Elbert Guillory is my state senator and he has announced that he is running for lieutenant governor here in Louisiana. Representing a couple of parishes and the desperately poor and violent city of Opelousas, Elbert Guillory has switched political parties a number of times in order to align his sails with the political winds of the Bayou State.
Unlike most African-American politicians in Louisiana, Guillory is currently a Republican and as such, has been a favorite spokesman for the GOP on issues of race and poverty. In a campaign ad he is expected to release this weekend, Elbert Guillory is expected to use the N-word to repeat a favorite conservative talking point to reinforce their message that Democrats, not Republicans, are the party with racial problems.
The racial slur is used in the context of a quotation attributed to President Lyndon Johnson in which he predicted that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would “have them n—–s voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.” The quote was reported in a book by Ronald Kessler, “Inside the White House,” and has never been verified, although Johnson was recorded using the slur in other situations.
In an interview, Guillory, who is black, said he expected the ad would “stir things up,” but he said he did not include the racial slur deliberately to be provocative. His campaign did not immediately provide access to the advertisement to verify its contents.
“If history is provocative to you, that’s something that occurs in your head,” Guillory said. “It’s purely an educational message. This is what was done and how it was done and why it was done. We need to know it and make our choices in this fall’s elections.”
Republicans have been trying to lure in minority voters and Elbert Guillory is their man in Louisiana. Last year, he appeared in a couple of attack ads against incumbent Democratic Senate candidates in Louisiana and North Carolina at the behest of the Republican Party. Both Mary Landrieu and Kay Hagan both went on to lose pivotal races as the GOP took control of the United States Senate.
In order to pretend there aren’t very real problems with racism in the Republican Party, the GOP relies on someone of color like Elbert Guillory who is willing to throw everyone else from their community under the bus by saying that racism isn’t a problem these days, and that minorities just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Regarding the statement attributed to Lyndon Johnson, it is important to point out that even if he did use the racial slur, it was common for white men from the South to use the N-word at the time. In fact, it is still used to this day by Confederate flag supporters and commenters on our local TV station’s Facebook page who claim that it is just a word and that it’s no worse than an African-American referring to a white person like myself as a “cracker.”
What people like Elbert Guillory and his GOP cronies conveniently overlook is that, while Lyndon Johnson may have used language inappropriate for both his time and ours, he fought relentlessly to pass the Civil Rights Act. The support for this legislation began the exodus of conservative Democrats to the GOP, where they remain to this day.
Racism is alive and well in the Republican Party, and Elbert Guillory’s expected ad is proof that the GOP has nothing else to offer African-American voters other than more fear, bigotry, and blame – even from conservative members of their own race.
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