The Murky Waters of Race
I read an interesting column about race the other day. It was by Charles M. Blow of the New York Times who was writing about what he called “the murky waters of racism” in America.
First he mentioned the now well-known Jimmy Carter quotation, about how “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.”
That, Mr. Blow said, “was an overstatement of the role of race.”
Then he quoted Michael Steele, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee who said that, “President Carter is flat-out wrong. This isn’t about race. It is about policy.”
That, the op-ed columnist concluded, “was an underrepresentation of the role of race.”
Then on to his main point: “But that’s where we are with race in this country: exaggerations and blanket denials. Race has become a vicious game of bludgeons and crutches, where acerbic accusers run roughshod over earnest egalitarians and political gain is sought even at the expense of enlightenment.”
Are there racists in this country? Of course. Some white, and even though you’re not supposed to say it in polite company, some black. In a country of more than 300 million people this should surprise no one. But there was one section of the column that focused my attention. It was a reference to a 2003 study by Rice University researchers that was used by Charles Blow to try to figure out what role, if any, racism plays in the current opposition of President Obama.
“One of the greatest challenges facing black leaders is aversive racism,” the researchers concluded, “a subtle but insidious form of prejudice that emerges when people can justify their negative feelings toward blacks based on factors other than race.”
Then this from Blow: “Sound familiar?”
Well, yes, I guess it does. And it also sounds troubling.
It sounds like the Rice researchers (and Charles M. Blow, the op-ed columnist from the New York Times) are saying that people who claim to be against President Obama’s healthcare plan because it costs too much, may, deep down, be against the plan because the president who wants it passed is black.
And if you’re one of those critics who says President Obama’s plans to fight “global warming” will amount to a big tax on all Americans, you may be sincere, but you may be a bigot – a subtle one, but a bigot nonetheless.
What I find troubling about this kind of thinking is the implication that while critics may think they’re simply against the president’s policies, it’s probably more sinister than that. Sure, the researchers seem to be saying, you’re not automatically in the KKK because you think the president’s stimulus bill was nothing more than a goody bag for liberal Democrats, but there’s a good chance a part of you opposes the plan not just on policy grounds, no matter what you say or believe – but on racial grounds.
So let’s turn a few tables. Does this mean that folks who said they didn’t think Clarence Thomas was a good pick for the U.S. Supreme Court on policy grounds –that he was too conservative, that he might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade – also had “a subtle but insidious form of prejudice” lurking in their liberal hearts? Were they “justifying their negative feelings toward blacks based on factors other than race”?
Did Condi Rice’s critics dislike her because she was too right-wing in her politics or was it because she’s a black woman? And how about those liberals, black and white, who think black conservative men like Michael Steele are sell-outs (and worse!) – are they subtle racists, too? Or are only white conservatives guilty of this “aversive” racism?
Well, I guess we know the answer to that one. So if liberals don’t think they’re guilty of racism, subtle or otherwise, if they see their opposition to conservatives like Thomas, Rice, Steele and others as principled and based soley on policy … then why should they assume that bigotry resides in the conservative soul, just because conservatives oppose the president’s liberal policies?
That, unfortunately, is an easy one: Because, they would say, liberals are not bigots and conservatives are. When you understand that, you understand all you need to know about how sanctimonious (and delusional) the Left can be – especially when it comes to the murky waters of race in America.