Murray State University historian Brian Clardy isn’t surprised that Republican Attorney Gen. Daniel Cameron, the guy who wants Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s job, is angry over ads that warn “all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk,” and urge Kentuckians to reelect the incumbent.
“Skinfolk ain’t kinfolk” is based on “All my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk,” a comment attributed to the late Black writer, anthropologist and filmmaker Zora Neale Hurston.
Cameron is also Black; so is Clardy, who said the attorney general’s ire reminded him of an expression he heard growing up in South Fulton, Tennessee: “A hit dog will holler.” He meant that Cameron really knows the ads are truthful.
Clardy doubts Cameron has much support among Blacks in Kentucky. The professor said it’s hardly a secret that “this attorney general has aligned himself with Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. Most African-American voters view the Trump administration, the Trump presidency, and the entire Trump movement as inherently racist.”
Trump has been compared to segregationist former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a symbol of the white South’s stubborn, and often violent, resistance to integration in the 1960s. Wallace ran for president in 1968 and 1972, tapping into “a current of grievance and barely muffled racism that would later propel the rise of another combative populist: Donald Trump,” Peter Jamison wrote in The Washington Post. Cameron often brags on his Trump endorsement. The AG is also proud that the former president backed him when he was elected in 2019.
Clardy faulted Cameron, who is the state's top law enforcement officer, for “not really pursuing serious charges against the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor in her own apartment in Louisville.” Taylor was a Black woman; her death led to massive protests in Louisville and nationwide.
“Cameron was in control of the inquiry,” wrote The Nation’s John Nichols in a May, 2023, story about the attorney general’s run for governor. “Cameron concluded in the fall of 2020 [Taylor was killed in March, 2020] that the use of force by the Louisville Metro Police Department officers that led to Taylor’s death was ‘justified’ under Kentucky law. No charges would be brought against the officer whose shots were determined to have killed Taylor. Indeed, the only charges recommended that fall to a grand jury by Cameron were against an officer who was accused of endangering Taylor’s neighbors.”
A 30-second radio ad called Cameron “Uncle Daniel,” a takeoff on “Uncle Tom,” which, “in many African-American communities ... is a slur used to disparage a black person who is humiliatingly subservient or deferential to white people,” according to the Jim Crow Museum website.
A digital ad “pictures Cameron next to Stephen, a Black enslaved character in the 2012 movie ‘Django Unchained’ who is loyal to a white plantation owner,” the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Lucas Aulbach reported. “‘All skinfolk ain’t kinfolk,’ the ad repeats, urging readers to vote for Beshear on Election Day.
“Steven is synonymous with Uncle Tomism,” Clardy said.
The ads are from the Atlanta-based Black Voters Matter Action PAC. The group says it is not affiliated with any candidate or campaigns. According to BVM’s website, the group’s “goal is to increase power in marginalized, predominantly Black communities. We believe that effective voting allows a community to determine its own destiny. We agree with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, ‘Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.’”
In a Lexington Herald-Leader story, Tessa Duvall quoted from the radio ad: “What’s up, Kentucky? It’s election time, and all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. Over the past few years, we’ve taken to the streets to demand racial justice, to demand health care, and the right to make decisions about our bodies. And now Uncle Daniel Cameron is threatening to take us backwards. The same man who refused to seek justice for Breonna Taylor now wants to run our whole state.”
Duvall wrote that BVM aims to produce a video version of the radio ad. In Aulbach’s story, Cameron called the ads “racist” and said he’d “never faced racism or discrimination while growing up in Kentucky until I decided to stand up against the national Democrat establishment.”
“For him to say that is beyond me,” Clardy said. “What audience is he playing to? If you believe what he said, I have some oceanfront property in Colorado to sell you.”
Added Clardy: “There are going to be Republicans who will not vote for him because he is African-American. Not that his policy positions are any different from Donald Trump’s. They're not. Not that his policies are different from [former Kentucky Gov.] Matt Bevin’s, They're not. But his skin is black, and they will not vote for him.”
The Roland Martin show
BVM co-founder Cliff Albright went on “Roland Martin Unfiltered Daily Digital Show” and defended the ad.
Albright accused Cameron of “gaslighting to the highest degree” over the Breonna Taylor case. The attorney general, according to Albright, has consistently “shown himself to be just as much of a threat to the Black community as the staunchest white supremacist. You don’t have to be white to pursue and reinforce white supremacist policies. As we said in the ad, ‘all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”
Martin called Beshear “a perfect example of a white Democrat who frankly is aligned more with Black voters than Black Daniel Cameron, Republican.” Martin said it’s important for Kentucky Blacks to know “it’s abundantly clear that Daniel Cameron has not been on the right side of the issues that Black folks care about.” Albright agreed. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” he said.