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The double down on racism

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 18:42 EDT
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I’m back! Sorry it took so long to get back in the saddle; we were in Vegas forever it seems. (The cats certainly think so.) I did see the premiere of “Mad Men” and should have thoughts on it later. But right now, I want to talk about this stupid story about how Senate Republicans are trying to get hearings—again—to look at this stupid New Black Panthers case. Greg Sargent asks a question that I’m sure he knows is just rhetorical:

But what some folks may not remember is that Senate Republicans already quizzed Justice officials on this very case several months ago, in a public hearing on Capitol Hill. So why do we need more hearings?

Answer: Because Republicans are doubling down on racism as an electoral strategy.

One of the great things of many great things about Netroots Nation this year is that they finally took on the influence racism still has over our political landscape in the U.S. It was an imperfect approach to be sure—I heard the “Urban Blogosphere” panel was a nightmare, for instance—but on the whole, I think the conference was really educational for a lot of people on the issue of racism and why it’s still a massive political issue on basically every level. Tim Wise was dropping truth bombs like a motherfucker during a lunch time panel convened by the organizers. His entire presentation was about something that doesn’t get talked about very much, which is how movement conservative opposition to social spending is all about race. They rarely say so out loud, but they don’t have to. Talk of “redistributing wealth” has the unspoken corollary “from white people to black people” attached to it. Since the 60s, this unspoken corollary has been modified to include Hispanic people, but the basic idea hasn’t changed a bit. When conservatives talk about lazy people on welfare, lazy people on unemployment, lazy people sucking up government health care? The faces they’re imagining are black.

What’s interesting is that what has been so implicit for so long that a lot of people don’t even perceive it is being made pretty fucking explicit recently. Republicans don’t trust that the euphemisms they’ve always used are going to provoke enough racism to get them the majority in 2010. The non-stop hyperventilating over “reverse racism”—which is a myth—is just a way to be racist while acting like some kind of victim. The targeting of black bureaucrats like Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod is about creating a narrative for the base, that Barack Obama tricked the white majority into voting for him out of racial guilt,* and now that he’s President, he’s trashing the country by appointing a bunch of white-hating black people to powerful offices so they can ruin the lives of white people while enriching black people in an overt act of revenge.

The problem is that our news media isn’t getting this, at all. Sargent, for instance, is on the side of right on this Black Panthers thing, but even he makes the mistake of using the term “Black Panthers” instead of “New Black Panthers”. This isn’t a minor issue by any stretch, because not making that distinction leaves the audience to believe that the assclowns who were legitimately trying to threaten voters have anything to do with the Black Panthers of old. As Denise Oliver-Velez pointed out during a panel, the real Black Panthers were anti-racist, and would have never deemed it appropriate to try to fight the oppression of black people by trying comically ineffectual strategies to oppress white people. The real Black Panthers still have quite a bit of esteem, so allowing people to believe that this whole voter intimidation scheme had anything to do with the real Black Panthers is to imply that the left really does tolerate this kind of behavior.

*Even though the majority of white people actually voted for McCain.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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