One of the most dangerous ethnic or racial slurs is the tendency to compare one group of people to vermin, insects or other subhuman creatures. It is an attack against the dignity and humanity of the target, and strips him or her of any tangible value to society. In that way, in siphoning off what the Quakers call “that of God in thee,” it’s much easier to annihilate the troublesome entity.
As someone who has specialized in asylum and refugee law for well over a decade, I’m well versed in the ways genocides occur. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, it is with a whimper, not a bang. There is the slow yet consistent and ever-increasing flow of messages that this person is not intelligent, is not clean, is not a team player, is not physically attractive, is not “one of us,” to the point that the rest of society is conditioned to consider the target of these insults as disposable.
And the “disposing of” begins. Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Hmong, Kurds, Rohingya, Tutsis, Bosnians, Uyghur, and the list goes on. These are the genocides of recent memory. All of them started out with a deliberate and well organized attempt to destroy the legitimacy of these people as full members of society. They ended by destroying them physically as well, emptying the spaces where they lived in harmony and by right with their neighbors. Erasing them from the community of man. I have seen it over and over again, and the faces and languages and religions and methods might differ over the spectrum of evil, but the motive is the same: exert dominion over those who pose a threat to our power.
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We have experienced similar things in this young country, most notably with the annihilation of the Native American tribes. That’s a sad and sordid part of our national history, and the narrative needs to be amplified. Although much better than any other nation in this world, at this time, the United States is guilty of the same tendencies that lead to genocide in other countries, one where the rule of law is this: might makes right, and only the fittest deserve to survive, so they can serve the government. Despite the hair pulling and screams of overwrought progressives, we are not that sort of totalitarian nightmare.
But there are people among us who have no problem echoing the tropes and dog whistles that have led to tragedy. One of them is a very pretty woman with lovely manners and a fabulous wardrobe, the most benign of bigots, Sunny Hostin. Hostin is a lawyer, political commentator and regular contributor to “The View,” a televised kaffe klatsch of women who think they have something valuable to say, but mostly trade on their gender to be taken seriously. They are not, to be clear, serious women.
But just because they are not serious does not mean that they should not be taken seriously when they say something so vile, so damaging and so dangerous that the souls of murdered innocents cry out from their foreign graves. And that, my friends, is not hyperbole.
While discussing a poll that indicated that Republican suburban women were inclined to vote for the GOP in the upcoming midterms, Sunny Hostin suggested that it would be like “roaches voting for a can of Raid.” She didn’t hesitate when making the comments, and the words rolled off of her tongue like honey dripping from a poisoned tree.
There was very little push back from her table mates, with the exception of tepid comments from so-called Republican Alyssah Farah who noted that Sunny Hostin had insulted the voters.
No, Alyssah, that was not an insult. That was a bigoted slur, comparing women — with the subtext being white women — to roaches. Jews were commonly compared to vermin prior to their annihilation in the Holocaust. The Hutus referred to the Tutsis as vermin as well. It’s an effective method to demonize human beings who don’t agree with us, don’t look like us, don’t live like us, and who simply aren’t us.
As someone who has specialized in asylum and refugee law for well over a decade, I’m well versed in the ways genocides occur. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, it is with a whimper, not a bang.
To my knowledge, Sunny Hostin has yet to apologize for her comments. I suppose that in the next few days, her handlers will be hard at work trying to spin the comments into something completely benign, gaslighting the critics into thinking that we are all racists who are ganging up on the biracial woman who cannot stop whining about how hard life is for biracial women in this bigoted society.
But the comments are on tape, and they have been branded into the conscience of everyone unfortunate enough to hear them in real time, or read them in the graveyard of foolish thoughts otherwise known as Twitter.
Sunny Hostin takes her place besides Goebbels at that table of opinionated women.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61