Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Chauncey DeVega says: Yes We Klan! Obama's Success Fuels White Hate Group Recruitment
It seems that the crazy grandmother in the attic is accompanied by the slightly less crazy aunt in the living room.
As reported by the Washington Post, Obama's campaign has led to an upsurge in recruitment activity among white supremacist groups. It seems that Obama, the lovable, deracialized, and post-racial, Halfrican, is a threat to their deeply held belief that America has been, should continue to, and will always be, the white man's country (how about that for honesty? sort of refreshing isn't it?) In the Washington Post piece, we learned that recruitment activity is up; Obama has been a proverbial lightening rod for white hate group organizing; and Obama's safety is again in question:
While racial terrorists are afflicted with anxiety and worry about the prospect of a black president--and are actively strategizing about how to respond to Obama's candidacy--the American public marginalized these groups, and their old fashioned racism as curiosities, mere curios if you would have them, and ultimately antiquities of a not so distant past.
For example, white supremacists make great fodder for daytime television and tabloid style news shows:
These mouth breathers are "entertaining," and "funny," because they are walking, talking, anachronisms:
Moreover, these dinosaurs are the perfect source for comedy because they speak to the anxieties present in America's political and racial subconscious:
We know these folks are real. We know they are dangerous. And frankly, we should all be more aware of how violent and murderous these racial terrorists are, and continue to be, in the present:
White supremacists are the crazy grandmother in the attic who is kept medicated, locked up, and gagged lest she embarrass the family. In our racially enlightened, colorblind present, a moment in which we have transcended race, this old fashioned bigotry (what one of my favorite, left, Marxist, race theorists once labeled as dominative racism) is passe. America defeated the Jim Crow regime, equal opportunity is available to all. We don't kill and lynch black folk anymore. Racial violence is intolerable. And the cult of multiculturalism and politically correct speech ensures that anyone who would give voice to racism is not so gently dismissed from the public square. In fact, colorblindness is so triumphant that the problem of race, the challenge of the color line, has now been perverted into one where our primary crusade now involves grappling with "reverse racism," and the self-destructive behaviors, as opposed to social structures, that largely explain black poverty and relative social and economic disadvantage.
These conventions do a great deal of work for our society because by so narrowly defining white supremacy and racism, the bar is raised so high, the definition made so specific, that we are all good liberals. Ultimately, the family keeps crazy grandma around precisely because she is a reminder of their sanity. However, this same family has a harder time controlling the slightly less crazy aunt.
To this point, the Washington Post and ABC News, recently conducted a poll where one third of respondents admitted to racial bias. In keeping with well-documented trends in racial attitudes and public opinion the poll indicates that: race relations are generally described as improving; that there are more friendships across the color line; and general attitudes about the prospect of a black president are moderate to high. Predictable.
But here is what caught my attention: "About a fifth of whites said a candidate's race is important in determining their vote, but Obama does no worse among those who said so than among those who called it a small factor or no factor...and "Nor are whites who said they have at least some feelings of racial prejudice more or less apt to support Obama than those who profess no such feelings."
Hmmm...this is worrisome. So folks have deeply held racial attitudes but don't act on them? We have long known that racial attitudes are a proxy for other political attitudes. In this case, we are expected to believe that Obama as a candidate can override these deeply held beliefs. The public isn't always consistent, nor are they always rational and predictable, but this inconsistency causes me no small amount of pause. When we factor in the Hillary supporters, many of whom are deeply upset and resentful (and some will either stay home or vote for McCain) towards Obama, these waters become further muddied. Moreover, given that in our racially egalitarian, colorblind society, respondents know what to say and how to respond to surveys on these issues, could it be, God forbid, that folks are lying? That these respondents are saying what is socially desirable as opposed to what they actually believe?
We will not know until November how these dynamics will play out. But, indulging my fantasy of being Negrodamus, I will make one simple prediction: while Obama is ahead in the polls and logic would dictate that history is on Obama's side in his campaign against McCain (heir apparent to a highly unpopular incumbent president, with consumer confidence at record lows, and gas prices on the rise), latent white racism, that less crazy Aunt in the living room, is going to make herself known come voting day:
Reasoned worry or overwrought paranoia?