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Comments from a Republican member of Congress Thursday night were stricken from the record after he referred to Black Americans as “colored people” during a House floor debate on diversity, equity and inclusion in the U.S. military.

Proposing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday night, Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., sought to eliminate DEI programs from the military.

“My amendment has nothing to do with whether or not colored people or Black people or anybody can serve,” said first-term Congressman Crane, NBC News reported. “It has nothing to do with any of that stuff.”

Despite claiming he “misspoke,” his words from the 1960s era, and the motivation behind them, reflect a sign of the times in which we live, as far-right politicians seek to turn back the clock on racial progress.

A sign in Jackson, Mississippi, photographed in 1961.
(Getty Images)

Republican Rep.’s remarks highlight troubling times

Crane’s amendment, which passed Friday morning in the Republican-controlled House with another amendment targeting abortion, would prohibit the Defense Department from considering race, gender, religion, political affiliations or “any other ideological concepts” as the sole basis for recruitment training, education, promotion or retention decisions.

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, blasted Crane’s remarks and requested them to be stricken from the record.

“I find it offensive and very inappropriate,” said Beatty. ““I am asking for unanimous consent to take down the words of referring to me or any of my colleagues as colored people.”

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, speaks on the floor of the House on Thursday.Courtesy C-Span

While Republican Rep. Crane claimed he misspoke and asked to change his words to “people of color,” his remarks on the House floor speak to his and his colleagues’ desire to put a halt to racial progress in the U.S.

“I’m going to tell you guys this right now: You can keep playing around these games with diversity, equity and inclusion. But there are some real threats out there. And if we keep messing around and we keep lowering our standards, it’s not going to be good,” he said.

He appeared to suggest increasing the rate of marginalized people in the military, which was once segregated, is a bad thing.

Claiming the military was never meant to be inclusive, his words stand in stark contrast to the position of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the first Black man to hold the position in U.S. history.

White backlash in full effect

Calling diversity “our strength,” Defense Secretary Austin said last year, “With respect to diversity, I’ve got to make sure that we continue to make strides. And I equate diversity with being invited to the dance. Inclusion is actually being asked to dance.” 

FILE – In this Sept. 16, 2015, photo, U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Biden will nominate retired four-star Army general Lloyd J. Austin to be secretary of defense. That’s according to three people familiar with the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity because the selection hadn’t been formally announced. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

“This country is stronger and more just when America’s leaders reflect the full diversity of our nation,” Biden said this year during Pride month.

It’s unclear whether the anti-DEI amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act will pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. Yet Republicans’ efforts to go after DEI initiatives in both the public and private sectors speaks to their true intentions.

The police lynching of George Floyd unleashed the largest, most diverse mass uprising in U.S. history, and it catapulted racial injustice to the forefront.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom politicians love to superficially quote but hate to actually emulate, had a phrase for the racist reactions to Black progress: White backlash.

“The step backwards has a new name today, it is called the White backlash, but the White backlash is nothing new,” Dr. King said. “It is the surfacing of old prejudices, hostilities and ambivalences that have always been there.”

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., accompanied by Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, is booked by city police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., on Feb. 23, 1956.Gene Herrick / AP

President, FBI Director label White domestic terrorism greatest threat

President Biden and FBI Director Christopher Wray have repeatedly labeled White supremacy and White nationalist domestic terrorism as the single greatest threat to our democracy.

“The most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is White supremacy,” Biden remarked at a Howard University commencement ceremony in May.

“Within the domestic terrorism bucket, the category as a whole, racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group,” FBI Director Wray acknowledged back in 2020. “And within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people subscribing to some kind of White supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that.”

Yet to hear our U.S. Supreme Court and leaders of the Republican party tell it, racism is a thing of the past that needs no resources to combat.

“I…offer an originalist defense of the colorblind Constitution,” Justice Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion dealing a death blow to affirmative action.

In striking down affirmative action while maintaining legacy admissions, the U.S. Supreme has decided efforts to support mostly wealthy, mostly White beneficiaries of legacy admissions outweigh efforts to support the descendants of formerly enslaved Black freedmen, who built a country that denied their humanity.

Republicans begin to tell us how they really feel

Earlier this week, Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama said the quiet part out loud when asked about his opposition to eliminating White nationalists in the military.

When asked whether he believed White nationalists should be allowed in the military, Tuberville said: “They call them that. I call them Americans.” He’s since backtracked on those comments.

FILE – Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., talks during a television interview before former President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., June 13, 2023. Tuberville is backing off his defense of white nationalists, telling reporters in the Capitol that white nationalists “are racists.” Tuberville’s brief comment Tuesday, July 11, follows several media interviews in which he has repeatedly declined to describe white nationalists as racist. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Rep. Crane’s “colored people” remark and Sen. Tuberville’s defense of White nationalists in the military shouldn’t be considered a shock or a slip of the tongue. They’re simply showing us who they are.

 “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Holy Bible, Luke 6:45

Rep. Crane’s words stand as a sign of what Republicans want to see and have partially achieved in this country, turning the tide back to a time when racial equity was nothing more than a fleeting concern.

Far-right politicians have successfully launched efforts to restrict voting rights, representation, access and eligibility, censor what history children can learn in schools, along with racist rhetoric that has inspired White nationalist mass killings.

Republicans have made it clear their intention is to ensure White Americans remain the dominant group socially, politically and economically even as they become a racial minority in the coming decades.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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