Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2014, April 30: Talking about white racism

It turned out that April provided a rich source of material for Confederate "Heritage" Month posts! The Chait-Coates controversy. Defense of voting rights. Massa Cliven Bundy and his militia buddies. The Roberts Court's Schuette decision. And, one that I haven't even discussed, NBA commissioner Donald Sterling. (Stanely May, NBA bans Donald Sterling for life, asks Board of Governors to force sale of Clippers SI Wire 04/29/2014; L.A. Clippers Owner to GF: Don't Bring Black People to My Games ... Including Magic Johnson TMZ Sports 04/25/2014)

There was some good news at the end of the month on the voting rights front: Alana Semuels, Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin voter ID law Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin voter ID law Los Angeles Times 04/29/2014.

Dahlia Lithwick in a column on Schuette discusses something on which I've focused this year, What We Talk About When We Talk About Talking About Race Slate:

The starting point for the most recent chapter of this knotty and crucial conversation is Chief Justice John Roberts’ famous getting-past-race language in a 2007 case about racial remedies and school busing, in which he wrote that "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Roberts used that turn of phrase to both highlight his own philosophy that the Constitution must be color blind, and also to flick at the proposition that the time for overtly racial remedies to historical problems must be put behind us.

Told, in effect, that race has no place in modern constitutional discourse despite the central role it has played in her own life, Justice Sotomayor pushes back on that formulation. Her dissent in Schuette starts from the implicit proposition that Roberts was wrong to close the door in 2007, and is wrong to do so today: "In my colleagues’ view,” she writes, "examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable." Then she goes on to poke at Roberts with a sharp stick: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination."
This language of white-racism-denial coming from the Supreme Court and embodied in Court decisions has a particularly strong influence on the way race and racism are discussed in public discourse. And therefore talking about the realities of institutional racism will require continually countering the redefinitions and denials that advocates of segregation use to avoid that recognition.

Jamelle Bouie talks about the importance of recognizing the institutional nature of white racism in It Doesn't Matter That Donald Sterling Is a Racist Slate 04/28/2014. His argument relating to Sterling could be stronger, but the headline is misleading; he isn't dismissing Sterling's attitudes, he's pointing out how it has been manifested for years in concrete and substantial ways, not just in his obnoxious words that brought his problems to a head the last few days:

Donald Sterling settled for an undisclosed sum in 2005 - paying $5 million in plaintiff legal fees — but faced renewed scrutiny in 2006, following federal civil rights charges. According to the Justice Department, Sterling, his wife, and his three companies engaged in housing discrimination by refusing to rent to blacks and "creating, maintaining, and perpetuating an environment that is hostile to non-Korean tenants" at their properties. Again, Sterling settled. He paid $2.65 million to a fund for people harmed by his discriminatory practices — a record sum in a federal housing suit—as well as $100,000 to the government.

These were huge offenses — entrenchments of disadvantage in a city segmented by past bias. After all, Los Angeles was heavily redlined throughout the 20th century, with blacks, Mexicans, Chinese, and other minorities blocked from mortgage loans and relegated to the least desirable parts of the city.

But, despite the magnitude of the offenses and the size of the settlements, there was no outrage. Sterling caused actual harm to dozens of families, and the response was near silence. And it's in that contrast that we can clearly see our public hypocrisy on racism.
Bouie's piece uses the plural pronouns rather vaguely in that piece. What he calls "our public hypocrisy on racism" is a necessary element of the kind of substantive hypocrisy that is integral to institutional white racism in America. The Rand Pauls of the country want racism defined down to only expressions of overt biological racial supremacy and to bad manners. Massive, systematic discrimination in housing and mortgage lending, they don't want to count. And that is the direction that the Roberts Court has gone a long way toward making authoritative Constitutional law.

And the blog's old friend, Bro. Wade "Sword-of-Vengeance" Burleson weighed in on the Sterling matter to do, well, what Bob "the Daily Howler" Somerby does so much: criticize them mean libruls! (Donald Sterling, Hate, and the Hypocrisy of Liberals Istoria Ministries 04/29/2014)

The Young Turks discuss some of the issues on which Bouie's article focuses, Just HOW Racist is LA Clippers' Owner Donald Sterling? Uh, VERY. (Some profanity used) 04/28/2014:

And the blog's old friend Bro. Wade "Sword-of-Vengeance" Burleson has also weighed in on the Sterling affair to complain about, well, the same thing Bob "the Daily Howler" Somerby gripes about all the time: how mean them thar libruls are! (Donald Sterling, Hate, and the Hypocrisy of Liberals Istoria Ministries 04/29/2014)

"Liberals have become the new racists," writes Bro. Sword-of-Vengeance. And that is pretty much the point of his post. In the Republican Bizarro-world, opposing racism is the real racism. Just like Southern segregationists in 1964 arguing that the Civil Right Act and later the Voting Rights Act were racist against white people. The old traditions are still alive!

It's worth noting that Bro. Sword-of-Vengeance even rewrites Sterling's notorious recent comments to have him criticizing Christianity instead of black people. And he invites his readers to consider that if Sterling had said that, he wouldn't have suffered any consequences because the real problem, you see, is persecution of Christians in America. It's kind of crazy, but Bro. Sword-of-Vengeance writes like a Bircher, so that's par for the course. It is a good example of redefining the problem of white racism into its opposite, particularly if you can expect your audience to understand Christians being persecuted as white people being persecuted.

The soul of Jefferson Davis goes marching on!

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