Race Baiting?

Here’s Why the Republican Party’s Minority Outreach Effort Won’t Work

Kirsten Powers on the explosion of conservative vitriol after Obama’s understated remarks on race.

Earlier this year, following an “autopsy” of the Republican Party, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus announced that the party would spend $10 million to help attract minority votes.

He may as well set that money on fire. It would do just as much good for the GOP. One need look no further than the last week to understand exactly why non-whites do not see a home when they look at the Republican Party.

Following Obama’s decidedly understated and eloquent remarks on race in the White House briefing room, the conservative commentariat exploded. The Daily Caller blared, “Obama Goes Full Race-Baiter,” and National Review dubbed the remarks “The Obama Administration’s Race-Baiting Campaign.” The Washington Times ran a column under the headline “Obama throws begging blacks a race bone with Trayvon Martin.”

Conservatives took to Twitter and the blogosphere to claim that Obama was “our first racist-in-chief” and was “stoking a race war.” Radio host Mark Levin trashed Obama’s attempt at putting the George Zimmerman verdict in perspective with the claim that the president is always “ripping at the fabric of the nation” and was a “disgrace.” At City Journal, Heather Mac Donald complained, “Obama has now put the presidential imprimatur on the crudest kind of racial victimology.”

The carnival of contempt echoed the sentiment of Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), who in a radio interview admonished African-Americans upset over the killing of Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman verdict to “get over it.”

Crystal Wright, who runs the website ConservativeBlackChick.com, wrote in The Washington Times: “How did the death of this black teen rise to the level of a national crisis? It happened because race hucksters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson decided it was a national story, and because Obama obliged them.”

I suppose one could ask why the life and death of the white woman Terri Schiavo became a national crisis requiring the intervention of a (white) president. Or why did America obsess over the trial of Jodi Arias, who killed a white man? Or Scott Peterson, who had white victims? It’s incredible that one case has garnered national attention that involves the death of a black person and that this is a cause to start hurling accusations about how anyone who cares about it is a racist.

Conservatives also seem to have taken the Trayvon Martin case as an opportunity to try to position themselves as the only ones who care about “black on black” violence—their new obsession—and accuse Obama of disregarding it. In criticizing Obama’s race remarks, Wright echoed the complaint of the week: “Obama has never bothered to speak about the mass scale killing of blacks by blacks in his own home, Chicago.”

In February of this year, Obama traveled to Chicago to give a speech on gun violence. He said of the 65 children killed by gun violence last year in Chicago, “That’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.” During the 2012 campaign, Obama said in an MTV interview, “I live on the South Side of Chicago. Some…murders are happening just a few blocks from where I live. I have friends whose family members have been killed.” Following the tragedy in Newtown, Obama referenced Chicago gun violence in his remarks.

Michelle Obama has traveled multiple times to Chicago to meet with teenagers who live with gun violence and has spoken passionately about it. The parents of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Chicago girl killed by gun violence, were the first lady’s guests at the State of the Union address. And President Obama also discussed Hadiya’s death in his address that night. It’s a long way from “never” talking about Chicago gun crime.

Conservatives also have been demanding that Obama explain why he offered remarks about Trayvon Martin but not Antonio West. West was a 13-month old Georgia baby who was tragically shot in the face by two black teenagers and died. Obama clearly hasn’t spoken about this because he supports white babies being murdered. Especially by black people. Really, what other explanation could there be for his silence? Conservatives can’t think of one.

Well, for starters, the two teenagers were arrested and are being prosecuted. How strange would it be for Obama to show up in the White House briefing room to discuss it? While the baby’s killing is a horrific crime, it has nothing in common with the Martin case, and to connect the two is bizarre. Why is Obama held to this crazy standard that if he mentions the death of a black person, he is somehow obligated to weigh in on a crime against a white person to prove he isn’t racist?

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That Obama’s sincere and heartfelt remarks about what it’s like to be black in America were cast as some racist assault on the American people tells you everything you need to know about the impossibility the Republican Party faces in attracting black voters. Priebus should spend his money elsewhere.