I am on record about my own racist impulses. This is not as brave a statement as it may seem, because I think that all humans are racist — or perhaps “xenophobic” is a better term. But the truth is that there is a distinct difference between people who actively fight their racist impulses (or are at least embarrassed by them) and people who accept them as nothing more than a clear eyed representation of the truth. In my experience, this latter group is relatively small. And when I talk about our country being racist, I am not really talking about these people. All peoples have a small but significant fraction who are bigoted and hateful.
But this does create a bit of a problem when discussing someone like Louisiana Representative and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. You have probably heard about the controversy of him giving a speech to a White Nationalist group back in 2002. And before and after that time, he voted against establishing a Martin Luther King Jr Day. But this morning, Scott Wong at The Hill reported, Minutes Highlight Scalise Efforts to Kill Resolution Apologizing for Slavery. This was back in 1996 — a little more than three decades after the Voting Rights Act.
It’s worse than that, though. Scalise clearly doesn’t get it. According to a news report at the time, Scalise said, “Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn’t do and had no part of? I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.” No one was asking for him specifically to apologize. He was a representative of the state and such bills are symbolic like naming schools. But Scalise also doesn’t seem to have a clue about white privilege, which is doubtless why his claim not to have noticed that he was speaking to a racist group is credible.
But it turns out that this bill was originally meant to apologize for slavery. But another great Republican, David Vitter, got the author of the bill to change it from “apologize” to “regret”:
Because, the state can’t admit it was guilty for allowing slavery! It had to admit only that, almost a century and a half after slavery, the state of Louisiana thought the whole thing “regrettable.” But even that was a bridge too far for Scalise. The whole thing is truly amazing. But sadly, it is not surprising.
The Republican Party is a racist organization. By that I don’t mean that like all of us, it has unfortunately and involuntary xenophobic tendencies. I mean that the party depends upon racism for its political power. That’s not to say that all or even most Republicans are especially racist — or overtly so. But it does mean that the difference between the Republican Party being a regional power and a national power is its appeal to overtly racist voters.
I don’t see how the House Republicans can continue to claim that Steve Scalise isn’t a racist after this report. Of course, I didn’t see how they could before this. I suspect that this report will mostly be ignored. The people who are willing to admit that Scalise is a bigot have long been convinced. And the Republican Party, with its large appeal to racists, is unlikely to change course. In fact, I expect to see the Republicans claiming that the “liberal” media is ganging up on poor Steve Scalise. And maybe they will have a point. After all, it’s been clear for almost two decades what Scalise is all about.