This past weekend, Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville suggested in comments railing against reparations that Black Americans were “the people that do the crime.”
Speaking at a Donald Trump rally for Republican candidates in Nevada, Tuberville described Democrats as engaged in a battle to take from white people and give to Black people, whom he stereotyped as criminals. “No, they’re not soft on crime,” Tuberville said, “They’re pro-crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that. Bulls—!” he finished.
The audience erupted with cheers. Of course, we all know what he means by “they.”
Reaction was swift. CNN analyst Bakari Sellers commented: “Tommy Tuberville can go to hell. I’ll tell you what, the fact is, he made tens of millions of dollars off unpaid black men as a football coach. He literally has the stature he has because people went out there and assumed the risk and incurred the risk of concussions, playing hard and everything. And for him to give these racist tropes? I mean, that infuriates me. But this is a large swath of the Republican Party.”
“Senator Tuberville’s comments are flat out racist, ignorant and utterly sickening,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “His words promote a centuries-old lie about Black people that throughout history has resulted in the most dangerous policies and violent attacks on our community. “We’ve seen this before from the far-right, and we’ve seen what they can do when they take power.”
It does seem that Tuberville was intentionally incorporating the rhetoric of Alabama politicians from the decades of yesteryear, which includes the sinister and staunchly segregationist Governor George Wallace and the sadistic Birmingham Sheriff Eugene “Bull” Connor.
Any astute observer of recent American history undoubtedly harbors indelible memories of Wallace espousing polarizing commentary such as: “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever” to the delight of his many bigoted followers. Connor horrified millions of Americans throughout the nation when he ordered police officers to turn water hoses and unleash German shepherds on civil rights protestors, many of them young children and elderly people.
Tuberville’s remarks were so obscenely racist that not long ago, senior Republican politicians would’ve likely taken take to the airwaves to condemn them. Times have obviously changed. So far, all we have witnessed is a deafening level of silence from the GOP. Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska actually defended Tuberville, claiming the comments were not meant to be racist and that the rise in crime across the country cannot be ignored.
Truth be told, it should not be all that surprising that the junior senator from Alabama felt comfortable making such abhorrent comments. Over the past several years, the Republican Party under the tutelage of Donald Trump has become more confident in expressing and promoting racism. Its supporters spread the nonsensical and disingenuous perception to the nation that racism is a relic of the past and that now, in 2022, the true victims of racism are white people.
It gets even more obscene when you remember that, prior to his political career, Tuberville made millions in an industry that a number of critics have aptly compared to a plantation: college football. Back then, Tuberville was earning more than $2 million a year at the University of Cincinnati. This was money earned on the backs of student athletes who aren’t afforded any financial benefits and who are disproportionately Black (43% at college football’s top level in 2020).
Tuberville is a person of mediocre ability, and has ridden his whiteness from the business world to the athletic field to the U.S. Senate. He is the poster child for white privilege and preferential treatment, and his arrogance and bigotry are nothing short of abominable.
Copyright 2022 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate
Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.