If there was any doubt left about the pervasiveness of the white racial frame or the connection between extremist white supremacy and the American mainstream, I think that Pat Buchanan has laid those doubts to rest with his recent blog post “A Brief for Whitey.” Buchanan, of course, is the one-time presidential candidate and far-right political figure who is now a regularly featured talking-head on MSNBC. His position as a frequent commentator on a major broadcast network means that he is annointed as “one of America’s leading conservative voices.” And, in a play on the word “right,” Buchanan uses the tag line for his blog: “Right from the beginning.” Unfortunately, his “Brief to Whitey” post reveals just how wrong he is about race in America. Here’s Buchanan responding to Obama:
What is wrong with Barack’s prognosis and Barack’s cure?
Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, “everybody but the rioters themselves.”
Was “white racism” really responsible for those black men looting auto dealerships and liquor stories, and burning down their own communities, as Otto Kerner said — that liberal icon until the feds put him away for bribery.
Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.
Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.
Here, Buchanan suggests that racial politics in the U.S. begin and end with ghetto revolts which, apparently, happened in a political vacuum devoid of a long history of slavery, lynching, Jim Crow segregation, and ongoing racism and discrimination. And, while Buchanan rather begrudgingly acknowledges the need to have a “conversation” about race, he ignorantly asserts that “White America needs to be heard from.” When has “White America” not been heard from on race? As Joe has written here and in print, any discussion of race in the U.S. is a set within a white racial frame that begins and ends with a white racial perspective.
Buchanan goes on to make a couple of egregious claims.
First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.
Buchanan illustrates perhaps the textbook example of paternalistic racism here. The middle passage, the horrors of an inhumane, chattel slavery, the centuries of rape, degradation and brutalization are all brushed aside here with the callous “brought from Africa in slave ships” as if this were an unpleasant, but all-for-the-best journey. The fact that Buchanan suggests that the introduction to “Christian salvation” somehow justifies or makes up for centuries of enslavement is typical of the mindset of a colonialist, who uses religion in the service of political domination.
Buchanan goes on to make another assertion, this one even more ponderous:
Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream. ….We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?
Buchanan once again demonstrates a real gift for paternalistic racism and couldn’t be more wrong about the facts. Perhaps Buchanan should review the history of systematic disenfranchisement and overtly racist economic practices, such as the bombing of Black citizens by the U.S. government in the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, or the thousands of Black property-owners who were told to leave their property behind or die. My experience in the classroom and in talking to people outside academia is that the overwhelming majority do not know about these “grievances,” so in my view, we haven’t heard enough about them, and we certainly haven’t had anything like a national conversation about these matters.
Pat Buchanan’s rant is so offensive I don’t understand why he still has a job on a major network. Oh, right, he’s a “leading voice of conservative America.” That’s why.