The Congressional Black Caucus has denounced Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy for his repeated remarks that they say have furthered the racial divide and exposed even more hate in America’s political landscape.
Though born in Cincinnati, Ramaswamy is the child of Indian Hindu immigrant parents, which has left many questioning his controversial statements’ true intentions and motives as he seeks an unlikely bid for the GOP nomination.
Ramaswamy’s non-European American heritage and immigrant background certainly add a layer of perplexity to his alignment with certain extremist elements within the Republican base, reminding African Americans that true allies remain hard to come by.
The candidate’s recent town hall event in Pella, Iowa, garnered significant attention for his declaration that “our diversity is not our strength.” Such a statement flies in the face of how Ramaswamy and the extreme right in his party have worked against calls for unity and inclusivity nationwide.
During the town hall, Ramaswamy made another alarming comparison, likening Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a Black congresswoman, to the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Ramaswamy, who has derided former Vice President Mike Pence for not helping Donald Trump illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election, also compared the existence of white supremacy in the United States to that of unicorns.
“I’m sure the boogeyman white supremacist exists somewhere in America. I’ve just never met him,” Ramaswamy said. “Never seen one, never met one in my life, right? Maybe I’ll meet a unicorn sooner. And maybe those exist, too.”
Within 24 hours, a racist white gunman shot and killed three African Americans at a Dollar General in Jacksonville, Florida.
Indeed, Ramaswamy’s provocative analogy, which is deeply offensive and historically charged, raised questions about his understanding of racial dynamics and his willingness to engage in divisive rhetoric.
“[The shooter] targeted a certain group of people, and that’s Black people,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters stated in a news conference. “That’s what he said he wanted to kill. And that’s very clear. And I don’t know that the targets were specific, but I know that any member of that race at that time was in danger. Of the Black race.”
Ramaswamy also defended comparing Pressley, who is Black, and author Ibram Kendi to the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan.
In 2019, Pressley remarked, “We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice” and “we don’t need any more Black faces that don’t want to be a Black voice.” She explained that she attempted to express a desire for leaders to use their lived experiences to inform their decisions and policies and not ignore the realities of race.
However, Ramaswamy argued that Pressley was the modern version of the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that terrorized, lynched and killed Black Americans for decades.
“I stand by what I said to provoke an open and honest discussion in this country,” Ramaswamy said, doubling down. “Many Americans today are deeply frustrated by the new culture of anti-racism that’s really racism in new clothing, and we need to have that debate in the open.”
Commentators like Washington Post columnist Philip Bump have noted that Ramaswamy’s discourse encapsulates a distilled form of Republican race rhetoric. For example, Bump noted that when Ramaswamy announced his candidacy earlier this year, he invoked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech during the March on Washington in 1963.
“That was the speech where he said, ‘I hope my four children grow up in a country where they are judged not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character,’” Ramaswamy declared his candidacy in a video. “That dream stuck with me. It meant something to me.”
In that video, and since then, Bump noted how Ramaswamy explained what that quote meant to him.
“In keeping with an inordinate amount of Republican rhetoric in recent years, the candidate sees King’s words not in the broader context of his full speech or the historic moment in which it was given but as a sort of Uno-reverse for the race card: that any recognition of racial disparities is at odds with King’s vision,” Bump wrote.
Ramaswamy seems to selectively interpret King’s words, using them as a shield against acknowledging the persistent racial disparities in the nation despite evoking his legacy and his vision of a world where character rather than skin color is the determining factor. His assertion that “reverse racism is racism” echoes sentiments that have resonated within segments of the Republican Party in recent years. The notion, a cornerstone of Trump’s appeal, positions white individuals as victims of discrimination, often sidelining the historical context of systemic racism faced by Black and Hispanic Americans.
Such statements continue to raise alarm bells about the candidate’s commitment to addressing issues of racial injustice.
“Vivek Ramaswamy’s comments against Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley do not provoke ‘open and honest discussion’ on race in America. Rather they reveal the depths of his own dishonesty,” members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) wrote in a statement Tuesday.
CBC Chair Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada said Ramaswamy’s words are not merely the ramblings of a deeply unserious person but count as “part of a dark and calculated attempt to obfuscate the truth about racism in America.”
He asserted that most reasonable-minded Americans understand that the Ku Klux Klan was, and is today, a group that wishes to reestablish white supremacy through intimidation and violence.
“We tragically saw the consequence of that ideology a few days ago in Jacksonville, Florida,” Horsford noted. “This sort of bad faith comparison about a member of the House who frequently uses their platform to stand against hate and violence is not only an insult to the plight of Black Americans, but to all Americans of moral integrity. Vivek Ramaswamy understands that there is an appetite for racism and bigotry within the base of the extreme MAGA Republican Party and he is opting to shamelessly carry the water of white supremacy for his own political gain.”
Horsford emphasized that the Republican Party “cannot be silent.”
“If this does not speak to their values, leaders within the party have an obligation to say so,” the CBC chair said. “This rhetoric is beyond dangerous and deserves nothing short of full condemnation.”