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Racism Less Overt, But Far From Gone

Racial issues have made a comeback in the national dialogue since we elected our first black president.  The Tea Party’s overt hatred of President Obama has added fuel to the flames.  But are they really racist, or do they just really hate the left?

One would have to believe that Obama was really left to believe it’s just about ideology.  Most political observers say Obama has consistently been center to center right.  So is there something more to this hatred of Obama then?

Conservatives often go crazy when anyone brings up race.  They have used their typical methods of trying to make it taboo for anyone to play what they have labeled the “race card.”   There is certainly a potential abuse that could or may have come into play on occasion.  In general, however, I think it’s underplayed.  Conservatives have been successful in scaring people away from this.  There are many black people who virtually stay away from the race issue at all costs.

Many conservatives call for a colorblind approach to government.  This, they claim, is the only true way not to be racist.  For acknowledging race in policy is just a form of racism itself, they say.  They certainly fight against things like affirmative action, but it goes much further than that.  They refuse to acknowledge issues that affect racial minorities differently than whites, and by doing so are engaging in a much more subtle form of racism in their colorblindness.

There are many examples we can cite from.  The most horrific issue is the mass incarceration of young black men in our prison system for non-violent drug crimes (mostly involving marijuana).  Michelle Alexander writes about this subject in her book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”  She describes how these crimes are enforced and prosecuted disproportionately on racial minorities, despite the evidence that drug use and crimes are just as prevalent in the white community.

The massive inequity in the prison system is ample proof that this is true.  Meanwhile, America has SEVEN TIMES the percentage of its population in its prison system than any of the other post industrial democracies.  Our country has 5 percent of the world’s people, 25 percent of the world’s people in prison. We spend more on our prisons than we do on education!

The way we draw our political districts must consider race, and being colorblind in that instance can be said to be nothing more than racist.  How we divvy up diversity in our school districts is equally important, which clearly requires we not be colorblind.  Sadly, school boards taken over by Tea Party candidates (bankrolled by Koch Brothers) have attempted to re-segregate schools in the south.  How can we NOT see the Tea Party movement as having an inherently racist theme, given these circumstances?

Again, conservatives will deny any racist aspect of this, but building in requirements for photo i.d.s to vote will have a very significantly inequitable and disproportionate effect on racial minorities, especially when you are closing DMVs in their neighborhoods.  How can you see acting in such a colorblind way as being anything other than racist?

I’ll make an important distinction.  There is a difference between overt and malicious racism, and this more subtle form of racism which often is the outcome of negligence as opposed to malice.  That’s not to say there isn’t any malice, as clearly those who are the architect of these policies and propagate them often do so knowing how they will affect racial minorities, and even do so intentionally.  But I know that many of the rank and file supporters of these policies do not have that malice.

This video from the Onion News uses humor to get this message across.  Humor is one of the best ways to broach difficult subjects.

Landmark Civil Rights Act Made Racism Slightly Less Overt (Season 1: Ep 3 on IFC)

About Justin McAffee:
Justin is the publisher The Nevada View, which has earned the recognition in the Washington Post’s “Best State-Based Political Blogs,” as well as being awarded the “Most Valuable Blogger Award” by the local CBS affiliate in 2011. Follow him on Twitter @McAffee


8 Responses to “Racism Less Overt, But Far From Gone”

  1. Excellent article Justin, very well done. I would only add that as long as we dismiss the Conservative position as nothing but racism, we will lose the argument. As an African American, I can attest to the fact that there are many more blacks who are conservative in their thinking than you might imagine, but will never say that publicly. Grant you that is confusing at best and possibly disengenuous but feeling persecuted and ostracized by family, church and friends is powerfully negative. Until we have an honest adult conversation about race in America, the racist divisions and deceptions will continue.

    Posted by Patricia Cunningham | September 21, 2011, 3:42 am
  2. I have a shocking thought for you:

    It’s not my job to subsidize others.

    There is no reason on earth why you should attempt to force me to support those who are not doing as well as I am.

    Despite trillions of dollars, hundreds of laws, vast propaganda campaigns, etc. the United States has not been able to make diversity work.

    Instead of constantly trying to penalize those of us who try to break away from this painful system, let’s try a real level playing field. No HUD. No affirmative action. No quotas.

    If we’re all equal, we have nothing to be afraid of.

    Posted by Brett Stevens | September 15, 2011, 7:58 pm
    • Did you ever read John Locke? When you enter into society, you give up certain rights. It’s called civilization.

      I have a thought for you. If you want it that way, move to Somalia.

      Posted by Justin McAffee | September 21, 2011, 8:51 am
  3. Please visit the Incarceration Reform weblog to do something about the problem or watch some video:

    I wrote a book about the similarities and differences between slavery and prison — and it will blow your mind:

    Here is the most practical jobs plan out there:

    John Dewar Gleissner, part-time prison reformer

    Posted by John Dewar Gleissner | September 14, 2011, 3:35 pm
  4. Our willingness to punish instead of educate is a puzzle. Did you know that Kindergarten is not mandatory in the state of Nevada? 5 year olds don’t need to go to school. They can enter first grade after they turn six – never having any sort of formal education before hand. Do you know what a disadvantage this student will be in before they have even completed the first week? They are not only competing against all the Kindergarten students who have attended school for at least a year – but because of standardized testing, they will be competing against the NATION. Yep, their score is compared against the kid in Connecticut who was placed on the Harvard prep school waiting list when his mother conceived.

    Did you realize, other places in the nation it’s the norm for students to start some sort of preschool at age 2? Why? Well children develop rapidly ages 2 to 5. Did you know that early childhood education is one of the most important ways to help children of poverty to “catch” up? It basically gives them a HEAD START.

    Why I am I writing this? Because I’m not understanding why we are always disappointed in test scores in my school district but no one sees the need to start before age 5 to help disadvantage, disenfranchised, and poor students to get ahead BEFORE they are behind.

    My father spent his career putting people in prison. He made a point of asking most of them how far they had achieved in school. Most of the people he sent to prison dropped out. They didn’t have an education. They didn’t have options. They failed and then they stole, lied, embezzled, killed . . . . until they ended up in prison.

    It is a disproportionate amount of minorities who are in prison. SURPRISE, they don’t do well in systems that are not their own culture. I don’t see many RICH minorities in prison. I see a lot of POOR people, a lot of uneducated hopeless people. Unfortunately, minorities are still disadvantaged in country. Racism and poverty is still America’s burden

    It costs $18,000 a year to incarcerate a person. A preschool program is usually 10 students and a teacher and an aide. 10 X $18,000 = $180,000 subtract an average teacher salary $40,000 and an aide salary $20,000. . . that leaves $120,000.

    Education can save us in prison money. For our poor to get ahead, they are going to have to LEARN and I believe they are going to have to start EARLY so they don’t get behind in our testing system that is grinding the life out of even good students. To get ahead, we are going to have to look at investing in early intervention to make sure kids don’t get behind.

    I’m scared this generation that we are beating with testing and failing from the first week of school forward – is headed right where it’s going to cost us all $18,000 a year.

    Posted by Angie Sullivan | September 13, 2011, 6:52 pm
  5. I’m going to say it. There are those in America who are racist. They will never like Obama – because he is not white. They show up at tea party rallies. They show up at GOP events. They are active in their hate – and some don’t even know enough to PRETEND they aren’t prejudice. I don’t like it – but I guess they have the right to be a big pig. When they show up en mass to rescind progress made in civil rights – that is when they have crossed a line. Blood was already split for that progress and it wouldn’t be right to watch unfairness become law again.

    Note to those living in a world where only the white swim – most of the people on Earth, are not white. The world is a big place and there are all sorts of people living in it and doing just fine. They don’t live an “American” lifestyle, but they still love their children and work and play and live a fulfilling life. They might not even be religious – or a religion you would never espouse. All sorts of people, all over the world living a life and doing their own thing.

    And now I’m going to say it – God loves them all and Obama too.

    Be a little less selfish and a little more empathetic. People don’t have to be just like you to have a nice life. People do deserve some respect and to be free from harm by racists.

    Posted by Angie Sullivan | September 13, 2011, 6:31 pm


  1. [...] would argue “we’ve come a long way.”  Have we?  As I’ve discussed before, racism is far from gone.  I do believe it has receded in many respects, but there are still powerful forces acting now in [...]

  2. [...] found a writer who adeptly expresses exactly what’s happening here (link). Conservatives often go crazy when anyone brings up race.  They have used their typical methods [...]

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