Racism and Sexism in the Democratic Primaries: Part II

I’ve decided to respond to Ana, Larry, and others in a new post rather than in a comment. This is partly because it is easier and more reliable for me to post than to comment under the present conditions. Which in truth are not really conducive to any kind of writing, but here goes.Ana, yes, I won’t say that “feelings have passed” or that my mind has changed about anything. What I will say is that the whole purpose of that post (and this) was to explore what I see as some serious ambiguities. These ambiguities exist, I think, across the campaign process as well as in the minds of any one who is a) really thinking about this or b) not simply pushing some dogmatic point or another.To this I want to admonish both Ana and Phil, with all respect: One could read some of your text to be very similar to what a campaign aide might say. You are saying things that I could see you reversing if that reversal happen to support your candidate. And, indeed, that is how one campaigns and now one supports a candidate. The stable strategy is an adversarial system. But, in discussing the logic or rational (or lack thereof) of certain decisions, we may have to step outside of that. If we can.I feel moved to re articulate the initial question. There are two parts. First, if every candidate who could numerically not win ever (in the Democratic Party) always stepped aside (and this is almost true), then why would getting frustrated with Clinton for not stepping aside be bad? It might be bad because she is the first viable female candidate, and because other years we also get frustrated with the fact that half the country votes in primaries that have no meaning. I’m in the latter camp and always have been: I’m very interested in seeing this go to the convention. (It is also possible that one can ague that Clinton has not lost numerically. But then one also has to argue that super delegates are good and I’m not sure that anyone has stated both of those things together in one place. I may be wrong about that.)But then we have the second part: Is it OK for Clinton or Obama (but so far this is mainly or exclusively been Clinton) to damage the party’s chances with certain campaign tactics at the primary level?Ana, you want lots of proof, and I’ve not been completely obliging you. Sorry. Here are a couple of more bits, then I’m going to ask you either for some proof of something, or to simply deeply disagree with me on one very important point. But first let me note that it was some time ago that Clinton did say in a number of ways in and in a number of contexts that McCain and she were both better than Obama. That is bad party politics and being the first viable female candidate does not excuse the behavior. That makes me mad at Clinton. Ana, Phil will provide you with citations if you need them. The three o’clock phone call and natural security bit were similar.In other words, when Hillary Clinton made her white/working class people comments, there was already a record of her being willing to cross that line of damaging your same-party opponent for the general election. When this damage is followed by statements indicating that “I’m the best candidate because my opponent is damaged” then people like me, who want to actually win the election, start thinking I’d rather lose the election than to win under these circumstances. And wow, I have NEVER had that though before in my entire political life. So that is shocking and disturbing to me. (Yes, my own thoughts are disturbing me.)Now, as far as the white/working class people comment, Ana, I’m holding Hillary’s feet to the fire on this one, and yours as well. Hillary Clinton was not born yesterday and did not enter politics yesterday. Her statement was the kind that either has to be acknowledged as playing the race card or as one for which she would need to clarify or retract. I would hope she would do the latter. Did she? Please provide a citation. I hope she did, but I don’t think so. Please prove me wrong.Having said all that, I totally agree with Ana and I think Elizabeth that in many cases the thing that is annoying is often something that the press decided to create rather than something that the candidate decided to create. Reverend Wright, the white/hard working linking statement, and countless other things on both sides of this campaign have been given significance by the press (or ignored, as the case may be).But that is why we are here, on the blogosphere, where we can try to overcome that particularly annoying feature of our society!Now, speaking of annoying, let’s move on to Larry Moran’s vigorous attempts to bait Greg.Larry, if most black people vote for Obama because he is black, than that is racist. Ana can tell you that I have a particularly strict definition of racism, and there is no doubt that this is racist according to my own definition. White people voting for a black candidate because he is black are also racist. And women or men voting for a woman because she is a woman is sexist. I don’t think anyone can argue to the contrary on any of these points. Well, you could, but you would be wrong.A premise of this entire discussion is that Obama is the first viable black candidate for president of the United States, and Clinton is the first viable female candidate for president of the United States ever. I the twenty first century. In the old days, both blacks and women were owned as property, and neither had the vote. Both were routinely abused, tortured, and sometimes murdered with little or no consequence to the perpetrators, if they became inconvenient. Attempts were made to strip both of all of their power, and even with very clear laws requiring equal consideration, there are still groups of individuals who would prefer blacks and women to be treated as second or third class citizens. Or property. The abuse and killing have reduced considerably and the legality of such atrocious behavior is 99.999 percent abrogated, but the behavior continues and there are individuals and groups who would prefer it more common.Given this, Democrats in general … and this, Larry, is where you need to bone up on your American politics … are happy with the whole idea of “reverse” racism and sexism.When we Democrats gather for any purpose, certain pledges are read out loud and we all either mummer ascent or in some cases vote to keep those pledges up, and we all do it with a knot in our throat and a tear in our eye because these pledges strike to the core of our political and personal beings. One of those pledges is to promote diversity and another is equality between the sexes. In Minnesota, our party rules require that representation be equal by sex. Among the delegates and alternates that go to the state convention, half are women, half are men. I think that may be nation wide for our party. When the democrats convene in Colorado, half of the delegates will be women, half men.One could argue that this is sexist (or racist as the case may be) because we are considering sex or race. And that would be correct. However, we forgive each other and ourselves this transgression because we do so to reverse much greater, even horrific, transgressions of the past and going on elsewhere in the present (like, for all I know, in Canada and in the Republican Party). We are, I assure you, fully aware of the irony and we are utterly unconcerned with it.In the end, part of the reason Clinton will win the nomination is because she is a woman. Or, part of the reason Obama will win the nomination is because he is black. That is what we are doing here right now in America and in the Democratic party. Very much on purpose. Of course, they are otherwise qualified as well.I mean, really, to be honest with you, the person I want to be president is Ana. I am not making this up. I think she’s available and she is truly qualified. She would represent my politics as well as anyone I can think of. For instance, she has a gtrue commitment to environmental issues that is stronger than any of the candidates (for whom environmental issues would dissolve with any optimistic report on the environment. I’m sure.) Her commitment to peace is strong, but I think if she really really had to bomb someone she would do so, but only if she really really really had to.Ana for president!Unfortunately, she’s not running so I’m not going to write her in. I don’t want a Republican appointing the remaining supreme court justices. Both democratic candidates are not only acceptable, but they are both way better than average, for their own (very different) reasons.

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32 thoughts on “Racism and Sexism in the Democratic Primaries: Part II

  1. if most black people vote for Obama because he is black, than that is racist. Ana can tell you that I have a particularly strict definition of racism, and there is no doubt that this is racist according to my own definition. White people voting for a black candidate because he is black are also racist. And women or men voting for a woman because she is a woman is sexist. I don’t think anyone can argue to the contrary on any of these points. Well, you could, but you would be wrong.

    You did not invent the term “racism.” Why should anyone accept (or care about) your personal idiosyncratic definition of this term?The quote above is about as fine an example of prime bull … silliness as I’ve seen recently. To take just one very specific example, if I can’t decide between Clinton and Obama and I vote based on whether I feel that electing a woman or a black would be better for the country, then I’m either sexist or racist by your peculiar personal definition. Should I care?Nonsense … but why go farther? You’d simply restate your definition and tell me that in that light, I’m wrong.

  2. Scott,Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comment. Just as with all of your other insightful and thoughtful comments, I am left wondering why I don’t just delete you.I am, despite your likely protestations, not a moron. When I wrote these thoughts about “my definition” of racism, I expected a discussion to arise, and I look forward to the opportunity to expand on why I would (strongly) assert that thinking “As a doctor, I must know if my patient is a Somali vs. a Nigerian” is a racist act.The problem is that your knee jerk bellyaching is not the inspiration I was looking for, mainly because that is all you ever have to offer. Now, if Larry Moran wants to bait me, I’ll take the bate. I kinda like Larry, though he drives me nuts!And besides, I only turned on the computer to check for thunderstorms and tornadoes. There are reports of bad weather coming and I’m about to light the grill.Or do I go fishing? Or do I go talk to the neighbor who just dropped his motor into the lake? Or the other neighbor who’s canoe just sailed, sailorless, across the bay?Or do I take another slightly narcotic but fully legal prescription pill (Every Six Hours!) and enjoy another nap….Ah, Memorial Day Weekend….So, Scott, no, I’m not going to talk to you until you answer the question I asked you weeks ago and that you have ignored……. OK, storm prospects look poor, nice weather prospects look good. The cousins have arrived and are looking hungry. Time to light the grill…

  3. if most black people vote for Obama because he is black, than that is racist. Ana can tell you that I have a particularly strict definition of racism, and there is no doubt that this is racist according to my own definition. White people voting for a black candidate because he is black are also racist. And women or men voting for a woman because she is a woman is sexist. I don’t think anyone can argue to the contrary on any of these points. Well, you could, but you would be wrong.

    Racism, and sexism, are institutionalized systems of oppression of groups of people who have second-class citizen status. Both women and blacks (as well as other people of color) have been systematically oppressed, and thus generally denied voices in places that would matter. Wanting a loudspeaker, or a public position, for a racial minority does not make one racist. It in fact acts against racism because it allows a generally oppressed voice to be heard. Voting for a black President, because he is black, is not racist. Voting for a female President, because she is female, is not sexist. Not, at least, until actual equality in respect and power has been achieved. Until then, we are just striving to get some representation. Does that make sense?

  4. Dear Greg, your second paragraph on the subject of ?serious ambiguities? is so ambiguous as to render me?ambiguous. But let me continue, and maybe I?ll inadvertently figure it out.Yeah, I did take a stand for my candidate, and I have, at various times this season, felt that I should be getting paid (for services rendered to each campaign). But I didn?t get the sense that your first post (especially) on the subject had set a stage for non-adversarial discussion of the aforementioned ambiguities. So, uh?yeah, I?d be all for stepping out too, Greg, if you were really ready. But you?re still arguing that Clinton?s been in the wrong, and I vehemently (did you get that yet? J) disagree, and it?s difficult to do so without sounding like a supporter.I just don?t buy into the argument that Clinton has ?damaged? the Party?s chances (given an Obama candidacy.) I think he?s been doing plenty of that to himself all on his own which is a product of his inexperience and which is itself, therefore, a matter of concern to the Party. Clinton?s 3 o?clock ad was produced as a comment on that matter, with a national security angle. She did modify her stance on his ability to handle such a call during the farce of a debate from ABC, saying that he would be capable (and let?s remember here Obama himself answers that charge by saying he?d have capable people around him, and by changing the subject to judgment (and don’t get me started on that) but that she thinks she?d be better. Isn?t that what primaries are all about? Pointing out differences? Who is better at what? Or maybe you think she has no claim on experience? In any case, it?s up to Obama to defend himself against the charge, and in ways that do not reduce her claims as having been about tea-parties; McCain will say the same thing (and would have even if the 3 o?clock ad had never existed), and I hear he drinks coffee (decaf though?he?s old).And again, her ?working, hard-working Americans, white?? statement was made in the context of elect ability (Nov.) She had to say ?white? because, as we all know by now, Obama?s doing just fine with the (hard-working) black people. Venn diagram, Greg; circle in a circle. Maybe it helps to recognize that she could have made the same statement, to the same effect, if her challenger was white. The only way I can manage the mental gymnastics involved in seeing those comments as damaging to Obama or Party is if you?re thinking that because she pointed to a problem he?s been having with the white working-class that somehow those voters are going to suddenly realize that Obama is black and that, oh yeah, they?re racist. Axelrod says that Dems don?t necessarily need the white working-class vote (BAD STRATEGY), and I?d note that Gore and Kerry both lost them to Bush by around 20% (where race was not a factor). I happen to see those voters as perfectly winnable (minus the few racists and abortion fanatics, etc.) if someone would just tell them why they should be. Hillary has been doing that. So far, Obama has shown them real disdain, and continues to. Apparently now, the ?clinging? comment was meant as a compliment, like isn?t it precious how much these discouraged folk love their God, and now with the flag pin just happening to be on his suit when he puts it on in the morning. WTF.We haven?t really talked at all about sexism here at all (I?m passing right by that bit of yours on how being female doesn?t give you a pass because I don?t think anyone is saying anything of the type), but I?ll try to push on that door here a little by saying that I was hoping you?d respond to Carlie?s question from the earlier post about how pointing out realities amounts to playing a card, but now that we?ve said a few more things here I can imagine that you?d say it was Clinton?s talking about the issue NOW that amounted to some kind-of pandering (which you see as anti-feminist). I myself wish she?d been talking about it more, throughout the campaign. However, she did try to broach the issue way back when and that story was turned into Clinton whining about the boys-club?So, go figure. I don?t know that many voters are going to be swayed her way by her speaking to this. It certainly wasn?t why she got my vote.And with regard to that 99.999% abrogation you mentioned, funny thing is:http://www.wsj2010.com/http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,337173,00.htmlhttp://www.pnj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080517/NEWS01/805170332http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/all-he-wanted-to-do-was-take-his-wifes-name/2008/05/06/1209839596100.htmlhttp://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/30/washington/30scotus.html?ex=1338177600&en=c254a9275bb850f5&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rsshttp://www.slate.com/id/2168758/http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/31/AR2008033100887.html?nav=hcmodule&sub=newhttp://www.kansascity.com/business/story/338276.htmlhttp://feministing.com/archives/007533.htmlhttp://feministing.com/archives/007517.htmlhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7331813.stmand that was just a quick search.And quick, to Phil (from before), thanks for the vocab lesson; I?ll try to use those words in a sentence today. You asked for info on Obama?s hypocrisy with regard to the two disputed primaries and I happened to know of some. Of course, both campaigns are playing politics (another mark of Obama?s hypocrisy), and both have changed their thinking on the matter. Still, I prefer Hillary?s approach, which has consistently sought to respect all voters whose voices were shut out by the DNC (and it was, let?s remember, the Republican congress in Florida that pushed the bill to change the date, attaching it to important paper-trail legislation (so at least we?ll have that!)). Yes, back then, Hillary did concede that the rules would prevent the seating of those delegations. But then the voters pressed their interest, a re-vote was considered and Barack killed it in one of those ?Clinton-like? back rooms (more hypocrisy), and now he wants half, or more (do I need to continue here?), and clearly some kind of arrangement will have to be made. Soon. Like, a week from now. Right? Cheers!And to Muse: I agree with your take on the matter of ?what is racism/sexism? and I think that Greg would agree too but that he would indeed, in the strictest sense, call what you describe racism/sexism, though of the sort we forgive ourselves for.

  5. Oh yeah, on President Miller:I like the sound of 2028, Greg, if you can wait. Peter Wagenius already has himself lined up as campaign adviser! Although, my best qualifications to date are my having been born in Pennsylvania on the 4th of July…and there’s the problem of a mugshot that I’m sure says “fuck-you” all over it (did you know they make you look at a plastic eagle that hangs from the ceiling by a noose at Ramsey?). That might be tricky despite the charges having been dismissed…

  6. Muse,My argument generally involves locking people in a room for four or five hours and having a talk, and I can’t do this on the blog (how frustrating…) but I’d be happy to give you the outline.Racism is not oppression. It is a reason for oppression, it is part of the oppression we often see, but it is not the oppression itself. Racism is, rather, a particular belief system. One can be a perfect racist and a hermit and one can be a perfect oppressor and have non-racist reasons. So obviously we need to have some kind of definition of racism.Very simply (too simply, but remember, this is a comment on a blog) racism is the belief that one can use a “racial” characteristic to identify a person’s features aside from that characteristic. This requires the belief in the actual race one is using, as well as a belief in that correlation.If I look at you and say “ah, freckles and red hair. Irish. Probably likes beer.” then I am assigning you to a race and assuming a trait based on this correlation. This is racist thinking. Some might argue that “irish is not thought of as a race” but that would be ingenuous.Given this it is concievable that there is racist thinking that is relatively benign.”Oh, look at the irish girl. she’s probably a good writer. Oh, look at the pregnant Somali woman. As a doctor, I’m glad to know her race because there is this disease common among pregnant Somali that I need to take into account in diagnosing her symptoms.” And so on.Now, let’s try the argument that racism is always obviously bad, and therefore anything that is obviously good can’t be racism. Furthermore, if we assume that me thinking Muse is a great writer because she’s Irish or Obama’s election will lead the way towards a more enlightened society because he’s “African” then those are good things. But if they are not racial thinking, then what are they?In my view they are still examples of racial thinking.Racial thinking that seems positive, useful, or benign is not only still racial thinking, but it is also perhaps still not good. If races don’t exist, then their non-existence undercuts the assertion that “blacks are animals” or “Irish are drunks” AND it undercuts the racist assertion that “Blacks are wonderful athletes” and “the Irish are great writers” You can’t have a truth turn on and off strictly out of personal or political convenience.Furthermore, the use of racialized reasoning no matter how wonderful it sounds at the time is still racialized, and can still serve as a pathway to the oppression to which you refer.Thanks for bringing this up in a way that was thoughtful, critical, yet not dismissive!By the way, Muse, if you’re Irish I’m buying a lottery ticket this afternoon!!Ana: I’ll wait if I have to, I guess. Hey, I did not know you were born in Pennsylvania, did I?

  7. Dear Ana,Sorry, your comment (due to the link) was sucked into the dungeon and I have only now freed it.I hope you and your family are OK after the tornado. I’m not yet sure if our place is OK but the neighbors have not indicated anything to the contrary.Dear Greg, your second paragraph on the subject of ?serious ambiguities? is so ambiguous as to render me?ambiguous. But let me continue, and maybe I?ll inadvertently figure it out.All I have to say about this is that ambiguity is the uncertain side of certainty. Sometimes.On the three o’clock call thing… this is a perfect example of my ambiguity and uncertainty. And this is a perfect place to see where we could agree/disagree. In fact, this is such a good example that I can be very systematic and use Roman Numerals.I. I happen to think Clinton would be better at answering the call than Obama (one of my reasons for supporting her). We probably agree on that.II. I think that her scary ad was a use of fear that I don’t like. Bush used fear to invade iraq, the state uses fear to lull us all into complacency, etc. But while I don’t like fear as a selling tactic for ideas, I also appreciate Clinton’s use of tactics that work. So this is where I like her but for reasons that make me feel a little icky. But that is why I like her. She can get the job (of being elected) done. I wonder if we have similar feelings in this area (generally, not necessarily about Clinton specifically).II. She did say at one point that she and McCain are the experienced ones, Obama the inexperienced one. She did not need to go there to make the point. She could have left McCain out of this during the democratic primary. I feel that this was a violation of the party loyalty. She handed the Republican a sound bite that he can use later in his ad campaign against Obama.In this particular situation, the overstepping of party loyalty was real (I think) but not taken very far. But structurally, I think this is a good example of what I am talking about.IV. Maybe. Maybe Clinton will use or has used Obama’s unelectabilty in a race against McCain, an unelectiblity she has herself fostered by stepping outside the party’s own boxing ring, to suggest that super delegates overrule the outcome of the primaries. That would be very bad and make me prefer to see her leave the party. It might make me want to not vote for her. But I would be stuck voting for her, so I would simply vote for her but not support her.Here is the real crux of this: Democrats do this now and then, some candidates more than others. Kennedy did it against Carter, for instance. When they do it, we (we other Democrats) get mad at them.The hard to ask question, then, is this: Is Hillary hiding behind a “don’t be an anti-feminist” shield when her supporters say that complaints about this particular tactic is just another example of pushing a woman aside? (Do her supporters actually say this? If they do, is it obnoxious?)Ana, I’m not addressing the rest of your post because I don’t understand it yet. I have not had my morning coffee, I don’t know what I’m doing here on the computer. But I’ll get back to it. Except this:On the 99 percent abrogated. Excellent. This could be the start of a whole other conversation. 99 percent legally abrogated is technically true, but what really happens in real life? I’d love to have a conversation with a female cop about this, that would be an interesting perspective. There is the law, then there are concepts such as “boys will be boys.” For the record, we are 100 percent on the same page here, I’m sure. (Have we discussed Hrdy’s study of crimes of passion?)G

  8. So obviously we need to have some kind of definition of racism.Well, here you go.Main Entry: rac┬ĚismPronunciation: ?r?-?si-z?m also -?shi-Function: noun1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race2 : racial prejudice or discriminationhttp://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racismRacism has existed throughout human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one person by another — or the belief that another person is less than human — because of skin color, language, customs, place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations, and legal codes.http://www.adl.org/hate-patrol/racism.aspRacism, by its simplest definition, is discrimination based on racial group. One with racist beliefs might hate certain groups of people according to their race (i.e., bigotry), or in the case of institutional racism, certain racial groups may be denied rights or benefits. Racism typically starts with, though is rarely confined to the assumption that there are taxonomic differences between different groups of people. Prejudices on other grounds would strictly categorize as discrimination to national or regional origin, religion, occupation, social status or some other distinction.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RacismRacism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage — the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical forces beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas — or of inherited knowledge — which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of anmials, but not between animals and men.http://freedomkeys.com/ar-racism.htmPersonally, the ideas you put forth concerning racism in that comment are bunk. Ask any person what their definition of racism is and they will include oppression within their definition. You must take into account the prevalent usage of a word in your argument, you cannot conjure a senario for the word that fits your argument.

  9. While talking about Hillary vs. Obama:http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=ydWx9PA90q0Some interesting commentary from Keith Olberman. For most Europeans, it is pretty hard to understand the impetus behind the prolonged Democratic primary. In a year in which the Democrats could have pretty much walked into the White House, it is a very strange thing to see that the Clinton campaign is still going on. To be honest, after the Bosnia sniper fire story, the 3 a.m. phone call ad and the “hard-working whites” comment, I would have expected this campaign to end at some point. Obviously that goes to show a lack of understanding of US politics on my side, although I keep thinking that any Republican candidate making such errors in judgement would long be gone by now.And as good a public servant as Clinton might be, you just have to give Obama credit for saying things like this:”We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. That’s not leadership. That’s not going to happen.”http://www.scienceblogs.de/frischer-wind/2008/05/barack-obama-amerika-muss-sich-andern.phpThe fact, that a US presidential candidate would actively propose changing the path of the country and still get public applause and still get great poll numbers is much more astonishing to me than the fact that the Democratic party would nominate either a black man or a woman for the office of president…

  10. Joel,My definition does not obviate or conflict with any of these other definitions, but is is more inclusive. And there is a reason for this. Are you disagreeing with the point I am making here, or with the definition itself?Here is one way you might try thinking about this: One of your definitions says:”Racism, by its simplest definition, is discrimination based on racial group.”Joel, is there something wrong with this definition you cite? Do you like it, accept it, consider it to be valid? I’m guessing yes since you provide it.Then you agree with my definition, which is the same. The only possible difficulty here is that you are assuming the word “discrimination” means something more narrow than it actually does.

  11. In my view racism or sexism is making a decision based on race or gender where those are not substantive to the decision. For example, I don’t see any substantial relevance to the position of President of the US with regard to race or gender. (In deference to the good example above concerning a Dr. treating a pregnant woman. Race may be relevant in some situations.)So voting for or against Mr. Obama because he is black is racist. Voting for Mr. Obama who happens to be black is not racist. Similarly for Mrs. Clinton with regards to sexism.

  12. Jim: “happens to be” vs. “because s/he is” is a good distinction to make, and yes, one could not help voting for or against anyone based on some thing that happens to be true. But again, what I’m trying to impress without locking everyone into a room for several hours to provide detailed examples, run a few group encounter sessions, read a couple hundred pages of text, etc. is this:If you make a decision or a determination by identifying a person as part of a race, and then making the assertion that “because the race is X, some other fact is Y” that is a racist act, no matter how negative, positive, or benign it may seem.I can make everyone, even Joel (maybe) feel better by pointing out that one could make a non-trivial argument that “happy” racism (the doctor making the above assertion, for instance) is always “sad faced” racism underneath because it is almost always used as an excuse by racists to continue with racists ways.Consider all the ways in which racist (by my definition) acts were carried out in a socially acceptable and seemingly benign way in the past, but whereby if we looked at those things today we would not consider them socially acceptable or benign. For example, I have been told that the Blacks of South Africa were happier under apartheid, so apartheid should be brought back. What a happy thought. How is this not racist? Well, of course most would say it is because one sees it as a stupid and offensive thing to say. But what if everyone (worngly) happened to agree with it and not realize it was stupid and offensive? Would it then not be racist? If so, … if racism must make you (or me or Joel) feel bad to be racism, then the logic (the racist vs. not racist logic) of a statement changes with different levels of ignorance/understanding of a situation.This is like saying that that the answer to the question “how much is ten dollars plus one dollar” changes depending on if I’m rich or poor. Kind of.

  13. Greg, back on May 22nd you complained about the fact that the Clinton side has raised the race issue. Then you said,

    One more thing: Despite whatever I have said above regarding the issue of race and racism, there is one thing that needs to be made very clear. It is not the case that working class white people don’t like the idea of voting for a black man for president. No. What is the case is that working class white people in Appalachia are by and large racists slobs. Other working class white people, not so much. Or at least, not in this way. The messing around with the demographics (of race, mainly) by the politicians and their handlers pales in comparison to this sad and shameful reality.

    I’ve heard many Obama supporters say the very same thing and I find this attitude disturbing. It’s disturbing because you are making a sweeping judgment about working class white people in Appalachia but it’s also disturbing because you conveniently ignore the gorilla in the room.Lot’s of black voters are casting their votes based on race and not policies. Why aren’t you just as critical of them as you are of white Kentucky voters?I thought maybe it was because you had a strange definition of racism that only applies to some people and not others. But you cleared that up for me when you said (above),

    Larry, if most black people vote for Obama because he is black, than that is racist. Ana can tell you that I have a particularly strict definition of racism, and there is no doubt that this is racist according to my own definition. White people voting for a black candidate because he is black are also racist. And women or men voting for a woman because she is a woman is sexist. I don’t think anyone can argue to the contrary on any of these points. Well, you could, but you would be wrong.

    Ok. We agree on a definition of racism. The next question is why do you think the Democratic Party is being hurt when Hillary Clinton points out that the race card is in play and not when Barack Obama supporters pretend it isn’t?Turns out, you have an honest answer to that question as well.

    Given this, Democrats in general … and this, Larry, is where you need to bone up on your American politics … are happy with the whole idea of “reverse” racism and sexism….One could argue that this is sexist (or racist as the case may be) because we are considering sex or race. And that would be correct. However, we forgive each other and ourselves this transgression because we do so to reverse much greater, even horrific, transgressions of the past and going on elsewhere in the present (like, for all I know, in Canada and in the Republican Party). We are, I assure you, fully aware of the irony and we are utterly unconcerned with it.

    Thank-you for the honest answer. If I interpret correctly, what you are saying is that you are fully aware of your political correctness. Furthermore, you see nothing wrong with people supporting Obama because he is black while claiming that Clinton supporters are racist slobs.

  14. Thanks for the response, and for the compliments! Stop it, you’re making me blush. =PFor the record, my heritage is a mystery due to absentee parentage on one side and a recent history of adoption on the other. But I’d have to recommend against the lotto, all that about it being a tax on people who can’t do math.Your response gave me a lot to think about, and so I made a blog post instead of having a ridiculously long comment on here. The gist of it is that I think there’s a difference between benevolent racism/sexism and promoting under-represented viewpoints for their own sake. There’s a wide gulf between “A black President will lead this country better than a white President” and “A black President will finally give some semblance of representation to an under-privileged group in our society”.I hope you read my blog post, and thank you for having this discussion with me!

  15. Thank-you for the honest answer. If I interpret correctly, what you are saying is that you are fully aware of your political correctness. Furthermore, you see nothing wrong with people supporting Obama because he is black while claiming that Clinton supporters are racist slobs.Larry: Assuming that Obama is fully qualified to a) be president (which he is) and b) represent the Democratic party (which he is) then yes. This is not a contradiction. Perhaps I’m being more honest than the average person in this case, as you suggest.Muse, yes, I’m sure I’ll enjoy your blog post.I had guessed that you were Irish because I looked at your picture and the green eyes kinda suggested that. I can’t explain the yellow stripes and the large furry ear, though.

  16. It would be the points you try to make, for example; Racism is not oppression. It is a reason for oppression, it is part of the oppression we often see, but it is not the oppression itself.Racism and oppression cannot be separated. The common use of words describing oppressive acts, such as discrimination, within the definitions of racism, IMO, illustrate this. Placing a racist in a situation preventing the racist from oppressing anyone, does not in any way change the nature of racism.“Oh, look at the irish girl. she’s probably a good writer. Oh, look at the pregnant Somali woman. As a doctor, I’m glad to know her race because there is this disease common among pregnant Somali that I need to take into account in diagnosing her symptoms.”The first example, an Irish girl being a good writer, does not belong with a statement about hereditary disease. (I may be using the wrong term here, but I think you’ll understand my idea.) They simply are not the same thing, Irish culture may have produced a number of great writers, just as French culture has produced a number of great cooks, but I seriously doubt race has anything to do with it.Racial thinking that seems positive, useful, or benign is not only still racial thinking, but it is also perhaps still not good.Perhaps still not good? There should be no doubt that it is not good. The entire premise of racism is that certain groups are superior to others just by virtue of belonging to the group. There is no positive racism. Period.

  17. Joel, you’re talking about racism as though it were a simple thing that only some people do. It’s not. It’s one of a number of categorization errors that everyone is prone to (except maybe psychopaths, but that’s a thought for another time). It’s a by-product of some very useful things that our brains do to help us make sense of the world.If I’m right about Greg’s take on it (which I probably am and am not), he would point out that being able to quickly identify “other” in small societies that depend on social obligations to function is not just useful but necessary for survival. It gets in the way when we try to live in a society based more on the rule of law and downright evil when we no longer live in a scarcity economy and still use it to deny others things we don’t need. But racism itself isn’t an aberration, and talking about it only as oppression is a quick route to denying our own racism.

  18. Larry, if most black people vote for Obama because he is black, than that is racist. Ana can tell you that I have a particularly strict definition of racism, and there is no doubt that this is racist according to my own definition. White people voting for a black candidate because he is black are also racist. And women or men voting for a woman because she is a woman is sexist. I don’t think anyone can argue to the contrary on any of these points. Well, you could, but you would be wrong.This should be separated into two separate questions: one about whether a particular individual is racist and therefore morally reprehensible, and the second about whether that racism is sociologically significant. On a social level, I just don’t see how “black” racism is important or relevant. Even if blacks are voting out of racism, so f*in’ what?Would black racism lead to the reduction of whites to second class citizens? Lack of educational opportunities for whites? Ghettoization of whites? It’s like complaining about Jews being cliquish – at the end of the day, they are a minority, and incapable of creating the dangerous social effects that are historically concomitant with white racism.I don’t care about black racism, any more than I care about sexist females. Neither group currently has the ability to do a damn thing at the national scale to oppress and degrade. Why don’t we dump this talking point for a century when it’s a real problem? When men are threatened by glass ceilings, when no white has been a viable contender for the presidency for two centuries?When white males start to complain about reverse discrimination, I start to hear a high-pitched whine that only faintly covers the dissipating sound of bull whips.

  19. frog, if it leads to bad decision-making, it’s a problem. It may not be the top problem on the list, but that’s no reason not to acknowledge it as a problem.

  20. StephanieZ,But it’s not just not a top problem. It’s way, way down there in the list of national and global problems, which leads me always to wonder what the agenda (rational or emotional) is motivating the hyping.Let’s take a ridiculous example – Joe Blow in his trailer just hates people with unusually long thumbs. No one cares except his neighbors; if suddenly it got in the papers, the natural inference is that there is some other issue with Joe, other than his irrational fear of thumbs, because it has so few relevant implications for society at large. That would be completely different if society suddenly was dichotomized into long thumbs and short thumbs.Not thinking practically about the issue of racism leads to delusions (often unconscious). Why do people vote in a racist manner? If we look at the practicality of it, rather than chasing chimeras, there are some very simple answers. In the English speaking US media, you don’t get it very often – but the Spanish media is much more honest. Whites are worried that blacks will take their stuff, that they have pay-back coming.Of course, practically speaking, it’s an irrational fear. A black president at most can bring a bit of equity to the system – there’s no realistic chance that “blacks will get their vengeance.” If the discussion stays on practical matters, rather than the delusions of an impotent minority of a minority, the problems dissolve into the ridiculous. So why do we go off and chase the irrelevant? The question should answer itself.

  21. frog, I think I was misled by your hyperbole regarding when it would be appropriate to discuss the issue. I’m certainly suspicious of the motives of those who bring it up in the context of the elections. I just also think it’s important not to forget that it exists and has real consequences.

  22. Anybody check out that link I posted from The New Republic (just above)? It’s a pretty good summary of what I felt was occurring during the primaries re. race (and ‘politics’). A large majority of the commenters here seemed to believe that the Clinton camp was acting outrageously after a point (Greg and others have made much of the “hard-working white” episode – I tried to dissent, but never felt heard). As a complete junkie, the NR article here presents a very clear description of what I felt had been occurring day by day, especially on the way to South Carolina. Check it out! Consider an alternative reality. It’s good for you.

  23. Ana, I’m not sure whether I’m one of the people you’re addressing this to, but it’s on my to-do list when I have a chance to give it the time and thought it deserves (especially to sort out TNR motives from my motives from everything else). I owe Joel some of that too. Yesterday wasn’t the time for either, but I will get there.As for being heard, you’re obviously someone Greg knows well and whose opinion he values. If you don’t get as much direct response as you’d like, consider that for once people might be expressing some delicacy on the internet in not stepping into an argument between friends. ­čÖé

  24. Thanks Stephanie, I appreciate your thoughts here on Greg’s blog and can understand that some delicacy may be at play with regard to my argumentative stance on some issues. I have thought of Greg as a friend for a long while now, not to mention that I have a degree in anthropology largely as a result of my admiration for him as a teacher. I do, however, think it’s important for friends to be able to disagree, and while Greg has taken some of our conflict into the private realm of e-mail, I do think that our points of contention are relevant to the subject he has introduced. I’m new to the blogging thing, though, and admit that I may have crossed some kind of line on etiquette that made people uncomfortable. Sorry fer that…

  25. Ana, I don’t think you or the argument are responsible for any discomfort. It’s just really rare to see that kind of sincere respect in the middle of a heated political argument on a blog. It’s not a bad thing (quite the contrary); there’s just no netiquette for dealing with it and who wants to be responsible for screwing anything up?

  26. Ana,I am totally listening, as always, to you.The New Republic Article is sooo looong! Our program’s admissions deadline was Monday. I have a manuscript back I’m supposed to help fix. I could go on…But yes, I’m reading it. I am totally turned on to the idea that the racism card (the accusation of the Clinton campaign being racist, or playing on racist fears, to be more exact) is something that should not be accepted at face value and should be examined and critiqued. I did not think that before but you are telling me that I was wrong. I am therefore going to give this all due consideration.Knowing you, I would not want to bet against what you are saying. But I do want to actually know and learn, and I will. I need a little time.

  27. Ana, I’m far from done, but this will be long. Here’s the start of my comments on the article:Section ITo start with, the article wears its biases on its sleeve. For example, the article emphasizes Newsday’s criticism of Obama’s NAFTA flier without mentioning that Newsday concluded, “├»┬┐┬Żwe should have been clearer.” FactCheck.org said, “We frankly find Clinton’s past position on NAFTA to be ambivalent.” They do, for the record, also find little difference between her current position and Obama’s. They also find that both of them “strain the facts on” their health care plans and both sent misleading mailings.So I’m cautious and really wishing someone like FactCheck were addressing the issue instead of the press, which has been demonizing both candidates.Section IIOn the “cocaine use” incident, I found analysis that suggested that both campaigns (and, of course, the press) were unwilling to let the Shaheen matter drop. I’d agree. Watching the video of Penn, it’s hard to find support that he was hectored and confused into referring to cocaine. He does so at four minutes into the interview and after about three questions (in as much as Matthews asks distinct questions). And Edwards’ advisor is the one who jumped on Penn first, and going off topic. Matthew’s tries to stir the pot, but Obama’s advisor pushes the talk back to issues. Of course, he’s already suggested that Clinton’s campaign is responsible for the tone of Shaheen’s comments even if he didn’t make the point at her behest.However, using the word “cocaine” doesn’t seem like such a breach that Obama needed to say he would have let Penn go. That’s clearly hyperbole, aimed at making Clinton’s judgment look bad. I probably would have let Penn go, myself, or at least demoted him, but that’s got a lot more to do with the fact that he looked like he was smirking through the video. Not what I would have wanted for my public face.Rich, the Times columnist, does level the charge that Clinton’s campaign played the race card. He cites statements by Bill before and after the South Carolina primary, the racial makeup of the questioners on Clinton’s Hallmark town hall meeting, and statements by staffers that Obama was specifically appealing to black voters based on his race. I do remember thinking at the time, while I was supporting Edwards, that Bill was turning out to be a craptastic political spouse. The column is definitely more sensational than it should be (see my prior comments on the press), but I think it has some points.As for the Bradley Effect, Robinson, who is linked, defines the effect exactly the same way the TNR columnist does. He’s pointing out that this has happened frequently in the past, not so much lately, but may be a reason not to trust polls. This isn’t what the TNR article is suggesting at all.I will agree that Jackson played the race card. It may even have been the first use of race by either campaign, but the TNR article is so mixed up on timeline, it’s hard to tell.That’s it for tonight. No conclusions until I’m done.

  28. Ana, here’s the rest of my dissection of the article. Conclusions are in a separate comment.Section IIIThis starts with a look at the Hebert piece. Again, Hebert is a partisan but not part of the campaign, and he’s mostly talking about partisans. The exceptions are when he talks about Bill suggesting that the treatment of Andrew Young showed that Obama supporters were the ones playing the race card and when he suggests that the Clinton campaign is complicit in what its supporters are saying. I see no evidence of the second claim being true, just as I see no evidence for TNR’s claim that Hebert’s behavior should be attributed to the Obama campaign.The second paragraph about Clinton’s support among blacks completely ignores the Iowa results.As for the King/Johnson fray, none of the links or quotes appear to me to be suggesting anything other than what I’ve already said: Clinton is slightly tone deaf on the subject of racial relations in the U.S. There are a number of remarks that really say, “This is a painful topic that requires some care when speaking.” The Times article linked, in fact, says she pulled back from injecting race into the campaign with her follow-up remarks.Here TNR is definitely listing events out of order in order to make them look worse. 1. Clinton talks about Johnson. 2. Memo is written and distributed. 3. Tolliver notes that people are talking about what the Clinton campaign is trying to accomplish. 4. Obama denounces memo (and should have fired the staffer who wrote it). 5. Moyers speaks.A couple of other notes: The memo was written by a local campaign press aide. And contrary to the characterization of Moyers as being “dismayed,” he put it in Shakespearian terms: “much ado about nothing or a tempest in a teapot.”At this point, race was in the race to stay. It’s hard to characterize it as coming from one camp or the other, though. Clinton said something gracelessly, her quote wasn’t given in context by the media, and a fair amount of distrust that had been lying largely underground to most eyes erupted.Section IVWe move backward in time again to pick up the fairy tale story. TNR doesn’t give the Franklin quote (“In this beautiful, all-American morning, we are at the cusp of turning the impossible into reality. Yes, this is reality, no fantasy or fairy tale.”) or mention that the Brazile quote is in response to shenanigans by Tim Russert.He also doesn’t mention that it’s not unreasonable to suggest that dismissing Obama as a “kid” is more upsetting in the context of race (see the discussion of “boy” on this blog). Of course, Brazile was wrong in thinking that Bill had said it. That would be the Lt. Gov. of Pennsylvania, speaking while waiting for Bill to appear.On the Jesse Jackson comments, much of the upset was based around the fact that Bill’s answer didn’t seem to match the question, being taken out of the context of a much longer conversation with the press. And however it was intended, it was, again, tone deaf. It was dismissive. To add another Jackson quote on the subject, “And I said to Barack, as a tactical matter, resist any temptation to come down to that level.” Race was already a question; I have a tough time blaming anyone who had trouble seeing Bill’s statement in another light. Nobody liked this one at the time, which is why, I suspect, this is the most link-free part of the essay.On Emanuel Cleaver, yep. Jackson Jr. is still a creep. He’s also right in this case, unfortunately. When Lewis did switch to supporting Obama a couple of weeks after his denial, the pressure of a constituency that voted for Obama and a primary challenge were pointed out as reasons for the change.Female supporters of Obama were subjected to some of the same arguments, but they didn’t have the same constituency issues.Hey, wait, now we’re being pointed at the same NYT opinion piece as in Section II. Did Rich write more than one? Can I please have a clear timeline?Then we get to the photo. Tempers on the subject of race are already flaring. There’s a claim that it came from the Clinton campaign. The campaign doesn’t immediately deny it because, as with the memo, it may well have come from a low-level staffer. Obama’s rep goes OTT. Clinton’s chooses to ignore that African=Muslim for large number of voters and that allegations that Obama is a Muslim do jeopardize his chances. Everyone plays badly, Drudge sits back and laugh, and TNR puts out a piece that lays all the faults at Obama’s feet.

  29. Ana, after looking at the article, and going beyond the article to the sources, which was critical, my opinion is much more nuanced. But the core of it is largely the same.Clinton has worked hard for equal rights. She’s done many, many things to be proud of and that should and do appeal to black voters. Ironically, I think that’s the source of some of her problems–the tone deafness I talk about. I think Clinton, actually both Clintons, largely underestimated the depth of the racial distrust that’s out there.Some people have accused Clinton of feeling entitled to the presidency, or at least the nomination. I disagree, but I think she does project an awareness of her qualifications for being taken seriously. That’s well and good, right up until it ran into that distrust. That’s the point where it became a blindness to the fact that, no matter how much she’d done, there were places she still needed to tread carefully, especially in this campaign.So we have both Clintons saying things that could be said much better. We have the Obama campaign being extra wary after early missteps, including the Obama-is-Muslim email flap that went unmentioned in the article. We have a whole slew of supporters on both sides with their own opinions and non-presidential demeanors. And we have the press, which despite TNR’s assertions to the contrary, were quite willing to latch on to mentions of race from both sides, not to mention stirring the pot a la Russert.The question, in my mind, isn’t which campaign inserted race or racialized the debate. Given everything above, I think that was inevitable. The question is why we’re not giving both candidates much more credit for keeping the lid on things as long as they did–and why anyone is still watching Russert or any of these other yahoos.Oh, and with things being as mixed as they were, I have no problem seeing why each candidate’s supporters would feel the other candidate was in the wrong. I get that part completely.

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