Nicholas Kristof makes an interesting point this morning:
Senator Obama is facing what scholars have dubbed "racism without racists."
This is a fascinating phenomena. Kristof and his scholars define it as follows:
For decades, experiments have shown that even many whites who earnestly believe in equal rights will recommend hiring a white job candidate more often than a person with identical credentials who is black. In the experiments, the applicant's folder sometimes presents the person as white, sometimes as black, but everything else is the same. The white person thinks that he or she is selecting on the basis of nonracial factors like experience.
Here's a more likely explanation--they're fucking lying.
Before I go forward I want to be clear about a couple things. Kristof's column is puzzling because by the end he concedes that, in fact, these people are racists (averse racists, one scholar calls them). But more importantly, there is this: too much has been made about the effects of white racism on the presidential contest. I'm tired of hearing about it. If It's not some guy telling us that Obama that he has to woo racists, it's some other guy telling us he's going to lose because of them. I thought that the Yahoo story Kristof pillories was bunk. As I've said before, I have no idea how many votes Barack Obama will lose because he's black, or gain because he's black. And at this point, I just don't care.
But there is a certain strain of argument that seeks to make excuses for the bigots among us. Somehow the civil rights struggle has been defined down to getting white people to have a beer with us. So if you profess to "earnestly believe in equal rights," you aren't a racist--even as you actively discriminate against black people. This is civil rights reduced to some sort of citizenship pledge. David Duke doesn't think he's racist. Michael Richards ranted "he's a nigger" on stage, but was shocked to be called a racist.
Really though, this is easy for me--If I profess to "earnestly believe in equal rights" and yet discriminate against women, I'm a sexist. Moreover, I'm a sexist in the worst sort of way. I talk a good game while actively working against the power of women. Why do we care about what people profess? This whole line of thinking proceeds from this idea that the worst thing about racism was Bull Connor and police dogs. It's been encouraged by the NAACP holding funerals for the word nigger, and by discussions over whether McCain's refusal to look at Obama was racist.
But really racism was always at its worst because it was invisible and insidious. The worst thing about housing segregation wasn't that blacks couldn't live around whites--it was that whites actively sought to rob black communities of wealth. The worst thing about school segregation wasn't that black children didn't go to school with white children--it was that whites defunded black schools. This is what led Malcolm to denigrate integration as the right to sit next to white people on the toilet.
That is not entirely fair, but part of me empathizes with it. For me, this was never about whether we were liked, or not. This isn't about whether we can have tea together. This is about power and the right of black people to go get there's. As long as we live in a country where whites actively seek to restrict the wealth and power of blacks, then the fight goes on. Making excuses does not help.
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