Racism and politics…
It is very disappointing to see that racist undertones, overt and covert, on the Republican side as well as on the Democratic side, permeate the 2016 presidential campaign. Ultimately, however, there is no qualitative difference between Democratic racism and Republican racism.
Racism has reared its ugly head in American politics since the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which excluded American Indians from the states’ Census counts and counted slaves, who were not considered citizens, as 3/5 persons for the purpose of apportioning Congressional representatives and electoral votes to the slave states. At the root of the American Civil War was the racist ideology of slavery. Other examples:
Manifest Destiny, Chinese Exclusion, Mexican American Deportations, Japanese Internments…
The concept of Manifest Destiny (aka “the white man’s burden”) rested on the notion that Americans, i.e., white people, had a divine duty to dominate all the “inferior” peoples of the earth. Manifest Destiny was used to justify the invasion of Mexico in 1846 and the campaign to forcibly assimilate and Christianize American Indians and to slaughter those who resisted, which led to outright genocide against American Indians.
In the late 1800s American politicians blamed Chinese “coolies” for depressed wage levels. This led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers. Between 1929 and 1936, close to two million people of Mexican descent—of which an estimated 1.2 million were U. S. citizens—were forcibly deported to Mexico because politicians purveyed the lie that “needy American families” were without food while Mexicans in cities such as Los Angeles were on public relief. During WW II, Japanese Americans were herded up and imprisoned in government camps for the “crime” of being of Japanese descent.
States’ rights, law and order, Southern Strategy, Willie Horton, SB 1070…
During the 1950s and 1960s, Democratic racism ruled the South, fueled by the likes of segregationist Governors George Wallace (Alabama) and Lester Maddox (Georgia), Alabama Sheriff (and Democratic National Committeeman) Eugene Bull Connor and by the KKK, which operated under the auspices of the Democratic Party. In 1964, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater tapped southern racism by focusing on “states’ rights,” code for segregation. This laid the groundwork for Richard Nixon’s 1968 “southern strategy”—converting Democratic racists to Republican racists by combining “states’ rights” with “law and order,” code for black lawlessness.
During the 1988 presidential campaign, to appeal to white Americans’ fears of black crime, an ad supporting George H.W. Bush featured the mugshot of a black convicted rapist, Willie Horton, who had been released in Massachusetts, Democrat Michael Dukakis’ home state. Paraphrasing one pundit’s observation, the point of the ad was “We can’t have a president who releases black criminals so they can rape our white women and children.”
In 2010, the Republican-sponsored racist legislation SB 1070, which fundamentally challenges the very legitimacy of people of Mexican descent, was passed in Arizona. When SB 1070 was passed, the Arizona Democratic Party instructed Democratic candidates not to speak out against SB 1070 nor participate in any protests of SB 1070 so as not to alienate the Mexican Haters.
2016: Racism on the Republican side…
In 2016, it seems the Republicans are channeling the racism described above. They are promoting mass deportation of Mexicans, internment camps, and exclusion laws.
Donald Trump calls for excluding Muslims from entering the U.S., and Ted Cruz calls for surveilling and ghettoizing American Muslims. Cruz and Trump call for mass deportation of Mexicans. Both Cruz and Trump actively sought the endorsement of the most racist Sheriff in America, Joe Arpaio, who on national television boasted that he was “honored” to be compared to the KKK. Cruz and Trump have demonized the Black Lives Matter movement, which focuses attention on police mistreatment of African Americans by police.
Since 1964, when conservatives, led by Barry Goldwater, took over the party, the Republican Party has had no qualms about embracing racism and appealing to the basest aspects of people. Vile as it is, the Republican racism is at least overt and straightforward.
2016: Racism on the Democratic side…
The Democratic racism is more covert but just as vile as its Republican counterpart. Democratic racism is in three forms. One is considering Latinos and African Americans as property to be owned. Hillary Clinton and her allies—the Democratic National Committee and the media (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, New York Times, etc.)—talk about Latinos and African Americans as if we were property as they claim Clinton owns our vote.
The second form is that the Clinton campaign and its allies dehumanize people of color. Clinton’s and her allies’ mantra is that Sanders cannot win in “diverse” states. Whenever Sanders does well, the Clinton camp and her media allies dismiss his success by trotting out the canard of “but that’s a white state.” The Clinton surrogate CNN recently referred to Alaska as the “most diverse place in America.” But when Sanders won Alaska, CNN called Alaska “largely white.” And Hawaii—the state with the lowest percentage of white people in the entire country—which Sanders won overwhelmingly is a “mostly white” state?
The Clinton campaign and its media surrogates deny the very existence of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in Alaska. Of Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans in Hawaii. Of the many American Indian tribes and Mexican Americans/Latinos in Washington, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Wisconsin and other states. To cavalierly dismiss the existence of these peoples is to deny their humanity.
Reality check: on April 1, 2016, close to 19,000 people, the vast majority people of color, attended a Sanders rally in the Bronx. As African American attendee Habeeb Shobayo put it: “If you think Bernie’s supporters are only white, come to the Bronx.” (John Surico, “Young People of Color in the South Bronx Tell Us Why They’re Backing Bernie Sanders,” The VICE Guide to the 216 Election, VICE, April 1, 2016)
The third form of Democratic racism is the validation by Clinton supporters of the race-based punitive policies implemented by the Bill Clinton administration. In order to gain favor with the Republican right wing, Bill Clinton, with the full support and help of Hillary Clinton, pushed through welfare reform legislation that piggybacked on Ronald Reagan’s racist stereotype of the black “welfare queens.” In pushing the legislation, Hillary Clinton alluded to black women receiving welfare as “deadbeats.”
A key part of the Clinton campaign to please the Republican right wing were mass incarceration policies, which have resulted in the incarceration of African Americans at a much higher rate than any other group. African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population. African Americans and Latinos together comprise 58% of all prisoners, even though African Americans and Latinos make up approximately one quarter of the U.S. population. (NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet. 2009-2016) While pushing the mass incarceration policies, Hillary Clinton described inner-city (i.e., Black/Latino) youth as “super predators” and suggested the Clinton policies would “bring them to heel,” which, of course, is a term used when talking about dogs.
I saw the carnage…
The Clinton campaign against urban African Americans and Latinos has not gone unnoticed by the young people who are being energized by the Sanders campaign. Here’s how Michael Graham described it in his article “The End of Black-Checking for Hillary” (Progressive Army, April 2, 2016): “In the wake of the Billary Express, I saw the carnage. I saw my communities crumbling from jobs lost to NAFTA. Black mothers skipping meals as they realized their meager wages could not make up the gap left by the end of their welfare allotment. Black men jailed by an unjust drug war that targeted my community…”
The Clinton mass incarceration policies enhanced the burgeoning for-profit prison industry whose sole purpose is to keep the prisons full so as to keep making big profits. Diana Ordonez, 20, who attended the Sanders Bronx rally, notes that “Hillary has raised a ton of money from private prisons, which have discriminated against and incarcerated blacks and Latinos.” (John Surico, “Young People of Color in the South Bronx Tell Us Why They’re Backing Bernie Sanders,” The VICE Guide to the 216 Election, VICE, April 1, 2016) Indeed, lobbyists for the for-profit prison giants GEO and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) recently contributed $133,000 to the Ready for Hillary PAC.
[An AZ perspective: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio keeps CCA prisons in Arizona full with Mexicans ensnared in his racist raids.]
While the Republican Party disdains us, the Democratic Party takes us for granted. The simple truth is that the Democratic Party establishment will only respect us when we make it known to them that they do not own us, when people of principle and backbone assert their humanity and stand up to Democratic racism as vociferously as they do to Republican racism. c/s