Why are You a Racist?

One alarming statistic out of the West Virginia primary was that some 21% of those polled said that race played a role in their voting decision and some 85% of that group voted for Hillary Clinton. Now, the immediate response of social conservatives is to ask why I am not disturbed by the 95+% of black voters that Barack Obama typically gets. Very simply, I do believe there is a difference between a large group of people voting for someone vs a large group of people voting against someone.  Most of the blacks who vote for Obama do not do so because they don’t want a white in the White House. The historical devotion of blacks to the Democratic party, which has always offered up white candidates, supports this. With Obama, they are voting for a black, not against a white. The same cannot be said for 17 or so % of the white folks who voted against Obama.

What troubles me much more than the numbers is our inability to dig underneath them. After every primary, we are left with the cold numbers and left to draw our own conclusions but do we ever really get any closer to a productive discussion about the possible racial issues behind the numbers? One of the things we hear a lot from the pundits is that it is a generational thing. The idea being that young folks today know better than to be racist. First, I think that it is somewhat of a myth. The old song from the musical South Pacific, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” still holds true today. As I look at some of the West Virginians featured on the evening news saying “I don’t want no more Husseins” or “we’ve had trouble with blacks”, I do think that perhaps they have younger relatives who are mortified to see their kin represented this way in the media. But there are lots of other young folk who know nothing better than the mental rot being fed to them by their older relatives. Their generation will carry racism into the future.

So it is not sufficient to blame our current racial divide on generational differences and implicitly suggest that we don’t need to do anything cos once all the old bigots die off, we’ll be a free nation. The current presidential race highlights how imperative it is to begin a serious national discussion on race. Some of the West Virginians quoted saying nonsense this week, are surely “God fearing” church going folks. What is their minister telling them every Sunday that leaves them so wary of blacks? What are the educational and government leaders telling them? Why are these people not being inundated with a positive message that makes their racism seem absurd to them?

What is special about this moment is that we can look at a leader who has such a complex racial background that he makes clear, by just existing, that we all have much more in common than we have apart. Barack Obama’s candidacy provides us with a ready excuse to have an open, productive and enriching conversation about our differences, and how those differences make us stronger. I suppose my great fear is that our country will pass up this opportunity. We will allow the ignorant to remain trapped in their ignorance. We will continue to make laws to change behavior but make no attempt to really change hearts and minds.

The time has come to not just stand pat on the statistical questions. After the pollster asks “Did race play a a role in your vote?”, the next question must be “why are you a racist?”


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24 thoughts on “Why are You a Racist?

  1. Sure. So answer the question. Why are you a racist?

    In the midst of your indignant discomfort at my asking the question, I’ll help you out with the solution, but not the answer:

    It’s the pollster who is the racist.

  2. Do you honestly believe that every one of that 95+% voted for Obama based solely on his platforms and not based on his race?

    “The historical devotion of blacks to the Democratic party, which has always offered up white candidates, supports this.”

    I think you need to go back and review some history. I would suggest starting with “The Mississippi Plan,” followed by “The History of the Ku Klux Klan,” and would top it off with the “1984 and 1988 Democratic Primaries.”

  3. Rutherford…

    Let me also contribute that Hillary is a woman (or something clsoe to one).. and as a woman, I know I have often thought “should I be voting for her because she’s a woman?” ..

    Early in the capaigns, many women were faced with that – and black women were torn both ways. Maybe some percent of those voters are voting FOR a woman, instead of against a black man.

  4. My question about the rather open “did race play a role in your decision..” question is that it’s frankly open. Couldn’t some of the respondents been motivated along race due to the Rev Wright issue ? I am not one to deny the existence of racism in America,but the terms race and racism are bigger and more complex than presented by Obama fans and the poll pluggers.

  5. The state of Maine has a 4% black population and on Caucus Day in February, 45,000 Democrats (mostly white) came out to cast their vote. Barack Obama won it 60-40% over Hillary.

    You have to compare out of the total number of people voting, how may are black. If 85% makes up only 1% of the actual tally, then it’s not a racial issue. See?

    That”s how I see it. You really have to look at the data and understand the premise of it.

  6. Lots of interesting points, a few of which I’d like to address.

    Ecclesiastes raises an interesting point, not that I am or am not a racist, but that it is the pollster who is racist. There is no doubt that pollsters, network analysts and the media in general are exploiting this topic for its sexiness, for ratings. One can also propose that a color blind pollster would never think to ask the question, “did race effect your vote?” My problem with this approach is that not asking the question does not change the answer. If we don’t ask the question, we don’t get the answer but the answer is still the same. The only way to get at the truth is to probe for it, so I cannot buy into the notion that the pollster is racist because he asks the question.

    Once again, my loyal reader The Red Pill puts words in my mouth. I did not say that 95+% of blacks voted for Obama on his platform. I actually did not address why they voted for him other than to say they didn’t vote for him because they didn’t want a white person in the White House. Wanting a black in the White House is not the same as NOT wanting a white there. It was not an anti-white vote and yes it may very well have been a pro-black vote, unrelated to any platform issues. Furthermore, if my assertion that blacks have traditionally, willingly supported democratic white candidates in the past is not true, then how does one explain the party’s current fear of losing the black vote in November thanks to the bonehead statements of Bill Clinton? Clearly this is a base that the democratic party has relied upon over the years.

    I concede to Alfie that the pollster’s question was imprecise and therefore it is easy to jump to conclusions about the answer.

    I also agree with Kay that one has to look at the stats carefully and put them in context with the demographics of the particular state.

    Finally, Lilac correctly points out that gender has been a major factor in this election. There are folks in West VA who voted for Obama ‘cos they didn’t want a woman in the White House, or voted for Hillary because they did. Personally, the demographic I get the biggest kick out of are the sexist bigots. They found women and blacks so offensive that they (7% of them) voted for someone who had dropped out of the race, John Edwards!

  7. Perhaps you are unable to digest the nuance of what I am saying.

    “Once again, my loyal reader The Red Pill puts words in my mouth. I did not say that 95+% of blacks voted for Obama on his platform.”

    Actually, I did not claim that you made a statement (putting words into your mouth), I simply asked a question and included the polar opposite of your racism point as one of the possibilities in order to give you, and that 95%, the benefit of the doubt.

    “The historical devotion of blacks to the Democratic party, which has always offered up white candidates, supports this.”

    “Furthermore, if my assertion that blacks have traditionally, willingly supported democratic white candidates in the past is not true, then how does one explain the party’s current fear of losing the black vote in November thanks to the bonehead statements of Bill Clinton?”

    There is a big difference between “historical” and “current.” Not to mention that you claim the Democratic party “always” offers up white candidates, which is simply inaccurate.

  8. Rutherford,

    In your proposed scenario, the pollster asked the second question regardless of the answer to the first. That matters.

    I didn’t offer an answer to the question, nor did I say the question shouldn’t be asked. I offered a solution. Since the pollster couldn’t hear the answer to the first question, one’s problem is how to deal with a racist pollster.

    You can invite him in for coffee if you like.

  9. I voted for Alan Keyes in the 2000 primaries. I haven’t seen anything of President Bush that has given me a moment of doubt that I made the right choice. Keyes would have been a better President, and you would have hated him even worse.

    You can’t hide your collectivism behind your color from a conservative. Fortunately for Barak Obama, the Republicans nominated a liberal.

  10. Ecclesiastes, point taken. The pollster in my post would only have asked “why are you a racist?” if the answer to the first question had been “yes.” I thought that was implicit in my argument but perhaps it bears spelling out. As for your support of Alan Keyes, I’m speechless. I guess to each his own.

    Red Pill, you state “There is a big difference between “historical” and “current.” Not to mention that you claim the Democratic party “always” offers up white candidates, which is simply inaccurate.” Why would the Democratic party be afraid of losing support that they never had in the first place? Historical patterns influence current concerns. As far as the Democratic party offering up anything other than white presidential candidates, wow, you’ve got me stumped. You didn’t really believe that Clinton was our first black president did you?

  11. “Why would the Democratic party be afraid of losing support that they never had in the first place?”

    Now you are putting words into my mouth. I did not say the Democrats never had black support. I pointed out the fact that the Democrats have not always had “historical devotion” by the black population.

    Do you think blacks were devoted to Democrats as the KKK (also known as the Military Arm of the Democratic Party) was lynching them, or as they were being denied voting rights in Mississippi under laws authored by southern Democrats?

    Blacks were not even allowed to attend the Democratic convention until 1924. In ’32 blacks were about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. It wasn’t until 1948 that the majority of blacks identified themselves as Democrats.

    “As far as the Democratic party offering up anything other than white presidential candidates, wow, you’ve got me stumped. ”

    Jessie Jackson ran for president as a Democrat in ’84 and ’88. Granted, he was not selected as the Democratic nominee, but Barack Obama has not recieved that distinction yet, either.

  12. Rutherford,

    As long as you are speechless at my vote for Alan Keyes – which is a good response – let me explore discrimination and racism with you for a moment.

    Integral with racism is the automatic and reflexive attribution of characteristics which are not physical consequences. There is prejudice, that is to judge before knowledge,and therefore unjustified discrimination, the differentiation between things on assumed factors.

    Personally, I couldn’t get through any hour of my day without prejudice and discrimination. Almost all of my life is based on simple reflex and conditioned response.

    Consider the following item A. Just last night I picked up a slice of Pizza Hut’s wares and was unpleasantly surprised. I didn’t call to complain with, again, a prejudiced decision. It works for me 9 out of 10 times.

    Racism and racial prejudice could and did attribute all manner of evil intent to you and yours. Consider this item B. This doesn’t work for me 9 out of 10 times. It would be irrational racial prejudice were I to continue to employ it.

    What is one to do in the case where the likes of item A are applied to your race?

    9 out of 10 times, when one encounters a black American, if he has any political thoughts he is a liberal and a Democrat. So, I generally assume blacks are liberals until proven otherwise, and I don’t like liberals.

    It gets me in trouble from time to time, but it is quickly and joyfully sorted out. Also just yesterday, I was informed that a young black female American journalist from California is actually a Ron Paul supporter. Color me happy.

    What is one to do when the prejudice is rational? What is one to do when the gossip is true?

    To be fair, I’ll cut and paste this to the young black female American journalist from California as well, the very one who brought your blog to my attention. It will be rude of me, but such is integrity. Daring is one of my character flaws.

    You are well spoken and reason honestly. I admire those traits. I ask your opinion that I might include it in my reasoning, and later in my prejudice.

    I’m in Mississippi, and I can’t not have an answer.

  13. Rutherford,

    It’s been two days. The fire’s gone out.

    I understand the dilemma I put you in, of being caught between the virtues of loyal and fair. When I was young, I was fair and betrayed my friends for rigorous morality. I grew up and I don’t do that anymore. Nevertheless, I do evaluate what is fair to know if my loyalty is being abused.

    Perhaps you actually don’t know what happens when the ugly shoe fits, but I do.

    Leave it to Ann Coulter to slide over the point without examining it ( http://www.townhall.com/columnists/AnnCoulter/2008/05/14/the_democrats_hybrid_pickup_trucks ). I doesn’t take much googling to check her story, fortunately, and yes, I check her stories.

    Travis Childers ( D MS-01 ) ran as a “conservative Democrat” and Greg Davis ( R ) with the NRCCC ran ads to challenge that oxymoron, for instance : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5glm8PhPedo . Then, they ran this ad : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv4qFO2eEJY , and the New York Times leapt into the fray with this : http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/us/politics/13mississippi.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&ref=politics&adxnnlx=1211343226-WQEPopjrTpFET08pzIhtNw .

    I apologise for the in text links, but I don’t want you to worry that you will be ric rolled ( http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ric+rolled ).

    What is done is racism is charged whether the sterotypical shoe fits or not.

    I think it’s only fair to tell you what happens on this side of the argument. We make nice to the raving juvenile, and then we hate him, quietly.

    This brings us full circle to your post “Why are you a Racist?” and your slip concerning the pollster. I have to wonder about that mistake. What is clear is you are the pollster. What is not clear is if the mistake was leaving out the assumed condition, or if the mistake was letting me see that racism is going to be charged regardless.

    And this is why I don’t generally like liberals.

  14. Ecclesiastes, the fire has hardly gone out. I simply cannot find the time to blog or answer blog comments on a daily basis.

    Your latest comment is a lot to take in. I gather from it that you don’t believe everything Ann Coulter says. Good for you.

    I further gather that you correctly warn against assuming racism without sufficient evidence. Another good point (one which I am thinking of addressing in another blog entry).

    In the learn-something-new-every-day department, I now know what it means to be ric rolled. Thank you for that. Getting a lesson in hip-hop jargon from an avowed conservative is truly a treat.

    I’m dying to know the identity of the African-American journalist from California you mentioned. First because I’m flattered she read my blog. Second because, if I had to vote Republican, I too would have voted for Ron Paul. The man’s conviction to pull our troops not only out of Iraq but out of everywhere, reflects my own views.

    Keep your eyes on this blog and you may yet see another entry with which you might actually agree. Even liberals can be fair.

  15. Red Pill, how could I not have seen the Jesse Jackson example coming? I’m surprised you didn’t cite Al Sharpton also.

  16. I did not warn you against assuming racism without sufficient evidence. That would be very stupid, and an utter waste of time, effort, and hope.

    I said that liberals, and therefore 9 out of 10 blacks, will charge an opponent of racism regardless of the facts of the situation, and that practice was already widely known.

    I did warn that the usual conservative response to the accusation is to make nice and hate you in silence. You ought to know that your slander is transparent, but a conservative is going to lie to you when making his apology in order to accommodate and appease you.

    Monday I asked what you thought your response to the illumination of a common flaw of your demographic or political group ought to be, but today I have rushed ahead to arrived at what the response overwhelmingly is.

    It’s no demonstration of intelligence to be two steps ahead of you. Everybody already knows this dance. I’m just willfully out of step while you obey the choreography.

    Regarding the root of this thread, I don’t know why I’m a racist. It’s probably “a residual mental blockage inherited from the white slave master” just like Lisa of blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com told me. I’m sorry, really.

  17. “Red Pill, how could I not have seen the Jesse Jackson example coming?”

    That is a very good (as well as extremely loaded) question, concidering that Jackson recieved over 1200 delegates in the 1988 Democratic primary cycle. He won primaries and caucuses in 13 states, including Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Delaware, Vermont, Alaska, DC, Puerto Rico, Michigan, South Carolina, and Texas.

  18. One is a racist because he or she chooses to be a racist. In life we all have choices. Throughout time, racism has manifested Yet, all can put a stop to it or adhere to it, whichever is their choice. Speaking truthfully, unity with no respecter of race, creed or nationality and being on one accord is what this country will need in order to restore this land in which was bless to all by the Creator. We are all partakers of this land, and until we work together to make this manifest, we will further destruct America, the land we love for our own selfish enuendoes. God Bless America!

  19. Nisey01,

    I wish you were right. You’re not.

    One doesn’t choose to be a racist. One is declared to be a racist.

    In the effort to answer you, I have encountered a strange problem. I can’t definitively cite ( that is – for me – to find the time, place, and context ) two of Spike Lee’s quotes. The first:

    “Racism is when you have laws set up, systematically put in a way to keep people from advancing, to stop the advancement of a people. Black people have never had the power to enforce racism, and so this is something that white America is going to have to work out themselves. If they decide they want to stop it, curtail it, or to do the right thing… then it will be done, but not until then.”, which he may have said prior to 1997.

    The second:

    “Black people can’t be racist.”, which he may have also said prior to 1997.

    I suspect these two were abutting one another, but I can’t find a transcript or article. Oh well.

    The problem I have with ‘racism’ and its shifting meaning is it disgraces the very heroes held allegedly in esteem by those that use the charge.

    Consider the quiet courage of 100 years that black Americans demonstrated before Rev. King held up the dishonored check made by Jefferson. On a different blog, I read that lynchings had declined to 20 in 1935, 5 in Texas. ( http://www.plumbbobblog.com/?p=371 )

    With small corrections, I quote myself from there:

    Imagine with me that a mob of Muslims have just dragged a Christian man from his home and family and beheaded him in a rural town in Texas.

    Let’s say that it has happened 5 times this year, in 5 different rural towns in Texas. Each time, there was no penalty to those that beheaded those men. They got away with it every time.

    Now, Let’s say that Muslims outnumber us 7 to 1. We live amongst them.

    These days black Americans bawl like brats when someone in the United States doesn’t love them, but their grandparents were courageous in the face of a terrorism no other people in the US ever faced, not even the Indians.

    Excuse me as I wander a bit.

    It is a testament to the power of the Democrats that they were able to destroy the black family with ’social programs’ when 100 years of this kind of racism and terror could not.

    Black Americans that charge racism today largely, not completely but largely, have never experienced it. In making the charge, they pretend to be in the company of their forefathers of the 1930’s. Not only are they ridiculous, they are arrogantly so. They are the racial version of the girl who cries “Rape! Date rape!” upon waking with a hangover in the embarrassing situation of having slept with someone below her station, of the politically posturing soldier who gets a Purple Heart for a splinter so he can toss it over a fence later.

    I have to believe that a black man in the 1930’s would have considered Spike Lee and his kind to be pansies.

    Is there racism in America? Sure there is and I have seen it, selling catfish seines in the Mississippi delta. Morgan Freeman, who lived in Greenwood MS for a time as an adolescent, experienced it. Guess what he thinks about the issue: ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FO214IFRW1M ).

    I wish you were right, that one could simply choose to not be a racist. I have never done, thought, or felt anything solely based on race without regard to other objectively testable factors, and it matters not at all. I hold certain values to be worthy, and certain principles to be true – none of which has anything to do with race – and that is enough.

  20. I would like to add one more thought to this thread, not an original one by a long shot.

    I once heard racism defined in mathematical terms and I quite liked it.

    Racism = Prejudice + Power

    Hence, Spike Lee’s assertion that blacks cannot be racists. They can be prejudiced against whites (and sometimes unjustly so) but they have not traditionally had the political power to impose their prejudice against the “other” faction. I find this to be a handy definition.

    I also think we make a mistake to imply that racism is solely in the eyes of the beholder. While calling someone a racist does not make it so, true racists must bear responsibility for their beliefs and actions. One DOES choose racist behavior. It is a choice. That is why we need to go beyond legislation and continue to try to change hearts and minds.

  21. i haven’t conducted any research on this, although i’m sure there are plenty of studies on the problem. but i have concluded that racists generally do not believe they are racists. i have a right-wing friend (yeh, go figure) who i regret to say is a racist, but he would be aghast if anyone ever suggested that. and blogs here and elsewhere indicate racists do not think of themselves as racists. therefore, the problem rutherford suggests above needs to begin with self-recognition. how do we do that when they are in denial in the first place? how many minds have been changed by these blogs?

  22. Rutherford, for just a moment, I’m going to agree with you. No, that’s not a good thing. It’s the ugliest tactic in my toolbox.

    In as much as the legal protections and prohibitions have, demonstrably, eliminated the systemic oppression by race, and since regular everyday folk do not have the power to oppress, tah dah, racism has now been eradicated! You can move on with your life.

    You did just establish a line between prejudice and racism based upon the power to inflict harm, correct?

    So, unless you can indicate and describe what mechanisms are now in place that oppress by race, and show that the victims have insufficient power to protect themselves, racism by your definition has been eliminated.

    Racism = prejudice + power, so show me the power!

    From my end, I *can* show you the power, and the prejudice and when the calculation is done, it will be you and your fellow travelers who fit the definition. No tricks, no gimmicks, just addressing the toughest problems black Americans face today, and the government policies which exacerbate them.

    Here’s a hint: “It is a testament to the power of the Democrats that they were able to destroy the black family with ’social programs’ when 100 years of this kind of racism and terror could not.”

    Rutherford! Couldn’t you have taken one extra moment to consider the implications of such a definition? That was just silly. I know you’ve been busy, but d*mn.

    Spike Lee gets away with saying that because he’s a celebrity. Remember Alec Baldwin saying he was going to emigrate if Bush was elected? Or Madonna? Like that. They get to say airhead stuff because they’re entertainers.

    You’re not Spike Lee. You can’t protect your point with your popularity. Can you believe me when I tell you that ANY route that you take from this position will get you hammered? Sitting here, right now, I have ready four (4) other ways to discredit four other refinements and redefinitions of terms that you might use to defend this idea. Honest. This definition rationally is either indefensible or user-destructive.

    I used Spike Lee as an example of the ever shifting definition of racism. That his definition contradicts the very the point he tries to make supports my contention that the usual charge of racism is empty of substance. It’s why I was trying to bring it up. Sadly, I couldn’t definitively convict him of saying it.

    Compared to the worthless aside trotting out a definition for racism that collapses at the touch of objective challenge, you’d have profited by addressing the prior questions, “What is one to do when the prejudice is rational? What is one to do when the gossip is true?” The answers to these questions will make a difference for you.

    I understand that you must be loyal when contending with me, but you can be fair in your mind without betraying anyone.

  23. Straightrecord,

    No one considers themselves evil.

    To have any hope at all of convincing a man that he is a racist, one would have to present him with a definition that could be determined by objectively testable facts and observable behaviors. If he is open to the idea of self-criticism, then in private he may examine himself.

    I note that, in deed, you have identified a person as a racist that would not consider himself so.

    Do you have a definition that one can test?

    I have one that I use, described in comment 13 above. If you can find fault in it, based on something other than emotion or unconnected ridicule, I’d be glad to read it.

    Whatever definition Rutherford has, or you have, or myself, all of us will have to live with the popular one. The popular one isn’t based on any definition, it is a charge to be leveled to obtain uncritical public support for a rationally indefensible position. It’s like calling another kid in grade school ‘fat’ when she made an A and you made a C.

    For a more complete argument with specific examples you could read comment 14 above.

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