The political legacy of white supremacy

by | Aug 28, 2017 | Editor's Blog, NC House | 6 comments

On Friday, Republican Representative David Lewis cited a blog I wrote on the House floor to justify the gerrymandered districts he’s pushing. The quote he used said, “Democrats have basically ceded rural America, giving the GOP an advantage in district configurations here and across the country. Democrats might be able to garner majorities in statewide and national elections, but they win with large margins in highly concentrated areas.”

I’ll stand by that assessment but the corollary to that quote is that lack of a coherent Democratic message has allowed Republicans to exploit racial fears to generate majorities in areas racked by high economic upheaval and declining populations. The GOP has stood silent while Donald Trump calls Hispanic immigrants “rapists.” They’ve only belatedly and reluctantly called out the president for his empowering white supremacists in the wake of Charlottesville. They’ve stood silent as Trump pardons a man who bragged about using racial profiling and ignored sexual abuse in jails he described as “concentration camps.”

On matters of policy, the GOP created the myth of voter fraud to justify disenfranchising African-American voters. They’ve refused to fix the Voting Rights Act. They intimidated the Muslim community by passing a law to ban Sharia law despite no evidence that it’s a threat to anyone. They’ve consistently opposed affirmative action laws that help combat systemic racism. They’ve scuttled almost every attempt to reform our immigration system including one proposed by George W. Bush more than a decade ago.  Their education policies are leading to the re-segregation of our public schools. And, yes, they’ve used racial discrimination to water down the influence of African-American legislators in the North Carolina General Assembly through extreme gerrymandering.

And in the midst of the fight to take down monuments to Confederate soldiers, Dallas Woodhouse and other Republicans have been casting modern Democrats as the party of racism because of events that took place more than 100 ago. No Republican leaders, not Dallas Woodhouse, Party Chair Robin Hayes, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger or Rep. Lewis, have called for removing statues commemorating the righteousness of the Lost Cause or the virtues of white supremacy. If they did, they know they would lose a significant portion of their base. So instead, they passed legislation protecting the monuments with no regard for the feelings of African-Americans.

I don’t believe most Republicans are racists and I don’t believe most rural white Southerners are. I know, though, that racists have aligned themselves with the Republican Party and the GOP has pandered to them for almost fifty years. If they lost the racist wing of their base, they would sit solidly in the minority in states like North Carolina. Instead of confronting white supremacy in their ranks, they created an environment where it could fester just beneath the surface of society. With their nomination and election of Donald Trump, it’s become a full-blown infection and the GOP bears much of the responsibility.


  1. Gene

    Very interesting comments.

    What recommendations do you have for People of Color as they navigate increased racial tensions, due to no fault of their own?

    The majority of Americans (born or transported — willingly or unwillingly) work or run businesses daily, pay taxes and try to save to pay for the education/extracurricular activities for their children and a retirement nest-egg at some point in life.

    Most People (including People of Color) are taught that in America (unlike some other countries) if you are a model citizen by staying out of trouble, treating people right, working hard you will be rewarded with a happy life and a white picket fence.

    This is the AMERICAN DREAM right?

    Many are even told to be especially kind to those who hate you “for no good reason.” Eventually they’ll come around or realize that they can’t stop your mission of positivity that others will clearly see and come to your aid to support and protect you.

    Yesterday 9-5-17 was such a sad day in U.S. History to see DACA Residents being told by the President of the United States they don’t belong to the U.S. a country they’ve spent the majority of their young lives. The majority of them are very young adults, bright and hard-working.

    U.S. born Residents, imagine your teenage or 20 something year-old being torn from this county and being sent to — Italy, Spain, Sweden, England, Africa — pick a country from your DNA tests…. to live independently with no resources or networks they have worked so hard to build in the U.S. — sounds like a very traumatic experience that would destroy promising futures.

    These DACA Residents buy houses, cars, groceries, utilities, clothing, etc…. How much of the economy would be affected by this immediate removal of these individuals?

    Would you want this for your children? I think NOT!

    Why are we chasing after DACA residents who have clearly registered, reported, paid significant fees and made every attempt to prove that they are immigrants just like the Mothers and Fathers of the President and others in power.

    Such a sad day when some Residents have to resort to living in the shadows, which is far less safe for them and for the rest of the U.S. Citizens because they can then be exploited and/or disillusioned and not continue on a positive path.

    Also remember — not all DACA residents are from Mexico — What is this fascination our current President has with Mexico?

    Can we leave these DACA children/young people alone and focus our resources on true “bad guys” breaking laws such as selling drugs, committing financial fraud, violent offenses and otherwise terrorizing U.S. Citizens (domestically grown and imported).

  2. Norma Munn

    Tolerating and encouraging racism has the same outcome as personally being a racist. Voting for Trump or most of the current crop of GOP legislators, here and in many other places, is voting for racism in public policy. I do not accept the excuse that “Well, I am not personally supportive of …..(name your prejudice of choice)….. but I voted for Trump because we need a real leader.” This is not a complicated concept. You are what you vote for in this case.

  3. Jay Ligon

    Thomas, I agree with everything in your column except your belief that most Republicans are not racists. There may be a distinction without a difference to be argued, but the use of race as a means of gaining votes has a long and ignoble history in the Republican Party.

    There are, to be sure, Lincoln Republicans, who are not themselves racists, but they stand shoulder to shoulder with bigots in the same party, and they stand before an electorate that will respond to an explicit message of racial separation and hatred.

    In 1988, George H. W. Bush used Willie Horton, the black convicted murderer who was granted furlough by the Massachusetts parole board, to stoke fear of blacks. The infamous, disgraceful ads were ubiquitous when he ran against Michael Dukakis. The picture of a black man leaving prison along with the reminder that he had raped and killed white women were the creation of Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes.

    Was it racism or a strategic deployment of racial bias. I don’t think it matters. The ad turned Bush’s losing campaign against Dukakis into a winning campaign. The ad touched the lizard brains of the party base.

    His son, George W. Bush, used various racist “strategeries” to gain the advantage over his rivals. He smeared John McCain in the South Carolina primary claiming McCain had fathered a black child when the creators of the ad knew that McCain had adopted a child from Bangladesh. It was a racist lie that put George W. Bush over the top in South Carolina. His Republican base responded predictably to a racist smear, even though it was a lie. Facts don’t matter when fear of a black boogie man is thrown to the base.

    In the general election, George W. Bush and his evil genius, Karl Rove, denied black people the right to vote in Florida. They sent thousands of people home alleging, falsely, they had committed felonies. The margin of error was tight in Florida with the presidency decided by just a few hundred votes. In 2000, the Republicans deployed every possible dirty trick to steal the presidency from the Democrats including the anti-democratic measure of calling a halt to counting ballots. Gore and analysts who have since done the final tally believe that the state went for the Democrat, but the final tally was not available when the winner was declared. Had Republicans allowed black people to vote, as was their right, the outcome would not have been in doubt. Nearly 100,000 African-American votes were rejected in Florida, most of them Democrats; their voice would have sunk the Bush campaign and put Gore in the White House by a large margin. Racism worked.

    Was that a racist ploy or a practical means of employing race to steal an election? Does it matter? If a party invites and embraces racism, is there a difference between truly racist politics and using racism to strategic advantage?

    Republicans have, until this Trump guy, employed strategies which had some deniability. There were only a few unabashed, truly racist politicians like Jesse Helms. Many Republicans, having taken office by despicable means, would stand at the podium and say the right things.

    But racists have a home in the Republican Party and welcoming White Supremacists into the GOP have provided the party with a solid voting block in the Southeast for decades.

    There really isn’t any deniability when armed storm troopers waving Confederate and Nazi flags step out on Main Street and chant

    If you voted for Trump, you are probably a racist or someone who tolerates the bigotry he represents. He didn’t use a dog whistle. He attacked blacks, Mexicans, and Muslims and encouraged his followers to beat them down at his rallies. His racist politics are not in the closet. He’s the real thing. Polls report that as many as 10% of Republicans are not opposed to Nazi ideals. There’s are some dark, ugly corners in the Republican Party. We need to call it what it is.

  4. Jim Bartow

    In response to “I don’t believe most Republicans are racists and I don’t believe most rural white Southerners are.” I think we white men are the absolute worst judges of racism. I know I am both racist and a poor judge of the same. I have been trying my entire life to not be racist and know I am still failing.

    The proof is that I am pretty sure the phrase “he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body” was most likely coined by a white man and always means the opposite.

    • Jim Bartow

      Other than that this is a very good article. Thank you.

  5. Lennie Richardson

    “They’re education policies”?

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