Hey, Liberals! Lecture me about racism when you've stopped creating more of it

Mary Katharine Ham

10/27/2006 12:01:11 AM - Mary Katharine Ham

I’m a racist. You’re a racist. He’s a racist. She’s a racist. Wouldn’t you like to be a racist, too?

This election cycle has sounded like a sicko version of that old Dr. Pepper ad. So many people are racists, it’s hard to keep up!

Let’s take a look at this week’s charges of racism, which come from the Left. They focus on two ads in the Tennessee Senate race. This race features Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford, Jr. Corker is a white, former mayor of Chattanooga, and owner of a successful construction business. Ford is a black Congressman from a prominent political family in the state.

Here’s the TV ad in question. Go ahead and watch it. I’ll be here when you get back. The alleged racism lies in the fact that a white, blonde woman says, “I met Harold at the Playboy party,” and entreats him to call her at the end of the ad. The theory of those crying racism is that the idea of a white woman fraternizing with a black man was meant to conjure up some good Old South feelings about interracial dating.

It’s a serious reach to assume that was the intent of the Republican National Committee. Had they featured a black woman asking him to call her, I’m sure there would have been some coded message there as well, like, “Harold Ford should stick to his kind.” I don’t know how the liberal mind works, but I’ve gotta believe if it weren’t this racial overreach, it would have been another one.

People disagree with me on this. Republicans disagree with me on it. Ken Mehlman said he understands the other side’s point of view and Corker disavowed the ad on the grounds that it was “tacky.” Others have told me it was a Republican gaffe, racist or not, because it could be read as racist. Well, frankly, if we limit our political advertising things that won’t offend liberals, we will have no political advertising.

Try the other one on for size. It’s a radio ad, once again anti-Ford. Listen to it, here.

Now, the “racist” story behind this one is that there are drums as soundtrack to the parts of the ad that talk about Harold Ford. Liberal blogs have referred to them as “tom-toms” and “jungle drums,” and suggested that they’re meant to evoke images of Africa, the Dark Continent, thus turning off lily white Southern voters. Of course, it’s hard to make the argument that the anti-Ford ad is accentuating Ford’s ethnic “savagery” when the ad copy refers to his prep-school education and Northeastern roots.

Is it just me or does it feel more likely that the people who see and hear these innocuous ads and immediately jump to accusations of racism are the ones with the racial hang-ups, not Republican Southerners?

All of their theories, of course, are predicated on the idea that Tennesseans, and all Southern conservatives, are troglodytic racists who are boorish enough to vote against a man because he’s black and simultaneously sophisticated enough to pick up on very subtle coded political messages about his race.

I just don’t buy it. Listen, I understand that white Southerners are not wholly undeserving of such suspicions. Neither, certainly, are Republican operatives. I’ve lived in the South my whole life. I have seen much racial strife. But I’ve also seen much racial strife overcome.

The South is a resilient place full of warm people who don’t spend all their time thinking about race. It’s a place where black and white people live side by side, in greater percentages than any other region in the country, and where peace between them is the rule, not the exception.

Tennessee, in particular, was the first former Confederate state to ratify the 14th amendment and it had an anti-Klan law as early as 1868. It elected its first black member of the state General Assembly in 1873—Sampson W. Keeble.

More recently, the state has also elected Harold Ford, Jr. and his father before him to represent the 9th Congressional District from 1975 until now. Those are just a few things you can learn about Tennessee from a quick Google search. The same can be done for any Southern state. The South and its people are not the caricatures the Left makes them out to be.

Do we have a dark history? Yes, of course, but we’ve also proven surprisingly good at overcoming that history, and it never sits right with me when people ride into the South calling out racism where it doesn’t exist, creating more problems, sowing mistrust, and making it harder and harder for people suffering real racism to be taken seriously.

Some people criticized me a month ago for not being sufficiently quick to condemn both George Allen and Jim Webb as racists because of allegations that they had both used the n-word in the past. The allegations are a concern, to be sure, but I’m willing to listen to denials and apologies they offer now for 30-year-old offenses. Why? Because if you can’t believe that men can genuinely change their hearts on matters of race, then you cannot believe the South I love exists.

Sadly, many liberals don’t believe it does, so it’s easy for them to assume the worst of ads like the ones run for Corker in Tennessee this week.

Frankly, I get a little sick of being lectured on race issues by the same people who give a pass to Steny Hoyer for using the word “slavish” in reference to black Maryland Senate candidate Michael Steele. These are the same people who didn’t really mind that Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd used the n-word twice in a 2001 TV interview and didn’t squeal much at all when California Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante dropped the n-bomb during a speech in 2001. They’re the same folks who tolerate blackface Photoshops of Joe Lieberman and thick-lipped, offensive cartoons of Condi Rice.

The Washington Post has printed 168 references to Allen’s questionably racial “macaca” incident, and devoted but one reference to the fact that Webb used the word “towel-heads” in an interview last week.

It’s pretty clear that, for the media and liberals, condemnation for racism is not based on the credibility of the accusations. Instead, it’s handed down based largely on party affiliation. Racism becomes acceptable when perpetrated by a Democrat or a minority. It makes you wonder how serious they are about actually tackling the problem. I happen to dislike racism in all its forms.

Just today, I had to ban a commenter on my blog. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it. He was a liberal and a minority who had taken to using derogatory racial terms for white people. I have a blanket rule against racial slurs and he violated it. When I banned him, he wrote me an e-mail to tell me he was just “showing White people how it feels to be derided.”

Uh huh. He and the rest of the liberals like him can come back and lecture me when they’ve got another idea for fighting racism than creating more of it.

Update: Please enjoy a Townhall video production on this same subject. It's a short video commentary hosted by Mary Katharine Ham. It's something new we're working on at Townhall, and I hope you'll take the time to try out HamNation. It's airing twice a week on the Townhall Blog.