Racist Until Proven Innocent
Possibly the most frustrating part of being a conservative or Republican in modern America, is the fact that the media and popular culture at large assume a racist motivation for much of what you say or do. It doesn’t matter the subject, whether it’s the War on Terror, immigration, the “social safety net,” the need to show photo ID to vote, or even Obama’s health-care law, many will begin with the assumption of a racial motivation when trying to understand your positions on these issues.
Do not bother pointing out the fact that it was in fact the Democrats and the Progressives, from the days of slavery all the way up to the 1970’s, that were the overt racists. Apparently though, all that history was dumped right on the conservatives laps in a political version of hot-potato. “Oh, you guys were racist last!” This is because some racists left the Democratic Party after the Civil Rights-era was over and joined the other side.
Republicans were considered more “traditional” at the national-level and got the Southern presidential votes. At the local-level though, Democrats retained their Southern power. In 2010, my state of North Carolina actually just achieved their first Republican majority in both houses of the state General Assembly since 1870. So, most of the local boys have stayed Democrat (despite voting Republican for President) while racism has gradually become less and less acceptable for all parties.
To complicate the who-is-more-racist game though, many other national Democratic figures stayed in the party. Al Gore, Sr. and Sen. Robert Byrd filibustered until they were blue in the face to prevent civil rights for blacks, but remained Democrats in good standing until the day they died. Bill Clinton even tried to do a little re-writing of history at Sen. Byrd’s funeral. Byrd held a high-rank in the Klan and was a prominent figure in the segregationist movement, but the Democrats just pass it off as a youthful indiscretion (despite his being in his mid-40’s at the time). The main point is, neither party was willing to embrace the old South’s segregationist platform, so the supporters fractured, the message was rejected, and no serious politician I’ve ever heard of has repeated these goals.
Now, that doesn’t mean that some don’t accuse other people of secretly having these goals though. Just because we conservatives don’t “say” racist things, and we may “vote” for black politicians like Allen West or Tim Scott (who won the US Senate race in the very conservative and Southern state of South Carolina) doesn’t mean the media can’t see into our deeply hateful hearts to discover our real intentions.
For this little problem of what we say and how we act, versus how they assume we think, they’ve come up with some easy explanations. One is that people shouldn’t pay attention to the actual words coming out of a conservative’s mouth. Rather, they should read between the lines to uncover the underlying racism that only an expert can see, and then put new meanings to those seemingly benign words. They call this phenomenon “dog-whistle racism” because there are messages that only racist conservatives can hear, like only a dog can hear those high-pitched sounds from a dog-whistle. Thankfully, some in the media have found the key to deciphering these hidden messages and will gladly fill you in on what is really being said.
You see, conservatives are not for a limited federal government and more state and local control because of a political philosophy, or because of the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, but only because we want to drag the country back to the days of Jim Crow.
Where we can lynch black citizens.
The problem with these claims, among many other things, is no Republican, conservative, or Tea Party person of note has uttered anything of the sort. The desire for lynching or Jim Crow to return have never been brought up in any meeting I’ve ever been to. If anybody stood up and actually said anything even approaching that, they would never be able to show their face again. To be fair, you will find the occasional sign or hear the occasional comment under someone’s breath, but in the only cases I’m aware of, they are fully denounced and then dismissed from membership.
A UCLA student wanted to document the racism she was hearing about from the media at Tea Party rallies, so she went row by row and took a picture of every sign at major rallies. She found that, yes, 5% of the signs did mention race or religion, and 1% Obama’s birth certificate, but the vast majority were about limited government and economic responsibility. There are going to be fringe characters in every movement, that’s inevitable, but the media has the responsibility to listen to what real issues are being brought up by the other 95%.
At a recent rural, North Carolinian, all-white, Republican County meeting I attended, when it came time for an unofficial straw-poll on who the Republican presidential nominee should be for 2012, Herman Cain (a black man by all accounts) won with more than all other candidates combined. Race did not seem to be an issue for these rural, Southern Republicans. I’m guessing calling them racist everyday won’t help them overcome any lasting racial issues any of them might have though.
It’s really sad that I even have to say all this about the party of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. This is the party that fought for civil rights while the Democrats were doing their best to defeat every piece of legislation put forward. JFK and LBJ, to be fair, were on the right side of history here, but their racial-equality agenda had far more support from Republicans; and these were Christian, small-government, pro-business Republicans, not some liberal fantasy-version of Democrats trapped behind a Republican label.
The thought that there are real black conservatives in leadership positions simply boggles the mind of people in the media. They don’t get it. 32 black Republicans ran for the US Congress in 2010, quite a substantial amount, but listen to the tone in this reporter’s voice as he seems shocked that not only are they black Republicans, but black Tea Party Republicans.
Many commentators have suggested that this is simply a Republican ploy to make themselves seem less racist. Oh yes, the old let’s put a black guy as the head of the KKK, or a Jew as a head of the local Nazi Party to throw people off our scent. They don’t consider the fact that maybe their narrative is just incorrect and that race is not the motivation for our positions. And they definitely don’t even start to consider the fact that African-Americans are allowed to think for themselves, and if they like the conservative message of the rule of law, school choice, family-values, and economic prosperity, they might vote for … Republicans.
We’re not just against African-Americans though, apparently I also hate Hispanics. Using the word “illegal” in front of the word immigrant, is now considered racist too. Those who, like myself, think the rule of law is important for a democracy to function, cannot insist on our laws being obeyed without being demonized as having other motives. I wonder if they would still accuse us of this if it were Canadians flouting our immigration laws by the millions. A nation-wide campaign called, “Drop the ‘I’ Word” has taken to all major networks to challenge the racist use of the term “illegal” to characterize breaking the law, and have been treated very favorably.
Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly though, did not let her off so easy. The campaign coordinator came on his show and was not able to even give a basic idea of any alternate vision for immigration. She knows that the system and the terminology is racist, but beyond that, nothing. We must be the only country in the history of the world who is not able to enforce a border. Did she think about the consequences of an open border policy, and how many people around the world would immediately buy one-way plane tickets? Let’s debate the laws and what is most humane and beneficial for our country, but without any of these emotionally-charged attacks.
When we soberly consider the fact that 50,000 people have been killed by drug violence in Mexico over the last five years alone, is it really so crazy to consider beefing up the border? This number is many times more than even the body count from the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. When the media observes the fact that the most likely Republican ticket for 2012 consists of Mitt Romney, whose father is from Mexico, and Marco Rubio, both of whose parents were Cuban refugees, can they really continue to claim that this party is anti-immigrant and anti-Latino? Of course they can, and they will.
They will also continue to call us racist. I’m really not too sure how to convince another person that I’m not racist, or that the groups that I associate with are not either. People used to say, “Well, I have black friends, so I can’t be racist.” But now that is a cliche. “That’s what all racists say.” Ok, well, don’t non-racist people have black friends too? What’s their secret password?
When you are racist until proven innocent, it’s a pretty hard thing to un-prove, especially when people are digging through every word for hidden meanings. The term racist is a very important word. It should be saved to label people who really should be kept out of the public dialogue, like the Klan or Louis Farakhan. But if we throw it around so casually it may lose its sting, and then we are really in trouble.