Why do some people believe racism by liberals is the worst kind?

A spinoff of the Malcolm X thread. I don’t get why some people, whether blacks or whites or any other race, seem to believe that the racism that comes from liberal whites is the worst kind, supposedly even worse when compared to the likes of the KKK, neo-Nazis, etc.

I’m a Latino, and here are two possible situations which I could experience. Neither has actually occurred, but I’m sure others Latinos have experienced oner or both of these. I’m using my personal situation to avoid putting words into someone else’s mouth, but again I doubt my reaction to these two scenarios is unique or limited to Latinos.

  1. My neighborhood consists predominantly of white Republicans, some of who are racist. These are the stereotypical racists, who fly the Stars and Bars and Gadsden flags. One day while out doing my yard one of them approaches me and tells me to go back to Mexico. He talks about things like how this is his neighborhood and if anything were to happen to me, well that’s what happens when you “invade” someone else’s neighborhood. This neighbor considers himself a conservative, voted for Trump, and has voted R his whole life.

  2. I have a white colleague and we had a friendly bet on one of yesterday’s (Korean League :p) baseball game which I won. My colleague now has to buy me lunch. He assumes that because I’m Latino that I must like Mexican food so he takes me out to a taqueria, and does so again the next several times we go out to lunch as well. He’s otherwise a pleasant person, doesn’t behave in a threatening way, would support me if I was up for promotion, etc. He considers himself a liberal and has always voted D.

Now if I was to agree with the viewpoint that somehow liberal racism is the worst kind, does that mean I’m better off with scenario 1 than scenario 2? Would people who believe this actually prefer to have the Klan burn a cross on their front yard rather than dealing with, say, a white person who brings watermelon to the office party for Juneteenth and is somewhat clueless about race relations but is otherwise a nice person and treats her black colleagues respectfully? Personally I’d much rather be in scenario 2 than scenario 1.

My guess is that the people who believe this have a different idea of “liberal racism” than I must have. Maybe this isn’t such a big problem and I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. If so, I’d be happy to know where I’m wrong.

In general, if a person or party has a reputation for being stronger on a particular issue than the opposing side, they will be held to a tougher standard on that issue than the other side.

Same reason that if a pro-choice person gets an abortion, nobody bats an eye, but if a pro-lifer does, it’s regarded as hypocrisy.

Or nobody cares if a fat-cat billionaire Republican CEO goes flying about in a private jet, but when environmentalist Al Gore does it, it’s considered hypocritical.

No, I don’t believe number 2 is worse than number 1. I also believe you’re comparing apples to oranges in terms of outcomes.

Now, if your 2nd example was a liberal “Karen” calling the cops on you for no reason, then I might agree. That’s a far cry from taking you out for tacos. But your racist neighbor is probably equally or more likely to do the same thing as the Karen.

Well, first I would ask who is making the claim (cite please :D) that liberal racism is the worst kind, and what is their agenda in doing so?

I say this because in my experience it is a trope voiced by actual racists to redirect the accusation away from themselves. So, basically, bullsh*t.

Now, once they state this trope, of course there are going to be a number of people who latch onto it, similar to what we have seen with the flat earth crowd recently. People latch onto strange things, yah?

As noted in the other thread, Malcolm X made the claim back in the day. Ben Carson has made the same claim more recently.

Yes, it feels like a ridiculous claim. It can be true (for some definitions of true) in the following contexts:

[li]If you believe there are significantly more “liberal racists” than “conservative racists”, or that they wield more power in society, then the impact of the first group might be larger than the impact of the second (I don’t believe this is true).[/li][li]The liberal racists might represent a hard ceiling on progress, as they will be so focused on molding the conservative racists into their own likeness that they are unable to see their own flaws (this is, I think, reasonably true). [/li][/ul]

Some conservative racists are latching on to some quotes by MLK and Malcolm X (out of time and out of context), as well as articles like this one:

. . . and they feel that, “hey, here’s a black guy criticizing public works and calling them worse than the KKK! Shows you, liberals, even this black guy thinks we’re better than you, even if I was in the KKK!” But while the call to look to ourselves for change is powerful, the suggestion that social progress has somehow uniquely destroyed black society that was trucking along just fine and dandy until the liberals destroyed the family unit by promoting sex and single parenthood, and that this is the primary source of black poverty and injustice is a fantasy.

Or this one:

. . . which on the face of it is too ridiculous to consider. While anecdotes are not data:

[li]This is what happens when liberals are racist[/li][li]This is what happens when conservatives are racist[/li][/ul]
The suggestion that liberal racists are worse for black Americans than conservatives is laughable.

I have not heard of anyone espousing that liberal racism is worse than other kinds of racism.

I have heard people say that covert racism is worse than overt racism.

Covert racism is what happens when you call about an apartment listing and make an appointment to check it out, and then when you show up in your brown skin, you’re told, “So sorry! The apartment isn’t available anymore!” Even though you called less than an hour ago and the person on the phone said multiple units were available.

Overt racism is seeing a “No niggers allowed!” sign in front of the management office, so you don’t bother even knocking on the door.

I can understand why people think the covert kind is worse. It takes you by surprise. It creeps up on you when your guard is down. And it is hard to prove. Like, maybe the apartment really was snapped up. In contrast, no one is going to deny that “no niggers allowed” is racist. You won’t have to deal with anyone accusing you of hypersensitivity if you complain about it.

Still, I’d rather have covert racism.

Now for your taqueria example, to me that is more microaggressive stupidity than it is racism. It is annoying and highlights that how that particular person doesn’t really see you as a nuanced individual–the same as anyone else. But to me, it’s similar to a guy who only brings his girlfriend flowers and chocolates because he assumes that’s what all girls like. Is he sexist? Or just really stupid?

It has been my experience that liberals and conservatives are both prone to committing microaggressions. I’ve had a number of liberal folks say something to me that reveals that they have low expectations for people like myself (“You’re so articulate! You have such an advanced vocabulary! Your parents must really value education!”) I would not say those moments are any more painful than similar moments with conservatives. But I will say this: liberal folks suffering from foot-in-mouth disease are more likely to be apologetic when their gaffs are pointed out to them. Conservatives usually get super defensive and start ranting about “PC police”.

I think there are a few different types of people who do this.

  1. Don’t rest on your laurels hyperbolists: These people recognize that in spite of the progress that white liberals have made in the area of racial understanding they are far from perfect, but the fact that they aren’t out and out racist makes it difficult to recognize in themselves. Saying that these Liberals are worse than conservatives is a way to wake Liberals up and confront them with the fact that there is still a long way to do and they aren’t immune to racism. They concentrate on this segment of the population because, that is where education could do the most good. Hard racists already know they are racist and just don’t care, but a soft racist can be educated as to flaws of which they were not previously aware. The claim is basically a rhetorical device, and if they were actually called on it they would probably have to grudgingly admit that Liberals aren’t actually worse than conservatives. Similar to people who claim that Trump is worse than Hitler.

  2. Race warriors: People like Malcom X, and apparently Jusitce Thomas. They believe that race war is inevitable, and that the whites, all whites, are the enemy. Liberal whites are fifth columnists who are lulling blacks into a false sense of security, but like all whites their real goal is the subjugation of the black race. The sooner the system becomes intollerable for blacks the better, because that is the only way they will separate themselves entirely from the whites.

  3. Conservative apologists: At this point it is pretty well ingrained in society that racism is bad, and its pretty obvious on the surface that Conservative policies are selfishly designed to favor whites over blacks. But nobody wants to feel that they are the bad guy, so when they happen to see a quote given by one of the first two groups, they latch on to it, so that they can keep doing what they want to do, while claiming that its not because they are selfish, its because they are better than those liberal whites.

In a sense, it’s a sign of progress; our culture now abhors racism to the point that even racists see it was a negative thing. Nobody says racism is good.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s still plenty of racism and plenty of racists. But racists now deny that what they are doing is racism. Even the people who are practicing racism agree that racism is bad and argue that what they are doing is something different.

So to get back to the OP, nobody is going to say “The reason I’m better than you is because I’m a racist and you’re not.” That just doesn’t work in modern society. To win the argument people have to say “The reason I’m better than you is because you’re a racist and I’m not.” And sometimes that involves having to make a pretty contrived argument to explain why your apparently racist behavior is in fact not racist while your opponent’s apparently non-racist behavior actually is racist.

This suggests an interesting possibility. One reason why the argument that liberal racism is worse than conservative racism might seem plausible is because the victims of liberal racism are still around to talk about it while the victims of conservative racism are too often dead or locked away someplace.

You can go on talk shows if the racism you faced was not getting leading roles in major films or not getting promoted at your company. You’re not going to be appearing on talk show if the racism you faced was being killed by the police or being locked up in prison for twenty years for a non-violent drug crime.

You left out the paternalistic racists, who believe that treating blacks as equals is harmful in the long run.

This. The point is to discredit Liberals and Democrats to Moderates and Independents so they don’t feel guilty about voting Republican. Republicans typically attempt to present a position where “there is no racism” or that everyone in America starts on an even playing field where they are only limited by their own skill and ambition. This then enables a narrative where blacks and other disenfranchised minorities are not successful because they lack the requisite skill and ambition (with the exception of specific hand-picked examples). This is, of course, a racist position as it “victim blames” those races for their lack of accomplishment.

In corollary with the “there is no racism” argument is that Liberals are “racist” by attempting to stir up racial divisions. i.e. a cop murdering a black man isn’t a systematic problem. It’s a rare outlier by a bad apple and oh by the way the black man in question had a criminal past, smoked dope, or wore baggy pants.

Or the anti-paternalistic racists who claim to believe that welfare is a racist plot to keep POC in their “place” rather than giving them some nebulous freedom to achieve, although I wonder how many people genuinely believe that.

Doesn’t matter if it’s racism from a liberal, it’s the hypocrisy. Liberals claim an anti-racism stance, others who are pro-racism may be despicable but are not hiding their beliefs. A false friend can easily be considered worse than an enemy.

Not if the false friend is going to slap you around a little and the enemy is going to gut you with a knife.


If I had to choose which I prefer to hang out with between the guy who serves me watermelon and fried chicken every time I visit them and the guy who will sanctimoniously lecture me on the dysfunctionality of black family and the inferiority of black culture, I’m going to go with fried chicken guy every time. Being served stereotypical food is in a totally different multiverse than hearing someone denounce your heritage or question your citizenship/patriotism/belongingness–which is what many conservative racists do.

A liberal person who clutches her purse as soon as a black person steps on the elevator is just as annoying as a conservative person who clutches her purse. Now, you may be shocked that the liberal person had this reaction, but that doesn’t make her behavior objectively worse. It just makes it more surprising.

I’m not saying a false friend is always worse, but people often do resent betrayal and the other side isn’t always out to kill you. They are often just being hypocritical on their own side of the coin. Of course you take the lesser evil in most cases, but that’s still not the ideal.

I was also looking at this in terms of politicians and their promises. If you are talking about personal relationships the well meaning but clumsy friend whose actions don’t meet their words is not the kind of threat of someone who is willing to spout their hateful beliefs in front of you. The thread that spawned this about Malcolm X seemed clear to me to be about not trusting liberal politicians to follow through with their promises. There are plenty of ways to consider that attitude, I think even if politicians are ineffective or even dishonest it’s still preferable to side with the ones saying the right things because that will be what the populace tends to believe in which is what leads to results eventually. It sucks to have to choose the lesser of two evils, but we don’t get presented with realistic ideal alternatives in this political system.

If I get on an elevator and the only other person on the elevator is a man, I’m going to clutch my purse. (Figuratively; I tend not to carry purses because they’re annoying. What I’m saying is that I’m on alert.) The white dude is probably not going to think anything about it. The black guy is probably gonna think I’m a racist.

No, the white dude will likely think you’re sexist.