What notorious racist said the following? “Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men. And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.”
“In troubled neighborhoods all across this country—many of them heavily African American—too few of our citizens have role models to guide them.”
“We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households…. We know the statistics—that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school and twenty times more likely to end up in prison.”
As you might guess, Paul Ryan said none of these things. Barack Obama did—in heartfelt speeches at a Chicago church in 2008, at Morehouse College in 2013 and at the White House a few weeks ago.
In his instantly notorious interview with radio talk show host Bill Bennett, Ryan discussed fatherlessness and the importance of role models to passing along an example of hard work. “We have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular,” he said, “of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”
For this offense, Ryan was awarded an honorary white hood by the liberal commentariat. But the broad sentiments are indistinguishable from those of Obama in the statements quoted above—all emphasizing a breakdown of work and the consequences of fatherlessness and social isolation—except Obama’s comments were more explicitly racial.
When Barack Obama says such things, which are undeniably correct, he is a brave truth-teller; when Paul Ryan says them, he is making an odious play for racist votes.
Many of the denunciations of Ryan have simply reflected the left’s well-developed reflex for wanton accusations of racism. But Ryan is so obviously not a bigot that liberal pundits have had to deploy a slightly different argument—that the structural racism of the Republican Party is so deep and pervasive that even a possibly well-meaning politician like Ryan can’t escape its gravitational pull.
Brian Beutler of Salon thinks if Ryan’s comment was intended innocently it is even more damning because “it suggests he, and most likely many other conservatives, has fully internalized a framing of social politics that was deliberately crafted to appeal to white racists.”