As far as embarrassing racial gaffes go, this one was pretty bad.
On August 19th, Rep. Lynn Jenkins spoke about the future of the GOP in Hiawatha, Kansas. Jenkins’ choice of words, however, has caused a firestorm of controversy due to their undoubtedly racist roots. Jenkins said:
“Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope. I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington.”
For those who are unaware of the history regarding the phrase “great white hope,” it was coined around 1910 in reference to a racially charged boxing controversy. Jack Johnson, who was black, defeated Canadian world champion Tommy Burns, sparking a race based controversy:
After Johnson’s victory over Burns, racial animosity among whites ran so deep that even a socialist like Jack London called out for a “Great White Hope” to take the title away from Johnson — who was crudely caricatured as a subhuman “ape” — and return it to where it supposedly belonged, with the “superior” white race.
Jenkins is claiming ignorance as to the history of the offensive phrasing. Spokeswoman Mary Geiger explained Jenkins’ innocent intent:
“There may be some misunderstanding there when she talked about the great white hope. What she meant by it is they have a bright future. They’re bright lights within the party.”
While I’m willing to bet Rep. Jenkins wasn’t fully aware of the implications of her comment, it seems like an insensitive choice of words at best. Considering that we all know our president is black and hopey, and the comment was clearly a thinly veiled dig at the POTUS, what could Jenkins have innocently meant by such a statement?
[Source: Topeka Capital-Journal]