I don’t dislike Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seat. He claims to believe in freedom, and he’s from Kentucky, just like me. But growing up under the fist of Kentucky racism affected me, and Rand Paul reminds me of the men and women who hurt me the most.
Paul is a member of the Tea Party and a political star. He mobilized more Republican voters for his primary than any candidate in the history of Kentucky, and he may even one day challenge Mitch McConnell for the Senate Republican leadership. His views are fresh and new, in a subtly racist sort of way, and he’s a perfect fit for the anti-Obama climate that has led to our nation’s racial roaches coming out of the closet.
Paul took some heat for comments he made about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is politically sacred ground that even his fellow Republicans won’t touch. The firestorm started when Paul said that it should be ok for restaurant owners to discriminate if they choose to do so. In other words, if Woolworth’s had not wanted Dr. King at their lunch counter, they should have been allowed to turn him away. But he then went on to say that any business receiving federal funding should not be allowed to engage in discrimination, that Martin Luther King is one of his heroes, and that he understands the fact that racism in America has become systematic.
But it didn’t matter, the damage was done, and there was no cleaning up his comment. By arguing that he understands the problematic nature of systematic racism, yet simultaneously claiming that it is wrong for the federal government to create laws to deal with it, he was contradicting himself. Paul seems to have no problem legislating personal choice on issues that align with the values of his party, such as abortion, but thinks that we should be able to discriminate based on race, gender or sexual orientation if the spirit moves us. Perhaps in the mind of Rand Paul, freedom and liberty are always relative. But then again, the confusion of party affiliations, mixed with political correctness cause most of us to be walking contradictions, including the highly conservative black community that is forced by Democrats to take on liberal values that we don’t always believe in.
Again, I don’t dislike Rand Paul as much as some people might have hoped I would. But I do not find him to be necessarily productive for our nation as we try to move forward and heal from racial pain of the past. He and his father, Ron Paul, have grown in popularity as a by-product of racially-divisive sentiment that has overwhelmed our nation in light of the Obama presidency. Racism is America’s cancer, and the political success of the Paul family is a barometer of just how sick we still are.
The good thing about a flare-up is that in order to manage a disease, you must sometimes bring it to the surface. In fact, a greater prominence of the symptoms means that you are either one step closer to death or a little bit closer to healing. While the idea of Ron, Rand and the Tea Partiers having a say in our government might be deplorable, the truth is that millions of Americans find themselves in agreement with their ideas. Rather than keeping these ideas off the table of discussion, it might do us some good to acknowledge and confront them.
I don’t like Rand Paul’s views very much, but I am incredibly curious about where they are coming from, and I believe strongly in his right as an American to express them. The problem, however, is that Rand (who is a doctor) intellectualizes and justifies an ugliness that is a product of our country’s 400-year commitment to racial inequality. Far too many Americans have been convinced to believe that black people are inferior and that the sins of racial oppression are easily cleansed if we simply stop mistreating black people as much as we used to.
The political ride for Rand and Ron won’t last much longer. As much as we might want to criticize America for its lack of racial progress, our nation has put forth some degree of effort to make itself a little better than it was in the last generation. The prior generation is reflected in racist newsletters like the ones that Ron Paul released in the 1980s and 1990s, in which he said that the LA riots stopped because black people went “to pick up their welfare checks.” That kind of racism would not be acceptable in America today, even at a Tea Party function. So yes, America has made significant (though inadequate) progress when it comes to race.
But Rand Paul is Ron Paul’s seed: Physically, psychologically and politically. The rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and beneath Rand Paul’s more sophisticated political strategy lies the very same cancer that continues to kill the spirit of America. Like his father, he doesn’t respect the humanity of black and brown people the way he respects his own. He also embodies the disdain of millions of Americans who, on a subconscious level, can’t stand the idea of a black man telling them what to do. He is a reflection of the times and a clear reminder that we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. But I believe in America, and that is why I know that the political momentum of Rand Paul is not destined to maintain itself. Rand won’t go very far in American politics, and that’s what is good about our country.