We've observed previously the way Barack Obama's presidential candidacy is bringing out the worst in the racist-right crowd -- quite predictably, but nonetheless a disturbing trend.
We got a taste of how that's spreading into the mainstream this week from Steve Sailer's op-ed in the Washington Times -- an ugly attack on Obama for the white supporters he attracts. Along the way, he makes some claims and observations that tell us much more about Sailer and his editors than anything to do with Obama:
- Whether pro or con, white Americans are simply more interested in blacks than in Latinos. And, over the decades, white sentiment has grown increasingly favorable. Indeed, Mr. Obama has a plausible shot at riding strong early showings in virtually all-white Iowa and New Hampshire to the nomination.
This is what's known impolitely as "blowing smoke out your ass." Sailer has no evidence or data to support his assertion that whites are more interested in blacks than Latinos -- though it seems Sailer considers it a problem that "white sentiment has grown increasingly favorable" toward blacks (a claim that is only true for a portion of the white population -- but almost certainly not Sailer and his ilk).
Moreover, it seems not to occur to Sailer that Obama might poll better than Bill Richardson largely because he's a more charismatic and compelling political figure, a fact that is only secondarily (at best) affected by his race.
But this piece is much more about the self-hating whites who would think of voting for Obama, in Sailer's view. To that end, he cites the execrable Shelby Steele, who loves to pretend that "racism is dead" and that white guilt is a much bigger problem:
- Many whites assume that the mixed-race and Hawaiian-born Mr. Obama is, in Mr. Steele's words, "indifferent to the whole business of race and identity." According to Mr. Steele, the author of 1990s acclaimed "The Content of Our Character," they see voting for Mr. Obama as proving that they personally aren't guilty of racism.
Mr. Steele suggests that many whites hope electing Mr. Obama president will show blacks that white racism isn't what's holding them back anymore. Numerous white Democrats, I would add, view backing Mr. Obama as confirming their moral and cultural superiority over other whites (those redneck racists). Whites strive for status mostly against other whites, and conceive of minorities primarily as handy props in these intra-racial struggles.
Man, that cloud of smoke just reeks of ass throughout this piece. Neither Steele nor Sailer can present a single bit of real data or hard fact to substantiate these claims.
They don't have to; what they're about, after all, is just assuring their readership -- complacent and defensive white conservative males -- that their prejudices are right. And they do a great job of that.
That's clear as we read on:
- While some whites envisage Mr. Obama as the Cure for White Guilt, blacks are in no hurry to grant the white race absolution for slavery and Jim Crow, since they benefit from compensatory programs like affirmative action.
Or maybe, just perhaps, they are in no hurry to grant whites absolution for slavery and Jim Crow because they haven't earned it: racism against African Americans, particularly in the form of persistent job discrimination and residential segregation, persists in this country to this day, and all the claims of the Shelby Steeles of the world can't eradicate that reality. Moreover, racism itself persists in broader forms, including today as its targets not just blacks but also Latinos, Arabs, and Asians.
But Sailer assumes instead, of course, that such "absolution" is denied purely out of venal black self-interest. How surprising.
Because this kind of rhetoric really has one purpose: painting a picture of "white privilege" under siege both from without and within. That white "multiculturalists" are helping to bring about a racial apocalypse that will destroy "white culture" itself.
It's part of what's fueling the increasing backlash against minority gains in America, the product of fears about the decline of white privilege whipped up by such "mainstream" figures as Patrick Buchanan as well as Bill O'Reilly and other cable-TV talkers.
Sailer, of course, is an old hand at this kind of garbage, which really is just wink-and-nudge race-baiting. You may recall his piece calling Obama a "wigger".
As I noted awhile back:
- This resurgent racism likes to cloak itself in the pretense of rebellious individualism standing up to the oppression of overbearing "political correctness," or else in academic-sounding terms that fling about misinformation regarding the sciences and sociology to construct a pseudo-rationale for what they euphemistically like to call "race realism."
But pull the cloak aside, and the same old, decrepit racism of a century ago is there, festering like a decaying zombie who refuses to die.
And as the summer goes on, and the presidential campaign picks up steam, and Obama solidifies his already formidable position as a front runner ... well, expect to see a lot more of those zombies crawling the streets of our public discourse.
Here they come.