Racist Right Drops its Mask

I’m sure you know that one of the driving forces in the Tea Party movement is racism. But Republican leaders scoff at the accusation, and powerful media voices dismiss the idea. When people like me complain about the white-power rhetoric and anti-minority policies emanating from the far right, we’re told derisively that we’re “playing the race card.”

Now, as public disapproval drives the conservative fringe to take desperate measures, their mask is slipping and their fangs are showing.

Here’s a passage from a Washington Post column by Richard Cohen, the newspaper’s conservative spokesman:

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

How does that sound to you? It sounds to me that in attempting to refute racism charges against the GOP, Cohen exposes himself to charges of racism himself.

Isn’t “a gag reflex” when considering the mayor-elect of New York — “a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children” – evidence of racism? The sight of a white man married to a bright and beautiful black woman with two great-looking kids certainly doesn’t make me want to vomit. How about you?

Men and women of every ethnic background marry each other in Jamaica, where I come from. What matters is that they love each other. And, as the late, great Louise Bennett observed, “it’s nobody’s business but their own.”

As for the snide reference to Mrs. de Blasio’s sexual orientation, that is also nobody’s business but hers (and her husband’s). As the former prime minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, so wisely remarked, “the government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.”

I don’t know how Richard Cohen gets his jollies, and I really, really don’t want to know.

Cohen is not the only right-wing apologist that is letting his racist instincts show. As Salon’s Joan Walsh observes in her column today, Sarah Palin is blatantly appealing to the basest feelings of the Republican base.

Palin told a white crowd in Iowa recently that by borrowing money from foreign countries like China, America is assigning their children and grandchildren to the kind of servitude that slaves once endured in this country.

This comparison is not just silly and insulting, it is evil and manipulative. As Ms. Walsh points out:

Sarah Palin’s equating the national debt with slavery is another example of “the white grievance industry” manufacturing and peddling new widgets of rage to the GOP base. I’m not sure what’s noteworthy there. Palin is indeed part of a vast white right-wing anger machine mostly run out of Fox News, though its unrivaled leader is Rush Limbaugh. It’s powered by the paranoia among too many Republicans that white people are somehow oppressed by our first black president.

With most Americans now aware that Republicans have nothing to offer but bigotry and obstructionism, this kind of racist rant is the most dangerous ammunition they have left. Ms. Walsh puts it this way:

This is the main political capital that the Republican Party seems to have today: the anger and grievance of older white voters, most of them male, at the multiracial country that’s emerging in their lifetimes, as personified by President Obama.

So it has come to this in a country where children sing in Sunday School, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world… red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight”?

It has come to this in a country where these same white people kneel in church on Sundays to profess love for their fellowman?

May God have mercy on their souls.

Read Joan Walsh’s column here.