Eager to hear, firsthand, what Mitt Romney had to say, I headed to Tilton, NH, where I heard Mitt would address a crowd at a spaghetti dinner. As the room filled up, I made my way to a table with a few empty seats. Before I could even sit down, I was chided by a woman:
“You’re going to behave yourself, aren’t you?” she asked sternly.
Taken aback, I paused. Not sure I had heard correctly, I asked, “What does that mean?”
“You’re not some heckler,” she sneered in return.
I was already keenly aware that I was the only Black person in the room – or the building, as far as I could tell. Still, I was unprepared to be so openly assailed. Her assumption that I could only be there to cause trouble was trumped by the implicit threat in her presumption that it was appropriate to rebuke a complete stranger. And No, I am not being overly sensitive. This same woman did not feel to need to address any of the White people who approached the table after I did.
As Romney, along will all the other Republican candidates compete to outdo each other, they increasingly rely on the lowest common denominator of race-baiting to inflame their base.
- Despite earlier supporting bipartisan immigration reform, Mitt Romney has ‘refined his position,’ vowing to veto the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, brought to the US as children, who serve in the military or attend college. Romney further suggests that undocumented immigrants should go back where they came from before even beginning a conversation on citizenship. Mitt Romney doesn’t need to use KKK slogans to get his point across. The message is clear.
- This week, Rick Santorum told a New Hampshire crowd, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”
- Newt Gingrich, recently accused that “poor,” (code for Black) “[children] have no habit of showing up on Monday and staying all day or the concept of ’I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.” And in case this wasn’t clear enough, he followed up this month with the offer to explain to Black folk at an NAACP convention, “why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
- Ron Paul has seen his profile rise after the ‘revelation,’ of his endorsement of newsletters warning people of “the coming race war.” These allegations are not new, but they sure haven’t hurt Paul in the polls.
It would be a mistake to dismiss this as Republicans just playing to their base. When Romney and the other Republican candidates engage in such blatant and shameless race baiting it sets a tone and creates a cancerous environment that emboldens people—encouraging them not only to wave their bigotry out in the open, but to then act on their racist assumptions.