Imagine that it is 1998 and the House has filed articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton for perjury emerging from his affair with Monica Lewinsky. A political pundit, who happens to be African-American, remarks that Bill Clinton is being persecuted because of his efforts to help minorities in this country, and that efforts to impeach him are consistent with conservative goals to effectively “end” the middle class in this country and relegate minorities to permanent underclass status. This unnamed pundit ends his comments by observing that the efforts of Bill Clinton to help minorities and his persecution by conservatives is indicative of the fact that “Our whites are so much better than their whites.”
What would follow these comments is the immediate resignation of this pundit from the network and an apology to all who were offended. This fact pattern is obviously a spin on Ann Coulter’s recent defense of Herman Cain, who is currently under fire for sexual harassment allegations made against him while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association. She noted that “there is nothing liberals fear more than a black conservative” and she observes that, ““Our blacks are so much better than their blacks” because “you have fought against probably your family, probably your neighbors. . . that’s why we have very impressive blacks.”
Despite the controversial nature of these comments, I suspect that there will be no apology or resignation, but here is why there needs to be an apology for a couple of reasons. First, I think Ann Coulter is continuing a theme that Herman Cain himself started – that African-Americans who support the Democratic party have been brainwashed into doing so. This view of African Americans as passive participants in politics, reinforced by a cowherd mentality, is a statement that in and of itself suggests a hierarchy within the race that is reinforced by Coulter’s remarks. In other words, “the talented tenth” vote Republican and are rich because they “choose” not to be poor. This is not a theme that the Republican Party, who has already been accused of being anti-gay and pro-death, wants to run with going into 2012.
Second, Coulter’s statements bring to mind many of the divisions that were present during the Antebellum period – notably, the division between house slaves and field slaves as a result of the fact that house slaves were treated better and therefore more loyal to the master than field slaves. That is why her statement, which claims possession over African-American conservatives and references the dissension caused in African-American families when an individual family member decides to vote Republican, is so troubling. In fact, the reason I started this post with “Our whites are so much better than their whites” is because I want readers to get a sense of how ludicrous it sounds when a minority claims ownership over a group of white people and how this would be discrediting to the speaker, but how troubling and disturbing it sounds when a white person claims ownership over a group of minorities because it harkens back to a historical truth. Coulter paints African-American conservatives as the “house negros” who are brave and loyal because they dare to stand up to the “field negros” who would betray the master. This makes her comments dangerous in a way that demands a response, either from Fox News, the so-called “liberal” media, bloggers, Bill Maher, Herman Cain --- someone needs to remind Ann Coulter that this is 2011, not 1811.