Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Race baiting

You've probably been hearing the phrase "race baiting" a lot lately. Especially from conservatives eager to tear down critics of the Bush administration who raise serious questions about the racial components of its manifestly inadequate response to the disaster in New Orleans.

Problem is, none of them seem to really know what "race baiting" is -- which may, in fact, explain why so many of them are also engaging in it.

You can find it every pool of the conservative swamp. Nearly every discussion of race in the context of New Orleans available at the Free Republic, for instance, refers to any questions raised about the racial component of the response as "race baiting". Same in the blogosphere, at places like The Corner, Wizbang, Red State, Little Green Footballs, Rathergate, and on and on.

It would help, perhaps, if we recalled exactly what race baiting really is:
Race baiting is the act of using racially derisive language, actions or other forms of communication to anger or intimidate a person or groups of people, or to make those persons behave in ways that are inimical to their personal or group interests. The term race in this context can be construed very broadly to include the social constructs which define race or racial difference, as well as ethnic, religious, gender and economic differences. Thus the use of any language or actions for the purpose of exploiting actual or perceived weaknesses in persons who can be identified as members of certain groups in order to do them some sort of harm can be contained within the concept of "race baiting."

The act of accusing others, particularly white Americans, of racist behavior typically does not entail racially divisive language, unless it features talk about honkies and crackers and white-hooded Klansmen. It doesn't disparage white people generally, but, if it is disparaging, it tends to be disparaging of behavior that is racist.

This is only "race baiting" if you believe that exposing bigotry by whites somehow inflicts harm upon them; if you believe that whites are themselves the victims of systematic, oppressive, and widespread "reverse racism" in America -- a notion that enjoys considerable support among the angry white men of the right, but for which the evidence is scant indeed; and that suggesting at times that their behavior might be motivated by racism is itself a degrading racial stereotype.

This may be true in a handful of instances, but more often the charge is raised in instances where there is no derisive language, only serious questions. Indeed, compared to the real history of oppression and racism in this country, both in the past and present, such claims appear, more than anything, to be little more than the bathetic whining of the privileged.

Reformulating "race baiting" to include raising concerns about racism is a form of Newspeak: it inverts the actual meaning of the phrase to suggest its nearly polar opposite, thereby rendering it meaningless. As I've discussed previously, the right in recent yeaars has deployed Newspeak primarily to nullify and muddle our understanding of precisely the behavior that they themselves are prone to engage in. The appearance of Newspeak is actually a reliable indicator of the conservative movement's own intended behavior.

The right has been redefining "race baiting" to include any attempt to raise serious charges of racism for some time now. Recall, for instance, that Trent Lott's defenders were quick to charge his accusers with "race baiting" (see, for instance, the Claremont Institute's defense of Lott). It has enjoyed a considerable half-life among right-wing pundits such as Mona Charen. Meanwhile, Instapundit has made a virtual career of this misuse of the phrase, while the rest of the right-wing blogosphere has followed suit. Needless to say, this redefinition of the term is also now an article of faith at Free Republic and the Council of Conservative Citizens, as well as such reliably racist outfits as American Renaissance and Stormfront.

Just for clarity, I thought it might be useful to provide some clear examples of genuine race-baiting, just so no one is confused about its meaning:
"The mob stands today as the most potential bulwark between the women of the South and such a carnival of crime as would infuriate the world and precipitate the annihilation of the Negro race."
-- John Temple Graves, editor of the Atlanta Georgian, 1904

"As long as rape continues lynching will continue. For this crime, and this crime alone, the South has not hesitated to administer swift and certain punishment. ... We are going to protect our girls and womenfolk from these black brutes. When these black fiends keep their hands off the throats of the women of the South then lynching will stop."
-- Rep. Thomas Upton Sisson, D-Miss., 1921

"This is a race war! The white man's civilization has come into conflict with Japanese barbarism. ... Once a Jap always a Jap. You cannot change him. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. ... I say it is of vital importance that we get rid of every Japanese, whether in Hawaii or on the mainland ... I'm for catching every Japanese in America, Alaska, and Hawaii, now and putting them in concentration camps... Damn them! Let's get rid of them now!"
-- Rep. John Rankin, D-Miss., 1941

"If our buildings, our highways, and our railroads should be wrecked, we could rebuild them. If our cities should be destroyed, out of the very ruins we could erect newer and greater ones. Even if our armed might should be crushed, we could rear sons who would redeem our power. But if the blood of our White race should become corrupted and mingled with the blood of Africa, then the present greatness of the United States of America would be destroyed and all hope for civilization would be as impossible for a Negroid America as would be redemption and restoration of the Whiteman's blood which had been mixed with that of the Negro."
-- U.S. Senator Theodore Bilbo (D-Tenn.), 1947

"The negro is a native of tropical climate where fruits and nuts are plentiful and where clothing is not required for protection against the weather ... The essentials of society in the jungle are few and do not include the production, transportation and marketing of goods. [Thus] his racial constitution has been fashioned to exclude any idea of voluntary cooperation on his part."
Dixicrat platform of 1948

"And I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the negro race into our theatres, into our swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches."
-- Strom Thurmond, 1948

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
-- Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., 2001

And for some more recent samples, out of the New Orleans disaster:
Most people have seen videos depicting the brutality and inhumanity of the African tribal uprisings and lawlessness. Now you don't have to watch a video shot in Africa, just look at the many videos from an historic and once beautiful American city, New Orleans.

... One must ask, is this a story about tribal brutality in Uganda…the raiding by bandits of a children’s hospital?

No, its happening in one of the most beautiful and historic of American cities. And my dear friends, it is only a foretaste of what’s ahead for the multicultural America of the future.

... Differences do exist and these differences can be seen consistently across racial lines around the world. Take for instance Japan. Japan suffered a series of devastating earthquakes, and yet the Japanese people in these communities pulled together, rooted by their common heritage, culture, and racial unity and they helped each other. There was no anarchy, no bands of simian-like Japanese in cars trying to raid nursing homes!
-- David Duke

"Our society (thanks soccer moms) is far to tolerant of it's degenerate gangsta sub-culture. We make it's more talented members wealthy heros and role models, via rap music, movies and sports. In many ways the gangsta sub-culture was brought to us by Hollywood and the NBA, bleeding heart soccer moms tolerate it at the voting booth. Maybe now that we can see exactly what is in store for all of us, soccer moms get raped first, maybe we as a society will become far less tolerant. One can only hope."
--- Free Republic commenter "jpsb"

It also should have been expected that a large fraction of New Orleans's lower class blacks would not evacuate before a disaster. Many are too poor to own a car, or too untrustworthy to get a ride with neighbors, or too shortsighted to worry...

In contrast to New Orleans, there was only minimal looting after the horrendous 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan—because, when you get down to it, Japanese aren't blacks.
-- Steve Sailer, VDare

Of course, once a bit of Newspeak becomes entrenched, it's hard to dislodge. Look for a lot more claims of "race baiting" to arise along with serious questions about the role of race in the response to the Katrina disaster.

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