Thursday, December 5, 2013

Last Call: Nelson Mandela, Dead at 95

Finally put your burden down, Madiba.  The rest of us will carry it on together.

Mr. Mandela’s quest for freedom took him from the court of tribal royalty to the liberation underground to a prison rock quarry to the presidential suite of Africa’s richest country. And then, when his first term of office was up, unlike so many of the successful revolutionaries he regarded as kindred spirits, he declined a second term and cheerfully handed over power to an elected successor, the country still gnawed by crime, poverty, corruption and disease but a democracy, respected in the world and remarkably at peace. 
The question most often asked about Mr. Mandela was how, after whites had systematically humiliated his people, tortured and murdered many of his friends, and cast him into prison for 27 years, he could be so evidently free of spite. 
The government he formed when he finally won the chance was an improbable fusion of races and beliefs, including many of his former oppressors. When he became president, he invited one of his white wardens to the inauguration. Mr. Mandela overcame a personal mistrust bordering on loathing to share both power and a Nobel Peace Prize with the white president who preceded him, F. W. de Klerk. 
And as president, from 1994 to 1999, he devoted much energy to moderating the bitterness of his black electorate and to reassuring whites against their fears of vengeance. 
The explanation for his absence of rancor, at least in part, is that Mr. Mandela was that rarity among revolutionaries and moral dissidents: a capable statesman, comfortable with compromise and impatient with the doctrinaire.

President Obama spoke this afternoon on the occasion of Mandela's passing:

The world loses an actual hero, and we mourn.  Tomorrow we remember and move forward.

Keep On Losing, Boys

Meet Official GOP Black Spokesguy(tm) Orlando Watson, who keeps on proving exactly why I'll never vote for the current incarnation of the GOP:

In an effort to tamp down the controversy surrounding a recent tweet, the Republican National Committee deployed its resident black media spokesman for an interview Wednesday on MSNBC.

Orlando Watson, who was hired in October to serve as the RNC's "Communications Director for Black Media," said during his appearance on the cable news channel that a tweet sent out by the organization last weekend praising civil rights icon Rosa Parks for "ending racism" was nothing more than a typo.

"And talking about a typo and a tweet, it's old news," Watson said.

When MSNBC host Thomas Roberts asked if it was "defensible" for GOP governors to reject the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, Watson took aim at President Barack Obama's own record of helping the black community.

"What I don't find defensible is after five years of, you know, living under President Obama, you know, he has little to show for what he's done for the black community," Watson said, before claiming that the health care law has "particularly" hurt the jobless rate in the black community.

Oh, well then, let's take a look at the jobless rate under other Presidents.

Wow, Reagan must have really hated black people. And hey, it's almost like black unemployment has roughly been double that of white unemployment for more than a generation.  Apparently, that didn't matter until Obama came along.

And yes, black unemployment was pretty ugly in 2011.  In 2013, it's a lot better.

In fact, since Obamacare became law in 2010, the black unemployment rate has in fact dropped to 12.6% in August when it was over 16% in 2011.  It's 13.1% now, which is still nearly twice as much as the overall rate, but no, Obamacare has not raised the black unemployment rate.

So yes, Watson's an idiot.

The Existence of Privilege

Jonathan Chait actually does a very good job of explaining the modern Republican mindset on race, President Obama, and American society:

The broad social structure of white supremacy is not a part of the working conservative definition of racism. Conservatives see racism as a series of discrete acts of overt oppression. After slavery had disappeared, but before legal segregation had, conservatives considered it preposterous to claim that blacks suffered any systematic disadvantage in American life. (For an lengthy but fascinating expression of the conservative view, watch William F. Buckley in 1965 sneering his way through a debate over race relations with James Baldwin.)

Today, conservatives retroactively agree that legal segregation may have been unfair, but now things run on an even footing. Republicans, by a 60-40 margin, now believe discrimination against whites has grown to be a larger problem than discrimination against minorities. In fact, in nearly every way it can be measured, traditional white-on-black racism persists. Jamelle Bouie lists a few of them: Experiments show candidates with white-sounding names are vastly more likely to get callbacks than candidates with black-sounding names with equally impressive résumés; realtors show fewer homes to prospective nonwhite home buyers than to white buyers of equal financial standing; the criminal justice system imposes large racial disparities for the same criminal behavior; and on and on.

None of these experiments are known, or would even sound plausible, to avid followers of conservative news sources, where “racism” is encountered primarily as a politically motivated slander against conservatives by liberals. Again, it bears repeating that most conservatives find Klan-style white supremacy foreign, and usually completely unacceptable. The racial fissures of the Obama era do not look like 1957 Little Rock. Undisguised racism, while numerically frequent — it’s a big country — has largely remained confined to the political margins. Tea party activists have suppressed openly bigoted signs at their rallies, National Review fired two blatantly white-supremacist writers, a Republican precinct chair had to resign after boasting that a restrictive voting law would target “lazy blacks.”

Instead, the racial battlegrounds of the Obama era have settled on a series of more ambiguous controversies. Conservatives have made endless jokes based on the strange premise that Obama is unable to express coherent thoughts unless reading from a teleprompter, defined health-care reform as “reparations,” imagined a Reagan-era program to subsidize telephone use for the indigent is actually “Obamaphones,” or complained when black entertainers or athletes socialize with the First Family. The accusations of racism that follow merely confirm to conservatives that black-on-white racism is a canard, that the balance of oppression has turned against them.

What Jonathan Chait's article entails is his discovery of the difference between privilege and racism.  Conservatives will gladly tell you that overt racism exists in America and for the most part, they will tell you that it's awful.  But they will never, ever agree that racial privilege does and will dismiss even the idea that privilege exists in America while shouting as loudly as possible about why evil liberals refuse to live in a colorblind society.

Pointing out racism is one thing, but pointing out assumption of privilege is what really torques conservatives off.  They are immediately defensive about it because they think it's conflation of the two.  There's a difference.  Secondly, it's easy to spot overt racism.  Spotting your own privilege on the other hand is brutally difficult.  Would that more people would read Chait's column here and realize that the subtle things taken for granted by a white male in America represent a lot of privilege assumed and taken over the centuries, like say, the ability to peacefully congregate in groups of more than two on a public sidewalk.

Now granted, there are plenty of liberals who are clueless about privilege (and there's plenty of different types of privilege out there as well) but Jonathan Chait is not one of them.

Chait posted that article yesterday based on a Twitter conversation with National Review's Quin Hilyer, and the response today from Hilyer precisely proves Chait's point that conservatives have zero idea about the difference between racism and privilege.

The Left is so eager to see racism in every conservative heart and utterance that it ignores overwhelming evidence that more blacks these days feel racial animus toward whites, and more act in race-antagonistic ways, than do whites toward blacks. By huge margins, blacks vote in racial blocs more often than whites do. By significant margins, blacks commit a larger percentage of reported hate crimes (20.9 percent) than their total share of the population (12.6 percent) while whites under-commit hate crimes (59 percent) compared with their overall population share (72.4 percent) — even after what anecdotal evidence suggests is a reporting bias to the contrary. And at least some polls show that even blacks are more likely to attribute racist attitudes to their own race than to whites.

The point is not that blacks are inherently racist or ill-motivated, or that there aren’t good historical reasons for more residual black distrust of whites than vice versa. Of course there are strong historical reasons, sickeningly and inexcusably strong; and of course there is still too much white racism toward blacks, with such racism being more potentially devastating because of that terrible history. (One more personal note: I endured quite a backlash from some whites when I first moved to Mobile and wrote columns calling attention to some of this recurring racism.) And of course there is more white racism in private hearts than that which shows up in identifiable incidents.

But white conservatives have good reason to believe that wolf cries of racism do at least as much these days to exacerbate racial discord as do real racist incidents or even unexpressed racist thoughts. The reason we are oblivious to “alarm bells” is because so many of the bells are clanging so falsely.

It also would help promote racial understanding if liberals were not so likely to refuse to acknowledge the human cost to aggrieved whites and to unprepared blacks (note: not incapable blacks, but unprepared ones) when race-based government edicts stack the deck in education or access to employment.

Conservatives conflate racism and privilege all the time, so whenever you call one out on assumption of privilege, it immediately becomes an accusation of racism, which inevitably becomes "Black people are the real racists because they refuse to be colorblind."

Note Hilyer hits all the classic "I'm not a racist!" defense points in 4 paragraphs:  1) You're the racist for bringing this up, 2) How come black people keep bringing this up, doesn't this prove they are the real racists, 3) I have a personal anecdote about black friends that absolves me of racism, 4) What is actually privilege and I call institutionalized racism doesn't actually exist because I've never experienced it, 5) You know what, maybe black people aren't as good as white people at some things, finishing with 6) That brings me back to my first point, you're still the racist for thinking there's anything in glorious America in 2013 that still needs to be corrected by your reverse racist affirmative action.

It's amazing.  He ends with this:

So yes, Chait is right that my criticisms of Obama have nothing to do with an imagined “long-ago-imbibed white southern upbringing bubbling to the surface,” because my “white, southern upbringing” was devoid of racial animus.

What Chait doesn’t understand is that I am hardly unique. Almost every American under 50, conservatives most definitely included, was raised in a culture where such animus was shunned. We’re all the “cultural heirs” far more of Martin Luther King Jr., or at least of his famous speech on the National Mall, than of George Wallace. We’re not oblivious to racism; we just want to transcend it by leaving it out of discussions where it doesn’t belong.

Why are those people ruining Quin Hilyer's day by bringing up race?

The larger point is that since modern conservatism relies on the notion that all Americans have equal opportunity, admitting that privilege even exists would blow a hole the size of Peoria in the basic tenets of conservatism itself (not to mention mulching glibertarianism).   Much easier to conflate the two, scream bloody indignation whenever it's mentioned, and then pretend it doesn't exist, right?


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