Tommy Tuberville Decries Reparations as Payments for “People That Do the Crime”

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On Saturday, Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) implied Black Americans were “the people that do the crime” in comments railing against reparations.

Speaking at a Donald Trump rally for Republican candidates in Nevada, Tuberville described Democrats as engaged in a battle to take from white people and give to Black people whom he stereotyped as criminals. Democrats “aren’t soft on crime, they’re pro-crime,” Tuberville said, “[they] want crime because they want to take over what you got, they want to control what you have, they want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that.”

“Bullshit!” he finished. The audience cheered.

Reparations are financial recompense for Black people whose ancestors were enslaved and lived through Jim Crow. The policy of giving reparations to Black Americans has support on the left, but it is not the policy of the Democratic Party. President Joe Biden has said he supports a study on reparations, which is in the party’s 2020 platform, but has ignored calls to create such a commission to enact the policy. Democrats do not support violent crime as a way of seizing property to compensate for the harms done by slavery and legal oppression.

But Tuberville’s point is not to describe actual policy proposals. It’s to reinforce the general animating feature of the MAGA worldview that white Americans are embattled as non-white people seek to replace them, disempower them, and take their wealth. It’s a zero-sum politics of us versus them: As Tuberville put it, “the people that do the crime” and “you.”

The press often writes about the political dog whistles—racist political appeals conveyed through coded language—that politicians deploy to win votes. But as Mother Jones‘ Tim Murphy recently wrote, the whistle, only audible to a few, has been replaced in recent years by a bull horn. Often, “this speech isn’t coded so much as it’s loaded.”

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