In a soundbite that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan might call ‘textbook racism,’ Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill) suggested that President Obama is acting as America’s “drug dealer in chief.” Of course Kirk will deny any connection between Obama’s race and his comments. Whatever he claims, there is a particularly unsavory tone to comments that link America’s first black president with a negative, racially-charged stereotype of an African American drug dealer.
Kirk referred to a recent deal in which the Obama Administration released $400 million plus interest to Iran as part of hostage negotiations. Kirk said, “We can’t have the president of the United States acting like the drug dealer in chief, giving clean packs of money to a … state sponsor of terror. Those 500-euro notes will pop up across the Middle East. …. We’re going to see problems in multiple (countries) because of that money given to them.”
To be clear, the money that Obama released to Iran is from an account that the U.S. froze in 1979, and contains money that America owed to the previous Iranian regime. Obama did not unfreeze the funds until Iran signed on to a strict nuclear disarmament pact that exchanged an easing of sanctions on Iran for stringent measures that Iran must comply with that prevent it from becoming a nuclear power. The Obama Administration continued to hold the funds back until Iran also agreed to release several American hostages. The money sent to Iran, along with reduced sanctions, will help lift the failing Iranian economy to the delight of its citizens, who favor economic prosperity over a nuclear arsenal.
The racial overtones in Kirk’s uninformed remarks are glaring and deserve to be thoroughly scrutinized in the media. The Republican Party keeps on desperately trying to appeal to African Americans, but it will continue to fail until it stops playing on racial stereotypes for short-term political gain. That is no way to treat a large group of American citizens who have been held back since the founding of the country by racist politicians.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.