That Racist Thing Scott Brown Just Did
When it comes to discussions about racism and especially when it comes to online discussions about racism, I try to follow Jay Smooth’s advice:
“The most important thing that you’ve got to do is remember the difference between the ‘what they did’ conversation and the ‘what they are’ conversation….The ‘what they did’ conversation focuses strictly on the person’s words and actions and explaining why what they did and what they said was unacceptable. This is also known as the ‘that thing you said was racist’ conversation and that’s the conversation that you want to have.”
That’s the conversation we’re having here. I’m not calling Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) a racist. But I do want to talk about the racist thing Sen. Brown just did.
The racist thing Scott Brown just did was make an issue of the fact that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as part of the settlement of a case alleging the commonwealth has not complied with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act which requires states to offer citizens dealing with state agencies (e.g., when renewing a driver’s license or applying for public assistance) the opportunity to register to vote.
Rather than fight a long (and expensive) legal battle it was likely to lose, Massachusetts settled the suit by agreeing to do a mailing to welfare recipients and to hold voter registration events before this fall’s election.
For Sen. Brown, this “issue” is a two-fer, or maybe a three-fer:
- He can appeal to his base of white suburban voters by playing on fears of all those urban dark-skinned “welfare queens”;
- He can “keep his hands clean” by pointing out that he was raised by a single mother who relied on welfare in difficult times; and,
- He can further muddy the waters by playing up the fact that challenger Elizabeth Warren’s daughter chairs the board of trustees of Demos, one of the organizations that filed the original lawsuit.
So far in his 20 year political career, Scott Brown has proven to be very good at one thing: advancing the political career of Scott Brown. Given that fact, it’s disappointing but not particularly surprising that he’ll do racist things to keep advancing that career.