A Republican National Committee member from Georgia blamed the turmoil over an unarmed black man's shooting death in Ferguson on the Obama administration, saying the nation's first black president has squandered his chance to improve the lot of African-Americans and instead has used minorities as "nothing more than a political tool."
"The net effect is the actual, open discussion of race has gone underground. And it means that when these eruptions occur, they are far more violent, they’re far more intense and they end up getting nationalized in a way that we’ve never seen before," said Randy Evans, who is also Gov. Nathan Deal's attorney.
Evans made his remarks on the Australian TV program "Contrarians" last week, when he was asked whether the unrest in Ferguson was touching a wider nerve in the United States. He responded by saying many young blacks looked to Obama thinking they, too, could grow up to be president.
"Well that enormous opportunity kind of got squandered because literally what happened once President Obama took office, African-Americans became nothing more than a political tool – a way to drive up votes among African-American communities," said Evans. "And I would say that over the course of his six years we probably have taken more steps backward than we have forward."
Evans contended that Democrats have turned blacks into a "convenient mechanism where every election rolls around, you hit the hot-button issues rather than actually ever resolving the core issues" like unemployment and education.
"What you have instead is, a kind of self-imposed unit here that is an available unit that every time an election rolls around, we push the button, we make sure… we know 92 percent of African-Americans are going to vote with the president," he said.
You can find the entire clip here and the transcript of the conversation below.
Senate Minority Whip Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, one of the state Legislature's leading black members, said Evans' comments, which he called "unconscionable," reflect on the governor.
"This is the governor's lawyer. So they are very, very close. It's very disappointing. I'd like to know whether the governor agrees with Randy Evans or not," said Fort. "What Randy Evans is feeling is backwards at the very least. It's reminiscent of the good ol' boy culture that Governor Deal has cultivated."
Evans said in an email Wednesday that those who were listening closely to what he said might have misheard. He said he wasn't blaming Obama for the "the lack of advancement on bringing people together rather than dividing them apart."
"Unfortunately, it is a necessary consequence of leveraging any one group for political purposes as opposed to remaining focused on the good of the whole," he said. "Ferguson is way too complicated to describe the way you have or to 'cast blame' on any one person or group."
Here's partial transcript. The panel includes male host Ross Cameron and two women whose identities aren't clear:
Ross Cameron: ... I want to talk about Mike Brown, a young African-American who has been shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Tell us, give us your take. Is this just a random tragedy or are we touching a wider nerve in relation to the U.S.’s macro political settings?
Evans: Well, unfortunately I think that we’re at a scenario where we had a president who had, as the first African-American president, an opportunity to really advance race relations in the United States. You know, we’ve had a tortured history in that regard.
And as a result, to have an African-American president, you would have the opportunity for every young African-American to think to themselves, “One day I too can grow up to be President.” Well, that enormous opportunity kind of got squandered, because literally what happened once President Obama took office, African-Americans became nothing more than a political tool – a way to drive up votes among African-American communities and I would say that over the course of his six years we probably have taken more steps backward than we have forward.
So, obviously, Mike Brown is the second. We had Trayvon Martin, which is a similar story — its similar unrest—and I think for the most part you’d have to say that what’s happened is the net effect, is the actual, open discussion of race has gone underground and it means that when these eruptions occur, they are far more violent, they’re far more intense and they end up getting nationalized in a way that we’ve never seen before. So you end up with…
Female participant: That’s not entirely fair. I mean, American history is littered with examples of race relations and riots and uprisings that have been quite nationalized.
Evans: Well, can you give me one during the Bush Administration? Where President Bush…
Female participant: Well, you said that we hadn’t seen before.
Evans: No, no, no. What I was saying is that in modern history you would have thought that having the first African-American president would have been a great moment of healing where every child – remember the focal point in America is everybody have the American dream and the American dream is…
Second female participant: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Bill Clinton, poor, white child from the South. Single mother. Grows up to become president.
Evans: Grow up to be whatever you want to be.
First female participant: Isn’t this an example of where there is advancement at some levels but in the community, for example, in Ferguson you’ve got 67% black population and 95 percent white policemen. Is that not sort of – do you think that there are grassroots problems that haven’t been solved? That can’t be the fault of the president, surely.
Evans: No, I think it is because they’ve become a political voting bloc which is a convenient mechanism where every election rolls around, you hit the hot-button issues rather than actually ever resolving the core issues.
Second female participant: But how is that taking them backwards? How is that taking the relationship backwards?
Evans: Well because the net effect is rather than solve the core problems that result in a higher incidence of African-American youth being unemployed, being imprisoned, otherwise having not the opportunities – which is that they don’t have the education, they don’t have the support structures, they don’t have the family structures.
Rather than address any of those core issues, which in fact lead to the problem. What you have instead is, a kind of self-imposed unit here that is an available unit that every time an election rolls around, we push the button, we make sure… we know 92 percent of African-Americans are going to vote with the president.