Yet another racial code word has emerged from within our 21st century post-racial American discourse. This time, it comes from Republican senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. In commenting on Obama’s policy, Coburn said that the president “seeks to create dependency” on government programs. He does not specify which programs in particular, but Coburn goes on to say that overall he does not believe these programs are good for the country.
Now, first off, there is nothing new about this idea of government programs being “bad for the country” but helpful to African-Americans. It is a conservative trope that social programs that help Black America are always to the detriment of everyone else. What is different about this is that Coburn is claiming that President Obama is pushing these programs at the exact time that he along with the rest of the political class is moving toward gutting the social safety net. When it comes to Black political figures, there is always this element of policing done. It must be assured that the Black politician does not provide “too much” help to other Black people. The good Republican Senator is only trying to make sure that no undeserving minorities get anymore then they deserve. Mr. Coburn has little to fear from the Obama Administration, but this kind of talk must persist to whip up the conservative base.
The media and the politicians have managed to control the conversation, and put a welfare stigma on nearly every social program that does something to help people. The best way to move towards cutbacks in America is to “paint it Black” as Jesse Jackson once said. And that is precisely what is being done. Does Senator Coburn mean Affirmative Action? That is still unclear.
What we do know is that the political class has it out for these “government programs” Mr. Coburn is only the latest reactionary voice to add to this push against the safety net. He will not be the last.
-Marc W. Polite
Update: Here is an interesting article on Affirmative Action by Lewis R. Gordon