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John W. Boyd Jr. Headshot

Another Tongue-Tied Moment... or Just Plain Old Racism?

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Some of the Republicans vying for their party's presidential nomination have contracted a disease that can best be called "black tongue disease." Whether they are sending subtle or coded messages to white voters, or simply displaying commonplace racist attitudes, these candidates clearly appear afflicted with the age-old American condition of racism. The pattern is not hard to see.

This week, for example, old racially-charged comments resurfaced from Congressman Ron Paul in newsletters dating back to June 1992. Remarking on the Los Angeles disturbances that followed acquittals in the Rodney King beating, Paul was quoted as saying, "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began."

Paul topped that offensive comment a few years later when he was the only member of Congress to vote against Rosa Parks receiving the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 1999. When Parks received the medal in graceful taste that year, it was a proud moment for America and I was deeply honored to attend the ceremony.

Another Republican presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, had a "black tongue moment" when she referred to black farmers as "frauds." She is now out of the race. So, too, did former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain show signs of the disease when he said black people who voted as Democrats were brainwashed. He is now out of the race, for reasons far from pretty.

Perhaps the most severely affected Republican candidate is Rick Perry, who long left in place an ugly sign outside his family hunting camp, with the N-word in its name.

Who is advising these candidates? Apparently they do not value black people or care much about courting black voters. But then, these cutting examples are "not meant to be racist." They're just "black tongue moments."

Not to be left out, candidate Rick Santorum joined the braying pack, coming under fire after several news reports quoted him as saying, "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families." The former Pennsylvania senator was addressing entitlement programs at a town hall in Iowa, where the population is majority white -- the perfect setting for another "black tongue moment."

Taken together, these examples show a pattern of speaking, or misspeaking, by a number of Republican presidential candidates. They (Republicans) never seem to mean what they say during their "black tongue moments." There is always a ready excuse for the offensive statements. It's time for America and mainstream media to call it what it is -- racism.

There should be a higher level of standards for those who want to be President of the United States. These old tools of scapegoating, stereotyping and denigrating one of the nation's most extraordinarily accomplished groups (considering how far they have had to climb) should be embarrassing to all of the citizenry.

Audiences should reject these attempts to appeal to the public's lowest instincts, especially by politicians who want to unseat the man who represents America's noblest effort to overcome its historically poor record on race. It's time for Republicans to understand and accept America for the melting pot it is.

John Boyd is a farmer founder of the National Black Farmers Association, and Political Activist