In her column, “Let’s stop dealing the race card,” which appeared in the local Gannett papers today, April 21, Kathleen Parker addresses race in politics. She starts by citing the case of an obscure state Representative, a black Democrat, for labeling other black politicians as Uncle Toms, apparently as an example of playing the “race card.” She continues by relating Attorney General Holder’s complaint about a lack of civility in politics. Holder speaking about “unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity” asked: “What President has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?” Parker then suggests that Holder was referring to racial animosity, although he didn’t say so. She then writes: “Holder cannot pretend that his conduct of the Attorney General’s office is in question only because of his skin color.” This is an astonishing statement as Holder never did that. There is a huge difference between personal attacks on a politician and criticism of statements and actions. We might better support or oppose Tom Reed, Martha Robertson, or another based on their record rather than on their race, sex, or party affiliation.
Parker then takes another giant leap of illogic writing” Given that most blacks are Democrats, it is hardly surprising that they support the President. Likewise, it is hardly surprising that Republicans do not.” I find two unwarranted assumptions here:
- Black Democrats support the President mostly because of their common race.
- Democrats can be expected to support President Obama and Republicans should not.
First, many black voters supported President Clinton and likely President Obama for the same reason–they agree with them and with the Democratic Party platform. Second, the idea that only those in a presidents party ought to support him is pernicious–Democrats and Republicans alike would do well to support the country’s choice of President even though disagreement over policies may follow party lines. I am not advocating blind support: Democrats and Republicans alike have too often remained passive while a president led the country into trouble that might have been avoided. The idea that Republicans are bound to oppose everything a Democratic President says and does (and vice-versa) is a recipe for stalemate in politics as we have seen in recent years.
Parker concludes by suggesting that “all those suppressed feelings of anger, hurt, and frustration” are the “death rattle of our racist past,” a conclusion not clearly supported by anything that preceded it. More likely the prevalence of racial divisiveness in politics, lack of progress in school integration, lingering economic injustice, as well as blatant feelings of anger, hurt, and frustration are indications that racial injustice and divisiveness are far from being things of the past.
© William Hungerford – April 2014