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Ruben Navarrette: Politics isn't colorblind. Just look at the shameful treatment of Black leaders.

From the commentary: Of course, it's not a coincidence. It's white supremacy. And, as we have now been reminded, it has found a home with liberals and conservatives alike.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks at the annual Freedman's Bank Forum at the Treasury Department in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2022.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks at the annual Freedman's Bank Forum at the Treasury Department in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2022.
Michael McCoy/REUTERS
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SAN DIEGO — Think of it as the Latino advantage. One of the benefits to being neither Black nor White is that it allows you to see clearly when one of America's dominant racial groups steps out of line.

Ruben Navarrete column logo
Ruben Navarrete column logo
Kit Grode / Tribune graphic
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That happens a lot in a country that — for all its assertions of colorblindness — remains hopelessly color conscious.

That is certainly true in politics. The nation's two major political parties — having been built by and for the benefit of Whites — tend to fall back into old habits and succumb to racism against Blacks.

Even in today's "woke" culture, Whites in both parties are quick to attack prominent Black elected officials or candidates for office by accusing them of being, well, not very smart.

For the past year, I have listened — and winced — whenever White conservatives reflexively question the intelligence of Vice President Kamala Harris, who is the first Black, the first Asian and the first woman to hold the position.

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Harris was pilloried by right-wingers on social media and conservative news sites after a January interview with NBC News .

When the interviewer asked Harris whether it might be time for the administration to change strategy in combating covid-19, the vice president responded: "It is time for us to do what we have been doing, and that time is every day. Every day it is time for us to agree that there are things and tools that are available to us to slow this thing down."

Politicians talk for a living. And so, not surprisingly, they sometimes misspeak. It happens to people in both parties. Still, conservatives piled on.

"Her unutterable grasp of speaking inarticulately was eloquently displayed," said Hank Berrien of the Daily Wire. Berrien wondered "how she had reached her vaunted position despite a seeming paucity of speaking skills."

Conservative radio host Ben Shapiro couldn't pass up the chance to look down his nose at her intellect.

"Every interview is a 'the dog ate my homework' interview for Kamala Harris," Shapiro tweeted.

I get it. Politics ain't beanbag, as they say. It's a contact sport, and those who enter the arena should expect to get banged up. But, it's also the case that turnabout is fair play.

And for the past several weeks, in Georgia's U.S. Senate race, I've heard White liberals reflexively attack former professional football player Herschel Walker, a Black Republican, and question his intelligence.

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After Walker — who says he opposes abortion — was accused of paying for one for a woman he dated in 2009, the candidate went on "The Hugh Hewitt Show" to deny the allegation.

"They're saying oh, some alleged woman, and now it's somebody that you used to know or you know so well, and this and that," he told the host. "And I said yeah, they can say a lot of things, but I know for a fact no one has ever told me, or I paid for an abortion. That never happened."

This time, it was liberals who pounced.

Joseph Murphy penned a piece for PolitiZoom titled "Herschel Walker Is Too Dumb To Be True. But it's True, He's That Dumb." In it, Murphy glibly referred to Walker as a "poor stupid sh--", a "moron" and a "Neanderthal."

New Republic writer Alex Shepherd also took a swing, in a subtle piece titled "Herschel Walker Is Running to Be the Senate's Dumbest Liar."

Shepherd is confident that he has Walker all figured out.

"The portrait that emerges is a pretty simple one," he wrote. "The guy is a liar and a dummy."

And lest you think that Shepherd is enjoying the tough sledding that the Walker campaign has gone through since the allegation about the abortion came to light, the writer doth protest.

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"It's still no fun watching voters have to stomach this sort of stupidity and deceit," Shepherd wrote.

See a pattern? How could you miss it? There are a thousand lines of attack in politics. Elected officials, and those who aspire to wear the title, get accused of lacking courage, integrity, strength, consistency, honesty, empathy, common sense and more.

What a coincidence that when the person being attacked happens to be Black, there are those at both ends of the political spectrum who feel comfortable basing the attack on that person's perceived intelligence.

Of course, it's not a coincidence. It's white supremacy. And, as we have now been reminded, it has found a home with liberals and conservatives alike.

This commentary is Ruben Navarrette's opinion. He can be reached at ruben@wctrib.com.

© 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group

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