Recently GOP presidential candidates and leaders have so consistently showed their colors of red, white and racist that I wonder if they took a secret pledge to denigrate African-Americans. Or is this simply a matter of inverted Social Darwinism: the survival of the mega-maladjusted?
I raise this question because I don’t understand how logical well-adjusted people can continue to insult, condemn and ridicule blacks non-stop to the point that sometimes it is hard not to feel like a rag doll that people keep pricking holes in.
The latest outrage du jour was Republican Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal forwarding around an e-mail poking fun at First Lady Michelle Obama. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, it said “I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Mrs. YoMama a wonderful, long Hawaii Christmas vacation—at our expense, of course. “YoMama?” Neal later apologized for the condescending remark, but the damage of this toxic hateful speech has been done. Could you see former first ladies Jackie Kennedy or Barbara Bush receiving this kind of disrespect without national outrage?
O’Neal is a little Kansas fish in a big pond and since he is not running for national office his remarks aren’t important, it could be said. Not so, because this anti-black ideology runs from the top down.
Tea Party darling Michelle Bachman kicked off the current trend of bigoted thinking last July when it was revealed that she had signed a pledge containing a statement inferring that African American children and black families were better off during slavery presumably because, according to her logic, they had both parents living with them. What ignorance to suggest people, children among them, being sold like cattle and separated from their families during slavery had virtue.
Flashbacks of racial insensitivity continue with Texas Congressman Ron Paul who finished third in the Iowa caucus. Who can forget his vote in Congress against awarding the iconic Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement, a Congressional Gold Medal? And then there are the anti-black statements that surfaced in a newsletter he published in 1980 which reportedly accused the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. of having sex with under-aged children and stated that 95 percent of black men in Washington, D.C., are either “semi-criminals or entirely criminals.” Paul denied having any knowledge of the statements, but his vote in 2006 against renewing the 1965 Civil Rights Act to remove voting barriers for minorities frames him as a foe of civil rights.
Even hot- to-trot former presidential contender Herman Cain tried to score points with his bigoted benefactors by bashing black Democrats as brain-washed and describing himself as a family member of the ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers: “I am a brother of another mother,” Cain professed.
It is intriguing to watch former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum duke it out to see who can become the Top Offender of Black America. The champion, perhaps, is Gingrich who said that he would appear before the NAACP conference to explain to the African American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps.
The NAACP called Gingrich’s statement “divisive and problematic.” In actuality, however, it was a brutish attempt to target blacks as dependent losers based on erroneous information and history. First of all the majority of people on food stamps are not African Americans. So why is Gingrich singling them out? And why has he labeled President Obama “the food stamp president?” Gingrich is trying to create stereotypes of blacks as welfare queens as was done under the Ronald Reagan administration, while ignoring billion dollar bailouts and welfare handouts to corporations.
Earlier Gingrich advanced the GOP’s repugnance for inner-city blacks with his suggestion that child labor laws be modified so that poor children can work as school janitors. “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods,” he said “have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works … They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”
This script of casting blacks as villains, either surviving by illegal means or on the public dole has also been commandeered by ex-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. “I don’t want to make black peoples’ lives better by giving them somebody else’s money,” he said in Iowa. Has he somehow forgotten that blacks are taxpayers and like millions of other unemployed Americans would be working if the failed policies of the Bush administration had not created massive unemployment?
So that leaves Mitt Romney, who should also be judged by what he has not said. Romney served as a leader in the Mormon Church whose doctrine until 1978 stated that people with black skin were cursed by God, could not enter heaven, nor serve in the Mormon priesthood. It seems a fair-minded person would have condemned this policy but Romney apparently did not.
So far this election year has unleashed a constant stream of bigotry. Is this a requirement to run for high office as a Republican or does it just happen that way? To think that among this bunch could be our next president should surely keep most of us awake at night.
Barbara A. Reynolds, the author of six books, including “Jesse Jackson: America’s David.” An ordained minister, she is a former columnist and editorial board member of USA Today.
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