Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Sorry Chris Matthews, Mitt Romney has had Quite a Few "Sister Souljah" Moments Already
I am a fan of Chris Matthews. He is one of the few people in the mainstream media who has had the courage to call out Mitt Romney's racist campaign against Barack Obama. While he was a few months late doing so, and yes, I wish Matthews had acknowledged folks like myself and others who have long been speaking truth to power about Romney's racism.
I remain a supporter of his "real talk" approach to political analysis and calling out Romney's post-truth campaign of lies.
However, on Tuesday's edition of Hardball, Matthews simply dropped the ball. It happens to all of us.
While making a direct intervention about Romney's troubled relationship with the truth, Matthews highlighted how the Republican candidate lacked any evidence of character, of a defining moment where the Republican candidate communicated to the public what he really stood for, and the type of man he really is.
Matthews cited examples of true grit by other presidents in order to make this point by comparison.
Problematically, one of those examples included (then candidate) Clinton's "Sister Souljah" moment, when before he became a living legend and supposed friend of black people, the former President called out a mid to low tier black rap artist of middling fame and importance, in order to sure up his bonafides with Reagan Democrats and white independents. Clinton was a "new Democrat." As such, Clinton had to demonstrate how he was not a "liberal." Condemning black people was a convenient means to that end.
Sister Souljah was a stand-in for the mythic welfare queen and "troublesome" complaining black people who had suckled too long on the government tit. Clinton won the presidency, and the support of white voters in 1992, in no small part by mining white racial resentment, and playing on the white racial frame.
In alluding to that example, Chris Matthews made a clear error: appeals to white racial resentment, and "putting the blacks in their place," are not a sign of weakness for white candidate. Rather, they are a way for white candidates to demonstrate character and strength to the white public.
As such, Mitt Romney has had many such "Sister Souljah moments." When the Republican candidate speaks to the NAACP and tells them to their face that they are parasites and he will do nothing for them, or when Romney and his surrogates say that the country's first black president as a lazy welfare king, white people's money stealing, lazy incompetent bum, he has far surpassed Bill Clinton's signifying on Sister Souljah.
The ultimate point of Clinton's mention of Sister Souljah--and what Matthews forgot--was to demonstrate how black people are anti-citizens who need to be disciplined. White people could trust Clinton to do so. Romney's whole campaign is similarly oriented: he will keep the "uppity blacks" like Obama, and those inspired by him in their place; Romney is no friend to the colored or darker races--this is why so many white voters are flocking (against their economic self-interest) to support the Republican candidate.
American society is sick with racism. We all inhale and breathe it in. Consequently, even when they are speaking the truth, and their hearts are in the right place, pundits like Chris Matthews can make an honest mistake and use ill-fitting, improper examples to make a compelling point about Mitt Romney's cowardice.
Matthews' error was not fatal. But, it was a healthy reminder of how the white racial frame operates across both sides of the political divide.
Posted by chaunceydevega at 11:12 AM