Wednesday, December 03, 2014

What'd I Say?

Nothing tells you what people think better than what they assume on their way to making their argument.  A couple recent examples.

First, there's Duke sociology professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva who's written the book Racism Without Racists.  He argues it's not overt racism--which has few champions these day--but support for a structure of society and way of looking at things that oppresses minorities.  Hardly a new idea, and one that's deeply wrong in its particulars*, but that's not what fascinated me in this piece about his ideas.  It was this statement:

The main problem nowadays is not the folks with the hoods, but the folks dressed in suits. The more we assume that the problem of racism is limited to the Klan, the birthers, the tea party or to the Republican Party, the less we understand that racial domination is a collective process and we are all in this game.

Even as he is trying to point an accusing finger at a wider group (i.e., anyone who doesn't agree with him), just who are these people he knows who assume if you're looking for racists you go to the Birthers, the Tea Party and Republicans.

The Birthers are nuts, but why racist?  They just have an insane hatred and distrust of Barack Obama, just like the Truthers had about George W. Bush.  It doesn't have to have anything to do with race--they're going after a guy they don't like in whatever way they can, just like Chester A. Arthur had to defend against being called Canadian.  But it's come to this among Bonilla-Silva's friends--criticism of Obama means racism.

Which explains why they also include the Tea Party and the Republican Party.  It's hard to defend Birthers, but these other two groups are explicitly not racist.  But because they don't support Obama, and they often don't agree with the Left's take on race, we're supposed to be suspicious of them.

More enjoyable is an interview of Chris Rock by Frank Rich.  Rock is one of our better stand-up comics (though I'm less impressed with his acting) and a man of the left, as is Rich.

So we get stuff like this (Rich in bold):

[Now that he's conservative Dennis Miller is] definitely less funny. You know where he’s going. Smart as hell, but you know where he’s going. The middle’s where it’s at, comically. I mean, what do you got? Miller, Stewart, Maher.

Miller on the right, Stewart in the middle, Maher on the left?

And the most successful guy’s …


Stewart’s middle-to-left, but he’s still more in the middle.

In Miller’s case, do you think that identifying with those in power is an impediment to laughter?

Miller is definitely on the right these days, but I love how Rich casually puts Stewart in the middle.  Stewart's about as solidly liberal as you can be.  Sure, he can criticize his side--he does a lot of shows--but even the criticism tends to be from the left.

By the way, I don't know if I'd say Maher is further left. He can be more radical and harsh in general, but I'd say his politics are less predictable.

Then Rich comes up with Miller's problem--identifying with those in power.  Like who, Obama?  Miller has been attacking those in power for years now, but it doesn't matter to Rich, since only those who attack the side he doesn't like are speaking truth to power.

Another example:

Here we are in the last two years of [Obama's] presidency, and there’s a sense among his supporters of disappointment, that he’s disengaged.

I’m trying to figure out the right analogy. Everybody wanted Michael Jordan, right? We got Shaq. That’s not a disappointment. You know what I mean? We got Charles Barkley. It’s still a Hall of Fame career.

I guess we can't expect any better, but of course Rich and Rock assume he did a fine job.

Then there's this preamble to a question:

We still have some white people taking the Sarah Palin line about blacks and immigrants alike. They want to “take back the country” — and we know from whom.

I wasn't aware Sarah Palin had a specific line on blacks and immigrants.  But for Rich, as for many who agree with him, it's motive unknown, presumed racist.  Look, it's not confusing.  When people on the right say they want to take back the country, they mean from the left.  When people on the left say it, they want to take it back from the right. That's how politics works, but because the left believes they're the ones who care about blacks and immigrants (and just ask blacks about immigrants some day, Frank), you can only oppose them for ugly reasons.

I might add that Rock answers Rich noting how much better things are than they used to be, so good for him...and take that, Bonilla-Silva.


But the problem is the press accepts racism. It has never dug into it.

When Obama was running for president, a certain kind of white person would routinely tell reporters, “He’s just not one of us.” Few reporters want to push that person to the wall and say, “What do you mean he’s not like you, unless you’re talking about the fact that he’s African-American?”

White people were saying "he's just not one of us"?  Could you give us specific examples.  Sure, plenty were saying they didn't want to vote for him, but Frank, maybe they didn't like his politics.  A lot of people didn't like John Kerry's politics either--he got less white votes than Obama--so maybe it's not about race. (In fact, with Kerry, I wouldn't be surprised if they thought "he's not one of us" more than they did with Obama.)

By the way, overall the interview is well done, and Rock makes some interesting points--especially when he's willing to push back a little against his own side.

*I'm not assuming this--we can argue about it later if you like.

PS  I'm happy to note Rock has taken back what he said about Dennis Miller, calling him just as funny as ever.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stating categorically that TP'ers/birthers are not racist kind of undermines the rest of it. Go back and listen to them

2:58 AM, December 03, 2014  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...


3:07 AM, December 03, 2014  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I liked the interview with Rock too. I find his comedy a little too angry at times, but usually very funny. I like how he also gives Cosby a benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous - I would like to know what your definition of Racism is? If it is essentially akin to tribalism (siding with your "team") then maybe racism is rampant in your eyes. But if we are talking about a belief that one race (using the scientific definition - I believe there are just 3 or 4 races) is superior to and has a right to dominate other races, there is nothing inately racist about anything Tea Party or even Birthers say that is racist.

Birthers note the actual discrepancies in Obama's life story, and some take itto the extreme of challenging his legal qualifications to serve as President based on the Constitution. Personally, I think it is unlikely that Barack Obama Sr. is the President's biological father, but even if that is true, we know who his mother is, and he almost certainly was born in Hawaii, so the issue is pretty esoteric. Obama's refusal to disclose information regarding college and law school probably relates to the embarrassment it would cause to learn how he played the system (portraying himself as exotic, possibly foreign born) to enhance his ability to get into schools and such (not unlike Elizabeth Warren's dance with American Indianhood). But that still wouldn't disqualify him to serve as President (it will be fun to watch someday when it come out - maybe in 20 or 30 years).

The Tea Party placard has been claimed by every right fringe group around, but fundamentally, it's an economic philosophy arguing for smaller government that spends less and therefore requires fewer taxes. What is racist about that?

8:40 AM, December 03, 2014  

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