BY MARK Y.A. DAVIES
I will never forget when in the aftermath of the revelation of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma sanctimoniously declared in May 2004 that he was “outraged by the outrage” being shown by persons who were denouncing the torture and abuse.
It was one of the most pathetically immoral utterances in recent memory by a U.S. senator – expressing outrage that people were actually outraged by U.S. soldiers being encouraged to torture and abuse persons even to the point of death and in clear violation of international law and all sense of human decency, and all Sen. Inhofe could do was muster outrage at the outrage.
Inhofe’s response was the epitome of misplaced outrage, and I was outraged by his outrage!
Today, 14 years later, in the midst of the most blatantly racist U.S. presidential administration of my lifetime [and that is saying a lot because Nixon was horrifically racist], we find ourselves with example after example of misplaced outrage in the midst of many valid reasons for outrage.
A recent Harvard study provides evidence that nearly 5,000 lives were cut short in Puerto Rico owing to the inadequate response to Hurricane Maria by the president and his administration, yet people want to get upset about NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest injustices experienced by people of color? Really? We should be outraged by their outrage!
We are ripping children away from their parents at our southern border and putting them in detention centers that we won’t even allow a sitting U.S. senator to go inside unless the senator waits two weeks, and people are getting upset about NFL players taking a knee to protest injustices experienced by people of color? We should be outraged by their outrage!
The United Nations is rightly calling out the United States for our violation of human rights when we separate children from their parents at our border. What little moral authority we may have had in the past is being destroyed by the cruelty and criminality of the president, his administration, and the Republican Party. And what is the response by our U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley? She expresses outrage over the U.N. Human Rights Council’s hypocrisy. We should be outraged by her outrage!
More than anything else, this presidential administration is racism cloaked in patriotism and religion, and 87% of Republicans approve. If this presidential administration is consistent about anything, it is racism. Even the administration’s rollback of environmental regulations by the most corrupt EPA administrator in the agency’s history is racist in that it will have a disproportionately negative effect on persons of color.
Corporate powers have accepted the president’s blatant racism in exchange for tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks that satiate their greed but do great damage to people and the planet.
They accept the blatant corruption of this presidency in exchange for being able to exploit and extract profit from the environment and workers, with little attention to the harm that is created unless it encroaches upon their own backyards.
You won’t find lead in their water. You won’t find chemical and petroleum facilities in their neighborhoods; but people of color, whose lives matter just as much as theirs, will continue to suffer.
Yet these corporate powers are primarily silent in the face of this president’s racism as long as it does not affect their bottom line, and if they do speak out, we have seen the president use the power of his office to try and punish them economically.
For those who have spoken out, we should be thankful; but for those who have not, we should be outraged by their lack of outrage!
In our day, there is much about which to be outraged, but the current president’s dog whistle faux outrage directed at people of color who are crying out for justice is not only misplaced outrage, it is simply racist and evil – two words that pretty much sum up what our current president is; and if we are not outraged by that, then we are not only not great, we are not even good.
– Mark Y.A. Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. Click here for more of his essays.