The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

In 1956, during the Montgomery bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mississippi’s senior U.S. Senator James O. Eastland spoke at a pro-segregation rally.

Robert Caro, in his book Master of the Senate, describes Eastland’s racist rant to the crowd:

“In every stage of the bus boycott we have been oppressed and degraded because of black, slimy, juicy, unbearably stinky n——-s … African flesh-eaters. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to abolish the Negro race, proper methods should be used. Among these are guns, bows and arrows, slingshots, and knives. … All whites are created equal with certain rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of dead n——-s.”

This week, during a fundraiser in New York City, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden reportedly cited his relationship in the Senate with Eastland as an example of his ability to engage the opposition with civility.

“He never called me ‘boy.’ He always called me ‘son,'” Biden told donors. “Well, guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

He never called me “boy.” No mention of how “boy” was a common term of derision and disrespect for black men in the Jim Crow south, or how Biden’s white skin determined Eastland’s willingness to work with him. Instead, we’re supposed to see Biden’s ability to get along with a man who called black people “an inferior race” as a model for how to engage with civility in 2019.

When I first learned about Biden’s comments, I thought about all the black people in my life: friends, neighbors, students and colleagues. How would they feel hearing this? What did they deserve to hear from white people like me?

I had to do what I’m always insisting other white people do during uncomfortable discussions about race: Speak up.

My message, on Twitter and on my public Facebook wall: If Joe Biden wants to boast about his relationship with a racist, he is not who we need to succeed the racist in the White House.

Some white Democrats, whom I know to be thoughtful people, criticized me for taking Biden out of context. I agree that context matters, which is why I started this column with Eastland’s own words.

Here’s more context, from this week:

On Monday, Donald Trump tweeted that ICE officials would begin “removing millions of illegal aliens,” which is his term for men, women and children who are brown-skinned. This massive forced exodus, if carried out, will likely lead to countless deaths of families who fled for their lives and sought asylum here. If you are a self-proclaimed Christian and support treating fellow human beings this way, please spare me your talk about how you know Jesus.

On Tuesday, in the wake of Netflix’s release of the powerful miniseries, When They See Us, a reporter asked Trump if he would apologize to the Central Park Five for demanding their deaths in 1989. They were black and innocent, and all five were exonerated in 2002.

Trump’s response: “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. … So we’ll leave it at that.” There it is again: “You have people on both sides…”

There were countless ways for Joe Biden to illustrate his willingness to work with those with whom he disagrees. This week, he chose to talk about his relationship with a white supremacist.

I’ve been writing about race throughout my journalism career, so I knew to expect criticism from some white people. Too many of them want to explain away the potential harm of Biden’s comments for people who don’t look like us. This defensiveness illustrates an enduring blind spot for many white liberals: No matter how committed we are to civil rights, we will never know what it feels like to be black or brown in America.

We never have to endure the daily assault of racism, and we need to stop acting like we do.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two nonfiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel Erietown will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

New Poll Reveals Problems For Trump--And His Party

Image via Twitter

A year after former President Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Trump continues to have considerable influence in the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump must be a litmus test for anyone in a GOP leadership role in Congress. But an NBC News poll, conducted in January 14-18, 2022, finds that many Republican voters identify as Republicans first and Trump supporters second.

Analyzing that poll in the New York Times on January 21, reporters Leah Askarinam and Blake Hounshell, explain, “Buried in a new survey published today is a fascinating nugget that suggests the Republican Party may not be as devoted to Trump as we’ve long assumed. Roughly every month for the last several years, pollsters for NBC News have asked: ‘Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?’ Over most of that time, Republicans have replied that they saw themselves as Trump supporters first.”

Keep reading... Show less

Ivanka Trump Testifying To January ^ Committee Is Vital

Image via @Huffington Post

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection moves along, it is examining Ivanka Trump’s actions that day — especially the former White House senior adviser urging her father, then- President Donald Trump, to call off his supporters when the U.S. Capitol Building was under attack. This week, Ivanka Trump’s importance to the committee is the focus of a column by liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent and an article by blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Sargent notes that the committee’s “new focus on Ivanka Trump” shows that it “is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.”

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}