Saturday, October 20, 2007

Monochrome Nation

Ya gotta love the politics of race. Senator (and presidential candidate) Barack Obama (D-IL) is calling for the dismissal of John Tanner, head of the Justice Department's voting rights division, for saying that election laws that impact the elderly don't have much impact on minorities. "[M]inorities don't become elderly the way white people do," Tanner said on October 5th. "They die first." According to Senator Obama, "Such comments are patently erroneous, offensive and dangerous, and they are especially troubling coming from the federal official charged with protecting voting rights in this country."

Justice Department spokesman Erik Ablin said, in defending Tanner, that Tanner had won a number of awards from African-American groups. Later on in the story, we are informed: "It is well documented that black Americans - particularly black males - have shorter life expectancies than whites. But blacks do live to become senior citizens." And the National Center for Health Statistics projected life expectancy of a Black person born in 2004 is given, and contrasted against that of Whites.

Maybe I slept in that day, but I don't recall just when the term "Minority" became the latest euphemism for "Black." Yet people, including the Associated Press, seem to treat it this way. Tanner's comments were erroneous - if for no other reason that there are minority groups that get to be just as elderly as Whites in this country. If offense is going to be taken at Tanner's statement, is should be because a high-ranking career official in the Justice Department appears to be too dim to realize that of all of the various minority groups that live in the United States, not all of them die significantly earlier than whites. But I guess that explains how one gets to be a spokesperson for the Justice Department, and not seem to understand that there's more than one minority group in the United States. When one considers that Tanner was speaking at the National Latino Congress - it's unlikely that he was referring specifically to African-Americans, even if he mentions the NAACP in his comments.

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