As the Republican presidential context heats up, so does the racist rhetoric. And, in some quarters, white voters are giving that kind of rhetoric a standing ovation. Yet, The New York Times, the nation’s leading news organization, seems unwilling to clearly and unequivocally call out the obvious racism of the GOP.
(Image from CNN)
In an excellent piece at FAIR, Peter Hart writes that:
“When a Republican presidential candidate goes around talking about Barack Obama as the ‘food stamp president,’ eventually reporters are going to have to write about racism.”
Mr. Gingrich was clearly making the case that he is the candidate most able to take the fight to Mr. Obama in the fall, but he was also laying bare risks for his party when it comes to invoking arguments perceived to carry racial themes or other value-laden attack lines.
Hart’s take on the reporting here is, “this is the kind of language one expects to encounter when reporters have to figure out ways to talk about racism without calling it racism.”
It’s also an excellent example of the kind of white racial framing that the NYTimes routinely offers readers. And, of course, this is no coincidence. The NYTimes is a HWO (historically white organization) serving a predominantly white readership. (If you have any doubts about how how white the NYTimes is, watch the documentary “Page One” for a glimpse of who’s running the shop there.) So, it makes sense that their reporting is from a white perspective for a white audience.
The NYTimes does not seem to have trouble acknowledging, at least on the opinion pages, the whiteness of the GOP candidates, most notably the unmitigated whiteness of Mitt Romney. (Yet, even in that article, the title is “What’s Race Got to Do With It?” eliding a bit the thoroughly racial content of the article.)
Political heavyweights who declined to enter the 2012 race all had uniquely personal reasons. Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana faced family resistance; former Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi feared being bogged down in the politics of race; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey doubted his readiness for the Oval Office.
Again, Harwood is side-stepping the obvious issue of racism here with the euphemism of “the politics of race.” Those with a political memory longer than a minute will recall that just last year (2010), Barbour was extolling the supposed virtues of the white supremacist Citizens Council groups in Mississippi. In Barbour’s re-imagined civil rights history, these were anti-Klan activists, when of course, these were simply the suit-and-tie version of the KKK, founded to oppose school integration as critics pointed out at the time. Yet, the NYTimes obfuscates this with their description of the “bog” of racial politics.
Fortunately, there are excellent writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic) who do not share the timidity of the NYTimes when it comes to the racism of the GOP. Coates writes:
“When a professor of history calls Barack Obama a ‘Food Stamp President,’ it isn’t a mistake to be remedied through clarification; it is a statement of aggression. And when a crowd of his admirers cheer him on, they are neither deluded, nor in need of forgiveness, nor absolution, nor acting against their interest. Racism is their interest. They are not your misguided friends. They are your fully intelligent adversaries, sporting the broad range of virtue and vice we see in humankind.”
Coates is right, of course. Those who stood and cheered Gingrich in South Carolina earlier this week were standing and cheering their own interests. Gingrich’s performance in South Carolina is part of what prompted Chauncey DeVega to call this “air raid siren” racism (instead of “dog whistle” racism).
Rather than offer a scathing critique and analysis of this, the NYTimes gives the GOP and racism a pass.