Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Am I Gullible, Or Are These People Actually Racists?

Me, apparentlyI am rarely accused of excessive optimism, so when such an occasion transpires I like to step back and take a look at the situation to make sure that I am not, in fact, being unduly positive. The current insinuation of credulousness on my part concerns this op-ed from the Wall Street Journal , which posits that President Obama is dividing the country on racial lines and has been ever since he suggested that the arrest of a black man for trying to enter his own home might not have been a good idea, and this interview with Jeffrey Lord, who has complained that Shirley Sherrod and Democrats in general are devaluing the word "lynching" by not using it exclusively to refer to black people executed with a rope.

Here's where the charge that I'm wearing rose-colored glasses comes in: A friend, rightly horrified by both of these pieces, remarked that she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. My response was that the offense was even worse than it seemed, because the proponents of these pieces were not themselves racists, they were merely race-baiters, which I think is a necessary distinction to make. My friend said that I was being naive, but am I? Could Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen really be so appallingly ignorant as to believe that Barack Obama, who has spent most of his time in office hoping that people forget he's black, is cynically playing the race card? Of course not. Even the densest of our privileged white punditocracy aren't as shit-all stupid as to believe that. Caddell and Schoen are marketing themselves, and they understand that nothing sells better to a certain segment of the population as former members of the Democratic establishment who have somehow "seen the light," which is apparently emanating from a lantern held up by a tricky black guy who wants to bash white people over the head with it. They're not racists, they're race hucksters, peddling ignorance and fear to people who are scared and uncertain and don't have a lot of time to look at the full details of the forces arrayed against them. They're like Andrew Breitbart, really: They don't actually dislike black people, they're just scumbags who are willing to gin up hatred against black people so that they can advance their own careers and causes. It's one of the oldest rackets in America.

Jeffrey Lord, on the other hand… well, my friend is probably right. Because there are people who can be that doltish. They're called racists.

42 Comments / Post A Comment

LolCait (#460)

I think if they're willing to gin up hatred for black people, they probably don't respect black people that much to begin with.

oudemia (#177)

Yeah, actively working to make public life shittier and more hostile for black folks I think makes you a racist, even if you don't go around terrorizing individual black folks of your acquaintance.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Race-baiting is the new black.

NinetyNine (#98)

Some of my best friends are race-baiters.

saythatscool (#101)


Matt (#26)

"C. Thomas Howell as the 'Soul Man'"


buzzorhowl (#992)

If nothing else, references to Botch will always make me happy. Good job, Matt.

(For those who don't know what I'm talking about:

Cord_Jefferson (#2,111)

Interesting question, and one whose answer I think depends on how a person defines racist. I like to believe that a racist is someone who is discriminatory or abusive to a person or group of people based on their race. Thus, exploiting and heightening the public's fear/hatred of minorities in order to advance your career is, in my estimation, racist–albeit tacitly.

I could go on forever about this, so I'll end there for now.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Second that; only, how "tacit" really is it?

hockeymom (#143)

Here's my question…is Pat Caddell really a democrat? Because I'm beginning to think that maybe he's making a lot of money by claiming to be a democrat, while holding almost every single opinion held by the republican party.
FOX gets to have him on as the house dem, then he bashes Obama, then they get 100-percent "bi-partisan" agreement that Obama is the devil.

bobthebutcher (#6,183)

or two ex-pollsters that desperately need to push angles that make for easier polling? in other words, people need to push race over class, otherwise huge segments of media would be out of a job or things to say…im simplifying…

carpetblogger (#306)

Or, Pat Caddell hasn't done anything of note in 30 years and is striving to remain relevant?

Look, Jeffery Lord isn't being racist-quite the opposite! He's trying to preserve (and by "preserve" I mean "make up") the historical sense of the word "lynching," meaning hanging somebody by the neck, which will be devalued if we go using it willy-nilly everytime somebody is shot, stabbed, mutilated, or dragged behind a truck until his or her body disintegrates. Obviously he's motivated by a profound respect for those Black Americans who were hanged by a mob, specifically, and only hanged by a mob. It's Sherrod who, by using the word "lynching" to describe something that could only be described as a "lynching" by those using a widely accepted, slightly broader definition of the word, is showing disrespect for Black people, by trying to horn in. SHE is the racist here. AGAIN.

Anna Holmes (#4,552)

Nice post, Balk.

There are some interesting comments following this post about the distinction, or lack thereof, between "racists" and "people who pander to racists":

I tend to agree with the commenter who says "There is no difference between using racism and being racist. Racism isn't the mere belief in racial superiority; it's the practice of exploiting racial differences for wealth and power."

ShanghaiLil (#260)

Yeah, it's like my Southern relatives who insist that "the Civil War wasn't about slavery, it was about economics." Yes. The economics of buying and selling people. More specifically, black people.

roboloki (#1,724)

let's not get started on the war of northern aggression

NinetyNine (#98)

A footnote to this I've always wondered about: broadly speaking, there isn't a lot of sympathy for vanquished peoples in the imperial history of the US (Mexico, Native Americans, etc.). So why don't we just embrace the 'northern aggression' construct? BECAUSE WE KICKED THEIR FUCKING ASSES. They can go live on a Confederate reservation — or go back to wherever racists came from? Britain? Sure.

ShanghaiLil (#260)

Actually a very smart friend of mine insists that one of the greatest tragedies in this nation's history is that the North won the war. Because if we'd lost, well…we'd be Sweden right now, and they'd be some developing-world shithole without electricity or running water.

roboloki (#1,724)

shanghailil, for the common man, slavery really wasn't a motivation for war (most of us didn't own slaves, but many felt strongly about the seperation of powers between the states and the federal government) but in the overall scheme of things it was a huge contributing factor. much like the invasion of iraq was about "spreading democracy" and not about oil.
yes, ninetynine, the north totally kicked the south's collective ass by using terror tactics that targeted civilians. you should be proud. also, the confederate reservation of which you speak is called south carolina.

ShanghaiLil (#260)

Yes, but the problem with that formulation is that southerners (of which I am one by birth) felt strongly about the separation of powers between the states and the federal government WHEN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WANTED TO LIMIT SLAVERY. And yes, that would have diminished the South's role as an economic powerhouse. BY LIMITING SLAVERY.

To borrow a metaphor from Bill Maher, it's a little like complaining that lost jobs would damage the local economy, so dealing crack shouldn't be prohibited.

NinetyNine (#98)

IF SC WAS A BETTER RESERVATION THEIR LIQUOR WOULDN'T COME IN SMALL BOTTLES. But your education stats do back up that claim — and you are electing an Indian.

NinetyNine (#98)

Also dude, 'terror tactics?' That's what made this country great. Here, I bought you a blanket.

The south ain't gonna rise anytime soon with pansy ass comments like that.

roboloki (#1,724)

ha! time to catch up, ninetynine. we no longer sell liquor in mini bottles, so we can buy our makers mark in big boy bottles. first round is on me!
sadly, our education system is on par with the caliber of politicians we manage to field, but i firmly believe that you can get as good an education as you desire. one need not be an ivy league grad to have an excellent education.
yes, william tecumseh sherman was a terrorist. you'll understand if i kindly decline your offer of a smallpox infested blanket.
i can, of course, only speak for myself and i assure you that i have no desire for the south to rise again. i prefer unity to dischord.
i have always been perplexed by using a reference to a pansy as a negative. i know it's a socially accepted derogaroty remark, meant to imply fragility or femininity, but "dude", it's actually a very hardy little plant.
p.s. you should have ripped on our teen pregnancy rates. maybe next time.

Terror tactics? Like firing on Fort Sumpter?

roboloki (#1,724)

using a conventional military force to attack a legitimate military target is not, in my book, terrorism. an army razing everything in it's path, including crops, homes, towns and cities is terrorism. i also consider the fire bombing of japanese cities in ww2 to be a terror tactic.

Not only are they racist, but if they are preying on the ignorant and scared, they are classist to boot.

slow education (#3,659)


slow education (#3,659)

I kind of feel like there is an obligation not to let the trolls hijack the thread. In this case the trolls being the people "concerned" about racist black people and the thread being the right's ongoing project to make life harder for the not-rich, black and white.

roboloki (#1,724)

jeff's asleep right now. check back in the morning.

slow education (#3,659)

I hear that if you say his name three times at midnight he leaves a vaguely unsettling comment on your mirror.

bb (#295)

I know some of these people (old white republicans/"color-blind" liberals) because they are in my family (see, some of my best friends really are race baiters!). I would say that if you scratch below the surface, there are usually some undeniably racist underpinnings, like "they are all in this together", us vs. them stuff. Indeed I actually do believe that some of the people you mention think that under it all, Obama is out for black people more than he is for whites. And you know why these people believe that? Because THEY are ultimately more sympathetic to, more willing to defend, more willing to help white people than black people. I would call that racist.

It's not a determination that they're racist, but whether they're racist racist.

DRed (#4,780)

Go away . . . baitin!

El Matardillo (#586)

That's a lovely picture of you, Balk.

Abe Sauer (#148)

416 comments and counting.

Remove "race" and sub in "homosexuality." Or "religion." Much like I've been saying about Glenn Beck all along, race is just another arrow int e quiver of the "my team verses your team" game that politics has become.

And it's not even about winning. Winning (on either side) is actually unwanted. It's simply about throwing fuel on the fire to keep the flames high enough. Because who wins when the nation is divided on "subjective" social issues? Pundits, baiters and professional opinion-havers.

Charlie (#4,250)

rappers use nigger all the time but the potency/charge of the word has not been diminished by that fact. and people listen to rappers a lot more than they listen to politicians. no matter how you use the word lynching, it will be interpreted in a very specific context. it's the context that is being devalued. not the word itself.

buzzorhowl (#992)

The owner of the bookstore where I work is an NPR-donating, Obama-voting liberal who nonetheless makes all kinds of nasty comments about our African-American customers. He actually got on my case for straightening out the "urban fiction" section on the basis that "THEY'll just mess it up again, don't waste your time."

I guess my point is that people can be racist without wanting to burn crosses on people's lawns, and just because these guys will use race-bait to sell themselves to people who DO want to burn crosses doesn't mean they aren't racist in their own subtler fashion.

He didn't have a southern accent or advocate racial holy war – not a racist.

Ron Obvious (#351)

Probably apocryphal story: It is a normal weekday afternoon in the U.S. Capitol in the mid-1950s. A newshound (they don't exist anymore) walking past the side entrance to the U.S. Senate and notices Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson (D-Texas) leaning against a wall and sobbing, his chest heaving up and down. Our ink-stained wretch has never seen Johnson in such emotional turmoil.

"Senator, are you okay?" the reporter asks.

"Yeah, yeah," Johnson replies, waving his hand at the man. "It's just that…well, I got an election coming up back home and I needed to shore up the white vote, so I just laid a 15-minute rip snorter from the podium. Called that Rev. King every bad name in the book."

"So, you're ashamed at showing people what a racist you are?" The reporter asked.

"Oh, hell no," Johnson replies. "The reverend and all the egghead liberals know that's just bullshit I spout every now and then to keep the white voters happy back home."

"So, why are you so sad?" the reporter, now thoroughly confused, asks.

"I ain't sad, son. As soon as I got done speaking, ole Strom Thurmond shot out of his seat like his ass was lacquered with turpentine and demanded that the Vice-President allow him to follow me at the podium. He's been goin' straight at the top of his lungs for the last hour and he ain't showin' any signs of winding down anytime soon.

"So you feel guilty about encouraging Sen. Thurmond to make a speech against black people?"

"Oh, hell, no," Johnson replies, then begins howling with laughter. "I just think it's hilarious that he actually believes all that nonsense!"

ShanghaiLil (#260)

LBJ would never have said anything so colorless as "nonsense!"

Ron Obvious (#351)

Yeah, I was gonna write "bullshit," but I had already put that very phrase in his mouth a sentence or two earlier and was trying not to make the man sound like Forrest Gump.

Scum (#1,847)

Since you have no way of knowing whether the individuals in question are racist or not just do what most people do when the answer to a question lies outside of that which is knowable: believe whatever make you feel better.

If you find it emotionally satisfying to regard your political opponents as a filthy gaggle of vile racists and enjoy to luxuriate in feelings of moral superiority then think that.

If, on the other hand, you find it more comforting to think that obstructions to progressive reforms would crumble into dust f only the little people werent hoodwinked by those nasty race baiters then think that.

As someone who is deeply unsympathetic to the majority of progressive ideas I am very comfortable with you doing either.

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