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David Sirota

David Sirota

Posted: April 16, 2008 11:14 AM

Race and the White Snob Industry


Think tank navel-gazer Michael Lind has a very long-winded article in Salon today desperately trying to downplay the issue of race in the 2008 political campaign. Like most white pundits, he can't seem to accept that yes, race plays a factor in American politics. And so he attempts to debunk my straightforward Race Chasm analysis by manufacturing a concept he calls "Greater New England."

Like most self-respecting think-tankers, Lind haughtily self-references, citing a New Republic article quoting himself discussing this "Greater New England" concept. He says this region -- not really geographically connected -- is that which was "settled by New England Yankees in the 19th century along with culturally similar Germans and Scandinavians." Yes, in one sentence, Lind calls my Race Chasm analysis "nonsense" and then -- I'm not kidding -- insists the key factor in the campaign is "the number of Yankee pioneers in the 19th century." Yes -- according to Lind, the black-white politics that exists in Race Chasm states has no impact on the race, but Scandinavian immigration patterns from 150 years ago do.

Lind goes on to chastise "grotesque and repellent caricatures." At the same time, he makes broad sweeping generalizations claiming that the political culture of, say, Eastern Washington State is basically the same as Vermont. To Lind -- the guy who is outraged at "caricatures" and stereotypes, all whites are whites, and all Northern whites have the racial sensibilities of Martin Luther King, and that's the end of it.

Most annoying is Lind's claim that "the Sirota theory also suggests that all white Democrats are at least latent racists." It's just so damn annoying when professional scholars -- ie. the people paid to do nothing other than read -- refuse to actually, ya know, read what they then bloviate about. Because had Lind read the article, he would have seen this very prominent paragraph:

Clearly, race is not the only force moving votes. Demographic groups -- white, black or any other -- do not vote as monoliths. Additionally, the Race Chasm does not mean every white voter who votes against Obama nor every black voter who supports Obama is racially motivated.

The point -- as stated explicitly -- is not that all whites are racists, nor that all whites who vote against Obama are racists, nor even that the majority of whites who vote against Obama are racists. The point is that in close elections, a small minority of racially motivated white voters can flip an election - especially in states where a racially motivated black vote is too small to counter that force, and in an election where the white candidate has so clearly tried to inject race into the campaign. To deny that is to do what Lind and so many other white pundits have done: deny that race, racial politics and racism exists in America.

It's hard for me to say what motivates pundits like Lind to so vehemently attempt to divert the conversation from race. Perhaps it is a version of white guilt -- some whites feel guilty about racism, and react by pretending it doesn't exist. Maybe it is white insecurity -- some whites feel that acknowledging the race divide somehow indicts their own success. Or maybe it is resentment - some whites believe that since they personally are not racists and have had nothing to do with racism, we should deny those ugly forces exist.

What I can say is that the analytical acrobatics being employed to stop a discussion about race are astonishing. The simplest path from point A to point B is a straight line. But when it comes to race, elites like Lind want to insert all sorts of other points to camoflage the issue. To date, not a single critic has been able to indict the the actual data I have presented -- not a single one, including Lind. That's because it is cold, hard facts -- the kind that can't be challenged even in the fact-free Bush age. And yet, the vicious attacks keep coming. It is as if these people have never actually been to a place where black-white politics really exists (quite possible, considering Washington, though majority black, is so segregated that many parts of the Northwest quadrant can resemble a white-only gated community).

Lind says that those who bring up race are expressing "snobbery." But really - who are the snobs? The people who acknowledge the obvious issue of race that continues to be a major factor in American politics? Or the wealthy white people like Lind who sit in the comfy offices and tell everyone not to talk about race because it offends their genteel sensibilities? I'd say the latter.