By Eric Johnson
The calls kept coming for days at WVON during the Perri Small Show. The air waves at the radio station have been lighting up since Black Republican Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham from South Carolina said that America is not a racist country and that America may have been racist in the past, but is not anymore.
That statement got Black America talking, but when Vice President Kamala Harris agreed with the Republicans, the conversation escalated, leaving some Blacks who voted for the Biden/Harris pair feeling betrayed.
Many Blacks find it hard to believe and are offended by a question asking if America is racist, despite centuries of evidence documenting slavery, Black codes, lynchings, segreg- ation, redlining, restrictive housing covenants, racial profiling, police brutality, medical experiments and discrimination in every industry from business to sports to entertainment.
As racial tensions escalated under President Donald Trump, in 2020 he refused to denounce white supremacy on national television, while groups like the Proud Boys continued terrorizing Black activists and vandalizing Black churches. As Republicans stood by Trump, they refused to hold him accountable for inciting white supremacists groups.
Prominent Attorney Vernon Jordan, who died March 1, spent his entire life helping aspiring Blacks climb the ranks of lily-white corporate America. In 1980, he was shot and seriously wounded by a white man at a Marriott hotel in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
That incident is among many that have convinced Blacks that racism is and will always be America’s biggest problem.
“No, I don’t think America is a racist country,” Harris told “Good Morning America” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos. “But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”
The vice president said that “we want to unify the country, but not without speaking truth and requiring accountability, as appropriate.”
WVON host Perri Small on her show Tuesday, May 4, agreed that Harris’ response was “measured and scholarly.”
But one caller was among several who said Harris should have been more straightforward on a subject that many believe has white America in denial.
“Perri, you can’t have it both ways,” said one caller named Craig. “Kamala was wrong.”
Another caller, Eddie, said, “I’m tired of being misled by these bourgeois Black leaders who lead us to vote without [us] demanding anything upfront.”
One WVON caller supported Harris, saying as a politician she must play “the game” like Obama did when he was in office.
“She has her back against the wall,” the caller said.
The debate started on Fox News Sunday, April 25.
Host Chris Wallace asked Senator Graham if there is systemic racism in policing and other institutions in light of the recent conviction of Derek Chauvin who killed George Floyd last year. Graham responded, “No, not in my opinion. We just elected a two-term African American president, the vice president is of African American Indian descent, so our systems are not racist. America is not a racist country. Within every society you have bad actors.”
Graham did not mention the poor treatment Obama received from white senators who treated him poorly, opposed his Obamacare legislation and made him a lame duck president in his final term after they took control of both the House and Senate. The Senate refused to hold confirmation hearings in 2016 when Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court after the death of Antonin Scalia.
On September 9, 2009, during a nationally televised State of the Union Address, Republican Congressman Joe Wilson from South Carolina shouted, “You lie!” as Obama was outlining his proposed Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. It took the historic presidency of Obama for America to get its first Black U.S. Attorney General (Eric Holder) and first Black NASA Administrator (Charles Bolden).
Senator Tim Scott, the nation’s only Black Republican senator, agreed and ignited a firestorm after talking about the lives of his father and grandfather during Jim Crow. He said he opposed efforts to teach Black and white students in America’s schools about slavery and the history of racism in the country.
He said, “Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it’s wrong to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”
During Small’s show on Monday, May 3, Hermene Hartman, publisher of N’DIGO Magazine said when she first heard Scott’s response, “He was absolutely dismissed. I thought this man is so confused and mixed up. If you had grandparents who were in the cotton field, there’s your racism right there. If you had your grandfather sitting at the table reading [a newspaper] and he could not read, then we understand your bogus concepts.”
During her regular commentary on WVON, Attorney Kimberley Egonmwan said, “I was raised to never be afraid to call a spade a spade, so I’m not going to debate whether America is racist because I don’t have to.
“To try and convince two Black men that we live in a racist system, who come from the state of South Carolina, which only recently got rid of the Confederate flag as its symbol, is pure nonsense. Also, as someone who knows how difficult it was to get a non-white person to even be considered for the office of Vice President, it’s beneath me to ignore what’s in front of my face.
“But a few Black people get elected to political office, and now all of a sudden Blacks have found equality? Please.”