Don’t think for one minute that they don’t know this. In fact, chances are they know this all too well.
In an act that rivals the irrationality and hatefulness that led lawmakers in some Southern states to shut down entire school systems in the late 1950s rather than abide by federal desegregation orders, Congressional Republicans continue to refuse to fund the government to keep it operating unless President Obama agrees to defund his own his health care law.
No matter that the law passed Congress in 2010. No matter that its constitutionality was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012. No matter that the same year, that law was approved by the electorate by dint of the fact that, well, they re-elected Obama and rejected Mitt Romney, who ran on a pledge to repeal it.
But apparently, these Republicans – people who are hewing to the fanaticism of a Tea Party faction that has been seeing red ever since the nation elected its first black president – don’t care about the suffering the shutdown will cause.
They don’t care that the Centers for Disease Control may not be able to adequately monitor the spread of disease, or that the already fragile economy could lose $55 billion and slide back into a recession, or that 800,000 or so federal workers may be furloughed.
And they really don’t care that, according to The Washington Post, people of color make up 35 percent of that federal work force.
In fact, they probably know this already – which is probably all the more reason why they want to see them suffer. After all, black people and Latinos, as well as poor people, young people, and women, defied their wishes and sent Obama back to the White House.
And when people of color defy the wishes of privileged white men, their instinct is not to play nice – even when the people of color play by their rules and win fair and square.
Their instinct is to put them in their place. How dare they play by the rules and win!
That’s why these Republicans, themselves exempt from the furlough, have no problem forcing this kind of misery on Americans – because what they really want is to punish Americans for not electing their guy last November.
It also explains why government would be a target of their ire, because traditionally, government has given people of color more access to jobs and opportunity than the private sector.
It wasn’t until Obama was elected to head the government that a mostly-white, Tea Party movement decided that they no longer had any use for it.
Suddenly, they didn’t want to pay any more taxes. Suddenly, there was Texas Gov. Rick Perry and others engaging in silly secessionist talk. Jim Crow-era thoughts were resurrected about the federal government being their “oppressor” – because George W. Bush was no longer in charge.
So it isn’t exactly shocking that Congress’ tea partiers could care less about hurting black people who work for the government – and Americans who depend on its services.
But I fear this shutdown may last for some time.
Unlike the Newt Gingrich-inspired shutdown in 1995, this time the charge is being led by people who fervently believe their privilege exempts them from playing by the rules if a black man is in charge.
This time, we’re dealing with people who believe they’re fighting the civil war; who’ve deluded themselves into believing that forcing the nation to risk sliding into a recession again, furloughing workers and slowing down government services to veterans, children and other struggling people is worth the cost of trying to put the nation’s first black president in his place; to deprive him of his legacy.
This time, like the segregationists who once shuttered entire school systems to avoid integration, the GOP extremists who are behind this shutdown have fooled themselves into believing they’re patriots.
When, in fact, they’re anything but.
Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her @tonyaajw. Or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonyaajweathersbee.