GOP Leaders Won’t Acknowledge Party Racism Because They Don’t Have To
From primary to convention, GOP ducked substantive discussions of race and disparity
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not necessarily reflect that of Loop 21.
The Republican Party can't be sexist or racist.
Did you see the line up at this week’s Republican National Convention? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Mayor Mia Love of Saratoga Springs, Utah; New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; and even disillusioned Democratic Congressman Artur Davis got some primetime love!
That’s got to be the proof in the pudding that, despite weekly dispatches of racially insensitive remarks from the Republican presidential candidates during the six plus months of the primary season, black and Latino conservatives are right to see past the GOP’s penchant for hushing up offensive rhetoric, while dismissing all discussion of race relations as an attempt by Democrats to divide Americans.
I suppose they don’t have to address racism since over 90 percent of the party is white, according to the American National Election Studies. As many minorities have learned, whites seem to squirm at the prospect of in-depth deconstruction of racially charged topics, so why intentionally make your own people uncomfortable?
Perhaps that discomfort was evident in how quickly the RNC ejected the disgustingly racist convention attendees who hurled peanuts at CNN camerawoman Patricia Caroll, a black woman, while she was working at the Republican National Convention recently concluded in Tampa, Fla.
“This is how we feed animals,” the two culprits reportedly shouted.
The exchange didn’t surprise 34-year-old Caroll, who spoke exclusively to Journalism’s Richard Prince for his Thursday column.
“This is Florida, and I'm from the Deep South," she told Journalisms. "You come to places like this, you can count the black people on your hand. They see us doing things they don't think I should do."
RNCC official's addressed the incident and said the behavior would not be tolerated.
“This should be a wake-up call to black people… People were living in euphoria for a while. People think we're gone further than we have," Caroll added.
She might be wrong about one thing. Republicans clearly don’t think they are living in euphoria, if that’s what she’s implying.
During the primary, former Sen. Rick Santorum said he didn’t want to give “blah people” – originally reported as “black people” – other people’s money through welfare programs. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told supporters he’d like to attend the NAACP convention – which Republican nominee Mitt Romney did in July – to tell African Americans to demand paychecks over food stamps from President Barack Obama. Other less high profile members of the GOP sounded off too on a myriad of red meat topics on a variety of cable news programs.
But most recently, Romney stepped into the gaping jaws of an issue that he had beforehand seemed only indirectly tethered to: birtherism, or the belief that President Obama is an illegitimate commander-in-chief because of (disproven) conspiracies regarding the country of his birth. Democrats have panned birtherism as racially coded language for Obama’s “otherness.”
“Nobody has ever asked to see my birth certificate, because they know that this is the place that [wife Ann and I] were born and raised,” Romney reportedly joked with a crowd of supporters in his home state of Michigan. Romney and his campaign later explained away his unfortunate phrasing as a declaration of his pride in being from the Wolverine State.Truth be told, President Obama joked about his birth certificate at a recent White House Correspondents' Dinner, so perhaps Republicans have been left to wonder why they can’t join in on the fun?
Conservatives experience renewed astonishment every time a Chris Matthews figure calls out their amazing talent for inadvertently stepping on racial landmines. That, or they reason that minorities and Democrats are too sensitive, hell bent on being politically correct, and read too much into the racially micro-aggressive slights that flow from the lips of party leaders.
Token minority members of the GOP are put in a tough position. Either cosign with the liberals in calling out thinly veiled racism, or be considered traitors to their race.
Honestly, neither Republicans nor Democrats have been particularly fair in how they play "the race card" from news cycle to news cycle. Both are guilty of being disingenuous in their approach. Democrats, for instance, frequently get into trouble showering minorities with compliments premised on implied deficiency.
But Republicans cannot continue to take the “I have black and Latino friends” approach to racial outreach. Rice’s speech was nice. Love came into her own. Gov. Martinez spewed a litany of Spanish phrases to raucous cheers from “English only America” conservatives.
That is not how the party should conduct a substantive discussion of race relations. And they should not rely on faces of color to throw in a quick line about “how far we’ve come.”
We will only have reached the proverbial mountaintop when Romney himself, for example, is as quick to disavow the peanut pelting incident as he is a stupid comment on abortion from a hopeless U.S. Senate candidate.