Racism and Politics: Agreeing to Disagree

Let’s get this out of the way first: I disagree strongly with the writer over at The Wonkette who recently offered this incredibly condescending attack on the civil rights protest in Washington D.C. And, the predominantly white Wonkette-readership trots out the usual round of and predictably nasty trash-talk about Rev. Al Sharpton and other Black civil rights leaders. The title of the Wonkette post, “We All Agree. Racism=Bad, Got it. Thanks!” is meant to suggest that “we” (who’s this “we”?) are all “over” racism, and is emblematic of the kind of “I’m not a racist, but…” rhetoric popular among white liberals. The total denial of the reality of racism, contemporary, happening-right-here-right-now-racism, appears to be completely missing from the analysis there, yet that reality continues. Pointing to Rev. Al Sharpton as the source of the problem of racism (“he makes a living off of racism” as one of the commenters writes at Wonkette), is a cheap shot and a red herring in any meaningful discussion about racism.

In addition to the current round of hate crimes (and the declining interest in investigating hate crimes by the federal government), presidential politics appears to be the latest venue for racism. As Pam (and others) have pointed out, Ron Paul’s campaign – flush with new millions according to the New York Times – is a favorite of avowed white supremacists like Don Black. And, the white supremacists are taking their case for Ron Paul to YouTube, the popular video-sharing site. I refuse to post a link to it here, but if you’re curious you can go to YouTube and search for “Stormfront Radio + Ron Paul” and you’ll find the video. Currently, there are over 8,000 views of this online video and lots of supportive comments.

Yet, despite this support and Paul’s refusal to disavow these racist supporters, mainstream (though right of center) writers like Andrew Sullivan insist that Paul is being “smeared” and unjustly charged with being a “closet racist or neo-Nazi.”

The important point to make here is that the name-calling, and this bizarre quest for “who is/is not a racist” (and the even more bizarre denials from whites like that Chapman guy or Don Imus or Michael Richards, the list does go on…), is yet another red herring that distracts us from more pressing discussions. If we could have those more pressing (not mention more interesting) discussions, they might include questions such as: how does institutional racism operate and how we go about dismantling it? The fact that Ron Paul’s libertarian campaign rhetoric and philosophy both dovetails seamlessly with a white supremacist political agenda and is proving to be financially lucrative on the American political landscape should not send us looking in “the closet” for Paul’s racist roots (what’s the prize there?), but instead should have us investigating the connections between mainsteam political philosophies like libertarianism and white supremacy. Let’s all agree on that.


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