Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Voter Behavior and the Reality of Racism Obama

Original Link: http://wwsword.blogspot.com/2008/06/voter-behavior-and-reality-of-racism.html

In the context of the limited understanding of those intellectuals who dominate the public discourse in the Untied States, Susan Estrich provides some of the better analysis concerning the many facets of the current election cycle. Her latest essay, "The Other Forty Percent," concerns race prejudice and willingness to vote for a black presidential candidate.

In the essay, Estrich tells her readers that scientific polling reveals that around two-tenths of survey respondents express a reluctance to vote for a black presidential candidate. Estrich then notes something I have been telling people for a long time: if you want to know whether a person harbors race prejudice, you have to find a way to get around the politically correct answer: "Yes. I'm no bigot, after all." The best way to do this is to ask the person to tell you whether his friends, family, and coworkers would vote for a black presidential candidate. When you ask the question this way, the number of those who express reluctance to vote for a black candidate increases to around 40 percent. (Because most survey respondents know what the politically correct answer is, you have to keep in mind that the numbers are undoubtedly much higher than those revealed by scientific polling.) In part of her conclusion, Estrich says "to anyone who thinks racism is part of our history and not our current reality, look again."

I need to make a few points here. First, you don't need polls of this type to know that racism is one of the three major forms inequalities in our current social reality. All you have to do is look at the social profile of the United States to see how profoundly racist my country is. Blacks are poorer than whites. The homes of black families are worth less than those of white families and blacks are less likely to own their own homes. Whites enjoy lower unemployment rates, higher wages, better jobs with better benefits, and superior public services compared to those of blacks. Blacks suffer higher rates of arrest, conviction, and imprisonment. Blacks are more likely to be the victims of crime and environmental pollution than are whites. Whites live longer and enjoy better mental and physical health than blacks. These outcomes are the consequence of a system of institutional race-based discrimination that reproduces racial inequality through action (such as red lining) and inaction (for example in the failure to dismantle de facto apartheid structures).

Second, perhaps ironically, giving the politically correct response is a feature of modern racism. The doctrine of colorblind liberalism, an ideology that functions to dissimulate racism, lies behind much of the political correctness that dominates our discourse. The racism that the white establishment fails to address - poverty, joblessness, inferior public services, residential and occupational segregation, police brutality and mass incarceration - is hidden behind a demand that people not contend that race has much or any effect on our attitude or behavior. The idea is that, if we don't talk about race being relevant to our attitudes and behavior, racism no longer exists. Indeed, many proponents of this ridiculous ideology claim that those who talk about racial realities are beings racially divisive and are even themselves acting racist. It's not talking about race or expressing racial consciousness that are in and of themselves racist but how one talks about race and what type of racial consciousness a person possesses that determines whether it is an expression of racism.

The power elite long ago constructed a similar doctrine for social class and tragically, managed to trick most people into accepting it. Nowadays, class is rarely discussed in our society. When it is, it is imprecisely defined as income, occupation, or education - sometimes all three (which doesn't increase its precision one jot). When there are reference made about those small classes of families who own and/or control the means of production, those who defend their power and privilege accuse the critical observer of engaging in "class warfare." But class warfare is a material fact in a society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by a few families that benefit at the expense of the many. You don't create social class by observing it any more than you create race by observing it. The rational individual observes and reports what she sees. The ideologue wants to deny the reality of what the rational individual sees.

In the near future, the dissimulation of racism via the mechanism of colorblind liberalism will be as natural a state of mind as the dissimulation of social class via the mechanism of individualism. Indeed, both are part and parcel of the same oppressive ideology - one that functions to deny the group reality of social life, thereby fragmenting us into solitary individuals who, alone, can't organize meaningful resistance and rebellion against those forces that control our lives. The success of colorblind liberalism is found in the fact that eight-tenths of white Americans claim that they would vote for a black presidential candidate (there is little doubt in my mind that most of these respondents have convinced themselves that they really believe this).

The reality is that pretending as if racism doesn't exist, just as pretending social class doesn't exist, is an ideology designed to divide us. You must always remember this: both of these ideologies are species of contemporary divide-and-conquer politics. Here's the way they appear: The worker says, "The capitalist is exploiting my labor." The capitalist ideologue responds, "You are engaging in class warfare. You are denigrating the greatness of America, which was built by capitalism. If you don't like your situation, change it. If you don't want to work for somebody, then work for yourself. You are advocating socialism and that is unpatriotic and anti-American." The black person says, "The white establishment is oppressing me because of my skin color." The white supremacist responds, "You are engaging in racially divisive politics. You are denigrating both the greatness and goodness of our nation. You are presenting a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America. You are being divisive at a time when we need unity. You are being racially charged at a time when we need to come together. Your rhetoric breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. You need to take full responsibility for your own life. Your a racist, and that us unpatriotic and anti-American."

How will you know that racism no longer exists? The answer is actually quite simple: when you no longer have to deny its existence.

Finally, most people who will not vote for Obama in November will either stay home or vote for somebody else not because Obama is black but because he is too inexperienced, too liberal, and too eager to exaggerate his past, deceive voters about his beliefs, and betray those with whom he associates. There are many reasons why it is unfortunate that Obama is the black man running for president, but one of the more obvious is because he will exploit his skin color to deflect criticism of his candidacy.

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