‘The Racial Implications of a Barack Obama Presidency’

This Daily Kos diarist’s take on The Racial Implications of a Barack Obama Presidency is deeply cynical, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

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6 Responses to ‘The Racial Implications of a Barack Obama Presidency’

  1. Melinda says:

    A small thing, perhaps, but I really hate seeing “poor whites” equated with “racist,” and I’ve been somewhat disturbed to see the growing classism in what used to be the left. For me, it tends to reinforce the notion that the Kos website and its kin are more closely allied with the Democratic Party than with a genuinely progressive movement. I also tend to wonder just how much insight someone who’s name is Lyubansky can have into what working class blacks think, but there could easily be something there I’m missing.

    I went to graduate school in Chicago in the ’80s and was very excited by Harold Washington’s candidacy for mayor. I constructed several mental models for how things would go if he won, and was *so* wrong in each of them.

  2. Joe says:

    I grew up in northeast Iowa, went to law school in Omaha, and worked as a legal aid lawyer before coming east. I am black. In my experience, poor whites (and poor blacks) can be very upset when they see a black attorney trying to help them out. Some think that the initial response of the poor client is more frustration than racism, but it does tend to sour the initial meeting. I had cases where my client didn’t trust me, even after I had the judge agreeing with my proposal to settle the dispute. The judges knew me, and knew that I wasn’t playing games. There are a group of whites in this country who will never trust a person of an ethnic minority, no matter what they say in response to a survey. I’m not sure that Obama’s candidacy will get through that attitude, and I think that we will see the effect of that attitude in the next few months.

    I worked in a large factory with workers who claimed to be fair, but who blamed all of their failings on the black and hispanic workers who were promoted ahead of them. To their minds, their own lack of education and lack of competency at their jobs was not the real reason that they didn’t get promoted. I could write a book about their attitudes.

  3. Melinda says:

    The problem, Joe, is that you’re universalizing your experience, and as it is written, “Anecdotes are not data” (you’ve got a big problem with your sample). I absolutely do not dispute and would never dispute that you’ve had some racist clients, or that there are poor white who are racist, and I’m not even sure that I’d dispute that poor whites are more likely to be racist than middle-class whites (although I might counter that it’s that middle-class whites are better at masking it). However, if you’re going to assume that a random poor white person is racist then you’re probably assuming that most poor white people are racist and I think that’s 1) untrue, 2) unfair, in that it tends to encourage further marginalization, 3) and tends also to encourage looking at various constituencies, whether it’s African-Americans, the poor, gay people, religious minorities, immigrants, etc. as “special interests.” I’d rather see a more coherent approach to social justice.

    But what the heck, here are my anecdotes: I live on a small farm in rural upstate NY. A cop – a young guy – who lives up the road from me once used the word “colored” to refer to a family a few miles from here. But during the last election cycle he had a yard sign for a black candidate for sheriff. Which is the real him? I have no clue. But I do have neighbors who are grindingly poor (like, pry up the flooring and burn it for heat poor) and who’ve used anti-semitic language in conversation with me, probably not realizing I’m Jewish. I figure I could toss ’em overboard (figuratively), but these really are people on the ass-end of society and they’re in trouble.

  4. Joe says:

    Universalizing my experience? What alternative do I have? I’m not a social scientist, and I’ve never been paid to do this type of research.

  5. Webdesign says:

    I totally agree to your following opinion:
    “A small thing, perhaps, but I really hate seeing “poor whites” equated with “racist,””

  6. Mikhail says:

    Good point, Melinda and Webdesign…I certainly didn’t mean to equate white poverty with racism, especially since it’s hardly the case that wealth makes people less racist. In any case, I should have explicitly stated that I was talking about a subgroup of poor whites…perhaps the majority, but perhaps not. I don’t have data on this and should have been more precise (and less stereotypical) in the formulation of my argument (your humble author).

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