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Lynn Jenkins, a republican representative from Kansas, recently commiserated with constituents disillusioned with republican leadership that the party was "struggling to find its great white hope." She tried to backtrack from the statement at a later event, saying, "I was unaware of any negative connotation." Even if Jenkins, as she claimed, did not know the racial overtones associated with the origin of that phrase, it would be stunning for her not to infer them. To what did she imagine "white" referred? Hair color? Albinism? The truth is she almost certainly did know.

The Associated Press explains the historical context of this phrase:

The phrase "great white hope" often is associated with pre-civil rights-era racism and is widely believed to have entered usage in the U.S. when boxer Jack Johnson, who was black, captured the heavyweight title in the early 20th century. Many whites reacted to Johnson's achievement by trying to find white fighters — or a "great white hope" — who could beat him.

During the 1910 match, white spectators called for Johnson's death. His white opponent quit when it became clear he was going to lose. Race riots ensued all over the country, with blacks celebrating and whites threatening to lynch black people; 27 black people and 2 white people were killed. Johnson was later arrested for violating the Mann Act for transporting a woman (who happened to be white) over state lines for "immoral" purposes. The woman refused to testify and the case was dropped. When he was arrested on the same charge months later, the involved woman (also white) did testify, and Johnson was convicted and sentenced to 1 year. He fled the country and returned years later to serve out his sentence at Leavenworth. For years, his family, with the support of some legislators--including John McCain--have sought to have him pardoned.

So, despite the play and movie on Johnson's life, both of which bear this phrase as a title, and the fact that Jenkins was present on July 29 when the House of Representatives passed a resolution by voice vote urging Obama to pardon Johnson posthumously for the racially motivated conviction, Jenkins insisted she only meant to suggest there are potential young republican stars in Washington. She denied her remark had anything to do with Obama or the fact that he is black.

She sounded so oblivious, one could almost believe her. However, considering Congress has not had a black republican since J. C. Watts retired in 2003, what need would she have to emphasize "white" except in opposition to someone who is black? And then there's the word "hope," frequently associated with Obama thanks to a very iconic poster.

Considering Jenkins was present in the House on July 29 when the Johnson bill passed, as evidenced by her other votes that day, it seems hard to believe she would not know who Johnson was or the meaning of the phrase "great white hope." In fact, her recent exposure to information on Jack Johnson makes it even more likely that she used the phrase because she knew its meaning.

Crossposted at

Originally posted to CatM on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 10:18 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yes, what else could she mean by "white"? (7+ / 0-)

    Unless she picked a cliche soley for the sake of its familiar sound (in which case, she's not thinking through what she says), or she really meant that the Republicans need to find a white person... because Lord knows there are too many uppity brown people in leadership positions!

    A Wall Street "bonus" should not be more than what my house is currently worth.

    by bushondrugs on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 10:30:37 PM PDT

  •  Tipped & rec'd (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CatM, ZappoDave, bushondrugs


  •  Damn .. (5+ / 0-)

    The R's are foiled by history again.

    Her answer will be - She didn't know nothin' and isn't one of those professor type east coast elitists.

  •  Yo!! Wingnuts ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, bushondrugs

    the track is over here! You missed it two hundred miles back ...

    Glen Beck will lead them to the promissory land, I mean compromised land.  I mean promised land.

  •  Perhaps she means ...... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CatM, ZappoDave, bushondrugs

    a magical pixie dust that when coming in contact with humans, makes them increase in stature, glow in the dark, and turns them into Ronald Reagan clones.

    That's the only other logical explanation I can come up with.

    If cats could blog.... they wouldn't.

    by crystal eyes on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 10:40:54 PM PDT

  •  HOWS DARES YOUZ (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hhex65, bushondrugs, jtb583




    carry on ....

  •  repeat - bitch (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    1.a female dog.
    2.a female of canines generally.

    Representative Jenkins, I apologize if you are offended, but I am not aware of any other connotation or definition of this word. I'm sorry, maybe I didn't phrase that right so let me use your words...

    "I wasn't aware that the phrase had a negative connotation..."

    Given your background, affiliations and credentials, I'm not sure how to take your plea of ignorance.

    Privately, Jenkins has served as a board member of the Kansas Society of CPAs, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Excellence in Public Service Series Honorary Board of Governors, the Aspen Institute's Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership Program, and the American Council of Young Political Leaders. She is a graduate of Leadership Kansas and served on the Kansas State University Accounting Department Advisory Council, the CASA Advisory Board, the Kansas Children's Service League Board of Directors, the YMCA of Topeka Metro Board, the Auburn-Washburn Public Schools Foundation Board, and the Topeka Youth for Christ Endowment Advisory Committee.

    •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

      I had not seen that statement by her and I added it to the post because it definitely makes her statement seem all the more disingenuous. holding the line against the siege

      by CatM on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 11:07:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I remember in the 70s and early 80s (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    there would be a challenger to Ali like Jerry Quarry, or that Clooney or whatever guy that got his butt whipped by Larry Holmes.  Everyone would say the "great white hope" and laugh their asses off because they knew those guys would get the beatings of their lives.  So back then in the boxing world, it was a derogatory term of laughter and humiliation...

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 11:00:12 PM PDT

  •  From wikipedia... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "A voice vote is used when the matter in question is either uncontroversial or paradoxically when the matter at hand is quite controversial and participants wish to enjoy political cover."

    Since she voted on dozen of things that day, she must have known the background on Johnson and that racist phrase.

    "There is no red America, or blue America, there is the United States of America." 2004 DNC Speech

    by BarackStarObama on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 03:13:05 AM PDT

  •  I'm just about ready to give up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    on this state. I thought I could stay and make a difference, but now that they've come out with that new study on climate change and how Kansas is eventually going to be one of the hardest hit, maybe it's time to hit the road and leave Jenkins, the Phelps,' Brownback, Tiarht, Roberts, the anti-choice fanatics, and the many backward citizens to the tornadoes and the drought. Bring on the locusts...but not until I tell you to, okay?

    I hate labels. Just give me the ingredients.

    by forever blue on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 04:31:42 AM PDT

  •  Accidental honesty or stupidity? (0+ / 0-)

    This is one of those increasingly rare instances where a politician accidentally reveals their true thoughts instead of the talking points prepared by a pr team.  

    She is either too racist or too stupid to help our country.  If she knows the meaning of 'Great White Hope' and said it anyway, she is too racist.  If she doesn't know, she is too stupid. Actually, I think she is just stupid.

  •  But she's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a CPA! Don't you know that makes everything OK?
    Living in the ks 2nd district has become an embarassment again. I thought Jim, 'what? who me?', Ryun was bad, but Jenky Jenkins is even more clueless.

    -9.75, -7.49 "He that will not reason is a bigot - He that cannot reason is a fool - He that dares not reason is a slave." Sir William Drummond 1585-1649

    by zamrzla on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 05:16:04 AM PDT

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