A favorite explanation of readers and commenters involves education–as a means of accounting for the inert evil and stupidity on race or politics. Voters are uninformed, or misled. True, but advanced analysis should go deeper: on race, many of the nation’s most educated men have supported white supremacy! Structural racism has been developed, modified, and reinforced by well educated decision makers–beginning with the slaveholding Constitutional delegates and the colonial assemblies, law enforced white power and privilege as a natural birth right. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, an avowed white supremacist, took racism to its high form in America; he argued in his decision on Dred Scott that blacks were not entitled to citizenship and slaves had no rights that whites need respect. Yale educated, Vice President John C. Calhoun, Princeton-educated President Woodrow Wilson (he segregated the federal government), University of South Carolina-educated Senator “Cotton Ed” Smith (he declared “cotton was king”)–pick a favorite racist or act from the well educated.
Harvard Law/Chief Justice clerk Cruz’s robo-calls to SC voters pointing to Trump’s support for taking the Confederate battle flag down and the photoshopped Rubio hand shake with Obama in a video commercial are two recent favorites. They were low key, given only a passing mention nationally, never making the rotation in the segment cycles, but their message was inflammatory and loaded with race as a loathsome attack on American values.
One reason you can’t educate out of racism is its system is built and depends on denial. The flag is heritage; police violence brings shouts about black-on-black murders (never white-on-white murders that play in prime time nightly!)–pick your favorite deflection. Systemic racism is more than bias or prejudice; its inequity and disempowerment is written into law, issued in court decisions; it is a bias that informs individual decisions and shapes these into a persistent pattern. In Flint, it is a series of “studies” that delay action. It is the reason GM got reconnected to clean water at its plant when it was found to corrode metal parts but the city of Flint and the city’s children did not–and were expected to drink water that corroded metal as safe.
Racism is also enabled when it is embedded in the myth that it can be overcome by education (a tool but not a solution!).
Smart people have missed the obvious about Trump: in his muddle, he calls for action! He makes a strong cultural appeal: lovingly, he will limit minorities, put white people first, liberals to the rear.
Culture drives what we think more than education does! Culture is a natural push toward consensus, a shared understanding, norms of expression and action. The power of culture was seen as the personal summit to settle the dust up between Kanye (who needs serious help!) and Wiz received 80,000 likes on Twitter! Trump, too, is a cultural phenomenon, not a product of low information entreaty.
Seriously, culture, the system of values and belonging, of belief and feedback, the convenient pack of fear, anger, and toughness that assigns good and evil, evaluates threats, and assigns and approves acts of power that extends racism forward across time. Flint is not Southern segregation. It’s worse.
As for Trump, there’s little blame in his game. Those in denial can’t admit it’s a winning formula.
One of the problems in writing comments is you got read but not remembered–I suggested this unique commonality (between Trump and Sanders–not really a false equivalency, but a realigning contradiction brought on by the Obama Presidency) as a means for the left to win back the Roosevelt coalition. Hooted down by remainders that the working class sabotages its own interests, I still maintain that a portion of that class is now willing, if pursued, to sabotage itself by moving left! Remember the famous “Rednecks for Obama” (Alabama, 2008)? Who is working the factory gates?
Familiar individuals who hold views that are examples of embedded and structural racism should be well-known: Jesse Helms (his black and white hands commercial), David Duke, the former Congress member who claimed Obama 5 million vote majority was the product of “white guilt;” others unnamed because they should receive no acknowledgement for their populist rants.
The new system is always framed in denial.
It’s good to know our history! (I’m a historian by training.) Its depth and breath. It’s twists. History is filled with surprises, like Wilson, or today’s anonymous hordes.
Speaking of the anonymous hordes, according to the Times, in exit polling, “nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters disagreed with the freeing of slaves in Southern states after the Civil War.” [http://nyti.ms/1RldrEG].
Trump’s mix of plantation-benign (we love everybody), don’t break the rules (punishments are severe), and I trust mine, not yours (others are potentially evil and must be restricted) is centered in actions. Cruz/Rubio are still making speeches and assigning blame. His micro-examples (throwing blacks and Muslims out of rallies, boycotting debates) reinforce his focus on action: he will do it like it should be done!
Democrats must move from discussions of racism to direct confrontations: why is Trump silent about white supremacists making robo-calls on his behalf? Why is Cruz going after the Bundy vote, when their followers have declared war on the government and resisted authority in armed confrontations? How will Rubio the “expert” advance the Cuban cause–by extending the embargo and failing to engage, to topple the regime of a country in poverty–or by transformational engagement that inspires change?
~~A political/justice system with black people throughout it; from lawyers, to judges (from the magistrate to the supreme court), to police, to the attorney general, to representatives, to senators, to the president of the united states is representative of systematic racism, inequity, and dis-empowerment?
A country filled with black doctors (one of whom is running for president), scientists, actors, athletes, teachers/professors, technologists, clergy, etc. is representative of that same systematic racism?
And if you wish to point to the % of population relative to all of the aforementioned, then you can’t have it both ways – the nature of being a minority (the same is true for asians, hispanics, etc.) is that the total number of minority ‘x’ will always be lower than that of the majority ‘y’.
You speak of denial, and point to faceless narratives spurred by the media. The flag you speak of – it’s not even the real flag of the Confederate States of America, it was a battle flag of Virginia that was later adopted by the Confederacy – by all means take it down and put the real one up. That police violence you speak of – more blacks die at the hands of other blacks than at the hands of whites. More whites die at the hands of police than do blacks.
There have been, and always will be, racists in America, but they are not the majority. I could tell you a very different story about racism growing-up white in an all-black neighborhood, but I’m tired of anecdotal racial narratives.
~~Any examples of rampant structural racism in otherwise respectable people NOT dead for almost a century? Roger Taney, for heaven’s sake!
But you’re probably right about Trump. Any efforts to eliminate the vestiges of truly egregious racism in our society would require major bucks, and he’s not going to make that a priority. His “action” would involve other priorities, and racism probably isn’t an issue on which he’d gamble political capital.
Did the fact that the flag was a battle flag (which most know!) make it less racist in its symbolism of heritage?
The point missed–denied, as it were–is systemic racism isn’t measured by statistics! During slavery, many black men were rich; in Charleston the enslaved owned businesses and employed whites! They were blacksmiths, cooks, furniture makers, fishermen, sailmakers, harness makers, cobblers, carpenters, and earned income. Did that make the system of slavery that denied men’s rights of freedom less insidious, the limits less precarious? Did their success mean slavery offered a level playing field? Was slavery benign because a long list of men succeeded despite the odds? The men themselves, in their letters, books, and speeches say no!
Their success exposed the system, not excused it.
That’s the reality–and point–of every oppressive system: it cuts both ways! Its dialectic is to conceal its oppression by pointing to its permitted successes. My daughter is a Dartmouth grad, but we knew when she applied that her class would have 60+/- blacks, 3-5 from DC public schools, slotting that maintained a racial legacy.
View the whole system, its history, to know how it works. Whether oil spills or human opportunity, systems leverage their ambiguity to hide their truths. Yes, we have an African-American President, but he can’t get an appointment to the Supreme Court a hearing and vote–pre-announced before a nominee is put forth, despite winning by 5 million votes.
~~”Yes, we have an African-American President, but he can’t get an appointment to the Supreme Court a hearing and vote….”
Some really great points in each of your posts, but I’m not sure this last one has much to do with racism. I don’t think at this time in our history ANY president who was a Democrat could manage it, no matter his or her race. The Republicans have been increasingly obstructionist since Jimmy Carter.
Annie, thank you for reading. The last point is an example of how denial works–to support racism! Actually the Senate’s obstruction is two forms–straight political denial–as you correctly termed it–obstruction–and using obstruction to hide the denial is based on race.
Let’s forgo the whole history of interplay during Obama’s Presidency between obstruction and race, and simply put the Senate’s position under a lens.
We find that no President has been denied a hearing and vote on a nominee at any point in his term–and no President has ever been told there would be no hearing and voted before the nomination was made!
That last part gives it away. When denial (citing reasons separate from race!) is used to hide and advance racism, it alters a standard in a way that doesn’t fit with tradition or common sense. An edge sticks out. That edge that protrudes is racism.
A different example, if I don’t want my 14 year old to date, I say no. If I don’t want her to date this particular boy (any color), I still say no. Reason: she’s too young. One is denial, one is not.
Republicans have never gone to the extreme of blocking a nominee before one is made. Word is it might be Utah’s Republican governor. If he’s blocked, then we know for sure: the act is racist–not as bias–but as power.
See my NYT comments from yesterday, for more insight!
They (and replies) are archived here: “The Overlooked Contradictions In The GOP Campaigns” [http://wp.me/p1mBVu-5dI].
~~Walter – I’m not denying that racism exists or claiming that it is not a huge problem for this country. The problem I have with focusing on it in regard to the presidency is I see a different kind of denial–that by blaming what is happening on objections to Obama’s race rather than to his party, we are comforting ourselves with the idea that even if racism continues to exist and to cause problems in the larger society, everything will be fine–or, at least much better–at the governmental level when it is a white Democrat in the White House. I don’t believe that. As I said, I believe the obstructionism toward (and the disdain for) ALL Democrats has been getting worse and worse for years. I still remember how the Clintons, Al Gore, and John Kerry were treated by Republicans. Is it worse now for Obama than it was for Bill Clinton? In many ways, yes. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because of race. Has any other government official in Hillary Clinton’s position ever faced the relentless and on-going hearings, etc., in regard to what was, in all honesty, a rather minor–although undeniably tragic–event? Much worse events with more evidence of issues meriting investigation have been treated far more benignly in comparison. Is that just sexism or is there something else at work here?
(Posting this before reading your other comments to avoid having the comments close on me.)