Black columnist to Mitch McConnell: 'Why don't you just go ahead and call Barack Obama the n-word?'
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. on Sunday asserted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) recent attack on former President Barack Obama is just a substitute for calling him a racial epithet.

"I think President Obama should have kept his mouth shut," McConnell said after Obama criticized President Donald Trump's pandemic response last week.

"Why don't you just go ahead and call Barack Obama the n-word?" Pitts asked the Kentucky senator in a column for the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday.

"You know you want to," Pitts added. "It'd probably do wonders for your blood pressure. And it would free you from the tiresome charade of using coded language to say the same thing."

"Point being, you are tying yourself in logical and rhetorical knots here, Mitch," he continued. "Why not cut through the tangle? Why not say what you mean? Just call him the n-word."

Pitts noted that the Republican Party has traded in racial animus since the 1960s "when disaffected Democrats, horrified at the idea of African American voting and civil rights, fled to your ranks."

Then Obama was elected. Panic surged through your party like an electric shock, and codes were burned like crosses, suddenly insufficient to express GOP apoplexy at this threat to white hegemony. Language that had been opaque suddenly became Windex clear as this Harvard-educated professor of constitutional law was dubbed a "street hustler," a "subhuman mongrel," an "uppity" "boy" with a fake birth certificate.

Trump has been a leader in this movement for rhetorical clarity. He’s dubbed Mexicans “rapists,” said Islam “hates us,” told four congresswomen to “go back” where they came from, called black and brown nations “sh--hole countries.”

"So your disrespectful tone toward President Obama, earnest as it is, seems overly genteel and out of step with the moment," Pitts concluded. This is 2020, Mitch. In 2020, Republicans say what they mean and darn well mean what they say. So go ahead and call Obama the n-word. It would be offensive, yes."

"But we both know it would be honest, too," he wrote.