For the average American, saying what Tommy Tuberville said last week would be career-ending.
Being recorded as a bigot is a fast way for most Americans to lose employment. A viral clip garners a few million views, influential accounts condemn it, and the company looks bad, which could possibly affect profit and stock prices. So poof, pow, employee gone. However, in politics, the rules are a bit different.
A stir was caused over the weekend when the Los Angeles Times released a report that it had obtained audio of Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez referring to a Black child as a “little monkey” in Spanish, and Mexican immigrants from the Oaxaca region as, “little fat dark people.” In a statement released on Monday, Martinez apologized and said that she is resigning as president, but did not indicate that she is stepping down from the council, which is being called for across Los Angeles. Today, she announced that she is taking a leave of absence.
But in other parts of the country, racist dog whistles as clear as cellophane don’t upend political careers, it can strengthen them.
Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s bigotry didn’t have to be tracked down by audio that was originally posted on Reddit, and he’s not facing calls from the powers that be in his state to step down. He made his statement in broad daylight at a Donald Trump rally in Nevada, in support of Republican senate candidate Adam Laxalt. While giving a typical, passionate, anti-Black, speech that was broadcast on a far-right news network, Sen. Tuberville somehow got onto the subject of reparations. The idea of it, to him, is “bullshit!”
“They want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that.”
For those who might consider giving the former Auburn head football coach the benefit of the doubt that his statement didn’t call Black people criminals, he also later went on a classic dog whistle rant about food stamps. He claims that the amount of people on food stamps is hurting you, the industrious American, and those folks need to get back to work. This of course negates that people who have had their hands on federal welfare money in Mississippi — the state just to the west of his — are pleading guilty to misusing millions of dollars of it for their own benefit.
I’m fairly certain that Sen. Tuberville has more important things to do than read this article — perhaps trading stocks without properly disclosing that he is doing so, which, while he denies it, Business Insider reported that he has done so 132 times. But should he get around to this, here’s a quick lesson on reparations for alumni of Southern Arkansas, which didn’t fully integrate until 10 years after his birth, and also about the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
As recently as 59 years ago, Black people in his state, and many others, had no rights. See, after nearly 250 of local, state and, federally sanctioned bondage known as chattel slavery, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were passed in 1865 thereby outlawing it — at the conclusion of a brutal civil war in which the states that seceded from the union committed treason and their congressmen were expelled.
As Black people then began to gain political and economic influence, it was taken from them through violence and intimidation. For example, in 1870 a mob burned all of the Black churches and schoolhouses in Tuskegee, Alabama, per a study by the Equal Justice Initiative. Two Black men were elected to the United States Senate in the 1870s, but no others would get there again until 1967.
Let’s not forget about the “Separate but Equal” Supreme Court ruling in 1896 that legalized segregation at the federal level. After slavery, Black people paid taxes to a government that was actively trying to prevent their advancement, denying them the same status, dignity, and access as white people. And as far as more liberal policies go, the New Deal undergirded a white middle class during the Great Depression, while also helping to create a nationwide housing segregation crisis that endures to this day, and interstate construction that destroyed many of the Black neighborhoods that managed to thrive. Also, Black people who fought in World War II and returned to find the GI Bill that allowed countless white servicemen the opportunity to education and access to wealth was not fully available to them.
That’s the drive-through version of why many intellectuals believe that Black people deserve some form of remuneration for being physically and legally forbidden from full participation in the American economy. This after being taken across the Atlantic Ocean against their will.
Sen. Tuberville would likely clumsily dismiss those previous three paragraphs to rousing applause anywhere he would agree to speak. His platform to win a 2020 election for United States senator was that his Auburn teams used to regularly beat up on Alabama, and in 2004 they were screwed out of a chance to play USC for the national championship. Also, he is a staunch Donald Trump supporter, and even voted against the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
When that’s all it takes to get elected into the United States federal government, calling Black people criminals for wanting some justice after 400 years of oppression while also making sweeping statements about welfare when a giant scandal regarding misuse of those funds is putting nearby state officials in jail, has no consequences.
Speaking of welfare, if the senator has a problem with that, then he needs to fork over a percentage of his wealth to all of the Black players that he has coached over the years. Without Jason Campbell, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, and others winning those games in 2004 and receiving no pay, he never has the profile to become a senator, and it’s doubtful he ever makes millions of dollars.
To even land a college job as good as head coach at Auburn — that ended with him getting a $5 million buyout after he quit — Tuberville had to build his resume coaching elsewhere. Where did he cut his teeth for eight years and work his way up to defensive coordinator? The U.
That’s right, from 1986-93 he worked on the staff of the Miami Hurricanes, possibly the team most synonymous with blackness in the history of college football. All of that world-class Black talent on defense spearheaded that program to four national championships and Tuberville to his first head coaching job by 1995. Yet, judging from his statements last week, he might have purchased a Catholics vs. Convicts shirt at that infamous game at Notre Dame in 1988.
If Sen. Tuberville said into a microphone as a coach what he did in Nevada last week, it would’ve careened his career into a ditch. He wouldn’t be able to sell families that he was going to mold their son into a man. They could play that video back, and say “if my son couldn’t score a touchdown or make a tackle you’d rather he be in jail.”
Jon Gruden turns out to be a racist and ends up having to resign, but in Tuberville’s current role as United States senator, he has further solidified his hold on the job that he’s not up for reelection for until 2026.
Let that sink in for a moment. A clunky, hate-filled, disjointed speech, that would result in most readers of this piece being fired from their jobs, has strengthened his hold on one of the most influential positions a person can hold in this country.
People who work in this country have to watch their mouths, but some of the people who represent it can casually express hateful viewpoints towards the citizens they’re sworn to serve, and stay employed.