The curious case of Michael Steele

By Christopher Metzler

metzlerLet’s face it, if Barack Obama were not president of the United States, Michael Steele would not be the “chairman” of the Republican Party. Yet Steele continues to act as if race was not the sole reason that he was selected to lead The Grim Old Party. The reality is that both race and tokenism played a significant part in his election whether he and the GOP want to admit it or not. Moreover, while he continues to chastise others for “playing the race card,” he has given himself a Black pass to do so. It is, the curious case of the pot calling the kettle black.

According to Steele, “Playing the race card shows that Democrats are willing to deal from the bottom of the deck. Our political system has no place for this type of rhetoric.”

However, “Mr. Chairman,” since you have been elected, your most significant accomplishments have included: having to apologize to Rush Limbaugh (the real head of the party), for calling him an entertainer. As you said in your apology, “My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh.” And, ” I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”  Yet when New Gingrich dismissed Rush, he did not apologize. Does the phrase ‘yessa massa’ ring a historical bell?

In an interview with Cameron Cowan of you promised to lure more Blacks to the Republican Party by offering fried chicken and potato salad. Perhaps you would have been more successful had you also offered Kool Aid, greens, watermelon and chitterlings. Does the phrase “jump Jim Crow” ring a bell?

Implying that President Obama is a racist for asking New York Gov. Paterson to end his bid for re-election. According to your racial logic, “Mr. Chairman,” implying the race card and playing the race card are two different things. As you said recently in an op-ed in Politico, “As an African-American, I know what racism is and that is not racism. Addressing the comments by President [Jimmy] Carter who said racism is to blame in the protests against President Obama, you said, “Just like the millions of African-Americans in this country who have fought and overcome on their way to the American dream, I have experienced racism firsthand. It is something you never forget.”

So, is the race card only the race card when you deem it to be “Mr. Chairman?”

Speaking at a historically Black college near downtown Little Rock, Ark., you said, “The Republican Party walked away from the black community in the late 1960s. It was stupid. It was dumb to pursue a southern strategy and it came back to bite them in 1992.” You went on to say, the Republican Party must court Blacks if they are to regain power. Have you vetted this with your party?  The hallmark of your tenure has been making statements ostensibly on the part of your party and then having to backtrack. We thus anxiously await your forthcoming apology.

In fact, it seems that your base has rejected your fried-chicken-and-potato-salad strategy.

In response to your “outreach” several members of the Free Republic (online message boards for independent, grass-roots conservatism on the web) have written:

“Yeah, if the GOP would just offer MORE social welfare, we could get the black vote?”, “Single moms, drugs, easy credit, alcohol, disregard of the law, no education, no incentive, dependency upon the State”;

 “This guy is just begging to be pelted with Oreos again. …I just wish he would focus on the REAL causes.1. What does the black community need: tough marriage laws, reduced welfare, educational vouchers, and good understanding of Booker T. Washington’s ‘Up from slavery.’ 2. Homelessness is caused by alcohol and drug addiction, and mental health disorders. Giving money to an alcoholic is the same as yelling jump to someone standing on the side of the Golden Gate Bridge. More welfare is NOT the answer.”

Of course, these statements, which are just a small sampling of what’s been written, are not at all about race because, as you have said, “Blind charges of racism, where none exist, not only are an affront to those who have suffered the effects of racism, but it weakens our efforts to address true acts of racism and makes them more difficult to overcome.”

So, are the statements by the Freepers as they call themselves true acts of racism or simply policy disagreements infected with the stench of stereotypes? Perhaps viewing these statements as acts of racism would be to raise charges of racism where none exist.

Your stance on racism, “Mr. Chairman,” can be described as contradictory, condescending racial polemics steeped in racial perturbation. You have said, “What you will face is very subtle. It’s very quiet. It’s deceiving, but it’s there and you can’t be fooled otherwise, but I’m still a black man; when I walk in a room, you have attitudes about black folks. I can’t change that. And I’ve gotta deal with that reality regardless of my title.”

Speaking of President Obama, you said, “He was not vetted, because the press fell in love with the black man running for the office. ‘Oh gee, wouldn’t it be neat to do that? Gee, wouldn’t it make all of our liberal guilt just go away? We can continue to ride around in our limousines and feel so lucky to live in an America with a black president.’”

So, “Mr. Chairman,” are you palling around with racists? Are you calling the kettle black? Or are you using the race card when it suits you. In the age of multitasking, critical thinkers will decide for themselves.

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler is the author of The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a ‘post-racial’ America and an associate dean at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies.

5 responses to “The curious case of Michael Steele

  1. The sad reality is that Michael Steele is a joke.

  2. Thank you for this column. Thank you for speaking the words so many folks are thinking but that unfortunately Mr. Steele will not hear.

  3. I think I lost all respect for Mr. Steele when he apologized to Rush Limbaugh. That’s definitely not leadership. There is no way he’ll be successful in bringing more blacks into the Republican party when they’re constantly associated with racists like Limbaugh, Hannity, and the rest of them. There is definitely a racist element there. Not saying that all Republicans are racist, but it’s very likely that if you are a racist you’re more likely to be a Republican. It’s funny how none of the GOP members are bold enough to take a stand and say that racist attitudes and division will not be tolerated. I guess that’s too much like “right.” Pun intended. As the “head” of the party, Mr. Steele better start acting like a true leader and move his party in the direction of inclusion and common sense. His position is a joke and I honestly believe he knows it.

  4. Mr. Steele should start a contract with Damali Ayo’s “How to Rent a Negro” organization. Every time a person is accused of being a racist, he (Steele) can then be rented to tell the unsuspecting victim of racism, “As an African-American, I know what racism is and that is not racism”.

  5. Why is this nation fixated on “race”?

    If any are, we are all racists – if you object you are a liar. The media has made us all color conscious to the point of ridicule. Are those in other countries force fed this crap as we are? Most people of any color stick to their own and not because of obvious thoughts of “racism” or “prejudice”. We stick with what we know and are comfortable with. That means family and friends we grew up with, went to school with and hung out with all our lives. All animals on earth do the same – learn it, live it and embrace it. Eagles don’t hang out with fish and snakes don’t hang out with small rodents.

    Sure, we (hopefully) all have friends of different colors or nationalities but we don’t have to socialize with them 7/24/365 just to prove a point. That is infeasible.

    As far as Michael Steele…I live in the state he was Lt. Governor of and found it strange he became head of the GOP as this is a predominantly liberal democrat state. The voting districts get redrawn periodically to ensure it stays so.

    Most animals we share this planet with are cataloged by breed and differentiated by genus and phylum. Aren’t we all of the human race? I don’t think we are of different breeds as we are all homo sapient. The only distinguishing fact is skin pigment. How many different colors of poodles or Labrador retrievers can be in a litter? Will the twin offspring of a white man and black woman be identical in pigment? I don’t know the answer to that one.

    Would it make more sense to call one labeled “racist” a “pigmentist” instead?

    Some food for thought.

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