Twitter certainly has its problems. It’s added to the incivility of our dialogue by allowing anonymous posters to spout vile or demeaning comments, often directed at someone in particular, with no real consequences. It does, though, give us insight into what people really think.
On Wednesday night, Rep. Greg Murphy, the Congressman from NC-03, tweeted, “@KamalaHarris is a walking disaster…she was only picked because of her color and her race…is that how we pick our leaders now?” He deleted it within an hour, but we now know that Congressman Murphy is a racist. He never apologized because, of course, he doesn’t believe he’s one. Racists rarely do. But we all know what’s in his heart.
No Republicans or prominent conservatives called for Murphy to apologize. In their minds, he made a mistake and corrected it. The mistake was saying out loud what he really believes and underscores the problems that people of color confront in this society. They face discriminatory attitudes that are held by powerful and influential people but not necessarily spoken. It’s the root of systemic racism.
Murphy really spoke for too many people. They believe that accomplished African Americans and other minorities get special privilege because of their skin color—and they resent it. Murphy doesn’t believe that Kamala Harris became the Attorney General of the largest state in the nation and a U.S. Senator because of her brains and abilities. He believes she got special consideration “because of her color and her race.”
Murphy tried a common tactic to dispute his racism. Instead of denying he’s racist or apologizing for his tweet, he tweeted yesterday, “Covid has taken a toll in this nation but it has disproportionately affected poorer countries like Nicaragua and Haiti where I have worked. Please keep them in your prayers.” He posted a photo of himself in his scrubs performing surgery. Murphy’s trying to say, “I can’t be racist if I go help the poor brown people.”
But that’s not how it works and, contrary to his belief, not very Christian. That’s just the paternalism that white Southerners used to convince themselves that segregation and inequality were really ok. They’re still doing it.
Murphy’s tweet exposed the attitudes of too many Southern conservatives, highlighting the flaws in our meritocracy and the roots of systemic racism. We won’t change the system until we either change perceptions or have more people in positions of power to combat inherent and unrecognized prejudice. The GOP’s unwillingness to police their own makes them unfit to lead a country confronting its legacy of racism and discrimination.
The goal of our country should be to build a more perfect union, not rest on the laurels of a flawed one. One of the strengths of our nation is its ability to offer opportunity regardless of race, color, or gender. We are a great nation, in part, because we can build a more just society, breaking down barriers to opportunity like discrimination and racism. Our fight is to make the attitudes of people like Greg Murphy unacceptable and keep people who hold those views away from the levers of power. Until we do that, systemic racism will continue to plague our country.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >