In case you haven’t heard this already…there’s an ignorant, fundamentalist bigot working in the government in South Carolina. I’ll let you catch your breath a minute because I know this must come as a shock.
So, right, State Senator Jake Knotts recently appeared on an online political talk show called “Pub Politics.” It’s recorded at a bar called The Flying Saucer and co-hosted by the chairmen of the South Carolina Republican and Democratic Caucuses. Talking about S.C. Gubernatorial Candidate Nikki Haley, the American-born daughter of Indian Punjabi Sikhs, Senator Knotts was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.”
So, it appears he’s not a fan. Instead he supported Lt. Governor André Bauer who, back in January, suggested schools stop providing free lunches to underprivileged students and compared poor children to stray animals. Bauer had this charming anecdote to support his position:
“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t… think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”
Just so we’re clear, this is the guy Senator Knotts is rooting for. Not the “raghead.”
After the talk show was over, the Honorable Senator continued his commentary outside the pub with a reporter from the Columbia Free Times. His concern was that Ms. Haley—who (according to her campaign website) attends a Methodist Church and serves on the board of the Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church—was “hiding her true religion from voters.”
Outside the pub, he revised and extended his remarks: “She’s a fucking raghead.” (As I mentioned in a previous post the word “fucking” is an all-purpose intensifier.)
This being a political season, however, Senator Knotts later apologized for the comment.
Or part of it, anyway. He says he “didn’t mean to use the F-word.” So that makes it okay, right?
Not quite. That didn’t placate those pesky liberal, elitist, lame-stream media types, so he attempted to clarify further in a statement issued to reporters. He claimed, “my ‘raghead’ comments about Obama and Haley were intended in jest.”
Ah… I get it. Humor. He went on to explain that the internet radio show is a “freewheeling, anything-goes” kind of show like the “local political version of Saturday Night Live, which is actually where the joke came from.” I guess I missed that episode of SNL where they called the President of the United States a raghead. But, then again, I generally fall asleep before it’s over, so I miss lots of the really good stuff they always save for the last half hour.
Now, stay with me…this gets better. He went on to discuss with reporters from the Columbia Free Times what he really meant by the term “raghead.” According to Free Times reporter Corey Hutchins, “To him, the term means anybody who hides his or her religion.”
Hmm. That’s an interesting understanding of the term. See, I’ve usually heard it used to refer to people of Islamic descent, or people who wear turbans or other forms of religious headgear. Did you know, by the way, that Wikipedia has a page called “List of Ethnic Slurs”? I didn’t know that, but now that I do I’m sure I’ll go there frequently, especially before I make any trips to South Carolina—you know, just to brush up on the hip language the kids are using today.
The Ethnic Slurs wikilist, by the way, has this definition for Raghead:
“an ethnic slur used against Arabs, Indian Sikhs and some other peoples, denigrating them for wearing traditional headdress such as turbans or keffiyehs. Sometimes used generically for all Islamic nations. See Towel head.”
Four of the seven entries for Raghead at UrbanDictionary.com suggest it is a derogatory term for people of middle-eastern, Southeast Asian, or Northern African descent. The Oxford American Dictionary notes that the term is an informal, offensive noun indicating “a person who wears a turban.”
So, rather than meaning someone who “hides” his/her religion, the term itself is based upon a very visible identifier of their religion, e.g. a turban, a keffiyeh, etc. But that subtlety appears to have been lost on the Senator. He has bigger fish to fry.
See, Senator Knotts thinks there’s some kind of Manchurian Candidate shenanigans going on here. The Free Times reports “Knotts said he believed Haley has been set up by a network of Sikhs and was programmed to run for governor of South Carolina by outside influences in foreign countries. He claimed she is hiding her religion and he wants the voters to know about it.”
Then we get to my two favorite parts of the article:
#1. This quote from Senator Knotts: “We need a good Christian to be our governor.”
And by “good Christian,” I’m assuming he means someone Christ-like. You know, like that guy who suggests hungry poor children are stupid stray animals who shouldn’t be fed.
#2. From the Free Times article:
Knotts said he believed Haley’s father has been sending letters to India saying that Haley is the first Sikh running for high office in America. He said her father walks around Lexington wearing a turban.
“We’re at war over there,” Knotts said.
Asked to clarify, he said he did not mean the United States was at war with India, but was at war with “foreign countries.”
Ah, yes. Foreign countries. Foreigners. Afghanistan, India, Kenya, whatever. They’re all the same. Damn Foreigners. Damn Ragheads, the lot of them. Right, Senator?
You know how sometimes tea-bagger types and Fox News spokesmodels act all offended whenever they’re called racists or bigots? You notice how shocked and defensive they get about those kinds of accusations? I wonder if they understand why comments like these by Republican politicians might be seen as bigoted. I’m not sure they do. And that bothers me and even scares me a little.
P.S. Before you get all worried about poor Nikki Haley, the original target of these offensive terms, she got 49% of the vote in the primary on June 9th. Because she was just shy of a simple majority, she now has to face a run-off election against the second-place guy, Gresham Barrett, who got 22% of the vote. André Bauer, the guy supported by Senator Knotts? He came in fourth with 12.5% of the vote.
Oh, and for the record, you know who was Nikki Haley’s most high profile supporter?
Okay, and one last thing before I let this go. When I was doing research for this blog, I found this awesome post by Wonkette about how the South Carolina seal and the Saudi Arabian flag looks similar. Check it out.