…not Howard University, mind you, because the speech he just gave was problematic to say the least. I’m talking about finishing school. Rand Paul can’t seem to help himself with the offensive speeches. Senator Paul, I try to ignore you for the most part, thinking, hoping really, that you might just go away. So when you go in front of the U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and break into a Pablo Neruda poem, I just roll my eyes and let it go. But now I realize that clearly I have erred in thinking that the problem of you saying offensive things in public will eventually self-resolve. You’re in need of an intervention. So here’s a list of fun tips that will help when talking to us “ethnics.”
1.) Lay off the stereotypes. When expressing your feelings about a people or culture, even if that feeling is admiration, try not to lean on really tired (and yes, still offensive) caricatures to make your point. For example, NEVER in your life should you say:
Some say to generalize about any ethnic group is be a racist. There is a hilarious Seinfeld episode where Jerry admits that he loves Asian women but he frets and worries, “Is it racist to like a certain race?”
Unfortunately, you did in fact say that. Slate has the full text of the speech. First of all, generalizing about an ethnic group is universally known to be pretty fucking racist. Apparently, this info hasn’t filtered down to Kentucky yet. But a good rule of thumb is you have any question at all in your mind as to whether a particular statement is racist or not, best to avoid it altogether. Sadly, you continued:
So it is with trepidation that I express my admiration for the romance of the Latin culture. I am a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez….No one captures the romance of the Latin culture more than Pablo Neruda.
On that embarrassingly transparent note, let’s consider the next point…
2.) The name-dropping has to more subtle. Earlier in the speech he even mentioned Jaime Escalante. Let’s see, Jaime Escalante, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Pablo Neruda, seriously? It’s like you were watching HBO Latino late one night and Stand and Deliver was on, followed by Love in the Time of Cholera and then a preview for the Pablo Neruda movie. Are we supposed to be impressed that you enjoy our hot-blooded antics? Claro que si! Just so you know, we’re not. Congratulations on having premium cable, though.
Moving on to my other ethnicity, let ‘s get into the Senator’s Howard U. speech.
3.) Understand that Google exists. I’m not going to waste too much time getting into how much he lied to the Howard students about his new-found support fort he Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mostly because the Washington Post has already done a masterful job of it. Only three Pinocchio’s seems generous. But suffice it to say that Senator Paul is on record multiple times saying he’s uncomfortable with the part of the Civil Rights Act that precludes businesses from discriminating against, you know, black people. Defend your statements or say you’ve had a change of heart, but this is the internet age. Claiming that you didn’t say something is pretty easy to check. Easier still if I saw you do it live on the Rachel Maddow Show.
4.) Lay off the condescension — especially when it reaches the level of absurdity. Case in point: when addressing a large group of students at a historic black college, it’s best not to be surprised that they actually know something about Black History. We’ll pick the story up in the Atlantic:
“How many of you, if I were to have said, ‘Who do you think the founders of the NAACP were, did you think they were Republicans or Democrats?’ would everybody in here know they were Republicans?” Audience members laughed as several yelled, “We know that!” At another point, Paul forgot the name of former Republican Sen. Edward Brooke, the first popularly elected African-American senator, a mistake that drew laughter as a number of people yelled out Brooke’s full name.
The point he’s trying to make is the Republicans are the party of social justice. While it’s comical to try draw parallels between the Republican Party of the 19th century with the party of today, he is partially right on that score: the Republican Party used to be the party of social justice. However, nowadays, it’s more known for being openly hostile to minorities. That’s why it’s always such a big deal for Republicans to go speak in front of the NAACP or Howard University.
The Black vote coalesced around the Democratic party after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. But it goes back even further than that. Truman started the process to desegregate the army in 1948. Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order forbidding discrimination by defense contractors in 1941. These landmark pieces of legislation and executive orders were signed by Democratic presidents. Small government and states’ rights — which Republicans love to talk about — are the things that historically were used to disenfranchise minority groups or try to stop the integration of schools. Senator Paul continued:
“I think what happened during the Great Depression was that African-Americans understood that Republicans championed citizenship and voting rights but they became impatient for economic emancipation.” And he added that today, “Democrats still promise unlimited federal assistance and Republicans promise free markets, low taxes, and less regulations that we believe will create more jobs. The Democrat promise is tangible and puts food on the table, but too often doesn’t lead to jobs or meaningful success.”
Which brings us to #5….
5.) Stop insulting us. Remember when Mitt Romney told a bunch of donors that the reason Obama won the election was because of all the gifts he promised? Well, this is a slightly fancier version of the same bullshit. Could it be perhaps that constituencies vote the way they vote because of a sober understanding of how each party’s policy affects them personally? I think so. Failing that, maybe the outright racist remarks that Republican officials keep making or the fact that conservative judges think of the Voting Rights Act as perpetuating racial entitlements, hasn’t endeared them to the Black or Latino communities. Seems likely. Either way, not-so-subtly stating that if only we were smarter and didn’t blindly grab onto any old free stuff we were offered, we’d totally vote Republican, is not the way to go.
Also, Abraham Lincoln has about as much to do with the modern-day Republican Party as Andrew Jackson has to do with the modern-day Democratic Party. So stop with the Paleolithic Party Alliance fossil hunt, the strawman talking points and the facile attempts at cultural appreciation. Instead, please at least try to understand that your current relationships with and policy implications for living, breathing minority voters is the relevant piece of the puzzle.