(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.
So again, let's be honest.
Mitt Romney making a statement and Joe Biden making a statement are two very different situations. This is not to defend everything Biden has ever said, because he's put his foot in it numerous times. Remember when he described Obama as clean and articulate? Yeah, please refer back to my earlier reference to the black community and the left.
But yes, things being said by different people who have different philosophies, allegiances and experiences will be judged differently. This isn't a double standard per se. This is what humans do. We listen to words and look at where those words are coming from. If my best friend told me to "screw off," I'd take that very differently than from a stranger. I'm not applying a double standard. I'm using context.
The Nieman Journalism Lab recently wrote about a mockup of the New York Times home page. But instead of the regular Times articles, it was populated with all Fox News headlines. They discussed the fact that people react differently to news depending on the source.
I'd argue that anyone paying attention to politics at all knows all this to be a fact. Take a look at the Obama presidency. Obama has at times made statements and put forth ideas that Republicans have said before, and yet now that Obama said it, somehow these ideas are socialism and left-wing nut-baggery.
The Republican Party gets critiqued more because of what it has allowed to become its narrative. The GOP sat by and let the president get birth-checked by Donald Trump and other radical-turned-mainstream members of the party. The GOP is the party known for the Southern strategy. The GOP is the party that sent Michael Steele to get black folks on its side. The GOP is the party that actively attacks affirmative action, using black and brown faces while never acknowledging how much white women benefit from the policy.
The GOP praises race-baiters like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the late Andrew Breitbart. The GOP allowed Newt "Poor Black Kids Should Work as Janitors" Gingrich to reach the final four during its presidential primaries. The GOP's presidential candidate spoke to the NAACP, using it as a political pawn — creating a "backbone" moment as opposed to connecting with this part of the electorate.
Time and time again the GOP refuses to acknowledge the party's own issues when it comes to race but instead throws a middle finger in the face of the aggrieved and lets out a throaty "Get over it." This is what the party has become known for.
I'm sorry — you were asking about some sort of "double standard"?
Elon James White is a writer and satirist and host of the award-winning video and radio series This Week in Blackness. Listen Monday to Thursday at 1:30 p.m. EST at TWIB.FM and watch at TV.TWIB.ME/LIVE. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr.