Tag Archives: Republican Party

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 milehive.com 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.

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The Beleagured Michael Steele

By Elwood Watson

Several weeks ago, the Republican National Committee  elected Michael Steele as its first Black party chairman. What was seen at the time as an excellent move on the part of the GOP by some (even some Black columnists such as Earl Ofari Hutchinson and USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham) has devolved into feelings of disillusionment, panic and, in some cases, outright anger as Steele has made several comments that have outraged some members of his party’s more conservative base. Many Republicans are beginning to have second thoughts and doubts about the former lieutenant governor of Maryland.

From inadvertently picking a fight with mega radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh on the soon-to-be-cancelled CNN program “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News” and later apologizing, to slashing more than 100 positions at the RNC, to voicing statements on abortion and homosexuality in a recent issue of GQ magazine that are clearly at odds with the GOP’s conservative base, he has caused many of his red state constituents to unleash a fury of anger toward him. Comments ranging from “he is a loose cannon” to “he is not a true Republican” have become common responses among many Republicans.

Outraged by Steele’s remarks that Limbaugh was not the leader of the Republican Party but rather an entertainer, and at times an incendiary one, Limbaugh admonished Steele for spending too much time doing a poor job meandering on the talk show circuit and urged him to get to work doing the job that he was hired to do – rebuilding and raising money for the party. It was not only Limbaugh and White Republicans who were voicing their disgust with Steele. Fellow Black Republicans – North Carolina national committeewoman Dr. Ada Fisher and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a runner up for the GOP chairman position – have made their displeasure with their current party boss known. Fisher called for his resignation.

While Steele has made a number of mea culpas and promises to revive the current beleaguered state of the GOP, his goal to reach out to make the party more inclusive to Blacks, especially younger Black Americans, has been noteworthy, yet questionable. In a party that has more than its share of bigots (there are a number in the Democratic Party as well, however in the GOP they are more at center stage) and has voted against the interests of Blacks since the mid 1960s, when the far right snatched power from the more moderate Rockefeller wing, promising to make the party more racially inclusive is going to be difficult for chairman Steele. Too many people of age can remember the infamous 1992 Republican convention where Republicans like Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson voiced vehemently bigoted, sexist, homophobic and anti-semitic rhetoric.

Other examples are the 2000 and 2004 presidential election voting shenanigans in Florida and Ohio some GOP officials were associated with. Many people watched in disgust and horror at the Bush administration’s callous and indifferent attitude toward the largely disenfranchised and oppressed Black population of New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina fiasco in 2005. Then there was the absence of many 2008 Republican presidential candidates from several forums that were sponsored by Tavis Smiley on issues facing the Black community. Such behavior cannot be easily forgotten. Indeed, more than a few of the party’s critics have memories like “elephants” – the party symbol.

Interestingly, there are a number of issues that the Republican Party espouses that would appeal to Black upscale voters. Today’s Black professional class, largely religious, devotedly committed to education, yet progressive on many social issues, would seem to have a lot in common with moderate Republicans. However, in order to accomplish this, Steele will have to clean house or marginalize the bigoted, regressive-minded individuals that have dominated the party since 1964 and restore the party to the more racially inclusive entity that it was during the Eisenhower era. No doubt the current chairman is well aware of this fact. Perhaps Michael Steele (if he survives as chairman) will be able to rectify a party that is currently in shambles politically, racially, socially and in almost every other way imaginable and bring such diverse elements together. It is doubtful but one should never say never.

Dr. Elwood Watson is a full professor of history and African American studies at East Tennessee State University. He is the author of several award-winning academic articles, several anthologies and is the author of the book Outsiders Within: Black Women in the Legal Academy After Brown v. Board (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Spring 2008)

Of Watermelons, Chimps and Cowards

metzler 

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler

 

It was not that long ago that we were ushering in the “post-racial” era in American racial discourse. According to scholar John McWhorter, “So, in answer to the question, ‘Is America past racism against black people,’ I say the answer is yes.” In intellectual and ideological lockstep, Dinesh D’Souza proclaimed, “If Obama’s election means anything, it means that we are now living in post-racist America. That’s why even those of us who didn’t vote for Obama have good reason to celebrate.”  If we are to believe the inane gab fest, a single event has changed the racial calculus of America, and we should simply move on. I own several bridges in all of the major cities in the United States and will be happy to sell them to all who want to buy at a cheap price.

 

Of Watermelons

Dean Grose, the former mayor of Los Alamitos, Calif. demonstrates that America is not at all “post-racial.” Realizing that this will be the first Easter egg hunt at the White House under the Obama administration, Grose decided to send a photo by e-mail to “ a small group of friends” (yes America, he does have black friends) depicting the White House lawn festooned with watermelons and the caption, “No Easter egg hunt this year.” Asked to explain himself, Grose said that he did not mean to offend anyone and that he was unaware of the racial stereotype that black people like watermelons. The statement begs the question as to why he chose watermelons knowing that a black family resides in the White House and not “knowing about the racial stereotype.”

My guess is that the post-racial apologists will dismiss this as an isolated incident in a “post-racial” America. I suppose that neither Grose nor the post racialists will acknowledge that the issue is not simply the stereotype that “black people like watermelon.” It is, instead that cartoonists used the images of blacks on so-called “coon cards” often stealing watermelons, fighting over them and turning into watermelons. In some cases, the “coon cards” depicted violence against black children. These “coon cards” were very popular with white Americans and indelibly etched the image of blacks as lazy, violent thieves into the minds of many. But, I digress. According to “post-racial” logic, the single event of Obama’s election has changed all of this by ushering in a “post-racial” America in which these images no longer have the currency that they once did and reviving racists’ imagery is acceptable so long as we don’t mean to offend anyone, send it to a “small group of friends,” “apologize” if anyone was offended (not for doing something offensive) and resign. As Grose wrote when he resigned, “This was clearly my mistake, which I accept was in poor taste and I regret that it has created this cloud.” I guess that in a “post-racial America” one does not have to take responsibility for racial vitriol; just the cloud (probably “dark cloud”, it causes).

 

Of Chimps

The New York Post had been covering the story of a chimp that was kept as a pet, attacked the owner’s friend and had to be shot to death. The Post subsequently published a cartoon (ostensibly referencing the chimp story) in which two police officers shot and killed the chimp. Talking amongst themselves, the officers quipped, “They will have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” Perhaps I simply did not get the connection between the chimp story and the stimulus bill. Perhaps I did not understand why there was no reference to Congress or to Wall Street in the cartoon. Perhaps I did not understand the reference to the cognitive association between blacks and non-human apes and the scientific theory of racism. Or perhaps, I simply don’t have an appreciation for trite racial humor.

In true post-racial parlance, The Post wrote that it did not mean to offend anyone and that this cartoon had nothing to do with race. It was meant to castigate Wall Street executives and Congress, not to intimate that the President is a chimp. The problem with this, of course, is that the symbol of Wall Street is either the bull or the bear, not the chimp.

In true “post-racial” protocol, Post publisher Rupert Murdoch “apologized” if one was “insulted or offended.”

In addition to the Post, racial apologist-in-chief Ron Christie said that “as a proud black man,” he did not see himself as a chimp and that the cartoon was the proverbial tempest in the teapot. He urged us to take the cartoonist at his word that he had no racial intent. Realizing the hollowness of those arguments, Christie reminded us that Obama did not write the stimulus bill but that it was Pelosi and Reed who did. Ron Christie lives in the fictitious “post-racial America” where the single event of Obama’s election means that the images of black men as apes with violent tendencies have been completely erased. Thus, the Post was not calling Obama the chimp who wrote the stimulus bill that will “destroy America as we know it”, and thus worthy of assassination. According to Christie, in a “post-racial America,” people should be taken to task for racial vitriol only where they intend to be racists.

The history and durability of racial stereotypes and subtexts should be disregarded, and we should all simply get over race. If these concepts sound familiar, they were advanced by Harriett Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

 

 

Of Cowards

 

Speaking at a Black History Month event at the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards.” The same post-racial apologists who tried to change the topic by making the Post story about Al Sharpton pounced. Declared Abigail Thernstrom, “I don’t know what nation the attorney general is living in, but it’s not the one I know. Eric Holder’s speech to Justice Department staff on February 18 was scandalously uninformed, as well as arrogant and incoherent. It should be an embarrassment to the president.” Bringing up the “post racial” rear was Ron Christie who said of the comment that it was wrong and insulting to the American people (since he speaks for all of the American people).

I now understand the rules of a “post-racial America.” First, racism is only racism when it is intentional. Second, the single event of President Obama’s election means that Americans are brave for having elected a black man. Third, we should be race-blind, not race-conscious. Finally, Michael Steele’s election as chairman of the Republican Party means that race does not matter to Republicans.

Mr. Steele, of course, ran into problems with these rules when, on D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, he declared himself the leader of the Republican Party and described Rush Limbaugh as an “entertainer” who can be “ugly” and “incendiary.” Of course, Steele forgot to check with Limbaugh (the real leader of the party) to validate Steel’s legitimacy. After Steele’s appearance on the show, he was excoriated by Limbaugh, who said, “It’s time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do instead of trying to be some talking head media star, which you’re having a tough time pulling off.” Conceding that he is not the leader of the Republican Party (even though he was elected to that post), a chastened and chagrined Steele apologized to Rush, “I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking,” Steele said. “It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people … want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not.” Ah, the beauty of a “post-racial America” where cowards are free to change the face of the party but only to the extent that the Massa allows them to do so.

 

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

 

Black Voter disenfranchisement in 2008: Jim Crow Returns

By Dr. Christopher J. Metzler

The Michigan Messenger reported on Sept. 10, that, “The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Mich., a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.”

The chairman, it seems, knows his racial history and against this backdrop, he and the party plan to use the knowledge to revive Jim Crow. In the 1890s many Southern states employed an institutional approach to Black voter disenfranchisement. Among the most popular tools were: the grandfather clause which made clear that the right to vote did not apply to Blacks because in order to have this right one must have been a citizen or a descendant of a citizen who had the right to vote prior to 1866 or 1867. Of course, given the exclusion of Blacks from citizenship during this time, the grandfather clause was an effective disenfranchisement tool. The tool kit also included literacy tests of which there were many versions and where registrars of elections ensured that Blacks were given tests that they could never pass given the way the tests were designed. When it was learned that Blacks were being tutored by civil rights activists to pass the tests, state officials changed the test without notice to the test takers.

States also utilized poll taxes that permitted any adult male, whose father or grandfather voted in a specific year prior to the abolition of slavery, to vote without having to pay the poll tax. Blacks could not vote without paying the poll tax because their fathers or grandfathers were legally excluded from voting prior to the abolition of slavery.

The Democratic Party devised a system that ensured that the nomination of a candidate to a position was tantamount to an election. In an effort to exclude Blacks from elected office, the Democratic Party adopted a rule in several states that excluded Blacks from membership in the party and thus participation in the political process. The 15th Amendment which gave Black men the right to vote was not implicated because in theory the aforementioned tools theoretically applied equally to Blacks and Whites. However, in application, these tools were only used to disenfranchise Black voters.

In an effort to ensure that Blacks and their sympathizers got the message that the color of their skin disqualified them from voting, purveyors of White supremacy ensured that the tools were enforced by lynching. Railroad companies sold tickets to the lynchings and Whites proudly attended some even taking photographs that they exchanged freely. A search of the archives of Jim Crow materials revealed whites posing with glee at the dismembered bodies of Blacks. In fact, many Whites brought their children to celebrate state-sanctioned violence against Blacks.

Many of us believe that Jim Crow is no longer a way of life in America. The decision by the Republican Party in Macomb County reminds us that Jim Crow has returned on steroids. That is, whereas the old Jim Crow made no attempt to cover up its naked and virulent racism; the new Jim Crow tells us that this is not about race but about residency. In this case, the Republican Party knows that at the federal level, Congress has passed legislation to “help people stay in their homes.” In fact, John McCain has made this a central tenant of his campaign. Yet he has not denounced the efforts to revive Jim Crow and disenfranchise Blacks by the Republican Party.

Like the Jim Crow era, the Republican Party in the “post-racial” era of 2008 will claim that it is not targeting Blacks since anyone including Whites who have been subject to foreclosure, if the party has its way, loses the right to vote. The reality is that more Blacks than Whites have subprime mortgages subject to foreclosure and thus, according to this plan, disenfranchisement.

The Republican Party understands that it cannot use naked racial politics in this cycle with Sen. Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket. However, it also realizes that it can resort to racial code by attempting to use Michigan law which allows challenges to voter qualification. By doing so, it can claim to be preventing voter fraud. Just like Whites in the Jim Crow era claimed to be protecting the white race from extinction by prohibiting interracial marriage and that because White people had bigger heads, they had bigger brains.

Like the system devised by the Democratic Party at the time, the Republican Party has devised a system to disenfranchise Blacks from voting by claiming that being subject to foreclosure also means being subject to losing the right to vote. An objective analysis of the causes of many foreclosures reveals that many Blacks are the subject of foreclosure because banks and other lenders gave them loans that the banks knew were inappropriate in the first instance. Moreover, many people who face foreclosure are encouraged to seek refinancing, negotiate more favorable terms and stay in their homes. The “loss of residency” argument by the Republican Party is at best a specious one. Like the poll tax, the Republican Party requires that Blacks pay their unscrupulous lenders or lose the right to vote. Should Blacks who are renters and have been evicted from their homes face the same fate?

Finally, the Republican Party seeks to strip Blacks of their right to vote not because they have committed a crime but because of financial hardship. The Grand Ole Party talks about its big tent. The Macomb County strategy reminds us that that big tent is undergirded by racism, skullduggery and Jim Crow principles. In December of 1898 the Richmond Times supported the move for disfranchisement in Virginia in the following words: “If we disfranchise the great body of Negroes, let us do so openly and above board and let there be an end of all sorts of jugglery.” In 2008, The Republican Party has taken up the charge.

 

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler is Associate Dean at Georgetown University and author of a new book, The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a “Post-racial” America (2008).