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Smart v. Stupid

Opinion: Republicans promote race conflict for political gain

Common thread is white supremacy

Conservative fulminations over the past two years share a common thread that looks an awful lot like an attempt to maintain white dominance. Faced with eroding power and influence on all fronts – and triggered by the unthinkable, a black president – white people who aren’t otherwise overtly racist have become convinced that their king-of-the-hill position is in jeopardy.

Since the founding of the nation, white Christians have been in charge. The founding fathers were all white and about half Christian. The politicians and soldiers who defeated the Confederacy were mostly white and Christian. Both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars were largely battles between white guys. Even the politicians that passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the judge who recently found gay marriage bans to be unconstitutional were white.

Now for only the second time since reconstruction – the first being the 1960s – white people seem pointedly fearful of losing their dominance. But white people ain’t going down without a fight.

These folks are not all overt racists or capital-letter White Supremacists like the Nazis or the militias or the Klan. They’re not race warriors (in the traditional lynching sense) or separatists. Well, some of them are, but not most. They are small “w” supremacists. The tea party (I’ll capitalize when they write a platform) ripped open the racial scab. Using thinly veiled otherisms like “Obama’s a Muslim sleeper agent,” “Obama’s a socialist,” and “Obama was born in Africa,” they’ve defined the notion that Obama is a threat to white, Christian culture. In "Only 47 percent of Teabaggers racist, " I explain how Pew Foundation research about the tea party reveals a strong influence of racism. Almost half believe that black people are lazy.

The health care debate brought demonstrations outside of Congress, which included racist signage, yelling “nigger” at congressmen, and spitting. Instead of denouncing racism, organizers continued to deny it. I think they are willing to shame themselves in this way because they need the numbers. The small “w” white culture warriors were willing to defend the capital “W” racists because their rallies were getting smaller each time. It’s no accident that an immigration-reform rally (happening on the same day in the same place) was much, much larger.

In the modern era, racial splitting is still a distinctly Republican tactic. Republicans like tea party wrangler Dick Armey, longtime brown-hater Tom Tancredo, and Arizona nut-job Russell Pearce are experts at playing the They Card. Before them it was Barry Goldwater and Pat Buchanan. In between it was Reagan’s strategist Lee Atwater, who later admitted to it. In "Mighty white of you,"I offer a more detailed history of this aspect of race politics. It is called The Southern Strategy.

SB1070 originally had a more political purpose. Written by crazy Russell Pearce (the Joe McCarthy of Arizona) the bill was used by the sitting governor to keep Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, from running against her. But the law resonated with the white supremacist crowd because they fear Hispanic birth rates most of all. Soon after, self-avowed Nazis were patrolling the border and threatening to shoot border crossers. Today, SB1070 and the talk of repealing the 14th Amendment are the new Southern Strategy. I doubt Jan Brewer was smart enough to have planned it, but she was sure smart enough to have recognized it when it happened. Now Brewer plays the They Card every day. In "Jan Brewer’s Southern Strategy," I take a deeper look at her motives.

The furor about building a mosque in New York is fomented by the same white Christian crowd. The ADL joined in at the end (a source of great embarrassment among many Jews) but again, the leaders and faces were loud-mouthed white Christians, repeating silly lies. "This mosque is linked to terrorism," they said, and "intended to be a monument to a Muslim victory."

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If you are inclined to protect the dominant status of white people, here is something you ought to know: The end of white dominance is already forgone and nothing old, fat racists try to do will change that. In fact, our grandchildren already inhabit a culture where white dominance has already effectively ended. The kids have evolved. Despite that fact, you can take a deep breath. This doesn’t mean a coming era of white subservience, unless maybe you handle yourself stupidly now. The only battle left to fight is social – whether all these other racial and cultural groups have a score to settle when they finally ascend to inevitable equality. It would be both short-sighted and stupid to give today’s minorities a grudge to get even for later on. Better you made sure we all felt like Americans, I think, like equal parts of a great melting pot.

On the other hand, white worry-warts can take heart in the knowledge that Christianity remains safe. All those black and brown people are Christians too. And less than one percent of Americans are Muslims. Well, not counting the sleeper agents, that is.

Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”

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Aug 21, 2010, 2:50 pm
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Great article, great perspective Jimmy!  Only area where I disapree is that the era of white supremacy is over.  We’re getting there but the political machine that gave us SB1070 and ratcheted up the fear factor about the border has caused the scale to tip backwards some what.  God willing, it will tilt back into balance soon.

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