Earlier this week, the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky hosted a fundraiser that featured Jonathan Mattingly, one of the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor, as a speaker. Taylor, an African American woman, was killed when three white policemen broke down her door in a botched raid of her apartment and shot her numerous times. Taylor was unarmed. The group played body camera footage of the raid and broadcast it over speakers. The Republican Women’s Club defended the event by saying “Mattingly has a right to share his experience.”
What is wrong with Republicans? Why do they insist on making White people who kill innocent people, especially Black people, heroes? And why do they go out of their way to smear the victims of gun violence? Do they have no sense of empathy? They did it with George Zimmerman who killed Trayvon Martin and they’ve done it to Kyle Rittenhouse who killed two people during riots following the George Floyd murder. If the officer who killed Floyd had been acquitted, you can bet he would be on the right-wing lecture and media circuit. Same with those racists who killed Ahmaud Arbery.
Celebrating murderers has a long, sordid history in this country, especially in the South. For most of the 20thcentury, White people could kill Black people without worrying too much about consequences. When the White killers were arrested and tried, White defenders made them out to be the victims and, often, turned them into celebrities. Emmett Till’s murderers were acquitted by an all-White jury and then went on to detail their crimes in a national magazine. Lynch mobs were rarely ever held accountable, but victims of lynching were smeared regardless of their guilt or innocence.
On the flip side, when Blacks killed Whites, they were more likely to end up at the end of a rope or in the electric chair. Justice was not color blind. The legacy of that era is the distrust many Black Americans have toward the justice system today.
About 25 years ago, I lived in rural Chatham County. One day, my neighbor’s cow was giving birth by the edge of the road. I stopped to watch and struck up a conversation. Somehow, the Martin Luther King holiday came up. My neighbor said, “We celebrate the day he was shot.”
Back then, hearing my neighbor say that was shocking. Even within the GOP, such sentiments were way outside of the mainstream, at least when they were publicly acknowledged. Today, Republicans openly hail killers of Black men as celebrities with little fear of rebuke from the leaders of their party. Some may quietly disagree, but their criticism will be muffled by the reality that they need the support of the people who hold those views.
Ironically, Black Republicans are the biggest beneficiary of these attitudes. The few White Republicans who might condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz or Paul Gosar give Black Republicans like Mark Robinson a pass. When he calls gay people “filth” or says women can’t be leaders, few GOP leaders rebuke him and if they do, it’s in modest terms. Republicans want desperately to point to support for Robinson to say, “See, we’re not racists.” I hate to tell them, but that’s racist, though to be fair, the GOP has just about given up on accountability of any kind.
So what’s wrong with Republicans? Well, just about everything. It’s a party of sociopaths. They are no longer a serious party even if they may still have serious members. They’ve allowed themselves to be taken over by extremists and con artists. They allowed Fox News and talk radio to lie so long that they started to believe the dystopian right-wing narrative themselves. Now that the Tucker Carlsons of the world have constructed an alternative reality composed of alternative facts, they live in a world that can’t tell right from wrong, truth from fiction, dark from light, guilt from innocence, false prophets from ravening wolves. It’s downright pathetic.