Monday morning racism from Monroe County


I’ve never heard of Monroe County. Turns out, it’s a little county in Forsyth, Georgia, which is north of a town called Macon and far south from Atlanta. But, if you Google “Monroe County”, the first website you get is for the “Monroe County Reporter”, the self-proclaimed “No.1 source of news and advertising in Monroe County”.

I think that’s the dictionary definition of  being a big fish in a little pond. Or, perhaps a puddle even.

In any event, Will Davis (shown below in an incredibly flattering Glamor Shots photo possibly taken during a shoot for the local high school yearbook) is a journalist (as well as publisher and editor) for the Monroe County Reporter.

This is Will Davis.
This is Will Davis.

Last week, Davis wrote an opinion piece about a recent field trip he took to a local medium-security prison, the Al Burruss Correctional Training Center and Boot Camp, which (conveniently) is also located in Forsyth, Georgia — clearly the Monroe County Reporter goes all-out for those hot above-the-fold headlines. Rather than write about the treatment of incarcerated inmates, the prison-industrial-complex, or something else, well, newsworthy, Monroe decided to write about his fellow tour group attendees. See, it turns out that Davis had the incredible fortune to share his tour with a Chinese tour group (I mean, like, from China!), and this was such a unique experience for Davis in lil’ ol’ Monroe County, that Davis felt compelled to devote an entire column to the day.

Or, in Davis’ words, “most communists I’ve met are U.S. college professors”. So, given the opportunity to interact with communists of colour (a.k.a. real live Chinese people!), “it was nice to branch out a little last week”. 

Now, clearly, Davis isn’t much of a brain-trust. He professes to know a few things about China: 1) they’re Communist, 2) they manufacture things that American consumers consume, 3) they speak Chinese, and 4) they’re Communist. Oh, and 5) did I mention they were Communist?

So, at the prison, while the Chinese tour group was attempting to learn about the American judicial system, Davis documents in his article how he went from one tourist to another, trying to find someone whom he could interrogate about the “lack of freedom” in China. Recounting how he cornered the group’s translator:

After a few pleasantries, I had to ask Fei: “Can you see if anyone in the delegation would talk to me about human rights in China? To discuss the freedom to worship, freedom of the press, things like that?”

Later in the day, Davis managed to browbeat another tourist into a conversation. According to Davis it went something like this:

Finally, when we circled back for a BBQ lunch, I found an English-speaking Chinaman willing to discuss human rights. He was a social worker back in China and was working for UGA in its China program.

Starting with small talk, I asked him his observations. He said he was very impressed with the prison and the professional staff in Forsyth, calling it “perfect”.

Then I asked him about the freedom to worship in China. He said the state limits religious activity to within the church and in the home. He said religious expression doesn’t have a place in greater society (I hope they told God).  Then he added, it’s the same way in the U.S., I think. Sadly, he was not too far off.

I asked about China’s policy limiting families to one child. He said it’s true, and his “one” is a four-year-old girl. He said that having a baby isn’t an individual affair, but that it affects the entire society and state, and therefore deserves to be regulated. “One child is very good,” he said. “More children add to the burden of the family.”

Helpfully, he added that there are lots of methods to avoid having a baby (are condoms made in China too?). He did not mention his country’s practice of forced abortions.

And what about communism? Still a big thing, over there? I asked.

Oh yes, he said, noting that foreign companies love communist workers who are diligent and work hard.

Clearly, however, Davis doesn’t really like Communists as much as those crazy foreign companies. Claiming that, “as a reporter”, Davis couldn’t actually argue with this tourist, Davis decided that it would be far more “journalistic” for him to go home and write a biased column than to actually disagree with the man to his face. Instead, in the height of journalistic integrity, Davis rails to his computer screen in an angry anti-China rant that he then chose to publish so that all of the Monroe County Reporter’s 500 readers could read his one-sided and prejudicial thoughts:

As a reporter, I was asking questions and recording his answers. My job was not to reason with him. But I wanted to so badly. I wanted to say that here in America we see things differently. Our founding documents declare that man is not a tool of the state, but the crown of creation. I wanted to say that children are not a burden, they are human beings endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. And I wanted him to know that when these rights are taken from people it is an offense to God and to humankind. I wanted to tell him that man has a soul, and that his relationship with God is more important that his subservience to the state. I wanted to suggest he think for himself — and examine the logical conclusions of his answers. If the state can tell a man how many children to have, when and where he may express his religion and everything else, then man is an ant, one who exists for the good of the whole, and his life means nothing.Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot — none of these murderous dictators did anything wrong if humans exist for the state. But I believe human dignity and liberty trump the state, I wanted to declare. 

Davis titled his column “Things I wanted to say, but didn’t”, but it would have been more appropriately titled “Acts of cowardice: I was too afraid to say these things to a Chinese person, so I didn’t” — but than, Davis might have been in danger of actually losing his argument when he had an opponent to argue with.  

But, what I think is more telling about Davis is what he did choose to say in his article.

The column is intended to be a hit piece on healthcare reform — you know, standard Republican drivel that screams “Communism” for the same federal programs they gratefully collect cheques from. Davis invokes the “death panel” myth of healthcare reform, and even tries to tug the heartstrings by citing a nameless sick grandma, all the while proclaiming the value of selfishness in America. It’s all rather ho-hum — we’ve heard it all before from better writers who write bigger, and better, ideas on their days off.

But, what’s far more interesting (and galling) is Davis’ casual racism, despite representing the Republican “party of inclusion”. Well, to be fair: Davis’ column is highly inclusive — it runs the gamut of the different kinds of anti-Asian racism the APIA community is party to. Let’s enumerate them, shall we:

1. An inexplicable video clip showing a translator translating from English to Chinese opens the piece. As if watching a person speak Chinese is so weird and out there, it’s worth actually posting to YouTube! Cultural safari, anyone?

2. Davis jokes, “since my Chinese is a little rusty (Moo Goo Gai Pan is chicken, right?), I stayed by a translator with the tenacity of a week-old cup of hot and sour soup.” Hahahaha! Because Americanized “Chinese food” (that’s not really Chinese food) is hilarious, yet oh-so culturally authentic! And also, hilarious!

3. “If you’ve been paying attention you know some things about China. First, they seemingly make every consumer product sold in the U.S. Perhaps as a result, their economy is growing rapidly. It needs to, for they have 1 billion people. But with China’s economic growth, we forget sometimes they are still a communist country, one where a heavy hand of tyranny still saps life and freedom from its citizens.” Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that China is Communist?

4. After asking for the translator to send over a Chinese tourist who would like to be badgered by an ignorant American reporter, the translator had the following response: “Fei looked puzzled and then began talking rapidly to one of his fellow Chinamen in their native language. They erupted in laughter. I took it the answer was no.” Well, first of all, the request was idiotic and self-absorbed, and secondly, just because you don’t understand what’s going on, doesn’t mean they were making fun of you. Well, in this case, though, I think Davis deserved it.

5. “It was amusing to watch our Chinese visitors take pictures not of Disney World, the Empire State Building or a Georgia Tech co-ed (eighth wonder of the world), but of the inside of a prison cell.” Because all Chinese are know-nothing, wide-eyed tourists, who love to take pictures. Then again, I will admit that this is a pretty low-budget Chinese tour, if they stopped at some prison in the middle of Georgia to be insulted by the local newspaperman.

6. The following exchange as documented by Davis:

“You speak English?” I asked hopefully.

“Vewy wittul,” he said.

“Well,” I offered, “what can you tell me about humans rights in China — are they observed there as they are in the U.S.?”

“O vewy much,” he replied. “We hawv hoo-mun rights like you hav hoo-man rights. Just ze zame.”

I did not realize that Charlie Chan was on this tour! Now, that’s newsworthy!

(Although, for the Trekkies out there, did anyone else notice that Charlie Chan sounds an awful lot like Quark, these days?)

7.  It may have slipped by you when I excerpted it the first time, but Davis casually calls the guy he sat down to lunch with a “Chinaman”. Now, I don’t know how they do it out there in Forsyth, but here in the rest of America, that’s a derogatory and racist slur. (And check out the story comments, where readers attempt to liken the term to “Frenchman” or “Irishman”).

8. And finally, last but not least, what’s with Davis’ continual assertion that God would be offended by separation of church and state in China? Yes, there are Chinese Christians, but Davis makes the JudeoChristian-centric assumption that the deity who should be relevant in a debate over religious freedom in China is the Christian God.

Yep, Republicans are definitely racially tolerant!

And before you pooh-pooh that I don’t know that Davis is a Right-winger, take a second look at those last couple of paragraphs. Davis invokes the Founding Fathers and declares that man is the “crown of creation”, “endowed by the creator with inalienable rights” that, when taken away, is “an offense to God”. He then compares Chinese people to Hitler.

What Davis forgets is that even here in America, where “human dignity and liberty trump the state”, Republicans (and Democrats) are willing to give up those liberties and dignities for the good of the state. Davis doesn’t condemn the Patriot Act, which legalized the breach of many of our civil liberties to protect the country in our “War on Terror”.  Davis doesn’t conclude his editorial with a shot against extraordinary rendition, wherein the government kidnapped American citizens and sent them overseas to be tortured for months. Davis doesn’t make an empassioned plea for a woman’s right to choose, or the rights of two people (regardless of gender) to marry. And ironically, though the whole story is set in a prison, Davis doesn’t lambast this country’s practice of life sentencing and capital punishment.

Instead, Davis concludes his article by declaring that in 2012, he will not be voting in favour of Obama and the Democrats trying to overhaul this country’s broken healthcare system. No, Davis will be voting for someone else, someone who will protect his right to be casually racist and ignorant to a bunch of Chinese tourists who exercised their own personal freedoms to laugh at him as he tried to play journalist. Maybe he can vote for Palin; after all, they both have one thing in common — Asian people makes her uncomfortable, too.

Act Now!  Comment on the piece or write a letter to the editor if you think Will Davis is a racist. You can also, apparently, post a “Vent” on the website, which is a little bit like a really slow Twitter.

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