Wednesday, April 9, 2014

White liberals talking about race

I have to admit that I have some mixed feelings about Jonathan Chait's recent feature about racism in the Obama era. On the one hand, I totally hear the criticism he's getting about some of the views he expressed. But I'd like to make a point that I haven't seen addressed anywhere else...he got white liberals to actually talk about race. For example:

Joan Walsh at Salon

Tommy Christopher at The Daily Banter 

Yastreblyansky at No More Mister Nice Blog

Ed Kilgore at The Washington Monthly and Talking Points Memo

I think that's a good thing - whether I agree with all of them on everything they've written or not. That's because I think that a few years ago Attorney General Eric Holder nailed it. We are a nation of cowards when it comes to talking about race.


Sure, we regularly hear charges of "racism" thrown into discussions and the defensiveness that most often produces. That kind of exchange is not missing from our dialogue. What we don't do is talk about what racism means or how it affects our politics. But that's exactly the conversation Chait has ignited. 

The reason a lot of white liberals avoid this subject was expressed years ago by Glenn Greenwald. 
...part of the reason people intently run away from discussions of race...is because it is too easy to unwittingly run afoul of various unwritten speech rules, thereby triggering accusations of bigotry.
Nezua set him straight on that one.
People avoid talking about race because they are scared of exposing their thoughts and views on race...They are not afraid of "unwritten speech rules." They are afraid that what they really think and feel will cause them to be ridiculed or ostracized in public, or that they may see a part of themselves they have to feel bad about. So they keep the potential to themselves.

But if we keep the focus on Speech Rules, we miss the opportunity to change ourselves.
The truth is - when white people talk about race, we're pretty much destined to say stupid racist stuff.  And people are going to call us on that. But the only way to change ourselves is to bring our thoughts out into the open, get called on it...and learn something!

3 comments:

  1. They aren't having a conversation. They're congratulating each other on how not racist we white folks are, and how horrible black folks are for suggesting otherwise.

    It's a conversation exactly like what would be seen on glenn beck.

    And the oh woe is we, exculpatory "destined" just furthers it. We're not destined for evil, we choose it. It's not an accident, it's by design. Along with all defenses of it, no matter how oblique.

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    Replies
    1. I strongly disagree. The comparison with the Glenn Beck show is absurd. Better that we keep having this awkward and often painful dialogue on race, awkwardly and painfully, then not at all. T

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  2. The truth is - when white people talk about race, we're pretty much destined to say stupid racist stuff. And people are going to call us on that. But the only way to change ourselves is to bring our thoughts out into the open, get called on it...and learn something
    ******************************
    but they do not come from a position of of humility..they come from a position of ARROGANCE...case in point Chait....this is not about trying to bring folks together to tackle tough issues...this is self-serving..and besides...me personally...as a woman of color i do not appreciate a white man telling me what racism is and isnt...

    see his reaction below when he is called out about it...

    Jonathan Chait ‏@jonathanchait ·Apr 8
    Favor to ask from leftie critics: I forget what race I am and I have no mirrors so please remind me every five seconds or so. Great, thanks.

    ***************
    someone on twitter...edited that tweet...substituted black folks for lefties...

    that about sums it up

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