Allen Apologizes (Again) for Racial Insensitivity
About three weeks ago, I offered some advice for Senator George Allen: “He’s going to have to open up and provide a convincing backstory to explain how a California boy grew up with such a fondness for the Confederacy and cowboy boots.” He is finally starting to do just that.
Allen, 54, said he did not see racial overtones in the Confederate flag. He said he was a rebellious youth and viewed the banner as a “symbol against authority.” As a history major at t he University of Virginia in the early 1970s, he said, he also began to see the flag as a proud heritage symbol for those with ancestors from the South who fought in the Civil War. “What I appreciate, and wish I had sooner, is that that symbol, which for me was fit for simply rebelling against authority, and for others was fit for pride in heritage, was and is for black Americans an emblem of hate and terror, an emblem of intolerance and discrimination,” he said.
Allen, the son of a legendary football coach of the Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Rams, suggested that his football background may have numbed him to some racial complexities. “On football teams and every team sport, you don’t care about someone’s religion, race or their ethnicity,” he said. “All you care about is if that person can help your team. Can he block, punt, pass or kick. It’s a true meritocracy… and it’s that meritocracy that you see on a football field and on a football team that we should aspire for in our society here in America.”
He’ll have to do more of this if he’s going to win back swing voters in time for re-election, let alone become a viable contender for the White House. Still, he’s doing the right thing. While Josh Marshall dismisses this, not unreasonably, as “Macaca Apology 3.0,” those not already inclined to vote for the Democrat may be persuadable. Indeed, the early returns are looking good:
Allen’s 35-minute speech received polite applause and gracious reviews from the educators. “I am pleased that he is acknowledging he made a mistake and talking about it,” said Ralph Reavis, president of [Historically Black -ed.] Virginia University of Lynchburg. “I’m an educator. If he says he’s learned from this, I accept it.”
David Nash, an official at the National Institutes of Health, said, “I think he’s a good guy. We, as African Americans, have to get beyond these Democrat-Republican things and deal with the real issues before us.”
If Allen can convince people that he’s “a good guy” and not a closet racist–both of which I believe to be true–then he’s back in the game.