by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
The Tea Party branch of the Republican Party rode a roaring white backlash to victory, last week, but American society is denied the language – and permission of corporate media – to discuss the phenomenon. Ironically, the relative silence on race is a result of the Civil Rights Movement having “succeeded in fully euphemizing white political speech.” As a consequence, “a conspiracy of white-washed language seeks to obscure the growing threat.” The Black Is Black Coalition defies the white-washers of reality, this weekend, with a rally and march on the White House.
“We have been instructed that race is passé, therefore, even when race is clearly central, it must be pushed to margins.”
Racism and political “conservatism” have always been inextricably intertwined in the United States. Slaveholder interests intent on spreading their system of human bondage through relentless expansion of U.S. borders were the military “hawks” and social “conservatives” of their day, and the pattern has held into the present. Andrew Jackson’s early 1800s hyper-aggressive white nationalism is easily recognizable in modern American right-wing domestic and foreign policy. American (white) “Manifest Destiny” was the proudly proclaimed energizing principle of the United States deep into the 20th century. The U.S., these “patriots” believed, was both the heir and epitome of all of Western “civilization” that came before. America’s Anglo-Saxon stock was divinely commissioned to subdue the darker and heathen races of the continent and, later, the world.
With successive waves of European immigration, the definition of “white” became more elastic, so that by the turn of the 20th century the United States had become “the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming!” Israel Zangwill’s 1908 play, which gave us the cliché, made no mention of the Black and brown and red and yellow races that were crushed underfoot and ground into liquid capital by the white juggernaut. Their subjugation, enslavement, displacement and extermination was the price of white civilization – and well paid!
“Dixiecrat arch-segregationists became simply ‘conservative’ Republicans.”
More than half a century later, the Civil Rights Movement succeeded in fully euphemizing white political speech, so that howling racists like South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond came to be described in popular media as “conservatives.” Dixiecrat arch-segregationists – who had only yesterday proudly labeled themselves such, claiming to be champions of white civilization – became simply “conservative” Republicans. With Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” white voters followed their Dixicrat leaders into the Republican Party. Conservatism, more than ever – and more than anything else – meant conserving white privilege.
The Tea Party branch of Republicanism wants to take “their” country “back” to a whiter day. Their electoral triumphs, last week, are the fruits of a fevered white backlash. But the civil rights movement forced racist language to go underground, replaced by code words and white-washed terminology that attempt to obscure that which is raging all around us. Ironically, Black reporters for the corporate media assimilate the euphemisms and regurgitate them back at us, further clouding public vision.
A recent example is last Saturday’s column by Charles M. Blow, of the New York Times. Titled “The Great American Cleavage,” the piece reviews 30 years of polling data that shows “conservatives” increasingly vote for Republicans and a smaller number of self-proclaimed “liberals” support Democrats. “Moderates” are “trumped by conservatives.” Blow concludes that “we are drifting toward the extremes.” (“Liberals” are just as “extreme” as “conservatives,” apparently.) Blow concludes that we are in the midst of “yet another ideological backlash.”
If the ideology he is referring to is racism, then Blow is correct. But he does not once use the words “white” or “race” in his article, leaving the impression that racism and conservatism are separate, distinct and compartmentalized, and thus deracializing the Tea Party phenomenon.
“Conservatism, more than ever – and more than anything else – meant conserving white privilege.”
Blow’s article is in synch with corporate media’s general sanitizing of racism, which has reached ridiculous heights in the mythical “post-racial” Age of Obama. We have been instructed that race is passé, therefore, even when race is clearly central, it must be pushed to margins. The massacre of Blue Dog Democrats, who lost half their House caucus last Tuesday, is simply an acceleration of the long-term attrition of white “conservative” Democrats to the White Man’s Party, the GOP. That this acceleration occurs during conditions of economic crisis under the First Black President, is to be expected, absent some unifying national project such as war, or a massive, transformative jobs-creation program – and even then, American racism is ever-present and hyper-active. Yet a conspiracy of white-washed language seeks to obscure the growing threat.
That’s why it’s so important that the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations is holding its second rally and march on the White House, this Saturday, November 13. Black Is Back, because the white backlash is in full roar, while a Black president pretends that Black America (which he says doesn’t exist) has “already come 90 percent of the way” to equality and need only wait for “a rising tide” to “lift all boats.” Black Is Back, because finance capital is in terminal crisis and threatening to bring the entire planet down with it. Black Is Back because Wall Street’s servant in the White House spends the biggest war budget in human history launching ever-expanding theaters of aggression, destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions.
Black Is Back to speak Truth to Power.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
August 19, 2012 //
Question of the week: "Recently two former Negro Baseball League stars were honored by the Milwa...
August 19, 2012 //
Question of the Week: “Do you know on August 14 there is a primary election? Do you think there ...