As predicted, the CPAC panel on racial tolerance didn’t go over as well as convention organizers might have hoped. "Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re not One?" was led by Carl Smith (who calls himself a "Frederick Douglass Republican"). He urged the audience to self-identify as Frederick Douglass Republicans as a way to deflect racist claims. So what happens when you try to get a bunch of Tea Party conservatives to openly discuss race? Nothing good.
Smith is an African-American father and grandfather who in the past has appeared on shows like the "700 Club" and "Huckabee Show." During panel discussion he urged individuals to use Frederick Douglass as a way to appeal to "blacks, Latinos, women and young people." Smith believes that you can’t call people racist who call themselves Frederick Douglass Republicans. Yes, he believes that by calling yourself a FDR, you inoculate yourself against any further claims of racism. Problem solved, Republicans.
At one point Smith said, "I don’t care how much the KKK improved, I’m not going to join the KKK. The Democratic Party founded the KKK." Some in the crowd shouted in approval, except for Kim Brown, a black radio host and producer for Voice of Russia who expressed her obvious disapproval.
See, by Smith’s account, Douglass is the quintessential American dream story, a real pick yourself up by your bootstraps kinda guy. Smith went onto describe why Douglass would appeal to women (because he was at Seneca Falls). Douglass could appeal to Latinos because of his "work ethic." It’s worth nothing that these statements themselves are both sexist and racist.
Things really started to devolve during the question and answer section. Scott Terry and his friend Matthew Heimbach were in the audience and they weren't happy with the way things were progressing. Heimbach was wearing a Confederate-flag shirt. Completely coincidentally, he also founded the White Students Union at Towson University. Heimbach’s students union is considered to be a "white nationalist" group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Both white men stood up and explained that appealing to African Americans and Latinos was coming at the expense of "young white southern males." Terry added that he "came to love my people and culture, who are systemically being disenfranchised."
Sorry to disappoint you Terry, but that’s just not true. Take a look at why Voter ID laws are passed in the first place. They are passed to suppress the vote, and it’s not the white vote being disenfranchised.
People began to scream and shout at one another until panel organizers were called in to help calm people down. It worked until Kim Brown tried to ask another question about racist political ads. She was booed, told to let someone else speak, and an older women informed her she wasn’t welcome. Apparently, these audience members feel like white males are getting really "beaten up." They feel that their white culture is under attack. They don’t understand how they can be called racist, when the Republicans were the ones who emancipated African Americans.
Perhaps the issue with the GOP and its discussion (or lack thereof) about race can be summed up by this audience member's take on it. "Race is such a weird issue," he said. "It’s hard to talk about it."
Describing race as a weird issue shows the privilege white people have. It is a privilege to be able to call race a "weird" issue. It is a privilege to believe yourself so disassociated from the hardships of the issues of race that it becomes only a topic that is esoteric to you.
It’s not that race is "hard to talk about," it’s that when it comes down to it, many on the right just don’t want to hear about it.