Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

The War on Women of Color

17 Apr

The b.s. that passes for news is enough to give a person the information superhighway version of road rage.

Hardly a word of substance had been uttered about moms until  Hilary Rosen‘s statement that work-at-home mom of five Anne Romney never worked “a day in her life” became ammo in the war over women(s’ votes). Now one can barely turn on the TV without seeing the clip of Mitt Romney’s January 2012 quote about forcing women on welfare to work so they can experience “the dignity” of labor.

BTW: Earth to Romney! There’s no “dignity” in forced labor.

But what really frosts me is how a few words directed at a super rich, white work-at-homer with plenty of financial cushion to ease the pain could incite such furor, while downright mean, not to mention racist and untrue things are regularly said about poor women of color and nary a word is spoken in their defense.

Case in point: in order to justify cutting welfare and punishing low/no-income women in general for the “irresponsible” act of having children while poor, policy leaders exploit and amplify the societal stereotypes of poor women of color as lazy, sexually undisciplined layabouts making children to get benefits.

For instance, remember what was said about black women on welfare by Ronald Reagan?  He fabricated a story about a black welfare queen whose criminal gaming of the public benefits system was making her rich at our expense. This iconic image has survived for more than 30  years, delivering the message that “our hard-earned (therefore, deserved) money” is going to women of color who are either playing us or are just hopeless dependents with poor work ethics. And the assault didn’t end there.

In 1996 the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was signed into law by Bill Clinton, ending welfare as we once knew it and replacing it with Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), a program with a 5 year lifetime limit and a work requirement.   So much coded and not so coded racism was drummed up between the Reagan and Clinton years in order to justify this eventual reform that by 1996, the public didn’t know fact from fiction.

Folks thought that the black teen pregnancy rate in the 80s and early 90s was skyrocketing out of control, and that black illegitimacy was a major problem, especially because they’d been convinced  that receiving public assistance was a disincentive to work.

In 2002, Francis Fox Piven addressed the racism that drove welfare reform by citing a 1995 National Center for Health Statistics report that challenges some of the arguments about black illegitimacy rates and teen pregnancies used to promote reform.

Here are a couple of highlights:

  • In 1993 the rate of non-marital births among white women over twenty was 42% versus a black non-marital birth rate in the same age group of 25%.
  • The non-marital birth rate of white women under twenty was 18% versus 11% for black women in the same age group.

And, by the way, then as now, the teen birth rate was dropping. The out-of-wedlock rate was increasing as a percentage of a smaller number of teen births in general, but they played us on that one, too in order to raise the specter of a potential welfare boom.

Still think we’re post-racial?  Maybe post-talking about race, but certainly not past creating public policy based on racism.

Oh, and note to leaders of both major parties:  women of all colors will have won the war against them when politicians stop treating their issues like ammunition and their bodies like battlefields, and political leaders start acting like women are people.

I don’t mean just folks, I mean the people who still carry the primary responsibility of raising children with limited services such as daycare, many of whom must also work outside the home where they make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.  A little respect is in order here.

Dog Whistle Racism

9 Apr

Liberal pundits are buzzing over Mitt Romney’s latest strategy of playing the old, “I know you are, but what am I?” game. In response to criticism that he’s too out of touch, not to mention odd, to relate to working class voters, Romney is accusing President Obama of being “out of touch.

Romney has even gone so far as to suggest that the President spent too many years (three) at Harvard, Romney’s own alma mater (which, BTW, he attended for four years), sharpening the point being made by other Republican candidates in the race that Obama is a privileged outsider.

The liberal pundits are going after Romney hook and nail. After all, Romney is the son of a man who was the President of American Motors and Governor of Michigan.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Romney made a career as a businessman that has made him one of the super rich, and then became the Governor of Massachusetts. One could grow up on Fantasy Island and be less out of touch than Mitt Romney.

Romney’s wife Ann, who many say is the “better Romney,” recently had this to say about their wealth: “…I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing, it can be here today and gone tomorrow.”

That not just odd, that’s downright callous. Moreover, it seems reckless. Why in the hell is Romney making himself  out to be so out of touch he doesn’t even know what it means to be out of touch?

Many pundits have suggested that he is following the Karl Rove strategy of taking your own greatest weakness and turning it against your political opponent. Probably the most famous example of this strategy at play was George W. Bush’s success in blunting the strength of John Kerry’s heroic war record as an exaggeration, when Bush himself had famously hid out in a cushy job in the reserves. By doing so, Bush took away a key strength of Kerry’s campaign strategy and turned it into a weakness.

I’m sure deflection is part of the game being played here, but I have a suspicion we’re witnessing dog whistle racism. Dog whistle racism is when folks use coded messages meant to trigger a racist reaction among those trained to recognize them without using explicit racist language. Kinda like dogs can be trained to respond to whistles only they can hear.

Consider the audience Romney is appealing to in this primary race. The Republican base is overwhelmingly white and has been subjected to coded and not so coded racist messaging for decades. They are conditioned to hear the cues and react.

Among the cues is the notion that educated and successful African Americans are all or nearly all beneficiaries of Affirmative Action. And to race-sensitive whites, Affirmative Action is all about denying opportunities to white people in order to bestow exclusive privileges on people of color, especially Black people.

And consider this: according to a March 2012 Pubic Policy Polling survey of Republican primary voters, only 33% of those polled in Tennessee think Barack Obama was born in the U.S. compared to 45% who don’t. 40% of Georgia primary voters think Obama was born in the U.S., and 38% don’t. In Ohio, 42% think Obama was born here, while 37% do not.  Nationally, 77% of Republican voters approve of interracial marriage compared with 88% of Democrats and 89% of Independents.

So why is Romney, who has had a very difficult time relating to the Republican right wing base, saying that the President is “out of touch,” elite and privileged? It’s not too far a stretch to suggest he may be exploiting racism in the Republican base and basically saying, I know you don’t like me, but that guy, he’s not one of us. And if you look at the overall Romney campaign message, Obama is not just out of touch, he’s dangerous.

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