MANSFIELD: Nasty Habits

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” wrote William Shakespeare. The same thing can be said for the large number of supporters of Ron DeSantis, the Republican candidate for governor in Florida, who went on Fox News the day after that state’s primary election and cautioned voters not to “monkey this up” by choosing his African-American opponent Andrew Gillum over him in the upcoming fall general election.

DeSantis’ apologists have been all over media, vociferously stating that his “monkey” comment had no racial “dog whistle” undertone, and they have stated that for anyone to think otherwise is yet another demonstration of progressives wrongly characterizing Republicans as racists. Of course, not all Republicans are racists (just look at the life and character of the recently deceased John McCain) but a goodly number of them are — just as there are some racist Democrats.

However, given the history of bigotry our country is freighted down with, and the frequency with which some whites have sought to denigrate blacks by making simian comparisons, what are we to think? Indeed, how many times were Barack Obama and his wife compared to monkeys during his presidency? So please excuse us people of African descent if we don’t buy the false apologies and weak explanations.

The fact is, these whites are seeking to tell us blacks what we should or should not be offended by, and this is in and of itself offensive — and demonstrates the height of privileged white thinking. For centuries, many whites have felt they have the right to treat blacks any way they damn well please in America. It’s habitual, and these nasty habits die hard — and with some, they don’t die at all.

What whites have been doing for the last decade or so is attempting to do a form of judo on the question of bigotry. Whenever a black person lodges a charge of racism, racist whites try to flip it and call that person a racist instead for making such a claim. They often posit that blacks are the ones keeping racism alive by talking about it, and if we would simply shut up racism would go away.

This is akin to the thinking of our Founding Fathers, who ducked the issue of slavery during the framing of the Declaration of Independence. Their view — which was meant to appease southern slave owners — was that the “peculiar institution” would simply fade away, come to an end all by itself if they ignored the issue. But as the Civil War so decisively proved, they were dead wrong. It cost over half a million American lives to end this pernicious practice.

Similarly, those who posit that racial hatreds that were centuries in the making would end once the Civil War was over were also dead wrong. In fact, losing that conflict caused the animosity of many Southerners towards blacks to only intensify. When whites could no longer own us they began a concerted effort to institute slavery by another name: Jim Crow. They attempted to castrate and lynch us into submission, and for a while, it almost worked.

Indeed, with every step of black progress in America, there has been a severe white backlash; we saw it again after the signing of the Civil Rights Bill in 1964, and we are seeing it now with the election of Donald Trump, which in large part was a reaction to the presidency of Barack Obama. The startling and dramatic rise of fascism in this country over the last two years, while amazing, should have — given our past — been predictable.

A large part of the political pain many Americans are currently experiencing has to do with the fact that Trump knew more about a certain segment of America than we did. He knew what hatreds and fears were simmering and festering in the body politic of some, and how to connect with them. The “monkey” remark by Ron DeSantis is simply another manifestation of how many whites in this country still view matters of race.

President John Adams and his wife Abigail incessantly warned other the founders of our Republic of the evils of slavery and the wrongness of pitting of one race against the other. They predicted that it, more than anything else, could lead to our eventual downfall. While we won’t fall as a nation, we are and will continue to be hobbled on the world stage by our history as other countries — such as China, Russia, and India, all of which have homogeneous populations — blow past us in terms of economic and political leadership. We’re setting ourselves up to be relegated to the dustbin of history.

That’s why these midterm elections are truly among the most significant in memory — more important than any recent presidential election by far. All over the country gubernatorial and congressional races will — similar to the one in Florida — pit Trump supporters against progressive Democrats, and the outcomes will determine what kind of country we want to (and will) have for decades to come.

To quote another dead president, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” — Thomas Jefferson.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.

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