Just when you thought the madness of the 2016 presidential campaign couldn’t get anymore insane, guess what, it has.
Many people are probably aware of the comments made by Kathy Miller, volunteer chairwoman of GOP nominee Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in northeastern Ohio’s Mahoning County. In an interview with a reporter for The Guardian, Miller said that “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this. You know, I’m in the real estate industry. There’s none.”
As one can imagine, all hell broke loose in the bloggersphere. Social media went to town lambasting Miller like a roasted turkey for her out of touch comments. My reaction to her comments was: Lady, are you serious? Where the hell have you been all this time?
Miller, in fact, was just getting warmed up. She fancied herself calling out Black America further by saying: “If you’re Black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You had every opportunity; it was given to you. You had the benefits that White kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly.”
The fact is that such comments are false, pitiful and woefully ignorant. It is the rhetoric of a pitifully ill-informed and clueless person. Just last week, the day after Miller made her inaccurate remarks, the Economic Policy Institute released a report conducted by Valerie Wilson and William M. Rodgers III that showed that Black-White wage gaps are larger today than they were in 1979 and that neither education or good intentions has managed to close this gap.
Does Miller actually believe that President Obama is responsible for Jim Crow, the lynchings and segregation that were the law of the land prior to 1964? If so, she and others who harbor a similar mindset are in a deep, funky level of cluelessness and denial bordering on the irredeemable. In regard to her comments that there was no racism in the 1960s, as a historian, I do not have time to discuss that one here. That is another entire column. I will limit my reaction to three words: yes there was!
On a related note, given the fact that she is in the real estate industry, surely Miller must be aware of redlining, banks refusing to grant conventional mortgages and insurance to predominantly Black neighborhoods, blockbusting, fearmongering and other antics that resulted in White flight and sizable profits for those agents who perversely and shamelessly exploited that situation.
Apologizing for her “inappropriate” comments Miller resigned her chairmanship and her eligibility to be an elector in the electoral college and was replaced by a Black female radio talks show host, Tracey Winbush. To be sure, Miller was not the only Republican engaging in outlandish, indefensible commentary. North Carolina congressman Robert Pittenger told BBC news reporter James Bryant that Black protesters in Charlotte, North Carolina were rioting because they were jealous and resentful of the success of White people.
Pittenger also was called out and apologized for his ludicrous rhetoric. CNN commentator Don Lemon, who sometimes harbors an ambiguous position on racial matters, took the congressman to the verbal woodshed for his comments. Interestingly, Pittenger resorted to a mild version of the some of my best friends are Black defense as he informed Lemon that he has discussed the matter with some of his “dear Black colleagues and longtime friends” in the congressional Black Caucus and they had accepted his apology.
It appears that both misguided individuals, Miller and Pittenger, are oblivious to the fact that:
The real hard, truthful reality is that Miller and Pittenger are not outliers or mere aberrations. They and their viewpoints represent a large portion of White Americans and some Black Americans who are in supreme denial about the grim realities of the educational, economic, judicial and social issues many Black and brown Americans face.
What is even more alarming as well as important is the fact that many White people like Kathy Miller and Robert Pittenger do not see themselves as bigots. While I do not know their hearts, I would like to believe that neither of these individuals are hardcore racists. Rather, I would say without hesitation that they (and far too many other White people) suffer from a severe and chronic level of racial ignorance and naiveté.