One Person's Opinion

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Recently, movement conservativism mounted a pushback against a meme that had gained some currency, with David Brooks and National Review Online, among others, contending that Ronald Reagan's infamous endorsement of "states rights" at his 1980 campaign kickoff event in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been slain in the 1960's, was not intended to endorse racism.

The reason for the pushback is obvious. Historically, American conservativism has been associated with racism, especially in the Deep South, and conservatives now rely on the votes of white Southerners for electoral success. Furthermore, blacks nowadays cast their lot with liberals, and the conservative movement tends to oppose various measures supported by blacks to improve their lot. Conservatives, however, have to be careful not to out and out endorse racism; "color-blindness", where minorities don't get preferential treatment, and "benign neglect", where the needs of minorities are ignored but the government does not actively target minorities for unfavorable treatment, can be broadly popular with the American people. However, out and out advocacy of racism is a pretty sure ticket in many parts of the country to getting thrown out of office.

So conservatives who are not racists understandably protest when they are accused of racism, or of encouraging or condoning it. And they protest when their movement's heroes, such as Reagan, are accused of it. Most honest conservatives will acknowledge that the conservative movement, at one time, was deeply wrong on racial issues, but they will insist that this era is over.

But if you listen to the views of ordinary conservatives-- callers on talk radio, posters on comments threads, etc.-- you will quickly see how this is not the whole story. In fact, you can find plenty of out and out racism among the conservative faithful.

A perfect example of this is an opinion I have heard a lot of lately-- that the Democrats are "racists" because they let Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson into debates in presidential campaigns. In this narrative, Sharpton and Jackson are "racists" because they advocate color-conscious remedies for racism, and because of some past comments about Jews. Some conservatives will paint an even broader brush-- that all liberals are "racists" because of support for affirmative action. (Of course, many liberals oppose race-conscious affirmative action, but nuance and subtlety is often lost on conservatives.)

Let's be clear here-- anti-Semitic comments by black civil rights leaders should be condemned. Make enough of them and I am perfectly willing to call the person a bigot. The argument-- made by some black academics-- that blacks cannot be racist is silly.

But even more silly is the narrative of racism that seems to be adopted by many conservatives, i.e., that advocating for a race-conscious remedy for discrimination is the same thing as hating people because of their skin color, believing that they are inferior, refusing to hire or associate with them, and supporting governmental discrimination against them. Yes, I know, there is a long tradition of advocacy for "color-blindness" in the civil rights movement. And there are very valid arguments in its favor. But someone who thinks that because historically, a lot of smart blacks never got a chance to go to the best colleges, it is valuable to take steps to make sure they can is not Governor Faubus or Strom Thurmond.

In fact, there is still a ton of real racism out there. Look at the number of people who openly want to profile all Muslims and subject them to special scrutiny and searches and seizures. Look at the number of people who condone racial disparities in policework and criminal sentencing. Look at the people who want our immigration policy to let in white people and keep out Spanish-speaking brown people.

The thing is, if conservatives really want to show us that they are not tainted by racism, they should condemn these things, and in specific terms. Not offer justifications for them, not encourage them, and not stay silent as their constituents continue to be poisoned by virulent hate of racial minorities. Conservative movement leaders should be forced to admit that no, affirmative action may be wrong but it isn't racist. That Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton aren't the greatest sources of racism in society. That government programs that single out minorities for worse treatment are wrong.

They don't want to say it. And that's why I don't have much patience for their defenses of their sainted Ronald Reagan on race.



Just wanted to let you know that I visited your blog and look forward to returning on a regular basis. Excellent opinion and excellent writing.
In fact, there is still a ton of real racism out there. Look at the number of people who openly want to profile all Muslims

Eh, exactly what race are all Muslims?

Is there bigotry and prejudice in this world - undoubtedly. Should that be conflated with racism - well, that IS a different question, isn't it?
Muslims can be lighter than I am, and at that my hair and eyes are darker and I'm causasian. Like they are. Culture and race are not synonyms. And liberals are more than capable of knocking off this culture-race crutch and confusion over matters, despite the fact that this crap gives wide mileage and good political tidings for them for a long time now.

But enough.

It's getting old when the proximate cause of being averse to Eurosocialist fetishes and glop is the spurious charge of racism and homophobia and other isms and obias.

Getting old.

And as far as culture, there ARE superior cultures to others. It was the great secularist, gay, and quite liberal and highbrow man of letters and Yale scholar William Henry III who put things best (as did Arthur Schlesinger in another less direct moment) to the effect that we need to defend Western Culture and should not shirk from these values. Cultures that send men to the moon, or have this capability, are superior to those whose temple elders specialize only in putting bones in their noses.

Those nations and cultures that spread themselves with heirarchical command and division of labor and spread their values (and if you don't someone less appealing will, as nature abhors a vacuum in this realm as much as helium gas) are superior to those that don't or can't. The moral splendor of Tibet is noteworthy but also silly compared to the great British Empire before the days of Multi Cultu mush turned what used to be a free and proud nation into beggers who traded freedom for free dentures.
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