Sunday, April 13, 2008

Post-Racial Politics

At this point in the campaign, I'm less interested in the particular outcome than I am in what the contest is exposing about Left politics and the reaction of the different groups of actors towards these candidates. This post is an attempt to round up different ideas I've been discussing into a more coherent and less rhetorical post.

Ironically enough, while accusations of racism have been thrown around by the Obama campaign (and gleefully amplified by the MSM and the CDS-afflicted blogosphere), the campaign to date has demonstrated that racism (or more specifically, promotion of white supremacy) has lost its salience among Democratic voters. There is no group, faction or movement within the Democrats advocating white supremacy - that strand of the party has either moved to the Republicans or else has renounced and abandoned their former position. There is no disagreement on the left that racisim is pernicious and destructive, and that it has to do with defending privilege. The critique that local and regional elite groups (usually but not always Republican), instrumentally deploy race-based arguments to try to encourage fear in different racial groups and by doing so eke out narrow electoral victories is known and understood. On the Left, it is increasingly accepted that African Americans as a group have been harmed in a way no other identifiable racial or ethnic group has been over the course of the nation's history [Note: I am describing a phenomenon, not declaring a fact. Please don't weigh in on how this or that group has been equally/more brutalized than AAs.] and that hundreds of years of formal and deliberate brutality towards them as a group is not reversed in a few decades. Black anger at white privilege is justified and white resistence to relinquishing that privilege is entrenched. A great task lies before the party and the left generally to continue to battle this blight upon our nation.

What the tactic of branding Hillary supporters as racist has done, strangely enough, is expose the class bigotry of a portion of the party leadership and the Left punditocracy. I have said before and I will say again - I refuse to accept that millions of Democratic voters, black or white, are choosing their candidate only because they won't vote for someone of the other race. Yes, there have to be some people who won't vote for the black guy. I'm willing to bet there are no more of those voters on the left than won't vote for a woman (Indeed, Paul Lukasiak's analysis of polling trends indicates that gender bigotry may be stronger than race bigotry.), so race bigotry is most likely cancelled out by gender bigotry. To the degree that we can see race-based voting, it is going to be in areas where racial division is a political tool of the local elites. In California, we are seeing more and more of this aimed at dividing white and Hispanic voters. My county, San Diego, is the epicenter of this manuever, home to Pete Wilson's political machine. Dark mutterings about "Reconquista" are always about, and Latino politicians' loyalty to the state vs. loyalty to "La Raza" is always in the campaign mix.

I also reject claims that AA voters are only voting for Obama out of racial identification, any more than women are only voting for Hillary out of gender identification. Our identities are complex and what is important in one context may be less so in another. I doubt AA Obama supporters would be similarly enthusiastic about Alan Keyes or that female Hillary voters would jump for the chance to vote for Kay Bailey Hutchison. Once candidates reach a threshold of acceptablility, then certain non-political attributes about the candidate that bear political weight (ethnicity, gender, celebrity) may tip the scapes in that person's favor. What others see as some kind of rejection of a candidate, and the argument is most often put forward as AAs are rejecting Hillary, is better and less divisively seen as merely a ranking of preferences - I like both, but I prefer A to B.

What we are seeing, however, is the way in which Democratic Party leaders and power brokers, large swaths of Left Blogistan and the always opportunistic MSM are seizing on a narrative about working class white ethnic voters - one derived from a shallow, reductionistic interpretation of historical patterns - as being mired in racial resentment and casting votes for punitive reasons. It is as though they are unable to get past historical incidents of white resistence to desegregation, school integration, affirmative action, and other acts that explicitly weakened white socio-economic privilege, and see that the US is a different nation than it was forty years ago. People in these groups, from Obama himself to anonymous commenters on blogs to media whores are persistently pushing a picture of those who do not vote for Obama as:
  • White
  • Middle class or lower
  • Uneducated
  • Bitter over lack of economic success
  • Unrepentantly racist
  • Violent (gun owners, pro-military)
  • Deluded (clinging to religion)
  • Parochial
  • Illiberal (Reagan Democrats, i.e., not loyal to the Left)

They explicitly label non-Obama voters as "Archie Bunkers" and "Bubbas". There is another, less explicit thread running through thet characterizations, that these people are either too dumb or too deluded to take advantage of social opportunities that would allow them to improve their socio-economic status; in short, that the condition in which these people find themselves is self-inflicted because they are white and therefore are privileged in comparison to minorities as such. If they really wanted to get ahead, they could. (Hmm, where have we heard that kind of argument before? It's kind of what the right argues about minorities...) The list also excludes the possibility that whites of their own class may be illiberal and racist, granting themselves an unacknowledged class exemption from the faults of their socio-economic inferiors. Finally, it skates over the cultural, economic and geographic factors that place the ethic groups in lower income stratas into fierce competition with each other for increasingly scarce and impermanent socio-economic goods. You know, like jobs, health care and retirement income.

There is no acknowledgement that non-Obama voters have far more complex identities than the punch list above. It does not allow room for someone who is working class and struggling to have a constructive preference for another candidate (I like them both just fine, but I prefer B to A). They are always already pernicious race voters. The claim becomes even stranger when one understands that this description is meant to apply to any non-Obama voter, even someone like myself who is in the top quintile of household income, has a graduate degree, is a "creative class" worker, has extremely radical left stances, fervently believes in gun control, does not believe in any deity, and will not vote Republican under any circumstances.

Let's come to a full stop here. What I am describing is a political tactic, based on an inadequate narrative, that is finally backfiring badly on those who have been pushing it. This is not reverse racsim. This is not some attempt by the Democratic elite and their enablers to construct and defend economic and political structures to enforce inequitable distribution of social, political and economic goods on working class whites as a group. (The question of whether Obama's "policies" would enforce inequitable distributions on the working class regardless of race is another question.)

In addition, the hamfisted deployment of a moronic claim against Democratic party rank and file stalwarts in no way excuses the very real persistence of racism in the US, the kind so expertly exploited by the Movement Conservatives for the last four decades. White racsm is real. It harms this nation. It is used to excuse the hateful behavior of others (I'm just fighting the KKK!) which has it's own corrosive effect on the body politic but which cannot equal the damage done here and now by entrenched white privilege, which is mostly entrenched upper-middle and upper class white privilege.

I'll say what Brad Delong, Markos, Ezra Klein, Big Media Matt and the Guy who Kidnapped Josh Marshall (GKJM) will not: The people currently arguing about the alleged racism of Hillary voters are exactly the people who most materially benefit from the existence of white privilege in this nation. That means YOU, boyz. People who are in my socio-economic class (so I'm talking about ME here - I am not excluding myself from the ill-gotten gains) are those who are reaping the long term benefits of the wealth and power generated by centuries of white supremacy.

To my mind, the Obama campaign is unselfconciously, though quite deliberately, pushing an argument about a group of citizens that was never entirely true back in the 60s and 70s and long ago ceased to be true among the vast majority of Democrats. They really think of Democratic voters as two groups - an enlightened creative class and a retrograde working class - and place upon the head of the latter all the failures of the party since LBJ. It is not factually true, but it is the story they tell themselves about themselves and what allows them to so vigorously advance a claim about Democratic primary voters that is not supported by an examination of the voters themselves.

The economic success of the Clinton administration went a good way to removing the grounds for racial resentment by focusing on the economic conditions that creates unreasonable competition for social goods. To argue more could have been done is to ignore that advances did happen, and now the party has an opportunity to restructure economic conditions, cementing gains and advancing goals. We won't get there by demonizing an opponent's supporters as bitter, vengeful and stupid. Voters do vote their interests, but those interests arise from complex identities and contradictory lives. Interests are not monolithic. They can be nudged in better directions and cemented with legislation that obviously improves their lives.

The Democratic Party elite needs to get over their obsession with HillBillies and start concretely addressing the bread and butter concerns of all working class Americans.

Anglachel

26 comments:

Chinaberry Turtle said...

So, with the analysis of this post in mind, do you think there is an opportunity for a third party? It seems like there could be. Consider all the people left out by both parties right now:

1. "What About Kansas?" poor folk who vote Republican and against their economic interests because they correctly identify classist derision from the Democratic party and lack of respect for their cultural values (hunting, religion, etc.).

2. Feminists who are now realizing that the Democratic party doesn't really care about their issues and actually harbors deep woman hatred, and yet remains confident that the abortion issue and SC justice nominations will keep women in line.

3. Hispanics, who have never had a home in either party (Dems focused on AA rights while Repubs don't care about *any* minority rights).

4. Older voters, who recognize that Repubs don't care about Social Security but also realize that they're just not 'sexy' enough for this new cult-of-personality Democratic party w/ its 'Camelot' fetish.

5. And, of course, Hillary's base: working class folk w/ union tendencies.

Seems like these groups would pull largely from the Democratic party, but also enough from the Republican party to make this third party actually viable.

Bud White said...

Another superb post which reminds me why I think if Obama takes the nomination we're doomed to defeat. McCain will surely move to the middle while also marginalizing Obama as an elitist. Reagan Dems who are concerned about their economic condition may feel more affinity for the war hero than the liberal junior senator from Illinois.

Sarana said...

An interesting post, Anglachel. There's a slightly defensive tone to it and I wonder why. But maybe I'm just projecting.

ChinaTurtle, this country will not allow an official third party. I think the Reagan Democrats, the Evangelical Repubs, and other large disenfranchised blocs are expected to fulfill that role.

I keep wondering why the Democratic Party harbors and allows such regionalism. You brought it up in a previous post, Anglachel, and I'd like to hear more thinking about it. It's related to class in some places but it stands alone as both an inclusive and exclusive identifier. And I think it decides elections.

marirebel said...

"What I am describing is a political tactic, based on an inadequate narrative that is finally backfiring badly on those who have been pushing it."

Yes! The Obama campaign slapped the "racist" label on Bill Clinton effectively shutting him down. I think the Obama campaign sought to minimize Obama's loss in Ohio, as well as to shut down Hillary supporters, by again playing the race card, this time attributing racist sentiments to working class folks who support Hillary. The "Archie Bunker" meme also serves to marginalize Hillary supporters as "non-serious" thinkers, while making the idea of supporting Hillary less appealing to all, especially the young and the hip. I cannot believe the Obama campaign did any viable statistical analyses of the values and beliefs of white, working class voters. Their labeling of Hillary supporters masks not only the diversity and multiplicity of her supporters, but also the diversity and multiplicity of the working class.

Cathy said...

Again I stand in awe of your posts. That really summed up a lot of the problems and uncertainty we face right now.

This election will make or break the democratic party as currently constituted. Obviously I want Hillary to win because we and the world need for us not to implode right now. But if it doesn't happen now, it will soon. There is too much being left unsaid with every insult hurled toward the HRC folks. Nor have the Obama super-surrogates (Dean/Pelosi) shown themselves fit to govern the party, much less the county.

I didn't detect any defensiveness in your post. But I fully acknowledge that it's almost impossible to discuss race in this country in a non-offensive manner. Not only do I live in an interracial relationship (Asian/White), but most of my work experience has been spent dealing with issues of legal discrimination.

But we cannot put the genie back in the bottle. We can only try to make it work for us.

As for the possibility of a third party. Shrug. Something has got to give. I know when HRC says Dem Party comes first she means it. But she also said no nominee seated without counting FLA/MI would be legitimate. Such things give me vague hopes that something might break toward an independent run (which I believe she would win).

dotcommodity said...

What an interesting analysis! Thanks.
Dailkos used to be a place where I would read indepth stuff like this, but no more...found this via a recomend from talkleft

crackball said...

In a recent issue of the London Review of Books Jonathan Raban explains his support for Obama, and on of the reasons he's so enthusiastic is that he says going to Obama's speeches gives white people a chance to feel what it must be like to go to a black church.

Well.

In the lower-class rural Florida community I grew up in, it was not at all an uncommon event for white people to attend black churches, and vice-versa. This was because, statewide, the Protestant community was doing a lot of ecumenical work.

I don't imagine my experience was unique.

But clearly Raban has never had that experience, or assumes a generalized population of white people have never had that experience. Most likely because the intellectuals he hangs with wouldn't be caught dead going to ANY church, except as anthropological study.

I think one reason why the Kool-Aid is so intoxicating to these intellectuals is that they've never been exposed to it before. But I bet you dollars to donuts most working class people have, at one point or other in their lives, been inside an evangelical church or revival meeting or something similar, if only because they were dragged there by a cousin hoping they'd "see the light."

And chances are, if they're Dems, that evangelism didn't take -- they didn't go the conversion route. Otherwise they'd be full-on Repubs.

And now, in a sense, they're innoculated against the Kool-Aid. I know I am. I've heard A LOT of good preaching in my life, and so I'm not swept up in the whole group psychology of it all.

But I'm certain that for non-religious intellectuals this is a whole new category of experience.

All of which implies racism (and classism) of a different kind.

None of this would be new to them if they actually LIVED AND WORKED side by side with African Americans. It's the working class who do that. Not always smoothly, not always well -- but they do it. Nurses, G.I.s, firefighters, auto workers, supermarket clerks -- they work and live with people of all races, they share daily experience, including, sometimes, church. Including, sometimes, really great oratory about unity and hope and change and working together and loving each other. In that case, Barack's shtick isn't anything NEW and DIFFERENT at all.

And so Barack doesn't sell. It's not because the working class is racist. It's because the intellectual elite is making a classist and racist assumption in the way they're packaging Obama.

(Nevermind the implicit racism in their complete inability to get their heads around the idea that a 60-year old white woman just might hold more progressive ideals than a black man.)

No Blood for Hubris said...

I'm loving Obama's recent foot-in-mouth complaint about the high price of arugula.

Arugula -- why it's bitter, too!

CMike said...

Anglachel writes:

******************
I'll say what Brad Delong, Markos, Ezra Klein, Big Media Matt and the Guy who Kidnapped Josh Marshall (GKJM) will not: The people currently arguing about the alleged racism of Hillary voters are exactly the people who most materially benefit from the existence of white privilege in this nation. That means YOU, boyz. People who are in my socio-economic class (so I'm talking about ME here - I am not excluding myself from the ill-gotten gains) are those who are reaping the long term benefits of the wealth and power generated by centuries of white supremacy.
******************

To be fair, there is what Kipling might call a "creative class" burden that our intellectuals are willing to bear. Brad DeLong lays out the big picture for everyone, not that the racist dolts are going to understand even the basics.

You see it's in everyone's best long term interests that the poor in America (apparently meaning the lower middle working class) suck it up and take one for the team. Tenured Prof. DeLong lays out the patriotic duty these days of those not in the "creative class":

********************
The question of trade and wages remains: To what extent are rich countries obligated to open their markets to poor countries when the consequence is falling wages for the poor in the rich--bearing in mind that the poor in the rich are often wealthier and have more opporunity than the rich in the poor? To what extent do rich countries do themselves well--serve their national interest--by opening their markets to poor countries even when the consequence is falling wages for the poor in the rich?...

Fourth, to the extent that we in the United States begin thinking of trade restrictions as a way to fight inequality, we are setting ourselves up for extraordinary trouble late in this century--extraordinary damage to our long-run national security.

Think of it this way: Consider a world that contains one country that is a true superpower. It is preeminent--economically, technologically, politically, culturally, and militarily. But it lies at the east edge of a vast ocean. And across the ocean is another country--a country with more resources in the long-run, a country that looks likely to in the end supplant the current superpower. What should the superpower's long-run national security strategy be?

I think the answer is clear: if possible, the current superpower should embrace its possible successor. It should bind it as closely as possible with ties of blood, commerce, and culture--so that should the emerging superpower come to its full strength, it will to as great an extent possible share the world view of and regard itself as part of the same civilization as its predecessor: Romans to their Greeks.

In 1877, the rising superpower to the west across the ocean was the United States. The preeminent superpower was Britain. Today the preeminent superpower is the United States. The rising superpower to the west across the ocean is China. that was the rising superpower across the ocean to the west of the world's industrial and military leader. Today it is China...

*****************

What a happy coincidence for you Dr. DeLong that your policy prescription happens to reward you and your class and demands sacrifices of those in the lower class. I guess good things tend to happen to those who are morally elevated.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

CMike - I am curious: what is DeLong & company's response when a globalized market actually begins to affect the rich in the rich (i.e. the "creative class"?).

Traditionally, as your description points out, globalization has negative affects on poor folk with blue collar jobs (the poor in the rich). But recently, we've seen "outsourcing" begin to affect the creative class (the rich in the rich). Software development, tech support, and even some legal services are now outsourced to countries like India.

Do DeLong and associates view such developments with the same detached political analysis? I'm genuinely curious - don't really know anything about this DeLong guy.

janiscortese said...

Crackball, I can't "word" you enough. These stilted idiots think that all white people everywhere are just as stilted as they are. They want revival atmosphere, I can bring them to a working class Italian-style new year's eve party.

Whoops, when we're not lynching people, that is.

They are so uptight and nervy, and they think it's because they're white. No, it's because they're UPTIGHT.

Some white men CAN jump -- but it ain't those guys.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Janis - your posts lately remind me of Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing." If you recall, the movie centered around a pizzaria owned by a traditional Italian family but located in a black urban neighborhood.

The Italian owners adorned the walls of their pizzaria with pictures of respected Italian figures. Black patrons eventually took notice, prompting one patron to finally ask: "How come there's no brothers on the wall?"

The racial tension in the movie was well-done because it showed the complexity of what was going on. On the one hand, it was completely legitimate for this traditional Italian family to take pride in their heritage and demonstrate this pride via a pictorial montage. On the other hand, this Italian pizzaria existed only by the grace of its black patrons, and these black patrons were rightfully indignant at being ignored. These problems were thoughtfully discussed by Mookie (a black patron) and the son of the pizzaria owner.

Who do I trust regarding the difficult problem of race relations in America? The effete liberal intellectuals who watch and comment upon this movie, or the people who actually live the tale? As your posts point out, it is clearly the latter who have the experiential wisdom to guide us.

I think the problem is, as cutepeachpanda has pointed out in other threads, that Obama *thinks* he has lived this tale, when in fact he is much more akin to the intellectual movie critics watching the show from the sidelines. Had Obama actually lived the life of Mookie in "Do The Right Thing", he would understand that it would be unhelpfully simplistic to characterize the Italian pizzaria family as a group of backward racists, or to characterize working class whites as "bitter". But unfortunately, Obama's background does not have this experience in it.

The whole problem with this campaign is that it is simply assumed that Obama has a deep wisdom regarding racial dynamics simply because he is black, or simply because he claims such wisdom. But the key phrase to focus on is "racial dynamics", not "race identity." While Obama may have a legitimate claim as to what it's like to be black, he does not have a legitimate claim as to a deep understanding of racial dynamics between working class whites and blacks. You have to have lived that life to know it.

So while I will pay heed to the likes of Mookie and the son of the pizzaria owner in these matters, I really don't think Obama has anything to offer me in this regard other than arm-chair intellectual commentary. And I can do that all by myself, thank you very much.

sas said...

This election has taught me:

1.There is a misogynistic faction in the Democratic party, and the party has been playing only lip service to women's issues and feminism for years

2. Progressivism must include Feminism

2. The DNC has already decided that BHO is the nominee, and they think I'll vote for him

3. The race card has been played over and over by the Obama campaign

4. I like HRC very much, and because of that, some fellow Dems think I'm a "rube", despite my graduate degree in mathematics

5. Obama's policies are Republican lite

6. Kansas isn't that dumb. By every economic measure I should vote Republican, but I have not, voting my values ( things like tax cuts, capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, etc, mean nothing to me)

7. Obama is an arrogant, condescending, elitist who can't begin to understand someone like me from small town PA

8. The Democratic party basically can go to hell - I'll vote for my candidate (s) when moved

I'll not be taken for granted anymore. I urge all of you to do the same.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Kansas isn't that dumb. By every economic measure I should vote Republican, but I have not, voting my values ( things like tax cuts, capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, etc, mean nothing to me)

Hah! That's brilliant sas - I never thought of that. So the proper retort to this Kansas question is: "Well, what's wrong with Massachusetts?"

Right on!

Námo Mandos said...

"Post-racial", eh? So you're really confident that race is not an issue in candidate selection anymore? That the "race card" is wholly illegitimate in general?

sas said...

LOL

Yes!

Námo Mandos said...

Remember that Obama's current success is not evidence of this. Even if a significant minority condition their politics on a subconscious racial basis, it's still an issue.

I hope you are not offended, but when I hear the term "post-racial", I hear Stephen Colbert telling us about his black friend. And how he is blind to colour.

Chinaberry Turtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chinaberry Turtle said...

Namo - I'm trying, but I can't figure out what you're saying. Are you suggesting the following in response to Anglachel?

My attempt to paraphrase you: It is incomplete to suggest that there is no racism among working class whites. Certainly it is true that there is racism even among the working class whites who disclaim racism. To suggest otherwise is as disingenuous as when a Repub trots out his black friend as proof that he's not racist.

If this is what you are saying, then I think the proper response is as follows:

I *think* Anglachel is saying that Obama and Dem Elites are portraying working class whites as 'slobbering at the mouth', knuckle-dragging racists. This is an unfair accusation, irrespective of the existence of any subconscious racism among working class whites. Further, we even bristle at Obama's and the Dem Elites' accusation of subconscious racism, BECAUSE THEY DO NOT SUBJECT THEMSELVES TO THIS SAME ANALYSIS. It is elitist classism to suggest that only the working poor are subject to subconscious racism, or knee-jerk automotic responses like bitterness in the face of economic hardship.

Additionally, Janis has continually pointed out another reason we bristle at these accusations. Working class white folk are much more likely to actually have had real life interactions with working class black folk than all these limousine liberals accusing us of knuckle-dragging racism. So we don't take kindly to their lectures, broadcast from the safety of their all-white gated communities where blacks aren't even allowed (yes, because of racist structural problems) to compete for a piece of their pie in the first place.

Anglachel has also alluded to this latter point in her previous post regarding the fact that the creative class does not (yet) face aggressive competition from blacks in their cherished "crative class" jobs, whereas they do face healthy competition from women (which explains the combination of consequence-free anti-racism combined with self-interested misogyny among Dem Elites).

Sarana said...

sas, love the 8 points this election cycle has taught you. Agree all around. Add to your list my ivy league phd and my fervent support of Roe v Wade. Otherwise, the Dems can bite me.

CMike said...

Chinaberry,

About Brad DeLong. I've been a fan of that Berkeley econ professor's blog for years. He's plenty insightful about history, the media, and economic matters though he has jumped the shark in his support of Sen. Obama which includes his sightings of racism.

However, his position (and Paul Krugman's) on globalization has always been at odds with what an informed electorate would choose as national policy. DeLong shows signs these days of vacillating on the subject after years confident advocacy for free market tough love. Of course his change of tune would be coincidental with the growing phenomenon you mention, the poaching of the customers from American professionals by professionals abroad - I mean, some patients are going overseas for surgery these days.

Krugman was an important advocate for globalization policy in the nineties. Here is an easy to follow article he wrote back then. Here is a more sophisticated analysis he wrote around the same time, again for the laymen.

During the early years of Bush 43's administration Krugman began recognizing and writing about the shocking rise of economic equality in the United States over the last twenty-five years and especially during the W. Bush years. These days he has a more nuanced view of the benefits of free trade. However, Krugman thinks the big problems these days are with tax, labor, and regulatory policy and with the state of American IT infrastructure and the competitiveness of our IT industries.

Námo Mandos said...

Brad Delong is a valuable read in his analysis of econometric data, but as a political thinker he is fundamentally dishonest. Maybe this is me hashing out an old grudge, but let's just say that I have had more than one comment on his site deliberately truncated or edited to eviscerate the content of what I was writing, so it appears that I said something that was quite different from what I meant.

He does it semi-openly, of course, but that doesn't make it any better. But an academic feels happy about effectively misquoting me publicly...hmm...

Námo Mandos said...

Chinaberry Turtle:

My answer to your characterization of my words in this context would be "Yes and No".

If you want to say that the Obama faction of the party is being inconsistent and failing to examine their own prejiduce, that's one thing. And it appears to be true.

If you want to say that because lower-class whites experience black people more directly, that itself suggests that claims about racism are weak, then I'd question that. Maybe I'm misunderstanding this. It maybe that the Race Card has disappeared, but that's not really evidence of it.

Evidence of it would be working-class black people finding that working-class white people are willing to act in solidarity with them. If they aren't, then I suggest that "post-racial" is not a meaningful term right now.

I'm also interested in the "respect for cultural values bit" at the beginning of this comment thread. It happens that a good chunk of the party genuinely disagrees with those cultural values (cf. all atheism wars on the internet). It seems to me that this issue therefore needs to be confronted head-on.

janiscortese said...

If you want to say that because lower-class whites experience black people more directly, that itself suggests that claims about racism are weak, then I'd question that. Maybe I'm misunderstanding this.

That's not what's being said -- not by me, anyway. What I'm saying is that the elites in white gated communities are armchair quarterbacking race relations. They are inexperienced entirely with the clumsy fits and starts that such things take and the sheer difficulty of getting over an enormous historical barrier, because they've never had to do it.

They can sit on the sidelines and watch people who are actually DOING it, and go, "You're not doing it right, now what I'd do is ... " without ever having to do it themselves. They are naive enough to think that "getting down with" the others, and "leveling with them" and "opening up" to them, and all those other cute empty catchphrases, are all it takes.

We're telling them, as working-class whites, "No. It's more complex than that. This is a harder barrier to climb over than you think." And because we are actually giving them the voice of experience, we are called racists for our troubles, for even saying out loud that holding hands and singing Kumbaya isn't enough.

It's like telling a cancer patient that he's giving in and being pro-cancer when he says, "Happy thoughts aren't enough. This is a tough thing to beat."

These people are nitpicking a complex problem that they have never had to confront in their daily lives, from either side. And when this is pointed out to them,m, they call those who point it out racists.

I'm not saying that because I went to school with more black kids than most of those Pacific Heights cretins have ever seen that I'm not racist. I'm saying that I know the daily ins and outs of how hard it can be to get past a historical barrier that's that high -- and that when I hear people like that armchair quarterbacking race relations, I resent the implication that I'm racist because I know that their happy "rainbows farts and fairy dust" attitude sounds nice but doesn't work.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Thanks janis. That is indeed what I was trying to say as well. Thanks for stating it clearly.

lost clown said...

Namo: There's an excellent post by Juan Santos up at The Greanville Journal talking about this subject in more detail.