But She Didn’t Mean Anything By It!

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) told conservatives at a town hall meeting that “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope” to counter the Democratic agenda (video here).  Hmmm.  No Freudian slip there!

Jenkins’ spokesperson, Mary Geiger, tried to dig her boss out of the hole:

“There may be some misunderstanding there when she talked about the great white hope,” Geiger said. “What she meant by it is they have a bright future. They’re bright lights within the party.”

Um, yeah, sure.  “Bright” rhymes with “white”.  And it’s the opposite of “dark”, which is frequently paired with “black”.

Geiger released the following statement on Jenkins’ behalf: “There’s no doubt the Republican Party has gone through some dark and challenging times in recent years, but thankfully bright young leaders have stepped up to lead the party into the future and she hopes to be a part of it. That was the intent of her comments — nothing more and nothing less. Congresswoman Jenkins apologizes for her choice of words.”

Geiger says she’s never heard her boss use that phrase before.  I certainly hope she never will again.

via TPM

7 Responses to “But She Didn’t Mean Anything By It!”

  1. Del says:

    I have to admit, I would have been caught on this one. I had no idea that the phrase had racist origins. If I thought about it at all, I connected it with Moby Dick somehow. I can’t guarantee that I’ve never used it in conversation, either, although thank God nobody’s ever holding a tape recorder under my chin.

  2. Dale Jackson says:


    It’s not a racist term, it is just a saying. This is just another oversensitive, manufactured overreaction.

  3. Kathy says:

    Great White Hope

    Whether or not Jenkins was aware of the origin of the phrase, it was a pretty stupid thing to say.

  4. Dale Jackson says:

    No it’s not. It’s accurate they are looking for their great white hope, their white knight, give me a break.

  5. Del says:

    It’s well-established that “white” in the English language, and many others, is associated with “good,” while black is “bad.” Whether this linguistic fact contributed to the dehumanizing of peoples with more melanin by those who had less is doubtless a subject for debate in places where people study this kind of thing.

    If Ms. Jenkins had said “white knight,” it would have probably gone unmentioned, that is unless some radical on the left decided to attempt to link her comment with the White Knights of the KKK. :) FWIW I agree that there has been some over-reaction to what I think was an honestly mis-chosen figure of speech. However, her spokesperson’s attempted explanation about “bright lights” strikes me as ridiculous.

    But you seem to be claiming that a catchphrase taken from a 1967 play about white people in early 20th century America trying to find a white man to defeat a black boxing champion is not only “just a saying” but an appropriate one for a member of the Republican party – a party whose inability to appeal to black and Hispanic Americans is an ever-growing problem – to use in a public statement. I disagree.

    I’ve already admitted I didn’t know where the term came from. From now on I’ll be careful not to use it; that is, unless I’m talking about white people anxious to find a white champion. A pretty specific usage, but somehow I have a feeling I’ll get the opportunity to trot out this particular mot juste here in Mobile, Alabama.

  6. Dale Jackson says:

    Think about this for a second…

    You never heard it was offensive until the year 2009 and you will now watch your language before you say it. Meaning you are sensitive, but until now you never knew it was offensive…



    It’s not offensive.

    Stupid? YES. But, only because people will manipulate your words to score political points.

  7. Del says:

    Just because I am too ignorant to know the plot line of a fairly recent play (and shame on me, because I am very interested in theater) does not mean that this was a almost bizarrely inappropriate thing for this woman to have said referring to this political party at this point in time. I don’t think it was particularly offensive, not in the same way as the much-vaunted N-word. But it sure is an, um, interesting choice of words. No manipulation required.

    And yes, I watch my language, because I like to be careful about language, and I especially like to use a well-chosen phrase or metaphor. To argue the other side of this, that is why I really hate that those “manipulators” are trying to make the extremely useful and elegant phrase “tar baby” off-limits.

    I don’t think our views on this point are all that far apart. It’s just that you see deliberate manipulation and piling-on, and I see a little knowledgeable and perhaps even elitist sniggering about an unintended gaffe. (Sniggering – there’s another one I refuse to give up.) It may well be that there are left-wing web commenters getting all exercised about this elsewhere — I haven’t really read much about this except a headline at another political blog.

    Anyway, isn’t this pretty much over now? If Amazon managed to sell a dozen copies of the play off of this, I’ll be surprised.

Leave a Reply