During a speech outside the U.S. Capitol to a tea party rally Wednesday, Sarah Palin used a very loaded word to described the Black Lives Matter protesters. She called them "dogs" -- actually, dogs that President Obama won't call off. So, Palin told the crowd, she would instead offer her support and salute to the country's police officers.
Palin is at least one of a few things: 1) obtusely unaware of the overwhelmingly black make-up of the police-protesting movement in the United States, 2) unaware of disproportionate and real way in which these issues affect black and Latino Americans, or 3) unaware of just how frequently racists have compared non-white Americans to various animals while justifying inhumane, immoral and illegal treatment. Or perhaps she has another one of her apparently believable, only mildly plausible explanations for why her comments aren't in fact racist ready to go.
I have no doubt that we will hear that explanation from Palin and her many fans and defenders going forward. But there is a reason why Palin doesn't get the benefit of the doubt, and that's because Sarah Palin has a bit of a history.
There was that time in 2014 that Palin defended Mike Ditka's defense of the Washington, D.C.-based NFL team's name. Ditka said the only people who despised the team's name were just "politically correct idiots." Palin essentially agreed.
There was that time in December 2013 that Palin declared that the public's reaction was the only real problem with "Duck Dynasty" reality TV star Phil Robertson's claims that black people were happy, hard-working and Godly during the oftentimes brutally-enforced system of segregation and subjugation known as Jim Crow. Robertson claimed none of those positive attributes can be assigned to black people since "welfare" and "entitlement" programs have become a part of the American political landscape.
There was that time in November 2013 when Palin said American "free stuff" (government programs) was being financed with money borrowed from the Chinese that would one day come due and enslave Americans to "foreign masters."
And there was that time in 2012 when Palin told her Facebook followers that President Obama, the nation's first black president, should cease his "shuck-and-jive shtick" around the Benghazi attack.
Never mind that "Redskins" in a known pejorative term for Native Americans and one that Native Americans have repeatedly asked the team to stop using. And pay no mind to the fact that Jim Crow was a brutal system of racial subjugation and segregation with a well-documented connection to the current socioeconomic standing of black America.
And we should, of course, all train our minds to turn toward some race-neutral explanation for Robertson's utterly false implication that African Americans are the sole or even overwhelming recipients of cash welfare aid. (For those interested in the facts, See Table 1, page 6 in the annual federal cash assistance caseload report to Congress. ) And, of course, Palin was using the term "shucking and jiving" to refer to procrastination, just the way she later claimed. Any suggestion that Palin was making reference to a black person's attempt to subvert his powerful white overlords with disarming, distracting and demeaning forms of entertainment -- the usual meaning of the "shucking and jiving" phrase -- is just plain wrong.
All of that is true if Palin and her biggest defenders are to be believed. All of that is totally plausible if this country's long and inglorious history of racial tension and antagonism deployed as a political tool did not exist and Palin had been raised on Mars. All those who would take issue with Palin and her persistently racially-coded wordplay will, for those who want to believe her, always be the real racists and the source of America's real racial problems.
In the years since John McCain's campaign boosted Palin to national prominence and made hers one of many voices from whom we can expect to sometimes hear on current events, Palin has consistently done one thing amazingly well. She has displayed infinite skill describing all manner of political and social issues in terms that just so happen to borrow heavily from some of the country's most enduring racial stereotypes.
That those ideas are ones that play most melodiously in the ears of avowed racists and unconscious ones alike might be one of the many amazing coincidences of modern American political life.