It seems that Army life may have left Allen West a bit twisted he once fired a gun near an Iraqi detainee’s head to frighten him into talking – and now he thinks he’s Harriet Tubman. Like him, Tubman also wielded a gun to frighten runaway slaves into not turning back once they got on the Underground Railroad.
But knowing how to use a gun is the probably only thing – besides being black – that West, a GOP congressman from Florida, has in common with the anti-slavery crusader. She led black people away from bondage.
But in all likelihood West, who is beloved by Tea Partiers who are bent on either breaking the nation’s first black president or making him bow down to them, would lead them into it.
That’s why right-wingers like Laura Ingraham– people who delight in distorting the history and the realities of black people to make it conform to their worldview – are all too happy to hear West foolishly proclaim himself as the “modern-day Harriet Tubman.”
That’s what West called himself recently on a segment of the “O’Reilly Factor.” He characterized black people’s frustration with record-high unemployment as them being upset with the Democratic “plantation,” and he compared black Democratic leaders to overseers.
He then said that he hoped to “kind of lead [black] people on the Underground Railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility.”
That’s laughable – for a number of reasons.
First of all, West represents a mostly white district in South Florida. With his Tea Party bonafides, he’d be hard pressed to get black people to vote for him if he ran in a district in which they made up the majority of voters, much less get them to follow him on any new underground railroad.
And since he, like his white conservative counterparts, tends to blame every ill affecting black people on them not working hard enough, or being good enough, instead of documented structural and economic inequality, West fits the definition of overseer much closer than Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson ever will.
Yet whenever West and the right-wingers who love him disparage black Democrats as plantation thinkers, they don’t realize the racism that’s inherent in that belief; a belief that ignores black history and marginalizes black reality.
History tells us that black people have always voted their best interests.
We know this because after slavery, black people were Republicans – for obvious reasons. It was the party of Abraham Lincoln, under whose watch the Civil War commenced and slavery ended. It was the party which, for many years, helped to protect the rights of newly-freed slaves.
For many decades, black people who had traditionally voted Republican continued to do so even after the Democratic Party became the party of civil rights; something that, again, was in black people’s best interest.
But that has been changing ever since.
Beginning with President Nixon’s Southern strategy in 1968, designed to attract white, Southern voters disenchanted with desegregation and other changes that they believed were a threat to their privilege, the GOP has become less of a party for black people and people who want the country to be a fairer, more progressive nation, and more of a party for extremists.
We hear this in cries of “let’s take our country back,” and the racial insults and blatant disrespect by Republicans against President Obama.
And we see this in Republican-backed initiatives, such as in Florida, to make it tougher for black people and college students to vote; initiatives disguised as measures to prevent voter fraud that doesn’t exist.
Yet in the face of that reality, white right-wingers and black lackeys like West dare to imply that blacks only vote democratic because they don’t know any better; that they’re only following their “masters” orders.
That alone is racist – because it shows that right-wingers would much rather pin the blame on a deficiency in black people’s thinking rather than take a hard look at themselves and why GOP is toxic to most black people.
So if West is determined to be the “modern-day Harriet Tubman,” he has his work cut out for him. Because right now, with the influx of the Tea Party people, it’s doubtful that many black people will follow him into Republican land.
Not even if he holds a gun to their head.