Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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August 16, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS; Race and politics

FRANKFORT —  Recent comments by Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have me thinking about the taboo subject of race in America.

Reid was asked about the monolithic opposition by Congressional Republicans to anything proposed by Barack Obama, America’s first African American president.

“I hope – and I say this seriously – I hope that’s based on substance and not the fact that he’s African American,” Reid answered.

Republicans howled and accused Reid of playing “the race card.” South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott – the Senate’s only African American – called Reid’s comments “shameful.”

Still, consider this. One 2008 presidential candidate was born outside the United States: John McCain was born in Panama. But it was the candidate from Hawaii whose eligibility was questioned.

Paul was asked about election laws passed in some southern states in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act. He rightly called Jim Crow-era literacy tests “an abomination,” but went on to say that there is “no objective evidence” of current efforts to suppress African American voters.

Last summer the Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, Republican Mike Turzai, said that state’s new voter registration and I.D. law would “allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” (Courts threw the law out prior to the election.)

I’m not accusing anyone of racism. I genuinely believe Paul’s political philosophy is based on his belief that his positions are intellectually justified and not based in anyway on caste or social superiority.

But my life is full of personal examples of how whites and blacks perceive the world very differently.

A couple of months ago, I pulled into a parking lot to take a call on my cell phone. As I talked, I absent-mindedly flipped the lock-unlock button.  Suddenly, there was an angry young black man yelling outside my car. At first I was confused – until it suddenly occurred to me why.

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