Saturday, November 10, 2012

Angry White Men: Can the G.O.P. genuinely change its attitude toward minorities and women?

"This year, whites appear to have given President Obama no more than 40 percent of their vote, which is disgraceful. They have frequently been just as intransigent—and just as irresponsible—in state and local races. Talk about invisible empires—not so many years ago, a majority of whites even voted for a Klan chieftain as governor of Louisiana, saved from this truly shameful choice only by the intervention of people of color.  
For almost fifty years now, confronted with the challenges of a complex and rapidly changing world, most American whites, including too many working-class whites, have chosen to vote their worst fears and prejudices—even when it meant undermining their own economic interests.

They voted, and continue to vote, for the party and the individuals who most avidly support business’s “right” to break their unions, ship their jobs overseas, lower their wages, and diminish the mass buying power of America. They failed to notice even when their sainted Ronald Reagan actually raised the overall tax rate for most working people by hiking Social Security and Medicare taxes.

They continue to fear people of color no matter how many of their predictions about them are proved wrong. Over the past twenty years, crime has plummeted throughout the United States, most inner cities have revived and flourished, middle-class blacks and Latinos have filled suburban neighborhoods without setting off a crime wave or a race war, and a black president with a Muslim name took office and promptly started knocking off Islamic terrorists and deporting illegal immigrants.

The proof of decades now is that, having won their equal rights under the law, American citizens of color—old and new—aspire to nothing so much as the very same values and goals of most white Americans. And nowhere is this more true than with those who have felt the need to enter the country without our permission, such as that father, gunned down at the border the other day by some trigger-happy Texas chopper cop—a poor man trying to sneak into the United States to pay for an operation for his son. Far and away, these people work harder, for less money and under worse conditions, than most of “us” have since the nineteenth century.

Yet the reaction of right-wing whites has been to fill their gun shelves with automatic weapons, their ears with radio rants, and their heads with absurd conspiracy theories.

So cosseted are they now within their own fears and inanities that they haven’t even been able to figure out that Mr. O’Reilly’s “50 percent of the voting public who want stuff”—just like the “47 percent” of the country who Mitt Romney feels are “victims and dependents”—includes many of them.

In the wake of Romney’s loss, a few scattered Republican politicians and commentators are talking about how they have to appeal more to black and Latino voters; to women and maybe even to gays. But the trouble with any such strategy is that the modern “conservative” message is all about divide-and-conquer. No doubt these new ideas of outreach would simply be designed to slice and dice segments the Democratic coalition. Hispanics and even some blacks, for instance, will probably be courted on issues of “cultural conservatism,” such as opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights. But this will only further alienate gays, lesbians, and women in general.

The aging white men who make up the G.O.P.’s spine have become so accustomed to talking in terms of “the other,” and they’ve spent so much time mentally dehumanizing anybody who might disagree with them on anything, that they’re now almost congenitally incapable of forming a coalition with the rest of America. This won’t change until they finally feel able to make an argument that consists of more than spouting a slogan and running away."
 Read the rest of Kevin Baker's (November, 8) article in Harper's Magazine here.

Comment: Kevin Baker is right to point to the chaotic and racist predilection of the GOP and its resultant loss to the Democrats.

There is, however, a troubling racist myopia in this self-congratulatory liberal position that needs to be aired.

First, it goes without saying that most folks of color will not vote for the Republicans under any circumstances.  This is not a new fact.  What is new is that those folks of color who vote now have enough numbers to influence who gets into power.

However, it should not be assumed that the Democratic party has reaped this benefit because it is the bastion of non-racialism.

Second, it should also not be assumed that the content of dominant whiteness is expressed solely in terms of the number of white people present or left in settler states in particular.  Whites have always been a numerical minority despite their disproportionate hold on power.  For this reason, the US can and will remain a bastion of white privilege (whiteness) even with the changing racial demographics.

In other words, it matters little that Obomber's skin is black.  His values are white and his politics underwritten by whiteness.  This is how whiteness evolves and stays powerful (see Fanon).  It is the structure that whiteness has built that matters not the skin-color of the players.

Third, folks of color in the US do not represent a revolutionary block of voters.  If they did they would have aligned themselves with those Obomber is killing in Pakistan and not voted for him or his party.  Rather, like Baker says in the article above, folks of color have similar values as white voters and want the same things (in effect they want to be white and align themselves with dominant interests).

Baker says this as if it is a good and normative thing which speaks against the racist worry of a powerful lobby/block of black/brown voters may change America's values.

If South Africa's transition from apartheid to neo/post-apartheid has shown careful observers anything it is that whiteness is not just a skin color.  The ANC has proven that it can be as white in ideology and politics and that it will trample on the backs of poor blacks much the same way as the previous regime and for much the same reasons.

The same is true in the US especially when you position folks of color against the backdrop of America as empire.

How many of those black/brown and Asian folks who fell over their feet to return Obomber to the White House worry about the prospect of having the murderer continue his whiteness aligned reign of invading and murdering black/brown people in the so called "Middle East" and elsewhere?

Did a large proportion of the folks of color merely accept the inevitability of the reign of whiteness in American politics and subsume their existence into narrow concerns about jobs and immigration reform?

As it stands now the answer is a resounding yes and the outcome is troubling and it dispels the self-congratulatory crap that Baker's article represents.

America remains a racist country in which folks of color can hardly claim to be on equal footing with whites even though there is a black man parading in the White House.

The future of whiteness in the US (white people really) lies in convincing elite folks of color that they too are in fact white (they share political and other values).  Those outside the elite class must be given enough room to believe that they too can graduate, like Obomber, to whiteness (a redeployment of the protestant ethic in race terms - work hard you black/brown and Asian folk and one day you too can be white).

This is a white preservation strategy and it should not be assumed that the purpose is to make all folks of color white - it is a strategy toward fomenting a greater false consciousness among folks of color for the purpose of white dominance.

The short of it all, you don't have to be white to advance whiteness.  And you don't have to be a white Republican or conservative to be racist in global terms, in fact you can be a Democrat and a black one like Obomber.

In effect, we playing the same racist game even though the rules are being amended but, nonetheless, still in favor of the dominance of whiteness.

And we are not free.



Dade said...

Great article by Baker!

I'm ashamed at how prevalent is racism in the USA. Or maybe it's just people generally, not just Americans.

Our species needs to evolve beyond tribalism, I guess.

Keep the faith.

Ridwan said...

Hey Dade:

Great to hear from you.

We do need to evolve toward a greater humanism brother.