How Should We Combat Modern Racism?

Despite the stupid way she went about of arguing it, I think Maureen Dowd was right about the essential motivation of the teabaggers, birthers, deathers, [insert next hysteria-inducing myth here].

Yes, racism is the glue that holds a disjointed and incoherent set of principles and beliefs together to allow working class whites (some of whom have even suffered greatly from the current economic crisis!) to protest healthcare reform that would ultimately improve their lives. It’s the Southern strategy redux. But I think Dowd makes a fundamental error in her assessment of what racism is, and that’s why she chose to clumsily insert a derogatory term into Joe Wilson’s scream and insist that that’s what he really wanted to say but couldn’t.

The problem with a discussion of current forms of racism is that it is hamstrung by certain frames that have been adopted by mainstream commentators. The general idea seems to be that racism is a single, concrete belief held by an individual, rather than a more nebulous set of beliefs that may not be detectable in an individual but can readily be observed in society when race becomes correlated with socioeconomic status. It then follows, as Kai Wright notes, that a person is only considered racist when they make their position explicit, either by calling for violence or discrimination against an ethnic group or referring to someone with an ethnic slur. However, this view elides the majority of racism which is not only implicit, but may not even be conscious for many people. So, when liberal commentators point out instances of systemic racism, conservatives are able to attack them as racist for being the first to actually mention the R-word.

At the same time, a certain kind of political correctness has been instantiated with respect to race and racism that draws a very clear boundary between racists and non-racists [sup]1[/sup]. Racism has become so maligned that even most white supremacists maintain that they are not racist, seeing it as something negative; instead they call themselves “racialist” or “separatist”, and invoke the language of equality in discussions of race. No one wants to be called racist because that has been universally designated to be a Bad Thing. As a result, there is no gradient of racism, so someone cannot be slightly racist or have a racist disposition; it’s a strictly binary characteristic.

The paradox is that the same PCness that serves as a useful stopgap for the most extreme and overt forms of racism also precludes meaningful discussion of race. It’s highly unlikely that the Joe Wilsons are just itching to re-establish Jim Crow, but keep their feelings under wrap for the cameras. In fact, they may honestly believe themselves to be racially unbiased. But the implicit beliefs they hold may come out in ways such as the severe violation of House decorum seen recently. And these beliefs hamper progress on all sorts of issues.

For debate:

  1. Does the national discourse on race need to be changed? If so, how?

  2. What should Obama’s approach be with regard to working class whites? Should he try to engage their fears explicitly? Should he pacify them by asserting a need for inter-racial harmony and togetherness? Or maybe he should attempt to channel their anger into class divisions by continuously pointing to those responsible for the economic crisis and counterposing them with poor blacks and whites? Or something else?

[sup]1[/sup] And yes, of course the Left does not have a monopoly on PCness. The Right has created plenty of PC tropes, too.

Do you think it speaks of a bias on your part that you speak of racism in a broad context but only specifically reference white racism and conservatives’ objections?


(Hint: Has there ever been an anti-white public policy implemented by black institutions? In the U.S., that is.)

With eye-gougings and crowbar beatings and liberal sprinklings of hot sauce into open wounds.

Well, I’m not sure what the best way to fight modern racism is, but it certainly isn’t by calling out imagined racism, and it’s not by implying that this a problem limited to “working class” whites.

Well, the primary question (#1) is how discussion on race should proceed given these limitations. It’s more abstract and, I think, fascinating.

As to it being “limited to “working class” whites”, see post #3. Other groups may be racist, but they cannot effect racist public policies.

And the Southern strategy is well-known. As Lee Atwater put it:

Sure they can. There are plenty of self-flagellating whites willing to effect public policies that will work to their detriment. Affirmative action immediately jumps into my mind

You’re right, those race-traitors are more then willing to side with the blacks against their own kind. Affirmative action is just one example. :rolleyes:

You need a definition of what “racism” is then.

If blacks are socio-economically disadvantaged, then this can be seen as de-facto racism. The gov’t must take from those and give money to those until all racial groups and subgroups are equal. That seems pretty common sensical.

Blacks are disproportionately represented in some fields, medicine, law, engineering, etc which pay relatively well. The gov’t must police each field not for just “overt” racism toward an individual but policies which create a racial disparity. Even if those policies are deemed to be part of the “criteria” for advancement in a field. For example, medicine accepts only medical school grads who have passed the board, etc. Each medical school needs rigit quotas to have correct racial representation. Each board certifying process needs to be audited so that they are passing people without racial disparity.

Blacks are also disproportionately (along with Hispanics, I believe) incarcertated. This could also be redressed via quotas on incarcerations.

I would suggest behavior modification.

Ending modern racism would be similar to the efforts to purge the “N” word from usage.

Don’t want the “N” word to be used, then don’t act like a “N”.

Want to end racism? Don’t comport yourself in a manner that reflects negatively on your race.

Use reason, logic, and facts to outargue them.

The premise of this thread is that people like teabaggers disaggree with Obama’s policies is because he’s black?

Okay, maybe this should have been separated into 2 debates to avoid confusion.

Basically, I’m saying that those who are so virulently opposed to Obama as to call him a Nazi or suggest secession for proposing healthcare reform are motivated by racism. Not those who are merely opposed to it and are willing to discuss things calmly.

Now, you may disagree with that assertion, but still be capable of debating the first question, which is about racism in general (in light of the preceeding paragraphs).

OK, then what evidence do you have that this generally the case?

I hope you have something more substantial than the Maureen Dowd kind of foolishness.


And what, pray tell, would “N” behaviour entail?

Are there significant portions of the black population of the US who would if they could?

Of course it’s racism that causes the Right Wing to hate Obama with such vitriol. :rolleyes:That’s why they hate Bill and especially Hillary Clinton, too. :dubious:

Against the background of 30 years of Republican race-baiting (as already discussed), this:

And then there’s Beck’s statement that

very much in the Republican trend of preventing the implementation of progressive policies by suggesting that wealth will be redistributed from whites to blacks. The accusations of socialism, “spreading the wealth,” etc. combine well with the more overtly racist birther movement in this context.

Dunno, and it’s irrelevant since we’re discussing what is, not what could be.

Well, yeah, the Right is pretty vicious in general, but the even the Clintons never experienced anything this bad.

That’s right. A president who is attempting healthcare reform is getting 4 times as many death threats as a president who lied the country into a war that’s killed over a million people.