Since he became the Republican nominee for governor of Florida last month, Ron DeSantis has made no secret of his racism, from his “monkey it up” crack regarding his opponent, African-American Andrew Gillum, on Fox News, to suggesting that immigrants are child molesters. In addition to those, he has also run a Tea Party Facebook group where posters regularly used racially charged language and spoken at conferences organized by racist activist David Horowitz.
Now he finds himself in even more hot water, as one of his donors, Republican activist Steven M. Alembik, has been caught using the N-word on Twitter. Alembik, who has donated more than $20k to the DeSantis campaign, tweeted the word on September 8th in response to a Republican National Committee tweet that criticized Obama‘s speech in Illinois as “divisive & resentful.”
Although he has deleted the remark, Alembik dug himself into an even deeper hole when Politico reporter Marc Caputo interviewed him about it. The quote that most outlets have run with is this one, where he attempts to justify himself with a terrible double-standard:
“So somebody like Chris Rock can get up onstage and use the word and there’s no problem? But some white guy says it and he’s a racist? Really?…I grew up in New York in the ‘50s. We were the k—-. They were the n——. They were the goyim. And those were the s—-.”
Firstly, it’s a bad idea to try and present yourself as a tolerant person and then use derisive terms for Jews and Hispanics. But Alembik also speaks to the white cluelessness that questions the taboo nature of the N-word, while ignoring the huge amount of cultural baggage it carries.
Christ Rock On Using the ‘N-word’
Alembik’s fixation on Chris Rock is also telling. Although Rock has used the N-word in many of his routines, he’s likely referring to the one which made him a comedy superstar from his 1996 special, Bring the Pain. In it, he described the ways blacks perceive other blacks by dividing them into two categories: black people and N-words – “and [N-words] have got to go!” he cried.
It is one of the most daring routines ever attempted, not just because he, as a black man, can speak one of the most hateful word in the English language, but because his observations come from a place of lived experience. If a white comedian attempted them, they’d either sound overtly racist, or resemble a hacky “know how black people are different from white people?” routine that was common in late 80s/early 90s stand-up:
The routine’s fame came with an unintended price: white people thought they could get away with saying the word too. In an interview with 60 Minutes shortly before he hosted the 2004 Academy Awards, Rock stated that “I’ve never done that joke again, ever, and I probably never will…’Cause some people that were racist thought they had license to say [it.]”
This was parodied in one of the first episodes of The Office, “Diversity Day,” where the Dunder-Mifflin office is forced to hold a seminar on diversity because Steve Carell’s Michael Scott won’t stop quoting the routine:
It Gets Worse For Alembik
All this is bad enough for Alembik, but a few hours after the story went viral, Caputo released a transcript of the interview, which is even worse. When it first came up, Alembik suggested that the N-word was “nucklehead” (without the K in front of it), forcing Caputo read his words aloud. “I would never use the word [N-word] in a tweet,” he rebutted, but Caputo, who had the tweet right in front of him, forced him to admit it was possible – and then after his comment about goyim and spics, he asked, “I’m Italian. Was I a WOP?” “Oh yeah, you were a WOP,” Alembik replied. The “oy” uttered by Caputo midway through says it all:
Since the controversy broke, DeSantis’s PAC has returned $11,000 of Alembik’s donations, and Governor Rick Scott has returned $1,000 that he gave to his Senate campaign. Scott, who is in a close race with incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, may sail right past this, but DeSantis, who is polling six points behind Andrew Gillum in some polls, is in much more trouble. There are no upsides from being associated with white racists, and if the polls hold, DeSantis will find out this November that the cost of courting their support is not just monetary.