Everyone is entitled to their own opinion — even when it is shockingly anachronistic. A breakout session at CPAC yesterday titled “Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You’re Not One?” degenerated into a shoutfest as approximately 20 members of a group calling itself the “White Students Union” at Towson State University in Maryland showed up and raised some hackles with their behavior.
The Atlantic’s Elspeth Reeve gives a reasonably balanced account of the session that should make any conservative cringe.
The session was conducted by two African American brothers — K. C. Smith and KCarl Smith — who call themselves “Frederick Douglass Conservatives.”
[T]he discussion began with their argument that the Republican Party can reach out to blacks, women, Latinos, when it starts talking about the constitutional principles Douglass espoused when he campaigned for Abe Lincoln. It was southern Democrats, after all, who fought for slavery and created Jim Crow laws. The first jeers began when a black woman, who would not give her name, said the idea that liberals are the true racists is ridiculous because so many Southern Democrats defected to the Republican Party. But the madness started when Scott Terry, one of the 23 members of the White Students Union at Towson University in Maryland attending CPAC, raised his hand and suggested the GOP might do better as “Booker T. Washington Republicans” — “united like the hand, but separate like the fingers.”
No one raises an eyebrow when Louis Farrakhan and other Black Nationalists say exactly the same thing — separate but equal. But it is entirely appropriate to be outraged that a white person would suggest segregation in this day and age. You don’t need to be a liberal to find that kind of nonsense objectionable, bordering on hate speech.
As is the White Student Union’s take on slavery:
Scott Terry of North Carolina, accompanied by a Confederate-flag-clad attendee, Matthew Heimbach, rose to say he took offense to the event’s take on slavery. (Heimbach founded the White Students Union at Towson University and is described as a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)
“It seems to be that you’re reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males,” Terry said, adding he “came to love my people and culture” who were “being systematically disenfranchised.”
Smith responded that Douglass forgave his slavemaster.
“For giving him shelter? And food?” Terry said.
This kind of schtick resonates with some on the right — especially white, working class males who complain about affirmative action and preferential hiring practices. Statistics don’t bear out that argument as white males have a lower unemployment rate than blacks or women.
Terry’s “young, white southern males” being disenfranchised is a myth designed to create resentment. And boy were they resentful at CPAC. When Kim Brown, a radio host and producer with Voice of Russia, a broadcasting service of the Russian government, got up and tried to ask a question, chaos ensued:
Brown, who took offense at the suggestion modern Democrats were descendants of the KKK, tried to ask a question later once things finally calmed down. She was booed and screamed at by audience members.
“Let someone else speak!” one attendee in Revolutionary War garb shouted.
“You’re not welcome!” a white-haired older woman yelled.
Eventually she asked a question. It was about whether Republicans should call out racist ads.
Attendees interviewed by TPM afterwards expressed outrage at the way the event turned out. Not at Terry and Heimbach — they were mad at Brown.
Chad Chapman, 21, one of the few black attendees, said overall he enjoyed the event — except “there were lots of interruptions, mainly because of the woman.”
I asked whether he was concerned about the question from Terry and Heimbach.
“No they were just telling the truth,” he said. You mean you agree blacks are systematically disenfranchising whites, I asked?
“I listen to anybody’s point of view, it doesn’t really matter,” he said.
Sorry, but this kind of tone-deafness on the part of some conservatives — along with the exploitation of scenes like this by Democrats — is why “outreach” to minorities is such a difficult task. Clearly, there were many conservatives present at the session who disapproved of the talk of segregation and Terry’s take on slavery. But it is equally clear that there is a small, but vocal subset on the right who hold obnoxiously outmoded and outdated views on race. I don’t have the ability to peer into their hearts and discern whether or not they are truly racist. But they talk like ignorant racists which is what black Americans hear when they bother to listen to conservatives.
Blacks don’t hear talk of the GOP being the opportunity party, or the party that fights for inner city parents who support the idea of vouchers to send their kids to a school of their choice. They tune out the call to end dependence and substitute dignity and self reliance. Nor do they hear about Republican focus on faith and family as the rock upon which communities survive.
Whose fault is it that blacks and other minorities hear the Scott Terrys and Matthew Heimbachs and not the Smith brothers, or Tim Scott, or Alan West? We can blame the media and blame the Democrats but ultimately, the fault lies with conservatives and the Republican party. You cannot condemn strongly enough the kind of rank bigotry on display at CPAC emanating from the White Student Union and others. While being allowed to spout their segregationist nonsense, they should have immediately been chastised and shamed for their wretched views.
I was glad to see CPAC disallow the John Birch Society from co-sponsoring the event. That is a step in the right direction. But until the rest of us come down swiftly and hard on the bigots and hate speakers in our midst, minorities will have no reason or cause to listen to what we have to say.