Getting from racist to racism

Is it racist that President Obama used the n-word in making a point about race relations in this country? Have many of the same people who are chastising America’s first black president for using the epithet applied the same level of outrage to the thousands of people who have actually called him that name in public or online?

Race relations in the country right now are at a boiling point not seen in decades. Protests over police treatment of people of color combined with the shooting last week in South Carolina allegedly by a 21-year-old who posed with symbols of white supremacy on social media have brought the conversation out of the shadows and right into the face of white America.

The biggest movement has been the push by those on the right to distance themselves from the display of the Confederate flag, an issue that had been met with claims of states’ rights and tradition. Until, that is, Dylann Roof allegedly said “I have to do this” and reloaded his gun five times while killing nine members of a historically black church.

Until Monday, most high-profile Republicans running for president were comfortable calling Roof a racist. But they stumbled over the word racism. None, it seemed, were willing to go out on a limb and anger South Carolina voters, who hold a key primary in the upcoming election season.

But then Mitt happened. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney tweeted out what was becoming a national outcry: Take down the Confederate flag from its flagpole on the lawn of the South Carolina state capitol, a piece of cloth that has become a symbol of racial intolerance and hatred.

Some initially dismissed Romney’s stance as that of someone with no future to worry about. But few realized it was a position Romney publicly held going back at least to 2008, when he said the flag “is not a flag I recognize.”

Once Romney took the role of party elder statesman, the dominoes have seemed to fall. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, an Indian American who is the state’s first person of color to serve in the office, reversed her earlier stance that the flag was no more than a connection to tradition. She called on the legislature to rescind the law that mandates the Confederate stars and bars be flown on the capitol grounds and move the symbol of slavery and secession to the museum. Walmart, which made its fortune in the South, will remove the flag from its stores and stop selling them online as well.

The Republican presidential candidates immediately hailed the move but none acknowledged their earlier reluctance to take a stand. But the match has been lit and the conversation of race is once again at the fore and the GOP is becoming the focus of reporters looking to ties between the party and racial intolerance, if not outright bigotry.

In the wake of the shootings, the Guardian examined federal campaign data and found numerous contributions from the leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group with ties to Roof, made to leading GOP candidates. The New York Times drills down into the group’s message and its history of supporting Republicans, who now can’t distance themselves fast enough from the organization with many sending back the donations or giving them to charity.

Obama, it seems, is shedding his carefully carved image as the uniter-in-chief, no longer content to utter the words that soothe both black and white. His injection of the n-word into a response on where race relations stand will open the conversation up as to whether or not the president should be using words like that. Maybe it will carry over to a more important question: Should anybody be using words like that?

–JACK SULLIVAN 

 

BEACON HILL

Charlie Baker isn’t thrilled with the Legislature’s proposed MBTA reform legislation. The Globe says the governor’s overarching criticism relates to a new MBTA board having to report to the larger state transportation board, thereby weakening its power. The Herald zeros in on Baker’s opposition to the decision to strip from pending legislation the repeal of binding arbitration for MBTA contract disputes. (Boston Herald)

Baker unveils a plan to combat the opioid epidemic. (State House News) He vows to find $27 million in new funding to tackle the crisis and add 100 new treatment beds. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Quincy city councilors want more say for them and less power for Mayor Thomas Koch in his new downtown redevelopment plan. (Patriot Ledger)

Brockton city councilors reversed an earlier vote to increase the city’s water rates while at the same time defunding the contract with the private supplier. (The Enterprise)

Freetown selectmen fired the town treasurer, saying she misrepresented the reasons she left previous jobs and put sensitive town employee information on a flash drive that she removed from the office. (Standard-Times)

OLYMPICS

Boston 2024‘s low poll numbers at this stage don’t rule out an eventual Olympic victory, based on 20 years of International Olympic Committee polling results, writes MassINC Polling Group’s Steve Koczela. (CommonWealth)

US Rep. Steve Lynch says he’ll do everything he can to kill the idea of an Olympic Stadium at Widett Circle, arguing it’s the wrong place for a 60,000-seat stadium. (NECN)

State officials said don’t read anything into the absence of DCR folks at the announcement of a planned beach volleyball venue in Quincy; they said the agency was briefed on the proposal in advance and will review the plan. (Patriot Ledger)

Paris formally launched its bid for the 2024 Summer Games. (Associated Press)

CASINOS

The Springfield City Council approves a change in its host agreement with MGM.(Masslive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Obama stands by his use of the N-word to make a point. (The Hill)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Sen. Elizabeth Warren brings her argument for worker protections in any trade bill to the Globe‘s op-ed pages.

The New England Aquarium wants to sink Don Chiofaro‘s redevelopment of the next door Boston Harbor Garage, arguing that the 600-foot tower he wants to build there would harm the aquarium’s marine life during its construction phase and be a long-term detriment once completed. (Boston Globe)

The debate over noncompete agreements is back. (Boston Globe)

The Salem News criticizes a proposal from NOAA to use some of the emergency aid set aside for fishermen for an on-board monitoring program. (Salem News)

EDUCATION

The Republican, in an editorial, praises UMass Medical School’s plan to open a regional clinical campus in Springfield.

A Boston high school teacher who is being let go from his position says it’s because he talked to students about his arrest for protesting police tactics used in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man in New York, but school officials say the decision was based solely on his “work history.” (Boston Globe)

HEALTH CARE

Tufts Medical Center is looking for new merger options after talks with Boston Medical Center ended. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo announces the formation of a Road Repair Task Force. (Item)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Cape Cod Times comes out in support of carbon tax legislation.

Lawrence receives a $400,000 grant to clean-up contaminants. (Eagle-Tribune)

State agencies in Florida are at odds over climate change. (Governing)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Supreme Court, viewed as a staunchly conservative bench under Chief Justice John Roberts, is trending toward having the most liberal term in issuing decisions since the Warren court. (New York Times)

Racial balance in the Boston Police Department has a long way to go: Two-thirds of the force is white while 53 percent of the city’s population is minority. (WBUR)

MEDIA

US Justice Department-sponsored talks on race in Worcester raise the issue of media coverage of minority communities. (Telegram & Gazette)

Conservative media are on the rise in Massachusetts, reports the Globe, with two right-leaning talk-radio stations and an online newspaper taking root here.