Republican Official Admits Racism Helps Them Win Against Senator Obama

         Finally, and belatedly, the mainstream media and websites, in this case Roger Simon at, have begun to analyze some white-racist-attitudes issues basic to the Republican party campaign and strategy from the beginning:

I was talking the other day to a prominent Republican who asked me what I thought John McCain’s strongest issues would be in the general election. Lower taxes and the argument he will be better able to protect America from its enemies, I said. . . .  The Republican shook his head. “You’re missing the most important one,” he said. “Race. McCain runs against Barack Obama and the race vote is worth maybe 15 percent to McCain.” 

He then asks what percentage of white Americans are shown in polls to have trouble voting for a black person: 

An AP-Yahoo poll conducted April 2-14 found that “about 8 percent of whites would be uncomfortable voting for a black for president.”. . .  I was amazed that 8 percent of respondents were willing to admit this to a pollster. And I figure that the true figure is much higher. The same poll, by the way, found that 15 percent of voters think Obama is a Muslim. He is, in fact, a Christian. But thinking a person is a Muslim probably does not encourage you to vote for him in America today.

Notice too the link to the stereotyped Muslim story I dealt with some time back. He then quotes from a Post article by Kevin Merida and Jose Antonio Vargas in Scranton, Pa.: 

“Barack Obama’s campaign opened a downtown office here on March 15, just in time for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was not a glorious day for Team Obama. Some of the green signs the campaign had trucked in by the thousands were burned during the parade, and campaign volunteers — white volunteers — were greeted with racial slurs.” 

And now we have the North Carolina Republican Party about to run skewed anti-Obama ads saying because of Dr. Wright he is “too extreme” for North Carolina, even as Senator John McCain asked them not to do so. 

          Recall the numerous research studies I have cited before that show that the apparent decrease in whites antiblack prejudices and stereotypes in opinion surveys from the 1930s to the present day is very misleading and probably reflects to a significant degree an increased white concern for social acceptability, especially in public frontstage places, including phone calls with pollsters (strangers). Today, it is less socially acceptable for whites to publicly avow strong old-fashioned racist attitudes in diverse public spaces, so many whites may reserve most of their blatantly racist comments for the private spheres of home, locker room, and bar—usually with friends and relatives. This does not mean, however, that these old racist views and the white racial frame of which they are part have died out or have no effect on much white thought and action in more diverse public places.


         I repeat too what is necessary to reduce racism in our public affairs, including elections: Among others things, we need to actively teach whites (and others) how to “out” backstage racist ideas and performances, those which generate discrimination frontstage. Whites (and others) can counter racist performances by using humor (“Did you learn that joke from the Klan?”), feigning ignorance (“Can you please explain that comment?”), and assertively reframing (to justice, fair play, stewardship, responsibility). Teaching to disrupt racist performances is one key, as is creating support groups for such interveners in everyday racist actions.

        These social science research studies strongly suggest that all Americans concerned with significant racial change must get out and intervene in racist performances. They, and we, must work actively for that change. Such change will not likely come from rather short political campaigns, but only from years of hard action disrupting racist performances — and from hard organizing for racial change, as in the 1930s-1960s civil rights movement.


  1. I can’t help noticing from reading the posts on this site that you seem to make combatting racism a white thing and not a black thing per se. The trouble with this thinking is to make white folk far too important and to deny the agency of black people in the process of change.

    Racism is a problem for us all, since all problems belong to all people.

    For instance it may well be another matter entirely to counsel black people to speak up against racism. I, for one would be extremely cautious in so doing. When I began to have a race consciousness some years ago, I was locked up in a room for mentioning the lack of employment opportunties for black women.

    Stopping peoples’ racist performances through some kind of personal, political or legal intervention may well be dangerous and will not make people less racist.

    Racism is a deep malaise which affects every aspect of our lives and originates from our self image be it white or black or both.

    best Isabel

  2. Joe Author

    Your point about ending racism being everybody’s task is a good one, and of course Americans of color, and for the longest in our North American history Native Americans and African Americans, have led the way. This is a daily battle for Americans of color, of course.

    The point I make here is about Backstage Racism, which is where only whites are present– and thus that is the place where only whites can work to end the racist performances there, at least in any direct way.

    Contesting racist performances in the backstage is just one place to start — and few whites ever do contest racist performances there. Contesting them can begin to change attitudes. Racism is fundamentally about actions based on racist framing of the world.

    I do not mean to imply that there are not many non-backstage places where the agency of all people is necessary to combat and deconstruct systemic racism.

  3. adia

    Whites should be much more vigilant in working to end racism, and I think it makes sense to emphasize the ways that, to paraphrase James Baldwin, racism in America is very much a white problem (though it is recast as racial minorities’ problem). Of course this is not to say that racism isn’t minorities’ problem, but I think Baldwin meant that whites bear much responsibility for creating racist structures and consequently for unlearning their racist ways. In teaching and in personal conversations I encounter too many whites who feel that they have nothing to say when discussions and issues of race and racism come up, because it “doesn’t affect them.” It’s interesting how this thinking encourages whites to passively accept the perpetuation of racist practices, while simultaneously excusing them from critically interrogating their own racial privilege. As a group, racial minorities have a lengthy history of working to end racism. I think it’s past time for whites (as a group) to be part of this initiative too.

  4. What you call Backstage Racism occurs because of psychological fragmentation. There is a separation between the private and the public sphere.

    We are all taught early on in life to fear authority -in families, in schools and this creates a split in our thinking.

    Because we are split perception becomes confused and what we see in others is a projection of ourselves. We think we are innocent when we are harbouring hateful attitudes.

    There is a difference between a black person leading the way and a white person – they start from different places. And where you start is very important and when you focus on white folks you inevitably create others.

  5. Adia
    I’m not suggesting that white people shouldn’t be involved in changing their mind about race hatred. James Baldwin also said:”In overlooking, denying, evading his (man’s) complexity – which is nothing more than the disquieting complexity of ourselves – we are diminished and we perish; only within this web of ambiguity, paradox, hunger, danger, darkness, can we find at once ourselves and the power to free us from ourselves.”
    He is talking about whites and blacks here
    He also had to change and face his own shame.

    White people didn’t build these structures on their own. They had a great deal of free labour.

    Isn’t it odd the way black people are seen as “others”, both when they speak out and when white people speak out!


  6. Joe

    Indeed, we are all trapped within a system of racial oppression, no matter who we are.

    This particular US system of human oppression was initially created (and mostly run at the top since) by those who self-named themselves as “whites” and who named those they exploited and oppressed as “black,” “Indian,” “Hispanic,” and other names, including all the major racist epithets. The white-created system also included economic exploitation to create great white wealth from Indian lands and Black labor, and later from the labor of other people of color. Whites certainly had some volunteer help in this process, but much of the help has been, to a significant degree, coerced.

    Thus, as I see it, there is plenty of room for all kinds of resistance to and dismantling of this system of racial oppression. In all kinds of psychological and structural places. Historically, and strikingly, most of the large-scale societal resistance has come from African Americans and other Americans of color. These anti-racism movements have brought most of the change in the system of racism so far.

    A sad, and critical, feature of resistance, however, is that almost all “whites” have almost always resisted that anti-racism resistance, and even whites who are uncomfortable with the system of racism today will not, or do not know how to, help to bring it down.
    One need now is to encourage caring whites to intervene against racist thought, commentary, and action where only they can do so. Almost all caring whites are afraid to do that intervention out of various fears, and/or do not know how to do so.

    Tasking whites with action does not mean that there is no need for Americans of color, and whites, to counter racism in all other arenas of this society. We all, including Americans of color, must grapple with the demons and frames of racism that occupy our own heads, as Baldwin eloquently accents. The anti-racism tasks are complex and long term, and even those who fight racism actively cannot escape its profound effects.

  7. Joe,

    I am very aware of racism and many other ways that society is fractured. I am not a historian, nor am I a sociologist though I know enough about the things you have mentioned. I am a person who has been all my life on the receiving end of society’s definition of me.

    I am a nigger, I am a black, I am an ethnic minority, I am foreign, I am coffee with cream, I am mixed race. Actually I am none of these. I am merely human.

    Now I have found this site and I have come here to say what I think about race but from the outset I was informed that my point of view was small in relation to your big ideas. I have recieved no validation for my point of view.

    What I am saying is that racism is a problem of relationship between whites and blacks and this stems from our conditioning where thought is given too much importance and we are cut off from our real selves.

    It’s a relationship that has gone wrong but the answer is not to separate it further through another kind of apartheid, no matter how well meaning.

    Everywhere in the world whites join up to be white and it seems that even in this anti race thing they continue to behave in the same way.

    Isn’t it time for something different?


  8. adia

    Isabel–I’m sorry you feel that your point of view is invalidated through this blog. Though I sometimes disagree with your arguments, this is not a disavowal of your viewpoint. Here I would just say that I do think racism is linked to those in the racial majority denying the humanity of racial others (this is in fact a crucial component of racism which is grounded in the psychological) but that I don’t think pushing whites to acknowledge their privilege and take responsibility for ending an unjust system is “to separate [the relationship between whites and blacks] further through another kind of apartheid.” Nor do I think that acknowledging the reality of whites’ unjust enrichment, position of privilege, and immense responsibility for creating systems of racial inequality is equivalent to creating “another kind of apartheid.” As a result of the racist systems of this country, whites and blacks do experience different social outcomes, opportunities, access to jobs, health and wellness, etc. I don’t think that acknowledging this basic social fact perpetuates differences, I think it is simply facing reality. Socially, we aren’t all equal, and I don’t see how we can strive to work for equality if we can’t face up to this basic fact. Please be clear–I am not invalidating your point of view here, simply pointing out where I differ.

  9. Please do not be sorry for my feelings.

    I have “viewpoints”, I have “feelings”, you have the “the facts” and you face “reality”.

    This is a standard rhetorical move to relativise my position and disempower me while asserting some kind of pseudo scientific objectivity.

    Nothing will change until we all learn to face the fact of our own prejudice.

    best Isabel

  10. adia

    Isabel: My viewpoint differs from the facts you cite–if that wording serves to better validate your statements–in that I feel whites must acknowledge the reality of their privilege, and that doing so does not, in and of itself, perpetuate unproductive differences. Rather, I believe it to be a reflection of the reality of unjust enrichment and a crucial first step to creating a more equitable society. Hope that phrasing works better for you, and does not relativise your position and disempower you while asserting some kind of pseudo scientific objectivity.

  11. The author is only referencing the instance of racism through the more commonly known dynamics of white and black. Stop being so sensitive unless he’s talking about you.

    The thing about racism is that it isn’t racist, because anyone can be a racist or exhibit racism, regardless of their race.

    This is just one black guys point of view. I often write about this subject, but in a much different context, reconciliation.


  1. links for 2008-04-25 at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

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