Real Life is Messy: Of Ron Paul and Racist Abolitionists
Ron Paul's non-answer about his racist attitudes towards black Americans during the New Hampshire GOP debate was a classic evasion. It was also a virtual admission of guilt.
Akin to a man on trial for murdering his wife--but who insists on talking about how he is a good father--Ron Paul is unable to explain away the racist screeds in his newsletters, opposition to honoring Dr. King with a national holiday, and belief that the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be overturned because black folks' freedom is an imposition on white people's liberty.
Ron Paul is also a beneficiary of a cult of personality. With such status comes a reservoir of good faith among his public. To their eyes, the libertarian messiah could not possibly be a racist, for that would involve some reflection about the relationship between libertarian approaches to government in theory, and how in practice said philosophy enables white supremacy.
In all, if Ron Paul were a private citizen this would be a non-issue: his name is on the masthead of a newsletter which has repeatedly featured racist editorials; he cashes the checks from the subscribers to this newsletter; he believes that Civil Rights legislation is tyrannical towards whites; white supremacists have endorsed his works; his son, also an elected official,shares the same attitudes about sacrificing the full citizenship of black Americans to a "higher principle."
Check and mate.
Ron Paul's defenders have twisted themselves into all sorts of knots as they try to white wash these inconvenient facts. Their most common claim is that because Ron Paul supports ending the ruinous War on Drugs (with its well documented racial disparities in enforcement, imprisonment, and punishment), that he is a believer in racial equality. This is a symptom of a larger dynamic at work in post-Civil Rights era racial discourse
Primarily, the bar for what constitutes racism has been set so high that even the most obvious examples of racial animus have to be couched in careful terms lest an "innocent" white person be branded a bigot. Second, the definition of what constitutes "racism" has been narrowed down to include only bogeyman and caricatures of White wickedness, White hate, White sheets, White race pride tattoos, White hands holding nooses, and White hands burning crosses. And as an auxiliary-enabler of post-Civil Rights race discourse, the lazy newspeak of "playing the race card" was invented precisely to serve as a defense mechanism that exists only to enable such specious concepts as "white oppression" or "reverse racism."
Of course, real life is much more complicated. Here, the argument that Ron Paul is not a racist because he wants to end the War on Drugs is a logical fallacy. Racist people can support policies that are "race neutral." Racists can be "good people." Anti-racists and progressives can be forward thinking in some areas and unrepentant bigots in others. And of course, while many are loathe to admit it, racism is a sin of both liberals and conservatives alike.
As I am so fond of saying, history is once more our greatest teacher. For example, there were abolitionists who wanted to end slavery and the vile trade in human beings, yet who also thought that black Americans were subhuman. There were abolitionists who urged blacks to rise up against the evils of the Southern slaveocracy, yet these same people thought that the presence of Africans in America was a problem to be solved by colonization because their presence was antithetical to white democracy.