Here’s a throwback post, not because there’s plenty of news currently unfolding that isn’t worth discussing, but because I find it interesting. We all need a break from Ferguson and ISIS coverage. While browsing YouTube the other day, I stumbled across Rachel Maddow’s interview with Rand Paul during his 2010 campaign soon after he won the Republican senatorial primary, in which they discussed Paul’s position on the Civil rights act of 1964. Before the interview, Dr. Paul had made some statements in other interviews saying that he abhors racism and supports ridding the government of institutional racism, but believes that the section of the civil rights act that prohibits business owners from not serving blacks limits the first amendment rights of such business owners. These comments made by Paul set the stage for his interview with Rachel Maddow, which was uploaded on YouTube and divided into two parts by a user whose real username I will not post here simply because it is so long. I recommend that you watch part 1 of the interview because Rachel Maddow provides a good introduction to their debate. I will mainly focus on part 2, which includes the majority of the interview, in this post.
Throughout the entire interview, Rachel attempts to have Dr. Paul fully state his stance on the civil rights act. She asked him the same question multiple times, only worded differently, to get it out of him. But unlike many other Republicans, Rand Paul is no idiot. He stands by his beliefs, but is smart to not denounce the civil rights act. Several times during their conversation when Maddow asked him the question (“Do you support business owners’ rights to discriminate against blacks?”) in many variations or allude to evidence that shows him contradicting himself, Paul would evade it by saying “Well, I think that this debate is interesting”, and then go off on some notion as if he completely disregards her contribution to the argument. Here’s a metaphorical example for their conversation: there is a cardboard square between Maddow and Paul, she pokes holes through the square to see what his true position is, which is written on a paper concealed behind the square. Each time she pokes a whole through the square, we get a clue on what it is. Paul remains unyielding and refuses to fully elaborate on his opinion in fear that he may be labeled as a racist.
It is through these small slivers that we can evaluate all what Paul has said and put it together. Only then is his position on the issue revealed. Maddow makes a great point when indicating that supporting civil rights while criticizing the CR act directly contradicts itself. Rand Paul may abhor racism, but will not fight against it if it means limiting free speech. He says that if he were older during the sixties, he would’ve marched with MLK, but with this viewpoint he holds, he is practically on both sides of the argument. On the side of the civil rights activists, he hates racism and believes that Blacks should be treated equally to whites, but also defends the bigots and racists in their right to free speech. If a law includes racism, like many of the laws in the Jim Crow South did, he would condemn it. But if its a business discriminating against blacks, Mr. Paul doesn’t have any problem with it. Sure, he may not agree with what the racist business owner believes, but he won’t do anything to prevent it. With this logic, Paul will defend Blacks in their pursuit for equal rights, but if it means restricting the freedom of speech for bigots, Rand will admit defeat. Thus, any possible progress is prevented. Civil rights aren’t as important as free speech (speech that this full of hate and bigotry, I should add) according to Rand Paul. Considering this, it becomes confusing on which side Mr. Paul stands.
Perhaps examining some of his other responses to racism will provide insight onto where he stands. The most recent event involving racial discrimination in the U.S. that Paul commented on was, of course, the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Being socially liberal, he stood with the democrats on the issue. During the crisis, he wrote a times op-ed on the police militarization in Ferguson.
Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.
Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.
Although I agree with Rand Paul and strongly condemn police militarization, I can’t help but feel that he is artificial on this issue. The protests and riots in Ferguson aren’t in response to police militarization, they are in response to the fatal shooting of a young black man by a white police officer. The root of the whole crisis in Ferguson is the atmosphere of the town, it’s segregation and the police discrimination black residents experience everyday. Only once in his article did Dr. Paul mention the issue of race and how it corresponded to police brutality. Throughout his op-ed, he mainly focuses on growing police militarization throughout the states and how it infringes upon our civil liberties. Although he may be on the same side as them on the topic of Ferguson and civil rights, he seems to have a more developed position than the liberals he has sided with. Rand’s hatred for racism doesn’t come from rationality, it derives from his libertarianism. Many of the liberals like myself who have come out in support of the blacks protesting in Ferguson have done it because we think blacks have equal rights to whites and shouldn’t be persecuted by law enforcement simply due to their skin color. Rand Paul may also believe this but he does not voice it. He takes on the subject of civil rights from another angle. As was seen in his interview earlier with Rachel Maddow, he views racism as an evil principle of big government, which enforces it through the police forces. Due to his libertarian ideology, Paul is an enemy of big government and consistently labels big government as the source of all problems.
Once examining his condemnation of institutional racism in both arguments, one may question whether Rand Paul truly thinks African-Americans as people who deserve civil rights or simply a racial minority who he should publicly defend in order to challenge big government. As I mentioned before, most Democrats view the denial of civil rights to blacks in the south and racial discrimination across the nation as a moral issue that must be dealt with in order to treat blacks as human beings who deserve equal treatment in a country and society their race has helped create. While Democrats focus on the moral objectivity of the issue, Rand Paul takes it a step further and uses the race issue to victimize the government. He used the police militarization in Ferguson to his advantage in strengthening libertarian influence, particularly his influence. When he exploits the race issue in his favor, he objectifies blacks to a mere material status in his libertarian political formula in framing the government of fueling racism. If the government really was full of racists, than why is the head of the government a black man? I’ll wait for Senator Paul to explain that to me, but for now, it doesn’t seem realistic. If he were actually being truthful, he would admit that the heart of the race problem lies within the private sector, which explains why blacks are often denied higher paying jobs and advantages. Our society doesn’t offer many opportunities to blacks, but that isn’t entirely the government’s fault. The U.S.’s long history of oppressing blacks is responsible for their current socio-economic condition.
In many ways, like in the civil rights of 1964 (which Rand Paul only partially supports), the government has passed legislation to prevent discrimination, but according to Rand Paul, we shouldn’t do that because it’ll diminish the free speech of the racists. If the Senator honestly cared for the civil rights of blacks, he would do anything in helping them achieve those rights, even if it meant silencing bigots. Ultimately, I don’t know if Rand Paul really does hate racism or if he’s secretly a racist, but I do know that as he continues to enter the public spotlight and advocate his doctrine of libertarianism, more people will realize that he’s exploiting the race issue for his own political advantage, and hopefully they’ll be disgusted by it.