On Fox News last night, right-wing Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) characterized himself as “the modern-day Harriet Tubman,” leading African-American voters away from the Democratic Party’s “plantation.” The main challenge is counting all of the angles in which this is offensive.
“So you have this 21st Century plantation … where the Democrat [sic] Party has forever taken the black vote for granted, and you have established certain black leaders who are nothing more than the overseers of that plantation,” West said. “And now the people on that plantation are upset because they’ve been disregarded, disrespected and their concerns are not cared about.”
“So I’m here as the modern day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the Underground Railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility.”
West, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told show host Laura Ingraham that she was “absolutely” correct to say that Congressional black leaders like Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) or Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) function as a “plantation boss.”
So, let’s see if I have this straight. African Americans are, in West’s twisted mind, some kind of political slaves; African-American political leaders who champion the interest of the black community are plantation bosses; and the deranged Miami congressman is a modern-day incarnation of a woman who freed more than 300 slaves through the Underground Railroad.
There was no indication that West was kidding.
All of this is deeply bizarre, but I’d love to hear more from the Republican congressman about why it is, exactly, he believes African-American voters should move to the GOP in droves. In other words, what’s the pitch to persuade blacks that Republicans “care about” the community’s needs? As near as I can tell, GOP leaders are eager to shred the social safety net, protect tax breaks for the wealthy and Big Oil, gut the health care system; and ignore job creation altogether.
In what universe is the African-American community supposed to hear this and say, “Sounds great; where do I sign up for this?”
Postscript: Ta-Nehisi Coates also raised a good point: “West is effectively calling Waters a sell-out. West, himself, would of course go into a frothing seizure should such a charge ever be lodged at him.”
It’s true; West doesn’t take criticism well. If a Democrat accused him of being a “plantation boss” and said his supporters are slaves, he probably wouldn’t take it well.