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Former House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich posted a heartfelt tribute to Nelson Mandela the day his death was announced. Newt called Mandela “one of the greatest leaders of our time” and acknowledged Mandela’s legacy as a cultural icon who fought to free his people from racial oppression. Unlike a lot of other republicans who had nice things to say about the man, Newt had a history of anti Apartheid votes to back it up. When Ronald Reagan tried to veto sanctions passed by congress against the oppressive regime, Newt voted to block President Reagan’s veto. Not an easy decision for a republican to block a veto from a republican president. I have my issues with Newt and he’s said and done some pretty awful things throughout his political career, but on the issue of Apartheid Newt was pretty courageous (probably the last time I’ll ever use courageous and Newt in the same sentence). So after newt posts his short and kind tribute on his facebook page, a tea party wave of nasty racist ugly rebukes are posted in response. The angry posters were calling President Mandela a racist murder of whites, a communist thug, a gorilla terrorist, some said he should have died in prison, one comment said President Obama should be imprisoned just like Mandela, others expressed disappointment in Newt for posting kind words about President Mandela. Comment after comment of this vitriol spilled out on Newt’s Facebook page for all to see. Tea Party darling Ted Cruz wrote some kind words about Mandela on his page and received the same ugly backlash as Newt. In an interview with CNN over the weekend Newt said he was shocked by all the negative comments. Newt may have been shocked, but I and a lot of other progressives weren’t shocked at all. Since the day Barack Obama won the presidency there’s been a very visible raise in racial tension throughout conservative America. Any black person who talks about racism or tries to point out racism or even engages in a discussion that touches anything dealing with race makes the tea party go absolutely crazy. Go to any conservative message board and read some of the comments. When the movie “12 Years A Slave” came out I searched for movie reviews on it to see what it was about but instead I found page after page of the most disgusting vile racist nonsense I’ve ever read. Conservative media has fed their followers a false narrative about why the economy is so slow at recovering, about why they can’t find jobs, about why upward mobility and the ladder to the middle class has completely disappeared. Who’s to blame? The usual suspects of course. Minorities and undocumented immigrants. Every problem in the United States is caused by minorities and undocumented immigrants. Newt shouldn’t be surprised because he has helped cultivate this nonsense. Him and right wing media guys like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Riley etc. They find ridiculous ways to link every single issue to minorities and undocumented immigrants. They have tapped into the angst and anger of ultra conservative whites who feel marginalized by the changing racial makeup of this country’s citizens which will eventually make whites a minority. Conservative media are constantly telling them that they are the real victims of racism. Minorities are the “takers” living off the hard work of the “makers”. To them Mandela and Obama are the same because they are both black leaders… and their very existence is offensive to them. Newt plays the game but he knows it’s a game. The people who follow and listen to him and other conservative media personalities aren’t aware that there’s a game being played. They are true believers. To them Obama is a Kenyan muslim who hates white people and hates America. They actually believe that & won’t accept facts that tell them otherwise. Even though Newt stood up for Mandela and chastised those tea party nuts who left the misguided comments, he can’t throw up his hands and pretend that he has no idea where the hate and vitriol comes from. It comes from you Newt. They learned it from you.
A Few Examples of Newt Gingrich’s History Of Racially Offensive Comments:
“I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” – Gingrich, at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire
On September 12, 2012 Gingrich told National Review Online that “Obama has pretended to be normal but actually seems to be engaged in Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior”. He went on to say “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president,”
An April 1, 2007, Associated Press reported that Gingrich described bilingual education as teaching “the language of living in a ghetto” and mocked requirements that ballots be printed in multiple languages.
Conservatives like to present a skewed version of Ronald Reagan and his presidency. The right has built an entire mythology around Reagan that rarely touches reality. The passing of Nelson Mandela brings back a very hard truth that Reaganites would like to erase.
During Mandela’s incarceration and the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa, the US Congress wanted to impose sanctions on South Africa to push the oppressive regime to free Mandela and end the brutality of Apartheid. Reagan strongly disagreed with imposing sanctions and likened Mandela to a terrorist. President Ronald Reagan appeared on TV before the house and senate’s scheduled vote on anti Apartheid legislation, to warn Americans against the Anti-Apartheid Act, decrying it as “immoral” and “utterly repugnant.” Congress disagreed, and one month later, it produced the two-thirds majority (which included both democrats and republicans) needed to override Reagan and pass tough new measures against South Africa’s apartheid government. These measures included a ban on bank loans and new investments in South Africa, a sharp reduction of imports, and prevented most South African officials from traveling to the United States. The Act also called for the repeal of apartheid laws and the release of political prisoners like African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela, who had spent the last 23 years in prison.
It is difficult to fully comprehend the evils of apartheid today. Blacks were denied citizenship and the right to vote. They were forcibly relocated into impoverished reservations. People of color were barred from operating businesses or owning land inside white areas, which comprised most of the country. Sexual relations or marriage between people of color and whites was strictly forbidden. Racial segregation was enforced in public areas, including schools, hospitals, trains, beaches, bridges, churches and theaters. To enforce apartheid, the government often resorted to police brutality, the imprisonment and assassination of political dissidents, and the murder of black protesters. In 1960 the South African police opened fire on a crowd of 7000 Apartheid protesters wounding hundreds of them and killing 69.
So the next time someone comes to you talking about how great Reagan was, remember his support for Apartheid, a racially unequal system of government, and every brutal racist oppressive element that came along with it and offer these facts as a much needed reality check.