Myers' explanation of blackface incident doesn't hold water

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I see the Myers blackface story has gotten some additional exposure.  I'd like to address a point that I didn't examine in my earlier post.  Rather than bury it in an update, I'll post again.  The WaPo covered the story, and this part jumped out at me:

In a Nov. 8 letter replying to questions by McCaskill, Myers said that she was "shocked and horrified" to learn that the employee was wearing makeup but that within minutes of leaving the party she instructed her chief of staff to direct ICE's events photographer "to delete all photos of the employee."

"Although I didn't know that the employee had disguised his race, I believed I had made an error in judgment in recognizing an escaped prisoner," Myers wrote.

Explanation 1: She really did think the employee was black, in which case she is not smart enough to run a lemonade stand, much less a large government bureaucracy which requires substantial judgment and wisdom to enforce the immigration laws in a race-neutral way. 

Explanation 2: She sees it's a white man dressed as a black prisoner, complete with blackface and fake dreads.  Realizing after the party the firestorm ahead, she sees a way out: Just pretend you didn't know he wasn't really black!  If it's a black person making the joke about black prisoners, it's not racist, it's just funny, right?  So she lies about whether or not she thought he was really black.  Phew, dodged another bullet.

The problem with this tactic which Myers must have failed to consider is why would a black employee dress up in such a clearly racist costume?  It makes no sense at all, leaving the simpler explanation: she is not telling the truth.

ICE might counter that Myers could have thought it was an African-American employee making fun of Caribbeans.  After all, "everyone knows" most Haitians and Jamaicans are drug dealers or criminals, right?  Don't tell me you didn't see Bad Boys II.  So again (Myers' reasoning): black person making fun of other black person = just fine. 

Well, not really.  Federal anti-discrimination laws include discrimination on the basis of national origin, as well as race.  Discrimination based on national origin is arguably as bad as race-based discrimination in this instance given that it's ICE's job to make determinations about national origin every day, judgments that can lead to long-term incarceration and deportation even where no crimes have been committed.  Imagine what would happen if this incident had taken place at an EEOC party.  Whoever was in charge simply wouldn't have a job the next day.  It is ICE's responsibility to fairly enforce immigration and nationality laws.  If ICE employees feel it's appropriate to mock people based on their nationality, it is likely they are singling out immigrants of certain nationalities for greater scrutiny and harsher enforcement of the law.  And indeed, that is exactly what has been reported.  

Conclusion: More lies and empty apologies from Myers are not going to cut it.  She should resign, and her successor should take concrete steps to let ICE's rank and file know that this type of behavior is unacceptable.  Anything less would call into question ICE's commitment to enforcing the immigration laws in an even-handed, race-neutral manner.

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fash said:

I laughed out loud when I read that she had no idea the man was wearing make up. It's really not that hard to tell the difference between black face and an actual black person. Apparently she lives in such a white washed world that she's never seen a black person in real life. Hell, even on television.

I feel such comfort knowing that this person is going to be the one driving what goes on with undocumented immigrants, most of whom are people of color. Whoohoo!

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