Ron Paul's Moment of Racial Clarity

His recent comments about institutional racism defy the GOP norm.

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Nationally, the Nobel Prize-worthy humanitarian research of the Innocence Project has freed 281 wrongfully convicted death row inmates. Undergirding Rep. Paul's observations about the racial disparity of the U.S. criminal-justice system, only 28 percent of those exonerated were white.

This racial skeleton trotted out of the closet not only offended Paul's rivals before the shocked GOP audience; the revelation also seemed to disorient the ABC panel.

Institutionalized racism, apart from the petit charges and countercharges about who said what slur when, has a knack of throwing a wrench into polite, mainstream media discourse. As the other panelists gasped, it fell to ABC's Diane Sawyer to change the subject, never to be continued that night or likely any other. "We want to take a break right now," she said, ticking off a few different topics to be discussed upon their return.

Even Herman Cain -- remember him? -- contorted himself to be used as a requisite lead pipe against this particular Democratic president. This was no easy trick for the Godfather Pizza dealer.

Dark as a pocket, Cain conspired in the GOP whitewash by, among other shows of loyalty, accusing African Americans of being "brainwashed" for voting for the Democratic Party. And he declared himself to be "an ABC, an American Black Conservative," occasionally breaking out to sing hokey church hymns that would raise nary a brow at a Pat Robertson revival. "He Looked Beyond My Faults," indeed; here, folks, is a lily-white black if ever there was one.

To date, save for an occasional flourish by, say, NBC's Brian Williams, the media seem to be going along with the GOP whitewash. Structurally, they appear unprepared to recognize and pinpoint a discussion about gross institutional racism of the type that a piqued Rep. Paul disclosed in that quick burst fired off in retaliation.

Not a single entity hosting the 14 GOP debates so far has seated a single African American as primary questioner on the panels: not ABC, CNN, Facebook, WMUR, NBC News, the Manchester Union Leader, Fox TV -- not even the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

It is most curious in this complex, multiracial republic that such a desperate consortium of GOP candidates, debate hosts, audiences and cross-examiners are working to select a, yes, white family to replace the Obamas and first dog Bo in the White House. Hmmm.

Les Payne is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and frequent contributor to The Root.

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