By Jill Richardson
President Biden recently became the first president to condemn white supremacy by name in an inaugural address. Then some Republicans got mad because, they say, it’s an attack on them.
He’s “calling us racists,” Rand Paul complained. “According to the left, supporting border security and celebrating July 4 could make you a white supremacist,” Tucker Carlson claimed. “I was offended” by “the racism thing,” Karl Rove added.
These complaints are disingenuous.
First, consider President Biden’s exact words. After alluding to the racial justice protests over the summer, Biden turned to warn of “a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”
It seems clear that Biden was referring to the people who recently attempted a coup at the U.S. Capitol, where the presence of white supremacists has been well documented.
“Members of Several Well-Known Hate Groups Identified at Capitol Riot,” read a ProPublica headline. A New York Times headline offered help “Decoding the Hate Symbols Seen at the Capitol Insurrection.”
Biden was not talking about rank-and-file Republicans who voted for Trump but are not members of hate groups. That’s not at all consistent with his message of unity. These talking heads are just stoking outrage among Republicans to gain cheap political points.
However, I think this issue is worth breaking down a little more.
Historically, racists almost never see themselves as racists. And actual racists often hide their racism to attract more followers to their cause.
For example, former Klan leader David Duke once explicitly said that he was moving from a message of hating non-white people to a message of love and pride for white heritage in order to attract more followers. He combined this tactic with accusations of “reverse racism” to anyone who disagreed with him.
Racism rebranded to sound less racist in order to recruit more racists is still racism.
In the early 1970s, Richard Nixon introduced the “Southern strategy” to bring white Southerners and others upset by Democrats embracing civil rights legislation over to the Republican Party. However, because it was no longer publicly acceptable to openly espouse racism, they employed “racial dog whistles.”
“By 1968 you can’t say [the N-word] — that hurts you, backfires,” Republican strategist Lee Atwater later explained. “So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff…. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a by-product of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
Today, alt-right personality Jordan Peterson takes an even trickier approach. He says he is in favor of individual autonomy. Where’s the bigotry in that?
“The collective doesn’t suffer,” he says. “Individuals suffer.” Therefore the only type of injustice that is wrong is injustice perpetrated against individuals, not entire groups. Peterson is essentially arguing that the very thing Atwater described — policies that benefit white people over other groups, or hurt people of color disproportionately — is fine.
Republicans’ response to Biden appears to be a newer tactic: stoking resentment about the mere accusation of racism.
Paul, Rove, and Carlson all know the difference between a Trump voter who opposes abortion and wants tax cuts and coup plotters with white supremacist tattoos. But they’re telling Republicans that Biden’s condemnation of the latter group meant the entire Republican Party.
Meanwhile, someone put two pipe bombs in the U.S. Capitol. I would like to assume that most Americans in both parties oppose hate groups and violence. Working against both could be an easy bipartisan win when we agree on little else.
To do that, we’ll need a lot less resentment theater.
Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for OtherWords.org.
I often see the same thing here, in response to my comments. Yes, absolutely, I speak out against racism and hate speech/lies spread by cult members on social media, and also on this site. Often, I am then attacked by those who apparently see themselves in my descriptive words. They are sadly putting on the terrible shoes that fit.
My hope and prayer is that those who suffer the pain of seeing the reflection and impact of the negative side of themselves will renew a search for truth based on “credentialed facts”. My hope and prayer is that those who suffer in this way will make a sincere effort to regain their moral compass, and will begin to live according to the Golden Rule. “Do Onto To Others As You Would Have Them Do Onto You”.
My hope and prayer is that the horrific attack on the sacred democratic process, citizens/representatives/police at the Capitol of our nation was the “bottom of the gutter” of acting out against our country, our civilization, our humanity. My hope and prayer is that the majority of our lost neighbors have now stepped away from the brink of destruction and are now beginning to seek a new path towards a common belief in the GOOD of their community/neighbors/county/state/country/humanity.
Let us find common ground and begin again to create a common good based on “facts”, “honesty”, “integrity”, “ethics” and “honor”. From that place, we can begin to evolve towards “equality”, “compassion”, “kindness”, “peace”, “love” and “joy”.
All of this is within our power. . .
“First, consider President Biden’s exact words”…. Since when does the media listen to a presidents exact words. Hell even Flagler Live criticizes the previous administration by not using the exact words and taking what was said out of context. So why is it a problem now? Unify… bullshit… the left does not want unity. They lied and made things up for the last 5 years and now they think people will forget. Not happening….
Joe Biden said “I would not use executive orders to implement policies because you can’t use executive orders unless you are a dictator”. October 16th 2020. Well the Dictator lied……..
And Thank God to clear the garbage of the prior Lunacy. Filthy 45 lied eveyday about everything. Unity your own Party is in shambles and will be split in some shape or form. The GOP cant Unify itself. The Orange Stooge is being Impeached for the second time and deservedly so. Acquittal , probably and playing right into the hands of Voters, MidTerm and next Presidency. Damn straight the Constituents will not forget. See last MidTerms Presidential and GA. runoff. How soon you forget. Wth 20 GOP Senate seats up for grabs doesnt bode well for a splintered RepublicanPity Party. Its a Win WIN. BullShit YUP just experienced 5 years of it. Good Riddance