Tuesday, August 12, 2008

File Under, "Duh?!?!?!?!"

Good lord. This article illustrates how stupid the media and most white people are about how race works in the U.S. That the question of whether the McCain campaign and Republicans are employing race/racism in this election is even a debate in the mainstream media is silly and shows the gross ignorance of a sad number of white folks, including many of the so-called "best" journalists, of the ways racist fear has been manipulated and used throughout our entire political history. Of course the McCain folks are using racism as a weapon in their anti-Obama arsenal... for the same reasons a desperate Clinton campaign turned to these subterranean racist politics a few months ago as the nomination was slipping away... because these politics, sadly, usually work in our elections.

This kind of crap has not been a secondary or fringe element in our politics, but a central thread and one of the most potent devices conservatives (regardless of party) have used throughout the years to divide the electorate and win power for the status quo. The only difference is that it is now seen as distasteful to employ overtly racist rhetoric in most political campaigns, particularly at the national level. So, these days these reactionaries need to use coded language and loaded imagery to tap into long-standing white supremacist impulses in our society in order to move the electorate. The power is that this new kind of more subtle racial politic allows many white people (those making the ads and those receiving the signals) to claim that "it isn't about race," when it is, in fact, largely, or even exclusively, about race.

For any of you confused, I'll spell it out for you: The association of black men and white women has been driving white supremacists (and by that I mean a majority of white USians until VERY recently) bonkers for, oh, CENTURIES! You know, thousands of black men were unjustly lynched because of the bogus, but potent, charge of rape against a white woman. Interracial marriage was illegal for until 1967 in several states.

This McCain stuff is classic "dog whistle' politics. The sad thing, again, is that most white people, deeply ensconced in the invisibility of their racial privilege, are unaware of the work ads like these are doing. And, because most white folks are not clued in to our collective racial history, or the way race plays out in our society today, when someone steps forth to point out the obvious (like the fact that all these ads feature Obama white white women), many white people become defensive and attack the messenger. This is also why these kinds of divisive, hateful politics WORK.

So, if you are not in the loop on all this, get some learnin' on and check it out.

But, I know most of you out there visiting Freedom Road know this already...

The above political cartoon is from the 1864 presidential campaign. It seeks to exploit northern fears of inter-racial relationships by featuring a "miscegenation ball" and associating it with Lincoln and the Republican Party (which, at the time, was the "liberal" party). Note the banner, suggesting that if Lincoln is reelected, THIS is the world that will be forced upon good upstanding white people, a world where black and white people might - GASP! - be intimate enough to dance together... and you know what THAT means! The text that accompanied the original image was written in the voice of an eyewitness to such a dance at a Republican event in the North, as if the writer were shocked and earnestly reporting back to a readership he knew would also be distressed, if not outright outraged.

And so it goes...

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