Race and the RNC: It Ain't Peanuts

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[Elections 2012: Report From Convention]

Tampa, FLORIDA--
Republicans in Tampa could not contain the fury of Hurricane Isaac.

Nor will they contain the force following a racist incident involving an African-American CNN camera-woman. On Tuesday, two White attendees at the Republican National Convention began hurling peanuts at a Black camera-woman working for CNN as they shouted "this is how we feed the animals."

Police arrived and ejected the two miscreants. A statement from CNN confirmed that the incident took place and ends with these words: "CNN worked with convention officials to address this matter and will have  further comment."

And, then, it was supposed to disappear. Both CNN and RNC went about their work. Neither of these institution seemed to fathom the enormity of what had transpired. Or, perhaps they just did not want to deal with a racial incident. It was inconvenient. Yet, this incident speaks to what is deeply wrong with this country when it comes to race.

The RNC had a tightly scripted theatrical production. There was no time for hooligans showing their common ignorance in the house Abraham Lincoln built and among multi-millionaires sustained. It was a time for the Grand Ol' Party to shine.
Tim Scott, Mia Love, and Artur Davis, all Black Republican politicians, spoke of being embraced by the Grand Ol' Party.

They were confused by the unfairness Democrats wanted government to fix. They did not recognize an America with the inequalities President Obama described. Yet, in the same room in which over 4,000 White Republican delegates cheered them, a Black woman was called an animal.

Then, there is CNN. A news organization known for its liberal-leaning cable news, CNN was silent. It was more than willing to go along with the RNC's desire to brush over a racial incident. Whether for political or even social expediency CNN's silence was like a condescending insult. There will be not further comment. The injured person, their employee, was silenced. We were all supposed to be silenced. CNN had spoken. 

Yet, silent would have been unacceptable from FOX News. Such a stance would have been denounced as patriarchal. Commentary deriding it would be free-flowing.

Any questions regarding the identities and home states of the two involved in this incident would have been revealed. Yet, information as to whether they are delegates, relatives of delegates, and employment status would have been readily revealed as well as whether they are members of the Tea Party. 

There is nothing. Nothing. The country is to pretend racial madness is not taking place. Perhaps it is not expedient to their interest. One can only imagine the fall-out from such an incident taking place at an NAACP convention, with a White camera-woman, and two Black men taunting her with animal insults, and throwing food. That story would make international news.  

Liberals are silent. Women are silent, as well. Working behind the camera remains a non-traditional job for women. This victim here, who is yet unnamed, received this coveted RNC assignment. She probably felt excitement, anxiety.

All of which was quickly overshadowed by the hateful acts of these two truly pathetic White grown men. Since neither race nor gender of the offenders was given both facts are relatively simple to deduce. The victim's race and gender are disclosed. Failure to disclose similar information about the two perpetrators equals White and male.
And, finally, the role of the RNC. Witnesses to this hate crime reveal the police were called. The hoodlums were tossed out. The RNC posted a statement condemning the act. The show went on. Except for African-Americans, and anyone else tired of the brute racial tactics displayed over the last fours, enough is enough.
Enough silence. Remaining silent in the presence of racial ugliness will not make racism disappear. Racism only festers in silence. The silence of CNN will not solve anything. Condemnations by RNC mean little if these brazen malefactors were just told to behave better and later slipped back into the convention to vote for the Republican nominee for President.
Only hours after the attack on this innocent Black woman, the RNC proudly paraded Black party members who spoke emotionally about fiscal conservatism. That is their right and privilege. However, ignoring America's racial history is inexcusable. The pain and struggle of African-Americans paved the way for these Black Republicans to ascend to that RNC stage.
The Republicans may be the party of Lincoln. But, they refuse to accept how the slavery Lincoln ended bedevils this country even into the 21st century.  


J. Browne-Marshall, an Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at
John Jay College in New York City, is author of “Race, Law, and American
Society: 1607 to Present,” and a journalist covering the U.S. Supreme
Court. Her forthcoming book is “Black Women and the Law: Salem Witches
to Civil Rights Activists - A Legal History.”

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