Gook: John McCain’s Racism

Gook: John McCain’s Racism


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The eye-opening book’s basic question is this: Have we as a country really become so desensitized

to hate speech that we’re willing to elect someone President who so openly stereotypes and

acknowledges his dislike of a large segment of the society he is supposed to govern?



Gook: John McCain’s Racism and Why It Matters

By Irwin A. Tang  

Paul Revere Books / Paperback, $14.90 / 186 pages

Book Review by Kam Williams


“’I hate the gooks,’ said John McCain in the year 2000. ‘I will hate them as long as I live.’ It reveals something when a senator calls people ‘gooks’ and volunteers it for mass media broadcast… The fact that Mr. McCain carries such everlasting hate within him – that says something too.

My mother does not want me to publish this book. I know exactly what she meant even though she did not say it. My mother simply wants no trouble, no heartache, for me or my family.

I grew up in East Texas and my parents still live there… the Ku Klux Klan is still very active there. Black people still get ‘nigger’ yelled at them. I got spit on for being Asian… growing up. I was called ‘gook’ every so often. Other times it was ‘Jap’ or ‘Chink’ or some other racial epithet. [And] the name-calling was never as bad as the violence.

Have you ever been an object before? It is difficult to describe my own personal experience as a ‘gook’ in America… What I am doing here is not an attack. It is a public service for my nation. If you’ve ever been called a ‘gook,’ you know this in your heart.”—Excerpted from the Introduction

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While on the presidential campaign trail in February of 2000, John McCain was confronted by the press about his use of an ethnic slur against Asians. Instead of apologizing, the notoriously short-tempered Senator from Arizona arrogantly went on the offensive, asserting that he would always hate “gooks.”

It is now eight years later, and the country is facing the possibility that this inveterate racist might actually win the White House on Election Day. For this reason, Irwin A. Tang decided to publish Gook: John McCain’s Racism and Why It Matters. Tang, also the author of How I Became a Black Man, is an outspoken anomaly among Asian-Americans, a group dubbed the “model minority” because of their deference in the face of discrimination based on their skin color.

This timely tome makes a powerfully persuasive case against celebrated POW and presumed patriot McCain in several ways. First, Tang talks about the psychic and sometimes physical wounds he and other Asian-Americans have silently endured at the hands of bigots on account of prejudice. Then, he shows how McCain has courted the support of numerous white supremacist organizations over the course of his checkered political career. Most importantly, he then shows why this warmonger cannot be trusted to set the tone for tolerance either domestically or in terms of international affairs, given his history of dehumanizing ethnic and religious groups he doesn’t care for.

The eye-opening book’s basic question is this: Have we as a country really become so desensitized to hate speech that we’re willing to elect someone President who so openly stereotypes and acknowledges his dislike of a large segment of the society he is supposed to govern? After reading this heartfelt memoir/impassioned polemic, I say Irwin Tang, not John McCain, is the true American patriot.

“For, at considerable risk to his own personal safety, the author of this shocking exposé has revealed the Republican presidential nominee as little more than an incendiary race-baiter more reminiscent of a Jim Crow-era segregationist than a straight-talking maverick.”

A moving must-read for any voters still undecided about who they’re going to support in November.

To see a video of the author discussing Gook

Irwin Tang was born and raised in College Station, Texas. As a child, he fought agains racist kids and small-town nothingness, all the while unknowingly embracing the spirit of Aggieland. Upon graduating from A&M Consolidated High School, he attended his hometown Texas A&M University on a major scholarship.

At Texas A&M, he was a campus leader on various issues, and when César Chávez spoke at the university, he asked Tang to work for the United Farm Workers. After graduation, Tang worked as a community organizer for the union and then earned a master’s degree in Asian Studies at UT Austin.

Tang wrote his master’s thesis on the history of the political organizing surrounding anti-Asian violence in the United States. While studying at UT, Tang co-led a movement to establish the university’s Center for Asian American Studies.

After enlightening experiences as a substitute teacher and a worker in a social program for the homeless, Tang earned a master’s degree in fiction and screenwriting from the University of Southern California. In 1998, he took a trip to La Paz, Bolivia to witness the work of then-medical student Chi Huang, who was treating street children for ailments and police brutality and gang violence. From this came the publication by Salt River/Tyndale House of When Invisible Children Sing: a true story of five street children, an idealistic young doctor, and their dangerous hope by Dr. Chi Huang, M.D., with Irwin Tang. and more

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A modern horror story:  John McCain The make believe maverick TruthOut

For those interested in more from McCain’s past, here is a collection of stories about The Maverick from his hometown alternative press, the Phoenix New Times. The stories go back through years of local coverage, which didn’t always make it to the world outside of Arizona. The themes remain consistent with the Rolling Stone piece.  PhoenixNewTimes

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Post-racial and Post-racist societies   We come closer to the most likely probability that a non-white man will be elected the president of the United States. It will be an extraordinary historical event. Many wonder what impact it will have on the relationship between the races, whether it will improve the status of blacks in American society.

In “Black Atlantic and a post-racial societyAli A. Mazrui makes a helpful distinction between a “post-racial society” and a “post-racist society.” The former he finds less likely to rise until the rise of the latter. Racial consciousness (as culture) will likely continue as a positive event long passed the demise of racial politics (racism).

Many of us are hoping that with the election of Obama to the American presidency that racism will become less and less a factor in American politics. How much that is possible even with a two-term Obama presidency none can say with certainty, though there are those like Charles Johnson and E. Ethelbert Miller who are extremely optimistic. I am rather pessimistic. For the essential factor in racial politics is and has always been the economic. The economic disparities between the races are tremendous and seemingly will continue beyond the management of status quo American politics, even under the influence of an Obama presidency.

What foundations he can lay to facilitate a swift movement forward are quite vague. He hopes that all boats will rise with an improvement of the overall American economy. But, as long as the economic disparities continue with such intensity, a post-racial society as well as a post-racist society will be out of reach for decades.   Such worlds I am sure will beyond my life time. Mazrui believes that South Africa has the most likely possibility of building a post-racist society. Hopefully America can become a student. For that to occur, the notion or myth of American exceptionalism will have to decline as the centerpiece of American politics. Joe Six-Pack (i.e., whiteness) as a tool by which to avoid addressing the economic factors of racism in American society will also have to be retired—Rudy

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McCain and Palin Are Playing With Fire—I—and, I suspect, millions of Americans like me, Republicans and Democrats alike— couldn’t care less about Obama’s middle name or the ridiculous six-degrees-of-separation game that is the William Ayers non-issue. The Taliban are clawing their way back in Afghanistan, the country that I hope many of my fellow Americans have come to understand better through my novels. People are losing their homes and their jobs and are watching the future slip away from them. But instead of addressing these problems, the McCain-Palin ticket is doing its best to distract Americans by provoking fear, anxiety and hatred. Country first? Hardly.—WashingtonPost

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McCain-Palin Supporters Gone Wild—A video titled The McCain-Palin Mob is the No. 3 most-discussed video on YouTube today, with more than 675,000 views since it was posted Wednesday. In the clip, Ohio rally-goers tell blogger Tim Russo (who’s behind the camera) they have reason to believe Obama is a terrorist. Russo’s questioning is clearly aimed at putting his subjects on the defensive, but they take it to another level, in particular one woman who keeps pushing her way back on camera. Viewership of the video is partisan as well, but on the other side of the spectrum, with more than 130,000 views coming from the Huffington Post and many more from other liberal blogs.

Another, separate video from a Pennsylvania rally has McCain supporters calling Obama a “commie faggot” among other epithets, and is the No. 25 most-discussed YouTube clip today.In a campaign where off-hand remarks by candidates regularly become leading nightly news items, citizens with video cameras wield a lot of journalistic power. And so it’s a bit hard to take Russo’s point of view, in that his disdain for his subjects is so clear (see some unprintable, for us, comments he makes about them on his blog). But at the same time, the mocking response he evokes from the woman at the McCain rally, which would have never aired at length (or at all) on TV, made its way out into the world. We live in interesting times! NYTimes

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Labor warns McCain about crowds—“Sen. John McCain, Gov. Sarah Palin and the leadership of the Republican party have a fundamental moral responsibility to denounce the violent rhetoric that has pervaded recent McCain and Palin political rallies,” said John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Obama. “When rally attendees shout out such attacks as ‘terrorist’ or ‘kill him’ about Sen. Barack Obama, when they are cheered on by crowds incited by McCain-Palin rhetoric—it is chilling that McCain and Palin do nothing to object. “In a world where unspeakable violence is too often promulgated by extremists, it is no small or trivial matter to call someone a terrorist— or to incite potentially dangerous individuals toward violence,” Sweeney said in a statement. “John McCain, Sarah Palin and Republican leaders are walking a very thin line in pretending not to hear the hateful invectives spewed at their rallies. McCain should end this line of attack in the strongest possible terms. Anything less puts McCain in the same camp as the racists and extremists who are bringing their angry rhetoric to his campaign events.” Boston News

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Some of McCain’s black relatives support Obama— Sen. John McCain was born in 1936 at the Coco Solo Naval Air Station, a segregated military installation in the Panama Canal, where his father was stationed in the U.S. Navy. His family returned to the states shortly after his birth; where he went on to attend segregated schools in the Teoc community and elsewhere around the country. He served in the Navy, where he was a prisoner of war during Vietnam, before being released and eventually running for Congress. After he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, McCain voted against the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday in 1983. When he arrived in the U.S. Senate in 1986, he joined North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms in opposing the holiday again, and voted in 1994 to cut funding to the commission that marketed it. John McCain also aligned himself with former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham. Mecham was the governor in McCain’s home state of Arizona from January 1987 to April 1988, when he was impeached and removed from office for campaign finance violations. As a state senator and governor, Mecham publicly used racial slurs against black people and other minorities. He was also a member of the John Birch Society, which opposes civil rights legislation. In 1986, Mecham campaigned for governor on a promise to rescind the state’s recognition of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which he did in 1987. Earlier this year, during the 40th anniversary recognition of King’s assassination, McCain, by this time a presidential candidate, said he was wrong for opposing the national King holiday. South Florida Times

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Two Families Named McCain: Candidate’s Kin Share a History With Descendants of Slaves— According to members of the white McCain family, the plantation in rural Carroll County, Miss., was purchased by Sen. McCain’s great-great-grandfather, William Alexander McCain, in 1851, when many of the flat vistas of the Mississippi Delta region in the state’s northwest corner were still swampy wilderness. After his death in 1863, his widow and a brother, Nathaniel Henry McCain, maintained the family’s position among Mississippi gentry.

William Alexander McCain’s son John Sidney McCain ran the plantation and served in local politics, including a term as county sheriff. A son of his, also named John Sidney McCain but known as “Slew,” graduated from the Naval Academy in 1906 and began a military life that would eventually supplant the family’s long history as cotton barons.

He became an admiral and top naval officer during World War II. His son, the third with the same name but known as John S. “Jack” McCain Jr., also rose to the rank of admiral, in the Vietnam War era—while his own son, Sen. McCain, was a Navy pilot and then a prisoner of war.

Sen. McCain’s family lived primarily on military installations around the world. But they remained attached to Teoc, visiting repeatedly during Sen. McCain’s childhood, often for long periods. When they went to the farm in the 1940s and 1950s, the future Sen. McCain and his brother stayed in the rambling house, now abandoned, of their great-uncle, Joe McCain, who had become the plantation’s owner.

Sen. McCain’s younger brother, also named Joe, said that though their father “moved around as the son of a naval officer, he too always thought of Teoc as his ‘blood ground’ and loved visiting there.”

The McCains in the early 20th century were known among African-Americans for relatively equitable treatment of their workers and tenants, especially compared with the abuses happening on many other farms. A visitor to the plantation in 1923 published an account that described “a tradition and a policy of fair dealing between planter and laborer.”

“That’s how I remember it,” said Frank Bryant, 90, a black former Teoc sharecropper.

The 19th century had been a different story for African-Americans in Carroll County. In 1886, after two black men filed a lawsuit against a white man, a white mob rushed the courthouse and murdered more than 20 blacks there, according to court documents and newspaper accounts at the time. They weren’t prosecuted.

Earlier still, just after the Civil War, Sen. McCain’s ancestors, like many former slave owners, made use of newly passed laws designed to temporarily force some freed slaves back into the control of their former masters. Records in a dusty storage room in the Carroll County courthouse show that in February 1866, Sen. McCain’s great-great-grandmother, Louisa McCain, and her brother-in-law Nathaniel filed petitions to take legal custody of three girls under age 15 whom the McCains had owned before emancipation. In court, the girls were identified with the surname “Freedman,” a common practice with emancipated slaves. Wall Street Journal

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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Ancient African Nations

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posted 6 October 2008




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