Don Blankenship can't stop saying racist things.
West Virginia Senate Republican candidate Don Blankenship is facing uproar for using a racial epithet to describe GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s father-in-law, Asian-American shipping tycoon James Chao. But Blankenship remains steadfastly convinced it was not racist to call Chao a “wealthy Chinaperson.”
In fact, he doubled down this week with a new ad saying McConnell, who is married to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, got “tens of millions of dollars” from his “China family.” And he gave a truly stunning defense of his behavior when questioned by Roll Call’s Simone Pathe on Thursday evening.
“They’ve always said about me, West Virginia people. Is West Virginia people racist?” Blankenship shot back. “We’re confused on our staff as to how it can be racist when there’s no mention of a race. There’s no race. Races are Negro, White Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian. There’s no mention of a race. We never used a race word.”
Blankenship’s use of a loaded, archaic racist term to defend the use of another loaded, archaic racist term constitutes a stunning intellectual and cultural deficiency.
But even leaving that aside, Blankenship is wrong.
In the 19th century, the term “Chinaman” became attached to racist popular songs and depictions of Chinese people as shifty, thieving, and not to be trusted. By implying McConnell’s family connections to a “Chinaperson” or “China family” is a conflict of interest, Blankenship’s rhetoric is leaning on that stereotype.
Blankenship and McConnell have been at war with each other for weeks. McConnell has stated he does not want West Virginia’s Senate nominee to be Blankenship, who served a year in federal prison for conspiracy to violate safety regulations at a coal mine he owned. Blankenship, for his part, has called McConnell a “swamp captain” and compared his leadership to Russian election interference.
While it is hard to muster sympathy for McConnell in any way, shape, or form, racist attacks on a politician’s family should be off limits. And Blankenship’s every attempt to claim his attacks are not racist is just piling on more racism.