Is Ron Paul the Only GOP Candidate who Understands True Racism? Perhaps.
After watching last night’s New Hampshire GOP debate, I’m not so sure anymore that Ron Paul is a racist.
Actually, I never was really sure about that, despite all the headlines he’s been grabbing lately.
In case you’ve been living on the moon for the last month or so, Paul, the perennial Republican presidential candidate who, despite his consistently strong showings in the polls and his legions of almost fanatical followers never seems to gain traction because of his shockingly reasonable views, has been under fire for a series of newsletters published in his name that contain unacceptably racist language. Here’s a sampling:
- December 1989: a Paul newsletter predicts that “Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities” because “mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white ‘haves.'”
- During the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic, a Paul newsletter opined that “I think we can assume that 95 percent of the black men in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”
- August 1992: The Ron Paul Report described Rep. Barbara Jordan, a black Houston Democrat and civil rights leader, as “the archetypal half-educated victimologist, yet her race and sex protect her from criticism.”
- A 1992 Paul newsletter with the headline “Terrorist Update” had this to say about blacks: “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be.”
- Also in 1992, a Paul newsletter said: “Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions.”
This, like I said, is but a sampling of the atrociously racist screed that filled the pages of Paul’s newsletters during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Rep. Paul has tried to distance himself from the racist newsletters by denying knowledge of their content, even though they were published in his name, and disavowing their content.
“I never read that stuff. I never — I would never…” Paul told CNN last month. “I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written, and it’s been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this, and CNN does every single time. So when are you going to wear yourself out?”
But how to explain how such vile filth got published in his name?
“I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren’t really written by me,” Paul told Texas Monthly. “It wasn’t my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady.”
This statement, too, has been found to be lacking in veracity.
And it’s not just those newsletters that have stoked claims that Paul is a racist. According to ThinkProgress, Rep. Paul was the only member of Congress to oppose issuing a Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks in 1999. The vote was 424-1.
Paul has also voiced his opposition to the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, which helped end racial segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks. Paul explained his opposition to the law as rooted in “the property rights element, not because they got rid of the Jim Crow laws.”
“This gimmick, it’s off the wall when you say I’m for property rights and for states rights, and therefore I’m a racist,” Paul fumed. “That’s just outlandish.”
Hmmm… there certainly does seem to be a damning amount of evidence out there that Paul at least tolerated unconscionably racist opinions among his staff and supporters, doesn’t there?
Then I listened to Paul defend himself during last night’s debate. Moderator George Stephanopoulos asked the Texan to explain those newsletters. Here’s how he responded:
“You ought to ask me what my relationship is for racial relationships. And one of my heroes is Marin Luther King because he practiced the libertarian principle of peaceful resistance and peaceful civil disobedience, as did Rosa Parks.”
Perhaps mentioning Parks’ name wasn’t the smartest move, considering his 1999 vote. But then Paul moved on to discuss “true racism” in America. This is where he really got my attention:
I’m the only one up here… that understands true racism in this country. It’s in the judicial system. And it has to do with enforcing the drug laws. The percentage of people who use drugs are about the same with blacks and whites, and yet the blacks are arrested way disproportionately. They’re prosecuted, imprisoned, way disproportionately. They get the death penalty way disproportionately.
How many times have you seen a white rich person get the electric chair or get execution? But poor minorities have an injustice. And they have an injustice in war as well. Because minorities suffer more. Even with the draft, they suffered definitely more. Without a draft, they’re suffering disproportionately. If we truly want to be concerned about racism, you ought to look at a few of those issues and look at the drug laws which are being so unfairly enforced.
Paul is spot-on in his analysis. Take New York City, supposedly one of the most progressive and racially tolerant places in America. Known as Terry stop, police may stop and detain anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” of involvement in a crime, but no probable cause for arrest. In New York City in 2010, 601,055 people were stopped in this manner by police. Officers then search the “suspects” they stop, and here’s where things get really nasty. Marijuana was decriminalized in New York state in the 1970s. But police know that many citizens are unaware of their rights, and when officers ask “suspects” to empty their pockets and they produce small quantities of marijuana, the drug is now in public view and the “suspect” is subject to arrest.
This “stop-and-frisk” policy has disproportionately targeted minorities: a staggering 85% of those stopped in 2010 were black or hispanic, but blacks and hispanics A) make up only 52% of the city’s population, and B) don’t use drugs any more than white people do. Worse yet, of the 601,055 people stopped in 2010, 517,458– 86%– were totally innocent.
Ron Paul is also completely right about the death penalty. In 2006, 3,202 men and 52 women were on death rows across America. Of the condemned, 56% were white, 42% were black. But blacks make up only about 12% of the U.S. population. Something is clearly wrong here. Earlier, David Baldus of the University of Iowa and his research team analyzed death penalty data in the state of Georgia and reached these shocking conclusions:
- Defendants who kill a white person received the death penalty in 11% of murder cases.
- Defendants who kill a black person received the death penalty in 1% of murder cases.
- In cases with a white victim and a black defendant, the black got the death penalty 22% of the time.
- In cases with a black victim and a white defendant, the white got the death penalty 3% of the time.
- In cases with a white victim and a white defendant, the white got the death penalty 8% of the time.
- In cases with a black victim and a black defendant, the black got the death penalty 1% of the time.
Granted, Baldus’ study was published in the 1980s, but not much has changed since then. More recently, the Texas Defenders Service, which defends poor people on death row in Paul’s home state, also found widespread discrimination in death penalty cases. While blacks made up 23% of murder victims in the Lone Star State, less than 1% of Texas executions resulted from the murder of blacks. White women made up just 1% of all murder victims in the state, yet 34% of Texas executions are punishment for the murder of white women.
As you can see, Ron Paul is on to something. As I watched him respond to Stephanopoulos’ question with such frank candor, part of me wondered if he was telling the truth. I am almost 100% certain he was. A Republican who acknowledges the cold, hard facts about racial disparities in drug arrests and death sentences is harder to find than tits on a catfish. Even if Paul was citing those alarming truths in order to deflect attention from his newsletters, the fact that he is even aware of them is something that deserves praise.
Am I totally convinced that Ron Paul does not harbor any racist views? Not at all. But his comments during last night’s debate sure did go a long way toward allaying my worst fears about him. Of all the current sad crop of GOP presidential hopefuls, Paul seems to be the only one who gets it. And a Paul presidency, pregnant with the promise of an immediate end to the absurdly unwinnable ‘War on Drugs’, is the only one that would make progress toward redressing the inequities that plague black and brown Americans today.
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