On Sunday, substituting for host Joy Reid on MSNBC’s “Morning Joy,” host Tiffany Cross disparagingly referred to the speakers of color at the Republican National Convention, including Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, as “minstrels,” snapping, “It really did look like a modern-day minstrel show to me.”
Cross preceded her nasty remark by playing clips of various speakers of color, starting with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who stated in her speech, “In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country.”
Cross followed with a clip of Walker asserting, “Growing up in the Deep South, I’ve seen racism up close. I know what it is, and it isn’t Donald Trump.”
The next clip featured Scott saying, “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime, and that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”
Cross pontificated, “That was not a Saturday Night Live sketch. Welcome back to AM Joy. I’m Tiffany Cross. If you watched the Republican National Convention last week, you’d almost think that the Republican Party was the one welcoming people of color, given the big display of diversity. The convention featured more than a dozen African American speakers alone.”
“But—don’t be fooled that the party of Trump has suddenly warmed to the same people that Trump’s policies and sometimes his rhetoric directly harms,” she continued. “As friend of the show Elie Mystal wrote so eloquently in The Nation, ‘Republicans invited a cadre of professional black friends to validate Donald Trump and make white people feel a little less racist while still very much supporting white supremacy.’”
Cross mocked, “I mean, I watched the Republican convention, and seeing the slew of black speakers that they had, it really did look like a modern-day minstrel show to me.”
Merriam-Webster defines a “minstrel” as a “member of a type of performance troupe caricaturing black performers that originated in the U.S. in the early 19th century. NOTE: The acts of minstrels, who typically performed in blackface, featured exaggerated and inaccurate representations of black people in songs, dances, and comic dialogue. The popularity of minstrel shows in their heyday played a significant role in promoting negative racial stereotypes. Professional minstrel shows had fallen out of favor and effectively disappeared by the mid-20th century.”
The accusation that speakers of color at the Republican National Convention constitute a “minstrel show” goes back years. In 2003, New York Times opinion writer Maureen Dowd, referring to the 2000 convention that nominated George W. Bush, wrote of “W.’s nominating convention in Philadelphia, when the Republicans put on a minstrel show for the white fat cats in the audience.”
As radio host Larry Elder wrote in February 2012 of black Republican Michael Steele running for lieutenant governor of Maryland:
… he was derided as “Simple Sambo” and depicted as a black-faced minstrel. At a gubernatorial debate, Oreo cookies were distributed by the opposition. The Washington Times later wrote: “Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat, said Mr. Steele invites comparisons to a slave who loves his cruel master or a cookie that is black on the outside and white inside because his conservative political philosophy is, in her view, anti-black.”
"I watched the Republican convention, and seeing the slew of black speakers that they had, it really did look like A MODERN-DAY MINSTREL SHOW to me."
— Mark Finkelstein (@markfinkelstein) August 30, 2020
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