Recently we were been given a good example not only of how surreptitious racists beliefs really can be, but also how they can get ignored by others even when they’re overt.
Carla Maloney was a member of the Republican Committee of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, and was elected as secretary of that body. Recently, her Facebook manners came back to haunt her when it was brought to light that she had some untoward things to say about certain black people:
A series of racially charged Facebook posts attributed to an official for the Beaver County Republican Committee refer to African American athletes as “baboons,” suggest they should go back to Africa, and urge “white people” to “stop paying their salaries.”
According to multiple sources, Mrs. Maloney had written back in October of 2017 in response to NFL players kneeling or skipping the national anthem:
Tired of these over paid ignorant blacks telling me what I should believe in. I will tell you what I believe in and that is our Flag and National Anthem and America period end of story. You don’t like it here go to Africa see how you like it there.
Steelers are now just as bad as the rest of the over paid baboons. You respect your flag, country and our national atnthem (sic). How many men and women have lost limbs or died to protect this country and you baboons want respect. . . . Lets see how the baboons get paid when white people stop paying their salaries.
Now that she’s been caught, the Facebook account has been deleted and Mrs. Maloney has resigned from her position.
Had the story stopped there, it would perhaps deserve one more smh. Of more interest to me, however, is that the Committee Chairman, Chip Kohser, has reportedly admitted to knowing about these comments for some time but did nothing about them.
A deeper problem
An early source quotes Kohser as saying he was unaware until recently, but updated reports state that he was in fact aware since last year. The original local report in the Beaver Countian also cites the former Committee Chairperson Carla Yacoviello, who had been involved in the thread, saying she informed Kohser at the time due her own disgust with the comments.
Beaver County Commissioner Sandie Egley says she has not participated in the Party for some time due to such “shenanigans.” Commissioner Egley has since moved Kohser resign as well, for not speaking up about Maloney’s racist comments when he knew about it.
In the light of all the media attention given to the coverups among Roman Catholic priests, political investigations of alleged collusion, who knew what when and who covered up what, this more local and race-based example is very instructive. Power always hides its sins rather than confess and forsake them. It does this at the highest and lowest levels alike.
Sometimes, it simply does not see the sin, being insensitive to such offenses for various reasons. Sometimes, it approves of the sin and simply accepts it, assuming it will get away with it under the cover of the establishment. Sometimes, it simply looks the other way to what it knows is wrong, because it doesn’t think racism or such things are really that big of a deal. In any of these cases, it is power seeking to hide sin rather than do the uncomfortable work of holding offenders accountable.
What could have been (and sometimes is)
Another things to consider: had Mrs. Maloney’s comments not been caught in full in broad daylight, she could easily have dismissed any criticism as playing the race card. She already in her comments complained of “reverse racism.” But she should have posted the following picture to show just how “not racist” she really was:
In the Introduction to The Problem of Slavery, I mention a couple of case examples of people with racist views having worked their way into positions of authority or leadership, in part by keeping their views quietly to themselves along the way.
Conservatives and whites who have little direct experience tend, I gather, to think these are isolated cases. But this assumption itself may be part of the problem: it is a neglect which creates space in which we can justify personal inaction. Note further that Mrs. Maloney, in her apology, says that her remarks were uncharacteristic and not “who I truly am.”
By such face-saving we make ourselves feel better. Granted, Mrs. Maloney’s apology letter was at least not one of those “sorry you got offended” types. It was more substantial. But we should be careful even with the minimizations that do show up. We can grant than she was not a hardened, devout, activist racist. But what we need to come to grips with is that for her, “who I truly am” was the type of person who when her guard was down, when no one was looking, and yet when she thought she was taking a firm stand for America first and God and country, she held nothing back in saying racist things.
The unguarded moment is what we need to think about. It’s easy to use the image of the KKK for a foil of what we are not, and how we can all be “better than that.” It is what is in private that matters. It is what is in private that is the most difficult to deal with, because it so often occurs in secret, in the dark, and often has friends who help keep it there.
When I wrote about interracial marriage and made it a litmus test in modern ministry, I not only stirred up the hornets’ nest, but was accused of starting a witch hunt. Sad things, those witch hunts, but when there really are witches about, someone needs at least to shake the bushes.
Even when there are no witches, there are moderately decent folk who still have latent feelings and a lack of manners that lead them to act like witches sometimes. This is where both transparency and accountability really matter.
It is for all of these reasons, among others, that I began writing on race and American history. It is why I wrote The Problem of Slavery. . . . Some of us still think more like those unguarded comments, but more importantly, far too many would witness them and still saying nothing about it. Worse, some would even shake their heads in agreement, as long as they knew no one was looking.
That doesn’t just call for a resignation and an apology. That calls for a true awakening, in all of us.
Since I first started writing this, a report has come out that Chairman Chip Kohser has indeed resigned as well.
Joel McDurmon is president of American Vision and author of The Problem of Slavery in Christian America.