to America from the Racist Republican Regime: We Don't Really
Care About Improving Race Relations
January 10, 2003
By Jackson Thoreau
I'm a blond-haired, blue-eyed, middle-class, middle-aged
white guy who has lived most of my life in Dallas, Tx., probably
the country's bastion of old-school racism.
I haven't been the victim of racism myself – I don't subscribe
to the reverse racism theory leveled by many closet Republican
racists like William Bennett, who recently in the National
Review equated universities with affirmative action policies
that attempt to level the playing field with the same type
of racism exhibited by the Ku Klux Klan, which has engaged
in terrorism and murder for decades. Because of my whitebread
appearance, many white Republicans have felt comfortable enough
around me during various times in my adult life to let their
guard down and express their true feelings on matters of race.
Big mistake. This column is part of my payback for having
to endure all those sickening comments. It's part of my payback
for Republicans refusing to heed my responses that I don't
appreciate their racist comments and them acting like there's
something wrong with me because I don't play along.
I know from experience that Trent Lott is only the tip of
the iceberg when it comes to racism in the Republican Party.
I can't count the number of times some Anglo conservative
has used the N-word in reference to African-Americans in front
of me, even towards those they root for, such as Dallas Cowboys
running back Emmitt Smith. I can't count the number of racial
"jokes" or references some white City Council member, police
officer, businessman, or other establishment figure - whom
I know is a Republican - has told to my face. A popular "joke"
during this time of year by such racist Republicans is, "What
are you doing for Martin Luther ‘Coon' Day?" Or they will
snicker, "Have you learned anything during ‘Black Ass' History
I've sat at high school football games in Republican-dominated
towns as Anglo adults in the stands taunted the lone black
player on the opposing team using that N-word. I've attended
all-white meetings – as a reporter, not participant - in which
elitist Republicans have discussed getting around the Voting
Rights Act by lobbying for requirements that voters have to
own property. I didn't need someone to spell out what they
were talking about – they wanted some way to keep blacks from
In the 1920s, Dallas had more Ku Klux Klan members per capita
than any other large U.S. city. The city had an actual "segregation
of the races" clause written in to its charter as late as
1968. Peter Gent, a former Cowboy player and author of classics
like North Dallas Forty, says he was shocked to arrive from
the Midwest in the mid-1960s to witness such blatant Jim Crow
segregation. For example, the team's black players had to
drive an extra hour from their segregated South Dallas neighborhoods
to reach practice in North Dallas. Through lawsuits, protests,
and other measures, the blatant racist policies are gone,
but they have been replaced with subtle, back-door racism
executed from still all-white country clubs and subdivisions
in the suburbs.
Sure, the white racists around here used to be mostly Democrats,
who hated Lincoln-style Republicans who forced Reconstruction
on them after the Civil War. But most of those have left the
Democratic Party for the friendlier-for-them confines of the
Republican Party, where they don't have to rub elbows with
African-Americans at the multi-cultural Democratic functions
that contrast with Republican events like black and white
keys on a piano.
Many of the high-profile African-American Republicans are
of mixed race, anyways – Colin Powell, for example, is part
black, white, and Indian. In fact, Powell could be more white
than black, with English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry mixed
in with African and Indian. There's nothing wrong with that,
of course – many Americans have some mixed blood. But let's
be honest – the average white Republican would rather have
a light-skinned mulatto move in next door than a dark-skinned
Name a white public figure who espouses racist views, and
the vast majority of the time he or she is affiliated with
the Republican Party [yes, there is racism exhibited by some
African-American public figures, but that's the subject for
another column]. David Duke, the former Klansman and Louisiana
state representative, chaired the Republican Parish Executive
Committee of the largest Republican parish in Louisiana as
late as 2000, when he skipped the country and eventually was
convicted of fraud and tax evasion. Many Republicans are associated
with the openly-racist Council for Conservative Citizens,
including outgoing Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, who has spoken
before the segregationist group, and Republican National Committee
leader Buddy Witherspoon, who has resisted calls that he resign
his CCC membership.
As the Internet site, evilGOPbastards.com, points out, Supreme
Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Republican, launched
his career as a GOP operative in 1964 by harassing black voters.
Republican Attorney General John Ashcroft opposed racial integration
and the appointment of African Americans to offices as Missouri
governor and attorney general and has uttered pro-Confederate
The Republican Party in general launched a strategy during
the late 1960s to capture the southern racist vote by opposing
affirmative action, supporting the rights of states like South
Carolina to fly the Confederate flag in front of public buildings,
and similar positions. Dubya Bush himself spoke before the
segregationist Bob Jones University in South Carolina, genuflected
before the Confederate flag, and helped implement the racist
Willie Horton ad during the 1988 presidential campaign of
Bush Sr., who approved the racist ad after lobbying by his
son. Both Bush's have appointed many racists - both subtle
and overt - to high offices, who now work to further erode
White House strategist Karl Rove also aided with the racist
Horton ad and oversaw the racist 2000 South Carolina smear
campaign against Sen. John McCain, which alluded to McCain's
"black child," who actually is an adopted daughter from Bangladesh.
While in Congress from 1979 until 1989, Dick Cheney opposed
measures strengthening laws against housing discrimination
and collecting hate-crime data. Cheney supported apartheid
in the racist South African regime, even as it crumbled. Republican
politicians in Georgia and South Carolina, such as Sonny Perdue,
the new Republican governor of Georgia, were elected in 2002
on platforms that included "restoring pride" in the Confederate
Who can forget the Florida 2000 recount battle, when white
supremacists rallied for Republicans who embraced their support?
What about Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush's and former Bush-state-campaign-co-chair-Secretary-of-State-turned-Congresswoman
Katherine Harris' openly racist system of purges before the
2000 election that took the names of mostly African-American
voters off the rolls? What about the police roadblocks near
black precincts on election days? And how about the Republican
warnings in communities across the country about impending
black voter fraud that usually occur a few days before an
election, not to mention misleading fliers circulated by Republican
operatives in African-American neighborhoods telling them
of different days to vote or wrongly warning that their criminal
backgrounds and parking tickets will be checked to try to
intimidate them against voting?
Getting to Lott, Republicans still think highly enough of
him to make Lott chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, despite
his public banishment as Senate Majority Leader and a racist
record that includes far more than a few errant comments.
As our last elected president, Bill Clinton, recently said,
"[Lott] just embarrassed [Republican leaders] by saying in
Washington what they do on the back roads every day." And
as Jack Hughes of evilGOPbastards.com writes, the majority
of Republican senators who elected Lott as their leader "must
either share his views [which were so often repeated that
nobody could plead ignorance of Lott's sympathies], or were
at the very least ‘comfortable' with a leader that held those
Indeed, many senators, such as new Majority Leader Bill Frist
and Don Nickles, the first Senate Republican to call for Lott's
resignation as majority leader – not because he's a racist
but because it was giving Republicans bad publicity - have
a civil rights voting record nearly identical to Lott, according
to the NAACP. One of the worst – perhaps even worse than Lott
– is Jefferson Sessions of Alabama. Sessions has called a
black assistant U.S. attorney "boy" and a white civil rights
attorney a "disgrace to his race." As a prosecutor, Sessions
pursued civil rights workers on phony voter fraud charges.
As Alabama attorney general, he again pursued allegations
of voter fraud in African-American communities, looked the
other way in Anglo communities, and refused to aggressively
investigate burnings and bombings of black churches. He also
said he thought KKK members were "OK" until he heard some
might have smoked marijuana and charged the NAACP with being
"un-American" and "Communist-inspired." Despite such a past,
Bush and other Republicans have campaigned for Sessions.
The other Republican senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby,
callously equated Lott's verbal criticism in the media with
an atrocious physical act of violence against African-Americans
and others. "I think we should not lynch him," Shelby told
Frist, himself, has his own racial skeletons. He was a member
of the all-white Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville, Tenn.,
before running for the Senate in 1994. Some believe the National
Republican Senatorial Committee headed by Frist was behind
the intimidation of minority voters in recent years.
Then there is Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who
as governor of that state, issued a proclamation recognizing
"Confederate History and Heritage Month." Allen, the new National
Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, also displays a
Confederate flag in his living room, according to a recent
New York Times column.
Moving over to the U.S. House, there is Cass Ballenger. The
white Republican from North Carolina recently told the Charlotte
Observer that he had "segregationist" feelings and called
former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, an African-American Democrat
from Georgia, a "bitch." In an ensuring radio interview, Ballenger,
the Deputy Majority Whip and a member of the House Republican
Steering Committee who has a black lawn jockey in his yard
that an aide recently painted white, refused to apologize
to McKinney, calling her divisive, pushy, and "less than patriotic."
"One must wonder whether [Ballenger] would have made the
same statement about a white congressman he considered to
be pushy or divisive," said Kim Gandy, president of the National
Organization of Women. "I think not. His statements demonstrated
beliefs about race and gender that do not belong in the U.S.
While some like Democrats.com and Eleanor Smeal, president
of the Feminist Majority, called for Ballenger to resign,
most ignored his racist comments, as they have other Republicans'
racism. You can email Ballenger at http://ballenger.house.gov/contact.asp,
if you don't think his views are right.
There are many other examples. In Texas, an aide to new Republican
Sen. John Cornyn derisively dismissed the Democrats fielding
a Hispanic, African-American, and Anglo in the top three state
races in 2002 as a "racial quota." Meanwhile, the top three
Republican candidates were – you guessed it – white. So were
the Republicans fielding the usual white-only quota?
Rep. Tom Craddick, the new Texas House Republican leader,
was one of a small group to vote against establishing a Martin
Luther King Jr. state holiday in 1987. He repeated his opposition
to the holiday in a 1991 vote that clarified the day. Unlike
Lott, Craddick has yet to publicly apologize for those votes.
In Rochester, N.Y., Monroe County Executive Jack Doyle, a
white Republican, recently derided Mayor William Johnson Jr.,
a black Democrat. "If there was a mayor that looked like me,
it would be a whole different landscape," Doyle told a local
A recent article by USA Today cited several other examples
of recent insensitive remarks made by Republican public officials
and none by Democratic officials because reporters could not
find any – believe me, they would have included some by Democrats
if they found them. Democratic Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia
and Fritz Hollings of South Carolina have made some racist
remarks in the past, but not recently enough to run in that
Racism, especially subtle racism, does exist in many people
across the board. It especially comes out during times of
crisis. In the week following September 11, 2001, Arab-Americans
– a group that includes my wife and two children - reported
a significant upswing in hate crimes, including murders, against
them. A Gallup poll conducted September 14-15 found respondents
evenly divided over whether Arab-Americans should be required
to carry special identity cards. Two late September polls
found that most respondents favored police profiling of Arab-Americans.
A December 2001 poll by the Institute for Public Affairs at
the University of Illinois found that more than 25 percent
of respondents said Arab-Americans should surrender more rights
Profiling someone simply due to his or her race is racism,
period. You can always justify your racism by saying you are
concerned about your security. But who's to say the next terrorist
won't be white like Timothy McVeigh who bombed the Oklahoma
building in 1995? Who's to say the next terrorist won't be
white like the Irish Republican Army? Who's to say the next
terrorist won't be white like the KKK? Who's to say the next
terrorist won't be white like most mass murderers are?
Should we implement special profiling against white people
like me because of the McVeigh's and Duke's of the world?
I don't recall similar polls favoring racial profiling of
white Americans after the 1995 Oklahoma bombing. I don't recall
polls favoring profiling of white Americans after white Texan
George Hennard drove his truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and
killed 23 people in a terrorism act.
Another 2001 Gallup Poll found that 60 percent of white respondents
believed that black Americans were not treated the same as
whites in this country. That rocketed to 91 percent among
African-American respondents. Some 47 percent of black respondents
said they experienced discrimination in stores, by the police,
and in other situations in the previous month.
I've long wondered how many people there are who secretly
harbor racist views they would denounce in public. I recently
contacted the authors of 20 postings to white supremacist
Web sites, asking if I could quote them using their real names.
Only three replied back granting permission to use their names.
Jessica Coleman of Texas claimed her grandfather was "a powerful
knight [of the KKK] in South Carolina," and she thought all
blacks should be shipped "back to Africa and all of the wetbacks
back to Mexico." Tom of New Jersey, who would not give his
last name, wrote about a high school field trip to Philadelphia,
which sickened him so much to see blacks that he "wanted to
take out a machine gun and shoot everyone of them." Are these
people really just aberrations to be ignored again until the
next major race-related blow-up in our country? Or do they
represent the suppressed voices inside the average white Republican
– and, yes, some Democrats - who doesn't dare let such thoughts
reach the surface?
That's why I call Republicans like Bush and Cheney and Bennett,
who publicly embrace Martin Luther King Jr. as they call for
a colorblind society, yet live in their mostly-white neighborhoods
and practice racism when it suits their political agenda,
closet racists. They like to point out that lynching black
people is wrong as they oppose proposals that would do more
to bring about real equality and execute racist campaigns
– as Bush did against McCain in South Carolina in 2000 – to
gain political victory.
Would such closet racists live next to African-American families?
I have for more than six years, and the only problems we have
had were with some white neighbors. Living in a multi-cultural
neighborhood is part of my contribution to carry out what
a lot of Republicans only give lip service to, and go beyond
words to live out our desire for a truly colorblind society.
I respect my Republican parents and what they did for me,
but I don't like their racist comments, such as they hope
black people don't buy the homes up for sale on their blocks.
I don't know what has made me so different from my parents
on this matter. I've been this way since as a young child
I was one of the few to befriend the only African-American
student in our elementary school. A psychic once told me I
was black in a past life. Maybe that's it. Maybe in a past
life, I actually walked in the shoes of a slave and experienced
the discrimination that I can't stand today. Maybe that's
the only way a white American can really understand what a
black American experiences – to walk in his or her shoes.
Maybe that's the only way we can make some real progress on
Anyways, I can't recall such comments about hoping African-Americans
don't move on the block coming from Democrats I know in recent
years. In the aftermath of the Lott debacle, Republicans,
as usual, tried to turn the tables on Democrats and highlight
the latter party's racist past, as seen in members like Sen.
But that's like Bush and other Republicans saying Democrats
took money from Enron when Republicans took three or four
times as much. The sins are not of the same magnitude. When
more than, say, 50 percent of current Republicans exhibit
racist tendencies and less than, say, 20 percent of Democrats
do, you can't paint a broad stroke and say both parties exhibit
racism and just leave it at that. For every Sen. Byrd Republicans
bring up, I can counter with five Sen. Lotts and Sen. Sessions
and Sen. Frists and Rep. Ballengers and Dubya Bush's.
The subtle and overt racism of the Republican Party is a
stench they have to live with, and no amount of history rewriting
by Republican apologists can eradicate that smell. To eradicate
it, they must admit that racism in their party goes far beyond
Lott and make at least as much progress on advancing race
relations as the Democratic Party has. Republicans have not
done that, and I doubt they will while I'm still alive here.
As the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday approaches, these subtle
racist Republicans will talk like they have supported King's
vision of a colorblind society and African-American rights
all along, when their records and actions speak otherwise.
That's just more of the Republican con job. Don't buy that
Jackson Thoreau is co-author of We
Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House.
He also co-authored a book on Dallas history from the perspective
of African-Americans, civil rights advocates, and others.
Thoreau can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.