Our VoiceCulture

Tom Tancredo’s “Paula Deen Moments”

Lauren Taylor • Jul 12, 2013

Recently,  well-known nativist and contender in the Republican primary for the 2014 gubernatorial race, Tom Tancredo told the National Journal that he doesn’t “have a Paula Deen moment out there.” He goes even further in the interview, “They can search every word I have ever uttered on this subject, and there are a lot. Anything I’ve ever written, and there’s tons.” Well, the challenge was too hard to resist, particularly for a politician whose career is a veritable smorgasbord of bigotry.

If we interpret Tancredo’s statement in the narrowest way possible – looking for instances of anti-black racism with a particular nostalgia for antebellum slavery (a parallel to Deen’s desire to plan a “real southern plantation wedding” with an all-black wait staff), we could look here, where Southern Poverty Law Center reveals (SPLC) Tancredo gave an anti-immigrant speech at a barbecue and fundraiser  hosted and promoted by the League of the South.

“At the close of Tancredo’s speech, several men wearing Confederate army uniforms stood up and started to sing the first notes of “Dixie,” the minstrel song turned Confederate anthem about a freed slave pining for plantation life. According to Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinoza, the congressman joined in the singing.”

The hosting organization was a neo-Confederate group founded in 1994 that openly advocates for a European American dominated society, segregation, and the secession of southern states.

If we imagine that a Paula Deen moment could be a form of racism or bigotry more generally, we could look to his demonization of immigrants.

He claimed that undocumented immigrants are “coming here to kill you and to kill me and our families;” and when in Congress he repeatedly introduced bills to halt all legal immigration to the states.  He also proposed, and later defended a plan to bomb Mecca and Medina as a deterrent to attacking the US.

Then there’s his 2010 Tea Party speech in which he blamed President Obama’s election on “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote,’ or say it in English.” In the same speech he called for a civics and literacy test as a prerequisite to voting, and suggested the country’s first black president, would not have been elected had such tests been in place. Such comments are particularly chilling given the recent Supreme Court decision to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a landmark victory of the Civil Rights Movement that ended the use of literacy tests, which were used to disenfranchise black voters.

Tancredo argued in the same interview last week that Republicans won’t win over Hispanic voters by compromising on immigration (because of their interest in “Obamaphones” and “big government”). Consequently, he believes, Republicans should block the proposed immigration reform – explicitly to prevent Hispanic immigrants from becoming citizens and voting. His interest in disenfranchising people of color is not a moment, but rather a consistent strategy he has advocated for the Republican Party. For the sake of the party’s own survival – if not more lofty ideals of justice, Republicans would be wise to drop Tancredo just like the Food Network dropped Deen.

For those wanting more thorough proof of Tancredo’s bigotry, this, this, and this are sure to provide, and are guaranteed to raise your blood pressure.

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