August 18th, 2006


Racial politics

Meet Tramm Hudson, Republican candidate for Congress in the 13th District of Florida:

I grew up In Alabama, and I understand, and I know this from my own experience, that blacks are not the greatest swimmers or may not even know to swim.

Video here. Meanwhile, one of my own Senators recently pointed out the one dark-skinned individual at an otherwise all-white political rally in southwestern Virginia and said:

This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great. We're going to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film and its great to have you here and you show it to your opponent because he's never been there and probably will never come. … Lets give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.

Now, the person he was referring to, S.R. Sidarth, was born in the United States and has, unlike George Allen, lived his entire life in Virginia. Also, "macaque" happens to be a racial slur in French-speaking Northern Africa. It's open to debate whether Sen. Allen knew it was a racial slur, although it is worth noting that he speaks French and his mother is a native of Tunisia. And that he has a long history of displaying the Confederate flag on his person, his car, and in his home, and, while a member of the Virginia state legislature, voted against a state holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. (Details here.) None of which proves Allen had racist intent when he made his remarks, of course, but it does suggest that he doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. Sen. Allen denies that he had any racist intent, and that he was merely calling the gentleman in question a shit head. (No, really.) But he also said that he didn't intend "to demean [Sidarth] as an individual," which is clearly untrue -- in American political culture, "un-American" is one of the worst things you can say about someone -- so anything Allen has to say about the incident is automatically suspect.

Anyway, I'm getting away from the point I wanted to make, which is that as a northerner, I often ask myself why we let the former Confederate states back into our country. Sure, we got Diet Coke out of the deal, but is that worth having to share a country with people like Tramm Hudson and George Allen? Some days I wonder.

10-J, 10-M

Ten random things: August 18

Ten First Ladies of the United States:

  1. Rosalynn Carter (wife of Jimmy Carter)
  2. Louisa Adams (wife of John Quincy Adams)
  3. Abigail Fillmore (wife of Millard Fillmore)
  4. Caroline Harrison (wife of Benjamin Harrison)
  5. Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of Franklin Roosevelt)
  6. Laura Bush (wife of George W. Bush)
  7. Anna Harrison (wife of William Henry Harrison)
  8. Eliza McCardle Johnson (wife of Andrew Johnson)
  9. Edith Roosevelt (wife of Theodore Roosevelt)
  10. Lady Bird Johnson (wife of Lyndon Johnson)

As it turns out, all of the First Ladies who ended up on this list were wives of Presidents, but there have been several instances in which the woman who served as First Lady -- that is, the hostess of the White House -- was not married to the President. For example, Mary McElroy was the sister of the widowed Chester A. Arthur and acted as his First Lady. And bachelor James Buchanan's niece, Harriet Lane, was First Lady during his term in office. The last person to act as First Lady without being married to the President was Mary Harrison McKee, who took over the hosting duties after her mother, the aforementioned Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison, passed away toward the end of the Harrison administration. Other interesting First Lady facts:

  • Anna Harrison is recognized as a First Lady by The National First Ladies' Library, but never actually served as White House hostess. She was ill when the time came for William Henry Harrison to travel to Washington to be sworn in, so she stayed behind in New York while her daughter-in-law Jane Irwin Harrison went to Washington to act as hostess. Anna was preparing for the move to Washington when the President died 30 days into his term.
  • The only person to act as first lady for more than one President was Dolley Madison, who shared the duty during the Jefferson administration with the widowed President's daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph.  
  • Dolley Madison was also, according to legend, the first person to be referred to as the First Lady, in a eulogy delivered by Zachary Taylor, in 1849. The term didn't come into popular use nationwide until 1877, in reference to Lucy Hayes.  
  • John Tyler had three First Ladies: Letitia Tyler, his first wife, who died in the second year of his presidency; Priscilla Cooper Tyler, his daughter-in-law; and his second wife, Julia Tyler, whom he married in 1844.