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Rep. Lynn Jenkins Calls for 'Great White Hope' to Thwart Obama, Democrats

6 years ago
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Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) got a wave of attention yesterday for remarking at a rally that the GOP needs "a great white hope" to challenge the Democratic agenda.

"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," she told the crowd. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington."

Jenkins spokeswoman Mary Geiger told the Topeka Capitol-Journal that the congresswoman was talking about "bright lights" in the Republican Party. She meant "nothing more and nothing less," Geiger said, adding that Jenkins regretted her choice of words.

The phrase "great white hope," which is also the title of a 1967 play, referred to the search for a white boxer to unseat Jack Johnson, an African-American, as world heavyweight champion in 1908. Johnson's victory had infuriated racist whites, who began calling for a "great white hope" to overthrow him. The title was eventually handed to Jim L. Jeffries, whom Johnson defeated in their highly publicized fight in 1910.

"I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro," Jeffries said.

The phrase is now tossed around fairly casually by people of various races. (In this YouTube video and headline, it seems to humorously admit stereotypical areas of black superiority, such as athletics and jazz.) It was, incidentally, used to refer to President Obama by African-Americans who opposed his presidential candidacy. "He's the great white hope," said black pastor James David Manning. "He's white people's candidate."

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