While speaking to students and professors at a historically black college in April, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he isn't a "firm believer in democracy" because "it gave us Jim Crow."
In a lengthy profile published on The New Republic's website Monday, reporter Julia Ioffe details Paul's low profile visit to Simmons College of Kentucky, a historically black college in Louisville. Paul sat with students and other community members in a circle and asked attendees how the Republican Party could better reach out to African-Americans.
He talked about decriminalizing drug offenses and getting rid of the mandatory sentencing minimums that put so many young black men in jail. He talked about fixing the local school system, about not abolishing Pell grants “as long as it’s in the context of spending what you have.” To approving nods, he talked about how urban renewal had really meant “urban destruction” and about how “they tore down a lot of black businesses so people would go to white stores.” He found that this crowd, if not totally convinced, was receptive. Though he would still not give them a definitive answer on his position on the Civil Rights Act, he did say that he believed federal intervention had been justified. “I’m not a firm believer in democracy,” he explained. “It gave us Jim Crow.”
Paul's visit to Simmons came two days after he made a more publicized appearance at Howard University in Washington, D.C., during which he said he wanted to "resurrect" the Republican Party's history before the civil rights era.
"The story of emancipation, voting rights and citizenship, from Frederick Douglass until the modern civil rights era, is really in fact the history of the Republican Party," Paul said. "How did the Republican Party, the party of the great emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?"
"We see horrible Jim Crow and horrible racism in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s—it was all Democrats,” Paul continued, according to Slate. “It wasn’t Republicans. Now, did some of them switch over and become Republicans? Yes.”
Paul's stance on civil rights came under scrutiny in 2010, when he had difficulty answering whether or not he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal's editorial board.
"I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that," Paul said. "I don’t like the idea of telling private business owner -- I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant --but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind."
Paul distanced himself from his previous remarks during the Howard speech, claiming that he had "never wavered" on civil rights or the Civil Rights Act.