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(Opinion) Republicans and racism

(Opinion) Republicans and racism

 [su_testimonial photo=””]By Steve Croyle[/su_testimonial]
TOPIC: Republican Party and racism

Reaping what you sow

There were two moments during the 2008 Presidential Campaign where John McCain, a lifelong, moderate Republican, looked genuinely terrified. The first was at a rally in West Virginia where he found himself trying to calm an angry mob. McCain had arrived with talking points in hand, prepared to eviscerate Barack Obama in order to sway those union miners to support him. Instead, he had to assure the crowd that Barack Obama was a good man, and a friend in the Senate with whom McCain simply disagreed with. He was not an Islamic Terrorist, as many in the crowd insisted.  

The second instance where McCain seemed deeply unsettled with his supporters was during his concession speech. Rather than deliver the speech he and his handlers had prepared, McCain had to remind everybody that this was still America, and that the person taking over the Presidency also cared very much about the country.  If he’d been so inclined, that crowd outside of his election night headquarters would have taken up arms, and marched to war against whomever McCain declared the enemy.

For decades the Republican Party has indulged a wink/nudge relationship with racism. Nixon employed the Southern Strategy where “states rights” was used as code to denounce the abolishment of slavery, and imposition of civil rights.  Reagan doubled down on the same message. During the Clinton Administration, right wing pundits embraced a guttural tone, fanning the flames of sexism, and racism.

Trump’s concept of “sides” comes from the punditry embraced by his supporters. Bigots have justified their actions and rhetoric by insisting that there’s some sort of equivalent on the other side.  But there is no “alt left”.  Black Lives Matter is not a hate group. It’s a movement driven by people of all colors, toward the goal of ending racial profiling and police brutality.  You might not agree with them, and perhaps you see the message as “anti-cop” but it’s not the same as the KKK. Cops are not an ethnic group.

Obama’s presidency scared the racists drawn to white supremacy. His election proved that they’re a minority. They have become louder, and more brazen in recent years, desperate to find some sort of validation. Trump emboldened them by eschewing the wink/nudge dance of the past, embracing the harsh message spewed by the pundits.

It’s encouraging to see so many Republicans step up and condemn what happened in Charlottesville, but legally speaking their hands are tied. This is a cultural problem that will not go away with harsh lectures. If mainstream Republicans are truly appalled by what has happened, and the manner in which Trump is embodying it, they will have to divorce themselves of the subtle messages, and the hate-filled punditry. You can’t have people like Rush Limbaugh speak at the Republican National Convention if you’re opposed to white supremacy.

There’s no middle ground here. There are no sides. There is no place for white supremacy in this country. Constitutionally, these people have a right to be bigots, but as a society we don’t have to hear them. We can ostracize bigots, and force them to live in shame and fear. They can’t be arrested and jailed for simply spreading their message of hate, but we can stand opposed to them and shout them down. That’s what needs to happen, and that’s where this country needs to come together. We can disagree on taxes, school funding, defense spending, and foreign policy, but we can’t validate bigotry by pandering to these people for votes.

Republican’s can’t go back to business as usual once the fervor over Charlottesville dies down. This fight must go on. Trump’s validation of these people is heinous, and if there’s any hope for this country to repair itself in the wake of his presidency, we will need to come together around fending off his unabashed endorsement of hatred.  

Are we strong enough? Is this important enough?



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There’s nothing to romanticize about the Civil War. It was not “constitutionally valid” for the South to secede. It was all about slavery. Each Confederate State identified slavery as a major factor in leaving the Union.  Moreover, there wasn’t one ballot issue addressing secession. This was a decision made by wealthy plantation owners, politicians, and slave traders, and that decision was imposed upon the people.

Arlington National Cemetery was effectively created when Lincoln ordered fallen soldiers buried in Robert E. Lee’s yard. Lincoln pinned a significant portion of the blame for the Confederacy on Lee, as many believed that Lee’s agreement to lead the Army of the Confederacy in the event of Virginia’s secession was a motivating factor in creating the Confederacy. With the Army’s best officers leading the South, they had a chance.

Lee believed that slavery was divine providence. He felt that it was god’s will, and that “Negroes” needed to be conditioned for society through slavery.  He also believed in killing others to support that institution.

That makes him a war criminal, and the flag he fought under is a symbol of hate. It’s time to stop celebrating him as some sort of principled hero, and accept reality.



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Every so often, people get worked up over the 1974 Mel Brooks’ classic, “Blazing Saddles”. Recently, people protested a screening of the film due to its insensitive treatment of the Irish. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s hard to explain, but there’s one joke where townspeople reluctantly agree to share the land with African Americans under the stipulation that the Irish would not be welcomed. It’s satirical, of course, and a nod to the contention held in some circles that the Irish were treated as poorly as African Americans.

We live in a society where outrage is easy to convey. A few posts on social media can ignite a firestorm of activity. Unfortunately, outrage without context can come off as foolish. Such is the case with an obvious satire like “Blazing Saddles”.

Before you go off an a knee jerk-induced tangent, take a moment to analyze the context. Who was being demeaned?  

Properly assessing the issue and adjusting your outrage accordingly will save you a great deal of frustration, and assure that the issues you stand up for aren’t dismissed as more pointless whining from the outrage generation.



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