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Blackface Controversies Show Underlying Racism in American Politics and Culture

Louis Sanders, Lead Staff Writer

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Less than two weeks apart some “interesting” information came from both the Democratic and Republican sides of life. Republican and former Florida Secretary of State, Michael Ertel, had photos of him in blackface leaked. This scandal led to his timely resignation from the office. In the most coincidental timing, Democratic and current Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, had pictures of a man in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another man in blackface on his yearbook page.

Northam initially accepted responsibility and apologized for the pictures. He did not resign. He later recanted his statement and denied that he was in either picture. He did, however, admit to darkening his skin for a Michael Jackson dance competition. “That same year I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume.” He still has not and has no plans to resign.

Despite the loss of support in his state and calls to resign from both major political parties, which is irony in itself, Northam still won’t resign. While this is an issue it begs the question if racist behavior from politicians is a new, acceptable trend.

Racism in politics is nothing new at all. Lyndon B. Johnson was known to enjoy racist humor and used the N-word frequently. Recently after the election of Donald Trump, racism has been seen as an edgy new way to secure votes.

Most notably Cindy Hyde-Smith, a senator in Mississippi, had one of the most controversial campaigns in recent times. Smith was pictured with confederate paraphernalia, was quoted as saying she’d be “front row” at a “public hanging”, and allegedly praised Confederate soldiers as a legislator in 2007. She would go on to win that race.

Runner-up for most offensive campaign is former GOP candidate, Michael Williams. One of Williams’ campaign methods was to tour on his custom-made deportation bus. In white lettering on the grey bus is “Follow me to Mexico” “Danger! Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molestors, and other criminals on board.” It is also important to note that Williams spelled “molesters” wrong. It’s also important to note that Williams isn’t talking about ALL illegal immigrants, just Mexicans. Williams finished last place in his primary and was jailed last December for tax fraud.

Whether racism has become a new, “ingenious” marketing scheme or has just been more prevalent in today’s society is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is the fact that racism is alive and present, especially in today’s politics.

In order to grow as a nation and as a people these things need to be called out. However, that’s still not enough. Racism needs to be called out and consequences need to be dealt out. Racist and problematic candidates shouldn’t win an election for public office. Especially if that public office determines the fate of millions of marginalized groups.

The optimistic spirit that is in most Americans is screaming that America is better than this, but the realism that’s more prevalent in society proves that optimistic spirit wrong time and time again

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Blackface Controversies Show Underlying Racism in American Politics and Culture