Monday, March 24, 2008

Race and US politics

Malcolm X may have famously said that "Racism is a Cadillac, they release a new model every year," but today Pat Buchanan demonstrated that it would be foolish of us to assume that every Cadillac on the road is the most recent model year.

Yes, I spend a fair amount of time in Ethnic Studies classes talking about "color-blind racism" and "subtle racism" and often have to explain to my students who Willie Horton was and what the Rodney King case was about. Sometimes the texts I use seem awfully out of touch with their attitudes, and the seemingly more complex and subtle racial etiquette of early 21st century America.

But in this post responding to Senator Obama's speech on Race and Racism in America, good old Pat Buchanan shows us that a whole boatload of good, old fashioned racism is still alive and well in our contemporary moment. To summarize, here are a few arguments that Mr. Buchanan makes here, that I really thought we had mostly left behind in our National discourse:

-That Black Americans should be grateful that their ancestors were made slaves and brought to the United States
-That white racism was in no way responsible for the Watts riots and other civil unrest in poor black neighborhoods
-That the Black America is solely responsible for poverty and lack of opportunity in poor Black communities
-That Black people are criminals who prefer to prey upon white victims

The last one really gets me. He trots out crime statistics that claim "black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse" Yeah Pat, because those stats couldn't possibly be influenced by who feels comfortable reporting crimes, who trusts the criminal justice system to take their reports seriously, or who has more property to steal. Nope. Black folks just like crime, and especially like committing crimes against white victims.

Meanwhile he makes the same old plea decrying affirmative action, writing "Let [Senator Obama] go to Altoona and Johnstown, and ask the white kids in Catholic schools how many were visited lately by Ivy League recruiters handing out scholarships for “deserving” white kids." Gee, Pat, did you miss the part of the speech where Senator Obama (who Pat calls "Barack" all through his piece, cause, you know, he apparently gets to pick and choose which United States Senators deserve the honorific) specifically recognized the anger and frustration of poor whites "who don't feel particularly privileged by their race," and admitted that their concerns might be valid and deserved respect - even if the target of their anger might be misplaced? Did you miss the part where he called on America not to think of politics as a "zero sum game" and to try to work towards solutions that might be beneficial to Black and White Americans alike?

And yet this man is not a fringe commentator. He is a first string pundit, called on by all the major networks to give his opinion on matters of the day. So I guess this sort of "old model racism" has gone exactly nowhere and is still front and center in our politics.

To paraphrase a writer over at Daily Kos, thanks for clearing that up, Pat.

1 comment:

Wyatt said...

Thanks for adding some fuel to the bonfire of cynicism burning in my heart.