Reynolds is an ordained minister, a columnist for TheRootDC and the author of six books, including “Out of Hell and Living Well, Healing From the Inside Out.” She is a former editor and columnist for USA Today.
From a black camerawoman being pelted with nuts at the GOP convention to jokes from Mitt Romney about President Obama’s
birth certificate, the Republicans have shown a talent this week for insulting people of color and opening up wounds from a bitter past.
Recent actions off stage in Tampa demonstrate why the Wall Street Journal’s latest poll shows African Americans giving zero percent of their vote to the Republicans in the November election. (A recent Washington Post poll found that 4 percent of African Americans surveyed would vote for Romney.)
Those actions also tell why many African Americans are saying good riddance to Tampa and looking forward to Charlotte, which will certainly demonstrate a larger diversity than the few black and brown delegates at Tampa. But the Democrats should not be given a free pass. They must use their moment to present an alternative vision of success, which is not just the definition of the elite super-rich business class but those who use their talents as public servants, teachers and laborers to expand opportunities for others. And they must present workable plans to relieve the suffering of the middle class, which is being destroyed by housing foreclosures, the intolerably high unemployment rates among blacks and the fears of the elderly that their future is in jeopardy because of GOP-planned changes to Medicare and Social Security.
But let’s not forget this past week and what we saw from the GOP. For me, the week of hurt feelings started with Romney’s recent statement in Michigan that “no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.” This was a sop to the birther movement, even though Romney said he was just horsing around. Despite Obama’s repeated display of his birth certificate, no proof is good enough for the right wing. These kinds of demands on blacks to prove water is wet resonate deep in our DNA. We can get the same degrees as whites, pass the same tests and die in the same wars, but so often our credentials are often devalued or discredited in the effort to paint blacks as “the other, the lesser, the outsider.” When this happened to Obama, I felt like it was happening to me.
The hateful incident involving Patricia Carroll, a black camerawoman who works for CNN, only ratchets ups the anger African Americans have felt as they were undermined or thrown out of their own workplaces. Two white attendees at the GOP convention threw peanuts at her, saying “this is what we feed animals.”
The culprits were reportedly evicted from the convention area by security officials, but for some mysterious reason their identities were not revealed. While this was apparently an isolated incident, to me it was reminiscent of how in 2010 right-wing tea party protesters allegedly hurled the N-word at Rep. John Lewis (D.-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, and shows how hard it is to rise about racial hatred in America.
The crowning blow, however, were the words of House Speaker John Boehner, who reportedly told a luncheon hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that his party’s strategy for winning the presidential race partly hinged on apathy among black and Latino voters. He was reported as saying: “This election is about economics. These groups have been hit the hardest. They may not show up and vote for our candidate, but I’d suggest to you they won’t show up and vote for the president either.”
Political strategist Faye Morrison says Boehner’s words go far beyond mere aspirations but underscore a national Republican strategy to suppress the black vote. As national attention focused on the GOP convention, efforts in 33 states continued to block hard-won voting rights. Morrison pointed out that Thursday a federal court ruled that a Texas voter identification law violated the Voting Rights Act, but the pattern continues to emerge as GOP lawmakers enact controversial voter suppression legislation.
“How dare Boehner push apathy as a strategy,” Morrison fumed as she packed her bags to attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte as a delegate. “This election is about the price paid by Dr. Martin Luther King, NAACP leader Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and the hundreds of other whites and blacks who died for our right to vote. Voting is a way to make them as well as ourselves — matter. Apathy will only continue our suffering.”
In the highly charged patriotic setting of the GOP convention, there was nothing, of course, said about the voter campaigns underway to suppress the African American vote — just another reason blacks aren’t warm and fuzzy about the Republican Party.
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