The Obama Years, 2012 Election, and Systemic Racism

I just published a short article on the Obama years, the 2012 election, and systemic racism at It may be of some interest, given all the political news. I begin thus:

We are not a fully democratic country. We never have been and now are moving only very slowly in that direction. To understand the 2012 election and key political events in the Obama Era, we must look at the larger societal context—at institutional fundamentals. Systemic racism is central in that institutional context, and especially in our political system. Our political institutions were built by elite white male founders (40% of the participants at the U.S. constitutional convention being slaveholders and many of the rest profiting off the slavery system).

These men and their descendents built political institutions to protect their racial and class interests, and many were undemocratic or anti-democratic: A U.S. Constitution aggressively designed to protect enslaved property; a U.S. Senate representing land areas and powerful whites far more than ordinary people; an unelected Supreme Court of elite whites trumping acts of Congress; and an elite white male president chosen by an undemocratic electoral college. There are too many undemocratic capitalistic institutions to list, all also made and maintained mostly by elite white men substantially to protect their political-economic interests.

You can access the rest of it here. I draw substantially in this article on a new book (White Party, White Government) that has been out a few months, one that deals with the larger elite white (male) control of all major aspects of our political system since its beginning in the late 18th century.


  1. Earl Smith

    Timely. With 50 or so days until election time the analysis using Feagin’s White Racial Frame should be front & center as we see daily the lengths to which these elites will go to take back the White House.

    Lies, lies and more lies are thrown out daily (and not just on FOX news) to instill fear into Americans about everything from job creation, health care to social security.

    Would love to see a point by point rebuttal of the RYAN/ROMNEY claims, platform, program as the “sound bite” news is not getting the points across in a clear, articulate way.

  2. Joe Author

    Thanks, Earl. What do you make of the 47 percent comments of Romney? He seems like a prototypical elite white male, plutocrat, out of touch with most Americans, and certainly most Americans of color. It is clear to me that that strong white racial frame is what keeps many white working class people from seeing and taking this point. Otherwise how could they so strongly vote against their own political-economic interests?

    • ThirtyNine4Ever

      I’d like to give my opinion on that 47% video.
      He really stepped in it there, I’m almost surprised the GOP nominated such an inept candidate. Romney spent 2006-2012 distancing himself from his past as a Rockefeller Republican. Now he move right into the biggest problem for the Rockefellers, as you have put it the “prototypical elite white male, plutocrat, out of touch with most Americans” only for big business with a callous almost sociopathic towards the struggling poor. He had somehow mostly dodged that, thanks to the last 6 years but now he has this as well as the stigma of being far-right on social issues due to his rebranding in order to win the nomination.

  3. mbfromnm

    Power does whatever it can until it cannot. This is a reality that never fails.

    I am white and grew up in a white working class area. I have also encountered white working class folks in professional training sessions for over 20 years. Whites of all classes are so invested in being on top racially that it trumps economic interests. This has been true since the end of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676.

    I find most of us whites live on the white reservation and only encounter people of color in work settings, where we still control everything important. Consequently, we have little or no skills that enable us to meaningfully relate to people who are not using the white cultural norms. In hundreds of sessions dealing with race, the usual outcome is that the session gets deadlocked with whites discounting or negating any data that does not conform to their experience or perspective. Upon hearing accounts of incidents in their own company where whites have marginalized, insulted or discounted people of color, the whites refuse to acknowledge what happened. Usually, they claim that the people of color where either too sensitive or exaggerating what occurred.

    This mindset remains very intractable. The political patterns that Joe describes are the result of this entrenched attitude or white entitlement, across all classes of white. (I have not found in the least that more education diminishes prejudice. It only changes how it gets names. Higher educated whites retreat into “race-neutral” policies that structure in inequality)

  4. Maria Chavez

    Thanks, Joe for the insightful look at the 2012 elections. As folks know last week Univision did a “Conozca a los candidatos” interviewing Romney and then Obama after the Commission on Presidential Debates failed to include any diversity on the list of journalists covering the presidential debates. The point of Univision’s interviews was to say Latinos matter. They mattered in the 2008 election, they matter in this election, and they will continue to matter.

    Apparently Silvia Killingsworth from the New Yorker doesn’t see it this way in her essay, “Hispandering to Univision.” She concludes, “We all have special interests—just like everybody else. Maybe, for the sake of the debates, it would be easier if we were all Latinos.” Here is the article if anyone is interested:
    Read more

    She missed the point entirely. Why is it that people are so threatened by even a slight change of the white racial frame and systemic racism?


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