Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said it’s high time for Americans to give each other “grace” and engage in “honest conversations” about certain hotly charged issues, like racism and blackface and the whole breakdown of political leadership in Virginia and such.
Fine and dandy. “Honest conversations” are always good.
But if this conversation doesn’t start with the double standard of how racism is perceived in this country — then why bother. It’s all for naught.
Here’s a thought: Why are Republicans sold as the party of racists when the Democrats have a Sen. Robert Byrd in their background? Byrd, of course, served as a high-ranking, card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan, yet still managed to get elected to the House in 1952 and then the Senate in 1958. It’s not as if his Democratic Party political career was short-lived; he stayed in the Senate for 51 years until his death. On top of that, West Virginia roads and structures are still dotted with his name.
You’d think his leadership role in the KKK might have proven to be a bigger obstacle to his politicking than it did — especially when, in 1964, he led the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act.
Even noted black civil rights activist and long-time member of Congress John Lewis of Georgia gave the ex-KKKer a pass.
“[His] membership in the Klan … was something he apologized for over and over, time and time again, calling his involvement with the organization a ‘sad mistake,’ ” Lewis wrote in The Hill in July 2010.
Wonder if Lewis would’ve waxed so tolerantly had Byrd been a Republican?
But this is the crux of the equality, tolerance and civil justices ongoing debate in the political world — the hypocrisy that grants some forgiveness, others none. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam — who first admitted he wore blackface in college, then denied — is still in office; he’s a Democrat. A Washington Post-Schar School poll just found almost 60 percent of Virginia’s blacks don’t think he should leave office, either. Imagine that. On the other hand, Rep. Steve King, whose comments on white supremacy were largely taken out of context, was stripped of his committee assignments; he’s a Republican.
Headlines in the left-leaning media mock and condemn Republicans for failing to take enough action against those in the party perceived of racism. The Boston Globe, for instance, ran a piece in January titled, “GOP is shocked! shocked! — to discover racists in the Republican Party.”
But when Democrats are involved in perceived acts of racism? First came The New York Times’ now-famous “dark makeup” coverup of Northam’s blackface.
Then came AOL and Yahoo, providing similar cover for “The View” co-host Joy Behar, who was pictured with darkened skin — umm, blackface? — when she was 29 years old.
“Joy Behar faces backlash over old ‘African woman’ Halloween costume,” Yahoo wrote in AOL.
And let’s not even get started on anti-Semitism and the stones the media will overturn to pretend Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota’s newly seated Democrat, isn’t biased against Jews — or Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, for that matter.
Just this week, Omar was pressed to apologize for tweets seen as anti-Israel. And that was fresh off of dealing with the contentious messaging of another Democratic Party lawmaker, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who just faced scrutiny for a video in which she called Jews “satanic.”
This is just a dip in the list of head-scratchers that see one party getting “get out of jail free” cards, the other — the bars.
But Booker wants “honest conversations” about civil rights’ issues?
Indeed. Let’s. But let’s start the topic off with some long overdue Democratic admissions of racism and anti-Semitism. And let’s continue the conversation with some equally long overdue Democratic admissions of using race and ethnicity for purely political gain.
Maybe then we can move on to the “grace” Booker wants, and forgiveness — and lastly, to problem-solving. Because as long as hypocrisy exists, the country is going to be mired in finger-pointing.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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