Linda Chavez Apologizes (Sort of)

In this post, I responded to an op-ed column in which (usually) conservative columnist, Linda Chavez, pretty much labeled anyone who opposed the immigration bill, a racist.

Her assertions were so outrageous and malicious, and rightly sparked such widespread shock and awe, I’ve been wondering if some sort of apology was going to be forthcoming from Ms. Chavez. Well it has. In a way.

In this very long essay on National Review Online, Linda begins well enough:

“On reflection, I went too far. I blew off some steam and in the process offended some erstwhile allies. I should have been more careful in my wording and not tarred with such a broad brush. I should have been clearer that not everyone who opposes the Senate bill does so for illegitimate reasons.”

Fair enough. But do you sense a “but” or a “however” coming? Oh yeah. . .

“But I’m not altogether unhappy I wrote the column, or a subsequent one describing the reaction it provoked.”

The fact is, Linda expends precisely 128 words on the apology, and then another 4779 words following that “But” undermining it. For example, early on she writes:

“The immigration debate has stirred up some pretty ugly sentiments and conservatives need to be especially careful in this regard.”

Come on. Everyone, and I mean everyone, expressing opinions in an online forum gets a measure of hateful, ugly, mindless spewage. Citing it, as Linda does, as evidence of anything meaningful is shoddy argumentation. It gives off the same vibe as the Dixie Chicks positioning themselves as brave defenders of truth because they received some death threats. Please. Is there a public person in America that hasn’t received a death threat? Chris Sligh, a contestant on American Idol got death-related hate email for sassing Simon Cowell,  for crying out loud.

Of course, it’s the views expressed by responsible, influential people that really matter. And Linda’s fellow pro-immigration reform bill advocates have a been a rich source ugly smearage the last few weeks, starting with Linda’s original column for which she is now apologizing, and moving on to President Bush’s comment that oppenents of the bill don’t want “what’s best for America.”

Deep into her response Chavez writes: “I’m not asking for politically correct censorship of ideas; I am asking for civility and a commitment to true colorblindness in all public policies.”

But earlier in the piece she crtiizes NRO contributors and vocal immigration bill opponents John Derbyshire and Mark Krikorian precisely on politically correct grounds. For example, she points out that Derbyshire has, on occaision, referred to Hispanic day laborers of unknown national origin as “Aztecs.” One gets the impression she would have preferred, “Hispanics of unknown national origin.” Except that someone in the PC crowd would have cried foul and said the correct term is “Latino.”

She also quotes Derbyshire as admitting that he’s a racist. He did indeed, in addition to admitting that he’s a homophobe and a sexist. But if you follow the links she provides you learn what Derbyshire means. Namely, paraphrasing, “If believing that different races generally have differing charateristics that make them better at some things than other races generally, makes me a racist in today’s PC environment, then I guess ‘I’m a racist.’ And if believing that men and women are different and that those differences result in them generally being better and worse respectively at certain things makes me a sexist in today’s PC environment, then I guess “I’m a sexist.”

Clearly, Chavez is trying to have it both ways. She wants to deny that she is calling for PC college campus-ish speech codes, while criticizing people who don’t adhere to them. It doesn’t track.

Finally, Chavez makes a clever attempt at guilt, or at least shame, by association for those who oppose the bill:

I will not appear with or allow myself or my organizations to be in any way associated with David Duke, Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, or others in the fringe “white identity” movement, as they sometimes call themselves. I’ve never hesitated to call such people racists; they are. It doesn’t matter that they share my opposition to racial preferences; we do so for very different reasons. But racists are not the only problematic allies conservatives encounter when it comes to the immigration issue.

I doubt that most conservatives know the roots of the modern immigration-restriction movement.

 Thus, a very-much warranted apology starts so well and goes very wrong. And then it just goes on and on. Thus, her closing paragraph begins: “It is also dangerous to win the immigration debate by stirring up racial or ethnic animosities by playing to the prejudices of that small group of Americans who are motivated by racism and nativism.”

I would respond by pointing out that it is much more dangerous to try to stifle debate by browbeating those on one side of it with a club of political correctness and assmuptions of bad faith. There’s little evidence that the first danger is actually happning. While each Chavez pronouncement is an indication that the latter actually is.