COLUMNIST

Biden's white supremacy comments hit the mark... and one Republican senator

By Elwood Watson

During his commencement speech at Howard University last weekend, President Joe Biden stated that white supremacy is the greatest threat to our society.

Biden was absolutely right on target in his remarks, which is evident in some of the more inflammatory comments made by conservative politicians.

"There he goes again!" is a common phrase most notably employed by the late president, Ronald Reagan, in 1984 against his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, who made critical comments directed at his ultimate successor. It's a phrase applied perfectly to Tommy Tuberville.

The perennial, rhetorically obscene Alabama senator recently hurled another in a slew of previously offensive comments to the ire of many rational-minded citizens.

In an interview that aired earlier this month on NPR member station WBHM, Tuberville complained that military recruitment was down "because the Democrats are attacking our military, saying we need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don't believe in our agenda, as Joe Biden's agenda."

The former Auburn University coach was just getting warmed up.

"Well I don't look at it like that," Tuberville added. "I look at a white nationalist as a Trump Republican. That's what we're called all the time, a MAGA person... I agree that we should not be characterizing Trump supporters as white nationalists."

Not surprisingly, after a public outcry in various quarters, the senator's office made desperate attempts (unconvincingly) to clear up comments made by their boss. "Sen. Tuberville's quote shows that he was being skeptical of the notion that there are white nationalists in the military, not that he believes they should be in the military," said spokesman Steven Stafford. Yeah, right. Whatever.

Such callous rhetoric prompted fellow colleague, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, to denounce Tuberville's comments, calling them "shocking."

"Can you believe that? Revolting. Utterly revolting," Schumer said. "Does Senator Tuberville honestly believe that our military is stronger with white nationalists in its ranks? I cannot believe this needs to be said, but white nationalism has no place in our armed forces and no place in any corner of American society."

Any decent human being with half a brain would find themselves in agreement with Schumer. The reality is that this is not the first example of Tuberville engaging in racially charged rhetoric.

In July 2002, he denounced immigrants from the Middle East, claiming, "They're coming over here to tear this country down. They are not for the Constitution. They are not for our laws. They are not for the people in this country. They want to tear it down, and we're not going to let that happen."

Arabs were not the only non-White group who have earned the enmity of his bigoted tongue. In October 2022, at a Republican rally for Trump in Nevada, he commented that Democrats were engaged in a battle to take from white people and give to Black people, whom he stereotyped as criminals.

"No, they're not soft on crime," Tuberville said, "They're pro-crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that. Bulls--!"

It would not have been that long ago that Tuberville and others of his far-right, white supremacist ilk would have been marginalized and forced to resign from their position. Now, in today's post-Trump far-right Republican Party, they have found a political home, comfortably nestled among those whose harbor fascist sentiments.

It is a sad and chilling state of affairs.

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.

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