Friday, October 25, 2013

What Does Racism Look Like Today?

Bad: Compares Tea Part to KKK. Unforgivable: HE USED THE FONT COMIC SANS
Alan Grayson (D-Florida) is, apparently, kind of a dick. He says outrageous and inflammatory things and he just now compared the Tea Party* to the KKK (we might better say he called the Tea Party the KKK). Doesn't he know the original KKK were Democrats? Probably--but as Hillary might say, What does it matter NOW?

Well, it matters because it has gotten a lot of people very upset (who wants to be called racist?) and definitely not helping things is former (he, uh, just resigned) North Carolina precinct chair Don Yelton who made the unfathomable error of taking an interview with The Daily Show and telling the truth about discussing NC's new voter ID laws. Specifically that they will hurt Democrats as 'lazy blacks' will be unable to vote (and college kids).

You know The Daily Show is funny and all, yes, I get it: But you absolutely have to watch this. Trust me.

So it's a bad coincidence that just as Grayson gets hammered for accusations of racism Yelton is forced to resign for making "racist" comments.

But did he? After all the one thing that both Yelton and Democrats both agree on is that Voter ID laws will, factually, hurt Democrats. Is it racist just to state a fact?

That's actually a better question than you might think. The question that isn't being tackled straight on today in most racial dialog is this: "What exactly makes a statement or action racist?"

Was Yelton's Statement Racist?
It cannot be racist to state that 37.1% of US Prison inmates are black while 12.85% of the population at large is. It simply can't be (you can argue with those fact-sources if you want). But I know what you're thinking (maybe--depending on who you voted for last election): Omnivore, you think, it's clearly the racist system that incarcerates young black males at a disproportionate rate. Or maybe you are thinking something like: Omnivore, you see, it's not their meaningless black skin--but rather the (damaged) state of black American families in America--one that is propagated and further damaged by the soft-racism of federal assistance!

Or maybe you're not thinking any of that: The Omnivore is wearing a tinfoil hat so his mind-reading powers are blocked right now.

However: I'll tell you this for sure: If you find yourself constantly talking about the percent of incarcerated black Americans, unless you are employed as a justice advocate you might want to check yourself for some racist racial bias.

If you find yourself (as Don Yelton did above) identifying yourself as having black friends when the conversation turns to racism you are definitely in need of a reality check.

What's going on here is that "racism" no longer (mostly) looks like a white hood, a burning cross, or Neo-Nazi regalia: usually you have to go to specific corners of the Internet for that (NSFW Link is to the 'Tea Party' sub-forum of the White Power website Stormfront). No, what racism looks like now is holding strong negative racial attitudes and not being able to shut up about it.

Racism, today, (again) outside of specific 'safe places' hides inside Negative Racial attitudes. It presents as facts, figures, and "high expectations" for Blacks which they, of course, are not meeting--which is why the speaker is having that discussion.

What's That Mean? Negative Racial Attitudes?
This article explains it well. A professor had an on-line survey (so don't take it too literally: this is illustrative). It asked about political affiliations and then showed the volunteer one of two pictures:

It asked who was responsible for the person losing their home (like: Big Banks? Economic downturns? Bad decisions?).
The Tea Partiers were far more likely to identify the black guy as being responsible for losing his home than others who were more likely to identify other influences. You can see some other studies that have asked questions about whether or not blacks have gotten more than they deserve recently or if the past history of slavery and racism has made it harder for them to succeed. Tea Partiers differ significantly from Middle-Of-The-Roaders.

What Happened With Yelton?
If you have not watched the clip, please do so. This will make a lot more sense if you have. I called Yelton taking the interview unfathomable. Why would someone who's defense against racism is the over-used iconic stereotype of the racist that they 'have a lot of black friends' take an interview with The Daily Show and talk about Voter ID laws?

Considering that it got him fired, it was clearly a bad idea. What in the world could make him think it was a good one?

That's very, very obvious: He doesn't (a) believe he is racist and (b) he doesn't believe that saying the things he is saying is racist. He believes they are true and therefore cannot be racist. And he has black friends--how can he be racist if he has black friends?

What is happening is that modern-day racism has become a position that reasonable people simply can't hold. For most of us in normal society (i.e. not Stormfront) we know racists are the bad guys. We're the good guys--so we can't be racist. In other words: if you are not spouting specific slogans or saying very specific things? You're not racist! You can't be--even if you are holding strong negative attitudes about other races or minorities. You see, those are baked up.

When we wrap negative racial attitudes in supportive facts and figures these become entrenched positions. We demand that people address those facts rather than the attitudes under them. It's a question of "which came first."

Floating Sheep took a look at racist tweets in the wake of the 2012 election:
The top scores were:
Alabama   8.1
Mississippi   7.4
Georgia   3.6
North Dakota   3.5
Utah   3.5
Louisiana   3.3

There are several possibilities for the the southern concentration--but the simplest one is that the South has more racists per capita (there's some heavy hitters in Appalachia too). The problem is that for everyone spewing the N-word on Twitter there are a dozen guys like Yelton who hold exactly (or close to) the same views but believe they are not racist simply because they aren't using the N-Word on Twitter.

They're astounded when the go on the Daily Show and discover everyone else is not convinced. I'm sure Yelton feels terribly misrepresented when, in fact, he was communicating with extraordinary clarity.

Do Negative Racial Beliefs Alone Make You A Racist?
Let's listen to some actual racists on the Tea Party: do find the Tea Party a potentially vital ground in which to spread their message:
One thread, started in 2011 and still active recently, debates just how racist the tea party is. In the evil, upside-down world of white supremacy, the label of racist is meant as a compliment and, to many Stormfront posters, the tea party earns high marks.
The thread can be read here, but the debate breaks down into roughly two camps, one arguing that the tea party is a dead end for white nationalists and the other side arguing that many in the tea party already have racist attitudes and present an opportunity for white nationalists to ply their message. The only area of agreement seemed to be that the tea party loses its way in its strong support of Israel, which the neo-Nazi Stormfront crowd does not appreciate.
Clearly there is some split amongst Storm-fronters as to whether the Tea Party is racist enough for them (a lot of them think Israel-support and Koch Brother's funding is proof of the Zionist conspiracy lurking behind the tea-cup). A survey of 2010 Tea Partiers found that while self-declared members were not especially racist, those checking the "I support the Tea Party" often were.

What this means is clear: Just being a Tea Party member isn't a declaration of racism--but if you are a racist you are more likely to surround yourself with those trappings (being a small government, personal liberty guy sounds good!) and talk in terms of personal-responsibility (especially when it's the black guy losing his house) and you'll know a surprising amount of statistics about black-on-black and black-on-white crime.

You'll discuss how the educational system has failed young black people (while wanting to get rid of the Department of Education). You'll follow news outlets that feature black-on-white crime stories more strongly than the main-stream media. You won't say stuff like slavery didn't happen--but you'll have a story about how that wasn't the reason for the Civil War (and maybe call it 'The War of Northern Aggression').

You can do all of this and you have cover because by layering facts and figures that support your racially-based negative beliefs--and keeping to a social / media bubble where the philosophical tips of the iceberg (personal responsibility, rejection of "politically correct speech," and so on) are lauded--you are relatively safe from attack.

Or, at least, you really ought to be.

Which is why it's so offensive when someone ignores all that and just goes and calls you racist.
From The Simpsons

* In 2010 the Tea Party's racial demographics were similar to those of the nation at large--however that may well have shifted over the last 3 years.

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