Racism is not an opinion. It is a fact.
White supremacy is one of the most powerful social forces and ideologies in the United States (and the West). As such, it is reflected in our political discourse, and both intentionally (through active racism) and unintentionally (implicit bias) reproduced by individuals.
Online spaces are a great lens into white supremacy because they are a type of public arena where individuals can drop the mask of social conformity and desirability, revealing their private thoughts and true selves.
Thus, comment sections are transformed into a space where “backstage racism” can be transformed into direct and public acts.
I have shared my essays here on the Daily Kos for several years. There are some good and sincere folks here who I have talked to via email and through other mediums. There are likely many “lurkers” who read, give “recs”, and share work they find valuable and useful with their friends, family, colleagues, and others in their personal networks.
By definition, those individuals who frequently comment on and read political websites are outliers relative to the general population. And while the Daily Kos is a “liberal” or “progressive” website, it still reflects the biases, habits, and beliefs of the individuals who frequent it.
For example, if a given society is racist, sexist, and homophobic, then its members and culture, to varying degrees, will be a reflection of those values. Some will resist them; others will actively reproduce and support them; most will go about their quotidian lives, a herd or mass public to be directed one way or another as their personal whims and desires pull, and cues from elites direct them.
White liberals love to point out the racism of conservatives and republicans. This is an easy task in the post civil rights era because the Tea Party GOP is the United States’ de facto White identity party.
It is far more difficult for white liberals and progressives to look in the proverbial mirror and to take a personal inventory of their own possessive investment in whiteness, and how they reproduce white supremacy as a lived ideology.
Liberal or “aversive” racism is the counterpart to the “symbolic” and “old fashioned” racism practiced by conservatives and the White Right.
My most recent posts on the Daily Kos (an essay on Dr. Martin Luther King and White memory; a new piece on ISIS’s barbarism and the lynching of black Americans by white people) have been met with many hundreds of comments. Those essays were also shared many thousands of times on Facebook and other social media.
Collectively, the comments on my essay on ISIS, as well as white historical memory and Dr. King, are a lesson in the enduring power of liberal racism. I have learned much from them.
As I have done in the past, what follows are some helpful guidelines and observations for people of color (and white folks of conscience) who dare to speak some “truth to power” about race or racism at the Daily Kos.
1. White people are very sensitive. Many of them get very upset and angry when you tell the truth about racism, white supremacy, or white privilege. Never speak plainly and directly to liberal racists. They may wilt.
2. Liberal racists and their allies believe that it is “unnecessary” to comment on the plain on the face fact that black Americans were burned alive in much the same as ISIS did to the captured Jordanian, Muadh al Kasasbeh.
3. Addendum to the above. The spectacular lynchings of black Americans by white people were “a long time ago” so it should not be discussed anymore lest white people be made uncomfortable. For the White Gaze a long time ago is compressed to 50 years.
4. Be prepared for the deflection and dismissive comment that, “everyone knows this stuff! Why are you bringing it up!”
5. If you want to talk about racism and how black folks were subjected to horrific violence by white people—much of it worse than what ISIS visited upon Muadh al Kasasbeh—during Black History Month, one must get permission from white people first. This is especially true during Black History Month because black folks tend to get too confident and back sass white folks during those 28 days.
6. The idea that white people who benefit in the present from systems of material advantage and other unearned privileges, outcomes that are the direct result of racial terrorism against non-whites, should “own” their history, is very upsetting and provocative to white folks. Never forget that White America and White Americans are a people and a country without a history.
7. If you talk to white people about racism you should speak in the same tone and manner as Bill Moyers.
8. Second Bill Moyers rule. White folks, especially liberal racists here on the Daily Kos and elsewhere, will only believe something is true and appropriate to discuss if a white man like Bill Moyers says it is.
9. Third Bill Moyers rule. Well-documented events, such as horrific violence against black Americans as committed by whites, only occurred if a white person says they did. The white speaker effect is very real in America’s racial discourse.
10. “Class issues” and “real progressive politics” trump any concern about race and racial justice.
11. Daring to talk about the burning to death murder of Muadh al Kasasbeh by ISIS and how it resonates with the burning to death murder of thousands of black people by white Americans is a type of “black racial narcissism”.
12. White supremacists and liberal racists have much in common with their rage at the premise that a black person would dare to talk about white on black lynchings in the United States and ISIS.
13. White supremacists and liberal racists at the Daily Kos channel much the same animus and rage at black folks who tell them things they do not want not want to hear. The former are just more honest; the latter pretty up their racial ugliness just a bit more.
14. Liberal racists—like their Right-wing compatriots—will derail, distract, and obfuscate your claims.
15. Liberal racists—like their Right-wing compatriots—also use standard troll tactics such as picking on one word in a title or other questions of grammar and emphasis to avoid dealing with the facts you have presented.
16. White supremacy’s reflection is very ugly to most white folks—especially those who have not disowned Whiteness.
17. These people are especially upset by the premise that someone like them, in their own immediate family, neighborhood, or other relation could/would have participated in a lynching, owned slaves, or benefitted from an act of inter-personal or institutional white supremacy.
18. Remember that being a victim of white racial terrorism is the present lived experience for non-whites in the United States and elsewhere. These are living memories. And yes, many of the victims of white racial terrorism are still alive.
19. Whiteness is ahistorical: one of the primary advantages of being white in America is the luxury of being an individual unmoored from the past, history, and perpetually living in a bubble of white innocence.
20. If the word “thug” is the new “nigger” then when white folks call a black person “angry”, “combative”, “bitter”, “unhinged”, or “disrespectful” they are channeling the new “uppity”…the latter being a crime that not too long ago could be punished by the lynching tree.
21. Right-wing racists are much more honest, and thus easier to deal with, than liberal racists.
22. At some point in the conversation, white privilege deems that white folks who are unhappy with how a person of color dares to talk about racism will somehow be magically transformed into the real “victims”.
23. The rules for how white supremacy and white racism should be discussed must always be set by white folks so that they can be told what they want to hear, their assumptions about their goodness and innocence validated, and their egos stroked.
24. Racist River Dancing. At some point, a liberal racist, will call you a “nigger” in everything but name. Liberal racists are very good at calling blacks who make them upset “niggers” by using many more than just one efficient word. I grant liberal racists the permission to call me a "nigger" if they are sufficiently aroused to anger. It is much more efficient than the racial river dance--it will also keep their teeth white.
25. Liberal racists at the Daily Kos get very upset when you write an essay that—gasp!—gets attention, goes viral, has many comments, or “hits”. Because of course, the only reason someone writes something online at the Daily Kos is to work in obscurity. Moreover, never be a black or brown person who writes something “popular” and critical about white racism at the Daily Kos. Remember that haters are always gonna hate.
A wise person told me that “the ultimate disrespect is to look at someone and lie to them”. I have, however reluctantly, come to the conclusion that liberal racists prefer lies to the truth. Consequently, they are not worthy of any respect.
If the Daily Kos is indeed a cathedral, many of its members will condemn you, calling thee a heretic if you dare to talk critically about whiteness and white privilege. In many ways, white liberals are of the same faith as white conservatives on matters of justice and the colorline—separated in belief from one another only by virtue of their membership in a different denomination.