Let's Talk About Race

By Al Giordano

I couldn’t have said it better myself…

Ben Smith, via Politico:

Josh Gerstein takes the temperature on the activist left, and finds it cooling toward Obama…

One major caveat to this storyline: The left of the Democratic Party -- measured by the anti-war vote, for instance -- is in large part African-American. There's no hint in polls that black voters are souring on the first black president.

So the part of the Democratic left that appears, at the top at least, to be souring on Obama is the white left, numerically a pretty clear minority inside the party.

When my own memes replicate center ho in journals like Politico, you know the message is beginning to sink in.

I know it makes some uncomfortable to talk about race, and even more uneasy to suggest that those who are most unsettled by such talk are precisely those that more often than not haven’t been on the receiving end of racism. And then if I stop beating around the bush and say, “psssst, I’m talking to and about us, my sister and brother white folk,” sphincters go into crazy defensive spasm. But the fact remains that a great many white progressives are as unable to acknowledge how a pervasive societal racism is internalized within them - and their reactions to the Obama presidency - as much as it is for conservative sectors of the Caucasian population.

A basic building block of “white progressive racism” rears its head day after day when some of them declare that their unease with the nation’s first African-American president somehow represents “the left” or “progressives” in general. Every single time they make that claim, they’re basically revealing that, to them, it is only the opinion of fellow and sister white folk that matters. I tackled that factor in detail in my response last month to Naomi Klein: You and What Movement? There, I demonstrated that the hard numbers do not back up the presumption that “the left” – as if it could ever be one monolithic bloc – feels as they do.

It’s all well and good to declare, “I am upset” by something. But Mark Twain schooled us long ago that the word “we” should only be used by heads of state or those with intestinal parasites.

The thing is, I’m so used to the reality that we live in a society permeated with racial and other divides that I don’t expect anybody to be fully free of racist (or sexist or other discriminatory) thought. As a species, we’re not that evolved yet. At the same time, I’ve watched in the short span of my lifetime how far we’ve come, thanks to the work and sacrifice of community organizers from the Civil Rights movement to the present. But there is still a long march ahead before the day that, as a society, we shall overcome.

No, what bothers me most is how strategically and tactically stupid that this bogus claim – “progressives are turning on Obama” – is on the part of those that push it. Because every time they do they’re saying that the 96 percent of African-Americans and the 73 percent of Hispanic-Americans (and a very considerable number of us lefties that are neither) who are more pleased than not with the new administration essentially don’t exist or that our opinions should not be considered as part of “the left.” As I told Klein: there is singularly no faster way to exacerbate the racial divisions on the left than for white progressives or activists or academics to speak as if they represent progressivism in general, or to claim they lead or even have built a “movement,” when by any objective measurement they have not constructed anything but a segregated echo chamber.

To those who keep making such claims about, or on behalf of, “progressives” or “the left”: Just stop it. Cease and desist from claiming you represent a movement or anybody else but yourself and a group of people that mainly are demographically very much like you. You don’t speak for me. You don’t speak for “progressives.” You don’t speak for “the left.” And each time you claim to do so you are practicing a kind of rhetorical apartheid.

 

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About Al Giordano

Biography

Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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