The Racism Dance
As the racist rhetoric oozes from Republican presidential candidates, why are comments contained in Ron Paul newsletters from the 1980s and 1990s being widely considered more offensive than current bigoted banter uttered by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum?
One answer to that question is a politics where partisan criticisms are directed at crippling certain candidates feared as rising stars.
Thus when Congressman Paul began percolating up in the Iowa Caucus polls late last year, news of his caustic comments in those decades-old newsletters became headline news coverage.
Curiously for a candidate tagged racist Paul has a public record of opposing the most racist governmental offensive in contemporary America – the War on Drugs – that societally destructive campaign other GOP presidential candidates ignore.
The Drug War’s documented race-tainted enforcement practices drives facts like blacks comprising 25% of Iowa’s state prison population despite blacks there representing just 2.9% of that state’s population.
Dancing around racism, individual and institutional, is as American as apple pie.
Typical of the disingenuousness entangling that dance, racist remarks receive much ado while silence surrounds substantive issues like the unearned privileges arising from institutional racism that have aided the lives and careers of each of the GOP presidential contenders.
Former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, for example, enjoyed a comfortable middle class upbringing after his 1958 birth because both of his parents worked as medical professionals at Veterans Administration hospitals.
The VA along with other governmental and private sector employers openly discriminated against qualified black professionals until the late-1960s/early-1970s thus limiting blacks from income to improve their families.
Conservatives rarely if ever acknowledge the unearned benefits flowing to whites (especially those in the middle and upper classes) from America’s decades-long reign of legalized segregation.
“Racism is a tenacious evil,” civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated in a 1967 article published nine months before his assassination. This King observation is applicable to the political practice of candidates, mainly Republican, roiling race for electoral advantage.
King, in that article, also reminded “millions of underprivileged whites” of something they never hear from Republican GOP presidential candidates: white supremacy “can feed” egos but not stomachs. That factoid should resonate in today’s Recession ravished economy with high unemployment and rising rates of poverty.
Congressman Paul’s opposition to the creation of the January national holiday honoring Dr. King – a recognition Paul once castigated as hate whites day – is among the current criticism leveled against his presidential candidacy. Typical of America’s racism dance, Paul soft-shoes that opposition to ride electoral boosting rails among far-right-wing whites who still detest King.
There’s something unseemly about this ruckus over racist remarks playing out largely in America’s mainstream news media.
Much of the news media maintains segregated staffing practices just a few steps better than the campaign staffs assembled by the GOP presidential contenders where lack of diversity draws criticism from some black Republicans.
While coverage of the Iowa Caucuses consumed tons of newsprint, hours of broadcast time and data space on the internet mainstream news coverage rarely referenced the regressive fact that Iowa is one of only four states that permanently disenfranchises people with any felony convictions.
This disenfranchisement disproportionately impacts blacks who comprise 70% of the two million Americans nationwide permanently excluded from the democratic right to vote. (Disenfranchisement measures are rooted in racist laws against blacks approved in Deep South states following the Civil War.)
Discriminatory enforcement practices evident in the Drug War ensnaring innocent and guilty alike fuels the assembly line felony convictions producing permanent disenfranchisement. Yet, candidates and news coverage consign this abuse to ‘below-the-radar’ status.
In 1995 then GOP House Speak Newt Gingrich and then Democratic President Bill Clinton collaborated to crush a U.S. Sentencing Commission recommendation to end the racial abuses arising from federal crack cocaine laws.
That Clinton-Gingrich crack law collaboration, scuttling an effort to right race-tainted wrong, condemned thousands of non-whites to incarceration that was both unnecessary and expensive. Historically, bigotry in America is bi-partisan.
The saturation news coverage accorded the GOP presidential race further minimizes needed examination of many race-tinged electoral issues.
Those critical issues include the GOP’s nationwide vote suppression onslaught against minorities, the elderly and students (all presumed Democratic Party voters). A key weapon in that onslaught is enacting laws requiring government issued photo IDs to vote.
South Carolina, the site for the next GOP presidential primary, is expending state funds in an effort to beat back the U.S. Justice Department’s blocking implementation of SC’s new photo ID voter law.
The USJD cites South Carolina’s own statistics showing that ID law having damaging impacts on nearly 100,000 non-white voters as critical to its decision to block implementation of SC’s law.
The USJD is empowered under Voting Rights Act oversight provisions to block electoral measures that adversely impact minorities in South Carolina and other states with histories of discriminatory practices.
The Republicans controlling South Carolina’s state government happily spend taxpayer money to support voter suppression instead of using those resources to reduce that state having some of the nation’s highest levels of unemployment and rates of child poverty.
Current GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney recently termed the USJD’s protection of non-white voting rights in South Carolina a “very serious error” when addressing a predominately white gathering while campaigning in SC.
Neither Romney nor any of his GOP challengers, who endorse voter IDs to reduce possible voter fraud, found fault with the Iowa Caucuses not requiring any voter photo ID for participation.
Are Romney and his GOP presidential confederates contending conservative whites are immune from attempting voter fraud by virtue of their Republican registration and/or skin color?
A December 2011 NAACP report examining the GOP’s voter suppression onslaught nationwide listed numerous statistics backing the finding that evidence of voter fraud anywhere is historically lower than incidents of people being struck by lightning.
Bigoted banter is nothing new from Gingrich, Paul and Santorum.
Remember Gingrich and Santorum were paid commentators for FOX News before they began their presidential campaigns…the same FOX with a rancid record of routine race-baiting.
Gingrich, during a campaign stop, declared that he was prepared to attend the NAACP’s annual convention “to talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
Set aside for a moment that Gingrich has rejected past invitations from the NAACP to address their annual convention and the fact that more whites than blacks receive food stamps.
Gingrich, a man possessing a PhD and who taught history at a Georgia college, should know a little something about the century’s long struggle of blacks to obtain equitable opportunities to earn income.
A 1905 Declaration of Principles from a group whose leaders helped found the NAACP four years later criticized “the denial of equal opportunities to [blacks] in economic life” and stressed the duty of blacks “to work.”
Gingrich’s campaign proclamation that blacks shun paychecks and prefer receiving food stamps displays either disturbing ignorance or intellectual dishonesty.
Ignorance and dishonesty should disqualify any candidate from the Oval Office.
But in Sarah Palin perpetrated GOP-speak of disparaging intellect ignorance is now an electoral virtue. Palin popularized hating intellectual ‘elitism’ embodied by the Harvard Law educated President Obama.
Reveling in ignorance, Gingrich recently bashed opponent Mitt Romney for being bilingual – speaking French.
That Gingrich criticism is an embarrassing posture for an ex-professor who should know the limits on America’s growth in the global economy arising from America having one of the world’s lowest levels of citizens fluent in other languages.
Santorum also slung race-tainted mud with campaign mutterings about his desire to give blacks “the opportunity to go out and earn” money instead of his making the lives of blacks better by “giving them somebody else’s money…”
Surely Santorum, a self-styled scholar like Gingrich, knows that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while in Memphis, TN fighting for the rights of black workers – not blacks lazily wanting “somebody else’s” money without working.
The GOP, during the elected tenures of surviving presidential hopefuls Gingrich, Huntsman, Paul, Perry, Romney and Santorum, persistently opposes equal opportunity measures for minorities often employing the objectionable canard that all measures for remediating institutional racism maliciously discriminate against whites.
The racist rhetoric emanating from the GOP presidential campaign will increase without cease-&-desist demands from America’s body politic – a needed but unlikely but action.
Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He lives in Philadelphia.