Translating Republican Discomfort with Racism

It’s inevitable.  Every time a racial issue highlights problems in American society and politics we can count on Republicans to reach back into their barrel of excuses and rationalizations — by now these are clearly obvious, equally transparent, and hopelessly irrelevant.

There’s the predictable from Rep. Peter King (R-NY):

“It’s not just stunning, it’s really disgraceful,” King responded. “They’re talking about somehow trying to unify the nation, and instead they’re using the most divisive type language, the most hysterical rhetoric, and that’s totally out of bounds—it’s wrong. And politically, I think it hurts them because that alienates the American people.”

Who’s alienated? The Representative surely isn’t speaking about people who have seen their DMV offices shut down in Alabama making it more difficult to get the identification necessary to vote?  Is he talking about those whose districts have been gerrymandered to prevent them from living in a Congressional district that’s competitive? Or, does raising issues such as these make white people uncomfortable?

Meanwhile back in Pennsylvania:

 “…on Thursday morning, the Pa. Dems challenged Mango and Wagner again – this time to denounce President Trump over his widely criticized “both sides” remarks. All of the party’s releases were issued after the President’s Tuesday press conference and resulting backlash.

“The Democrats are simply trying to exploit the events in Charlottesville for political gain. It’s shameful, and everyone involved should be embarrassed,” Wagner said.”

Nothing like loading the language.  I “point to specific examples,” you, on the other hand “exploit.”   I’m not in the least bit convinced that pointing to the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists gathered in Charlottesville as the worst examples of human beings at hand is something which should embarrass anyone, any time.

So, here they go again,

“I would say this about the president’s critics as a whole: If nothing will quiet them, than they don’t have America in their sights,” Faulkner said. “They don’t care about us. They don’t care about Americans. And shame on them. They need to step aside and let justice be done. Because if there is going to be justice, it’s going to take all of us together.”

Oh, “togetherness,” how nice.  Yes, it’s going to take all of us to condemn white supremacy and institutional racism, and if this makes Republicans uncomfortable, so be it.   “They don’t care about Americans.”  White Americans?

White Americans expressed their ‘economic anxiety:’

“Obama set racial relationships in the nation back 100 years with his divisional rhetoric. Being a Southerner, the KKK was always Democrat. So to blame it on Republicans is ridiculous. Did they have the right to march? Absolutely. Did the antifa have the right to stop them? No. That’s how violence begins — the two polar opposites don’t want the other to be heard.”

Really? “Divisional rhetoric?”  What might that have been?  Something about his reaction to the murder of Trayvon Martin?

Apparently President Obama, being African American, was just too much for some Alabama Republicans:

“I think Barack Obama is to blame. I think this country is more divided than it ever has been. I think almost all racism in world history can be tied back to liberalism, socialism, the idea everyone’s supposed to have an equal outcome as opposed to equal opportunity — those are liberal ideas that have been propagated over the past eight years through the administration, with just terrible things going on and the rhetoric w’ehe had coming out of the White House during that time.”

“Speaking while Black” makes some whites nervous.  Notice how the logic doesn’t form a chain in the comment above.  There are fragments placed in a series which logically don’t make a bit of sense, but do make an emotional framework to buttress the feelings of the white apologist.  Racism bad + racism/socialist + Obama/Black + ‘rhetoric’ = I’m Okay, those other people are bad.   It’s hard to move from the Racism is good argument of the Jim Crow era to Racism is bad BUT it’s the other side making me feel uncomfortable position of contemporary politics.   It’s hard to find “divisiveness” in the President’s comment on the Trayvon Martin case:

“…finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching.  There has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race.  I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations.  They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.  On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?  Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?  That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.”

Then, there’s downright historical revision:

“I think they’re misled — I understand why they’re doing it; you can’t rewrite history, and so forth. I don’t think Gen. Lee would be disappointed in them moving the statue because I think he would want to preserve the union.  I understand that the guy who drove the car was a Democrat. … You obviously have to be a little crazy to drive a car [like] that. [He says he heard this on Facebook.] Americans need to learn how to resolve issues without violence.”

Someone went to sleep during American History — Lee wanted to ‘preserve the Union?”  That would be no, a resounding, four year NO.  The guy who drove the car was a Democrat? No, he was a Neo-Nazi.  No, you can’t rewrite history, but there seem to be lots of erasures in the history of the Confederacy going on.

Where do we go from here?  If there are people who felt stifled because having an African American president made it socially unacceptable to be an outright racist, and view having a white man in the White House as cover for re-emerging into the public, then it’s time to demonstrate — as the good citizens of Boston surely did — that this is still socially unacceptable.  It would be nice to hear Republicans replicate Bob Dole’s August 1996 speech:

“The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents — The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents many streams of opinion and many points of view.

But if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the Party of Lincoln. And the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.”

Denying history, rewriting it to fit one’s personal prejudices, playing “what-aboutism,” are counter productive.  The sooner the Republican Party disavows the racists and the bigots the sooner it will be free of the anchors weighing it down in the politics of prejudice.

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