Liberals and Race

Daily Kos has been raising Ron Paul’s ties to bigotry — for example citing this portion of a column written under his byline —

Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country. Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action…. Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the “criminal justice system,” I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.

If similar in-depth studies were conducted in other major cities, who doubts that similar results would be produced?  We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.

while deconstructing his defender’s lame argument that others actually did the writing while Ron Paul, hey, is a busy man.

And while it is easy, at least for white folks this far North, to play 1962 and dismiss Southern racism as a manifestation of underevolved consciousness or somesuch, I feel a spiritual trap springing when tempted to feign superiority.

The trap is especially exposed for what it is when writers such as Alex Jung put together an article as succinct as powerful as the one I came across in AlterNet last week, “White Liberals Have White Privelege Too!”  

It often seems that the only way liberals can talk about race is to encircle the “racists” and point at them — either for a laugh or a morality tale. The former is one of the many tricks that faux news personality Stephen Colbert employs in his caricature of a conservative. His racist schtick makes fun of racists, and there’s a comfortable distance between the satire and the show’s mostly liberal viewers. The critique goes down easy because it represents something the viewer isn’t…

Moving out of a parochial town in Florida to the cosmopolitan mecca of New York City, I did not experience the radical shift in racial awareness that I had expected. Contending with the racial bias of liberals proved to be more difficult because these urban sophisticates sheathed themselves in worldliness and benevolence rather than outright ignorance. Critiques of whiteness slid off their backs as though they were protected by a Teflon body armor. And so I offer the following list of misunderstandings that many white liberals have about race because I think they can do better — and because we need to rethink our understanding of race and its relationship to U.S. democracy. The commentary does not encompass all white liberals nor does it solely apply to white people. But the frequency with which I encounter these misunderstandings makes the posture of liberal enlightenment seem halfway farcical and all the more crucial to confront. A critique of whiteness should extend beyond electoral politics and cut through every “issue” area because it’s not just about how we vote, but rather about who we are.

There are ten perspectives. I invite you to go read them.  It’s easy for progressive minded white people to band together in the name of what we oppose. It’s harder to look at who we are and how far we have to go. Jung’s article struck me as spot on; yet that says a great deal about how far we have not come since Phil Ochs wrote this:

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
And I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I’d lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

I go to the civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don’t talk about revolution
That’s going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
And I’m glad that the commies were thrown out
From the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
And I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
As long as they don’t move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal…

And on it goes. Phil Ochs sang the funeral dirge for liberalism, whether he knew it or not. Nonliberals had a visceral “sense” that Ronald Reagan and his followers were all too happy to exploit. Spirit smells — like roses or something else. Take care of yourselves.

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