Republicans Mistake Michael Williams For A Waiter

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You know your political party has a race problem when activists are frequently mistaking a rising star in a major state for… a waiter.

That's what happened to Michael Williams at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. Williams is a Railroad Commissioner appointed by George W. Bush, the first African American to hold a statewide executive office in Texas, and an erstwhile Texas Senate candidate. During an interview at CPAC, Williams said other [overwhelmingly white]attendees mistook him for being the help. Repeatedly.

Williams says it's because of his bowtie. Hey, at least someone at CPAC is color-blind.

Talking Points Memo has the story. It starts when Williams is repeatedly mistaken for Herman Cain, one of the other very, very few African Americans seeking Federal office as a Republican:

I asked Williams if that happened a lot. “Not really,” he told me. “A lot of people think I'm a waiter.”

Williams blamed the confusion on his trademark bowtie, which — like a lot of conservatives — he wears all the time, and wears well.

A friend with him said that on more than one occasion, people had asked him to get them a drink. “I think it's really because of the bowtie,” Williams explained.

It's not because of your neck wear, Michael! It's because of the color of your skin, and because your political party is home to those who openly hate the President because he's Black. You could wear a bolo tie, a bandanna, or even one of those awesome tee shirts with a pre-printed tuxedo, and still be mistaken for a waiter by a bunch of your fellow Republicans, many of whom would gladly go back to the days before public school integration.

As an aside, if it's really the bowtie, someone ask Tucker Carlson the last time anyone asked him to fetch a cocktail.

Also from TPM:

[Williams] told me how conservatives need to do a better job reaching out to the African American community, where he acknowledged right wingers have little entre or experience.

He's right! Republicans could probably start doing that by…

  • Not making, or displaying, any of these signs, especially not in public and to the news media, ever.
  • Not asking for the African American President's birth certificate because you think he's actually a Kenyan Muslim.
  • Not hanging artwork depicting nooses in your law offices.
  • Not slathering yourself in the Confederate Flag. It makes people think you're glorifying the pre-Civil War South, and ipso facto, slavery.
  • Not saying stuff like “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has a right to do so.” (Thanks for that one, Ronald Reagan!)

Oh, or, you know, not passing myriad laws that have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color, especially lower-income communities of color (see: drug laws, mandatory minimums, welfare reform, Bush tax cuts, efforts to repeal health reform, and the entire Reagan administration).

It is probably difficult for Williams to grasp the fact that his political party will always consider him a second-class citizen based on his skin color. Perhaps he wonders if they'll turn the same race-based rhetoric they use on Obama against him in his Senate primary. Maybe he watched what happened to fellow Commissioner Victor Carrillo in his Republican primary and was glad that his last name doesn't give away his ethnicity.

Or hey, maybe he's just glad that they didn't preface their drink orders with “Come here, boy!”

About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She has previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Austin. In addition to serving as the president of Austin Young Democrats, she is also UCONN's #1 fan in Texas.

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