Ron Paul's Moment of Racial Clarity

His recent comments about institutional racism defy the GOP norm.

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The debate fell silent Saturday when Ron Paul trotted out of the closet the GOP skeleton of denial: racism.

Initially confronted with "racist" diatribes penned by another writer in a newsletter under his name, Rep. Paul dismissed them as a 20-year-old nonissue. Then, suddenly, as if the 76-year-old libertarian realized that he had nothing to lose, Paul pivoted dramatically away from alleged petit racism of words to gross de jure racism of deeds.

"True racism in this country is in the judicial system," he said in his counterattack to the ABC News panelist at the New Hampshire debate. "And it has to do with enforcing the drug laws.

"Look at the percentages. The percentages of people who use drugs are about the same with blacks and whites. And yet the blacks are arrested way disproportionately. They're prosecuted and imprisoned way disproportionately. They get the death penalty way disproportionately.

"How many times have you seen a white rich person get the electric chair or get, you know, execution?"

This flipping of the script flummoxed the other GOP candidates, who looked betrayed as the audience gazed up in a deafening silence.

Such open admission of deep, structural racism in America is considered heresy among Republicans, white or black -- notwithstanding the statistical facts of the matter. The death-penalty bias is also sacrosanct. A few debates ago, a GOP crowd rattled the rafters with applause when Texas Gov. Rick Perry boasted about losing no sleep over executing inmates at a rate of two a month during his entire 10-year reign!

This draconian pace of state killings makes Perry a GOP star while rendering him exhibit A as a practitioner of the judicial excesses his fellow Texan cited in the debate Saturday.

More death row inmates have been freed through DNA testing in Texas than in any other state in the nation, according to the Innocence Project. The 42 prisoners were released from institutions where the majority of death row inmates are either African American or Latino. The black population of Texas is 12 percent.

In one such case, the DNA evidence was so overwhelming that even execution-happy Perry was persuaded to grant the state's first-ever posthumous pardon. The inmate, who died in prison, had spent 13 years on death row for a wrongful rape conviction, followed by a campaign by his family to clear his name.