RNC Convention Speakers Say Racism is Over, Strike Bigoted Themes - Rolling Stone
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GOP Convention Speakers Declare America Not Racist as Trump Blasts ‘China Virus’

Cognitive dissonance ruled on the first night of the Republican National Convention, which gave a prime speaking slot to couple who waved guns at Black Lives Matter marchers

Donald Trump Jr., speaks as he tapes his speech for the first day of the Republican National Convention from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Donald Trump Jr., speaks as he tapes his speech for the first day of the Republican National Convention from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

Susan Walsh/AP

Part way through former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s speech on the first night of the GOP convention — just before she delved into a biographical story about how her Indian parents “faced discrimination and hardship” as she was growing up, and then toured through wrenching moments of her governorship, including confronting the white supremacist mass murder at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and the fight to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the statehouse in Columbia, Haley insisted: “In much of the Democratic party it’s now fashionable to say America is racist. That is a lie,” she said. “America is not a racist country.”

Such cognitive dissonance on race was par for the course on Monday night. The Republican convention featured many speakers of color, but consistently stoked racial fears and tapped into deep veins of bigotry. In the same speech, Haley joined a cavalcade of GOP speakers demonizing the Chinese for America’s deadly pandemic. “Communist China gave us the coronavirus,” Haley declared, blaming the disease for upending Trump’s once-promising economic record. On Monday night, Trump himself appeared in a taped convention segment with frontline workers, many of whom had recovered from Covid-19. Trump has called the disease, “Kung Flu“; he used an only slightly less racist name for covid this time, telling the workers: “We just have to make this China virus go away.”

Throughout the proceedings, Republicans kept touting a record of tolerance, but the mask kept slipping. Early in the day, as state delegates made the party’s re-nomination of Donald Trump official, the stand-in from Maryland highlighted his state’s link to the Underground Railroad, before momentarily, mistakenly, crowing about Maryland as home to “two of our greatest segregationists.”

At least one RNC speaker was plainly sincere in telling stories about racial progress in America. South Carolina’s Tim Scott, the lone black member of the GOP senate caucus, described how his grandfather, who had been forced out of school in the third grade to work the fields, lived to see him rise to federal office. “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” Scott said. But others used racial appeals far more cynically. Georgia State Representative Vernon Jordan, who is black, likened the relationship between the Democratic party and black voters to slavery, telling convention watchers that “the Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave their mental plantation. We’ve been forced to be there for decades and generations.”

At times there was no mask at all. The first night of the GOP’s 2020 show gave a prime speaking slot to the McCloskey’s — the Saint Louis lawyer couple who stood in front of their mansion and brandished firearms at Black Lives Matter marchers who’d detoured through their upper-class neighborhood. Speaking to the convention, Patricia McCloskey sounded one of Trump’s favorite racial fog horns, warning America that Democrats want to end the suburbs by zoning to create more density. “They’re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities,” McCloskey said. “They want to abolish the suburbs altogether — by ending single-family home zoning. This forced rezoning,” she said, echoing the language of forced busing from decades past, “would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into now thriving suburban neighborhoods.”

After watching the first night of the convention in its full sweep, it’s hard not to wonder if the aim was less racial healing than racist trolling. Prime time had begun, after all, with a speech by the young Republican Charlie Kirk. His organization Turning Point USA has a troubling history of overt racism and white supremacy. And Kirk, echoing the language of the alt-right, painted president Donald J. Trump not simply as the president of America First, but as “the defender of Western civilization.”

Nope. Nothing racist to see here. On to night two.

 

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