Jim Crow's Muslim America

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 6:01 PM EDT

Watch this video and join me in saying: Wow.

When Andrew Sullivan posted the video above, his Atlantic colleague, Ta-Nehisi Coates (who is black) piped up to say he thinks it's unfair. Coates likens it to the dreaded media's televising of the most ignorant Negroes they can find whenever something "black" happens, so America can assume we're all that stupid. I dunno.

I think it's valid to discuss, inasmuch as folks like these are just the unvarnished versions of those who think Obama's middle name—hiss! boo! Hussein—actually tells you something about him. It might be that hideous things like this, from true cretins, are most useful in getting white folks to take a good, hard look in the mirror at themselves: Do I, deep down and with better than a fourth grade education, really agree with these morons? If so, what does that make me? There are plenty of well-educated folks happy to tell a TV camera that having a president with "Hussein" in his name is a nightmare. What's the difference, really? Classy bigotry versus ignorant bigotry isn't much of a choice.

Speaking of videos, you cannot miss Donna Brazile's impassioned appeal to America not to be distracted by race. She reminds us that we need to be proud of how far we've come on race, and proud enough to remember that we're better than Jim Crow. Because Jim Crow is all it is when we politely, or impolitely, demand that our fear of "Muslims" be accorded respect and deference. Let's call inveighing against "Muslims" (we're at war with them, you know) and "A-rab" middle names what it is: just another way to keep blacks and non-Christians at the back of the bus.

Like Brazile, I'm afraid that I'll wake up in 31 days knowing that I'll have to tell my bi-racial children their mother grew up under Jim Crow and they will, too. Vote for whoever you want, but here's the bottom line: If you care whether or not Obama "really" is a Muslim, however expansive your vocabulary, that hideous video speaks for you.