As your kin-folk, we thought it would be quite un-family-like of us if we did not, at this post-election moment, give you a head’s up about what you should expect for the foreseeable future: your Party’s plan to use you to lure into its fold your brothers and sisters who have rejected its platform – all 90+% (African American) and 70+% (Latino American and Asian American) of us – is destined for failure.
From the outset, we do want you to know that we are of course proud of what some of you have accomplished in the face of our countrymen’s persistent racism and sexism – Marco Rubio: Senator from Florida! Condi Rice: United States Secretary of State! Bobby Jindal: Governor of Louisiana! Herman Cain: Successful Businessman! What marvelous narratives of triumph over injustice!
Yet, we cannot in good conscience ignore or Etch-A-Sketch the history of your resounding silence in the face of (or outright cooperation with) the racism and sexism expressed by your Party’s leadership and spokespeople – silence that we know ultimately provides no protection from the forces of hate.
As a consequence of this truth, we find ourselves having to ask of you answers to questions that you might find difficult, if not unfair. But we mean no unkindness. Nevertheless, we must know: Where were you when, during the Republican primaries, Newt Gingrich declared President Obama the “food stamp President,” a racially-coded phrase by which Gingrich sought to establish his bona fides with the most racist elements of your Party? And what did you have to say when it was clear that his remarks were received with such pleasure and glee at the debates in South Carolina? What critique did you offer when Mitt Romney championed self-deportation as a solution to immigration (we know you supported this, Senator Rubio) – a cold-hearted policy that could not truly serve our vulnerable brothers and sisters? Where was your dissent in the face of Pete Hoekstra’s racist, anti-Chinese Super Bowl political ad featuring an Asian woman speaking “broken” English, or Rush Limbaugh’s slurs against Sandra Fluke? Which one of you stepped up strong to confront Michele Bachman’s McCarthy-ite witch hunt of our Muslim brothers and sisters?
Not once during the primary season – or, for that matter, during the past four years – have you raised your voices to object to the virulent racist and sexist assaults launched by the very people with whom you have politically and personally aligned yourself.
And not once did you stand up to the hate that your cohorts continued to espouse after you all chose Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as your candidates.
Who among you, for example, saw fit to speak out against Todd Akin’s morally repugnant rape comments or Sarah Palin’s racially-coded claim that President Obama shucked and jived on the question of Libya or John Sununu’s claim that President Obama is “lazy” and that General Colin Powell endorsed the president because of race or Donald Trump’s calls for President Obama’s academic records or the efforts by birthers to delegitimize our country’s first African American president or Mitt Romney’s disparagement of 47% of the American electorate or Paul Ryan’s sneering disregard of “urban” voters?
Who among you championed the right to vote – denied in the not-so-distant past to our grandmothers and grandfathers – against your Party’s voter suppression efforts?
Have any of you at any time called for your Party to disavow the torrent of hate that regularly spews from such Republican luminaries as Rush Limbaugh and his ilk? Have you disavowed them on your own, and publicly?
And at precisely what point will you decide that your Party’s Southern Strategy is not only ethically bankrupt, but also a racist and therefore immoral electoral game that purchases nothing less than your noncooperation with the GOP agenda?
Sadly, the examples I have given above are only the tip of your Party’s iceberg of offensive comments and, by extension, policies, as they are also a small sampling of your troubling, baffling acquiescence.
From the stories that some of you have delighted in telling, and that we have ourselves relished in hearing, we not only know that you were raised better; we know that you know better. For what we have in common is our communities’ legacy of resistance to injustice and oppression, and from that legacy we understand that it is, in Dr. King’s words, “a moral obligation to refuse to cooperate with evil.”
But it is not just your failure to speak up that dooms you and your Party’s shallow formula for capturing the imagination of the emerging “demographic,” i.e., showcasing the Party through your black and brown bodies.
It is also the fact that we are completely at a loss about what policy difference you actually make.
Case in point, Senator Rubio: instead of heading to Arizona the first thing after the elections, to the state where our brothers and sisters are facing the reality of disenfranchisement and where your support for their right to have their vote counted would not only be welcome, but would also signal an important policy shift as well as a shift in moral consciousness, you instead chose to go to Iowa.
While there, you both defended Mitt Romney’s post-election “gifts” comments and, quite to our astonishment, reiterated your endorsement of Romney as president. “Obviously he’s coming off his election,” you explained. “He was talking to his donors, but you know, I think we’re all gonna move on and we’re gonna move forward, and I hope Mitt will stay involved. I thought he was a great candidate, would have made a great president, and I hope he stays involved in our party.”
What policy difference do you make?
And while you, Governor Jindal, responded aggressively to Mitt Romney’s gifts comments – “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. You know what I mean by that. Certainly, we need to stop making stupid comments” – your diagnosis of the Party’s problem as an issue of making stupid statements hardly constitutes a policy critique. Indeed, while you could have called out and exposed outright the underlying racism and sexism not only of Romney’s comments, but of your Party’s comments generally, you instead chose to play it safe. Specifically, you used the word “stupid” to characterize the comments. That doing so necessarily obfuscates the insidiousness of your Party’s agenda is telling and of course begs the question: What policy difference do you make?
You see, you and your Party will actually need to forward a social justice agenda that speaks to the real needs and aspirations of the communities from which you came (here’s a post-election diagnosis you may not have considered: we thoughtfully assessed – against the requirements of social justice – your Party’s platform, agenda, and candidates, and concluded that yours was not a Party we were bound to respect). But given how steeped your Party is in serving the haves at the expense of the have-nots, and making racism the very meaning and purpose of electoral politics, such a transformation, we realize, is unlikely to occur.
And, of course, given that you’ve shown neither the courage nor the conviction to assert an unwillingness to cooperate with your Party’s unjust and hateful policies and practices, it is simply fantasy to imagine that we will follow you over the racial cliff that is, in the end, your chosen party.
We do not know, quite frankly, what a conservative politics steeped in social justice could look like, but it is our hope that you will find your voices and your courage to create and articulate such a politics – if for no other reason than that the well-being of our country is at stake here. If the past four years tells us anything, it is that “we can no longer afford,” as Dr. King noted, “to worship the god of hate.” That god is tearing this country apart.