RICHMOND, Aug. 14 -- Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) apologized Monday for what his opponent's campaign said were demeaning and insensitive comments the senator made to a 20-year-old volunteer of Indian descent.
At a campaign rally in southwest Virginia on Friday, Allen repeatedly called a volunteer for Democrat James Webb "macaca." During the speech in Breaks, near the Kentucky border, Allen began by saying that he was "going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas" and then pointed at S.R. Sidarth in the crowd.
"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," Allen said, as his supporters began to laugh. After saying that Webb was raising money in California with a "bunch of Hollywood movie moguls," Allen said, "Let's give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." Allen then began talking about the "war on terror."
Depending on how it is spelled, the word macaca could mean either a monkey that inhabits the Eastern Hemisphere or a town in South Africa. In some European cultures, macaca is also considered a racial slur against African immigrants, according to several Web sites that track ethnic slurs.
In case anyone thinks Allen's comments were intended to be benign, here's the video. He hides it pretty well, but to me, at least, there is definitely a hint of contempt in his demeanor toward the person behind the camera, and the word "macaca" is clearly intended to convey something negative to all the white Southern conservatives around him. There's a palpable "schoolyard bully"-ness to the whole escapade.
Jeffrey Feldman at Frameshop does a little internet research on this word, and finds that it's commonly used on white supremacist websites to describe African Americans (in America) or North Africans/Middle Easterners (in Europe). A snippet from the many pieces of tripe he culled from the web using the term:
"I watched the press conference they had when they caught the rampaging macaque. ...goddamn rapin, lootin', murderin', rampaging niggers, goddamn them all..."
Is this out of character for Senator George Allen? Well, this is the same Senator who keeps a noose on a ficus branch in his office and a Confederate flag in his living room. This would also be the same Senator who opposed making Dr. King's birthday a Virginia state holiday. His record as a state legislator is a tad, ahem, "suspect" as well:
Allen became active in Virginia politics in the mid-'70s, when state Republicans were first learning how to assemble a new political coalition by wooing white Democrats with appeals to states' rights and respect for Dixie heritage.
Allen was a quick study. In his first race in 1979--according to Larry Sabato, a UVA professor and college classmate of Allen's--he ran a radio ad decrying a congressional redistricting plan whose main purpose was to elect Virginia's first post-Reconstruction black congressman. Allen lost that race but was back in 1982 and won the seat by 25 votes. He spent the next nine years in Richmond, where his pet issues, judging by the bills he personally sponsored, were crime and welfare. But he also found himself repeatedly voting in the minority on a series of racial issues that he seems embarrassed by today. In 1984, he was one of 27 House members to vote against a state holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "Allen said the state shouldn't honor a non-Virginian with his own holiday." He was also bothered by the fact that the proposed holiday would fall on the day set aside in Virginia to honor Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That same year, he did feel the urge to honor one of Virginia's own. He co-sponsored a resolution expressing "regret and sorrow upon the loss" of William Munford Tuck, a politician who opposed every piece of civil rights legislation while in Congress during the 1950s and 1960s and promised "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court's 1954 decision banning segregation.
And then there was this from his days as Virginia governor:
In 1994, he said he would accept an honorary membership at a Richmond social club with a well-known history of discrimination--an invitation that the three previous governors had refused. After an outcry, Allen rejected the offer. He replaced the only black member of the University of Virginia (UVA) Board of Visitors with a white one. He issued a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month. The text celebrated Dixie's "four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." There was no mention of slavery.
Allen would also be one of the GOP's top picks for the presidency in 2008.