The current mood in America is one of very real racial tensions with riots, shootings, demonstrations and protests taking place across the country on a regular basis, which is why news that one Republican chose to meet with racial extremists has raised more than just a few eyebrows in Washington.
According to a report by the Washington Post, Steve Scalise was a budding Louisiana state lawmaker eager to ascend the Republican ranks when he quickly accepted an offer to address a white-supremacist organisation 12 years ago.
The Washington Post details how the invitation to meet with the Ku Klux Klan came from a neighbour in his New Orleans suburb who was the long time political strategist for former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, and it gave Scalise the chance to appear before a politically active constituency that could prove helpful in future campaigns.
In an interview Duke states that Scalise “recognised how popular I was in his own district,”
While the meeting itself came more than a decade ago it has now been revealed to the public and at a time when politicians need to be building racial bridges to unify the country rather than be breaking them down.
According to the Washington Post, racist elements have long been a part of political life in Louisiana and throughout the Deep South, but Scalise’s skilful ability to balance them with his party’s modern-day need to appeal to a rapidly diversifying electorate enabled his rise.
Scalise was one of only six state representatives to vote in 2004 against a holiday memorialising Martin Luther King Jr., and he was a firm opponent of efforts by black mayors of New Orleans to draw more government funding for the city, showing his feelings on matters of race very clearly.
According to a report by the Washington post, Scalise was adamant that he did not agree with the white nationalists and neo-Nazi activists he addressed in 2002. “It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive and religious views groups like these hold,” Scalise said in a statement.
While he may be distancing himself from the moves he made 12 years ago there is no denying that there is an ugly underlying tinge of racism that flows beneath the surface in this revelation which has shone a light on to how it is still possible in modern US politics to be involved with racist groups.