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Colorblind Racism: The New Norm

The GOP candidates don't see their racial rhetoric as offensive. You got a problem with that?

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But this is only the least of offenses. The former House speaker has been using blatantly racist rhetoric to attack President Obama for the past two years. Starting with the suggestion that Obama could only be understood through a Kenyan, anti-colonialist mindset -- an idea he borrowed from the equally problematic Dinesh D'Souza -- to his oft-repeated correlation of the president with food stamps and welfare dependency, Gingrich refuses to accept responsibility and is quick to accuse liberal media of bias.

Mitt Romney, the candidate most likely to receive the nomination, was not immune. In response to a question from Rick Santorum, Romney declared his opposition to extending voting rights to convicted felons, an issue that disproportionately affects African-American and Hispanic males and is a direct result of the vast disparity created by the drug wars implemented during the Reagan administration.

Romney also promised to veto the Dream Act, a law supported by Obama's White House, which would allow the children of long-term, illegal immigrants to gain citizenship while proving themselves through military service or higher education. All these statements reflect a post-Tea Party conservative climate, which is fueled by xenophobia and racial animus.

Perhaps if these instances had not become so commonplace, they could be disregarded as gaffes, but following Santorum's remark in Iowa that he did not want "to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money" and the unearthing of a new set of newsletters from Ron Paul's past framing African Americans as ravenous criminals, the racism is too obvious to be dismissed as subtle subtext.

In his article, Rosenberg notes that one of the central frames at the core of colorblind racism is "minimization of racism, [which] suggests discrimination is no longer a central factor affecting minorities' life chances ('It's better now than in the past' or 'There is discrimination, but there are plenty of jobs out there'). It remembers the past with a highly selective intent, to excuse the evil that remains."

Gingrich, Paul and Santorum convey textbook definitions of the minimization of racism. Paul "can't remember" who wrote what and thinks "it's not important anyway." Gingrich doesn't see anything wrong with any of his comments about the poor and blacks. Santorum's excuse is "blah." They each adopt a cavalier attitude toward the feelings of minorities and suggest that the fuss is much ado about nothing.

Just a quick look at Gingrich's rise in the polls and his recent win in South Carolina explains why it's a winning strategy among white GOP primary voters. The latest Gallup poll shows the race in a dead heat nationally, with Gingrich at 28 percent to Romney's 29 percent. Romney has essentially lost any advantage he had before the South Carolina primary.

Yet the American public and media have developed an acute sense of political correctness, which allows conservative politicians like Gingrich to lie and bait so outrageously without being called to task. And when confronted, Republicans are always quick to deny any malicious intent.

As I expressed in a previous article, poor whites have been encouraged to vote against their own economic interests; more broadly, middle-class whites are encouraged to vote against their better judgment. They are manipulated by race-baiting tactics that lead them to believe that the social ills of the nation are caused by the black and brown poor -- or, as Gingrich would have you believe, the black "elite" currently residing in the White House.

The political rhetoric being espoused from the far right has become inundated with corrupt language born of a racist past that still plagues the American consciousness. An informed electorate can no longer excuse blatant racism as a casual, social faux pas.