Archive for March 1st, 2012

So let me get this straight. A U.S. federal judge in Montana sent a bunch of friends an anti-Obama e-mail that likened African-Americans to dogs. He sent it from his court e-mail address.

He admits that the content of the e-mail is racist, but explains he is not a racist. He sent it because he was anti-Obama.

So, we are to understand that although the judge is not a racist, he thinks a racist joke is OK if it conveys his anti-Obama anger. He said he wanted his friends to feel the same way he did when he read it. Was that a feeling of release? Of ressentiment?

There’s a reason that right wingers don’t like being called racists, and that’s simply that a lot of them are. Of course, as the song goes, we’re all a little bit racist, and libertarians are right: It is obnoxious to swing the word around like a brick bat to get your way politically. It’s worse that racism is a hard thing to pin down. It could be a belief system, such as the belief that one group has lower IQs. It could be an immediately unpredictable emotional reaction to another person who is unlike you. It could be an institutionalization of ethnic norms, such as making one language the official one. And what’s even more confusing is that all of these things can be mutually exclusive. Lou Dobbs seems to hate Mexican immigrants coming to this country, but he’s got a Mexican-American wife. The guy who played Kramer seemed to have absolutely no particular negative beliefs about black people, but somehow felt emotionally charged enough to yell “nigger, nigger, nigger” at a bunch of them who he felt threatened him. Also, a person could also absolutely love racial minorities but secretly harbor the belief they hold lower IQs.

It’s trebly confusing now that we have a black president, hated by many simply because he is black, and hated by many simply because he seemingly represents increased government intervention. Libertarians in particular have seized on the hypocrisy of those who quickly play the race card to fend off honest debate, and say we live in a world of political correctness run amok in which honest people are not allowed to ask honest questions of possibly nefarious people who happen to be black.

I had a friend write an intellectually thin blog on the subject the other day, saying conservative pundit Pat Buchanan was the victim of a McCarthyite witch hunt, being fired from MSNBC for writing a chapter in his book called “The End of White America.” In essence, he said that dissenting voices were being stifled with the taint of nebulous hate crimes. Meanwhile, we today confront the death of Andrew Breitbart, a former liberal whose disgust with race politics forced him to do a political 180. He eventually helped get housing activist organization Acorn (which has not coincidentally, helped a lot of black people) when one of his proteges sandbagged organization employees with a distorted video that supposedly showed them helping a young pimp swindle federal funds. The video portrayed the protege and young race-baiter dressed up as a pimp. The pimp outfit was an ironic comment on … well, smart people still haven’t figured that out unless we assume that’s just what the kid thought about black people.

To be fair, I often think that even minorities get it wrong. I have heard people say that if you use the word “nigger” your racism has been proved definitively, as if the entire discussion of racial discrimination, racial neglect and inter-ethnic strife can be dismissed with a single banned word. The awful truth is that quiet neglect of the adverse social conditions affecting black people and Hispanics is the real game. Under the auspices of “freedom” we can make sure government does not get involved in the social and economic deprivations facing minorities, even if it might right wrongs. Of course some people see affirmative action as a public good that addresses past injustices while others see it as a patronizing form of racism all its own. Obsession with the “n” word, meanwhile, assures that the real problems will never be addressed.

The reason my friend is wrong about Pat Buchanan is that this loathsome man’s need to frame race issues constantly, to be obsessed with the decline of the white majority at the expense of “non-Europeans” is pretty easy to call racism by any definition, even if Pat Buchanan doesn’t personally dislike black people. Buchanan’s insistence that America is not big enough to accommodate non-white culture ignores the fact that 100 or so years ago, his sorry, stupid potato eating non-American Irish ass was largely unwelcome here. He is arguing for ethnic purity in a country that has never, ever had it (and, in fact, no great society ever had it; the Roman Empire had a couple of languages, if you remember). The fact that Buchanan is trying to rankle an overly sensitive majority (overly sensitive majorities being among the most dangerous things in the world) is demagoguery of the worst sort, an appeal to people with racial bias to pursue racially biased behavior. So, calling him a racist is a no brainer, to me.

And that goes especially for those who think race and IQ have something to do with each other, people who don’t care to look closely and see that the rules for IQ keep changing. (Southern Italians somehow magically became smart in the 1940s. Once they were acculturated, that is.)

Some studies suggest that by 2030, non-whites will be in the majority of voters. To that I utter one word: good. America will likely become a bilingual nation with a huge voting bloc of Latino origin or even a Hispanic majority. All you have to do is look at immigration patterns to see that the southwest is becoming Mexico North. Again, I say: good. As the Roman Empire was Hellenized, so will the American Empire be Latinized. It doesn’t mean the end of our Constitution. Sorry to use such a vulgar term, but when cultures fuck, the best things about both are often preserved. America will be an interesting melange 100 years from now, as strange to our eyes as punk rock and Seinfeld were to the founding fathers. To be offended by the idea that your grandkids will speak Spanish is to reveal only your great intellectual insecurity.

What does this say about Obama and the current obsession with race? Well, as coy as libertarians like to play it with the race issue, I would suggest they look at one of the current front runners in the presidential race. Rick Santorum is an avowed enemy of libertarianism, since he thinks U.S. government definitely has a place in the bedroom and in Iran. For this, he is not getting called a socialist or having his birth certificate questioned. He is, instead, now somehow considered the only real “conservative” alternative to glib moderate rich guy Mitt Romney, even if all his positions run counter to the beliefs that were supposed to animate the tea party movement.

Yes, the pure libertarian will argue that the abstractions of her dogma are race-neutral. Perhaps.

But you can also say that the Earth and the sun have nothing to do with each other, even though one is spinning around the other. When right wingers keep spinning around racially charged items like welfare mothers and a black president’s Americanism and demographic shifts, normal people are going to look at it askew. And when you send a racist e-mail and say that it illuminates a deeper issue, we’ll call BS and say that race is probably your end game. If you refuse to examine it, that’s your problem.

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