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Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Why the GOP is not for me
I'm a blond-haired, blue-eyed, middle-class, middle-aged white guy who has lived most of my life in Dallas, Tx., probably the country's bastion of old-school racism.
I haven't been the victim of racism myself – I don't subscribe to the reverse racism theory leveled by many closet Republican racists like William Bennett, who recently in the National Review equated universities with affirmative action policies that attempt to level the playing field with the same type of racism exhibited by the Ku Klux Klan, which has engaged in terrorism and murder for decades. Because of my whitebread appearance, many white Republicans have felt comfortable enough around me during various times in my adult life to let their guard down and express their true feelings on matters of race.
Big mistake. This column is part of my payback for having to endure all those sickening comments. It's part of my payback for Republicans refusing to heed my responses that I don't appreciate their racist comments and them acting like there's something wrong with me because I don't play along.
I know from experience that Trent Lott is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to racism in the Republican Party.
I can't count the number of times some Anglo conservative has used the N-word in reference to African-Americans in front of me, even towards those they root for, such as Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith. I can't count the number of racial "jokes" or references some white City Council member, police officer, businessman, or other establishment figure - whom I know is a Republican - has told to my face. A popular "joke" during this time of year by such racist Republicans is, "What are you doing for Martin Luther ‘Coon' Day?" Or they will snicker, "Have you learned anything during ‘Black Ass' History Month?"
I've sat at high school football games in Republican-dominated towns as Anglo adults in the stands taunted the lone black player on the opposing team using that N-word. I've attended all-white meetings – as a reporter, not participant - in which elitist Republicans have discussed getting around the Voting Rights Act by lobbying for requirements that voters have to own property. I didn't need someone to spell out what they were talking about – they wanted some way to keep blacks from voting.
In the 1920s, Dallas had more Ku Klux Klan members per capita than any other large U.S. city. The city had an actual "segregation of the races" clause written in to its charter as late as 1968. Peter Gent, a former Cowboy player and author of classics like North Dallas Forty, says he was shocked to arrive from the Midwest in the mid-1960s to witness such blatant Jim Crow segregation. For example, the team's black players had to drive an extra hour from their segregated South Dallas neighborhoods to reach practice in North Dallas. Through lawsuits, protests, and other measures, the blatant racist policies are gone, but they have been replaced with subtle, back-door racism executed from still all-white country clubs and subdivisions in the suburbs.
Sure, the white racists around here used to be mostly Democrats, who hated Lincoln-style Republicans who forced Reconstruction on them after the Civil War. But most of those have left the Democratic Party for the friendlier-for-them confines of the Republican Party, where they don't have to rub elbows with African-Americans at the multi-cultural Democratic functions that contrast with Republican events like black and white keys on a piano.
Many of the high-profile African-American Republicans are of mixed race, anyways – Colin Powell, for example, is part black, white, and Indian. In fact, Powell could be more white than black, with English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry mixed in with African and Indian. There's nothing wrong with that, of course – many Americans have some mixed blood. But let's be honest – the average white Republican would rather have a light-skinned mulatto move in next door than a dark-skinned African-American.
Name a white public figure who espouses racist views, and the vast majority of the time he or she is affiliated with the Republican Party [yes, there is racism exhibited by some African-American public figures, but that's the subject for another column]. David Duke, the former Klansman and Louisiana state representative, chaired the Republican Parish Executive Committee of the largest Republican parish in Louisiana as late as 2000, when he skipped the country and eventually was convicted of fraud and tax evasion. Many Republicans are associated with the openly-racist Council for Conservative Citizens, including outgoing Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, who has spoken before the segregationist group, and Republican National Committee leader Buddy Witherspoon, who has resisted calls that he resign his CCC membership.
As the Internet site, evilGOPbastards.com, points out, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Republican, launched his career as a GOP operative in 1964 by harassing black voters. Republican Attorney General John Ashcroft opposed racial integration and the appointment of African Americans to offices as Missouri governor and attorney general and has uttered pro-Confederate views.
The Republican Party in general launched a strategy during the late 1960s to capture the southern racist vote by opposing affirmative action, supporting the rights of states like South Carolina to fly the Confederate flag in front of public buildings, and similar positions. Dubya Bush himself spoke before the segregationist Bob Jones University in South Carolina, genuflected before the Confederate flag, and helped implement the racist Willie Horton ad during the 1988 presidential campaign of Bush Sr., who approved the racist ad after lobbying by his son. Both Bush's have appointed many racists - both subtle and overt - to high offices, who now work to further erode civil rights.
White House strategist Karl Rove also aided with the racist Horton ad and oversaw the racist 2000 South Carolina smear campaign against Sen. John McCain, which alluded to McCain's "black child," who actually is an adopted daughter from Bangladesh. While in Congress from 1979 until 1989, Dick Cheney opposed measures strengthening laws against housing discrimination and collecting hate-crime data. Cheney supported apartheid in the racist South African regime, even as it crumbled. Republican politicians in Georgia and South Carolina, such as Sonny Perdue, the new Republican governor of Georgia, were elected in 2002 on platforms that included "restoring pride" in the Confederate flag.
Who can forget the Florida 2000 recount battle, when white supremacists rallied for Republicans who embraced their support? What about Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush's and former Bush-state-campaign-co-chair-Secretary-of-State-turned-Congresswoman Katherine Harris' openly racist system of purges before the 2000 election that took the names of mostly African-American voters off the rolls? What about the police roadblocks near black precincts on election days? And how about the Republican warnings in communities across the country about impending black voter fraud that usually occur a few days before an election, not to mention misleading fliers circulated by Republican operatives in African-American neighborhoods telling them of different days to vote or wrongly warning that their criminal backgrounds and parking tickets will be checked to try to intimidate them against voting?
Getting to Lott, Republicans still think highly enough of him to make Lott chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, despite his public banishment as Senate Majority Leader and a racist record that includes far more than a few errant comments. As our last elected president, Bill Clinton, recently said, "[Lott] just embarrassed [Republican leaders] by saying in Washington what they do on the back roads every day." And as Jack Hughes of evilGOPbastards.com writes, the majority of Republican senators who elected Lott as their leader "must either share his views [which were so often repeated that nobody could plead ignorance of Lott's sympathies], or were at the very least ‘comfortable' with a leader that held those beliefs."
Indeed, many senators, such as new Majority Leader Bill Frist and Don Nickles, the first Senate Republican to call for Lott's resignation as majority leader – not because he's a racist but because it was giving Republicans bad publicity - have a civil rights voting record nearly identical to Lott, according to the NAACP. One of the worst – perhaps even worse than Lott – is Jefferson Sessions of Alabama. Sessions has called a black assistant U.S. attorney "boy" and a white civil rights attorney a "disgrace to his race." As a prosecutor, Sessions pursued civil rights workers on phony voter fraud charges. As Alabama attorney general, he again pursued allegations of voter fraud in African-American communities, looked the other way in Anglo communities, and refused to aggressively investigate burnings and bombings of black churches. He also said he thought KKK members were "OK" until he heard some might have smoked marijuana and charged the NAACP with being "un-American" and "Communist-inspired." Despite such a past, Bush and other Republicans have campaigned for Sessions.
The other Republican senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby, callously equated Lott's verbal criticism in the media with an atrocious physical act of violence against African-Americans and others. "I think we should not lynch him," Shelby told CNN.
Frist, himself, has his own racial skeletons. He was a member of the all-white Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville, Tenn., before running for the Senate in 1994. Some believe the National Republican Senatorial Committee headed by Frist was behind the intimidation of minority voters in recent years.
Then there is Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who as governor of that state, issued a proclamation recognizing "Confederate History and Heritage Month." Allen, the new National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, also displays a Confederate flag in his living room, according to a recent New York Times column.
Moving over to the U.S. House, there is Cass Ballenger. The white Republican from North Carolina recently told the Charlotte Observer that he had "segregationist" feelings and called former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, an African-American Democrat from Georgia, a "bitch." In an ensuring radio interview, Ballenger, the Deputy Majority Whip and a member of the House Republican Steering Committee who has a black lawn jockey in his yard that an aide recently painted white, refused to apologize to McKinney, calling her divisive, pushy, and "less than patriotic."
"One must wonder whether [Ballenger] would have made the same statement about a white congressman he considered to be pushy or divisive," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization of Women. "I think not. His statements demonstrated beliefs about race and gender that do not belong in the U.S. Congress."
While some like Democrats.com and Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, called for Ballenger to resign, most ignored his racist comments, as they have other Republicans' racism. You can email Ballenger at http://ballenger.house.gov/contact.asp, if you don't think his views are right.
There are many other examples. In Texas, an aide to new Republican Sen. John Cornyn derisively dismissed the Democrats fielding a Hispanic, African-American, and Anglo in the top three state races in 2002 as a "racial quota." Meanwhile, the top three Republican candidates were – you guessed it – white. So were the Republicans fielding the usual white-only quota?
Rep. Tom Craddick, the new Texas House Republican leader, was one of a small group to vote against establishing a Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday in 1987. He repeated his opposition to the holiday in a 1991 vote that clarified the day. Unlike Lott, Craddick has yet to publicly apologize for those votes.
In Rochester, N.Y., Monroe County Executive Jack Doyle, a white Republican, recently derided Mayor William Johnson Jr., a black Democrat. "If there was a mayor that looked like me, it would be a whole different landscape," Doyle told a local reporter.
A recent article by USA Today cited several other examples of recent insensitive remarks made by Republican public officials and none by Democratic officials because reporters could not find any – believe me, they would have included some by Democrats if they found them. Democratic Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Fritz Hollings of South Carolina have made some racist remarks in the past, but not recently enough to run in that article.
Racism, especially subtle racism, does exist in many people across the board. It especially comes out during times of crisis. In the week following September 11, 2001, Arab-Americans – a group that includes my wife and two children - reported a significant upswing in hate crimes, including murders, against them. A Gallup poll conducted September 14-15 found respondents evenly divided over whether Arab-Americans should be required to carry special identity cards. Two late September polls found that most respondents favored police profiling of Arab-Americans. A December 2001 poll by the Institute for Public Affairs at the University of Illinois found that more than 25 percent of respondents said Arab-Americans should surrender more rights than others.
Profiling someone simply due to his or her race is racism, period. You can always justify your racism by saying you are concerned about your security. But who's to say the next terrorist won't be white like Timothy McVeigh who bombed the Oklahoma building in 1995? Who's to say the next terrorist won't be white like the Irish Republican Army? Who's to say the next terrorist won't be white like the KKK? Who's to say the next terrorist won't be white like most mass murderers are?
Should we implement special profiling against white people like me because of the McVeigh's and Duke's of the world? I don't recall similar polls favoring racial profiling of white Americans after the 1995 Oklahoma bombing. I don't recall polls favoring profiling of white Americans after white Texan George Hennard drove his truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and killed 23 people in a terrorism act.
Another 2001 Gallup Poll found that 60 percent of white respondents believed that black Americans were not treated the same as whites in this country. That rocketed to 91 percent among African-American respondents. Some 47 percent of black respondents said they experienced discrimination in stores, by the police, and in other situations in the previous month.
I've long wondered how many people there are who secretly harbor racist views they would denounce in public. I recently contacted the authors of 20 postings to white supremacist Web sites, asking if I could quote them using their real names. Only three replied back granting permission to use their names.
Jessica Coleman of Texas claimed her grandfather was "a powerful knight [of the KKK] in South Carolina," and she thought all blacks should be shipped "back to Africa and all of the wetbacks back to Mexico." Tom of New Jersey, who would not give his last name, wrote about a high school field trip to Philadelphia, which sickened him so much to see blacks that he "wanted to take out a machine gun and shoot everyone of them." Are these people really just aberrations to be ignored again until the next major race-related blow-up in our country? Or do they represent the suppressed voices inside the average white Republican – and, yes, some Democrats - who doesn't dare let such thoughts reach the surface?
That's why I call Republicans like Bush and Cheney and Bennett, who publicly embrace Martin Luther King Jr. as they call for a colorblind society, yet live in their mostly-white neighborhoods and practice racism when it suits their political agenda, closet racists. They like to point out that lynching black people is wrong as they oppose proposals that would do more to bring about real equality and execute racist campaigns – as Bush did against McCain in South Carolina in 2000 – to gain political victory.
Would such closet racists live next to African-American families? I have for more than six years, and the only problems we have had were with some white neighbors. Living in a multi-cultural neighborhood is part of my contribution to carry out what a lot of Republicans only give lip service to, and go beyond words to live out our desire for a truly colorblind society.
I respect my Republican parents and what they did for me, but I don't like their racist comments, such as they hope black people don't buy the homes up for sale on their blocks. I don't know what has made me so different from my parents on this matter. I've been this way since as a young child I was one of the few to befriend the only African-American student in our elementary school. A psychic once told me I was black in a past life. Maybe that's it. Maybe in a past life, I actually walked in the shoes of a slave and experienced the discrimination that I can't stand today. Maybe that's the only way a white American can really understand what a black American experiences – to walk in his or her shoes. Maybe that's the only way we can make some real progress on race relations.
Anyways, I can't recall such comments about hoping African-Americans don't move on the block coming from Democrats I know in recent years. In the aftermath of the Lott debacle, Republicans, as usual, tried to turn the tables on Democrats and highlight the latter party's racist past, as seen in members like Sen. Byrd.
But that's like Bush and other Republicans saying Democrats took money from Enron when Republicans took three or four times as much. The sins are not of the same magnitude. When more than, say, 50 percent of current Republicans exhibit racist tendencies and less than, say, 20 percent of Democrats do, you can't paint a broad stroke and say both parties exhibit racism and just leave it at that. For every Sen. Byrd Republicans bring up, I can counter with five Sen. Lotts and Sen. Sessions and Sen. Frists and Rep. Ballengers and Dubya Bush's.
The subtle and overt racism of the Republican Party is a stench they have to live with, and no amount of history rewriting by Republican apologists can eradicate that smell. To eradicate it, they must admit that racism in their party goes far beyond Lott and make at least as much progress on advancing race relations as the Democratic Party has. Republicans have not done that, and I doubt they will while I'm still alive here.
As the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday approaches, these subtle racist Republicans will talk like they have supported King's vision of a colorblind society and African-American rights all along, when their records and actions speak otherwise. That's just more of the Republican con job. Don't buy that crap.
link | posted by Jae at 9:02 AM |
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