If you’re tired of Republicans telling you that they’re not racists because Democrats were the party of the South way back in history, you’re not alone. But don’t blame the conservative—they do, after all, live in their Republican fantasy land of Perfect White America, which naturally was many, many years ago (actually, it never existed).
Here’s the tape to quote when stuck in the logic failure of an argument with a very defensive racist conservative who may or may not be calling you “retarded” in an effort to show prove that you are the bully (irony really is dead and it hurts my head). They won’t get it, but others will, and after all, it’s time to just take pity on the lost people while trying to reach the semi-conscious.
Now, y’all aren’t quoting me on this? You start out in 1954 by saying, “Ni**er, ni**er, ni**er.” By 1968 you can’t say “ni**er”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract now; you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.
And subconsciously maybe that is part of it, but I’m not saying that. I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, that coded, that we’re doing away with the racial problem one way or another. Obviously sitting around saying “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Ni**er, ni**er.” Anyway you look at it, race is coming on the back burner.”
No, that’s not from the 1880s. That’s Lee Atwater in 1981, a major Republican strategist then working in Ronald Reagan’s White House, being interviewed by political scientist Alexander Lamis. Atwater spoke like that while working in the White House under Reagan. Seriously.
But Republicans denied this fact for a very long time. They claimed he was taken out of context, and that Lamis lied. After Lamas died in 2012, James Carter IV (masked avenger of social inequality) approached his widow, Renée Lamis, to see if she might be interested in finally publishing the full interview. She was. After all, for years, Republicans had claimed it was a lie. Carter gave the entire Atwater interview to the Nation last December, where you can listen to the entire audio. Nope. Not out of context. In fact, he clearly admits this after demanding that he won’t be quoted – and that is why Lamis left Atwater’s name off of the quote. Republicans repay ethics and class with character assassination and lies. It’s so sad to see a party without an ounce of integrity left it in.
In the interview, Atwater admitted exactly what anyone who has spent any time in the South already knows. The code words are so enshrined in white privilege that they bear the same unctuous concern as the “kind master” showed his “slave”.
I wont bother explaining that away, because if you’re going to deny that slavery was a bad thing, as many in the Republican Party do, you certainly aren’t ready to make the leap to realizing that equality doesn’t mean one color should be spoken to and about as if they are automatically a non-producing, lazy government teat sucker.
After all, that trait seems well imbued in plenty of white Republicans, rural Southern whites to boot (see food stamp distribution). And red states themselves feel entitled to suck off the federal teat while basking in their do-nothing laziness, steeped in bad policies that don’t generate money or reward productivity, but rather encourage big business to seek welfare from the government. Apparently individual and state level productivity is for Yankees. (I have family who fought on both sides of the war, simmer down.)
Atwater was from South Carolina, where his particular brand of noxious mudslinging still colors the voting patterns of the lost state. They have the starving Republican rural whites shooting each other to prove it, too. Values voters, get it? They hate all the right people because Jesus told them to love their gun, not their neighbor. Thanks, Lee.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.