Thursday, August 17, 2006
Yet again, Sen. Allen explains himself
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Shanna Flowers is The Roanoke Times' metro columnist.
In Tuesday's Roanoke Times, the same paper that carried a front-page headline chronicling America's "explosion of diversity," I learned that Virginia's junior U.S. Sen. George Allen ridiculed the only person of color at a campaign stop in far Southwest Virginia.
To the laughter and applause of his supporters, Allen referred to one of his opponent's campaign workers -- a man of Indian descent -- as "macaca" and concluded his remarks with, "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."
Allen is the one who needs an invitation to the "real world."
As that other story in Tuesday's paper pointed out, minorities make up a growing proportion of this nation. Anyone living, working, shopping, learning, and yes, even campaigning in the "real world" knows that the cultural and racial diversity of this country stretches increasingly beyond black and white.
The target of Allen's riff, S.R. Sidarth, who was videotaping Allen on behalf of Democrat Jim Webb's campaign to unseat Allen, is American. The University of Virginia student was born and raised in Fairfax County, making him -- like the otherwise all-white audience in the small town of Breaks -- a constituent of Allen.
Frankly, I wasn't surprised that Allen singled out a member of the opposition during one of his campaign stops. That little stunt was just politics as usual to rev up the crowd.
But where the senator obliterated the line was in tossing about a name and sentiment that at best could be taken as insensitive and demeaning and at worst, racist.
Allen later told The Washington Post he didn't know the definition of "macaca." Then in one of those Mel Gibsonlike second runs at an apology, he said he made up the name, certainly never meaning to offend anyone.
Allen had an explanation, as well, for his "Welcome to America and the real world" phrase, saying that he was merely urging his opponent, Webb, to get outside the Beltway.
When it comes to matters of racial insensitivity, Allen seems to always have an explanation.
The noose that hung from a plant in his law office? Oh, that was part of his Western memorabilia collection.
The Confederate flag in his living room? Just part of his flag collection.
The Confederate pin in his high school photo? A period of youthful rebelliousness.
The omission of slavery in a proclamation for Confederate History and Heritage Month? We're still waiting for an explanation on that one.
Allen's explanations may be sincere, but so too, is Sidarth's concern that he was demeaned because of his skin color.
Shanna Flowers' column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.