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TheRootDC
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Posted at 05:45 PM ET, 08/23/2012

Paul Ryan and his black girlfriend: What’s the fuss?

Crystal Wright is an occassional contributor to The Root DC and is the editor of the political site “Conservative Black Chick.”

Paul Ryan had a black girlfriend in college: That’s the issue that’s been burning up Twitter (and several conservative pundits) this week thanks to this piece that appeared in The Root , that wondered aloud if we should be suspicious of Ryan’s interracial relationship.

Maybe a call to the Guinness Book of World Records is in order. Ryan isn’t the first white man to date a black person and certainly won’t be the last.

So what's the fuss about? Ryan dating a black woman in college shows me he’s just as audacious in his personal life (evolved and open-minded) as he is in his approach to governance.

But apparently, interracial dating is a story only when a white
Ryan holds a rally at a hardware store in Roanoke, Va., on Aug. 22. (Steve Helber - AP)
Republican does it. President Obama dated white women in college and law school and that never became a significant story during the 2008 campaign.

In fact, discussion by the mainstream media of the president’s interracial relationships often implied that he was more tolerant, complicated and interesting  I’m curious why Ryan isn’t afforded the same kind of perspective.

Instead, the piece, authored by The Root’s political writer Keli Goff, posits that just because Ryan dated a black woman in college, doesn’t mean he’s not a racist. Sadly, at least in this case, interracial dating has a negative spin when a member of the conservative wing of the GOP is involved. 

“Is the fact that Ryan has dated interracially a noteworthy detail to consider when analyzing his politics and policies?” wrote Goff.

The essay doesn’t point to any specific behavior of Ryan’s that could be viewed as racist- only suggests that one day Ryan may be faced with racist allegations and use the fact that he dated a black woman in college as his defense. She writes: “Here's a well-known phrase that has virtually become a punch line: When someone finds himself on the ropes facing an allegation of racism, the go-to reflex defense is usually something along the lines of "But some of my best friends are black!" Translation: "I can't possibly be racist or racially insensitive because there are black people I like and they like me. So there."

So instead of pointing specific legislation or actions by the congressman that might be contrued as racist, we have Goff pushing innuendo that Ryan will use his interracial relationship as defense if he’s ever confronted with the charge. Are all politicians treated this way when they enter interracial relationships?

Goff ultimately says she doesn’t believe Ryan is a racist. But by subtlely putting Ryan in the same company as Strom Thurmond, a professed segregationist who fathered a baby with his “black servant,” the damage is done. She also points out that cable news pundit Lou Dobbs been married to a Mexican American woman even though for years face he “was the face of the anti-illegal-immigration crusade.”

“It is possible to have a black friend, Asian friend, Hispanic friend or Muslim friend or wife and still exhibit prejudice toward that group. The friend or wife is simply viewed as the exception who is not like the others”, she writes, suggesting that there where there is smoke, there’s fire.

I agree with Goff: Ryan isn’t a racist. Nor are his policies to reduce government spending designed to harm blacks. They are designed to uplift all Americans and the country along the “path to prosperity.”

But arguing that he might be able to use his relationship as a smoke screen for future behavior is a potentially race-baiting argument that doesn’t further our understanding of the candidates. Meanwhile, Goff doesn’t express equal skepticism toward Obama’s interracial relationships, which could paint him in a negative light and suggest that he may not be “racially sensitive and enlightened.”

Indeed, after three and half years, I’d like to see black journalists like Goff critically evaluate Obama’s policies and not continue to give him a free pass because he’s the country’s first black president.

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By Crystal Wright  |  05:45 PM ET, 08/23/2012

 
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