Of Republican Race Cards and White Denial
By Tim Wise
I wish I was being silly and hyperbolic here, but I’m not.
And so, for instance, Newt Gingrich seriously thinks we’re the ones who are racist, when we call out the racial undertones of the totally inaccurate, utterly dishonest welfare commercials being run by the Romney campaign. Apparently, to Gingrich, it is only liberals and people on the left who think of black folks when the word welfare is used. Oh yes, because conservatives would never be thinking of that. Like, when Ronald Reagan embellished that story about the “welfare queen” driving the Cadillac to the welfare office in Chicago and getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits thanks to dozens of fake names, he wasn’t picturing a black woman and didn’t intend for you too either. Even though the story the legend was based on involved a black woman on the city’s south side, who was actually guilty of only about $8000 in fraud, he wasn’t even talking about Linda Taylor, the black woman in question. No, he was imagining a white woman in Northbrook, swinging by to pick up her AFDC check before heading off to meet her tennis pro, scamming the system at the expense of all the hard-working black taxpayers in the Cabrini Green and Robert Taylor homes. Who could possibly have gotten that twisted? I mean yes, since the story was essentially fictitious, he could have made the fictional woman from a whiter place like West Virginia or Nebraska or Vermont, but the fact that he didn’t, and instead picked a big city with a large black population was merely coincidental. And if you don’t understand that, it’s because you’re race-obsessed.
And when Reagan made up yet another story about some “strapping young buck” buying T-bone steaks with food stamps, he didn’t specify the “buck’s” race, so if you see a black man in your mind’s eye, it’s obviously because you are the one with the problem. Why, for all you know, when Reagan said “buck,” he might have been referring to a large deer. You obviously have race on the brain!
And if they portray Obama as a monkey or a chimpanzee, or even call him “the first monkey president,” that’s not because they’re trying to play along with the long-standing racist association between black people and apes. And anyway, everybody likes monkeys and they’re known to be really smart: which is actually what a conservative talk show host who recently called the president a monkey and e-mailed a picture of him as a monkey said in her defense. Because as someone who is militantly opposed to President Obama and everything he stands for, she nonetheless really wants you to know how smart she thinks he is.
For more on the subject from Tim Wise, see Conservatives Lie About Welfare.