YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

January 21, 2012

The persistence of white racism

Willie Horton

[This is a  companion piece to http://clarespark.com/2011/05/26/who-is-a-racist-now/ and http://clarespark.com/2012/12/01/petit-bourgeois-radicalism-and-obama/.]

Hollywood liberals along with other liberal elites take great pride in their rectified conduct regarding minorities, especially blacks. It is amazing how quickly an overwhelmingly white supremacist country overcame its racism. A few assassinations, a few urban riots, a few token reforms, positive images of “African Americans” in the movies and television, a national holiday for the martyred MLK Jr. and the problem disappeared from view. The media, academic multiculturalists, and the Democratic Party (with the selection of Barack Obama) did their part in maintaining the fiction that white people were, or were about to be, cleansed of the national sin. Even the South was redeemed, thanks to those politicians who, overnight it appears, became Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, Wendell Phillips, and Frederick Douglass. (This last contention is refuted by many of my Southern Facebook friends.)

During my youth I never saw blacks as authority figures, nor did any of my teachers at two Ivy League institutions (Cornell and Harvard) fret about the race problem (nor were there black or female faculty). Nor did I have Communist relations who would have told me I was a racist, or otherwise educated me about race relations in the country of my birth. I can still recall my revulsion at the sight of a black male arm in arm with a white woman in Greenwich Village during the late 1950s. And was not miscegenation the linchpin in the racialist repertoire? That, coupled with scary images of angry, murderous black men. (Lee Atwater knew what he was doing when he summoned the image of Willie Horton to defeat Dukakis in 1988. It was my horror at that move that led me to ask the question “How Do We Know When We Are Not Fascists?” in a new series on KPFK.)

It was only during the civil rights movement as transmitted on Pacifica Radio in the 1960s that I had ever heard a black intellectual, and I heard plenty. That led me to James Baldwin’s Another Country, from which I gleaned the lesson that women were so boring that it was understandable that any sensitive male might prefer the company of other men, even in bed.

My education in race and gender only began in the 1960s, and it shook my psyche to its foundations. In my own defense, I remember thinking about my own negative views of black people that perhaps I was a bigot, that were these not humans like myself, with only one life to live? Were we not all in the same boat? During the years at Pacifica radio, I began producing programs about the development of American culture, focusing on such matters as artistic freedom from censorship, and the ecology of artists and the institutions that interpreted their work. By now it was the 1970s, and middle-class blacks were organizing themselves (as were women) to demand more space in galleries and museums for black and women artists. I remember the story of one art world Waspy socialite on the museum board, overheard by a friend, complaining on a telephone call, “Now we are going to have to show all that crappy art.” I also remember the pugnacity and defensiveness of the current director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, referring to these black and female outcasts as “my people.” Because I had given them air time, I was now similarly a pariah in the world of the haute bourgeoisie. It was good for my character to be thrown out with the trash.

During that period of radio production, I remember the first demands by media reformers from minority communities that Pacifica and all other media outlets must dispense with “negative images” of their groups in order to provide “role models” of strength to the children, who presumably would remedy their self-esteem deficits. (This demand was in sync with prior rules in the movies that entertainment should neither be offensive to any group nor propagandistic.) Nobody was demanding an entirely reoriented education from early childhood on, with the exception of a few visionaries. Nothing has changed since then, except that the visionaries (see Eva Moskowitz’s chain of charter schools in Harlem) are proving their claims that urban minorities, properly educated in the basic skills of literacy, numeracy, science, and such, are indeed not mentally or morally deficient, as racist propaganda would have it; nor were their self-images to be confined to white America’s most potent racist and sexist images: the Willie Horton rapist/murderer/star athlete/rapper, the blackface minstrel entertainer with a populist message, the femme fatale (Medusa, Gorgon, the “despicable” hag/witch Marianne Gingrich, disposable ex-spouse out for revenge, hence lacking in credibility), or her antitype: Mammy a.k.a. “Nigger Jim” in Huckleberry Finn. Cross-dressing may be cool, but it does not rectify the condition of women.

I would love to believe that all the white supremacists, North, South, and West, had not only had a change of heart, but were, more importantly, rectifying their own education with studies of black history, women’s history, and especially labor history, for competition between black, brown and white workers is a crucial element in our politics, past and present. Just as the competition between women for the favor of protective and powerful men is the engine that keeps many women focused on sex and appearance above their abilities to function either as healthy individuals, or as effective parents, or as proper citizens in a republic; i.e. women (including minorities of either gender) who are not averse to the study of military history, economics, accounting, political maneuvering, and the deciphering of all forms of authoritarian propaganda.

I am aware that many Americans in all sections of the country are working to change inherited attitudes toward “race” and gender. This blog is mainly about a public complacency that I find intolerable. Complacency and a distressing turn toward social relations that are not only irrational, but sadomasochistic. See http://yankeedoodlesoc.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/huck-finn-and-the-well-whipped-child/.

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18 Comments »

  1. This is propagandistic nonsense. You have bought into the revisionist Leftist memes fomented by academe and the Jackson/Sharpton/Wright school of racial relations. I too was indoctrinated in the 60′s. Then I met and worked with real-world whites, blacks and hispanics and witnessed behind-the-scenes actions and attitudes in the world of realpolitique.. Yes , there are white racialists, and black nationalists, and La Razans. They will be with us always…

    Comment by William — March 5, 2014 @ 7:21 pm | Reply

    • Not nonsense to me. I told my own story and I am older than you are. If you imagine that racism is easily sloughed off, you are not paying attention to the real world of the emotions. The commenter was probably a troll, for he could not have read the blog and left this irrational comment.

      Comment by clarelspark — March 5, 2014 @ 7:25 pm | Reply

  2. “Even the South was redeemed, thanks to those politicians who, overnight it appears, became Republicans, ”

    Noiw that’s an interesting take on things. I’ve certainly never heard a Democrat or any assorted fellow travellers say the South was redeemed from racism by swinging to the Republicans. Quite the opposite.

    Comment by albert8184 — November 3, 2013 @ 8:32 am | Reply

    • I was being sarcastic. The context was the persistence of white racism, which exists everywhere, conscious or not.

      Comment by clarelspark — November 3, 2013 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

  3. “This blog is mainly about a public complacency that I find intolerable”. The so-called public complacency is the result of the power of the black intelligentsia and their insistence that any criticism of the black subculture is off limits. Its origin dates at least as far back as the Johnson administration when Civil Rights legislation was being formulated. Johnson commissioned Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a prominent sociologist to recommend ways of improving the lot of blacks. Moynihan had the temerity to suggest in his Report that a principal problem was absent fatherhood and recommended action items to improve this problem. The Report was given to black leadership to review and their reaction was fiercely negative. Unfortunately,Johnson shelved the report so its recommendations were never implemented. The incident is the subject of a book, “The Moynihan Report and the Politics of Controversy”. Fast forward to 2008. White Presidents, Democrat and Republican were always fair game for comedians, particularly late night hosts. But, 40 years later, none of these brave had the guts to make fun of Obama. This reluctance to make fun of people who happen to be black or to offer constructive criticism is a still real social problem, that only serves the race hustlers and their enablers in the intellectual community and media.
    .

    Comment by Bob Ennis — July 17, 2013 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

    • I agree that there is a taboo against criticizing prominent blacks among liberals. But that doesn’t change the point I was trying to make: that cultures, like individuals, are very slow to change their attitudes toward previously stigmatized groups.

      Comment by clarelspark — July 19, 2013 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

  4. Reblogged this on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog and commented:

    Those using the Zimmerman trial to make a case for pervasive racism should read this. It is true that cultures are slow to change, but it is also true that blacks have enjoyed remarkable upward mobility since the 1960s. Sadly, the integrationist strategy was abandoned in favor of non-white supremacy.

    Comment by clarelspark — July 17, 2013 @ 2:02 am | Reply

  5. [...] civil rights movement and its achievements. (I do not mean to minimize the effects of racism: see http://clarespark.com/2012/01/21/the-persistence-of-white-racism/.) Nor would the anti-Americans examine the obliteration of high Western and American culture, [...]

    Pingback by “American exceptionalism” retold | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — March 2, 2013 @ 4:38 am | Reply

  6. I believe that racism is of a different color, today. It used to be that white America thought their racism was merely the recognition of a birthmark on Negros. We are this, they are that. It had a genetic nucleus. I believe that is vestigal in America. It will always be present but of no affect other than to annoy and embarrass.
    The new racism is tribal. There are distinct differences. As in any two dissimilar tribes there are a number of traits that are benign, set alongside one another. Where those traits threaten or are seen to threaten one another are the seeds of racism sown.
    This is not really racism. Its just labeled as such because of the color line. Unfortunately that intensifies the tribalism making a Romeo and Juliet moment much more difficult in remedying the problem.
    You can prove to me I am wrong by taking a leisurely stroll through Watts in LA and Downers Grove in suburban Chicago.

    Comment by Mike Mahoney — February 7, 2012 @ 10:39 pm | Reply

  7. What do you suggest as a solution? Keep in mind that in a place like San Diego (where I live) children are taught in school that racism is wrong on a regular basis. Furthermore, to make a racist comment in any social circle of friends around is the equivalent of saying, “Hey, I’m a monster.” With those kind of social and educational pressures constantly applied, how else can we get inside of the minds of human beings (who are tribal by nature) find the ones who are who don’t restrain this tribal (racist) nature, and somehow change their worldview. I don’t believe the solution is to make white people feel guilty. That particular avenue seems to drive many people away from wanting to address the issue at all.

    Comment by ChrisG — February 1, 2012 @ 5:23 pm | Reply

    • I never advocated white guilt, but only awareness of our history, as a nation, and as individuals. The liberal multiculturalists think that they are anti-racist, but their discourse promotes racialist thinking, i.e., that “race” is a fact and not a social construction. In the essay, I cited Eva Moskowitz’s remarkable work in Harlem, in which she has demonstrated that black and brown children, properly educated and with high expectations, can perform well. She does not attribute distinctive mental traits to them as do the multiculturalists.

      Comment by clarespark — February 1, 2012 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

      • Interesting. Can proper education and high expectations overcome other problems, specifically single parent households and lack of English speaking parents? How is proper education defined?

        When I used to tutor, I noticed that there were many Latino kids for whom neither parent spoke English well enough to help them with their homework. This is about the biggest disadvantage you can have, and I’m not I sure it can be overcome without a massive volunteer effort. There was a program in Palo Alto where volunteers (most single adults) taught the (mostly) Latino children once or twice a week for free. You either dropped your kid off at 7:00-8:00 on Thursday or Friday or both. The volunteers usually helped the kids do their homework packet. For a lot of the kids, they simply would not be able to finish their homework most weeks without help and would have gotten further and further behind ( I was the exact same way in elementary and middle school and ended up getting a post-graduate degree and a good job – fortunately I had a grandparent who was good at math). With tutoring help, the kids seemed able to keep up, at least as far as I could tell. While the kids learned math and science, the parents could take English classes at the building from volunteers. I think this kind of thing could catch on and spread if it was a central part of a party platform (either party).

        Comment by ChrisG — February 8, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

  8. [...] In the last few blogs, I have been complaining about a powerful group of white cultural historians who believe they are accurate in describing American descendants of slaves as African-Americans or African Americans without the hyphen. These include such luminaries as David Brion Davis, David Blight, Seymour Drescher, Steven Mintz, and John Stauffer. They are all hard working and productive scholars, good men all, who have done much to remind Americans that the sectional reconciliation that followed the Civil War did not fulfill the emancipatory promise of that momentous conflict. I do not depart from their general view that white supremacy still lingers; see http://clarespark.com/2012/01/21/the-persistence-of-white-racism/. [...]

    Pingback by Remembering Ralph Bunche, American « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — January 26, 2012 @ 11:19 pm | Reply

  9. ……..or as effective parents, or as proper citizens in a republic; i.e. women (including minorities of either gender) who are not averse to the study of military history, economics, accounting, political maneuvering, and the deciphering of all forms of authoritarian propaganda. (Clare…that happens maybe the day they can put down their iphone.)

    Comment by Mark Kirsnis — January 22, 2012 @ 12:34 am | Reply

  10. ALWAYS love to read your posts Clare! Another really good one. In college I took “Introduction to African American literature) about 1976 and was amazed at being the only white person in the classroom. but being at Loyola Marymount Univ. It was probably one of my best moves ever. The black population on campus knew me on first name basis, and To answer the famous Rodney King…yes we all can get along. let me just say that some of my closest friends are white!

    Comment by Mark Kirsnis — January 22, 2012 @ 12:28 am | Reply


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