Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Racial expressions

Reading this from Ta-Nehisi Coates struck a cord with me.
All of this is to say, I wonder at the strength and nature of our democratic norms. Was there ever a time where our representatives seriously placed loyalty to democracy over partisan interests? And granting that there was, what was that compromise, that sacrifice, premised on? What undergirded our democratic virtue? Was it the promise that, in a country explicitly understood as constructed for the white man, the majority could never sink as low as the cursed minority? If we grant that the past few decades have been a particularly trying time for our democracy, is it mere coincidence that this happens just as African-American power begins to morph into reality?

This may sound dramatic. Well sure it does, and it is. For a long time I figured that race - and specifically racism - was becoming a marginal force in American political life. Sure it still existed, but no one was standing on the steps of any given state house crowing about "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"

My views on that have been somewhat revised. What you won't see are huge conflagrations like Wilmington and Tulsa. But you also don't see much in the way of pushback over racially tinged decisions like Bush v Gore (2000) and the recent spate of voter ID laws. I think a number of whites in this country believe deep down that they're losing a zero sum game, and that moves that hurt blacks will keep them (whites) from falling too low. Even when this is demonstrably false, the belief is still there.


susan said...

It's always seemed obvious to me the poison of racism is deliberately fostered by the ruling class as a means of keeping the working class divided, and diverting attention away from the real problems of American capitalism. This policy of 'divide and rule' on racial, national or religious lines, has always been a common feature of the ruling class internationally.

Ben said...

You very definitely have something there. Money doesn't just travel upwards by itself, and it's hardly ever a simple matter of hard work. So it's best to keep those without from asking about it in the first place.