Friday, June 8, 2018

A Musing About State Representative Michael Clark's Statements

State Representative Michael Clark brought some unwanted national attention to South Dakota this week when he opined on Facebook that businesses should be able to discriminate based on race.  To the best of my knowledge, I have never met Clark, so I have no basis to judge whether he is a racist or merely a person who refuses to think before he speaks. I know this is late, but a part of Clark's comment that got little attention stuck in my craw and I needed to think it through a bit.

Clark's racially charged comments overshadow a statement that revealed some deep cognitive dissonance inside the populist/Trumpist movement, a movement which mislabels itself as conservative.

Clark asserts, "The vote of the dollar is very strong." 

No one should dispute the dollar's power, but the statement contains many implications. In the context with the rest of his statements, one could take it to mean that businesses should discriminate against anyone they chose so long as the business makes a profit. In short, the public can legitimize racism, sexism or any form of otherization it chooses. This reading re-enforces the idea that Clark's comments reflect a deep racism.

The statement may also imply that good, hard-working decent folk will boycott businesses that unjustly discriminate based on race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. This reading implies that the United States has permanently rejected the hateful ideas that produced Jim Crow laws in a wide swath of the nation. This reading implies that human nature has somehow been altered since George Wallace said, "In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever." [ellipsis in original]

While the latter reading may be more generous, the belief that human nature has changed and people will suddenly cease supporting with their dollars and voices those who practice injustice is flawed.

The self-proclaimed social conservatives who make up the backbone of the current populist moment used to hold as an article of faith that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" It's unlikely that the "wicked" will use their dollars to fight injustice. If one wants a secular source, all one has to do is compare the statements made by characters in the Iliad and the entitled pronouncements from professional athletes or other celebrities. If one wants a bit of science, humanity makes up .01% of life on Earth but have destroyed 83% of mammalian life. No amount of dollars seem to change behavior.

In short, trusting the dollar to change human behavior is as foolish and dangerous as advocating legalized discrimination.


Porter Lansing said...

Great column. Thanks, Kal.

Kal Lis said...

Thanks for stopping by and the kind words. I'm more than a little out of practice.