News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Saturday, January 21, 2012

That old black racism has us in its spell

 That old black racism that we know so well

The second Republican debate in South Carolina was a historic re-enactment  that took us back to the time George Wallace stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama and proclaimed segregation forever.  Newt Gingrich was the principle performer in reviving a languishing racism that brought the audience to its feet in raucous applause.  Rick Perry took the re-enactment back even further when he declared that South Carolina was at war with the federal government.  

The reinstatement of race as a political issue was all the more poignant because it was done on Martin Luther King Day.  

The provocateur who inspired Newt Gingrich was the African American journalist Juan Williams, recently deposed from NPR and given refuge by Fox News, who asked:  "Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also say poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed as at a minimum as insulting to all Americans but particularly to black Americans?"

Newt Gingrich:  " No, I don’t see that."   And the audience responded with loud cheers and applause.   Juan Williams received boos and jeers. 

The South is rising again.  

Only the most dissembling supporters of Romney and Gingrich who want to preserve some sense that they are not supporting racist politics refuse to admit that racial politics is fully in play.
And with Gingrich's unabashed performance in South Carolina and his win of its Republican primary, he has taken the lead in recognizing what  Charles M.Blow   sees as a way to exploit old racial animosities:  "Gingrich seems to understand the historical weight of the view among some southern whites, many of whom have migrated to the Republican party, that blacks are lazy and addicted to handouts. He is able to give voice to those feelings without using those words. He is able to make people believe that a fundamentally flawed and prejudicial argument that demeans minorities is actually for their uplift. It is Gingrich’s gift: He is able to make ill will sound like good will."

The Republican campaign as practiced by Gingrich and Romney is propelled by good, old-fashioned hate propaganda.  While Romney has not used the N-word against Obama, he has methodically used all the stereotypes and images that define the word to denigrate Barack Obama.   Gingrich goes after African America on a group basis.  He calls Obama the "food stamp president" in contending that Obama is serving a culture of dependency and unearned entitlement.  When he says that Obama put more people on food stamps than other president, he promoting a racist image of black folks who never work lining up for their handouts.  He studiously fails to mention that more people are out of work because of the nefarious machinations of the financial corporations that the GOP worships so devoutly, and that many of the people on food stamps are working at jobs that do not pay enough to feed a family.  It is not a culture of dependency; it is a culture of planned impoverishment in an attempt widen the gap between the self-appointed over class and a massive, weakened underclass.  Class warfare?  Of course, it's class war fare.  It's those who are being impoverished who have not begun the real fight.

The tactic of racial politics has its risks, as detailed in a New York Times article.  It may appeal to voters who harbor old racial hatreds, but to other voters it makes clear that those old racial hatreds are a platform the GOP wishes to stand on.  A group of Catholics sent letters to Gingrich and Santorum warning them to stop the race baiting in their campaigns. 

This campaign seems to be boiling down to simple choices between rich and poor, black and white. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States