Friday, September 18, 2009

What racism?

By Mustang Bobby

David Brooks just happened to jog through the tea party in Washington last weekend and saw that there wasn't a race riot going on where teabaggers and attendees at the Black Family Reunion Celebration happened to converge:

Because sociology is more important than fitness, I stopped to watch the interaction. These two groups were from opposite ends of the political and cultural spectrum. They’d both been energized by eloquent speakers. Yet I couldn’t discern any tension between them. It was just different groups of people milling about like at any park or sports arena.

And yet we live in a nation in which some people see every conflict through the prism of race. So over the past few days, many people, from Jimmy Carter on down, have argued that the hostility to President Obama is driven by racism. Some have argued that tea party slogans like “I Want My Country Back” are code words for white supremacy. Others say incivility on Capitol Hill is magnified by Obama’s dark skin.

Well, I don’t have a machine for peering into the souls of Obama’s critics, so I can’t measure how much racism is in there. But my impression is that race is largely beside the point. There are other, equally important strains in American history that are far more germane to the current conflicts.

Therefore he's sure that there is no racism involved in any of the anti-Obama demonstrations or outpouring of sentiment on cable TV or talk radio. Well, I'm glad he cleared that up. Now he can jog on with a clear conscience that white entitlement and patriarchy have nothing to do with it.

It is just as foolish for Mr. Brooks to dismiss links to racism behind the demonstrations and anger as it is to see racism behind every sign. But to say that it doesn't exist and hasn't played a role in some of the over-the-top attacks recently is an attempt to prove a negative. What's especially ironic is that Mr. Brooks doesn't help himself by saying that historically, populist protests are by nature "ill-mannered [...] whether they were led by Huey Long, Father Coughlin or anybody else." Yeah, citing a noted anti-Semite like Father Coughlin doesn't really help. And neither does the problematic assumption that all the people at the Black Family Reunion are supporters of President Obama just because they're African-American.

For someone who shows as much an interest in history as he does, hearing Mr. Brooks pronounce that "It's not about race" is to ignore the four hundred years of history of race relations in this country (especially since Mr. Brooks was jogging through a city that was once as segregated as any Alabama bus depot in 1955), and to find an equivalency between these protests and those that we saw during the Bush administration is fatuous. There are extremists on both sides of the aisle, but try as he might, Mr. Brooks cannot cite any case where a Democratic member stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and called into question Mr. Bush's birth certificate, or any governor of a state that raised the prospect of secession because they objected to the implementation of Medicare Part D or the warrantless wiretapping of citizens of their state.

And the knee-jerk reaction against those who suggest that there is a racist element in some of the attacks -- Obama as a witch doctor or "Barack the Magic Negro" come to mind -- tells me that those folks are awfully quick deny it without even examining what was said and who said it. Anybody who took an introductory class in psychology -- or proctored a middle school study hall -- knows a guilty conscience when they see it.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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  • You make some good points. And I think you're actually acknowledging that not ALL of the people protesting Obama are racists. Of course there are racists involved in some of these demonstrations, and it's pathetic. If it continues, it may back fire on the Republicans further than things already have the last three to four years.

    However, for those who do oppose Obama's policies and are NOT racist, and were moved to see an African-American elected President (even if they did not vote for him), the labeling is becoming tiresome and a bit pathetic on the Democrats' part. Can't the Democratic leadership be a little more transparent on the health care reform package instead of reverting to the race card for all who disagree?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:36 PM  

  • Can't the Democratic leadership be a little more transparent on the health care reform package instead of reverting to the race card for all who disagree?

    As you said, the racism is there: the de facto head of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, has no problem playing the race card; vide his comments after the bus fight in St. Louis and "Barack the Magic Negro." Calling him on it is not playing the race card, and failure to acknowledge his or others' racist comments when they hear them would be an act of cowardice.

    By Blogger Mustang Bobby, at 9:53 PM  

  • anonymous,

    There are a lot of stated reasons people have for attending the tea parties that have nothing to do with race, from worry over deficits, to concerns that Obama will subvert the constitution. It is just rather hard to take these concerns at face value, when they only started to care about them in January of 2009. If these concerns were so important for them why weren't they out protesting when Bush raised the deficit to give tax cuts to billionaires? Why weren't they protesting the war with the bottomless budget? Why didn't they protest warrentless wiretapping? or torture? Or secret prisons?

    It is hard not to conclude that since they did none of this, they don't actually care about these issues as much as they say they do, and that they are probably out in the streets losing their shit for some other reason, and race sure looks like it is near the top of the list.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:20 AM  

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