Friday, March 09, 2007

In which I say "racism" more times than I have in my entire life combined

I noticed recently during my masochistic visits to Marty Peretz's Spine blog that he keeps bringing up Mass. Governor Deval Patrick. As a matter of fact, he seems positively obsessed with Patrick's wealth. Somehow Patrick's purchase of a mansion in the Berkshires merited special consideration, even though Peretz admits that Romney, Kerry, and Kennedy ain't exactly living hand to mouth, and even though buying a mansion would not seem out of place for a man who was once the executive vice president of Coca-Cola. Then there came the news that Patrick had bought himself a new $46,000 Cadillac DTS. This was too much for Peretz, who joined a chorus of people in condemning Patrick for his lavish lifestyle. "In fact, Deval Patrick seems to be like very big cars, fancy cars, in fact [sic]." Peretz's next post about Patrick screams "MO' MONEY MO' PROBLEMS" in the tagline and says that Patrick has a "strange strain for luxury in his character."

Now, during this whole weird enterprise Peretz has continually voiced his support for Patrick. He voted for the man, and I guess he still doesn't regret it. But let's be honest: Peretz's obsession with Patrick's wealth and spending habits and his uncharacteristic quoting of rap lyrics are part of a greater racist discourse about black people. Patrick may have squandered taxpayer money, and it's not as though he should be insulated from criticism because of his skin color. But the way much of the media is framing the issue is beyond doubt racist. A Feb. 16 article from the Boston Herald titled "Cadillac Deval: When non heli-commuting gov rides in style" calls Patrick's Cadillac "tricked out," "a sleek new ride." A Boston Globe op-ed by Jeff Jacoby says Patrick wanted a "flashy" car, betraying a certain "grasping, gotta-get-mine streak," and similarly uses the name "Cadillac Deval." Even NPR, liberal beacon that it is, says "Mass. Gov's ride criticized." As you can imagine, some of the blogs are taking these innuendos to truly racist levels.

Of course, one could ask, what if these comments had been made about a white politician? It wouldn't be racist then, would it? What if Joe Lieberman bought himself a "tricked out ride"? Well actually, it wouldn't matter one bit if the politician was white, because it would still be an obvious instance of mining black culture for a negative stereotype. We all know how irresponsible blacks become pimps and hustlers, and how they invest in flashy external glitz like fancy cars rather than settle for the "staid" Crown Victoria like our responsible white politician Mitt Romney. And so when the politician in question is in fact black, the link becomes undeniable. The GOP did the exact same thing before the November 2006 elections with Harold Ford Jr., setting up a website called "Fancy Ford" (with bright purple background) showing all of Ford's "extravagant" tastes. Combine this with the bimbo "Harold, call me" TV ad and you have a very simple formula of "Harold Ford = Pimp." I submit that the same thing is quite blatantly being done with Deval Patrick.

What really disgusted me looking through much of the material on Patrick was that blog commentors threw around the phrase "race pimp" as if they had proved something by this term other than their own racism. Supposedly people like Deval Patrick, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson are "race pimps" because they care about civil rights. The charge might be brought against these individuals that have engaged in race-baiting in the past. But "race pimp" is simply a bigoted term masquerading as some sort of rhetorical trump card. You'll notice white people are never race pimps. Only black people. Peretz himself has said "In any case, he [Barack Obama] is not a four-flusher and hustler like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton." Real subtle, Marty.

Curry King recently brought up George Will's deceptive and misleading language, and I called for general patience about the matter. People disagree about fundamental values, and so union bashing, in Will's case, doesn't necessarily entail bad faith. This sort of thing, though, seems to me to be unmistakably wrong. People who say there is no race problem in America are either deluded or lying, and trying to one-up civil rights leaders by calling them "race pimps" or "hustlers" itself betrays a racist mindset. Maybe this is all obvious. But people forget that far from being isolated incidents, these things are largely methodical and part of a greater strategy. It pays not to forgot what Republican strategist Lee Atwater said (in anonymity) in 1981:
You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me - because obviously sitting around saying, 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'Nigger, nigger.'
Atwater is also credited with coining the term "welfare queen," perhaps Rush Limbaugh's favorite phrase. Luckily, it's not like anyone listens to him.


Blogger Robot said...

I remember seeing very similar remarks thrown around back during Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's reelection campaign. But to reiterate what you said, I think the point is not so much that these mayors or governors are siphoning off public funds for personal pleasure -- in lots of cases, they are -- but that their attackers coat their rhetoric with racially charged language.

9:07 AM  
Blogger curry king said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:09 PM  
Blogger curry king said...

When I talk to people about presidential candidates, I often hear "I don't think America is ready for a black president." What a tried statement. It was used before women's suffrage, before 1964, and this week it's been used in reference to the possible repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (military commanders argue that the armed forces aren't ready for gays to be in the military because it might cause uneccessary disturbance in a time of war). The statement "America isn't ready for _______" reflects more on the person stating it rather than it does America. When is America, or any nation, "ready" for a policy change or a societal shift?

7:16 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

Why was the 300 post deleted?

3:30 AM  

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