One of the Tea Party speakers at a rally in Washington D.C. this week praised George Washington, Martin Luther King, and other “great Americans who built this country,” but he used the word “breeding” to talk about the nation’s “DNA,” so, the Huffington Post believes it has found that political unicorn, Tea Party racism.
“That awkward moment when the Tea Party rally gets overtly racist,” says the headline of a post by Nick Wing. “When Ken Crow — a co-founder of the Tea Party Community — stepped up to the microphone, however, George Zornick of The Nation said he was taken aback by the talk of ‘breeding’ and racial purity that followed,” Wing writes. Huffington Post editors may have written the headline, and Wing placed the “racial purity” reading in Zornick’s mouth, but the post is designed to put a spotlight on the accusation.
What did Ken Crow actually say?
From those incredible blood lines of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and John Smith. And all these great Americans, Martin Luther King. These great Americans who built this country. You came from them. And the unique thing about being from that part of the world, when you learn about breeding, you learn that you cannot breed Secretariat to a donkey and expect to win the Kentucky Derby. You guys have incredible DNA and don’t forget it.
Jefferson, Washington, John Smith, Martin Luther King — What do those men have in common? (Hint: not melanin.) With that line-up, Crow satisfies the standard for inclusiveness recently articulated by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who said on MSNBC that “Plymouth Rock” — a metonym for English-heritage immigrants, apparently, “is not what made this country great.” Rangel added that “God has made it so easy to appreciate the different contributions that people make to this world” and called for Americans to “remember how they got here.”
One more thing on the point: Crow’s audience “was roughly one-third black,” as Zornick pointed out. “At minimum, Crow was making a crude nativist argument that people from other cultures have the heritage of a donkey, compared to our race-horse DNA,” Zornick wrote for the Nation. That might be right, though it would be more precise to say that “at maximum,” Crow made a “crude nativist argument.”
As a rhetorical rule, humans ought to avoid using animal breeding analogies when talking about humans. Crow can perhaps be pardoned for the clumsy phrasing, though, given that he appears to be discussing the heritage of this nation in order to articulate what makes it unique; or, to use President Obama’s preferred term, “exceptional.”