Thursday, January 24, 2019

Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel blackface firing illustrates Republican hypocrisy, by Ed Slavin


Governor Ron DeSantis rightly fired Florida's Secretary of State Michael Ertel this afternoon, January 24, 2019, for wearing blackface, in drag, portraying  a Hurricane Katrina victim.

Blackface ceased to be funny decades ago, but some unenlightened people continue to ignore reality and insult our intelligence.  

Yes, it was at a "private party" on Halloween, fourteen years ago.  

But Ertel was then Seminole County Supervisor of Elections, appointed by Governor Jeb Bush.  

In drag, Ertel appears pleased with himself (and plum pickled).  

(Confession -- Halloween, 1987, Washington, D.C.: I dressed as Reagan's controversial Attorney General, Edwin M. Meese, III -- so persuasively that a woman I had never met before came up to me and said, "You're a fascist!"  No photos survive.)

By firing Ertel, Governor Ronald Dion DeSantis continued his good start as Governor, including environmental and corruption issues.   After having appealed to racist dog-whistles in his appalling campaign, DeSantis is now seemingly on the mend, trying to remake his image as a healer, not a heel. 

But Governor DeSantis issued an Executive Order excluding GLBTQIA people from human rights protections, without giving any reason.  (Agriculture/Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried protected us in her order).

Among Republicans, there's some bipartisan support for amending Florida civil rights laws to protect us.  But nationally, queer-bashing is still an article of faith.  Republicans resemble what Lincoln wrote of the Know-Nothing Party in 1855, stating if they won, "I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].

Fetishizing bigotry, some "Know-Nothings" in the Republican Party, a/k/a "Party of God" (American Taliban) demand to:

  • Erode rights to Gay marriage, as in cake-baking cases, and Duval and eight other Florida counties ending Courthouse weddings -- out of spite. 
  • Demean Gays by forcing bullied kids to transfer schools, instead of ending bullying.
  • Ban teachers from saying anything about homosexuality in public schools (as in Clay County), unless it is in the context of sexually-transmitted diseases.  A teacher could be terminated for reassuring a Gay child contemplating suicide under misguided policies like Clay County School Board policy 4.51, subject of my cover story in "Out in the City" circa 2006, quoting former U.S. Senator and retired Admiral Jeremiah Denton, who denied Clay County's policy had anything to do with legislation that he and Senator Ted Kennedy passed on preventing pregnancy.).
  • Deny transgender rights to equal restrooms, as in St. Johns County's illegal policy, struct down by federal judge Matthew Corrigan.
  • Erase rights for transgender soldiers, whom the Supreme Court's 5-4 procedural ruling leaves in limbo, allowing those who "out" to remain, those who are not to stay if they don't "come out," and forbidding further enlistment.  Some 15,000 servicemembers' lives hang in the balance. 
  • Use tax money for religious schools that teach that Gays are evil incarnate.
These misguided misanthropic, homophobic politicians are a joke, and they remind me of one I first heard in Memphis:

Q:  Is it better to be African-American/Black or to be Gay?
A.  Black, because you don't have to worry about whether to tell your momma.

The first ""out" Gay man to speak to a Democratic National Convention, Professor Melvin M. Boozer, III, Ph.D., said in 1976: "I've been called 'n-----' and I've been called 'f-----," and I can tell you what then difference is: NONE."

In St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach, GLBTQ people were added as protected classes in 2012-2013, long before Jacksonville, while Florida (and dozens of states), still had unjust laws/constitutions banning Gay marriage. 
We did it with certainty, just as federal judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr., an African-American, ordered St. Augustine to fly 49 Rainbow flags (seven on the Bayfront and 42 on Bridge of Lions) in 2005.  In 1989-90, winning equal spousal discount benefits for employees at 30 department stores in six states and the District of Columbia. I was invited to write the first article on Gay marriage for an American Bar Association publication in 1991

The difference between racism and anti-Gay discrimination is: "NONE."

Southern Democrats were once segregationists -- they evolved.  As then-Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Horatio Humphrey said to the Democratic Convention in 1948: "The time has arrived ... to get out of the shadow of states' rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights."  Florida legislators, please ban anti-GLBTQIA employment , housing and public accommodations discrimination. Now.  

Investigative reporter-activist Ed Slavin blogs from St. Augustine.

Update: St. Augustine Record buried this story on page A3, unadorned by blackface photos.

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