You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" -- that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me -- because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."He then goes on to explain that, while blacks are the target, whites get hurt in the process too.
More to the point, as tactics aimed at suppressing black citizenship become more abstract, they also have the side-effect of enveloping non-blacks. Atwater's point that the policies of the Southern Strategy hurt blacks more than whites is well taken. But some whites were hurt too. This is different than the explicit racism of slavery and segregation...When he refers to the fact that black America would be cut out of the safety net as it was first developed, he's talking about the fact that FDR had to appease Southern Democrats in order to get Social Security passed. He did that by inserting rules that had the effect of excluding most black people from eligibility. Those rules were later reformed.
You can paint a similar history of the welfare state, which was first secured by assuring racist white Democrats that the pariah of black America would be cut out of it. When such machinations became untenable, the strategy became to claim the welfare state mainly benefited blacks. And as that has become untenable, the strategy has become to target the welfare state itself, with no obvious mention of color. At each interval the ostensible pariah grows, until one in two Americans are members of the pariah class.
Tim Wise made this point too...suggesting that the lack of support for a strong safety net in this country is rooted in racism.
What we see here is the natural progression from creating disdain for anyone who needs a helping hand because that hand happens to be black - to the utter contempt for all social programs that our children, veterans, and elderly depend on by throwing them all in the rubric of "the welfare state." As Coates title suggests - we're all welfare queens now.
Coates ends his article on an optimistic note about the likely result of this kind of integration.
In all this you can see the insidious and lovely foresight of integration which, at its root, posits an end to whiteness as any kind of organizing political force. I would not say we are there. But when the party of white populism finds itself writing off half the country, we are really close.As the saying goes...from your lips to god's ears.