The Republican presidential candidates will meet Tuesday for yet another debate, this one hosted by Fox Business Network. The forum will come just a day after Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri, announced his resignation amid widespread protests and accusations that he failed to adequately address racism on campus. Now the question on many minds heading into tomorrow is: Will the upcoming GOP debate address the University of Missouri scandal?
It seems unlikely for two reasons. First of all, this debate is hosted by FBN, a channel that focuses primarily on economics and financial markets. That's the ostensible focus of this debate, but the University of Missouri scandal isn't really economic in nature.
Secondly, the fact is that, with very few exceptions, the GOP of today simply doesn't like to focus on or talk about racism. When Republicans and conservatives acknowledge police killings of unarmed black Americans as a problem — which they often don't — they present it as a problem of police brutality run amok, for example, not systemic racism. Phrases like "I don't see skin color" are frequently thrown about in Republican circles these days as a means of downplaying the existence of race-based prejudice. Candidate Mike Huckabee recently proclaimed that "racism exists because we have a sin problem in America, not a skin problem," while Ben Carson suggested that the Black Lives Matter movement remove the word black from its name.
Racial tension at University of Missouri came to national prominence in September when Payton Head, a black student and president of the Missouri Students Association, alleged that "some guys riding in the back of a pickup truck decided that it would be okay to continuously scream NIGGER at me." The next month, a man reportedly yelled racial slurs at a black student group rehearsing a homecoming performance.
Days later, students attempted to confront Wolfe about the incidents at the school's homecoming parade, but he avoided them. Soon thereafter, a swastika was found scrawled in feces on a bathroom wall, and students reported racist posts on the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak. Campus activism against Wolfe and the University grew, with one student launching a hunger strike and dozens of the school's football players refusing to play until Wolfe announced his resignation Monday.
Of course, it's nonsensical to acknowledge the existence of racism but deny that it has anything to do with skin color and equally nonsensical to try and turn "Black Lives Matter" into "Lives Matter." What all of this comes down to is the reluctance and refusal of the American right to see racism as a distinct and urgent problem in America. That's why the issue has received so little attention in Republican debates, and that's why it's unlikely to come up at Tuesday's forum.