The candidates are echoing a trend among Republicans — the outright denial that racism exists.
The two Republicans vying to challenge incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in the 2020 New Hampshire Senate election on Tuesday denied that systemic racism exists in the United States.
Corky Messner and Don Bolduc were asked about the issue by the moderator of a primary debate in Manchester.
"I do not believe there's systemic racism in the United States," answered Messner. "I think the situation requires everybody to muster the courage to come together and talk about this issue, to talk about about all the issues affecting people of color, all the issues affecting our country."
Messner said: "There are issues affecting people of color in the inner city that need to be dealt with, the carnage that goes on in Chicago every weekend, with people of color getting shot — and shot by other people of color."
After declining significantly in recent years, homicide rates in Chicago and some other large cities have increased this year. Some experts claim such increases are fueled by the early release of inmates and other actions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
Bolduc was asked about the disproportionate number of Black men killed by police.
"Well, first of all, the statistics don't bear that out at all," Bolduc laughed, "so I don't think that that is correct."
When the moderator corrected him, citing data from Statista.com and the Washington Post showing Black men shot by police at more than twice the rate of white men, Bolduc dismissed the correction, saying, "Well, I think their facts need to be checked, because if you look over time, there isn't a disproportionate rate of police shooting Blacks, shooting whites."
Bolduc then suggested that police shooting rates are dictated by who is committing crimes.
"It's not about who gets shot. If you're breaking the law and you're using violence and the police are within the law, within their means to use that force, then that's the question," he said. "Everybody is convoluting this. Statistics aside, the police have a job to do. We need to support them. Some police make mistakes, some police do it wrong; they need to be held accountable by their leadership."
The candidates' comments came as other Republicans have adopted a similar approach of simply denying that systemic racism exists.
On June 7, Attorney General William Barr said: "I don't think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist."
"I do not think that we have a systemic racism problem with law enforcement officers across this country," acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said that day.
On Tuesday, Donald Trump was asked during a trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin — where anti-racism protests have followed the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake — whether systemic racism was a problem in the United States. Rather than answer the question, Trump scolded the reporter for asking it and denounced protesters as "really bad people."
Tuesday's debate was not the first time Bolduc and Messner have made offensive comments about race.
In February, Bolduc blamed the Civil War on "Gridlock, blaming, pointing the finger. Not working together, not being a partnered team." He did not mention slavery.
A month later, Bolduc claimed that he was not "being racist at all" when he used racist language in talking about the coronavirus. "I really don't want to hear any noise that gets thrown at me about being a racist because I call this the China coronavirus or the president does, or anybody else does, because it is, you know. And I'm not racist about it," he said. Experts say that the use of terms such as "China virus" fuels xenophobia toward Asians and people of Asian decent.
Messner said in June that "smart African American folks" should stand up to Black Lives Matter: "It's very clear that Black Lives Matter has a leftist agenda and it's very clear it's a revolutionary agenda and sadly, the African American community will suffer because of it."
At Tuesday's debate, Bolduc also was asked what the federal government should do to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The federal government doesn't need to do anything to slow the spread," he answered. "It must be locally controlled and handled. The bottom-up approach: communities, colleges, businesses, hospitals doing the right thing. Personal responsibility and trusting people — it's nonexistent. That is why we have the problems that we have today."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.