GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Black Lives Matter Agree On Vaccine Mandates. This Means Both Are Wrong.
Last week, three Black women from Texas got into a fight with a hostess at the New York City restaurant Carmine's. According to security footage, the fight began when their male companions, who are also Black, were unable to provide proof of vaccination. The hostess is 24 so was born well after I last willingly dined at Carmine's.
Justin Moore, a lawyer who represents one of the women, Kaeita Nkeenge Rankin, said that the hostess used a racial slur and spoke condescendingly to the patrons, suggesting that their vaccination cards were fake. He also said the Texas women claim that the hostess assaulted them.
The three women were arrested and later charged with assault and criminal mischief. Monday, a local Black Lives Matter group protested outside Carmine's and denounced what it considered a "weaponization of the vaccine mandate against people of color."
GOP Sedition Caucus member Madison Cawthorn from North Carolina was asked about the incident during a Newsmax interview yesterday, and he expressed his support for every Black person involved, even the dreaded Black Lives Matter protesters. He was as surprised as you probably are.
CAWTHORN: I can't believe I'm actually agreeing with them.
It's not that shocking. Encouraging vaccine resistance within the Black community is great for Republican politics. Although, Black Lives Matter might want to reconsider any position that's in alignment with Li'l Steve King.
CAWTHORN: But this is weaponized mandates, when no American, regardless of skin color should be giving up their personal liberty so easily. Because right now, what you're seeing is, you're seeing this medical apartheid, which is causing modern day segregation.
Cawthorn is a vocal opponent of so-called "critical race theory," which he's described as "a cowardly attempt, by those who hate this nation, to rob the cradle and rewrite American history in one swift move." Yes, we know that doesn't make sense. But like so many other Republicans, he won't shut up about segregation, which Republicans would argue is just a minor hiccup in America's otherwise racially harmonious history.
Cawthorn calls vaccine mandates “medical apartheid." North Carolina's actual segregationist laws, for instance, forbade even the exchange of textbooks "between the white and colored schools," and the books could only ever be used by the race that first touch them. That's actual apartheid.
CAWTHORN: Every single of minority activist should be up in arms right now, saying, "You are hurting the people who need help the very most with this actual mandate." It should be rescinded, and we should never be a country that forces mandates down the throats of Americans.
Minority activists don't need direction from this dullard.
A Black Lives Matter spokesperson from New York released this statement Monday: "I believe that this New York City vaccine passport will be used to keep Black people out of spaces, and if we don't stop it now then the police will use it as an excuse to harass and arrest our people."
First off, the police don't need an excuse to “harass and arrest" us. It's what they're trained to do. New York bars require proof that you're at least 21 before serving you an overpriced drink. Maybe the Carmine’s hostess was racist. This is America. It's not outside the realm of possibility. Kaeita Nkeenge Rankin’s lawyer claimed the hostess shouted racial slurs at the women and even called one of them a "monkey.” Carmine’s insists "none of the hosts — all of whom are people of color — uttered a racial slur.” That’s annoying because “people of color” is an umbrella term that covers many different racial groups. If you’ve lived in New York, you’d know there’s unfortunately a lot of intra-Black/Latino/Asian racism.
Black Lives Matter might have good reason to protest Carmine’s, but possible racist enforcement of vaccine mandates doesn’t disqualify them as a public health necessity. I’m so over this bogus notion that vaccine passports are suddenly restricting people's movements and preventing them from going wherever they want. That's quite simply rightwing propaganda. Cawthorn is the same fool who claimed that Americans have a constitutional right to “unrestricted travel" (as though driver's licenses aren't a thing). You already can't fly without valid photo ID and some states have even made those requirements more stringent.
A new bar in Charlotte, North Carolina, was accused of imposing a dress code that was selectively enforced as a means of excluding Black patrons. It's an issue across the country, but Cawthorn hasn't joined this fight. Few Republicans would because it would mean acknowledging systemic racism, which they don't believe exists. They're only willing to invoke the terminology of oppression — “Jim Crow," “apartheid," “segregation" — when pushing their own anti-vax agenda.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."