On June 12, Americans celebrated National Loving Day. It was on this date in 1967 that the Supreme Court struck down laws in 16 states banning interracial marriage. Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15.1 percent of all new marriages in America are interracial.
The ban on interracial marriage is one of the dozens of laws that were racist in their origins and serve as an example of what people refer to as systemic racism; racism built into federal and state laws, approved by mostly white men to control the lives of people of color.
Voter suppression laws being passed today are further examples of systemic racism and are also a threat to our democracy. It is interesting that as our nation celebrates Juneteenth to commemorate the end of slavery, many Republican states are responding to the record minority turnout in the 2020 presidential election cycle by passing laws to make voting more difficult.
Meanwhile, in Texas, Republicans passed a law that, among other things, tells teachers that they shouldn’t talk about anything that would make them or their students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” based on their race or sex. You know, I bet slavery made Black people feel a whole lot of “discomfort” and “distress” back in the day. We should talk about that.
Americans should feel discomfort when learning about slavery, the lynching of Black men, Black and white bathrooms, and water fountains, Japanese internment, or the treatment of Native Americans by early settlers. It should make us all uncomfortable to learn that federal and state laws prevented people of color from buying a house and voting, and, yes, Alabama Gov. George Wallace was “inherently racist” when he physically blocked Black children from entering a public school.
It is really appalling to listen to some white folks tell us that we need to just move on and not dwell in the past. What a great example of white privilege; the ability to just move on and put aside the systemic racism that people of color have had to live with their entire lives.
It is not just history that Republicans wish to ignore. In his book, “The Republican War on Science,” Chris Mooney wrote, “Science has never been more crucial to deciding the political issues facing the country. Yet science and scientists have less influence with the federal government than at any time since the Eisenhower administration.” Interestingly, Mooney wrote this in 2005, well before Donald Trump became the darling of the Republican Party. Mooney was exposing something that has become even clearer today.
Here’s a recent example of what Mooney might have been talking about: Republican Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert asked during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing June 8 if there was “anything that the National Forest Service … can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun” to address climate change. Perhaps Gohmert thinks that this is a more plausible solution than, say, reducing coal plant emissions and forgoing campaign contributions from said industry? If it were even possible – and it is not – what could possibly go wrong with changing the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, right?
It gets worse. Republicans in the Ohio State legislature invited Dr. Sherri Tenpenny to testify about the dangers of vaccines. She warned that the COVID-19 vaccine magnetized people. I’m not making this up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to publish a statement that “a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you magnetic” for those Americans – you know who you are – not capable of figuring this out for themselves.
Then we have Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin who, as if June 3, was still pushing Hydroxychloroquine and other “cheap, generic drugs” for the treatment of COVID-19 during a talk at the Milwaukee Press Club. Researchers have demonstrated that Hydroxychloroquine is not effective and, in fact, increases COVID-19 mortality. Republicans seem to be more accepting of the advice from Johnson than infection experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become the latest and greatest conservative bogeyman.
Not too long ago, the Republican Party was considered the intellectual party. Eloquent commentators and great writers like William Buckley, David Brooks, George Will and many others made us think. My dad and I watched these intellectuals on public television, and you could not help but appreciate their grasp of history, science, and the values of democracy. Today, the party is led by people like Gohmert, Johnson, and the magnetic lady in a race to the bottom, where history, science, and even democracy, seem to be disposable.
Tom Zirpoli is a professor and program coordinator for the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His columns appear on Wednesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.