In her new memoir “There Goes My Social Life: From Clueless to Conservative,” Fox News pundit Stacey Dash lashes out at feminists, Hollywood and what she calls the “elite nonsense of higher education.” But it may be her commentary on race that provides the most insight into what makes her tick — and why she has become a political lightning rod, particularly in the black community.
Dash’s biggest success in her previous career as an actress came 21 years ago with a supporting role in the cult hit film “Clueless.” She was able to parlay that into a stint on the TV version of the movie, as well as cameo appearances in a host of music videos, many of which appeared on BET, a network she now decries. In 2011, she appeared poised to make a comeback, with a starring role on the popular VH1 scripted prime-time soap opera “Single Ladies,” but she departed the show after just one season amid rumors of squabbles with her cast-mates.
The following year, she made a widely criticized endorsement of the Mitt Romney — perhaps the only one delivered in a bathing suit. According to Dash, and her newfound supporters at the time — including her Fox colleague Sean Hannity, who penned a glowing foreword for “There Goes My Social Life” — she became a victim of online bullying simply by breaking with what they perceive as monolithic African-American support for the Democratic Party.
“Our black brothers and sisters fought too hard for equal rights for us to sit back and hide. Or worse, to let white people like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Bill Clinton tell us how to think,” she writes in the book. “And certainly our black brothers and sisters fought too hard for equal rights for us to sit back and let black people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson tell us how to vote. No. It’s time for all black people to get out of the political shackles that have kept us down and to rethink our blind political allegiance to the Democratic Party. In fact, black people should vote Republican every single time.”
Dash’s argument — that Democrats talk down to black voters and take them for granted — is not a new one, but it also ignores certain historical precedents, like the shift of Democratic segregationists like Strom Thurmond to the GOP when they deemed their party too progressive on civil rights. The 1960 election (when Richard Nixon drew 32 percent of the black vote) was the last time the Republican party was truly competitive when it came to garnering African-American support, long before Reid, Pelosi, Clinton or Revs. Jackson and Sharpton arrived on the national scene. Putting aside for a moment Dash’s presumption that African-Americans can’t think for themselves and vote Democratic because they’re told to, her political philosophy seems to be steeped in an ideology of “forgive and forget.”
“We’ve been fooled into believing that there’s still a battle to be fought over race in this country. But here’s a newsflash — we won the Civil Rights Movement. We have all the opportunities we could ever need. All we have to do is walk in them,” she writes.
Curiously, Dash omits the fact that the primary victories of the civil rights movement were engineered in part by progressive activists anda Democratic president. But as a black woman declaring all racial conflict in the U.S. settled, she provides both cover and comfort to her white conservative peers who insist that we already live in a post-racial society, despite all of the considerable evidence to the contrary.
“While I certainly appreciate the notion of making your own way and using every opportunity afforded to us living in the most prosperous nation on Earth, there is no denying the lingering chronic issues that limit access to those opportunities to historically under-served communities today because the broad majority of these people were treated as ‘less than’ for so long,’” Corey Ealons, a former communications director in the Obama White House, told MSNBC on Tuesday. “To paraphrase a famous saying, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”
And yet Dash, like many other black conservative pundits, serves a particular function. She can say the things others can’t because they would likely be labeled racist. Take for instance her stance on slavery: “It’s time to move on and go beyond what those evil men had in mind when they put shackles on us so long ago.”
Had a white conservative written or uttered such a statement, there would likely be calls for resignations and public apologies. Instead Dash provokes eye rolls and copious amounts of Twitter rage, but she marches on relatively unscathed. And Dash is an equal opportunity offender. In the past four years, she has suggested trans people should go to the bathroom in the bushes, has criticized women who protest wage disparity, and argued that campus rape accusers are often “bad girls” acting “naughty.”
But those broadsides never get the same traction as her rants about her own community. She has claimed African-Americans who support Obama are getting “money for free,” and that his presidency has made them feel “worthless” and “uneducated.”
And yet, in 2008, at age 41, Dash cast her first vote ever for him.
“I didn’t know anything about [Obama] when I voted for him in 2008. My choice to do so was purely because he was black,” she told Hannity in 2013. “Naively, I thought he would be the right person for the job but unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way. Obama had the opportunity to really unite this country in such a profound way, but instead he has done the opposite. We are so divided right now, everything has become about race, more than I’ve ever known in my lifetime.”
In her book, Dash claims to have been “blacked” into voting for Obama and did so because she was “so sick of people complaining about race, prejudice, and bigotry” and had hoped that his election would prove that the U.S. had “moved past its history of slavery and repression.”
Obama never campaigned on establishing racial harmony, and yet Dash writes that she was disappointed to see that the election of black president didn’t somehow immediately squash all conversation about the subject. Meanwhile, in her many decades as an eligible voter, Dash does not appear to have ever engaged her black “brothers and sisters” about what inspires their grievances or why specifically they have historically voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Democrats. She is convinced that, like her, most African-Americans backed Obama simply because of his race. But how does that explain black support for Walter Mondale, Al Gore or John Kerry? She singles out the “hustlers” and “pimps” from her South Bronx childhood as examples of “enterprising” African-Americans, but can’t fathom how black people could vote Democratic for any reason other than fear mongering and mob mentality.
Oddly enough, despite pushing for eliminating race as a factor in American life, she keeps resurrecting it, perhaps because she is aware of how her much her appeal may be wrapped up in the topic. The best example of this dichotomy was on display at this year’s Academy Awards. Her controversial suggestion that Black History Month should abolished resulted in her becoming the butt of a particularly awkward joke from host Chris Rock. As Dash strode on stage to be a human punchline, she was greeted by deafening awkward silence, but she was still beaming.
Perhaps she was thinking to herself: Would I even be here had it not been for my racial comments a month ago?
This story first appeared on msnbc.com.