Everyone believes they know evil.
Everyone is wrong.
Evil is not a top hat-wearing, mustachioed man binding a damsel to a train track. Nor is it a chuckling, one-eyed monster baring sharp teeth. Evil is attractive. Evil is an alluring beauty disguised in trustworthiness. Bull Connor wore a badge. Satan was an angel.
No, evil is not some existential element. It is as real as water and dirt. It is a quantifiable, tangible thing that actually exists. Regardless of intent, evil is the result of choosing between one’s own interests and the welfare of others. In a nutshell, evil is selfishness.
Racism is evil.
Racism has nothing to do with intent, hate or how anyone feels in the deep recesses of their heart. If the result of a policy or action disproportionately affects the people of one race, the intent does not matter. Furthermore, if “a political or social system” is founded on, or exhibits those principles, it — by definition — is racist.
And it works.
Racism was on the ballot this week.
To be fair, the choices were not explicitly spelled out on the screens of voting machines or on paper tickets at the polling places, nor was it as simple as Republican versus Democrat. But it was not subtle. Everyone knew.
And still, America chose evil.
72 percent of nonwhite voters in Tuesday’s election voted for Democratic candidates while 73 percent of white voters voted Republican. And it wasn’t just white men. The majority of white women (sorry, National Review, for using that “derogatory term”) voters supported Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp.
And no, all Republicans are not evil or racist. But there were some...
Days before the recent midterm elections, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) endorsed a white supremacist running for mayor of Toronto. King had previously railed against interracial marriage, stating that he’d “like to see an America that’s just so homogenous that we look a lot the same,” and asked, on live television, what nonwhite “subgroups” had ever done for civilization.
This summer, King met with a group founded by an original recipe Nazi (yes, an actual SS officer) to get a “second opinion” on the Jewish Holocaust.
Yet, on Tuesday, more than 157,000 Iowa voters sent him back to Congress.
Many, if not most, of those Iowans would probably tell you that they do not hate black people. They would likely tell you that they voted for his conservative principles or his political ideology. Even though part of Steve King’s ideology includes racism, people are willing to support him. Either his supporters share his beliefs, or they are willing to blithely overlook his dogma and allow him to become, once again, one of the most powerful decision-makers in the country.
Years before his run for Georgia governor, Brian Kemp had already purged, blocked or thrown away the ballots of hundreds of thousands of the state’s voters. And every analysis showed that the disenfranchised citizens were disproportionately black.
Kemp has twice made public comments about the danger of “registering all those minority voters,” and hours before the election, he went back into his treasure trove of scare tactics to tell his Twitter followers that armed Black Panthers were on the side of his opponent, Stacey Abrams.
It worked. Nearly 2 million Georgians voted for him.
Ron DeSantis warned Floridians not to “monkey this up” by voting for his black opponent for governor, Andrew Gillum. He was a moderator on a racist Facebook group. He is the only person for whom the Racist in Chief, Donald Trump has held three campaign rallies. He spoke at a white supremacist’s far-right conference four times. But Ron DeSantis insists he is not a racist even though, as Gillum pointed out, racists seem to think DeSantis is a racist.
Still, four million Floridians voted for him.
The “I’m not a racist, I’m just willing to support and empower racists” attitude is exemplified by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex), who has called out both Donald Trump and Steve King for using racist political tactics. Most reasonable people wouldn’t say that Ted Cruz hates black people or immigrants.
But when push came to shove, Ted Cruz embraced Donald Trump. Ted Cruz gave his full support to Steve King. Ted Cruz now wants to build a wall and make Mexican drug dealers pay for it. Ted Cruz demonized his opponent, Beto O’Rourke, by connecting him to the Central American caravan.
And 4.2 million Texas voters went into voting booths and used their ballots to say: “Relax, it’s just politics, not racism.”
It wasn’t just the winners. 443,000 Kansas voters voted for eventual loser Chris Kobach, the anti-immigrant voter suppressing gubernatorial candidate who created the “Papers Please” policy and is rightfully called “the most racist politician in America.” 145,000 Mississippi voted for Chris McDaniel, who appealed directly to black voters by asking: “After 100 years of begging for federal government scraps, where are you today?”
Even though they didn’t emerge victorious, like their political counterparts, the unsuccessful candidates used their racist strategy for one reason:
It produces results.
The quote that introduced this article was made by Lyndon Baines Johnson during his “And We Shall Overcome” speech. The speech was Johnson’s appeal to a joint session of Congress one week after Alabama state troopers and regular white citizens beat peaceful black protesters to a pulp on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala. in 1965
Congress would ultimately sign the voting rights Act of 1965 into law. But as soon as they did, Southern politicians used it during the run-up to the 1966 midterm elections to stir a white backlash.
In August 1965, a deputy sheriff shot and killed Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who was helping with black voter registration in Alabama. In January 1966, 22-year-old Samuel Leamon Younge Jr., a civil rights activist, was fatally shot by a white gas station for Younge’s blatant attempt at using a segregated restroom. The same month, the home of Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, a wealthy businessman offering to pay poll taxes for black voters who couldn’t afford the fee, was firebombed. Mississippi Klansmen killed Ben Chester White in June 1966, just because he was black.
So, to quell the racial animus, two days before the 1966 midterm elections, President Johnson tried to appeal to the white voters who had been stirred up by racism, saying:
I can think of nothing more dangerous, more divisive, or more self-destructive than the effort to prey on what is called ‘white backlash.’ I thought it was a mistake to pump this issue up in the 1964 campaign, and I do not think it served the purpose of those who did. I think it is dangerous because it threatens to vest power in the hands of second-rate men whose only qualification is their ability to pander to other men’s fears...
“I think that the so-called ‘white backlash’ is destructive, not only of the interests of Negro Americans... Nevertheless, there are those who try to stimulate suspicion into hatred, and to make fear and frustration their springboard into public office. Many of them do it openly. Some let their henchmen do it for them. Their responsibility is the same.
“Racism — whether it comes packaged in the Nazi’s brown shirt or a three-button suit — destroys the moral fiber of a nation. It poisons public life. So I would urge every American to ask himself before he goes to the polls on Tuesday: Do I want to cast my vote on the basis of fear? Do I want to follow the merchants of bigotry?”
It did not work.
In the next Presidential election, Richard Nixon, his adviser H.R. Haldeman and S.C. Senator Strom Thurmond decided to put racism on the ballot. Thurmond had switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in protest of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, so, to win white voters in the South over to the Republican party, he got together with Nixon and Haldeman to develop the “Southern Strategy.” Haldeman said: “[T]he whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognized this while not appearing to.”
Nixon won the 1968 presidential election. The only reason he didn’t turn the South overwhelmingly Republican in that election was that George Wallace, an even more racist candidate, had already vowed to “never be outniggered again.” Wallace’s racist campaign won five states, marking the last time a third-party candidate would ever win a single electoral vote, much less a state.
That election was also the last time any national candidate, other than a Republican, would win the “Solid South.”
There will always be people who answer to dog whistles. Fear-mongering is an effective strategy. Subtle and overt nods to white nationalism always prove fruitful. The suppression of black voters. The purges. The demonization. The lies... White America is willing to ignore it if it gets them lower taxes, a climbing stock market or halts the evil invasion of migrants.
They do not feel the racism in their hearts, but they are willing to allow its existence by empowering the men who perpetrate it. Regardless of their intent, in the choice between good and one’s own self-interests, whiteness remains undefeated.
And the ones who hold their noses and vote for people who blatantly display anti-black, anti-immigrant tendencies, those people do not consider themselves to be racist because they think they know how evil looks.
They do not.
They think they know how racism works but they do not.
And yes, it always works.