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August 13, 2003

Racism and Liberals

Barry Freed in comments captures a bit of why I am suspicious about folks reactions to my "whiff of racism" post about Arianna's run:

To return to the Arianna Huffington/Cruz Bustamante thing. I find it disturbing that she doesn't consider Bustamante, the elected Lieutenant Governor of the state, a serious contender for the office of Governor and someone whose candidacy is worth supporting. Such a candidate, one would think, would be a natural to support, barring the presence of extremist political views, criminality or assorted weirdness. What am I, a Latino who has experienced racism, to think in the absence of clearly articulated and deep political differences other than that some element of racism, in all likelihood unconscious, is involved in the perception of Bustamante as not being a worthy contender? I can't help but feel a bit as if Bustamante were being infantilized and deemed a non-person. And I don't think this would be happening if he were white.
But see, contrary to your accusations I have not tried to shut down discussion or anyone. Rather I have tried to open it up and show that the issue of racism, it's extent and it's prevalence in American society is very much at issue here. It is something I wish to discuss and debate sans the hurling of accusations and epithets. However, if you think that somehow racism is conveniently limited to the Trent Lott's and the Strom Thurmond's of the world then I must say we very much disagree.
And beyond the specific issue of whether I'm right or wrong on Arianna (which neither Barry nor I are 100% sure of), there's the strength of the response, which as Barry notes:
It's not the disagreement per se that alarms me. It's the vehemence of it. It's a tipoff that there is something else going on underneath (phew, I was gonna write 'under the hood' then I realized how that could be taken in this context ;-). Look, I can't count the number of times I've seen white people go completely beserk because after some incident with a racial factor involved someone points out that racism. Many white people, many liberals included, don't like that at all and the degree of their resentment and the intensity of their anger are quite frightening to behold. It's a consequence of denial. Note: I am not accusing those who disagree with Nathan of being racists, OK? There's more than just black and white in the world (speaking chromatically here, not with regard to racial categories).
Along with Kevin, Tapped criticized me for the post as well. I think it's mildly significant that despite me saying a range of controversial things on the left, from my views on judicial review to city zoning to labor unions v. Dean, Tapped has never bothered to condemn me for any issue not involving race. See as well:

On Cynthia McKinney (see Aug 22)
On immigration

The point is not that they disagreed on these points but that they were so motivated by their disagreement that they posted a condemning link. Heck, I think I post all sorts of stuff that other liberals could tear into, but the "hot button" nature of the response to this post is more significant than the disagreement itself.

What bothers me most is that conservatives with the whole "political correctness" attack had a two-pronged strategy-- on one hand they condemn any progressive discussing racism as a neo-McCarthyite, then on the other hand, they fling charges of "high-tech lynching", "reverse racism", "anti-Catholic" bigotry, and all such around with such abandon that liberals then feel the need to themselves call a halt to discussions of the subtler manifestations of racism and bigotry in public life.

So apparently, the Right has won. They've trained progressives to police their own allies to shut up about such issues. What's badly mistaken about such an approach is that it's a loser. I'm hardly a militant on race issues -- I'm more of a white boy pro-union "workers of the world unite" kind of guy -- so if liberal folks think I'm out of the box on race issues, you are completely disconnected from discussions going on among serious activists and communites suffering racism on a day-to-day basis. And that disconnect is the most worrisome issue.

Posted by Nathan at August 13, 2003 08:06 AM