Thursday, July 30, 2009

Putting Current Discussions of Race, Into Context

I came across this video that digby posted earlier today of Joan Walsh on Hardball with Chris Matthews. I agree that the point that Walsh makes is a very important insight into the whole issue of race in America and how it permeates into other issues that are discussed:

and digby's usual quality insight:

Joan is right about this. I've written about it many times myself. There has to be a reason that the US, of all the industrialized nations, the richest country in the world, is so hostile to social welfare programs. There are a lot of contributing factors, not the least of which is our vaunted individualism. But one of the fundamental reasons America is so resistant to programs that provide for the common good is that there is a long tradition of rejecting any proposal that taxes white people to pay for programs that benefit non-whites.

Joan talked about all this in the context of a question Matthews asked about whether or not the GOP was using race to block Obama's agenda. As Joan, points out, that's fairly obvious. When you have the fatuous gasbag leadership all calling Obama a reverse racist (the new black in conservative circles) and even questioning his American identity, it's pretty clear that they are yanking the racist American id pretty hard.

But it really goes to their essential philosophy which says that the government is taking away "what's yours" and giving it to the undeserving (blacks and browns.) The fact that Obama himself is black only adds to the atmospherics, it doesn't create them. This tribalism is so deeply entrenched in American culture that its racial nature has long since been disguised in less obvious terms such as "liberalism." Obama's race simply makes it impossible for the hard core wingnuts to hide their real intent.

Also relevant is a post that digby wrote back in 2003, most notably the following:

Racism is the original sin of the American experiment and progress in expunging it is slow going, especially in its ground zero, the south. It may even be that some of our most cherished beliefs about ourselves --- individualism and self-sufficiency --- are partially grounded in an ugly reaction to slavery and the fallout from it. White Supremacists and neo-confederates are exactly what they appear to be and more subtle aspects of their philosophy play themselves out in the multitude of ways that people rationalize their beliefs about government social programs and many other things in American culture.


But if we think we can make any headway with working class whites (particularly in the south) who currently vote Republican by making an appeal to their class solidarity with blacks, we are going to be disappointed. Their resistance to that idea is one of the main reasons they reject government social programs in the first place. We don’t help blacks or whites by failing to understand that and we certainly won’t win any votes by ignoring it.

This cuts through the normal discussions that are typical of television debates about the issue of race and certainly cuts through all of the simplistic divisive nonsense that people like Glenn Beck continue to spew.

1 comment:

trey said...

I wouldn't disagree that ethnic conflict probably plays a significant role in the unique political philosophies of this country. But the better minds on the right, like our old buddy Pat Buchanan, know enough about world history to see that attempts to forge a big government, multi-ethnic polity oftens leads to feelings among the varying groups that they are being unfairly burdened in the upkeep of the other groups which leads to unpleasantries like genocide (See Rwanda, Serbia, Malaysia, Iraq, etc.) Individualism may be a little cold but avoids these horrors which some on the left unwisely think they are smart enough to manuever around.