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Pat McDonough and Racial Politics

Republican politician uses racial demagoguery to advance opposition to MD DREAM Act.

I agree with Jonathan Chait that many liberals immediately respond to "any potential racial signal with a charge of racism." This is dangerous because legitimate accusations of racism are almost always dismissed or invalidated by false charges. On the flip side, many conservatives (and Americans, generally) deny the political efficacy of white racial resentment, and how it empowers Republican politics.

I think Chait is right to point out that there is a distinction between bigoted hatred of black people and other minorities (white racism and white supremacy) and "belief systems that are connected below the surface to racial divisions" (white racial resentment or white populism). It's not simply a matter of semantics, though some might argue that racism and racial resentment lead to the same political outcomes.

Americans politics are wrought by race and it's difficult for both conservatives and liberals to admit. Bigoted racism still exists but it exists much more on the fringe; racial resentment and racial bias are more prominent and pronounced. The young white woman who crosses the street after noticing my presence and clutches her purse is not a racist bigot (or at least, this action is not enough to justify the accusation); however, it's fair to suggest that she suffers from some level of implicit racial bias or prejudice. (This has happened to me numerous times and, admittedly, I don't exactly conform to the intimidating urban black male stereotype.)

Nor do I believe that Mitt Romney is a racist, a charge that he has faced during his presidential campaign. I suspect, however, that he exploits white racism and white racial resentment for political gain (it's a staple tactic of Republican politics).

But as we're witnessing in Maryland, exploiting white racial resentment isn't the only form of racial demagoguery. A few months ago, state Del. Pat McDonough claimed that Baltimore's Inner Harbor was being terrorized by "black youth mobs." Now, McDonough is attempting to repackage himself as a champion of the black community with his opposition to the Maryland Dream Act, which would provide in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants. McDonough is regularly derided as a . I disagree with everything that comes out of McDonough's mouth, but I'm not sure I'd go as far as to call him a racist bigot; his major point of contention seems to be with illegal immigration, not immigrants more generally.

That said, McDonough is certainly a racial demagogue. His false claim that the Dream Act would hurt the black community is proof of it. As McDonough has claimed recently, "the so-called Dream Act would displace available slots at Baltimore city’s community college from legal city residents."

I'm not sure how to make sense of McDonough's claim or his opposition to the Dream Act, generally. Maryland has the most stringent rules of the 11 states that have some form of in-state tuition for illegal-immigrant students. To even qualify, students must graduate from a Maryland high school and their parents must file taxes. Should the children of families paying state taxes be denied in-state tuition for higher education? McDonough portrays himself as a diligent advocate for hard-working Maryland taxpayers, but he's abdicating his duties here. If the state accepts taxes paid for and revenues generated by undocumented immigrant taxpayers, isn't the state obligated to afford them access to publicly supported resources?

McDonough's claim that the Dream Act would "displace" black students is unfounded and disingenuous. The Dream Act requires eligible undocumented students to attend community college for at least two years. Baltimore City Community College recently came off of probation and its enrollment had been dwindling for years before rebounding in a few critical degree programs. Undocumented students are ineligible for federal financial assistance, which means education will remain more affordable and attainable for poor and low-income African Americans compared to undocumented students, both for community college and four-year university.

Republicans have used "displacement" rhetoric in support of opposing affirmative action for years, so it's interesting to see the ploy used as a wedge between African Americans and immigrant groups. The language of "undeserving" individuals being handed a perceived advantage is quite palpable in American politics, especially when a racial or "otherness" dimension is added. I hope the tactic fails this fall.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Steve August 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
What does the Vatican have to do with Fat Pat being a racist?
Arbutus Town Crier August 06, 2012 at 12:11 PM
FIFA , U being literary critic and the one who writes the best wins? Because we are not all equal?. The freedom to express oneself ,Opinions,is why we are here not the Pouting class warfare by stating literary critics! Because that's what your good at. Everyone has one good trait but condemning one to put them down because they may not have the skill? I do believe we are all the same color of life Red that runs through our veins. Respect of someones opinion from literary view tolerance and respect is needed and view the scope, and substance. No one here is the grammar game or spelling bee, we all come from different backgrounds. [sic] "On to the subject if I can figure it out. Clearly by your picture and your comments you believe your skin and your tone denotes you are royalty of some sort." This comment from the literary critic seems to be intellectual racist! comment hidden by manipulating of the English language.
ZIG September 11, 2012 at 05:11 PM
This man will do anything for a headline. Many republicans know that.
Colleen October 13, 2012 at 03:21 PM
People talk about coming here "The right way" as if they know what they are talking about. For a poor person without a degree, it is incredibly difficult to come here legally. Nobody wants to come here without papers and be a second class citizen. But when their families are hungry, they have no choice so they risk their lives to come here and help them. I would hope that I would have the courage to do that for my own family if I were in that situation.
Steve October 13, 2012 at 03:29 PM
You've got that right Colleen. I have a friend of mine that lives in the UK. She has a college degree, a sponsor in the US and a job offer and they are still telling her it will take 7 years. If she was Cuban, Eastern European Jew, Somali, Iraqi, El Salvadoran she would get her Green Card immediately

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