Monday, July 21, 2014

Let's talk about race-baiting

An op-ed piece from the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Some readers responding to my work - particularly the "That's Not Racism" feature - like to call me racist. Some like to call me a race-baiter. I've begun wondering if people who routinely write in opposition to racism are the only ones who get accused of embodying the behavior they despise.

More here.

A buddy of mine sent me that link on facebook and asked me what I thought.  Here's my response:

Okay, I read the essay. IMHO, "race baiting" DEFINITELY exists, and it's almost always coming from the racist right. On the other hand, we definitely have stuff like the New Black Panthers, or Al Sharpton's famous championing of that black teenager who, it turned out, was not raped by the NYPD. But liberal race-baiting is, I think, in contrast pretty rare to what we get from the right.

The really big problem, as I see it, is that we as a nation have done a pretty good job of eliminating, or at least making culturally shameful, straight-up, individual to individual, "I hate black people" racism. You know, Simon Legree stuff, crazed skinhead Norton KKK, Snidely Whiplash mustache twirling kind of stuff. Everybody knows they're supposed to despise that, so such black and white racist stereotypes are either underground or spit on. Needless to say, there's a whole lot more to racism than that. There's institutional stuff, which is huge, but there is also the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes in the media, and so on.
Many  conservatives assert the notion that white versus black racism no longer exists, and that's primarily because, I think, conservatives recognize only the Simon Legree kind of racism I mentioned above. Of course, that leaves them free to support racism otherwise, and so, to them, it's not really being racist because there's no one wearing a hood. Consequently, anytime anybody talks about the persistence of racism, or calls out right wing support for racism, or their ideas being infused with racist notions, it's total liberal bullshit, a rhetorical scold with which the left disciplines and shames the right.

Really, it's a pretty neat cognitive trick they've got going for themselves. Redefine racism such that they're not racists, and any talk of their racism is totally out of line.

It's REALLY difficult to talk to these people about race because they immediately stiffen up and go into fight mode.
'Nuff said.