I guess there’s probably nothing Earth-shattering about revelations that FOX News “journalist” Sean Hannity was BFFs with a white supremacist. I mean, even if you don’t expect it, it’s not the sort of information that’s going to turn your whole worldview upside-down, you know?
But the latest screed from Pat Buchanan almost buckles the knees. We don’t exactly look to Pat for enlightened thinking on race or, well, on anything. But even by his standards these March 21 comments are barely to be believed.
Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.
Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.
This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:
First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.
Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.
Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the â€™60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.
Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks â€” with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas â€” to advance black applicants over white applicants.
Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.
We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?
Goddamned ungrateful negroes.
Fortunately, Dave Neiwert has some lucid thoughts on the subject.
Damn, I’m sure most black people forgot to be grateful for segregation, the lynching era, sundown towns, and the continuing discrimination they face both in employment and in residence.
And Pam Spaulding notes the willful hatefulness required to so badly distort the Obama speech in question.
How could people like Buchanan listen to the same speech and walk away with this level of vitriol in their heart and purposeful ignorance of history? Our country suffers an incredible sickness when it comes to race relations. The point of Obama’s speech is that we all have work to do, and share responsibility in opening up an adult dialog. The above does nothing to advance understanding, and shows no desire to do so either.
As I say, Buchanan is a known quantity, although his 2006 book, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, suggests that maybe he’s slipping even deeper into the clutches of the racist pathology that now define his public persona.
In fact, the book reflects racial views that have now veered to the extreme. White America is changing color, Buchanan argues — “one of the greatest tragedies in human history.” The Mexican government is involved in a plot to take over the Southwestern United States, and parts of this country already look like the “Third World.” America, despite what its founders wrote, was a nation formed not on the basis of creed but rather a homogenous ethnic culture. To put it plainly, State of Emergency is a white nationalist tract. The thesis is that America must retain a white majority to survive as a nation. It is rooted in a blood-and-soil nationalism that is more blood than soil. The echoes of Nazi ideology are clear and chilling. As Buchanan helpfully explained to John King, who was interviewing him in one of his several CNN appearances: “We gotta get into race and ethnic questions.”
Another non-role model, Bill Kristol, had this to say on the subject in his NY Times column yesterday.
The last thing we need now is a heated national conversation about race.
What we need instead are sober, results-oriented debates about economics, social mobility, education, family policy and the like â€” focused especially on how to help those who are struggling. Such policy debates can lead to real change â€” even â€œchange we can believe in.â€ â€œNational conversationsâ€ tend to be pointless and result-less.
Or worse. Especially when theyâ€™re about race. In 1969, Pat Moynihan, then serving on Richard Nixonâ€™s White House staff, wrote Nixon a memo explaining that â€œthe issue of race could benefit from a period of â€˜benign neglect.â€™ The subject has been too much talked about. … We may need a period in which Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades.â€ Moynihan, who was reacting against the wild escalation of racial rhetoric on all sides, was unfairly pilloried when the memo was leaked in 1970. But he was right then, and his argument is right now.
There are perhaps multiple ways of reading Kristol’s remarks, and his well-established track record as a reactionary hack might lead us to cast them in the worst possible light. But let’s take him at his word for the moment.
If he’s saying that we need deeds, not more empty rhetoric, it’s hard to argue. America needs to put its race troubles to bed, and we’ll never get there without informed, actionable policy that removes racial and class dynamics from our national opportunity equation. Show, don’t tell, I always say.
But let’s note two things. First, he seems to be calling for debates, not action. I’ve never been one to disparage the value of an intelligent, good-faith debate, but it’s 2008, not 1958. Don’t we know enough about what drives race and class-based inequality in the US to suggest that the debate has been had and won and it’s now time to move forward into the action phase? Also, don’t thoughtful progressives have good reason to be suspicious of the word “debate” when it comes from the hard right? Is Kristol calling for a real debate, or is he proposing a rigged quagmire along the lines of a “global warming debate” or a “creationism debate”?
Second, where does the halfwitted idea come from that “national conversation” and “informed debate” (or “actionable policy”) are mutually exclusive things? Mr. Kristol, this isn’t an either/or, it’s a both/and. We should stop talking about race when it ceases to have relevance in the conduct of our collective social life and not a second before. The conversation, the debate and the action should, and must, occur together, with each informing and correcting the other.
It’s instructive that Kristol, when he needed an example of what he stands for, invoked the Nixon White House. Nixon’s march to Washington, of course, hinged on the race-baiting, divide-and-conquer campaign we now know as the Southern Strategy. And his solution, such as it is, eschews both hard action and Obama’s call for thoughtful discussion in favor of a “debate,” which we know from experience means “a gamed process used to forestall progress.”
In what way have Kristol, Buchanan and their ideological allies moved America closer to a solution for the racism endemic in our political, economic and social systems? And where they’re concerned, what reason do we have to believe that the future holds something different from the past?
Right. Moving on…