By John Prager
A bunch of rich white men decided that Rosa Parks ended racism with her heroic refusal to sit in the back of the bus, and Tweeted the news in a “memorial” to Rosa Parks today. Understandably, given the White Wing’s repeated racially insensitive remarks, some are having trouble believing the GOP’s claim that racism is over in America.
Racism isn’t over. But policymakers from both parties like to pretend it is.
By Ezra Klein
There's a generous interpretation of this tweet: Rosa Parks's bold stand played a role in the ongoing and perhaps endless project of ending racism. About four hours after the initial tweet went out, the RNC sent out a clarification to this effect.
To be clear about the problem: The original tweet conflates the end of statutory discrimination with the end of racism. It suggests that changing government policy changes all the attitudes that led to that policy, and all the social arrangements that were built around that policy. It's a view often held by conservatives, which is odd, because it requires a tremendous belief in the government's power to cleanly reshape whole societies.
And, yes, people alive today benefit from much that happened in their great-grandparents' time. Wealth is passed down through generations, and quite a lot of racist policy in the United States was designed to help white Americans amass wealth by stopping African Americans from doing so, or, in some cases, by directly taking the wealth of African Americans. Today's wealth gap is, in part, the legacy of the country's past, and it has winners as well as losers.
Which is all to say it's easy to correct a poorly worded tweet. It's easy to say that racism isn't over. It's harder to face up to the policy implications of that. The question for the RNC--and, for that matter, for the DNC--is if the fight against racism is ongoing, how should policy reflect that? When it gets down to that tangible level, this isn't a conversation the Democratic Party is much more comfortable with than the Republican Party. The theory is that the legacy of racist policy can be met with colorblind policy that helps the poor. There's not much evidence that that theory is working.
The black/white marijuana arrest gap, in nine charts
The GOP's race problem
GOP’s race problem: What’s really behind that bad tweet
The party's Rosa Parks fiasco only hints at its problems with civil rights--here's why it should be afraid
By Brittney Cooper
I’m glad we live in a culture that can respond to such political absurdity with humor. I’m pretty sure we are all laughing to keep from crying.
Affixed to the picture of Rosa Parks that the RNC tweeted is a quote that reads: “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”
Unfortunately, this means that the GOP should be afraid. Very afraid. Continuing to support policies that redistribute wealth upward, continuing to gut public education, refusing to regulate guns, doubling down against healthcare reform, and policing the bodies of women is a potent and heady chemical mix that might just make the GOP implode from the inside out.
Moreover, the GOP’s refusal to grapple with the persistent and enduring problem of racism will find them on the wrong side of history just a couple of generations hence. For instance, though Marissa Alexander is now free on bond in Florida, awaiting a second trial for firing a warning shot at her abusive ex-husband, by all indications conservative prosecutor Angela Corey insists on using taxpayer money to try her again and to lock her up for 20 years based on Alexander’s attempt to defend herself.
A fierce champion of black women’s right to safety, security and a society free from violence, Rosa Parks might be a part of the Free Marissa Now Campaign and actively aid in helping to free her.
This Rosa Parks fiasco demonstrates that the GOP’s intellectual and political gymnastics around racism and civil rights are so off-kilter that they couldn’t even manage to stick the landing on an exercise with a minimal level of difficulty. They definitely need to come again. And this time, I hope they’ll come correct.
GOP’s massive 2013 mistake: How the party ignored its terminal illness
I know, Oprah got in trouble for suggesting that racism will ease when this generation of racists, well, dies. I wrote in my book that it makes me uncomfortable to hear allies suggest we just need to wait for old white Republicans to die off–they’re talking about a lot of people in my family. Yet it’s striking to me how comfortable Republicans seem relying on their ancient race-baiting playbook, and ignoring the country we’re becoming.