Decoding the Racial Rhetoric of GOP Candidates | Urban Cusp

Decoding the Racial Rhetoric of GOP Candidates

By David J. Leonard

UC Columnist

Some days it feels like race is everywhere – central to American life, race and its corresponding signifiers is indeed ubiquitous to American life. Racial language, narratives, and stereotypes are circulated with tremendous frequency. This has been especially evident during the Republican Presidential primary. From Newt Gingrich’s “food stamp president” and constant demonization of Black youth to Ron Paul’s newsletters, Rick Santorum’s constant denunciation of “illegals,” Michelle Bachman’s celebration of slavery, and the commonplace frame of returning to a 1950s America, the GOP has hitched its hopes to racial fear, racial ideas, and racial rhetorics. Although often transparent and clear as night and day, much of the arguments and frames are articulated through racial codes. Affording GOP candidates a certain level of deniability, it is therefore crucial to understand the power and prevalence of racial rhetorics.

Enter Kent Ono and Michael Lacey, whose new collection, Critical Rhetorics of Race (New York University Press, which provides readers with the necessary perspective and tools to decipher and understand, challenge and decode the ways in which race is circulated within the GOP, as well as from other political, media, and cultural spheres. In the introduction to the text, Raymie McKerrow describes the work as a “critical perspective on the ways symbols perform in addressing publics.” Challenging the dominant ideas of a post-racial society where race is declining in significance or only present when inserted into the discourse, the collection offers an important intervention. “Contemporary U.S. media culture represents race in ambivalent, contradictory, and paradoxical ways. Media tell us that the United States is a post-racial society, in which race and racism are passé relics of a bygone era,” writes Michael G. Lacey and Kent A. Ono in their introduction to Critical Rhetorics of Race. “Yet, those same media sources bombard us daily with spectacles of racial violence and disturbing racist images that serve as evidence that race and racism are alive and well in the United States” (p. 1)

Examining how racial “discourse masks and mystifies power to oppress and liberates people,” produces knowledge, and legitimizes, “sustains, resists, or disrupts hegemonic interest” (p. 13), the collection provides great insight into a variety of issues, examples, and spectacles, all while providing readers with the necessary tools to unmask the ongoing racial realities of American culture. It brings together a range of schools all committed to examining and reflecting on the powerful ways that race, and daily utterances of race, penetrate, define, and shape contemporary culture.

The book is divided into four distinct sections: (1) racialized masculinities, where authors explore hegemonic representations of men of color, and particularly Black men, are constructed as criminalized villains. Examining new reports, two chapters focus on Hurricane Katrina and Virginia Teach and Columbine respectfully, with a third dealing with “how dominant media stories” so often “pit and rank” “one marginalized groups against another (LGBTQ) by highlighting the anti-gay epithets made by black male celebrities, who serve exemplars for the larger black U.S” (p. 9-10).

Highlighting an aversion for dealing with systemic homophobia for the sake of homophobic slurs uttered by prominent Black figures, this chapter identifies how the media’s deployed racial rhetorics turns homophobia into a spectacle used to demonize and exonerate and in doing perpetuate the systemic realities of anti-LGBTQ. “Media spectacles routinely erupt after a famous African American celebrity makes a bigoted remark about other marginalized group members (usually gays),” writes Catherine Squireso. “By doing so, the media exposes African Americans to be hypocrites, while releasing white Americans from any moral responsibility or reparations” (p. 66).

via Decoding the Racial Rhetoric of GOP Candidates | Urban Cusp.

NewBlackMan: Whistling Dixie (the remix): The Southern Strategy in the Age of Color-Blind Racism

Whistling Dixie (the remix):

The Southern Strategy in the Age of Color-Blind Racism

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

In recent weeks, with the GOP establishment coming to the aid of Mitt Romney and because of Newt Ginrich’s efforts to sell himself as an outsider, an increasingly visible narrative has emerged: as the anti-GOP establishment. Given Newt’s racial politics and his entire campaign strategy, it is hard to think of Newt as anything but the GOP establishment.

At the same time, there has been a growing sentiment about the hegemony of colorblind racism within the GOP. “Colorblind racism is the new normal in American conservative political thought,” writes Edward Wyckoff Williams. The “2012 Republican candidates are using egregious signals and dog whistles to incite racial divisiveness as an effective tool for political gain. But when confronted about the nature of their offensive rhetoric, the answer is either an innocuous denial or dismissive retort.” The codes or dog whistle politics are not new, nor is the denial. While the audacity of race denial may be on the rise, the clarity of the GOP’s race politics have been on full display. No secret decoder is necessary especially as we look at the larger history of race and the GOP.

Like so many of his fellow competitors, Newt’s racial demagoguery, his demonization of people of color, and his efforts to scapegoat have been a daily reality during the 2011-2012 GOP presidential primary. This is nothing new from Newt, who has made his career on the demonization of “welfare moms,” “illegals” and a “food stamp president.” In 2007, Newt took exception with bilingual education, announcing: “We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto.”

This has continued during the current election cycle with his recycling of the Moynihan report and his policy initiatives focusing on teaching black kids a work ethic. The language, the policies, and the centrality of race illustrate the profound ways that Newt Gingrich is the GOP establishment. As the voice box for the racial ideologies and the torchbearer for the GOP’s southern strategy (demonizing people of color in hopes of galvanizing white voters to support a party that doesn’t represent their economic interests), Newt’s denied GOP credentials is almost laughable.

This is the party of Nixon, whose southern strategy sought to scapegoat African Americans. This is the same man, who talked about “Negro bastards” who “live like a bunch of dogs” on welfare rolls. This is the GOP that was led by Richard Nixon, who one said:

Bill Rogers has got — to his credit it’s a decent feeling — but somewhat sort of a blind spot on the black thing because he’s been in New York,” Nixon said. “He says well, ‘They are coming along, and that after all they are going to strengthen our country in the end because they are strong physically and some of them are smart.’ So forth and so on.

My own view is I think he’s right if you’re talking in terms of 500 years,” he said. “I think it’s wrong if you’re talking in terms of 50 years. What has to happen is they have be, frankly, inbred. And, you just, that’s the only thing that’s going to do it, Rose.

This is the party of Reagan, who described outrage from working Americans over the sight of a “strapping young buck using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks at the grocery store.” When not demonizing black men, he spoke about “welfare queens” in Chicago, “who drove a Cadillac and had ripped off $150,000 from the government using 80 aliases, 30 addresses, a dozen social security cards and four fictional dead husband.” This is the same Reagan, who started his presidential campaign in 1980 in Philadelphia, Mississippi with an “ode to state’s rights,” a theme that continued with his defense of segregationist Bob Jones University and his denunciation of the voting right act as “humiliating to the South.” As the patriarch of the party, it is no wonder that racist rhetoric and appeals are central to the 2012 campaign.

Continue reading @NewBlackMan: Whistling Dixie (the remix): The Southern Strategy in the Age of Color-Blind Racism.