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Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Racism and Ron Paul
One of the most understandable reasons for progressives as well as people from across the political spectrum to hesitate about voting for Ron Paul is the existence of racist rhetoric in some of his newsletters. Ron Paul has disavowed these statements and for his most ardent followers, that ought to be the end of it.
He has also admitted that he followed bad advice when his campaign staff told him to claim that these statements were taken out of context. The one statement, about the swift footedness of young black men, that he tried to defend in that manner was embarrassingly incredulous. Fortunately for Ron Paul, he has, until this campaign, been able to take a minimalist approach to this problem in part due to the long accepted “southern strategy” of the Republican Party.
Thankfully for America, the Republican Party can no longer count on that strategy to gain them majorities in all southern states. I do not think that Ron Paul ever liked the strategy as is evidenced by his standing against the racial bias of our judicial system, especially with regard to the death penalty and drug law enforcement and sentencing.
Furthermore, in all the books, articles and public speeches that legitimately bear his name, Ron Paul has never used bigoted language or advocated racism. In fact, he has explicitly condemned racism as a violation of both his libertarian principles and his Christian beliefs.
Ron Paul can certainly continue through this primary and not make the speech I suggest. He might even win the nomination without such action. While I doubt that most mainstream Republicans care a wits end whether Ron Paul renounces the party's central political strategy of the last 40 years, he may need to satisfy enough liberal voices that he is not a racist before he can get a big time endorsement from anyone on the left.
Satisfying his critics, however, is just not Ron Paul’s way, and certainly that’s a part of his character I hope he never gives up (as if he could, if he tried). Deep down I think that what Ron Paul wants is to do the right thing. So what I would suggest he think about is how deeply the problem of racism has infected our American system to its detriment.
I would not presume to know Ron Paul’s heart or anyone else’s but my own, and that not very well. (I realize that last qualifier makes me unfit to be a libertarian.) I do know what I see and hear. I was born and raised a southerner but I have lived up north and overseas. In the latter I have seen American imperialism at work. Our supposedly enlightened and liberal entertainment industry has taught the world that black men are to be feared as inherently violent and criminal.
Northerners are just as bigoted as southerners. White liberals pride themselves on not being racists but are as much segregated from African Americans as any other political segment of our population. White conservatives have been thinking since 1865 that we live in a post racial society. Black leaders, regardless of their position on the economic ladder or political spectrum, continue to have to battle the impression that they somehow do not deserve their status. African American youth continue to be told there place is not in seats of power but in the sports arena or on the entertainment stage and sadly far too many of them embrace the stereotype.
The continued endemic presence of racism in our culture is revealed in subtle and not so subtle comments. The other day I was standing in line to purchase some books. Among them were 3 books on the life of Martin Luther King. The cashier, a white woman, asked me, “What are these for?” I simply told her, “They are for my 7 year old son.” Her silent and blushing reaction to a white guy buying three different books on MLK for his son tells us much about what is still expected in our culture. If I were a teacher purchasing them for display prior to the King holiday, that would be understandable but not simply so that my son could get to know a national hero from 3 different perspectives.
People with liberal political leanings are rightly cognizant of the continuing problem of racism in America but they should be careful not to pride themselves on not being racists. Whenever, some begins a sentence, “I’m not a racist…,” I am almost certain to hear evidence to the contrary. Culturally sophisticated liberals would never use such a phrase but their inordinate shallow openness and high regard for the supposed supreme virtue of tolerance makes me wonder just why they protest so much.
Such skepticism is my reaction to liberals' reactions to the obviously racist statements in some of Ron Paul’s newsletters. I think he rightfully deserves criticism for how casually he has dealt and/or not dealt with them. I like to imagine that when he found out about these statements, he was deeply embarrassed and went quietly to Lew Rockwell and said to him, “I don’t want to know who wrote this filth, but never let anything like it come anywhere near to anything bearing my name ever again.”
That hope might very well be truly wishful thinking. Ron Paul was raised in a racist culture. The thought of him never having a racist thought or saying a racist word or participating in a racist activity is about as ridiculous as expecting me to never think about eating blueberry cobbler. I don’t dwell on it but it wouldn’t take much for me to start craving some. Our culture is addicted to racism and if not for certain legal and cultural barriers, we could easily slip back into its worst manifestations.
All this is not to say that we have not made significant strides or that all white Americans are inherently racists. It is to say that the media ought to expect to find some racism in politicians born before 1964. (Not suspecting it in politicians born after the civil rights would be just as naïve.) Ron Paul has shown his homophobia publically on film when he was baited. It’s not a huge step to believe that such irrationality might show up in matters of race.
I am not saying that the liberal sector of the media should ignore Ron Paul’s racist associations or perhaps real racist sentiments. I do however want to ask, how will such real or imagined racism likely guide his policy agenda and enforcement of the law? My best guess is, if he is elected (and it hardly bears repeating my often asserted belief that he will not be elected except in coalition with progressives who would see to it that he not ignore the Civil Rights Act), he will do his best to prove, through how he governs, that racism is not his motive.
Beyond the usual affirmative action in hiring staff, Ron Paul would do something significant about our nation’s drug policy and penal sentencing by ending the federal death penalty(at least under his watch) and commuting and/or pardoning all non-violent drug offenders, thus releasing thousands of African Americans from unjust imprisonment to be reunited with their families. He would also greatly curtail the disproportionate number of minorities killed or injured on battle fields by bringing them back home from ill advised missions. These two measures alone would be of significantly more concrete benefit for African American individuals and families than any implemented or proposed by the current administration.
I would never pretend that Ron Paul is going to create a post racial America, but the criticisms of him on the matter seem to be more motivated by partisan politics than actual concern for racial justice.
All this said, I reiterate my call for him to deliver the exhaustive speech which affirms his commitment to both the presumption and the goal of racial equality in America. This is a necessity not just for political purposes but because it is the right thing for Ron Paul to do.
Posted by Cornelius at 9:48 AM