It’s Racism, Stupid

I’ll let actual Republicans do the full post-mortems on their collective failures in the 2012 election, and just say one thing here:  It’s not about a failure to communicate conservatism, or even a bad candidate.  It’s about a fundamental worldview that privileges whiteness over all other races.

It doesn’t matter if the party dresses itself up with Michael Steele’s black face, or if it champions Marco Rubio and Susanna Martinez and Bobby Jindal and any other conservative with an ethnic name for the next two years as the future of the party.  Look beyond that to the attitudes, practices, and policies that it promotes.  There will be a lot of attention to immigration reform in the coming year or two.  Based on the punditry I have seen in the past two weeks, a lot of GOP strategists and officials think that this is how they will win brown people over to their conservative agenda.

It won’t work.

Those brown people can hear the xenophobia and racism that underlies so much of what GOP politicians say.  They aren’t stupid.  They’ve been doing this as long as they’ve been living in a white racist society.  It’s a survival skill, borne of necessity.

And those of us white folks committed to anti-racism and naming white privilege can see it too.

Alex Kane wrote about the “Nine Most Racist Moments of the 2012 Election” (and that was back in October). The list includes all of the birther dog-whistles, racist bumper stickers implying the n-word, all voter suppression efforts nationwide, mock-lynchings, and the lies the Romney campaign promoted about welfare.

Jezebel rounded up the awful racist tweets that flooded Twitter on election night (mapped out by location via FloatingSheep.com above), and The Huffington Post compiled its collection of the most racist moments of the election after it was all over.

To top it all off, of course, we have Mitt Romney’s conference call with donors after the election, in which he now famously asserted that Obama “gave gifts” to poor people, young people, and people of color, in order to get them to vote for him.  And in line with the top of the ticket, Paul Ryan expressed his surprise at the turn-out among “urban” [code word alert!] voters.

The language of gifts implies something unneeded, bestowed upon one party by another, something you did nothing to earn and that comes in a pretty package with a shiny bow.

Rather than access to higher education for young people, basic preventative health care as a human right, and food assistance for poor families.

It also implies institutionalized ownership of government and its programs in the hands of a white establishment.

Which is exactly what this Grand Old Party apparently wants.

 

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


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