Ta-Nehisi Coates sums up the controversy over Ron Paul’s racist newsletters very well and also nails, I think, the nature of racism itself as a form of victimology. He writes:
Racism, like all forms of bigotry, is what it claims to oppose–victimology. The bigot is never to blame. Always is he besieged–by gays and their radical agenda, by women and their miniskirts, by fleet-footed blacks. It is an ideology of “not my fault.” It is not Ron Paul’s fault that people with an NAACP view of the world would twist his words. It is not Ron Paul’s fault that his newsletter trafficked in racism. It is not Ron Paul’s fault that he allowed people to author that racism in his name. It is anonymous political aids and writers, who now cowardly refuse to own their words. There’s always someone else to blame–as long as it isn’t Ron Paul, if only because it never was Ron Paul.
This is not a particular tragedy for black people. The kind of racism which Paul trafficked is neither innovative nor original. Even his denials recall the obfuscations of Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens. But some pity should be reserved for the young and disgruntled, for those who dimly perceive that something is wrong in this country, for those who are earnestly appalled by the madness of our criminal justice policy, for those who have watched a steady erosion of our civil liberties, and have seen their concerns met with an appalling silence on the national stage. That their champion should be, virtually by default, a man of mixed motives and selective courage, is sad.
He also notes that Ron Paul’s initial response to at least some of the racist things said in his newsletters was not to deny that he had written them or knew they existed, but to defend them. That’s an important data point when considering the issue.
None of this makes Ron Paul’s many laudable positions any less laudable. When it comes to issues like executive power, illegal government surveillance, the war on drugs, foreign military interventions, excessive defense spending, torture and rendition, our failed criminal justice system and more, Ron Paul is one of less than a handful of prominent political leaders who are consistently on the right side of all of them. But this and several other issues, which I’ll spell out in more detail over the next couple days, prevent me from supporting him.
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