Byron York Is Not A Racist

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Byron York claps back with this shocking claim:

A few commentators on the left are calling me a racist for my post, "The black-white divide in Obama's popularity."  I suppose if you haven't been called a racist by the usual suspects on the left, you haven't been writing for very long...

I wrote that citing Obama's "sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are." I thought the word "overall" conveyed the idea that there was a difference between the total job-approval number and the complexities of opinion of Obama on various issues.  Maybe "across-the-board" would have been better than "overall," but I doubt that would have kept a left-wing activist like Matthew Yglesias, or Andrew Sullivan, who has himself been accused of racism and, quite recently, anti-Semitism, from branding me a racist.  The numbers inside the Times poll are newsworthy, if the critics would take the time to read and analyze them.

The fact that York, at no point, quotes a single "left-wing activist" calling him a racist should tell you something about the honesty of his rebuttal. For employers of the "not a racist" form letter, the unsubstantiated charge is the heading.

One reason I spent so much time yesterday talking about people who play the "not a racist" card is because I was fairly sure this would be York's response. I can't tell you how comical it is to see that he actually followed the script. (Meekly defend your position and feign victimhood for having been called racist--whether you were called one or not.)

In fact neither Matt nor "left-wing activist" Andrew called York a racist. But "you're a racist" is the  easiest argument to respond to, so York just pretends that they did. It's an incredibly dishonest and intellectually cowardly move, but it's the stock and trade of your average pundit  looking to "score points." Instead of evaluating your adversary's critique, you simply stick your fingers in your ear and exclaim "not a racist" and "left-wing activist" and hope no one's the wiser.

Meanwhile, York never responds to the fundamental critique of his column summed up here by noted lefty, flagrant race-card dealer, and former aide to Newt Gingrich, (and self-professed friend of Byron York!) Robert George:

The "problem" with this analysis is -- what's the point? Analysis of the GOP's relative strengths and weaknesses comes down to geographic assessment. Schneider doesn't devote a segment to "What would the Senate look like if white Southerners didn vote for Republicans (which in some states they do to upwards of 70 or 80 percent)?" But blacks voting for Democrats is staged as some sort of "exception" that should implicitly invalidate the reality of the current political situation.

Ironically, this Schneider segment -- as pernicious as it was in itself -- actually undermines York's even-worse piece: Simply put, because blacks tend to vote overwhelmingly black Democrat at the presidential level, there is actually very little difference between black support for Barack Obama and that of any "generic" Democratic president.

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I do not mean to make this personal, and I hope George will forgive the use of his quote in this manner. Moreover, in the spirit of honesty, it's worth noting that George denies that York is a racist--which is fine because I've yet to a see a single writer of note actually call him one. George glancingly addresses the point I'd make:

Of course, it is fine to entertain the question whether it is possible for someone (of any race or background) to write an article that is implicitly racist without that person being racist. That, however, forces a level of philosophical charity that few are willing to entertain.
No disrespect, but I call bullshit. We entertained that exact argument right here, yesterday:

I don't say this because I expect York to care very much. I say this because I hope some of my white readers, who think Bobby Rush is the end of this discussion, understand why I'm very comfortable calling York's column racist. As for the matter of York's heart, I leave that to him. I don't wash his laundry. I don't balance his affairs.
I can't tell you that Byron York is racist. I've never met him. I am not in this business to read the contents of York's heart. That's between him and his preacher. My duty is to try to have some honor, to respond directly to the arguments as the come, to not make up strawmen, and  to be as confident and clear as possible about what I write.

Before I called York's column racist, I looked for ten other ways to read it. I came away with nothing short of the implication that in the court of public opinion, black people matter less. If that isn't a racist argument, then there is no such thing. And for half a century now, hasn't that been the conservatives' point?
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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