A Useful Point on Santorum's View of Blacks

Santorum's statement, and Joe Klein's subsequent defense, was massive in its wrongness--like ordering the fried calamari as a starter, and the double chocolate cheesecake for desert:

"The question is -- and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer: Is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no," Santorum says in the interview, which was first picked up by CBN's David Brody. "Well if that person, human life is not a person, then, I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, 'We are going to decide who are people and who are not people.'"

By the time I started writing, I was stuffed, and thus missed the most delicious aspect of the thing. From my in-box:

I wanted to also share what exactly went through my mind when I heard what Santorum said. Had I been whatever pundit, host, ken doll, or mold of Yancy that was interviewing him, here is the first thing that should have come out their mouth: "Rick, leaving aside any position on abortion, leaving aside any knowledge of the history of slavery in this country, you just said that one man should hold a specific opinion because of the color of his skin. Let me repeat that: you just said any African-American should think this way because of the color of their skin. Please elaborate." 

What he said was vile. You pointed out the ignorance of what he said in your post. I wanted to under-think it and point out the pure wretchedness of his thinking. We aren't individuals for this man, we're a collection of others who must share the same thinking process and behaviors. There's a word for that kind of thought and it's all too easily used these days, but for once it applies.

This really is no different than me wondering how Colin Powell could possibly be conservative, and still be black. At its mildest, it's Santorum (!!) questioning Obama's blackness. Had Jesse Jackson said "It is almost remarkable for a black to extend the Bush tax cuts" that is exactly what we'd call it. At its more insidious, the notion that all black people either should, or do, think the same, it's far worse.

I think it would be deeply wrong of me to say, "As a member of ethnic group that's suffered bigotry, Rick Santorum should be for gay marriage." The wrong would not simply extend to Santorum, it would extend to other Italian-Americans--gay or straight. I regret that I missed that. Whatever the flaws of the actual analogy, it's always wrong to treat individuals as a "collection of others." Full stop. 

As a conservative, and the member of a party that prides itself on individual rights, I find it remarkable that Rick Santorum would do exactly that.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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