The Republican race
to become the party’s presidential standard bearer has been increasingly characterized
by candidates invoking racist stereotypes.
Sen. Rick Santorum, who came within eight votes of tying front-runner Mitt
Romney in Iowa, is among the latest culprits.
At a stop in Sioux
City two days before the Iowa caucuses, he was asked about foreign influence on
the U.S. economy. The question was: “How do we get off this crazy train?
We’ve got so much foreign influence in this country now. Where do we go from
Santorum replied, “It just keeps expanding – I was in
Indianola a few months ago and I was talking to someone who works in the
department of public welfare here, and she told me that the state of Iowa is
going to get fined if they don’t sign up more people under the Medicaid
program. They’re just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you
dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That’s what the bottom line is.”
He added: “I don’t
want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money;
I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”
First, the question
wasn’t about making Black people’s lives better. Santorum, unprompted, injected
the hot-button issue of race. Not just the issue of race, but the stereotype of
African-Americans depending on welfare. As various news organizations pointed
out, only 9 percent of Iowans on food stamps  are Black
and 84 percent are White. Nationally , 39 percent of welfare recipients
are White, 37 percent are Black, and 17 percent are Hispanic.
Second, Santorum has
no record of trying to better the lives of African-Americans. To the contrary,
he earned an “F” on the NAACP’s annual civil
rights report card throughout his two terms in the U.S. Senate.
to diversity hasn’t received sufficient attention. Speaking in Ottumwa, Iowa,
he said: “I was at a debate with Howard Dean and we were asked what was the
most important quality of America and he said diversity. Diversity? Have you
ever heard of e pluribus unum?..The greatness of America is people who
are diverse coming together to be one,” Santorum said. “If we celebrate
diversity, we lay the groundwork for that conflict. We need to celebrate common
values and have a president that lays out those common values.”
contenders, including Santorum, are competing to wrap themselves in the cloth
of Ronald Reagan by copying his attacks on welfare recipients.
for president in 1976, railed against a woman from South Chicago who had
80 aliases, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards, collected benefits on four
non-existent husbands, collected welfare, Medicaid and food stamps under each
of her fake names, all of which netted her more than $150,000.
The woman Reagan was
apparently referring to, Linda Taylor, was found guilty of using two
aliases and illegally collecting $8,000.
Gingrich also ignored
the truth as he tried to portray Black youth as shiftless and lazy.
In a speech in
Council Bluffs, Iowa, Gingrich said, “Really poor children in really poor
neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works.
So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of
staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless
I grew up as a poor
child in a really poor neighborhood and have worked since I was in the 6th
grade – legally. I can’t think of a time when my mother, who worked as a
domestic, didn’t have two or three jobs. And we were the norm, not the
exception. The really poor children that Gingrich talks about are in the
minority. Yet, he uses that stereotype to malign the majority of
African-American youth who engage in lawful employment.
Speaking in New
Hampshire on Thursday, Gingrich said, “I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me,
I’ll go to their convention and talk about what the African-American community
should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
interest in addressing the NAACP is patently political.
president of the civil rights organization, noted: “We invited Speaker Gingrich
to attend our convention several times when he was Speaker of the House, but he
declined to join us.”
meanderings mirror his habit on the campaign trail of calling President Obama
“the most successful food stamp president in American history.” He even made
the outlandish claim that, “We have people who take
their food stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii.”
The average month
food stamp benefit, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,
or SNAP, is $133.49. That’s not enough to fly from New York to Washington,
D.C., making a trip to Hawaii out of the question.
Speaking of Hawaii,
one of Mitt Romney’s sons got into the act by reviving the fabricated and
thoroughly discredited birth certificate controversy involving President Obama,
who was born in Hawaii after it had been admitted as a state.
Matt Romney said in
Iowa that his father might acquiesce to demands that he release his tax returns
“as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate and sort
of a long list of things.” Young Romney later retracted his comment.
And there were the
troves of racist newsletters published under Ron Paul’s
name over two decades that he claims not to have written or read.
In the 1990s,
newsletters appearing under his name described Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a
“world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours” and “seduced underage girls
and boys.” When Ronald Reagan reluctantly signed the Martin Luther King Holiday
bill into law, one of his newsletters declared, “What an infamy Ronald Regan
approved it!” He added, “We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.”
In recent years, Paul
has called King a personal hero. If this is how he treats his heroes, I’d
rather be one of his enemies.
Of course, no racist
screed would complete without an attack on welfare.
The Ron Paul
Political Report, commenting on the Los Angles rebellions in the
summer of 1992, claimed, “Order was restored in L.A. when it came time for the
blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after the rioting began.”
The nastiness of this
Republican contest is a prelude to a vicious assault on Obama this year.
We’ve already seen
how low his opponents will stoop. Glenn Beck called the bi-racial president a
racist who has a “deep-seated hatred for White people.”
Rep. Joe Wilson of
South Carolina interrupted Obama’s State of the Union message in 2009 by
yelling, “You lie!” as the president was delivering his address.
Speaker of the House
John Boehner denied an Obama request to address a joint session of Congress
last Sept. 7 because it conflicted with a Republican presidential debate. It
was the first time in history that such a request had been turned down, forcing
Obama to speak on a different night.
Later, during the
deficit-ceiling debate, Boehner refused to accept a call from President Obama.
When a second call was placed, Boehner left word that he would return the
president’s call later.
Leader Mitch McConnell has stated the GOP’s single most important goal is to make Barack Obama a one-term
president. And most of the Republican presidential candidates have demonstrated
they are willing to use racial stereotypes to accomplish that goal.
George E. Curry,
former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a
keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web
site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at
A Diverse U.S. Population Will Not Guarantee Parity
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