Racism: Still With US

A recent reader comment startled me a bit, but upon some reflection I realize its afforded me some time to talk about an issue that produces a healthy part of the right-wings cognitive dissonance.  Racism.  Here is the comment:

I think we can admit that at one time, civil rights was needed, because our society openly accepted racism as an ok thing to do. We have evolved past that, not because of laws that say we shouldnt discriminate, but because we know racism was wrong. If the civil rights act was repealed would all businesses suddenly fire their good black employees to hire whites who werent as good at their job, so they actually lose money? At the same time should somebody be forced to hire a black employee who is not as qualified as a white person to meet some quota that somebody pulled out of their ass, and be forced to lose money? We have to let business hire whoever they want to or their rights have been impeded on. Not only that why would we force them to hire based on skin color as oppopsed to character and integrity. But I wouldnt expect any less from liberals who think more government is the answer to all our problems.

There are three key points I’d like to address.  Whether racism still exists, the role of affirmative action as opposed to the larger issues racism raises, and what racism is, exactly.

To consider racism dead, solved, or otherwise a minor issue is to ignore the injustice in Jena.  It is to ignore the wholesale profiling of Muslims in this country following the September 11 attacks.  It is to turn a blind eye to the growing white backlash against minorities (Orcinus):

The manifestation of this backlash, however, goes well beyond simply the noose incidents, and the targets are broader than merely minorities. As a product of the right’s ongoing “culture war,” the animus is being more generally directed toward those who are blamed for threatening white privilege: liberals, mulitculturalists, antiwar peace advocates, gays and lesbians, and what Bill O’Reilly calls “secular progressives,” in addition to the obvious and usual targets — blacks and other racial minorities, as well as such religious/ethnic minorities as Jews and Muslims.

I’ve been documenting this growing eliminationism for some time now, observing that for the most part it has been confined to poisonous rhetoric.

But I’ve also observed that this kind of rhetoric has a history in America and elsewhere of being an important predicate of actual eliminationist violence, serving as a form of social permission that actually encourages such acts.

You can see this danger clearly in such incidents as that reported recently by Pam Spaulding

In other words not only is racism alive and well, its fueling a generalized backlash against anyone who is even perceived as being on the side of the minorities.  Today calling someone a liberal is in a way calling them a “nigger lover”.  It has that same hatred of anyone who stands against “their race“.  The most vile and energetic attacks against liberals are an outgrowth of a growing racism.  And that racism is seeping deep into the mainstream:

This kind of generalized hatefulness is not merely confined to neo-Nazis and fringe thugs; rather, but it’s being expressed so broadly and at so many levels — from major right-wing media figures to Republican presidential candidates to the far reaches of the right-wing assholosphere — that of course, it’s also being internalized, and indeed normalized, by the general populace.

So yes, racism still exists, and it is a growing problem.

Often discussions of having “solved” racism center around affirmative action.  Its a great target, but it misses the larger issues.  Like hate crimes, eliminationist rhetoric, and the changes to law and policy that racism can bring about.  One need only look at towns trying to pass laws that specifically target Hispanic families, the faux nationalism that paints the English language as a savior to the foul desecration Spanish represents.  Or at the huge disparities in sentences handed down for the same crime.  Justice in this country is anything but color blind.  In some cases its downright obsessive compulsive about race.

Finally, what is racism?  Racism is pre-judgement based on race.  When you consider that black men are faster runners because they are black, you are a racist.  I know that last one is tough for Ron Paul supporters.  But there it is.  No, having black friends doesn’t mean you aren’t a racist.  And when you regard any group of people in such a fashion, I feel more than comfortable using the term racism.  When a frothing head gets on Fox or CNN and asserts that Mexicans are trying to reclaim the southwestern United States, that’s racism.  And when a commenter defends Ron Paul’s conspiracy theory much about banks by asserting Jews run the banks, and then responds with:

You look up the world bank and the central bank and the federal reserve and who’s in charge. When you’ve educated your self I’ll be here waiting for multiple apologies.

Well, he’s being a racist.  And he can wait as long as he likes for an apology.  It ain’t coming.

There is so much work to do to counter racism.  Part of that involves coming up with a rhetoric of acceptance and intelligence to counter the rejection and willful-ignorance of racism.  A large part of it is recognizing that prejudice, hatred, ignorance and bigotry form one single issue we need to tackle.  That racism, homophobia, and religious strife all grow out of our inability to recognize our shared humanity.

But we must first learn to fearlessly face our problems head on.  And that means acknowledging they exist.  Racism is still very much a problem here in the US.  And it is nothing more than a useful right wing fantasy to pretend otherwise.


17 Responses

  1. […] 13, 2007 america , racism , society Tags: black people, cornel west, racism, white people Dan at fitnessfortheoccasion is trying to address the – rather widespread – belief on part of white Americans that we have […]

  2. I never said racism is dead, but our society doesnt openly accept it, only racists do! and when somebody is openly racist and breaks the law, we deal with them. and apparently i cant call somebody a liberal, because it means i called them a nigger lover? I called u a liberal cause u want government to somehow end racism, and oh yeah, your so full of shit and pretty stupid too.
    and lemme guess somehow wanting to keep illegal immigrants out of the country is racist too right? But im honored you would write this because of what i said. Everybody knows some form of racism will be with us till the end of time, but you cant force people to think one way. and you can spend the rest of your life apologizing for other racist people who you have no control over , but i wont.

    and ron paul never claimed the banks were a jew run conspiracy, he claimed they print fiat money, and that causes inflation. by the way the racist writings attributed to dr paul weren’t even written by him, they were ghostwritten. if you think he is a racist you’re retarded. and i got a newsflash most americans arent the nazis you seem to think they are.

  3. No, racism has gone underground. Its implying that desperate Mexican immigrants are all murderous thugs and disease carriers. Its “driving while black” and the idea that the Civil Rights era is over. There was a time after the American Civil War where relationships between the races improved dramatically, only to return to “de facto” segregation, not only in the South but through out most of America. Have you ever heard of “sundown towns”?

  4. ok so more government mandates will end it?

  5. No, I say we should not abandon the laws that are in the books, as this administration has done. Hate Crime legislation may be needed, but to say that its all done with is far from the truth. And please don’t use the “better qualified” line. That in itself is racist as it presupposes that a) the purpose of the law is to give unqualified persons employment and b) that minorities are by their very nature “unqualified”.

  6. Oh and historically more laws where needed. Read the original amendments (12th, 13th, 14th & 15th), they went far, but then new laws where needed to enforce them.

    For example:

    The 15th Amendment to the Constitution granted African American men the right to vote by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Although ratified on February 3, 1870, the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote.

  7. Rafael,
    Racism hasn’t fully gone underground. But your comment does a fantastic job of recognizing this (I’d just trifle with your language). It is making a very public comeback.


    ok so more government mandates will end it?

    Do you think laws have any value?

    I’d say that laws have the power to deal with the impact of racism.

  8. I can imagine this might be what Fitness’s inter office Christmas party invite would look like. Tough pandering to everyone…

    FROM: Dan @ffto, Human Resources Director

    TO: All Employees

    DATE: 4th November

    RE: Christmas Party

    I’m happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 21st, starting at noon in the private function room at the Grill House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks! We’ll have a small band playing traditional carols…please feel free to sing along.

    And don’t be surprised if the Managing Director shows up dressed as Santa Claus! A Christmas tree will be lit at 1.00p.m.

    Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time; however, no gift should be over $10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone’s pockets.

    This gathering is only for employees! The Managing Director will make a special announcement at the Party. Merry Christmas to you and your Family.



    FROM: Dan @ffto, Human Resources Director

    TO: All Employees

    DATE: 5th November

    RE: Holiday Party

    In no way was yesterday’s memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday, which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we’re calling it our ‘Holiday Party’. The same policy applies to any other employees who are not Christians. There will be no Christmas tree or Christmas carols sung. We will have other types of music for your enjoyment.

    Happy now?

    Happy Holidays to you and your family,



    FROM; Dan @ffto, Human Resources Director

    TO: All Employees

    DATE: 6th November

    RE: Holiday Party

    Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table…you didn’t sign your name. I’m happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads, ‘AA Only’, you wouldn’t be anonymous anymore!!!! How am I supposed to handle this? Somebody?

    Forget about the gift exchange, no gift exchange allowed now since the Union Officials feel that $10.00 is too much money and Management believe $10.00 is a little cheap.




    FROM: Dan @ffto, Human Resources Director

    TO: All Employees

    DATE: 7th November

    RE: Holiday Party

    What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20th begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a
    luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees’ beliefs, perhaps the Grill House can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party – or else package everything up for you to take home in a little foil doggy bag. Will that work?

    Meanwhile, I’ve arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the toilets, Gays are allowed to sit with each other, Lesbians do not have to sit with gay men, each will have their own table. To the person asking permission to cross dress – no cross dressing allowed.

    We will have booster seats for short people. Low fat food will be available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the food. We suggest those people with high blood pressure taste the food first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for Diabetics; the restaurant cannot supply ‘No Sugar’ desserts. Sorry!

    Did I miss anything?!?!?!?!?!



    FROM: Dan @ffto, Human Resources Director

    TO: All F****** Employees

    DATE: 8 November

    RE: The F****** Holiday Party.

    Vegetarian pricks I’ve had it with you people!!! We’re going to keep this party at the Grill House whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the ‘grill of death’, as you so quaintly put it. You’ll get your f****** salad bar, including organic tomatoes, but you know tomatoes have feeling, too. They scream when you slice them. I’ve heard them scream. I’m hearing them scream right NOW!!

    Hope you all have a rotten holiday * drink, drive, and die!

    The Bastard from HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    FROM: John Bishop – Acting Human Resources Director

    TO: All Employees

    DATE: 9th November

    RE: Dan and Holiday Party

    I’m sure I speak for all of us in wishing Dan a speedy recovery, and I’ll continue to forward your cards to him.

    In the meantime, Management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and instead, give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd December off with full pay.

  9. Merry Christmas everyone….

  10. Why not call it the Holiday party or the End of Year party and get it over with. Sounds to be like you don’t need to look in a haystack if you don’t need a needle in the first place.

  11. Spoken like a true atheist Rafael…..

    I noticed no accommodations for Buddhists so I guess I won’t be going…..

  12. I am not an atheist, even though I don’t see anything wrong with it. As for Buddhists, I can’t say they won’t mind much anyway. If you have a holiday to celebrate, do so by all means.

  13. Buddha is all right with all that….

  14. Its apparently quite easy to call anyone who doesn’t appreciate Christmas being shoved in their face an atheist.
    No need to let reality stand in the way of assumption, eh Michael?

    by the way, isn’t that a recycled gag email? The kind that finds its way around with subject lines like “fw: fw: fw: fw: zomg funneh” and a recipient list 30 people long?

    Perhaps some people really do want to treat this country like a Christian one, and every detail, down to what we call end of year parties, matters in their book. Who knows?

  15. You’re a trip. Take it like the joke it was meant to be. You’re too uptight. Loosen up…..

  16. Pffft. I just said it was a lame joke. ::Kennedy Voice::And I, uh, stand by that::

  17. […] NAACP or SPLC).  But back to the argument, if you can call it that.  Essentially they repeat the tired and broken line that having friends/supporters of a given group erases the possibility of prejudice, bigotry […]

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