Congressman Geoff Davis: Reason 2008 'Why the GOP Can't Attract Black Voters'
By Lee Russ
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 09:32 PM
You've probably read by now about how Kentucky Republican Congressman Geoff Davis referred to Obama as "that boy" in a speech he gave to a Republican audience in Kentucky over the weekend.I'm really not sure why, but the fact that Davis was actually born in Montreal, Canada both makes this all seem even worse to me. Anyway, before his audience at Kentucky's Fourth District Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner in Boone County, Davis claimed to have been in a highly classified national security simulation with Obama, and said:
I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.The obvious firestorm followed, and the even more obvious Davis apology was swiftly dispatched by letter to Obama (emphasis added):
Dear Senator Obama: On Saturday night I gave a speech in which I used a poor choice of words when discussing the national security policy positions of the Presidential candidates. I was quoted as saying "That boy's finger does not need to be on the button."First off, he's not even admitting that he said it!! "I was quoted" as saying it? Good grief. The only sensible way to read that phrase is that poor Geoff really can't remember whether he said it or not. Sounds like a candidate for a very high post in the Bush administration.
My poor choice of words is regrettable and was in no way meant to impugn you or your integrity. I offer my sincere apology to you and ask for your forgiveness.
Though we may disagree on many issues, I know that we share the goal of a prosperous, secure future for our nation. My comment has detracted from the dialogue that we should all be having on legitimate policy differences and in no way reflects the personal and professional respect I have for you.
Second, if he really wants Obama to believe that he "in no way meant to impugn" his integrity, he probably shouldn't have also called Obama a snake oil salesman:
Davis also called Obama a “snake oil salesman” whom he considers “unqualified to be president” and then touched on the “bitter” comment that has haunted Obama over the last few days.I'm sure some apologists will try to spin this is merely a "Southern" usage--you know, "Southerners refer to each other as "boy" all the time." Blogger Alex Knapp already has:
The offending phrase here is the use of the term “that boy”, because in the South the word “boy” was often employed in the past as a degrading form of address for African-Americans.Good luck, Alex. It really doesn't matter whether you've found prior examples of Davis' racism. First because you can't possibly have conducted a thorough search using Google; all you would have found are instances where he made racist remraks and got called on it.
That being said, I think that the claim here is a bit overblown. The context of the remarks that Davis made, while not particularly dignified, weren’t racially directed. Indeed, the primary complaint that Rep. Davis made about Obama was his naiveté–race wasn’t mentioned at all. Additionally, as far as I can tell from a quick Google search of Rep. Geoff Davis, he doesn’t appear to have been associated with any type of derogatory racial remarks in the past.
So, given the context of both Rep. Davis’s remarks and his history, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Rep. Davis intended to make any kind of racially insensitive or racially derogatory remarks regarding Senator Obama. That said, being a Republican politician from Kentucky, he should probably know to watch his mouth a little better than that, because given the history of the region, it’s pretty easy to take offense at what he said.
Context is everything, people. You can’t judge a person or their meaning by one sentence or paragraph or word. You have to consider the context in which a particular statement is made, and the overall history and character of the person uttering it.
Second, because, good grief, you can be a racism pimp to an audience hungry for some juicy hot racism without being a racist yourself. He was talking to the Republicans from a district in Kentucky.
Can someone tell me how often white politicians have referred to other white politicians as "boy," even in the South? And if there have been such references, do you think they were intended as praise?
There's only two ways Davis really meant this: (1) Obama is black and black males are "boys"", (2) Obama is too young for his judgment to be trusted. The first is obviously racist and offensive, the second ridiculous, given the respective ages of Davis and Obama. From Wikipedia on Davis and Obama:
Geoffrey C. "Geoff" Davis (born October 26, 1958) is an American politician from the state of Kentucky, who was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Republican from Kentucky's 4th congressional district with 54% of the vote on November 2, 2004.A guy who is only 2 years and 9 months older than Obama yet refers to Obama as "that boy" is not referring to Obama's youth and experience?
Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. (born August 4, 1961) is the junior United States Senator from Illinois and a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
And someone pass the word to the head of the RNC: calling the first serious black candidate for the nomination of a major party "boy," in any circumstances, is probably not the way for the GOP to make inroads with black voters. "Why can't the GOP attract black voters," indeed.