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Do the GOP and the Tea Party Really Know What Racism Is? Maybe Not.

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A month or so ago I discussed my article Fighting the Ghost of My Own Racism with my mother. She was frankly shocked, and told me that she never raised me to be a racist. I kept quiet — she is quite frail and I didn’t want to upset her further…but I couldn’t help but bear in mind what she’d said in the past when referring to blacks of whom she didn’t approve for whatever reason: “The ones like that aren’t black, they’re n****rs.” I cannot count the times that I’ve heard her (and the rest of my family and the vast majority of the whites I knew well Down South) use the ‘n-word’, but I can say it’s in the thousands. I can recall the looks on their faces at the prospects of interracial relationships. But each and every one of my family would claim that they’re not racist at all.

What’s the disconnect here? How can they use the ‘n-word’ on a daily basis (but only in front of those they trust), but consider themselves not racist? This is not an easy question to answer.

Now let’s look at blatantly racist e-mails Carl Paladino, the Tea Party candidate that may well win the GOP gubernatorial primary in New York. Yet he claims he’s not racist. There’s the obviously race-baiting Tea Party parade float in a parade in a small town in western Washington state. I’m quite sure they’d claim they’re not racist either. Then there’s the Shirley Sherrod video that was edited to make her seem racist and then broadcast all over the right-wing blogosphere, and Glenn Beck claiming that it’s (half-white) Barack Obama who has a “deep-seated hatred of white people”, and a backwoods-outhouse-full of similar race-baiting by the pundits who are among the most influential voices in conservative America.

Yet every single one of these politicians and pundits – and my family and the friends of my youth – will claim that they’re absolutely not racist.


I honestly don’t know. There’s at least four possibilities:

1) Perhaps they really think that as long as they only use the word “n****r” among themselves, that as long as they don’t act racist on camera, that they’re not racist.

2) Maybe they actually aren’t racist, but the politicians and pundits use the race-baiting as a means to regain political power.

3) They believe that just as “Polock jokes” aren’t seen as a sign of actual prejudice against those of Polish descent, blacks should likewise not take offense at these references to someone’s color or heritage.

4) Many of them are racist, and the election of President Obama has brought them out of the woodwork and galvanized them. They know the Democratic Party that gave America the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would reject them, but they’ve found a place for themselves in the Republican Party. LBJ foresaw this when he told an aide “We have lost the South for a generation” just after he signed the Civil Rights Act into law.

I suspect that it’s a combination of all four of the above possibilities…but I know something else, too — my mother is not evil. She’s got a heart of gold. I’ve seen her happily give bushels of food from our garden to blacks who couldn’t afford a trip down to the local Piggly-Wiggly supermarket. She was eager to talk with our almost completely-black clientele at the used clothing store we used to have in a small town eight miles down the road, and more than once gave away merchandise to those in greatest need. She trusts her daily life to the black caregivers that drop by to bathe and clean her. She knows that she is not racist…in her own opinion. By today’s standards she certainly is racist, but by her own standards, she’s not racist at all.

I’ve come to see that she doesn’t really understand how despite her willingness to give, to share, to treat with sincere kindness the blacks she knows, the things she’s said privately to other (trusted) whites over the years have added to the echo chamber of whites-versus-blacks in the Deep South. She doesn’t understand how her words have helped to reinforce the traditional racism by Southern whites.

And that’s the point of this article — in my heart of hearts I believe that most conservatives are much like my mother. They are good people, willing to give the shirts off their backs to those they see in need. Most conservatives and most in the Tea Party have good hearts and true. They’d courageously risk their lives without a second thought to save someone of any color or heritage in danger.

BUT they do not see how their words said in private add to the echo chamber of racial adversity, how the barely-concealed race-baiting by conservative pundits and politicians is continuing to drive a wedge between socially-conservative minorities and the Republican Party (as RNC Chairman Michael Steele pointed out). What’s more, since they honestly do not believe themselves to be racist, they are deeply offended when people point out their words or actions that are considered racist in today’s world – and instead of conforming to the modern societal norm, they double-down on their conduct. “I’m not going to change the way I am just to be politically correct!”

No, they’re not going to change. But they will grow older. There’s a younger generation today – sometimes called ‘the Millenials’ or ‘Generation Y’ – that is much less racist (and far less homophobic) than the older generation. They see which party is happy with race-baiting, and which party isn’t. In another thirty years they’ll be running the country, and it is then that Martin Luther King’s dream will come true.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • Glenn, you’ve violated the cardinal rule of Blogcritics – never, never, never discuss your elderly mother in an article. I did it once and am still trying to calm her down.

    But I guess your judgment is generally suspect since you pursued this ridiculous line of argument yet again after so much evidence showing how fallacious it is.


  • Ruvy

    …never, never, never discuss your elderly mother in an article.

    Gotta agree with Dave. When I first started writing stories in the early 1980’s I wrote about my mom and dad. My dad had died, but my mom was very much alive. So, I fictionalized the story to protect the guilty, as they say – and to keep my mother’s anger away from me – in case the story ever got published. It was instinctive good judgment on my part.

    The story will never get published, by the way. In too many ways, it was not only about my past, but my destiny, and I intend to live out that destiny rather than fictionalize it in a pathetic attempt to capture reality in a story.

  • Ruvy

    Of course, according to this story, Obama and aide Manny Rohm were members of a gay bar in Chicago some years ago. The interesting part of the story was this:

    In 2006, after Obama became the junior senator from Illinois, WMR’s sources in the Congressional Black Caucus reported that there were persistent rumors of gay trysts between Obama and then-GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. The allegations at the time seemed unbelievable.

    However, based on Obama’s penchant for receiving fellatio from older white men, a column written by The Washington Post’s “In the Loop” columnist Al Kamen on April 7, 2006, some four months into Obama’s Senate term, may have expanded relevance. Kamen reported he received an invitation to attend Frist’s “5th Annual VOLPAC ’06 Weekend” in Nashville from April 21st to 23rd and that the invitation card required one to “unbuckle the cowboy’s pants and look inside to see what this was all about.” Kamen opined that the invitation seemed “a bit too ‘Brokeback Mountain.’”

    Now while I don’t really care about Obama’s sexual orientation, a preference “for receiving fellatio from older white men” is telling. It is the most obvious and humiliating way of telling the white establishment where it belongs. This is especially so if one considers that Obama is really a pawn of that white establishment. If this story is true, I would suggest that Obama is just as much, if not more of a racist, than those he (and you) criticizes.


  • Dude, pay no mind to the previous commentors. Every election year, the GOP uses wedge issues to make a dichotomy along racial lines. This year it was the 2 year old black panther controversy as well as the Shirley Sherrod saga. Anyone who denies this is naive. Great article and fantastic insight.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    Yeah, yeah. “Fallacious line of argument” again. And you provide NO argument proving such.

    So…how do YOU explain all the frankly racist e-mails by the GOP gubernatorial nominee for NY, and the continuing weekly ration of race-baiting by the Right?

    Perhaps you have a better explanation for it – if so, I’d like to hear it. At least I made the case that most people on the Right are good and honorable people despite their toleration of racism and race-baiting by those they support.

    I really don’t think you’ll give a thoughtful answer. Will you prove me wrong?

  • Carl Paladino is bizarre and repulsive enough that I assume he will go down in a big defeat. But this is a weird year.

    And I still get shivers thinking about the know-nothing nobody named George Pataki that took down Mario Cuomo in 1994, and then stuck around forever. The fact that Mario’s son is the Dem nominee this year does not help me with these doomy shivers.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Here’s another Republican whom Dave must think is secretly a Democrat since this former leader of the Florida GOP says that many Republicans hold “racist views”.

  • Clavos

    Well, that’s certainly damning, if a “former leader of the Florida GOP” says they arer racists they obviously are, because as their leader he would know.

    Oh wait, isn’t Greer about to be tried on charges of fraud and theft against the very party he accuses?


    Might there be self interest in his accusations?

    Naaahhh. Glenn believes him, that’s good enough for me.

  • Ahem…

    End of Argument

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    So…what’s your honest explanation for the racism and race-baiting by conservative politicians, pundits, and parties? Other than knee-jerk sarcasm like “Of course we’re all racist, Glenn!”.

    I’d love to just once see some courteous, thoughtful, and sincere discourse by some knowledgeable and intelligent conservatives (such as yourself) as to why conservatives as a whole support those who engage in such flagrant examples of racism or race-baiting as the ones presented in the article.

    I’ve yet to see such sincerity, and I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it.

  • Besides naming his dog as party chair(I kid you not), it’s estimated that, Mr. Paladino, will spend up to 10 million of his own funds to get in there and lower his taxes, even though he collects thousands in government subsides!

    And we are not going to send all welfare recipients to training camps set-up in abandoned prisons(unless Carl takes the first seat)…Where are the abandoned prisons? They are building new ones for the for-profit-justice system now.


  • handyguy,

    You might like this.

    I just found it on Twitter. :Dlol

  • Kenn Jacobine


    I do think the old adage “actions speak louder than words” is appropriate here. My mother who lives in the north also uses the “n” word. She is actually apolitical, so I don’t think it is only conservatives who use the word. Nor is it only southerners who use the word. The point is that while using the word she too has been guilty of generosity towards people of color, even befriending many at work and inviting them into her home. It has boggled my mind as well how someone can use vernacular that is so hateful while at the same time treated members of that targeted group with compassion, hospitality, and friendship.

    As far as politicians are concerned, they are full of themselves and so far out of touch that I don’t think they realize how awful and idiotic their thoughts and remarks are sometimes.

  • Have you ever visited Storm Front on the web? Very big Ron Paul following there. Ron Paul said he was unaware of bigoted remarks attributed to him posted on his news letter.

    Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups consider themselves Christians and use the Bible as proof that dark skinned people are inferior and from the devil.

    Most often when people speak of the “conservative right” they are speaking of Christians. If you listen to Sarah Palin speak, as an example, her bigotry is loud and clear, though she would deny being racist.

    When my mother said “He should be glad she married Stanley, she might have married a colored man,” I became aware of her prejudice. Like your Mom, a heart-of-gold, loved by all, likened to a saint and would never use the N-word.

    I hope you are correct about younger generations. I thought, many years ago, racism would be gone by now. How wrong I was.

  • Shakes Head

    Ruvy I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.

  • I’m not southern and I’m not a bigot but I am an independent conservative from the baby boomer generation. We RAISED the those non-homophobic, more non-racist, open-minded kids. Don’t listen to anyone who professes to speak for all the voters of any party. And stop worrying about racism in America. Nobody really cares about color, race or religion anymore. I should know. My father refused to come to my wedding because I married a CATHOLIC. But that all went out with hair curlers, A-line dresses and garter belts. Can’t we just accept the fact that what people really care about is safety, job security and an ethical government that looks out for the people of this nation and not just themselves?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    BloggerOne –

    Nobody really cares about color, race or religion anymore.

    Then explain the racism and race-baiting I linked to in my article.

    And while you’re at it, compare the amount of race-baiting by the right, and by the left. You’ll find the race-baiting is committed FAR more by the right.

    If you don’t think this is the case, tell you what – for every link to a racist or race-baiting statement or action by a politician or pundit on the left, I’ll give you FIVE of the same by the right. Heck, I’ll give you TEN!

    Ten-to-one odds in your favor! Care to take me up on it?

  • Clavos

    Don’t do it Blogger, because Glenn has repeatedly proven on these threads that in everything, the right is shit and the left is god.

    Don’t believe me? Ask him.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    B-one –

    Clavos is simply frustrated because he cannot prove me wrong, and so resorts to facetious sarcasm.

    And for Clavos –

    Please understand that this is not an insult to you, but I’ve taught my sons that if someone who cannot defend what he or she believes with factual information decides to instead toss sarcasm and insults, then that particular someone is simply insecure. I’ve taught them that the only thing wrong with being wrong…is deciding to remain wrong when they see factual proof that they are wrong.

    So can you prove me wrong? If so, I’ll change my opinion to fit the factual information you provide. I’ve done this before – publicly to both you and Dave – and apologized and thanked you both. You KNOW this, Clavos.

    So if you cannot disprove my contention, if you cannot logically refute the mass of evidence I provide yet still sarcastically maintain that I’m so very wrong, what does that say about you?

    It would be nice if you’d meet me on factual and logical terms, but judging by the cynicism and sarcasm of your response, I can’t expect that. But it would be nice if you could prove me wrong.

  • Clavos

    Glenn, i have proved you logically wrong on more than one occasion (remember “correlation does not imply causation?”), but you ignore these and continue to repeat the same flawed “reasoning” over and over again.

    I’m not frustrated — more like bemused.

    You point BloggerOne to the “links” to race-baiting and racism in your article. I count exactly two such, plus one doubtful one (Shirley Sherrod), yet from that you infer a right wing nationwide epidemic of racism.

    I’m not frustrated. I am sarcastic, I freely agree — also cynical and caustic, especially toward “butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth” lefty Pollyannas.

  • I’d say the right is cynically tolerant of intolerance if it will win them elections. Not necessarily the same as being racist.

    The intensity of the arguments about the Manhattan Islamic center and that crazy preacher wanting to barbecue holy books were fanned by the right. A number of the speakers at the Values Voter Summit this weekend have a history of questionable racial/ethnic statements.

    I think some Republicans wink at this because it revs up the base, and perhaps more importantly, revs up the fundraising.

    Newt Gingrich bloviating about Obama’s Kenyan otherness serves this purpose too. The individual bits of disgusting or stupid rhetoric are often quickly forgotten, but as long as certain elements of the base can be kept inflamed one news cycle at a time, Newt has done what he intended.

  • Largo Lagg

    I declare that nature itself is racist!

    To wit:

    There are striking racial differences in criminal behavior. These differences are consistent across time, national boundaries, and political-economic system, which argues strongly for their having some genetic component. For example, as far back as records go, in the U.S., Orientals have been underrepresented and Blacks overrepresented in crime statistics relative to Whites. This pattern is not specific to the U.S. but is repeated around the world. Analyses of INTERPOL Yearbooks throughout the 1980s show that African and Caribbean countries have double the rate for violent crime of European countries and three times the rate of the countries in the Pacific Rim. The combined figures for murder, rape, and serious assault per 100,000 population for 1984 and 1986 were Africans — 142, Europeans — 74, and Asians — 43. For 1989-90, the pattern was unchanged: Africans — 240, Europeans — 75, and Asians — 32 (Rushton, 1990, 1995a).

    Most transracial adoption studies also provide evidence for the heritability of racial differences in IQ. Studies of Korean and Vietnamese children adopted into White American and white Belgian homes have been conducted (Clark & Hanisee, 1982; Frydman & Lynn, 1989; Winick et al., 1975). As babies, many adoptees had been hospitalized for malnutrition. Nontheless, they went on to develop IQs 10 or more points higher than their adoptive national norms. By contrast, Black and Mixed-Race (Black/White) children adopted into White middle class families typically perform at a lower level than similarly adopted White children. For example, in the well known Minnesota Adoption Study, by age 17, adopted children with two White biological parents had an average IQ of 106, adopted children with one White and one Black biological parent had an average IQ of 99 and adopted children with two Black biological parents had an average IQ of 89 (Weinberg, Scarr & Waldman, 1992).

    Maybe, because people have a well-known dispostion to recognize patterns, just maybe, stereotypes exist because stereotypes actually do exist. If you are a discerning enough individual to recognize differences that create a pattern, and others are not discerning enough to detect these differences and patterns, does that make you wrong and others right? It is hard to argue that position.

  • David

    “What’s the disconnect here? How can they use the ‘n-word’ on a daily basis (but only in front of those they trust), but consider themselves not racist? This is not an easy question to answer.”

    Actually, the answer is easy: They’re stupid. Many people live their entire lives without engaging in any kind of critical thought. They eat, sleep, take up space and, unfortunately, vote.

    Thankfully, some can change.