Taking the burden of proof too lightly

 Saxby Chambliss
Saxby Chambliss

Alternet.org ran an article recently about Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss (whose name totally kicks ass) in which he’s quoted as referring to white people as “we.” He’s white, so the quote is offered as an example of what I gather are many racially charged statements he’s made over the years. Now for all I know, Chambliss is a racist and his otherwise uninteresting reference to white voters in Georgia as “we” might have been a glimpse of his dark side, but is this really something we want to enter into evidence?

The assumption that racism underlies first person plural references to race made by any person not “of color” is just plain silly! I’m white, more or less, and God help me, I do sometimes use the word “we” when referring to people of my own race. Not with any particular pride, but as a matter of clarity. Chambliss and all true racists aside, how does doing so differ from using the same word in non-racial contexts? I can say “we Catholics” or “we Southerners” without fear of rebuke, but if I say “we white people,” I’m testing the envelope. All the while, similarly self-referential statements made by people of other races are tolerated. Nay, celebrated.

Is there a statute of limitations on this kind of hypocrisy? The burden of proof is and should be on Chambliss’ accusers. And referring to people of his own race as “we,” like preferring white chicken meat over dark, is weak evidence of racism. I offer no opinion of the man’s personality or politics, just of this most recent indictment. And I’m not impressed by the prosecution’s case.

Epilogue: Here’s the whole quote: “There was a high percentage of minority vote, and I am tickled to death that as many Georgians as did examined their right to vote. That’s what make our election process the envy of the whole free world, but we weren’t able to get enough of our folks out on Election Day.

A friend of mine suggested, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that Chambliss could have been referring to “we Republicans” or even “we Republican whites,” rather than “we genetically superior whites.” But he’s an evil bastard, regardless, I suppose.