Before Condoleezza Rice stood at the podium during the Republican National Convention and talked about civil rights, growing up in Alabama during Jim Crow, and how black students are subjected to failing public schools, her mean-spirited GOP brethren were busy spewing racial hate toward an African-American camerawoman who was working for CNN.
Two white people who were attending the GOP convention had to be removed from the building in Tampa after they threw peanuts at Patricia Carroll, the black CNN camera operator, and shouted, “This is how we feed animals.”
I’m not shocked by the racism within the convention hall since many white conservatives these days can’t seem to hide their disdain for black Americans, but I’m still deeply offended.
Carroll, to her credit, was poised and philosophical after the incident on Tuesday.
"I hate that it happened,” Carroll told Richard Prince, who writes a diversity column, “Journal-isms”, for the Maynard Institute, “but I'm not surprised at all."
"This is Florida, and I'm from the Deep South," said Carroll, a 34-year-old from Alabama. "You come to places like this, you can count the black people on your hand. They see us doing things they don't think I should do."
And she offered this observation about the GOP convention: "There are not that many black women there."
Republicans, and black conservatives in particular, are hypocrites. While black folks like Rice seem comfortable promoting the flawed ideology of the Republican Party and falsely claiming the GOP embraces racial diversity, black Republicans were suspiciously silent after some perhaps watched the nut-throwing incident aimed at Carroll.
This deplorable, disgusting and bigoted behavior reminds me of Ota Benga, the freed African from the Congo who was brought to the United States in 1906 and put on public display at the Bronx Zoo as a controversial human exhibit.
A dear friend, Pamela Newkirk, a journalism professor at New York University, is writing a book about Ota Benga's life and the insane racism that permeated New York during that era. Ota Benga, who was actually treated like an animal in the zoo, became depressed and committed suicide in 1916. He was 32.
Today, 106 years after Ota Benga was locked in a cage, emasculated, and teased by white tourists, white Republicans are still humiliating black people. But this time the racism is taking place at the Republican National Convention 67 days before Americans go to the polls to elect the next president of the United States.
"I can't change these people's hearts and minds," Carroll told Prince. "No, it doesn't feel good. But I know who I am. I'm a proud black woman. A lot of black people are upset. This should be a wake-up call to black people. . . . People were living in euphoria for a while. People think we've gone further than we have."
So where is the outrage from black Republicans?
In my view, if they’re not part of the solution, then they’re part of the problem. They prefer to condone racial hatred toward other black Americans through their silence yet they blame President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black commander-in-chief, for everything imaginable.
And still, black conservatives talk about discrimination as if it’s a thing of the past while racial incidents like Tuesday’s lunacy are happening just steps away from them.
“And on a personal note: a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the most segregated big city in America, her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she can be President of the United States and she becomes the Secretary of State,” Rice told the predominantly white audience in Tampa this week.
“We need to have high standards for our students. Self-esteem comes from achievement not from lax standards and false praise,” Rice said. “And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly poor parents whose kids – most often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights struggle of our day.”
For Carroll, who was pelted with peanuts by bigots, this was her personal civil rights struggle of the moment , an incident that should have resonated with Rice since both women were raised in Alabama and are innately familiar with discrimination in the Deep South.
It’s too bad that black Republicans like Rice, who speak in intellectual terms about racial inclusion, couldn’t muster the courage to stand with Carroll who became an easy target for cowardly Republican racists simply because she was doing her job while black.