Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Chait-Coates controversy on white racism

I want to provide links here to installments in the Chait-Coates discussion of the last few weeks, including some of the various comments from other on it. Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine and Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic discussed various aspects of white racism as it currently manifests in the United States.

First, let me mention a piece from today by Coates, This Town Needs a Better Class of Racist The Atlantic 05/01/2014, in which he provides a well-nuanced look at how the justified disapproval of crass racists like Massa Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling can co-exist with widespread de facto racial discrimination against African-Americans. Noting the similarity of Massa Cliven's expressed beliefs with those of prominent and respectable conservatives, he observes:

But style is the hero. Cliven Bundy is old, white, and male. He likes to wave an American flag while spurning the American government and pals around with the militia movement. He does not so much use the word "Negro" — which would be bad enough — but "nigra," in the manner of villain from Mississippi Burning or A Time to Kill. In short, Cliven Bundy looks, and sounds, much like what white people take racism to be.

The problem with Cliven Bundy isn't that he is a racist but that he is an oafish racist. He invokes the crudest stereotypes, like cotton picking. This makes white people feel bad. The elegant racist knows how to injure non-white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt. Elegant racism requires plausible deniability, as when Reagan just happened to stumble into the Neshoba County fair and mention state's rights. Oafish racism leaves no escape hatch, as when Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond's singularly segregationist candidacy.
The articles I flagged on the Chait-Coates controversy include the following:

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