Yesterday, as I was driving around my hometown of Richmond, Virginia with my mother, who said she thought racism had worsened since the election of the country’s first black president. We both then reflected on how there seems to be a growing number of white people who simply loath the fact Obama is president. These people seem to have decided a black president is more than they can stomach.
A quick recap of the summer to date: Sherri Goforth, legislative aid to Tennessee State Senator Diane Black (R-Gallatin), emailed a racist photo of President Obama; Rusty Depass, Richland County GOP Chairman and former chair of the South Carolina state election commission, compared Michelle Obama’s ancestors to gorillas; and Mike Green, a GOP communications consultant from South Carolina joked on his Twitter page: “Just heard Obama is going to impose a 40 percent tax on aspirin because it’s white and it works.”
The latest luminary to take center stage as the “best and brightest” GOP racist is Audra Sigler Shay, a blond, white 38-year old army veteran, mother and event planner from Louisiana. Shay is vice chairman of the Young Republicans and a favored candidate to be elected chairman of the Young Republicans at the group’s national conference in Indianapolis Saturday. Last week in an apparent move to stir up the base and support for her campaign, she posted a comment on her Facebook page about Wal-Mart endorsing the Obama administration’s mandate for employers to pay for workers’ health insurance.
What ensued was a flurry of racist comments posted on her Facebook page which Shay condoned.
Eric S Piker wrote at 1:54pm: “Obama bin lauden is the new terrorist. . . muslim is on there side. . . .need to take this country back from all these mad coons. . .and illegals”
Audra Sigler Shay at 2:02pm: “You tell em Eric! Lol”
To say this is repugnant and offensive is to state the obvious! What’s even more incredible is Shay, a candidate endorsed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, seems to revel in her Facebook friend Eric’s remarks. Her laugh out loud (lol) comment sounds like she’s slapping Piker on the back in support of his good racist humor. As I noted in my previous post, coon is a racist word used to refer to blacks as shiftless buffoons. It also means a building used to hold slaves for sale during America’s slave trade.
Shay immediately de-friended Cassie Wallender, a national committee woman of the Washington Young Republican Federation and Sean L. Conner of the DC Young Republicans for their comments condemning Shay for allowing Piker’s comments to take root on her page. According to the Daily Beast’s story, Shay deleted the comments, wrote on her Facebook page they were unacceptable but she kept Piker as a friend. Apparently, the comments weren’t that reprehensible to her but she had to pretend like they were because they found their way into the public domain.
Later, at 10:31pm Piker returned with his racist vitriol, “. . . this is still America. . .freedom of speech and thought is still allowed . . .for now any ways. . . . and the last time I checked I was a good ole southern boy. . . and if yur ass is black don’t let the sun set on it in a southern . . .”
What is shocking isn’t the bigoted comments but this undeniable pattern of behavior wildly propagating within the Republican party. Even more appalling is the persistent, seemingly intentional lack of acknowledgement or rebuke of these actions from the Republican party, its leadership or rising stars. At a minimum, Governor Jindal should withdraw his support for Shay before this weekend’s election.
As Maggie reflects in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:
Laws of silence don’t work. . .
When something is festering in your memory or your imagination, laws of silence don’t work, it’s just like shutting a door and locking it on a house on fire in hope of forgetting that the house is burning. But not facing a fire doesn’t put it out. Silence about a thing just magnifies it. It grows and festers and in silence, becomes malignant.
The racist fringe of the GOP is infecting the party like a malignancy and quite frankly turning it into a marginalized party of losers. Apologies made after the fact by these bands of bigots only remind the public of how terribly broken and void of credibility the GOP has become.
With many Americans, particularly independent voters, growing increasingly disenchanted with president Obama’s high deficit, big spending agenda, producing zero jobs, a Republican resurgence could be within reach. But if the GOP refuses to publically acknowledge and rebuke this racism flourishing in the party and develop a reinvigorated platform capable of attracting political converts, there is no hope for a comeback but only continued rule by the “foaming in the mouth crazies.”
Recently, my mother was power walking through our neighborhood as she often does and said hello to a woman pulling weeds in her front yard. The woman, who happened to be white, didn’t respond. Determined to be neighborly, my mother followed with “how are you today?” The woman uncomfortably stuttered saying “uh, oh just working” but never looked my mother in the face. In telling me the story, my mother said “They don’t even want to acknowledge we exist.”
The GOP needs to acknowledge there’s an electorate beyond its good ole boy and girl base and appeal to it. In doing so, the Republican party will either force the racist radicals to fall in line or crowd them out of the tent with a “new majority.”
America’s political landscape has changed and is changing. We elected a black president, we may soon have our first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. The 1964 Civil Rights Act isn’t going to be reversed and the word “coon” has no place in political discourse. Deal with it. The Grand Old Party would be wise to start encouraging its members to criticize politicians on their positions rather than their ethnicity. After all, evolution is about the survival of the fittest, not the racist.