The Difference Between Racism and a Racist

With all that this national Democratic primary race has come back again and again to the issue of race, there have been some undeniably deep wounds created in the process. There are a lot of hurt feelings going around, especially among those people in the Clinton camp who believe they’ve had their core values questioned. In the interest of perhaps bridging the gap between Clinton and Obama supporters, it is worth noting that there is a difference between racism and a racist.

Geraldine Ferraro does not consider herself to be a racist. This much is – to the Clinton campaign’s enduring chagrin – painfully obvious. And after all, Mrs. Ferraro has been a long-standing, good Democratic/Liberal soldier. I am sure that, if a bill came to the floor that sought to redress the injuries of black Americans, she probably voted for it. If a minority sought office where there had never been a minority, I’ll bet she encouraged them. Whatever the interpretation of her words about Obama, I am sure Mrs. Ferraro quite believed that she was celebrating the age of opportunity into which we may hope we are now passing.  It is certain in the way she went out again and again to defend herself that she was genuinely perplexed by the offense taken to her statement.

Indeed, I am sure Geraldine Ferraro is not a racist, and neither are most people racists who have been accused of making offensive racial statements. David Duke; Strom Thurman; these men are racists, and it’s actually a fairly high bar (or low, if you prefer) to pass if you’re looking to qualify. But just because you don’t walk around with Nazi symbols on your jacket does not mean you know everything there is to know about what offends people of other races and ethnicities. Just because you have not gone out of your way to disenfranchise someone of a different ethnic background does not mean that you have not unwittingly done so somewhere along the line, nor that you are incapable of doing so in the future.

Because racism – like sexism, like age discrimination, like religious discrimination, like a lot of things – is born more often than not out of the simple, everyday ignorance of which we are all guilty.  Sometimes, it’s genuine ignorance of fact, other times, it’s boneheadedly-clumsy speech as in the David Schuster “pimping” comment or Bill Clinton’s Jesse Jackson monolouge.

And in either case, it perpetuates harmful stereotypes or assumptions.  However unwitting an act of racism may be, it does harm.  In either case, it cannot go unaddressed.

But to be called out for saying something racist is not the same as being called a racist.  Had the Clinton campaign or Mrs. Ferarro chosen to take the criticism and moved on, the charges of racist statements would doubtless have been less damaging to the campaign.  To instead defend yourself as not being a racist just misses the point.


Excellent Analysis of Barack’s Speech

The NYT gives us a glowing endorsement of Barack Obama’s speech on race of yesterday morning. This is a fairly good summary of a speech that we’ll be talking about for a while. Obama is also set to give another speech tomorrow on Iraq and another one on the economy. I’m not sure thats all that good of an idea, since this one was so good. P.T. Barnum always said, “leave ’em wanting more.”

But despite many in the media who keep asking over and over again, “is this dumb enough for the American people to handle?” this speech is getting lots of air time, and I think it will prove that we don’t need the distillation that the media insists on: the need for brevity is a byproduct of television news, not a necessity of the public:

Obama Chooses Reconciliation Over Rancor – New York Times

He faced a choice: Having already denounced Mr. Wright’s ferocious charges about white America, he could try to distance himself from the man who drew him to Christianity, married him and baptized his two children. Or he could try to explain what appeared to many to be the contradiction between Mr. Wright’s world view and the one Mr. Obama had professed as his own.

To some extent, he did both.


Thoughts on Obama’s Speech

Just a quick bit after having just heard Obama’s entire speech on race.  Once again, like his speech on MLK Day, he was fearless in dealing with uncomfortable issues.  You can criticize him for his choice of solutions, perhaps, but you cannot say he glossed over the subjects that matter.

I was awestruck when on Martin Luther King’s birthday, I heard him talk about racism in the black community being a source of the black communities problems.  I was stunned when he enumerated all of the injustices – real injustices – that have been a continual source of anger and frustration for black Americans in this speech.  And when he made the problems of blue-collar white Americans dovetail with, rather than chafe against, the problems of the black community, I was inspired.

Politically, he covered every single issue I could think of that Conservatives and Fox News anchors could have used to dismiss the speech, but he did so in a way that made those excuses seem like the problem we know they are.  I think his speech served both his candidacy and his party and his country well.

I don’t see how this doesn’t change the entire tone of the conversation, if only because his speech turned on so many issues that have to directly affect the lives of so many Americans, including those in the media, that we feel compelled to talk about them.

I’m hoping the entire thing goes up on YouTube.  It deserves to be watched.


Report Cites Racism in Subprime Lending

A study conducted by an umbrella of organizations including the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project in New York concludes that there were additional pressures on black and Latino borrowers to take the high-risk subprime mortgages that have now become such a huge problem:

Report: Minority US neighborhoods have disproportionate burden of subprime loans – News Wires –

The survey focused on lending to minority urban markets in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Rochester, New York. In six of these seven urban areas, high-risk lenders’ market share in minority neighborhoods was at least three times the share in white neighborhoods. . .Advocacy groups have said poor and minority borrowers who qualified for traditional loans were nevertheless steered into risky adjustable mortgages.

I don’t know the methodology of the study and I don’t discount the possibility that race may have played a factor in lending schemes for some companies, but I do note that there is no indication in this report that income levels were factored into the equation. Certainly in the City of Rochester, poorer neighborhoods have been more blighted by subprimes and foreclosures than, say, those neighborhoods bordering Brighton. And in many cases, those neighborhoods have a higher concentration of minorities. Since lower-income people were largely targeted for subprimes, once might draw the wrong conclusion unless income was taken into account.

In fact, the article seems to suggest that this study was based on communities rather than borrowers, which if true, is way off the mark scientifically speaking. To say that communities were targeted is different than saying race was targeted: that poor communities and minority communities tend to coexist in this country is another sin altogether.

And once again, we find that this report perpetuates the wrong-headed thinking that has predominated coverage of the ARM crisis:

Report: Minority US neighborhoods have disproportionate burden of subprime loans – News Wires –

This concentration means these minority communities will shoulder most of the negative impacts of the subprime crisis _ foreclosures, sinking property values, lower tax bases, abandoned homes and higher crime.

To re-re-reiterate the point, sinking property values are the reason that the current crisis is upon us, not the effect of said crisis. And lower tax bases are the inevitable result of lowering property values. Also, since the crisis is moving up the economic ladder, it’s probably premature to think that only those neighborhoods cited in the report will face increased foreclosure. There’s plenty of fancy homes sitting with for-sale signs out front, believe it.


The Clinton / Drudge Connection

I find this rather interesting in light of the current controversy: the Clinton Campaign seems to have been using Drudge as a means to disseminate information right along with the MSM.  Is it still believable, all you Clinton supporters, that the campaign doesn’t know who sent out the photo?


Clinton Campaign Afraid of Brown People

Matt Drudge reported that Clinton Campaign advisers are circulating an image of Barack Obama dressed as a Somali elder, positing that if it was HRC, she would be all over the covers of every newspaper. Even Drudge does the right thing and points out lots of other American figures – yes, including Hillary and Chelsea (ggrrow!) – have worn traditional or accepted garb in various other countries as deemed appropriate. Obama campaign adviser Plouffe responds in Politico:

Obama slams smear photo – Mike Allen –

Plouffe said in a statement: “On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election. This is part of a disturbing pattern that led her county chairs to resign in Iowa, her campaign chairman to resign in New Hampshire, and it’s exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world,” said Plouffe.

Let me go a step further and point out the obvious: what is objectionable to Hillary advisers is a black man dressed any other way but the way “Americans” dress. This isn’t just about “divisive politics,” that “diminishes respect for America,” but rather specific and unambiguously racist hate rhetoric that says that people in other parts of the world who dress funny are dangerous. It implicitly states that brown people in other parts of the world and dressed differently are terrorists. It says that a black American man cannot be trusted to travel abroad because he might “go native.” This is a rather specific thumb in the eye of every other nation where such people might reside, and it is beyond shameful.

Hill Boosters can claim that the advisers simply saw what they believed to be media bias. But this photo is years old, where did it come from? Ultimately, they looked through a bunch of photos till this one hit a nerve and they decided it was somehow beyond the pale. They found something here worth attacking and their reflexive Liberal guilt wouldn’t allow them to state in plain terms what they know damned-well they saw.

It also says that Clinton advisers are so prejudiced that they don’t even recognize the depths of their own ignorance: the garb Obama wears in the above picture is about as directly indicative of being somehow associated with terrorists as a traditional Indian wardrobe would be. Or an Eskimo snow suit, for that matter. It’s not that he looks like a terrorist; it’s not that he looks like an Arab (which, in fact, he does not); it’s that it looks like one of those dirty brown people you can’t trust.

So please, everybody: let’s all overlook the MLK comment; let’s all overlook the Jesse Jackson “black candidate” comment; lets all set aside every single, solitary shred of evidence that there is a consistent problem with racism on the Clinton team and just take it at face value that someone once dubbed William Jefferson Clinton “the first black president,” and without a token (pardon the pun) of further evidence, assume that this imparts the same untarnished, unassailable reputation to Hillary Rodham-.

You know, just do like the rest of that whole “35 years of experience” canard does.


Blame Canada

Another h/t for Crooks and Liars today, and there’s lots more cool links in that post, so check it out. Apparently, white Southerners are using the word “Canadians” as a euphemism for “blacks,” or whatever racial epithet you prefer, in an attempt to slur blacks without too many people knowing what they mean. It was on Boing Boing, so I naturally thought it was a joke, but it’s not.

I’m a bit disappointed: whitey’s gone all pussy on us.

In the U.S. south, is Canadian a new racial slur?

Last August, a blogger in Cincinnati going by the name CincyBlurg reported that a black friend from the southeastern U.S. had recently discovered that she was being called a Canadian. “She told me a story of when she was working in a shop in the South and she overheard some of her customers complaining that they were always waited on by a Canadian at that place. She didn’t understand what they were talking about and assumed they must be talking about someone else,” the blogger wrote.”After this happened several times with different patrons, she mentioned it to one of her co-workers. He told her that ‘Canadian’ was the new derogatory term that racist Southerners were using to describe persons they would have previously referred to [with the N-word.]”


Richard Cohen’s Racial Slurring: Obama Responds

I hate to drag this blog down into this gutter, but it’s worth keeping track of such things while a mostly-unobservant populace goes about its business. Barack Obama decided to respond directly to the Cohen smear, which I think is probably more credence than it deserves, but The Horse’s Mouth has the dirty. And still more.

Is Richard Cohen playing the race card?  Yes, he is.  Because there is a long and ugly history of Jewish/Black hostility in this country, and raising the name of Louis Farrakhan scrapes that wound open again.  It is far, far more irresponsible than one careless comment of Hillary Clinton’s by leaps and bounds.


Oh, Did You Think We Were Done with the Race Issue?

Well, just because Obama and Clinton decided for now to pull the rhetoric down a notch, that doesn’t mean that someone else can’t raise a scare or two.  Richard Cohen drums up anti-Semitism fears about Obama and his church.  You go, girl.