The GOP, Race and Hypocrisy

A racial double standard for Democrats and Republicans? Only if you disregard history and context.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

(The Root) — I know I brought the following on myself. Asking me “Why would you do such a thing?” will be a complete waste of typing and/or breath: I tuned in to Sean Hannity’s radio show.

I’ve already stated that I’m aware of my error. I was having a delightfully peaceful afternoon, and then I volunteered to have my ears assaulted and my common sense tackled by a “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker”-styled idiotic argument.

Hannity, in the wake of “Ryan is not making everything as magical as we thought he would, so let’s puff up a controversy around Joe Biden”-gate, was doing what all good Republicans do when there’s a chance to attack race: Yell about a double standard.

“If a Republican said what Biden said about the opposing party putting people ‘back in chains,’ the left would’ve demanded they retract that statement and apologize!” This was the war cry heard throughout right-wing media.

It sounds so good, right? Liberals, progressives and Democrats are such phonies. They attack poor, innocent Republicans if they say something that “supposedly” has racial undertones, but if a Democrat does it, they clap and cheer and do the Electric Slide in celebration!

Well, that argument works only if you live in a bubble where, by some magical spell, there’s no such thing as history or context.

Oftentimes, when Republicans are criticized for coded phrases and insensitive rhetoric, they immediately yell that they had no idea that what they said could possibly be perceived in the evil, politically correct light that Democrats are shining on it. And oftentimes I agree with them. I don’t think they saw the problem.

Of course, I believe that their lack of insight has less to do with innocence and more to do with privilege. They didn’t have to see it. They didn’t have to acknowledge what the rhetoric meant because in their land of whiteness and traditional honey, these statements don’t mean what they do when you interact in a space with a mixture of race, class and gender that better reflects the ever-changing population of America.

But what of this double standard? It’s clear why someone like Hannity might think that Democrats get a pass for language Republicans wouldn’t get away with.

It’s not because of maliciousness. It’s not because of a desire among blacks to demonize Republicans and praise Democrats. Because let’s be honest here: Many members of the black community are quite aware of the racial issues within the so-called left-wing political sphere. Black Americans may vote Democrat a majority of the time, but don’t conflate “We’re together for this battle” with “OMG! You guys are so racially sensitive and understanding of our community! We shall give you our support!” However, the underlying idea of “the left” at its best is one of inclusion and an acknowledgment of historical failures and subjugation, and their effect on society today.