50,000 Watts of Hate: Race-baiting Edition

It’s been an especially disgraceful couple of weeks on Colorado conservative talk radio. All that was missing was a minstrel show with Al Jolson singing “Swanee River.”Over the last two weeks, Colorado Media Matters noted that Fox News Radio 600 KCOL’s Scott James referred to minority community college presidents as “coloreds” and Jon Caldara and Ann Coulter engaged in factless revisionist history about race-based hate crimes on college campuses on Newsradio 850 KOA.

But the award for the most profane, intellectually-stunted, and ludicrous statement made on Colorado talk radio goes to former Colorado Senate President John Andrews on his KNUS-AM program “Backbone Radio.”

Dismissing Native American protestors at the annual Denver Columbus Day parade on October 6 as ingrates for not celebrating the European discovery of the New World, Andrews opined in this audio clip to co-host Joshua Sharf:

ANDREWS: It was a very good thing. Darn right. It was good for the inhabitants of the New World. It was good for the inhabitants of the whole world.

ANDREWS: It was good too for the people from Africa who were brought here against their will, but as it has been eloquently pointed out by people of African ancestry, who ended up benefiting immensely as a result. There is no one that didn’t benefit.

Just soak that inanity in for a moment.

Now, couple that “there is no one that didn’t benefit” statement with the fact that 9.5 million African Americans and Native Americans lived in abject poverty last year, according to the Census Bureau, or nearly three times the rate for whites. That’s more than one in four trying to make it on an income of less than $10,000 as a single adult or $20,000 for a family of four.

Adding insult to Andrews and Sharf’s crass ignorance is the fact that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the landmark Dred Scott case from which the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that black slaves were considered chattel and had neither a right to personal freedom nor standing before the Court as non-citizens.

More than a century after the Scott decision as Jim Crow laws raged throughout the nation, Congress finally passed the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 to outlaw racial segregation and prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. And from this law, affirmative action was born to protect all Americans from unlawful bias in the workplace, schools and in business.

Yet, discrimination continues to exist in America and will well into the future if elected officials and pundits, like Andrews, stoke the flames of willful dishonesty about race relations to score cheap political points.

“John Andrews displays an unbelievable level of historical ignorance,” says Rep. Terrance Carroll (D-Denver) who was the featured speaker at a local event last month marking the Dred Scott anniversary. “The genocide and human destruction wrought by Columbus can never be justified simply because John Andrews says so.”

And what does Andrews do to follow up on this low point in local conservative talk radio?

The very next week, he invites affirmative action foe Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute onto his October 14 show to spout about the California millionaire’s attempt to add state constitutional amendments to strip away local civil rights protections. In 2004, when Michigan voters were considering the measure, Connerly praised the Ku Klux Klan for their support in the documentary, “Arise: The Battle over Affirmative Action.”


In Colorado, the recently approved anti-affirmative action ballot language bankrolled by Connerly is known as Initiative 31 and petition circulation is just beginning to collect the 76,000 voter signatures required to get it on the November 2008 ballot.

Under the guise of a “Super Tuesday for Civil Rights,” Connerly’s ballot initiatives harken back to the dismal days of post-Civil War Reconstruction when so-called states’ rights proponents argued that the federal government had no business meddling in slavery laws, Native Americans were relegated to reservations, and the wealthy few ruled the day with state-sanctioned lynching, discrimination, and fear. But remember, according to Andrews: “there was no one that didn’t benefit” from Columbus’ conquest.

Sadly, the ballot measure is nothing more than a cynical attempt to divide people with a highly controversial and easily distorted wedge issue. Especially when one considers that the other five provisions under affirmative action that prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age and disability are conveniently swept under the rug in order to play the divisive race-baiting card. Suggest to conservatives that laws are unnecessary to prevent religious discrimination and the measure would go down in flames.

Coincidentally, Connerly’s advocates for the measure in Michigan were excoriated by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last month for engaging in fraud by lying to voters about the law’s intent in order to get them to sign the ballot petitions under false pretenses. If this ballot measure is such a great idea for creating a more tolerant society, why not be honest about it? Because, simply, the purpose is to make Americans less able to legally protect themselves from corporate and institutional discrimination. And, who in their right mind would support that?

And it’s telling, by the lack of critical thinking and fact-based examination of the issues on the October 10 and 14 broadcasts of “Backbone Radio,” that Andrews — father of the failed 2006 judicial term-limits amendment in yet another squash-the-little-guy law — seems all too willing to use historical ignorance and a race-baiting ballot measure to advance an extreme pro-corporate political agenda on his radio show.

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Wendy Norris

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