Toni Morrison, Glenn Youngkin’s Welfare Queen

Except for a few, white reporters and pundits have a hard time calling whites racist. They always attribute their racist moves to some other reason when not coddling them. It may be the policy of cable salespeople that MAGA voters buy their advertiser’s products too, which accounts for their timid both-sidesism. Wajahat Ali’s firing from CNN might bolster this idea. They said that he talked about white supremacy too much.

I agree with Eric Bohler that Youngkin’s (Net worth $440 million) won Virginia by making racist appeals, but whites and some Blacks on cable offered other reasons. Eric Bohler is one of the few who gets it. He wrote

I think the press rallied around the “education” angle in Virginia, and specifically the issue of school closures, because journalists did not want to tell the truth about how Youngkin spent the entire campaign lying about critical race theory being taught in Commonwealth schools. The press certainly didn’t want to linger on the notion that his race-baiting tactics are why he won. (The campaign “wasn’t really about critical race theory,” The Atlantic assured readers. Instead, the media narrative emerged that Democrats misread the mood of parents. (Nov. 10, 2021)

When asked about The Atlantic placing the blame elsewhere for Glenn Youngkin’s defeat of Terry McAuliffe Democratic pollster, Cornell Belcher responded angrily on Ari Melber’s show. He said:

I am sick and tired of how so many in the mainstream is so many sort of even progressive, consistently undermine the power of tribalism and the power of race. And in our country, they say consistently, you know, undermine or, or, or pay no attention to the most successful political strategy ever in this, in this country is a Southern strategy and critical race theory is simply the latest and greatest iteration of the Southern strategy. It’s critical race theory is cross-town busing. It is a welfare queen.

It is defund the police. It is a tax on a tax on a border, right? And I think part of the progressive problem is Republicans get the power of race and tribalism and how to, in fact, engage that and trigger that and mobilize around it. And Democrats want to say, oh, it’s never about race or progressive wants.”

Former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, appearing on MSNBC, said that Youngkin’s had cast Toni Morrison as the Republican’s current welfare queen.

Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison as a welfare queen? A woman who worked all of her life and wrote excellent novels while raising two sons and working as a Random House editor, which is where the two of us had lunch in the early 1970s and remained friends until her death.

I think that Carlyle Group member Youngkin’s appeal to a racist vote in Virginia by demonizing Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” was even worse than the Bush team’s use of the Willie Horton ad to frighten white women into voting for Bush. The late Roger Ailes designed it, and Lee Atwater promised to make Horton Michael Dukakis’s running mate. Of course, Dukakis had nothing to do with the furlough policy that allowed Willie Horton, a convicted Black rapist, a weekend pass, during which he raped another woman. Still, it stuck and led to Dukakis’s defeat.

It wasn’t enough that the promoters created the ad, but they went further. They warned white voters that if they voted for Michael Dukakis, George Bush’s opponent, somebody like Horton, will be going from door to door. It didn’t end there. They provided Horton’s rape victim with a tour during which she offered audiences explicit details of the rape.

But the use of the black predator, which has used been used by white nationalists to grab black-owned assets, destroy black businesses, and even commit genocide, often spurred on by the American media, is old hat.

Youngkin, possibly informed by his career as a Hedge fund manager, did something slicker by using a Nobel Laureate’s novel to demagogue the school system. They ran an ad that featured a white mother complaining about how the book hurt her son’s feelings. Turns out that both the mother and so were Trump activists, so the whole thing was a cynical setup. Instead of criticizing this hi-tech demagoguery, the media thought the entire political gambit so clever when noticing the ad at all. Elise Jordan called it “masterful.” The media elite cast Terry McAuliffe’s remark that teachers should create the curriculum, not parents, as a big blunder. Of course, these journalists and columnists would have a fit if some Tennessee fundamentalist was let loose to design the curriculum for their children’s teachers.

When asked what Critical Race Theory meant, some of the Virginia parents questioned by the media looked really stupid. No wonder. It’s not taught in Virginia schools. And so, while most white TV journalists either made excuses for Youngkin’s racist appeal or ignored it, Black commentators like Belcher and Joy Reid were seething over what they perceived as Youngkin’s use of “the southern strategy.”

This caused unease among their white colleagues who have a hard time calling their fellow whites racists. Stephanie Rule said that Critical Race Theory, the rerun of the old Shaira Law scare, had nothing to do with the vote of white women. She and other on-air white women said that their vote was due to the remote learning in response to the pandemic. She didn’t get the memo from the Republican Party, which sees Youngkin’s 21st Century use of the old-time southern strategy as a winner.

“Coming out of Tuesday’s elections, in which Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s office after aligning with conservative parent groups, the GOP signaled that it saw the fight over teaching about racism as a political winner.”

Predictably, progressive John Nichols of The Nation was among those who didn’t mention the fake Beloved outrage on KPFA. He’s one of those who believes that class should trump race as an issue upon which progressives should focus.

Critical Race Theory is another example of how something Black engenders mass hysteria, a phenomenon that I attempted to capture in my novel Mumbo Jumbo, fifty years in print this year.

The final performances of Ishmael Reed’s new play, “The Slave Who Loved Caviar,” are Friday and Saturday at 8PM,  Sunday at 3 PM. Live performances at the Theater for the New City, 155 1st Ave. between 9th and 10th. It can be streamed live here.

To reserve tickets to the play call: 1 (212) 254-1109.

Ishmael Reed is the author of The Complete Muhammad Ali.