Friday, April 18, 2014

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2014, April 17: Politics of race and voting rights today

Jamelle Bouie weighs in on the Chait-Coates discussion on white racism in Color Blind Slate 04/07/2014. He makes this observation about civil rights in the Obama era:

Of course, it’s not accusing conservatives of "racism" to note that particular policies — say, tax cuts to defund the social safety net, or blocking the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act—have a disparate impact. That's just reality. And it's not tarring your opponents to note that race plays a huge part in building popular support for those policies. But again, for as much as this is interesting as a matter of political combat, it's less important to telling the story of race in the Obama years than, for instance, the tremendous retrenchment of racial inequality during our five years of recession, recovery, and austerity. [my emphasis]
The structural problems of white racism won't go away without confronting them directly.

Bouie reacts to the perspective he understands Jonathan Chait to be articulating, one common to the superficial coverage of the mainstream media more generally, which focuses on race in terms of its function as a partisan topic of political fights. In the current context, Chait is giving support to the whiny-white-guy victim posture the Republicans are currently using in which they claim to be terribly wrong whenever they are challenged on white racism:

Still, if you're trying to tell the story of race in the Obama years, Chait's version strikes me as utterly ancillary. First and foremost in this history has to be the ways in which race kept its material salience despite the momentous political event of a black president. The partisan reactions to Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis are less important than the activism that emerged around them, in the same way that Republican complaints of language policing are less important than the party’s ongoing push for voter suppression. [my emphasis]
That last point is extremely important. It doesn't matter if the Republicans are pushing to enact segregationist voter suppression laws with their hearts full of Christian love as they do it. They're pushing anti-democracy segregation laws that are a a manifestation of white racism in action, white racism which such laws establish in the core of the American democratic system. The effects are what count.

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