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This fervent scrubbing away of the historical stain of racism represents, on one level, a genuine and heartening development. . .

-Liberal NY Magazine writer Jonathan Chait, referring to, among other things, Beck's clown show rally in 2010.

Jonathan Chait is one of my favorite writers. He does a fabulous job of illuminating complicated policy minutiae. But, and it saddens me to write this, when he ventures into the minefield that is America's racial politics his writing shrinks from great to dangerous and disappointing.

A segment of White American liberalism is offensively optimistic. Where I—a black person and a student of history— continue to see the harsh and fairly consistent hand of white supremacy, Chait et al. see heartening progress. Chait is also the same person who disagreed with the assertion that "America has rarely been our[Black America's] ally. Very often it has been our nemesis."

In a long piece in NY Magazine Chait applauds the efforts of conservative Republicans to paint themselves as the rightful heirs of the Civil Rights/Humans Rights Movement:

Glenn Beck’s “I Have a Dream” rally, the Republican habit of likening Obama and his policies either to slavery or to segregation (at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference alone, both Ralph Reed and Bobby Jindal compared the Obama administration to George Wallace)—these are expressions not of a political tactic but a genuine obsession.

This fervent scrubbing away of the historical stain of racism represents, on one level, a genuine and heartening development, a necessary historical step in the full banishment of white supremacy from public life.

There is nothing remotely heartening about the cynical, Orwellian acts of Beck (he who said that Obama hates white people) and his ilk. And nor is it merely racial resentment as Chait wrote later. Instead, they are trying to deflect from their political cohorts' efforts to suppress the black/brown vote. They seek to excuse their blocking of the Medicaid expansion in states with large, poor black populations. The modern Republican Party has a vested interest in ensuring that non-white ethnic groups don't vote as often, because if they do the social welfare net will expand. That expansion is the opponent of conservative ideals. Why is that? Well, it could be that white Americans don't want the government aiding American's who aren't white. Chait himself pointed to a Rochester study that detailed the correlation the slavery and modern conservative voting patterns:
The more slave-intensive a southern county was 150 years ago, the more conservative and Republican its contemporary white residents. The authors tested their findings against every plausible control factor—for instance, whether the results could be explained simply by population density—but the correlation held. Higher levels of slave ownership in 1860 made white Southerners more opposed to affirmative action, score higher on the anti-black-affect scale, and more hostile to Democrats. . .

The Rochester study should, among other things, settle a very old and deep argument about the roots of America’s unique hostility to the welfare state.

A white conservative may vote against John Kerry and Barack Obama because both figures, in the white conservative's view, are "elitists" who may implement policies that will assist the victims of white supremacist capitalism. That would still be a form of racism rather Chait admits it or not.

Chait devotes significants sections of his piece admonishing liberals for their paranoid obsession of wanting to smear conservatives as racists. Ultimately, the view Chait offers us on racial politics it quite similar to the view that Obama offers us: white supremacy is still a problem, but both sides share blame for this and that. It's a pathetic perspective and I would love for Obama and Chait to tell that to the black people who won't be able to vote this November. I would love for Chait and Obama to take their "both sides argument" to black people stopped and frisk and murdered by police officer and non-police officers. I wonder what CeCe McDonald has to say about bigotry in America. And Chait's liberalism (add in Obama) is the sort of ideology that has allowed white supremacy to fester like the stinking cancer it is. And what about our brown brothers and sisters who live in constant fear of being kidnapped from their families?

Those ideas of blaming non-white people for the lack of racial progress (as Obama didlast August) provide the space for racist violence and racial economic injustice to prosper. I was going to write in this space that Chait has a cowardly political posture. In other words, he's afraid of calling out the white conservative racism because of the backlash like that MSNBC experienced when someone tweeted about right wingers hating the interracial Cheerios commercial. No—Chait really believes the Republican party is attempting to do away with white supremacy, despite their policy agenda explicitly supporting and sustaining and expanding the white racist, capitalist state.

Ultimately, any one who thinks that Glenn Beck is making a good faith effort to bridge the racial divide and end white supremacy is naive on the issue of race in America; Chait-Obama's (see also:Andrew Sullivan) coddling of racist, white conservatives is exactly what's wrong with liberals in this country. We will never bend the arc of the universe toward true justice unless we fight the fights that need fighting. White supremacy is one such fight. And Chait and Obama have turned out be our quasi-enemies.

Originally posted to jmt on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 01:36 PM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Dear Kos Community: (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, poco, MKSinSA, a2nite, koNko

    I posted this and want to have a discussion, but I will be away for a bit because I have a root canal. Don't yell at me for not responding immediately! I will; I promise.

    •  This I believe is an example (4+ / 0-)

      of the response of those who have always enjoyed privilege when the reality come home that the world is changing to a point that it might pose some threat to it. The hard rights fights back with bare knuckles. The latte liberals suddenly find it harder to make it all go away simply go away by dishing out well worn platitudes. They are then prone to engage in the intellectual equivalent to trying to scratch their left with their right foot.

    •  I just had one... (0+ / 0-)

      suck, don't they?
      I can't believe there is a grown-up person, reporter or not that didn't find Glenn Beck's dream-mouthing to be incredibly crass.I'm kind of embarrassed for Jonathan Chait right now.
      Can white Americans discuss the dream, and how being less racist helps us too?I hope so.
      But for a man like Beck to decide that he knows what Dr. King "really meant" or things like that, makes me feel really uncomfortable. (Probably because he's Beck, and sort of a sideshow barker)
      But there are certain realities you shouldn't try to alter or hide--one being that most marchers were black, and almost all the police and deputies and so forth enforcing the unfair laws were white.(That's not to say that's how all white cops act NOW, but we shouldn't lie about it.)
       Like when Paula Deen's scandal blew up, almost all of my friends posted about how their grandfathers never said words like that--to such an extent, it feels like a whitewash to me, maybe because I know from my mother that my grandfather, being like most people, a grab bag of great and awful qualities, did say it, although he didn't teach us that.(he mellowed some with age, and was a passionate Dem and union member...I wonder how he'd feel about the President.)

      "People are more than the worst things that they do,"--Chris Hayes

      by chicating on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 06:43:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My condolences (0+ / 0-)

      I probably don't wish a root canal on Glenn Beck. Probably.

      No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

      by koNko on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 04:42:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Chait's article is totally bizarre! (6+ / 0-)

    As Joan Walsh writes:

    I’m not sure what to make of an article that purports to seriously examine the role of race in politics in the age of Barack Obama, and then compares liberals’ claims of conservative racism to McCarthyism (specifically: “the poisonous waft of the debates over communism during the ­McCarthy years”). “Liberals dwell in a world of paranoia of a white racism that has seeped out of American history in the Obama years and lurks everywhere, mostly undetectable,” he claims.

    So, white racism, which poc encounter daily, is mostly undetectable, according to Chait, and it is only the liberals' paranoia that keeps on pointing to it!!!! WTF???

    Chait's essay is deranged.

    It's *Gandhi*, not Ghandi

    by poco on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 01:57:37 PM PDT

    •  What do you expect ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poco, WB Reeves, koNko

      Chait's essay is deranged.

      from a guy who worked for a known virulent racist(Marty Peretz) for 13 years.  The same racist who appointed Andrew Sullivan as editor and also published Charles Murray(with Sully's help).

    •  That's what I thought too! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poco, koNko

      Heartened and genuine is how he described Beck and Ralph Reed.

    •  Not deranged, just a splendid example of white (6+ / 0-)

      privilege in operation. Chait's take on white racism in US society and politics essentially treats it as an abstraction. This for the simple reason that, for most folks classed as white, it is an abstraction.

      The only time most white folks confront such racism is when they encounter another white person who openly espouses it. How frequently this occurs depends largely on what social strata they inhabit. I doubt that Chait runs into it all that often.

      Consequently, when someone presents them with a facile policy argument that doesn't engage in blatant race baiting, they give it same credence that they would any other theoretical construct, rather than looking at its objectively racist impacts. Not all that surprising since such policies have no material impact on them whatever.

      Chait sees the denialism of the Right as "progress" because, for him, white racism is an idea and an attitude rather than an immediate, corrosive force that continues to result in the blighted lives and deaths of countless of people of color. He mistakes the appropriation of the rhetoric and legacy of the Civil Rights movement by the RW for progress because he treats racism as matter of rhetoric rather than substance.

      Apparently, he is blissfully ignorant of the fact that this same denialism has been practiced by open white supremacists since the 1980's. It was pioneered by the likes of David Duke.  

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 02:42:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Chait aint naive he's an colorblind bigot; he (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, koNko

    like many people wanna say STFU there a black president & there's no more slavery/jim crow.

    What else would we want?

    Many of the "majority race don't get it.

    Beck is hell spawn like many of the evil RW gas bags.

    Chait confirms he's a white privilege asshole.

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 02:59:16 PM PDT

    •  Totally (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      He is saying that racism is a problem, but liberals calling out white racism is worse. I can't be down with that. And it shows a detachment from the broader objective. We shouldn't be attacking those who call out racism, and possibly overreact, we should be attacking the agents who promote and sustain racism.

  •  Tipped and rec'd for contributing to the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, poco

    discussion. I have some differences with your take on the Presidents role though.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 03:09:51 PM PDT

  •  Saying the Republican party is animated by (6+ / 0-)

    white grievance is actually being charitable because their policies makes absolutely zero sense without it.

    Chait is trying really, really hard to find an actual ideology beneath their racism and sure, Wall Street, the super rich and the neo-cons might have one but the average Republican voter? White tribalism plain and simple.

  •  Anyone (like Chait) ... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, richardvjohnson, koNko, a2nite

    who waves his hand in my face for seven Web pages, shouting, "I am the public intellectual here" is doomed to failure.

    I ask, "Has Chait contributed anything toward educating the U.S. about the staunchly embedded white supremacy in our society, the white privilege in our institutions ... and what supports it?"

    Watch Charley Pierce (Esquire Politics) take him down in a few paragraphs. But I shall patiently await Ta-Nehisi Coates' (The Atlantic) thoughtful take.

    What dialogue shall Melissa Harris-Perry foster after this one?

    Stay tuned ... heh ... to MSNBC!

    In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot." ~ Czeslaw Milosz

    by Caneel on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 04:36:01 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for posting this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Chait's thesis is wrong on so many levels I don't know where to start and think I need another day and another read to encapsulate my reaction (yes, at this point I'm reacting).

    Um, lack of first hand experience? Kind of hard to believe someone with his exposure would get it so wrong. Dude, get out of your office and down to the street and open your eyes and ears.

    No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

    by koNko on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 04:40:44 AM PDT

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