Columbia Professor Says GOP Opposition to Medicaid Expansion, Minimum Wage Hike Is Racist

MSNBC guest Dorian Warren thinks that racism is behind the GOP's opposition to Medicaid expansion, affirmative action, and a minimum wage hike. Warren is a professor of political science and public affairs at Columbia University.

"There's a distinction we should make between racist words and speech, and racist practices and policies. We should be focused on the policies and the racial impact of policies that those Republican leaders frankly stand for," Warren said on Tuesday's The Last Word. It wasn't enough that GOP leaders like Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell denounced the racist statements of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. [See video below. Audio here.]

Warren accused Republicans of racist policies, including Wisconsin's voter ID law which was just struck down by the federal judge.

"We could go down the list," he continued. "The minimum wage, the Congress is going to be voting on, disproportionately affects workers of color. Republicans are against that. The fact that 24 states have refused to expand Medicaid, disproportionately affects people of color, that's a life and issue for people. It affects millions of people."

Below is a transcript of the segment:


MSNBC
THE LAST WORD
4/30/14
10:20 p.m. EDT

ARI MELBER: But broad and unequivocal condemnation of blatantly racist comments doesn't mean, of course, that racism is over in America, as some on the Right continue to suggest.

(Video Clip)

RUSH LIMBAUGH: In the big scheme of things, what difference does it make if a crackpot owns an NBA team?

Bernie Goldberg made a great point about all this, this Sterling business. He said take a look at the reaction to it. There is no way this is a racist country. There is not one shred of tolerance for what this guy said, might have said, might be thinking. There isn't one shred of tolerance – there's no way this is a racist country. He's exactly right about that.

BILL O'REILLY: Here's the headline. It's primary his problem, not the country's problem. He's shameful, but does not represent anyone other than himself.

(End Video Clip)

MELBER: Of course, structural racial discrimination does still exist. We have some evidence, look at a federal court decision just today in Wisconsin where a judge invalidated a very controversial and very unequal voter ID law. It signed in 2011 by Republican governor Scott Walker. And it was invalidated because of, in part, its unfair impact directly on minority voters.

"The photo ID requirement applies to all voters regardless of race. However, as we see in the ruling, the requirement places a unique and heightened burden on those who must obtain an ID if they wish to continue voting in Wisconsin. The evidence adduced at trial that this unique burden disproportionately impacts black and Latino voters, as the defendants concede. The plaintiff's evidence shows minorities are less likely than whites currently possessing a qualifying ID. Now there wasn't quite as much broad bipartisan or furious condemnation of that. It was, as we mention, passed by Republicans.

(...)

MELBER: Let me start here, Dorian, it is interesting to see these incidents of racism which we were just discussing with Reverend Sharpton last week, Cliven Bundy, this week with the NBA. And here, one sort of conservative echo chamber response is well, because the racism was condemned, there is no racism. I want to go beyond that. Because it is simplistic enough to dismiss. And look at the conservative concept of colorblindness which is what was used to support the voter ID law and knocking down of course the Voting Rights Act last year. Where conservatives are saying, whatever is out there all laws should be and all policies should be as colorblind as possible. That's the road to equality.

DORIAN WARREN, Columbia University: You said the key word there, Ari. There's a distinction we should make between racist words and speech, and racist practices and policies. We should be focused on the policies and the racial impact of policies that those Republican leaders frankly stand for. So if you think about the Michigan, affirmative action case, John Roberts adheres to that ideology of colorblindness that assumes that racism just equals bad speech or words. And not policies. Where the Wisconsin law that was struck down today, the voter suppression law, one of the things that judge said in striking down is the state cannot produce one example of fraud.

Which gets to the intent behind the law and impact of the law. It was designed to disproportionately affect minority voters, low income voters who tend to favor Democrats. We could go down the list. The minimum wage, the Congress is going to be voting on, disproportionately affects workers of color. Republicans are against that. The fact that 24 states have refused to expand Medicaid, disproportionately affects people of color, that's a life and issue for people. It affects millions of people. So let's – I want to encourage us to get back to the focus on racial policies and the impact of policies versus the racist speech that people say. Yes, we should all condemn it. But the policies affect millions of more Americans.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014