November 02, 2005


Usually this stuff just deserves mockery, but oh, what the hell. It looks like every conservative on the planet has his/her knickers in a knock because black Maryland Democrats have been making "racially-tinged attacks" on Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a black Republican running for Senate. Well, what of it? When it comes down to it, I don't think throwing Oreos at a politician—as Morgan State students did to Steele in 2002—is ever that productive. That's just me. But conservatives are calling it "racist". The trouble is that everyone seems to mean something different by the word. So...

Just hash out the background assumptions. Many liberals, give or take, believe some variation of the following: 1) power and inequality in this country matters a great deal, especially economic power; 2) black Americans, as a group, have very little power—economically and socially; 3) "racially-tinged" remarks are vile mainly insofar as they reinforce unjust power relations. So long as you believe these three things, then no, a black progressive calling a black politician "Sambo" won't always be considered racist. It just doesn't necessarily follow. Especially when he did it after Steele tacitly endorsed Gov. Ehrlich's appearance at an all-white country club. (Actually, Steve Gilliard's post assumes two more things: 4) black Americans have never had anything handed to them, and can only eliminate racial inequality by sticking together; and 5) any black person who defects from that cause, like Steele, and joins a party that actively perpetuates racial inequality, is by definition hurting black Americans much more than, say, a white person doing the same.)

Anyway, so much for semantics, I guess. Any of those five points would be a good starting place for discussion. (#5 is the fun one, obviously.)
-- Brad Plumer 9:27 PM || ||