In a televised campaign event, US senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said African Americans and immigrants can “go anywhere” in his home state but they “just need to be conservative”.
Graham made the comment in a televised “conversation” with his political rival, former South Carolina Democratic party chair Jaime Harrison, the first African American to serve in the role.
He made the remark in the context of political careers, and said Harrison would lose because he is a Democrat, not because he is Black.
“Do I believe our cops are systemically racist? No. Do I believe South Carolina is a racist state? No. Let me tell you why. To young people out there, young people of color, young immigrants, this is a great state, but one thing I can say without any doubt, you can be an African American and go to the Senate but you just have to share our values.”
He went on to say: “If you’re a young, African American or an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state, you just need to be conservative, not liberal.”
The comment was in response to a question about civil unrest, and as America reckons with its long history of racism and ongoing police brutality, including the national revulsion following the killing of Black man George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.
South Carolina was a Confederate state during the civil war, and later institutionalized racism during the Jim Crow era, enforcing the second-class status of African Americans.
Graham, a longtime senator, is tied with Harrison in a highly competitive race.
The conversation was originally planned as a debate, but was changed at the last moment because Graham refused to take a Covid-19 test, despite a major outbreak in the Trump White House which has infected two of Graham’s Republican Senate colleagues.
That speculation and Graham’s remarks – which sparked a deluge of online fury – prompted Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell to tweet: “Is that the fever talking, or the steroids?”
Charlie Sykes, editor the Bulwark, was even more blunt, saying: “Lindsey, 1954 wants its talking point back.”
[via The Guardian]