It’s not uncommon for Republicans to deny systemic racism exists in America. It’s actually a core part of many of their political identities at this point. Claiming the other side makes everything about race and identity politics is the name of the game. And it’s a game conservatives mastered awhile ago.
Still, that doesn’t make it any less cringeworthy (or, frankly, infuriating) when some bloated white conservative politician starts crowing about how racism doesn’t exist when there are so many obvious examples of it in day-to-day life.
For the politician role, enter Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Reeves appeared on a Fox News panel called “Red State Trailblazers” which featured four other Republican governors—Greg Abbott (Texas), Ron DeSantis (Florida), Kim Reynolds (Iowa), and Pete Ricketts (Nebraska). “Trailblazers” is a strong word for pandemic-denying sycophants, but it sure sounds epic. The panel was exactly what you’d expect, but Reeves provided the most clip-worthy moment when Fox host Laura Ingraham posed a question about systemic racism.
case closed, folks pic.twitter.com/azD0rTFb1g
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 30, 2021
Forget the inanity of Reeves’ answer, which he flipped into a crowd-pleasing conservative platitude. It’s pretty difficult to be the “greatest country in the history of mankind” when murderous imperialism, human bondage, and capitalistic oppression are its most defining characteristics. But even if you hold that opinion, it has nothing to do with anything here. Being the greatest country ever doesn’t change the past or absolve the United States of anything.
You might as well forget the question, too, posed by a white host to a panel of all-white governors. Ingraham knows exactly the answer she’s going to receive from her hand-picked panel of COVID-denying bloviates and Trump diehards. The panel’s only purpose is shoving a bunch of Republican hacks in Fox viewers’ faces as potential replacements (or running mates) for Donald Trump come 2024. They’re there to say what Ingraham and the audience want to hear—that all their beliefs are right and good, that Democrats are traitors, that systemic racism isn’t real, and so on.
That last one gets a little tricky, though. At a certain point the contradictions can’t be heightened any further. For a recent example, just in case Reeves need one, take Bruce Bartman. He’s a Pennsylvania resident who registered his mother as a Republican and cast her vote for Trump in the 2020 presidential election. The only problem is that Bartman’s mother is dead. He cast her vote illegally in the most open-and-shut case of voter fraud imaginable. (Bartman also tried requesting a mail-in ballot for his dead mother-in-law).
And after months of crying about voter fraud and stopping the steal, what did Bartman get as punishment? Five years probation. That pales in comparison to the five years of prison time Crystal Mason of Texas currently faces for voting illegally in the 2016 election. “Voting illegally” is a stretch, too. Mason cast a provisional ballot in 2016 while under supervised prison release for a federal conviction. A judge later convicted her, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals—an all-Republican body—will now review that conviction. She cast her ballot at the suggestion of a poll worker and claims she didn’t read the backside of an affidavit that ultimately got her convicted.
It probably won’t shock to you learn that Bartman is white and Mason is Black. Any arguments for Bartman or against Mason that obscure their respective skin colors are irrelevant. Ask yourself a couple simple questions. If Bartman were Black, do you think he would’ve received probation or a prison sentence? And if Mason where white, would she be facing half a decade of prison time over a clear misunderstanding?
If the answer to either or both of those questions is “no” (hint: it is), it’s because of systemic racism. A justice system that does not treat people equally for equal crimes in unjust. But that’s not even what we have here—Bartman knowingly committed fraud. Mason accidentally might have.
There are countless other (and better) examples of systemic racism in America. This is one is just recent and clear cut. Some are even more obvious. Many are far more insidious, taking place over decades, invisibly affecting untold lives, embedded in America’s foundation. But those examples don’t matter to political hacks trying to score points.