We often hear subtle racist dogwhistles in politics, and then sometimes we hear the cartoonishly blatant ones. This is one of the latter kind.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released an ad on Friday in which he decried “surging” violent crime in Louisiana and defended cops against those calling to “defund the police.” In his signature (likely fake) folksy Southern drawl, Kennedy says right to the camera over soft piano music: “Look, if you hate cops just because they’re cops, the next time you get in trouble, call a crackhead.”
“Woke leaders blame the police,” says Kennedy, who’s calling for at least a doubling of police presence in New Orleans. “I blame the criminals.”
“Crackhead,” of course, is a racist, pejorative term that rose to popularity during former President Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs,” when Black people were arrested twice as often as white people for drug-related offenses. This was due in part the way the justice system treated crack cocaine use differently from the more expensive powder. Per AP:
The racial disparities reveal the war’s uneven toll. Following the passage of stiffer penalties for crack cocaine and other drugs, the Black incarceration rate in America exploded from about 600 per 100,000 people in 1970 to 1,808 in 2000. In the same timespan, the rate for the Latino population grew from 208 per 100,000 people to 615, while the white incarceration rate grew from 103 per 100,000 people to 242.
Kennedy is up for re-election this year, and his leading challenger is Gary Chambers, Jr., a Black civil rights activist from Baton Rouge. Chambers shot back rather pointedly at Kennedy’s comments with an ad of his own.
“Now this here is Louisiana politics at its best,” Chambers says sarcastically in the video, cutting immediately to the senator’s “crackhead” remark. “But it’s also racist as hell. He didn’t say nothing about opioid addicts, meth addicts, none of that other stuff, because he was trying to talk about a specific subset of people that he doesn’t give a damn about serving in Louisiana.”
Show me the lie.
This latest racist comment, of course, is far from the only openly bigoted thing Kennedy has ever said proudly on a national stage. During Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Kennedy empathized with Barrett over the “hurt” of being “called a racist” and a “white colonialist.”
Louisiana’s other white male Republican senator isn’t any better. Bill Cassidy said earlier this year that Louisiana only has one of the worst mortality rates in the country if you count Black women in the statistics, because they die at higher rates from pregnancy-related causes, due to...well, racism in the health system.
In short: About a third of Louisiana’s population is Black, and all of the people supposedly representing them in the U.S. Senate are racist white men. The state does not need more cops; it needs whole new leadership, badly and immediately.