The Blog

On Racism, Conservatives Fail to Self-police

There is one thing we do know for certain: Anyone who tells you definitively that only one side or the other is to blame has absolutely no interest in fixing institutional inequality.
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Late last month the U.S. experienced a couple of high-profile racist statements -- one from then NBA owner Donald Sterling and the other from conservative hero, rancher, lawbreaker and "taker" Cliven Bundy.

If nothing else, these comments proved that we are not in a post-racial era, as many would have you believe. Obviously given the status of both of these me, their comments garnered national media attention and started a number of conversations.

As you might expect, these conversations revealed just how far we have to go but one of the unexpected comments I received when discussing race issues in America was "you bloggers and opinion writers need to let the race thing rest for a while. It's getting old and tiring."

Gee, you mean to tell me old white conservatives don't want to talk about how the statements of other old white conservatives could be seen as racist?

Back when "black-on-black crime" was all the rage in the conservative media, talking heads like Bill O'Reilly were out in front calling on black leaders to address this issue. After all it was their community -- shouldn't they do something? Now that the shoe is on the other foot, conservatives no longer sees any value in a community policing their own?

Funny how that works.

Of course, coming from a Republican Party that has attempted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times, is still obsessed with Benghazi even after multiple reports have revealed no smoking gun, and continues to insist President Barack Obama was born outside of the U.S., this call to end debate seems exceedingly hypocritical and self serving.

Conservatives have performed poorly when it comes to reprimanding other conservatives who make inappropriate, racially charged statements. When it comes to racism what they have excelled at is clever word games.

They use terms like "playing the race card" to dismiss and belittle legitimate concerns. They claim "reverse racism" is a bigger problem than good old white racism. They use code words like "inner city" and "thugs" when referencing the perceived problems of the African-American community. They talk about things like reducing food stamps and stopping "welfare queens" and "welfare dependency."

But one of their favorite tricks is to latch on to the few black Americans that agree with them and pretend that this somehow justifies their stance.

Ironically, this tactic is only a one way street for them. When noted rich guy Warren Buffet came out and advocated for raising taxes on rich guys, conservatives weren't swayed by this insider. To conservatives, the opinions about racial inequality from African Americans like President Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton mean very little. But if Thomas Sowell, Allen West or Dr. Ben Carson say Democratic policies hurt black people, suddenly those voices are worth listening to.

Funny how that works.

Conservatives then use these opinions to pretend the discriminatory policies they support are an olive branch to the African-American community, while the assistance programs Democrats support enslave people.

The book The Help offers an excellent example of this mindset. When a maid asks to borrow money to send her children to college, her employer responds with "a true Christian don't give in charity to those who is well and able. Say it's kinder to let them learn to work things out themselves." The modern-day version of this mentality argues that while giving out billions in subsides to companies removes some unfair burden on American companies, doing the same for citizens is nothing short of slavery.

Allen West takes a similar convoluted path to blaming liberal policies for the inequality in school punishment. West suggests that black students act out more and are subsequently punished at a higher rate because of the number of black children born out of wedlock -- a statistic he says is a "problem (liberals) created."

What liberal policies? West never says. Perhaps the "decimation of the black family" is more closely tied to the rise in private prisons and the corresponding increase in the number of black inmates. If that were the case, it would again be true Republican policies that are to blame.

My personal favorite comes from writer John Hawkins who, in discussing the reasons black Americans should give up on Democrats, suggests that African Americans "vote monolithically for the Democratic Party" even though "the only thing any Democrat has to do is claim that his opponent is a racist and he's got 90 percent of the black vote locked up."

The ego and ignorance it takes to make this claim is awesome. Hawkins is so infatuated with his own talking point that he can't fathom that African Americans choose Democratic candidates because they believe Democratic policies help, not hurt, their community.

In the end this meme that liberal policies hurt African Americans is just another poll tested myth that allows conservatives to support clearly racist voter ID laws, drug laws, zero tolerance laws, stand your ground laws, and stop-and-frisk laws with a clear conscience. They certainly never come out and suggest these policies will fix any of the systemic inequality they claim Democratic policies are creating.

So much goes into defining one's station in life that it is impossible and ignorant to boil it down to one policy or set of policies. Perhaps some Democratic policies keep poor people poor or perhaps some Republican policies make it more difficult to rise up from the bottom.

There is one thing we do know for certain: Anyone who tells you definitively that only one side or the other is to blame has absolutely no interest in fixing institutional inequality.