On Pat Buchanan’s “A Brief for Whitey”

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.

Comments

  1. Well, given his roles in the Reagan and Nixon administrations, he really is a leading voice of conservative America. And he will remain so until conservative Americans stop following his lead. But it’s worth noting he’s also written for the hate site vdare.com and cited open white supremacists (like William Pierce) in his books. His racism isn’t limited to a defense of privilege or a failure to imagine another way of looking at the world.

  2. Joe

    Notice too that this extremely offensive racist ranting by a leading media commentator will get far less negative commentary than the attacks on racial oppression by Dr. Jeremiah Wright, who is 100s of times more informed on such issues than the racially illiterate Buchanan. This is a great example how low your real historical IQ can be (on many matters) if you are white and you can still still be a pundit.

  3. Jessie Author

    You’re absolutely correct, Matt, about Buchanan’s ideological ties to white supremacists. I was leaving those out above because I was being restrained. 😉 Still, I’m appalled that he can spout the kind of outlandish racism that he does and still draws a check from MSNBC. He really is Exhibit A, for why we need to begin a dialogue on race and racism in this country.

  4. Jessie Author

    ah, you slipped in there, Joe, while I was replying to Matt. Yes, Buchanan is racially illiterate, and I think that’s a generous reading of him. Not only does he continue to get work as a ‘pundit’ but his position illustrates an incredible double-standard, especially vis-a-vis Rev. Wright, who as you note, is 100s of times more informed about the real history of racial politics in the U.S. Why doesn’t MSNBC hire him?

  5. Joe

    I find the internal contradictions of this post revealing of the hegemonic nature of White racial discourse which is intended to conceal and justify the status quo:
    1) While Buchanan’s post calls for a 2-way conversation that comments to it are closed.
    2) In his proposal for an open conversation, he spends so much time telling Blacks how they should feel and talk about race as opposed to articulating the viewpoint and experience of Whites.
    3) He touts the benefits of slavery to Blacks and decries the detrimental effects of affirmative action to Whites.
    4) His claims of all the assistance provided by the government and “Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America” as representing a White contribution to Blacks. Instead of a nation addressing it’s injustices when we the constitution calls us one nation.
    These internal contradictions belie White gains from racism (which were disproportionately allocated by class) and set forth a condescending dialog originating in White privilege. It’s pretty despicable and entirely contrary to a meaningful dialog.

  6. Steve in DC

    Interestingly, you never intelligently address what Pat Buchananan says. In typical liberal-speak, you take jabs that are irrelevant to the issue. One does not have to be an admirerer of Buchanan or a racist (I am neither) to agree with some of what he says.

    Specifically, regarding the black experience here, America IS the promised land. It does not trivialize the horrors of slavery to point out the benefits black Americans have in this country. Compared to, oh, Zimbabwe under the beneficence of Mugabe. There is nothing in Buchanan’s list that blacks have not benefitted from!

    It is also true that many (not all) of the ills in the “black community” are self-created. How does the fact that a black youth’s great-grandfather was a slave explain why he pulls a gun or drops out of school? Liberalism’s (and many black leaders’) tedious explanations are what the majority of white America scoffs at.

  7. Jessie Author

    Steve in DC ~ While there are certainly benefits, indeed one might say privileges, to living in America versus Zimbabwe as you posit, those privileges are not evenly distributed. So, is it “better” to live in America than Zimbabwe? Perhaps, but that depends on who you are, where you are in the social hierarchy and what societal resources you have access to in each culture.

    And, Buchanan’s point in his creating such a list was to enumerate the “many things” white Americans have done to “lift up” black Americans. What I wrote was intended to debunk this as factually incorrect, and I did that.

    I wasn’t writing about that favorite trope of conservatives (and racists – not that these are always the same) that “the ills in the ‘black community’ are self-created.” I think that’s a classic strategy for deflecting attention away from the responsibility of whites for racial inequality and placing all the responsibility on those at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. That meme is convenient, comforting (for whites), and functional for maintaining the racial status quo, but it dismisses the larger context of white racial privilege and the way this is implicated in both the U.S. and in Zimbabwe.

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