Your December 24, 2016 edition headlined Carl Paladino’s recent appalling insults directed at President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team’s “disavowal” of these comments. The article also notes the outrage among Buffalo community members and reported Paladino’s response that he is “not a racist”.
A great deal more is called for than “disavowal.” Paladino’s statements are cause for dismissal from the Buffalo School Board and disqualification for public office or representation of any political party.
Paladino compared the Obamas to gorillas and cows in sexual references. There is nothing new about these insults – they are older than our nation, and reflect the dehumanization of people of color. This dehumanization was the first step toward enslavement. Dehumanization allows its perpetrator to distance himself from the “other”, and to rationalize inhuman treatment of people considered “animal.” Dehumanization rationalizes hate crimes and genocide.
Professor Ibram Kendi spoke in September at Albany Law School about the origin of racist ideas in America his National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning. More than 500 years ago the concept of separate “races” among human beings grew and served to “identify and differentiate and animalize African people.”
As James Baldwin explained, in his letter to his nephew about the impact of white racism: “Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity.”