The Sydney Morning Herald: Republicans tune in to coded racism

The Sydney Morning Herald: Republicans tune in to coded racism

I have a piece in The Sydney Morning Herald today, about Mitt Romney’s prescription for the gun violence that plagues America, and the way Romney spoke about it in this week’s presidential debate.

When Mitt Romney was asked a question about gun control in Tuesday night’s presidential debate, the second of three tete-a-tetes he’ll have with President Barack Obama, he talked at first about laws. He said he wasn’t going to implement any new ones, and focus instead on better enforcement of the ones already in place. And then something odd happened. He started talking about single parents.

America needs “to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone”, he said. People were confused: wasn’t the question about gun laws? Why was he talking about “the benefit of having two parents in the home?” Why, if we want to bring down the stunning levels of gun violence in America, do we “need mums and dads helping raise kids?”

The people who were confused were the people who don’t speak Republican. Those who speak the language, who are attuned to the dog whistle racism of the American right – the coded language that speaks only to certain audiences – understood Romney perfectly. Yes, he said “parents”, and no, he didn’t mention any specific racial or ethnic group, but one needn’t be a psychic to know what he meant. What he meant was that poor black single mothers living in urban areas don’t raise their kids right. And that’s why, he claims, of the 13,000 homicides committed in the US last year, almost 9000 of them were committed with firearms.

You can read the whole thing here. And I have to say, there is something really thrilling about knowing that when my parents wake up in the morning, they’re going to go outside, get the paper, open it up on the kitchen table, and see an article by me. It makes me homesick, but happy.

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