As an African-American male living in a state that is diverse in all ways except for its political affiliation, I can say that I’ve seen my fair share of people from all walks of life. I have seen extremes of wealth and poverty, saints and sinners, liberals, and, okay, even an occasional conservative.
On any given day, I can go sit at the food court at Menlo Park Mall and see people from every ethnic, economic, and religious group, as well as sexual orientation, imaginable – sometimes self-segregated, more often in mixed groups. It is hardly unusual to see groups of teenagers, as diverse as any meeting at the UN, virtually indistinguishable, other than skin color. It is in many ways the fulfillment of Dr. King’s vision — perhaps even an expansion upon it — that even he could not have envisioned.
This is not to say I have not seen, nor experienced, my fair share of prejudice. I have seen people ostracized, ridiculed, discriminated against, and beaten because they are different. There is one thing I have not seen, however. I have not seen prejudice as the exclusive domain of any particular group. No group as a whole – not even the most persecuted – is incapable of it.
My father — who as a young man could not eat at the same restaurant for which he worked, and knew to walk in the street if a White man was on the sidewalk – used to warn me many times not to trust Jews, because “their word don’t count for nothing.” One might think that being from a generation of Blacks, who, when called “nigger” was expected to answer with a “yes sir, how may I help you?” would make one intolerant of intolerance. Sadly just the opposite is true for African-Americans. Nor is it true of any group, however persecuted by prejudice they may be, or may have been.
However, since I have not seen any group not have members capable of prejudice — even historically discriminated against groups — I must admit some surprise in learning that there was indeed a group from which no person belonging to it was capable of anything other than complete Jesus-like tolerance of all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. That group, I discovered, is Democrats.
There seems to be an accepted truism that the Right is incapable of anything except bigotry. It is one of the most pernicious myths about the Right, and it has been generally accepted by American minorities for centuries now. Norman Podhoretz writes about this accepted truism while explaining the overwhelming liberalism of American Jews in his book Why Are Jews Liberal?, saying that to the Jews the Right is, “precisely where their worst enemies had always been located.” S.E. Cupp and Brett Joshpe, in their book Why You’re Wrong About the Right, mention how this myth has been generally accepted by stating that, “History has been hijacked and rewritten to implicate Republicans as the most racist folk in the history of the world.” It is also a truism that African-American CNN host Roland Martin reinforced during an interview with Michael Steele, by commenting that, “One of the criticisms I’ve always had is Republicans — white Republicans — have been scared of black folks.” To which Steele, the African-American GOP Chairman, whose job is, ostensibly, to promote his party, responded — to his discredit – by stating that, “You’re absolutely right. I mean, I’ve been in the room and they’ve been scared of me.”
The corollary to this perception is that the Left is the paradigm of tolerance. It is a perception that is enormously beneficial to the Left. While the GOP is being painted as a party of bigots, minorities of all sorts are flocking to the Left in record numbers. In the last election, Obama won 96% of the African-American vote, 78% of the Jewish vote, 70% of the gay vote, 67% of the Latino vote, 63% of the Asian vote, and 56% of the female vote. Numbers like these cannot be explained away solely by pointing to some overwhelming persuasiveness of Obama’s message, or by the fact that Obama is of a minority group himself. Similar numbers were recorded in many elections, even ones in which Democrats did not run a charismatic Black candidate. These numbers speak to a perception that if you are anything other than a straight White Male Christian, you are not welcome in the Republican Party.
As hurtful to the GOP as this perception is, it cannot be denied that there is an element of truth to it. As I’ve said, I’ve seen no group for which every member is free of prejudice, and the Republican Party is no exception. So I cannot argue against Podhoretz’s contention that the Right has not had a history of anti-Semitism, nor do I dispute Steele’s statement there are white Republicans who are scared of Black folks, as unwise as it was for him to say that. And, obviously, the Republican Party is not the party of open borders and gay marriage, so if this suggests bigotry against Hispanics and homosexuals (which I don’t feel necessarily follows) then Republicans must truly be anti-Hispanic and anti-gay.
The mistake, I feel, is not in the perception of Republican prejudices, but rather in the perception that the Left does not share similar prejudices, sometimes to a much greater degree. And this perception runs so deeply that it has long been the primary reason why minorities tend to vote Democrat in such overwhelming numbers, despite evidence that the Republican may be no more prejudiced, or even less prejudiced, against them than the Democrat.
We saw this last year when Miss USA contestant, Carrie Prejean, was demonized for expressing the exact same view on gay marriage that does President Obama holds. Her words on the subject so closely matched his, that one would think, at most, she would lose a point or two for perjury. Instead, since she is a Republican, one judge gave her answer zero points, and then publicly called her “a bitch”.
But the most obvious example of this is in elections that feature an African-American candidate, versus a Caucasian candidate. In each election result that I have seen, African-Americans have supported the Democrat, even in the cases in which the Republican is Black and the Democrat is not. For example, Lynn Swann, an African-American superstar athlete and successful businessman, ran for governor of Pennsylvania in 2006, against Ed Rendell, a Russian Jew. One would think that the majority of African-Americans would have voted for Swann. After all, Swann would have been the first Black governor of Pennsylvania. Given the number of Blacks who admitted to voting for Obama “just because he’s Black” and who called Blacks “race-traitors” who did not find that reason enough alone to vote for Obama; one would think a similar number would have voted for Swann for the same reason.
However, Lynn Swann managed to attract an anemic 13% of the African-American vote. Given that he was able to collect 40% of the overall vote, it is fair to say that Swann did far worse among Blacks than he did among the Pennsylvanian populace in general. In other words, the group that disliked this Black man the most, was other Blacks.
I bet Swann could have gotten more than 13% of Dallas Cowboy fans to vote for him. Why did he do so poorly among Pennsylvanian Blacks? Is Swann anti-Black, bigoted against African-Americans in some way I am not aware of? Were opponent Rendell’s policies so much more Black-friendly that it caused Black voters to run from Swann as though he proposed that Blacks be required to sit in the back of Philadelphia buses? No. Nothing about Lynn Swann – or other African-American Republicans in similar races, such as Allen West, Bill Randall, Les Philip, or Michael Williams – reads “anti-Black,” other than their political party, which, of course, makes them ipso facto anti-Black.
Conversely, the White candidates these African-American conservatives run against, since they are Democrats, must necessarily be treated as though they marched with Dr. King through Selma, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. Take for example the recent comments from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, praising Barack Obama for being “light-skinned” and “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Reid here projects his feelings on race — specifically on the superiority of African-Americans whose skin color and diction are closer to Caucasian — onto the American electorate. It is also telling that in 2004 Harry Reid called Supreme Court jurist Clarence Thomas an incompetent Negro who could not write good English. This, to me, is bigotry in one of its ugliest forms, because it not only paints Blacks as inferior beings, it furthers the insult by separating Blacks from other Blacks. It echoes the treatment Blacks received during slavery in which dark-skinned Blacks were forced to live like animals, but “light-skinned Blacks,” or those whose pigmentation was closer to the pigmentation of the skin of the “superior” Whites, were allowed to live in the house. This carried over well after emancipation, and was perpetuated by other African-Americans with the Brown Paper Bag test, in which Blacks had to compare their skin to that of a brown paper bag. Blacks whose skin was too dark were considered inferior and denied benefits ranging from employment to admittance in certain organizations that were readily given to Blacks whose features were closer to Caucasian, therefore “better.”
Reid’s comment clearly was intended to harken back to these sorts of sentiments, and he deserved to be criticized, as would anyone who would make such a vile remark – Democrat or Republican. This would surely be the case during the age of Obama, the first Black president. After all, what better benefit of having a Black president than to have someone who could use the biggest microphone (and teleprompter) in the world to express outrage on behalf of all African-Americans insulted by Reid?
Alas, instead of a defense, Blacks received a betrayal: “I’ve known him for years, I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.” In other words, the President said that because Reid has been so valuable in pushing through my leftist (“social justice”) agenda, I will forgive even his blatant bigotry. Donna Brazile, the African-American Democratic strategist and university professor who was “mysteriously” passed over for the chairmanship of the Democratic party, also chimed in with a tweet, saying again that because of “Reid’s record on social justice issues,” critics – including I guess us dark-skinned Blacks — should “move on.”
Interesting that in supporting Reid, by placing party politics and self-interest above the interest of their race, Obama and Brazile both typified what Blacks who do not vote for Democrats are often called. And, it should also be noted, that Reid’s comments show that not all White people who voted for Obama are free of racism. Just like many — especially in the African-American community — voted for Obama because he is Black, Reid exemplifies the number of people who voted for Obama despite his blackness.
One should also note that the specious, self-congratulatory, hypocritical statements are not limited to “Negros,” light-skinned or otherwise. It was only recently that Democratic senators, along with this president, praised themselves for their racial sensitivity and desire for diversity in nominating Sonya Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. What went largely unsaid was not only their continuing persecution of Clarence Thomas – including comments from Reid that Thomas was “an embarrassment to the Supreme Court” – but also their filibuster of Miguel Estrada’s appointment to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court. The reason Estrada was filibustered was partially due to the fact “he is Latino,” according to leaked memos from the Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois.
Of course this double standard is not new. Conservatives have been pointing it out for years. Imagine, for example, if Sarah Palin had referred to Obama as “clean” and “articulate,” or said that one could not go into a 7-11 without hearing an Indian accent, or referenced Obama’s “Negro dialect.” It is hard to imagine Al Sharpton or George Stephanopoulos rushing to her defense. Bigotry is just an accepted perk of being a Democrat. If Palin was a Democrat, she could say, as did Hillary Clinton, that Ghandi “ran a gas station down in St. Louis,” or, say, as Bill Clinton said to Ted Kennedy, that a “few years ago Obama would be serving us coffee.”
If the GOP is going to survive in a country that is becoming more ethnically diverse, in which the majority of Americans in 40 years will not be White, it will have to learn to not just complain about this double standard but also address it. To this end I must now commend Michael Steele for his comments on Reid’s racial slur: The reality of it is this, there is this standard where Democrats feel they can say these things and apologize as long as it comes from one of their own. And if it comes from somebody else, it’s racism. It’s an old mindset when you are using language in 2008 that harkens back to the 1950s.”