I listened carefully to a black senior citizen who phoned into “Keeping it Real with Rev. Al Sharpton,” a national radio show where I serve as a co-host. The caller suggested that we ignore the racists in America because we give them too much attention and it’s a waste of our time.
When the caller hung up, I said I respectfully disagreed with her.
And I still do.
Years ago, a popular political pundit said: “The American people forget how quickly the American people forget.”
And this is why we can’t ignore bigotry and racially-inflammatory comments, especially when the racism and disrespect to President Barack Obama comes from a United States senator.
We must constantly remind African American people why it’s important to vote and why it’s crucial, now more than ever, to become involved in the political process.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, told a racially-insensitive joke that insulted Obama — and black people on two continents –while attempting to poke fun at Obama’s struggling website launch for the Affordable Care Act.
“You may have noticed that all the Nigerian email scammers have become a lot less active lately,” Cruz told the audience. “They all have been hired to run the Obamacare website.”
By using “Nigerian” in his warped wisecrack, was Cruz deliberately trying to link Obama to African scammers because Obama’s father is African? Or was Cruz trying to fire up his radical conservative base by introducing Obama’s African roots to the discussion of Obamacare?
Cruz insists it was just a joke. But last week we learned the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in the Cruz family.
A video surfaced recently that showed Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, a prominent pastor, telling a conservative Tea Party group that Obama should go “back to Chicago, back to Kenya.”
Again with the African references about the nation’s first black president. It’s racist and it’s the height of disrespect to the office of the President of the United States.
And, as an influential pastor, a man of God, how was Pastor Cruz’s joke a Christian message?
Ted Cruz immediately defended his father claiming it was just a joke and critics of his father are simply playing politics by smearing the Cruz family.
But it’s not just about Cruz’s rhetoric, it’s about the insensitive and mean-spirited policies he supports in Congress – policies we cannot ignore because too many poor Americans are hurting; too many families are struggling to survive; too many black people are suffering.
This week, one of every seven Americans will be impacted when a $5 billion cut in food stamps — the first across-the-board reduction in the history of the program — takes effect.
“The reduction in vital food assistance benefits is endangering millions of families in the United States,” said Lorraine C. Miller, NAACP Interim President and CEO. “Our elected officials have dropped the ball during a time when too many American families are still suffering from high rates of unemployment and increased homelessness. It is deplorable that in this day and age, some politicians are unwilling to take care of their fellow citizens in need.”
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, for families of three, the cut will be $29 a month — a total of $319 for November 2013 through September 2014, the remaining months of fiscal year 2014, and food stamps benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.
There are currently 48 million Americans who rely on food stamps and House Republicans are cutting them off. The program is designed to help poor families, most of them children.
So to the black senior citizen who called into Rev. Sharpton’s radio show, I respect your opinion but I disagree.
We can’t ignore bigoted lawmakers like Ted Cruz who threaten the existence of so many people of color as long as there are some among us who are still quick to forget.