dismissive ignorance exposes a fundamental failure to recognize "white people are not the only people or the most important people in this country," and that their "perceived default position at the center of American society" is waning, as it must. "We are all Americans," Mystal writes, "but one of us is too white to admit it."

McConnell's latest "Kinsley gaffe" inspired some bitter glee. Stephen Colbert, who with the pancake tag has also dubbed him "Girth, Wind and Liar," played the clip: "Wow, how embarrassing. It came out exactly how he meant it." Mostly, it sparked fury, especially among people of color. Trending on Twitter were #MitchPlease - also #BitchPlease - and #IAmAmerican, where countless people posted tender, potent, moving photos of husbands, children, cousins, grandkids, friends and dog to defiantly proclaim, "They're American." Also, "And they vote." There were many veterans in uniform: "23 years ago, I was as American as I am now," "No one questioned if I was an American when I served our great nation for 37 years," "I honorably served my country. Unlike Mitch, I'm not a racist shitweasel, I'm an American," "Grandpa WWll, dad Vietnam: Dad stopped by Baton Rouge cop with his draft card in hand, cop put billy club in his chest with 'Boy, you better not be here to vote,' dad said, 'No sir, I'm going to Vietnam." Natives posted: "American before America was America." Women posted: "I am a triple threat - an informed black woman voter." There were photos of Tuskegee Airmen, Madame Vice-President, the great John Lewis, Capitol cop Eugene Goodman: "American." There was pitiless black history: "My African ancestors built this mf," "I am descended from kidnapped slaves," "My great-great-great-great grandfather born a freeman in 1800 was more American than Mitch McConnell," "I was born in America, I'm going to die in America, just as my slave ancestors did. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on," and, "I'm so American I don't even know which part of Africa Mitch's ancestors stole mine from." Asked one woman, "When do we replace Mitch McConnell with an American?" Another nailed it: "I am American - whether you like it or not."

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: azimet18@gmail.com

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