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November 02, 2008

Comments

Exactly.

I don't truck much with ghosts, but there are Presences abroad in this land: Tubman, Douglass, and Marshall; but also a laughing John Brown, marching at the head of the army of the hanged.

If Obama wins this thing, the Civil War will be almost over. It won't be entirely over until a black woman is tried for a billion-dollar stock swindle, someday. True racial reconciliation requires the occasional black white-collar criminal (if you'll pardon the expression) as well as the occasional black President. We will get there, eventually.

National Republican Trust PAC, whatever the hell that is, just played the Wright card in a commercial on MSNBC -- at least here in the Boston area. So the ghost of the Confederacy still haunts the land.

--TP

This is powerful stuff, publius. I'm going to need some time to digest it.

Excellent post publius.

One of the best things about this election is how its brought such great stuff out of blogs like ObWi and Ta-Nehisi. Win or lose (hopefully win, knock on wood!), this is certainly the kind of thing I look foward to telling the grandkids about.

Nicely said. I went through a similar change of perspective, and American history was my teacher too. I live in Tennessee--in a relatively enlightened area--and a few days ago the local paper printed a reader's joke that dropped my jaw: "George Washington and Abe Lincoln are talking. George says, 'I had a dream that a man named Obama was elected president.' Abe responded, 'that wasn't a dream, that was a nightmare!'" Hard to imagine that a mainstream newspaper (not a conservative rag, just a bland corporate one) would print such an obscene sentiment. Racial animus ain't what it used to be. But it isn't dead either.

My one fear is that we're setting him to be a martyr. If any of that McCain-Palin fear-mongering strikes the wrong ears the wrong way and something were to happen to a President Obama, I'd hate to see the aftermath. This is a happy ending only if we manage to pull it off. American history isn't just about triumph. It's about heart-breaking tragedy at the the very moments that victory seems nearest. For now, I'll choose to hope.

Neglecting the colonial legacy is a bit misleading -- just recall this passage from the Declaration of Independence:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

These attitudes still persist. We still have a lot more work to do.

Beautiful essay publius, but I have a one small bone to pick with what you wrote. To quote...

"His presidency is possible because people for the past 200 years believed in holding America to its standards. And in pursuit of that goal, they were willing to fight, and get beaten, and get lynched for the sake of basic equality – an equality we today have the luxury of taking for granted."

I don't think the blacks that found themselves on the business end of a lynching rope deliberately choose that fate, or were acting as martyrs for the cause of racial justice. Rather, my impression is that they were - by in large - simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, victims of a terrible stew of racial animosity, fear and mob rule. This does not make their deaths any less tragic or wrong, but I don't think of them as martyrs.

(By the way, new poster here...what is the XML tag for block quotes)

National Republican Trust PAC, whatever the hell that is, just played the Wright card in a commercial on MSNBC -- at least here in the Boston area.

They played here to. On ABC. In California. Oooooooookay!

GOP delenda est -- fortunately, they're helping.

Yes.

Brilliant stuff. Food for thought.

I honestly prefer this election was NOT about race as obama being bi-racial complicates things. As has been said, he is equally america's 44th white president as he is its first black president. And the question of whether someone who isn't white can get elected still lingers.

Skimmed this (too much in agreement to study it) so if I missed you saying this, I apologize: Another example of racism in our early history is the racism that was directed toward Native Americans.

Let me defend the other side: Race matters, yes, but race matters because race matters. It's the social equivalent of a picked at scab, it can never heal as long as so many people are obsessed with it.

The way to get past it is to actually get past it.

And along come liberals, absolutely determined that we will NEVER get past it. And worse, because they can't get past it, they're continually picking away at the formal equality of the races which was previously achieved, and which is the absolute precondition of our ever getting past it as a society.

You're not just picking at the scab, you're making the wound deeper!

Just. Let. It. Go. It's the only way it will ever truly be over.

geez, I'm getting all teary-eyed . . .

May I say how tedious I think it is that Brett chooses to respond to a celebratory post with his usual negative dreck?

And, Brett, to quote a regular commenter here, Doctor Science:

You can't deal with racism by saying "Bored now." This is particularly true for those of us on the upside of the American race game, because a huge part of "privilege" is the freedom to not notice things.
The notion that it's the people going "Bored now" who are really the champions of anti-racism, because they are bored and cheesed-off with "liberals" reminding them that racism and racist discrimination still exists - that's backwards.

Publius, this is a lovely, lovely post. But: "You want to tempt the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing?"
"No."
"Then go outside, turn around three times, and spit. What the hell is the matter with you?"

I think I shouldn't have complained about Brett being negative. I'm channelling Toby Ziegler right now and it looks like I will continue for the next 36-48 hours.

"And along come liberals, absolutely determined that we will NEVER get past it."

This is just wrong; the only reason we're not past is is that we're, as a society, not remotely past it. Every week, if not every day, most dark-skinned folks get treated differently than light-skinned folk, and are acutely aware of it, and it's only light-skin privilege that blinds so many light-skinned people to it. That very blindness is the largest part of the problem.

We can all let it go when this stops happening. Meanwhile, you're asking people to ignore the daily reality of discrimination, Brett, for a game of "let's pretend."

Look into unconscious racism. Aversive racism. Buy a clue.

Check yourself out.

"You can't deal with racism by saying "Bored now." "

At least, not unless you look really, really good in leather - and no offense, Brett, but . . .

Brett, I think that position ignores the reality of racism that people of color - and especially black people - face.

I feel strongly about it because of my experiences working in a 95% black school; but there are also many, many books about it. American Apartheid (by Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton) details the origins and effects of residential segregation, and is a pretty eye-opening read.

But the story I wanted to tell in response to publius's piece is what happened when I was putting out door-hangers for Obama yesterday in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia with another white woman. On our way back to the car, two black men - one old, one young - stop us. "Who are you voting for, McCain?"

Keep in mind that we're carrying probably 50 Obama door-hangers.

We tell them we're voting for Obama, and the young man says, "Do you think he's going to win?"

My friend says she thinks he will. I say, "You know, the only thing I'm worried about is that people won't get out and vote, because -"

He finishes my sentence: "they think he can't win anyway."

This is someone who, after 2 years of campaigning and seeing Obama win primaries in white state after white state, still thinks a black man can't win. For that kid, it's important - and a little incredible - to see white people out working for a black candidate; and important - and a little incredible - for that candidate to win.

No, I agree, we're not remotely past it, and every day, liberals are out in the trenches, making sure that stays true.

And along come liberals

nothing in Brett's world is ever the fault of a conservative.

@Brett B.:

And worse, because they can't get past it, they're continually picking away at the formal equality of the races which was previously achieved

Just curious, Brett: your invocation of the "formal equality" which was "previously achieved" - by this do you mean the "separate but equal" doctrine, a la Plessey v. Ferguson? Or some other condition of racial amity which existed at some time in the [mythic] past?

Apparently, Publius's attempt to help conservatives understand why liberals can't let race be ignored just slipped right by Brett. Let's hope other conservatives can read these words and gain some insight from it. I am also a past conservative republican who "saw the light" at some point in my life, and I can really relate to this post. Great Writing.

publius..."Somewhat ironically, race has been the great unspoken story of the 2008 election. The Obama campaign avoids discussing it like the plague (though for understandable reasons). And the pundits have generally been quiet too – other than in the aftermath of the Pennsylvania speech Obama grudgingly gave."

More like the great unspoken unspoken spoken. Wasn't one of Obama's earliest, most eloquent speeches setting the race tone? Oh, THAT'S what you mean by the begrudged Pennsylvania speech. Isn't one of the most repeated political arguments against Sen. McCain the great race projection? Isn't the topic of this post, well, the topic of this post. More like the most spoken unspoken. Or the spoken spoken. Race is the 500 pound gorilla. Nothing bastardizes Mr. King's dream more than the premise of this campaign. The reason the race is so close is the probability that we've progressed further than the minority elites are comfortable with. It runs contrary to their/your power fulcrum. No, the great race card is in play, and it's on your side of the table.

Why did it take a stock market crash that wioped out the 401k's of lots of boomers to get Obama over the top in the polls?

Here's how racism works in America: a large number of white citizens simply don't give a shit about people of a different skin color and are willing to use them as scapegoats, denying a need for any kind of government asistance or interventions for them whioe demanding all kinds of earmarks and subsidies and pork barrels for themselves, bitching all the while about how those other people, those poor people, are the cause of high taxes.

Blogbudsman, I'm sure you had a point, but where did you put it?

Nothing bastardizes Mr. King's dream more than the premise of this campaign.

"A good many observers have remarked that if equality could come at once, the Negro would not be ready for it. I submit that the white American is even more unprepared." - Martin Luther King

Don't try to steal the dead, Blogbudsman.

Nothing bastardizes Mr. King's dream more than the premise of this campaign.

'Mr. King' seems to suggest that bbm has trouble admitting he was a man of god. Next step: recycled FBI reports demonstrating 'Mr. King' was a Marxist-Leninist.

LJ, I think many conservatives have managed to wipe out all the uncomfortable aspects of Martin Luther King's character and campaigning, leaving only Saint MLK - a nice flat icon to be rolled out and hung on the wall. Saint MLK can be safely praised and his words twisted or ignored: he's dead.

lj, I do apologize for omitting 'Reverand' or 'Doctor' King. He earned and deserved the reference. Saying 'Mr.' was not an intentional dispersion, but certainly fell short. I stand corrected.

I am in agreement with the post, but not with some of the commentary surrounding it. Race has played a HUGE role in the history of this country, and it continues to play a diminished role today; however, I think the trends show firmly that racism is on the wrong side of history, and is inexorably going away. The problem is, it is being replaced by classism--a suspicion that people of lower economic status than you are untrustworthy. The fundamental problem is that, due to our historical oppression of minority races, the lower economic classes are overpopulated by minorities, and due to the inherent momentum of economic status in our country, economic mobility is not as free as it should be--it is harder for a child of poor parents to become middle class than for an equally talented child of middle class parents. This leads to APPARENT racism where the average black person is less well-off than the average white person, when the underlying problem is not racism but classism. Unfortunately, because of our historical focus on race, the underlying problem tends to be misidentified, which causes the wrong solutions to be proposed. I live in the deep South, and I find classism to be more rampant even here than racism (although, to be sure, both are present); as the times change and racist feelings quite literally die off, it is essential that we begin to shift our focus towards eliminating classism, both through reducing the irrational distrust of the poor and through increasing the potential for economic mobility; otherwise, even after we absolutely abolish all racist feelings in America, black people will remain oppressed because of the historical wrongs done to them.

Clearly, the "minority elites" that blogbudsman is speaking of are the yacht-owners who are starting to believe their own propaganda about how a centrist Democrat is a socialist.

Conservatives won't understand race until they face a world where they're the racial minority and suffer consequences for it. The day that having a "white name" gets your resume put aside and out of consideration, the day that speaking "standard" English gets you mocked as being racially inferior, that's the day when conservatives will begin to understand and probably not a moment before.

Excellent post, publius.

The difference between the conservative and liberal perspectives on race can also be attributed to a different view of causation. In general, conservatives prefer direct, simple causation (e.g., "racism is caused by racist people discriminating"), whereas liberals tend to be more interested in systemic causation (e.g., the legacy of slavery that's interwoven into and inextricable from modern society).

Notice that Brett's first comment is stated completely in terms of simple causation. Racism is a scab that liberals pick at. To fix the problem in a conservative way, you just need to make inequality unlawful - what Brett calls "formal equality".

To a liberal, this is not enough, because it doesn't address the systemic causes. If everyone in the USA suddenly stopped acting in a racist way at this exact moment, there would still be huge problems. African Americans would still be experiencing disproportionate poverty, lower quality of education, lack of the social resources required for economic mobility, etc.

Nothing bastardizes Mr. King's dream more than the premise of this campaign.

That a black man can't run for office without people-with-certain-tendencies calling race the 'premise' of their campaign is worse by several orders of magnitude IMO.

No, I agree, we're not remotely past it, and every day, liberals are out in the trenches, making sure that stays true.

Id love to see an exposition of how the "Harold, call me" ad flows directly from the liberal trenches...
At every point in the history of the civil rights movements, there have been those who said that the negro already had more than enough & that further efforts to level the field would merely incite trouble.
Welcome to that proud tradition.

I honestly prefer this election was NOT about race as obama being bi-racial complicates things. As has been said, he is equally america's 44th white president as he is its first black president.

Homer Plessy was 1/8 black.

The way to get past it is to actually get past it.

You only get past things that are actually over.

Thanks -

Brett: And worse, because they can't get past it, they're continually picking away at the formal equality of the races which was previously achieved...

I, too, would like to know what "formal equality of the races" you mean.

"Apparently, Publius's attempt to help conservatives understand why liberals can't let race be ignored just slipped right by Brett."

No, I was explicitly trying to explain to liberals why conservatives insist that race SHOULD be ignored.

By formal equality, I mean equality under law, as opposed to statistical equality of outcomes. The equality of the rich man and the beggar.

"If everyone in the USA suddenly stopped acting in a racist way at this exact moment, there would still be huge problems."

Yes, but they wouldn't be problems of racism.

I'd liken this to an Appalachian hill feud; Maybe one side had justice on it's side in the beginning. But you still don't end the feud by trying to equalize the body count. You end it by ending it.

The injustices of history are sunk costs, they need to be accepted, not subject to relentless efforts in the here and now to erase them. Because those efforts won't let the wound heal.

You can't have equality of outcomes without an equal playing field. What conservatives do amounts to this, Anarch:

One group starts at the top of the hill and runs down to the mid-point toward a pot of gold. The other group runs uphill toward the same pot. The distance is 500 yards each way, so it's an equal contest! That's equality under the law.

For nearly 100 years, African-Americans in the south and Latinos in the west had equality under the constitution. What good did that equality under the law bring them? Social tradition trumps the law every day. It did during Jim Crow and it still does today.

What is interesting, but not surprising, is that someone can write an entire post on the subject of race in the 2008 election and not mention the blatent appeal to racial solidarity by the Obama campaign.

No mention of Reverend Wright, no mention of Jesse Jackson Jr, no mention of the threats made to black elected officials to endorse Obama or face the consequences.

I suggest a rewrite. Redo this post and see if you can work the facts in this time.

Publius: First, people are very sensitive to being called racists – and thus resist any argument they perceive as making that implication. Second, conservatives often see minority empowerment (particularly affirmative action) in purely zero-sum terms. But finally, conservatives view the liberal “obsession” with race as fundamentally insincere.

This is a good discussion. No doubt the first point is true. And the second re affirmative action is true, but the rest of it is not. Take a look at Bush's cabinet frex. What backlash was there regarding the appointment of African Americans for being such? (none). The third is no doubt true as well. Obama's success has a lot to do with keeping the insincere folks (IMHO) out of the election (Jackson, Sharpton to name a few). And I don't think this feeling is limited to conservatives.

But let me add a forth (which to your credit you brought up later but didn't label as such). Conservatives tend to resent the lack of acknowledgment of those that have fought against racism in the past and continue to do so in the present that are white. How many American dead were there in the civil war fighting on the side of the Republic? And how many "white" people came to this country free of the taint of slavery? Why is it that the taint of slavery must necessarily be carried in the blood of every white child, however reared, however taught etc. etc.? Katrina is brought up without acknowledgment that an overwhelming response in terms of volunteers and donors were from fellow Americans of every stripe.

It's one thing to be reminded of how racism continues to exist even in forms that are under the surface and not readily apparent. It's an entirely different thing to have it shoved in your face like this:

Conservatives won't understand race until they face a world where they're the racial minority and suffer consequences for it.

With all due respect, this is the sort of attitude that many conservatives feel is the end game of the liberal movement on race. All whites need to be punished for the sins of their fathers. Somehow white liberal professors like Publius' get a pass but conservative whites don't, in spite of strongly held beliefs in the equality of man and despite truly trying to end racism in how they rear their children, how they act themselves, etc.

many conservatives passionately feel that their agenda is more colorblind and more empowering than the competing liberal agenda that they view as itself racist.

This could use more exploration and should merit it's own factor. There is a strong viewpoint amongst conservatives that much of liberal policies towards the poor and African Americans in general is to keep them poor and dependent and therefore a voter base they can rely on.

And a final factor in this election is the tendency to argue that every argument against Obama is inherently racist

For me, an Obama victory would have the silver lining of celebrating a racial milestone, in spite of my political differences, and in spite of how this election may have been won.



At no point, bc, did I say that conservatives _should_ be punished or suffer consequences. As someone above pointed out, conservatives tend to look for simple solutions and liberals tend to look for systemic solutions. It's just not part of the conservative mindset to understand things that haven't happened to them. They don't experience the consequences of racism, so they assume that the stories told by blacks and latinos are just exaggerations or excuses for their own shortcomings.

I don't say that conservatives should suffer the sting of racism. I don't say they should be punished. I point out what my entire life experience tells me: conservatives are incapable of understanding many social problems until they experience them themselves.

policywank: I don't say that conservatives should suffer the sting of racism. I don't say they should be punished. I point out what my entire life experience tells me: conservatives are incapable of understanding many social problems until they experience them themselves.

My apologies if I inferred too much. But too many times I have had conversations that end in a similar comment, that I, as a white, simply can't understand. That is obviously true to a point. But the point of often taken too far. To the extent that any effort at understanding is rebuffed and not appreciated.

That being said, one of my favorite Bloom County cartoons was the one where they were outfitting Cutter John's wheelchair with balloons so he could fly to D.C. to shoot the visiting South African ambassador with his "photo-pigmintizer" that would turn the ambassador black (this back in the days of Apartheid). The photo-pigmintizer was appropriately invented by Oliver Wendell Jones, an African American.

publius: great post.

ken: you have been banned a number of times. Why do you keep coming back? Is it some sort of reverse Groucho Marxism, where you only want to belong to clubs who don't want you as a member? Or just a lack of basic courtesy?

The injustices of history are sunk costs

Yes, and the injustices of today are paid for with fresh coin, minted new each day.

IMO, neither conservatives or liberals are, as a group, significantly more racist than the other. I live in the famously liberal Boston area, and people are just as weird about skin color here as they are anywhere else, if not weirder.

My beef with conservatives on the topic of race is their apparent belief that, since many if not most institutional forms of racism are now illegal, our work here is done.

It's not done. Nor, since we have some laws on the books, has it retreated to the private domain.

It's not done, and it hasn't retreated to the private domain, because people are still racist, and the effects of that racism still has a large effect on our public life.

Liberals are not making that so. It's so because people continue to treat black people differently than they treat white people. Nobody, let alone liberals, makes them do that, it's just what they like to do. People are weird that way.

In any case, when they quite freaking doing that, lefties like me will be more than happy to drop the issue.

Same with women, gays, Hispanics, Muslims, or any other demographic that is consistently discriminated against.

Treat folks like you want to be treated, and the issue goes away. Don't, and it doesn't.

In the specific case of black people, I'd say we have another few generations to go. If we're lucky.

Thanks -

The injustices of history are sunk costs, they need to be accepted, not subject to relentless efforts in the here and now to erase them. Because those efforts won't let the wound heal.

If we were living in a world where being black wasn't a significant obstacle to getting onto a good career track, etc, then what you suggest wouldn't be irrational. But that is not our world, and your suggestion that the problem is based on people wanting to stop racism is bizarre. We are not talking about a redress of civil war grievances.

Of course, it's also a profoundly racist statement to claim that black people are incapable of understanding who is working to solve their problems and who is working against them (or standing on the sidelines, claiming that the problems no longer exist). Again, this has long been a position of those who argued against expanding the rights etc of black people- that they don't really want or won't really be happy with their expanded role, but are being misled by do-gooder whites.

I've mentioned this analogy, from a Native American activist, before, but I still can't find it, but he wrote that one has to imagine that a person has a bicycle and another person takes it and uses it every day, earning his spending money with a paper route, and travelling to and from school. After a number of years, the person who took the bicycle comes up and says he knows that the whole issue of the bicycle has been a problem between the two of them, so he wants to get off to a fresh start and let bygones be bygones. As soon as the first person says, but what about, the second person says well, I guess you really don't want to put it behind you.

There was a mention of Native Americans earlier in the thread, and this approach has 'worked' only because demographic pressures have placed them in the position where they don't have any leverage. This only works with African Americans to the extent of being able to disenfranchise or marginalize their voices. This is why you got the Hispanic strategy from the Republican party, until the anti-immigration-of-anyone-we-don't-like stuck a fork in that.

It may sound like liberals are threatening conservatives when they point out the consequences of resisting steps to reduce inequality, things like being accused of racism for what seems to them as merely anodyne comments or having their other opinions dismissed out of hand because they can't see what everyone else knows, but they aren't really. Though I have little reason to believe that the most vociferous ones will be able to see the light, and they will retreat to calling liberal hypocritical because they don't rush to their defense every time they make a feast of their feet. If they are lucky, they will be able to pretend, 30 years in the future, that they were actually at the head of the parade, and it was those damn liberals who were undisciplined and threatened to stop progress.

I'd take conservative arguments more seriously on racism if they weren't trotting out the same arguments, both rhetorically and literally, that they did in 1975. It implies a blindness to conditions in real life that doesn't take into account changing conditions--it's like their major argument is to say "no" to liberals.

I'd take conservative arguments more seriously on racism if...

I would add to that- if they were willing to admit that things are still not very good right now. If someone were to say that they understand that things aren't good but that they think things will only get better by ignoring race- well, Id say that they were wrong. But at least they'd have a chance to make the case.
As opposed to pretending that everything is actually close to perfect now- that kind of (intentional?) blindness disqualifies one's opinions on the subject; if you can't accurately describe the present, you've no chance of charting a successful course into the future.

I would add to that- if they were willing to admit that things are still not very good right now. If someone were to say that they understand that things aren't good but that they think things will only get better by ignoring race- well, Id say that they were wrong. But at least they'd have a chance to make the case.

Or some awareness that "ignoring race" could be used (and HAS BEEN USED) as a blind to continue ongoing, malign racist practices.

And a final factor in this election is the tendency to argue that every argument against Obama is inherently racist

That cartoon is hardly a ringing endorsement of the seriousness of consrvatives, bc. ("Look at all the smears and lies the Right has thrown at me. See anything of substance here?") And why is Michelle listed as one of Obama's "questionable" friends? Is it that she spoke out about being black at a nearly-all white school; or for the "whitey" tape?

(And mention of Wright is blindingly, obviously racist, or Hagee would have been toxic many years back.)

And mention of Wright is blindingly, obviously racist,

No s*t.

It's just warmed over Gil Scott Heron. And double-pooh on people who are just SHOCKED to hear such rhetoric...it just shows they haven't LISTENED to folks in the black community.

There is a difference between actual racism and educating people on the subject.

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

Reminding the public of the tendancies of past generations is not picking a scab to keep it open. My daughter is 24 years old and had not learned of the Japanese internment camps in school until college. She knew of it only because I wrote a term paper in HIGH SCHOOL on the subject. Our religion has rogue preachers denying the Holocaust existed. Native Americans, slavery, the Holocaust are all examples of how we cannot forget the racism of the time and to keep from repeating it in the future.

"The injustices of history are sunk costs, they need to be accepted, not subject to relentless efforts in the here and now to erase them."

See Ampersand's perfect A Concise History Of Black-White Relations In The U.S.A., in only 6 panels.

-----

Just to slather on unnecessary heavy-handed commentary,the liberal sense of the current world is that historical injustices have helped give rise to current ones. Now, their influence has certainly been greatly diminished, thanks to enormous and unending efforts by Americans of all sorts, but it's still around, both in terms of obvious, "simple" racism, or more complicated things - david's point: racism isn't just a guy wearing a white sheet and burning a cross. In some cases, what we're talking about could even be called a kind of zombie racism or ghost racism.

And of course, there are cases where it's very far from dead or even undead (if perhaps not conscious?). To add to Gary's list, don't forget that Princeton study which found that which found that among specially trained and standardized 'applicants' sent to apply for real jobs, otherwise identical whites with a fictional felony record were more likely to get a callback or job offer than black or Hispanic applicants without one. (The difference wasn't statistically significant so really, being black or Hispanic is only, in terms of hiring, the equivalent of having a felony conviction. Overall, they found [pdf] that "black job applicants are only two- thirds as successful as equally qualified Latinos, and little more than half as successful as equally qualified whites"
(hilzoy's obwi post on that study resulted in Andrew Olmstead's post It Was My Understanding There Would Be No Math, where he worked through the numbers and found that they made a powerful (though not complete, perhaps) argument for affirmative action in such cases.

. . . damn.


Anyway, that study . . very interesting bits, like the minority applicants who were told that a certain position was filled, and they might get a call if it didn't work out, as opposed to the otherwise identical white person who applied later and was asked to start immediately. They also discuss cases where applicants were channeled into higher or lower positions than they had applied for: blacks and Hispanics were never channeled upwards (but were channeled downwards in several cases); at least 5 whites were channeled upwards; the only ones channeled downwards were 4 whites with a (fictional) felony record.

I would add to that- if they were willing to admit that things are still not very good right now . . . As opposed to pretending that everything is actually close to perfect now- that kind of (intentional?) blindness disqualifies one's opinions on the subject; . . .

I don't think that issues of race are anywhere close to perfect now and in many areas "not very good" is a good descriptor. There is no doubt in my mind that a large part of the reason is due to the historical fact of slavery and the fallout that continues to be with us.

That cartoon is hardly a ringing endorsement of the seriousness of consrvatives, bc.

Mostly provided in fun. But not clear on why references to Wright would necessarily be racist given his statements in the past and Obama's membership in the church. I don't particularly like references to one's pastor, rabbi, etc. but that is based on a different concern. And I'm not defending Hagee.

And the Michelle inclusion was obviously for the "first time I was proud of my country" bit, I'm sure.

"Conservatives tend to resent the lack of acknowledgment of those that have fought against racism in the past and continue to do so in the present that are white. How many American dead were there in the civil war fighting on the side of the Republic? "

Wait, wait! White people fought for the Union in the Civil War?! I never learned that in school. Next you'll be telling me that the President who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation was actually a white guy! Geez, those revisionist historians . . .

" And how many "white" people came to this country free of the taint of slavery? Why is it that the taint of slavery must necessarily be carried in the blood of every white child, however reared, however taught etc. etc.? "

You know what really chaps my ass? (besides those leather pants . . .y'know how it is - a few "bored now" references leads to rewatching that "Doppelgangland" episode, which leads to a little harmless . . .well, never mind). All those white people who imagine that they somehow have a claim to this country's glorious history, when some of them weren't even born in 1976, let alone 1776. And heck, what about all the ones whose families didn't even come over here until who knows how much later? Next person I see with a "These Colors Don't Run" or American-flag cap, they better have met Betsy Ross personally, or there's gonna be trouble. *

* To be fair, living in Philly can give one a slightly unusual view of such things.

Great post, publius. I've never thought of race as "the dominant force in American history". A lot to think about.

"hilzoy's obwi post on that study resulted in Andrew Olmstead's post"

Olmsted.

I'm not particularly "bored" by racism. I am somewhat more than exasperated by the liberal conviction that anybody who disagrees with you about what to DO about racism is a racist themselves.

The essential problem of dealing with racism is that you have to do so in a way which doesn't perpetuate racism. The cure must not itself cause the disease.

And the essential problem with the liberal approach of race conscious measures is that it DOES perpetuate racism. It legitimizes the notion that it's somehow ok to treat people according to the color of their skin, rather than the content of their character. It gives people who aren't members of a certified victim group a REAL gripe cherish and base their animus off of.

It is, for all the benign intent, the social equivalent of treating anemia by bleeding.

Of course, there's another approach: That the government should be relentless in refusing to base any policy whatsoever on race, (If people are disadvantaged because of the legacy of racism, you can damned well help them on the basis that they're disadvantaged, not on the basis of the color of their skin!) and we should shun and despise anybody who does act like race matters.

And never, ever, give anybody a hook to hang their racial animus on.

That's not doing nothing, but it certainly isn't doing what liberals want to do, either.

I am somewhat more than exasperated by the liberal conviction that anybody who disagrees with you about what to DO about racism is a racist themselves.

I don't believe that is what is at issue. The problem is that conservatives (like you) seem to disagree about the facts on the ground. While some on the board have called you a racist, the majority have accused you of an attitude that is unreflective and therefore your thinking seems to reflect, as Gary notes, unconscious racism. When you say that there is a "formal equality", it seems to overlook the actual situation, so it is not disagreeing with what you propose be done, but those facts.

This is exacerbated by the fact that you are willing to propose radical suggestions when it deals with your tax burden or how elections should be managed, but you retreat to conservatism when it deals with immigration or any sort of change to deal with social inequity. Thus the flak you get is based on two points, first that you seem to deny the current social situation for minorities and second, that your conservatism only serves you when you argue against change on these fronts. I realize that there might not seem to be much difference between being a conscious racist and an unconscious racist, but I tend to think that most would believe that there is a large difference.

By formal equality, I mean equality under law, as opposed to statistical equality of outcomes. The equality of the rich man and the beggar.

If the rich man happens to be rich because he's white, and the beggar poor because he's black, how is this a non-racist outcome? [See above about the Native American and the bicycle.] What you're saying is, essentially, that you can cheat for as long as you want provided that at some point you stop cheating, because once you stop cheating, well, from now on everyone's equal under the rules! As if you could not possibly have gained an advantage by all those years of cheating.

And BTW, if you think rich and poor are actually equal under the law, you live in a much different world than I. And if you think all that's required for the US to become non-racist is for liberals to stop mentioning racism, well, you're pretty much the textbook case of racial privilege.

(If people are disadvantaged because of the legacy of racism, you can damned well help them on the basis that they're disadvantaged, not on the basis of the color of their skin!)

...and you don't see the irony in that?

@hilzoy:

Why do you continue to allow ken's post to appear and scold him afterwards, rather than simply deleting his posts? Banned apparently doesn't really mean banned.

bc: But not clear on why references to Wright would necessarily be racist given his statements in the past and Obama's membership in the church. I don't particularly like references to one's pastor, rabbi, etc. but that is based on a different concern. And I'm not defending Hagee.

References to Wright are racist because he was attacked, not for what he said, but because he was a black man saying it. (Have you read the full context of that notorious "God Damn America" quote?)

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, April 13, 2003:

“And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent, she failed. She put them on reservations.

“When it came to putting her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in interment prison camps.

“When it came to putting the citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters. Put them on auction blocks. Put them in cotton fields. Put them in inferior schools. Put them in substandard housing. Put them scientific experiments. Put them in the lower paying jobs. Put them outside the equal protection of the law. Kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education, and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness.

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law and then wants us to sing God Bless America. Naw, naw, naw. Not God Bless America. God Damn America! That’s in the Bible. For killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating us citizens as less than human. God Damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is Supreme.

“The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent. Think about this. Think about this. For every one Oprah, a billionaire, you’ve got 5 million blacks that are out of work. For every one Colin Powell, a millionaire, you’ve got 10 million blacks who cannot read. For every one Condi-Skeezer Rice, you’ve got 1 million in prison. For every one Tiger Woods, who needs to get beat at the Masters, with his Cablanasian hips, playing on a course that discriminates against women, God has this way of brining you up short when you get to big for your Cablanasian britches. For every one Tiger Woods, we’ve got 10,000 black kids who will never see a golf course. The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent.”

“Tell your neighbor he’s (going to) help us one last time. Turn back and say forgive him for the God Damn, that’s in the Bible though. Blessings and curses is in the Bible. It’s in the Bible.”

Whereas, contrast this with genuinely poisonous statements made by white men:

(Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in conversation on September 13, 2001, discussing the attack by al-Qaeda on the WTC):

JF: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.

PR: Well yes.

JF: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

PR: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government.

Do you remember the speech Bush made absolutely rejecting the mentality that could look at a terrorist attack and blame "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians, the ACLU"? No, neither do I. Jerry and Pat were readily forgiven and George W. Bush never had to apologize for associating with them and promise never to go near them again - but that's not a privilege Wright and Obama enjoy, for statements far more justifiable and reasonable.

Do you remember the speech that John McCain had to make, when it came out that John Hagee (who McCain had snuggled up to on prime time TV and thanked for endorsing him) had made a similiar speech blaming sinners in New Orleans for the destruction of Katrina? No, neither do I: McCain didn't have to, because Hagee is white.

That's why attacks on Wright are racist: either because people understood what he was saying and violently objected to the message about the "American ideals" of equality applying to black people - or because people were content to assume that an angry black man preaching was in the wrong, while angry white men preaching are in the right.

If people are disadvantaged because of the legacy of racism, you can damned well help them on the basis that they're disadvantaged, not on the basis of the color of their skin

And what if you are disadvantaged, not because of the *legacy* of racism, but because of current-day, real-time racism?

You talk like actual, hands-on discrimination based on skin color is a quaint artifact of the distant past.

I'll make the same proposal I always make when this topic comes up.

I'd be happy to see affirmative action and similar programs go away. They are small beer. They are bones thrown to minorities as a way of appeasing them.

I would replace affirmative action with a simple program of reparation in kind for damage done through racism.

If you deny someone a mortgage due to color of skin -- or, for that matter, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any category that demonstrably is the basis of wrongful discrimination -- you buy them a house or give them yours.

If you deny them a job, you pay them the value of what they would have earned, or give them your job.

Deny someone rental housing, they get to live in your house or apartment.

And so on.

This satisfies your requirements, I think, because it doesn't try to make up for any past wrongdoing. There's no social engineering involved at all.

Do the crime, pay the price. And the price is a pretty good approximation of the damage done.

Would you sign up for this, Brett?

People are being treated differently due to their skin color, their surnames, how they dress, if they are women, or if they are gay, every single day of the week. Today, this very minute. As we speak.

Affirmative action and similar programs are actually kind of an inefficient way to go about addressing it, because they spread the cost of making folks whole across the whole population, rather than just on the offenders.

If you'd like to opt for an approach where the cost is levied directly on the offender, I am all for it. I don't see any great groundswell of support for something like that, so I guess we'll just have to settle for what we can get.

Thanks -

I talk like it's never GOING to be a relic of the past, so long as discrimination on the basis of race is public policy. So long as you're trying to equalize the body count instead of end the feud.

"Would you sign up for this, Brett?"

No. I maintain the libertarian distinction between what people ought to do, and ought to be compelled to do, between what they ought not do, and ought to be prevented from doing. I don't want to live in the society where, as the saying goes, all that is not mandatory is prohibited.

Racism is despicable. It is not, in the private sector, a violation of any right I'd care to recognize, believing as I do in negative, not positive, rights.

Racism in the public sector is quite different, both because it's constitutionally prohibited, and because government has a rather different, non consensual relationship with people.

The appropriate response to private sector racism is shunning and boycotts, not legally sanctioned violence. But even if you disagree about that, the appropriate response to racism can't be racism itself.

No. I maintain the libertarian distinction between what people ought to do, and ought to be compelled to do, between what they ought not do, and ought to be prevented from doing.

Thanks for the reply.

This is where we differ. I believe that people should not be denied access to basic goods such as (as examples) housing, credit, and education *because of their skin color*. Or gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Even if those things are provided through private actors. And I'm fine with enforcing that by law.

I'm happy to leave it at agreeing to disagree for purposes of blog conversation.

Thanks again for the thoughtful reply.

I would like to add another opinion on the liberal obsession with racism.

I, frankly, see most appeals by Democrats for policies who's overt purpose is to ease the effects of racism as cynical ploys to garner the vote of the oppressed by pretending to do things to help them while on the other hand doing things that actually hurt them in the long run. I do not see it as liberals being soft-headed, or paying lip-service to an ideal in order to be members of the liberal club. I see it as racism in its finest form, complete with Reganesque plausible deniability.

As evidence, I would like to point out how the Democratic party became so divided and divisive over the issue of Obama being their candidate. It seemed to me that many Obama opponents within that party used subtly or blatantly racist arguments to support their dislike of the candidate.

I think racism is alive and well in America. But I do not see the solutions that come from the 'liberal' camp as anything but plausible band-aids that are in truth infected with the same disease that they're attempting to treat.

OTOH, it's clear that the Republican party, the supposed 'conservative' party is often blatantly racist to the point where a person brought up with all the taboos of the current American middle class is often quite shocked even if many are secretly pleased that someone is willing to speak their mind so openly.

I do agree that the likely election of Obama as our new president gives me a lot of hope for the problem of racism being eased in our country. But this is more because of the symbolic impact his election will have than any faith that his policies are going to be helpful.

I also feel that a viable black candidate will have to have significant experience outside the US cultural matrix (as Obama has). Most black people brought up primarily within the US are going to be so poisoned by the experience that they would not be an effective leader. It seems to me that Reverend Wright and Bubba the redneck racist are both too sadly common in our culture.

Most black people brought up primarily within the US are going to be so poisoned by the experience that they would not be an effective leader.

This is an interesting observation which I could agree with if one adds the question 'who do you think is primarily responsible for this situation, whites or blacks?'

" I believe that people should not be denied access to basic goods such as (as examples) housing, credit, and education *because of their skin color*. Or gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Even if those things are provided through private actors. And I'm fine with enforcing that by law."

But those "basic goods" consist of objects which are already owned by specific people with rights, and services which are the labor of specific people with rights.

I'm certainly with you where "denial" involves a third party getting between two people who want to deal, but when the "denial" consists of somebody making a choice of who THEY will deal with, you lose me.

Let me provide a hypothetical: Let's say that some guy is running an apartment complex, and really, truly wants to run it in a non-discriminatory manner. But he's got this little problem: Blacks don't want to rent his apartments! He's being denied the 'right' to rent to blacks, in precisely the same sense you complain about in the case of blacks seeking apartments: It's not that nobody will deal with him, it's that the people he wants to deal with him chose not to.

Would you force a reasonable number of blacks to live there? And if not, what's the principled distinction here? I don't see one. Compelling me to hire is the flip side of compelling me to work, compelling me to sell is the flip side of compelling me to buy. The evil in both cases is identical: You're forcing somebody to be part of a transaction they want no part of.

You know what? This is a reducto, but I suspect liberals might actually get to that point, if they didn't have constant opposition. Because you've got no principle to keep you from going there. People aren't individuals entitled to make their own choices, they're counters you're pushing around to achieve an arrangement to your liking.

And you get really testy when they push back.

Brett: People aren't individuals entitled to make their own choices, they're counters you're pushing around to achieve an arrangement to your liking.

I didn't know you were so vehemently pro-choice, Brett. The Obama effect working even on you? Change we can believe in... ;-)

I don't have time to devote to this argument tonight, but: "The evil in both cases is identical: You're forcing somebody to be part of a transaction they want no part of."

No, that's ridiculous. Here's where lots of us disagree with libertarians. We believe, and have passed into law (which you believe is wrong) that people have a right not to be discriminated against when they want to rent or buy housing, and when they seek a job, and you believe that there is no such right, and that there's a right to discriminate in hiring and renting/selling. You, as you say, believe that these are mirrors, and we don't.

Expansion on why we differ on these things might perhaps prove enlightening, since it's a clear distinction.

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