(FinalCall.com) – Racially-charged rhetoric, a reliable and predictable strategy of the GOP, is in full force as Republican presidential candidates jockey for position for their party’s nomination in the 2012 presidential election. Once again, the Black community is their target.
Candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are the latest to finger point and scapegoat Blacks as being content as perpetually unemployed welfare recipients. As the GOP gears up to try and unseat President Barack Obama in November, critics wonder if this latest round of racial diatribes is just the tip of the iceberg.
Mr. Gingrich on Jan. 5 said if invited to speak at the NAACP national convention he would talk about “why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” The former House Speaker made the remarks on the heels of comments by Rick Santorum the day before. In speaking to an audience in Iowa Mr. Santorum said, he did not want “to make Black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”
When called out, Mr. Santorum the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, denied saying “Black,” instead insisting he stumbled over his words and was misunderstood though his comments were recorded live.
Many do not buy it, and slammed Mr. Santorum and other candidates for playing up stereotypes and pandering to a racist element of White society.
“I think that some of the presidential candidates are thoughtlessly expressing positions about African Americans that quite frankly we thought ended when Jim Crow was funeralized at the end of the 1970s,” Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) told The Final Call.
“I think the Democrats are going to have to condemn the kind of language that we have heard all the way from Iowa to New Hampshire. African Americans must be willing to criticize Republicans and Democrats if such bigoted words are used during the flow of this campaign. Maybe if more of these candidates are forced to eat their own words, they may not ask for another helping,” said Rep. Cleaver (D-Mo.).
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said there are times when one group honestly does not know what is offensive to another group and makes honest errors. “But then all of these individuals are pretty highly intelligent and there are things that they do know. I mean many of them have been in public office for a lot of years,” said Rep. Davis.
“In some instances I think they make comments designed to stimulate the bases they are looking for that is not us. They’re not trying to stimulate African American’s and they’re not trying to stimulate the Black community,” added Rep. Davis, who has represented the 7th congressional district of Illinois since 1996.
Leaders of two of the country’s top civil rights groups were also quick to condemn Santorum and Gingrich remarks.
“Senator Santorum’s targeting of African Americans is inaccurate and outrageous, and lifts up old race-based stereotypes about public assistance,” Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP said in a Jan. 4 statement.
“We invited Speaker Gingrich to attend our annual convention several times when he was speaker of the House, but he declined to join us. If he is invited again, I hope that he would come, with the intention to unite rather than divide,” said Mr. Jealous in a separate statement.
Mark Morial, president of the National Urban League expressed equal outrage.
“I wish what Senator Santorum had said is, ‘I said it, I didn’t mean it, I regret it’ and moved on. I think what he’s done is he’s compounded the criticism by sort of creating some confusion about whether he said it or not. You heard it, I heard it, I was shocked, surprised.”
“He should be ashamed and it’s just something we’ve got to speak out against because the facts are simply otherwise in terms of who makes up those Americans that need social safety net programs. The fact is that all Americans benefit. The fact is we’re one nation,” said Mr. Morial, on a Jan. 5 interview on CNN.
“Gingrich’s suggestion that the African American community would prefer food stamps to jobs is beyond insulting. The vast majority of food stamp recipients–70 percent–are White,” Mr. Morial said in a Jan. 6 press release.
Comfort and ease with blaming Blacks for societal ills is nothing new historians point out.
“Black people are perpetual scapegoats. W.E.B. DuBois indicated over a century ago, African Americans are seen as perpetual guests in this country; in America but not of America and always subjected to a measure of distrust and ubber-scrutiny,” Dr. Matthew Whitaker, a professor at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University told The Final Call via e-mail.
“Racializing” of the country’s political discourse is as old as the nation itself, added Dr. Whitaker, who also serves as the director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. “This ‘Southern Strategy’ has enabled many politicians to win elections by exploiting America’s racial fears and prejudices,” he said.
Salim Muwakkil, longtime journalist, historian and commentator based in Chicago, agreed telling The Final Call overt racial expressions have been covert in the GOP for years.
“The Southern Strategy is really what created the modern GOP. The conquest of the South by the Republican Party was effectuated by appeals to these racist impulses. The Dixiecrats that used to populate the South are now Republicans and so many of the dynamics of the modern Republican Party are propelled by racial motivations and you may even say racist motivations,” said Mr. Muwakkil.
“I’m not surprised by this eruption of overt racism and especially in a hard fought GOP primary where all of the candidates are attempting to appeal to the most radical rightist sentiments in their party. So they’re just coming out much more flagrantly with what has always been kind of a subtext of Republican maneuvers,” he explained.
As the campaign continues Mr. Muwakkil said he is expecting more expressions of overt racism.
Republicans have been vocal in their vehement opposition to President Obama and most have been predictably quiet in calling out this recent barrage of comments by their brethren. Inquiries made by The Final Call to the campaigns of Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Santorum, the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee were not returned.
Conservative political commentator Armstrong Williams insisted the Republican Party is “new, better and far more sensitive, understanding and sincere in their intentions no matter how their words may come across.”
“They’re not hateful, it’s just they don’t know how to necessarily convey what they’re saying without them coming off as being condescending and hurtful to a race of people in this country,” Mr. Williams told The Final Call in a telephone interview.
“It does bother me and it’s no different … then when the media does it. The media stereotypes Blacks as criminals and out-of wedlock births. A lot of this is reinforced by what they see on T.V., what they read in books, what they read in newspapers. It’s not just the Rick Santorum’s or the Newt Gingrich’s of the world, we’ve got to educate the media,” he added.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad in his book, Message to the Blackman in America said that as soon as the so-called American Negroes that love Caucasian people awaken they will awaken to who is their real open enemy.
Attorney Ava Muhammad, student minister of the Nation of Islam and national spokesperson of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, told The Final Call this latest GOP spewing of overt racial hatred is an opportunity for enlightenment about the reality of the nature of Caucasian people.
“What White people feel about us has no bearing whatsoever on our quality of life,” said Atty. Muhammad. “Now we have to come face to face with the truth that what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad told us is right and exact, that these people are totally disagreeable to live with.”
“This entire array of Republican candidates are a manifestation of what Minister Farrakhan had said to us. That the knowledge of this world has reached its limit. That the time given to the Caucasian people has come to an end,” she added.
“The thin veneer of civilized behavior that they were able to hide behind for the last 50 to 100 years has now been removed and so what we are witnessing are who these people really are,” said Atty. Muhammad.