“The Condemnation of Racism Must Make Itself Manifest Now”
By Anna Daniels
Vigilante rancher welfare queen Cliven Bundy’s recent musings on “Negro” history, the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, and NBA Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist “etiquette” pointers for his girlfriend are the past week’s dismal trifecta of old white male willful ignorance.
Yes, Meat with Eyes Sean Hannity quickly distanced himself from Bundy’s “maybe slavery was better” ravings. There was an immediate outcry over everything that was in the Sterling tape and I’m not willing to stick my hand into that particular septic tank to fish out an example. The good news being peddled is that as a society we know an old white male racist when we see him and we won’t stand for it.
But before we get all self-congratulatory, the Supreme Court decision upholding Michigan’s affirmative action ban shows how little we are willing to deal with institutional racism, which is quite different than recognizing your garden variety racist. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing 58 page barn burner of a dissent of the majority opinion.
“Race matters,” she writes, “Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities being denied access to the political process. … Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society—inequality that cannot be ignored and that has produced stark socioeconomic disparities. And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up.
Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, ‘No, where are you really from?’, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here.’ ”
Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent at The Atlantic, has a great deal to say about the difference between singling out racists and extirpating racism. He calls out the elegant, monstrous racism that “is invisible, supple, and enduring. It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism. Grace is the singular marker of elegant racism. One should never underestimate the touch needed to, say, injure the voting rights of black people without ever saying their names. Elegant racism lives at the border of white shame. Elegant racism was the poll tax. Elegant racism is voter-ID laws.” This is of course the racism that Sotomayor refers to in her dissent.
Coates makes the point that America “has never discriminated on the basis of race (which doesn’t exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.)” He writes “Ahistorical liberals—like most Americans—still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true.” He closes the article This Town Needs a Better Class of Racists with the words “A racism that invites the condemnation of Sean Hannity can’t be much of a threat. But a racism, condemnable by all civilized people, must make itself manifest now and again so that we may celebrate how far we have come. Meanwhile racism, elegant, lovely, monstrous, carries on.”
In his earlier article Segregation Forever, he writes about what he sees as the end of integration in this country as schools and housing are becoming more segregated. Taking down Sterling for what he said in the privacy of his home to his girl friend is infinitely easier than eliciting the same immediate rejection of Sterling’s housing discrimination in the public sphere. And that sums up our festering national dilemma.
The following videos provide two perspectives.
Nikki Giovanni Great Pax Whitie (Peace Be Still) 1968