I wrote this comment regarding Rick Perlstein’s November article on Lee Atwater’s Southern Strategy, but I never published it–forgot my Disqus password and didn’t want to dig it up again. So here it is on my own blog. . . .
But first, allow me to mention that what I object most about culturally progressive magazines focusing so much on white racism is that they don’t provide any context in which to put such racism. Yes, I’m against racism. But the context is that the world is an incredibly racist place. In addition to white racism, we have . . . Japanese racism against Koreans living in Japan. Chinese racism against the Japanese–not to mention many other minorities in China. Black African racism against minorities–including Asians and whites. Indian prejudice against the Untouchables. Jewish racism against Palestinians. Arab racism against blacks. (Incidentally, did you realize that the African-Arab slave trade continued on until past the 1930s? The Brits attempted to stop it–but had problems doing so. Did you realize that slavery was ubiquitous among the Indian tribes of America?) Etc., etc., etc. (Just so there’s no misunderstanding, the “Etc, etc., etc.” part is supposed to indicate that, yes, I’m aware there are thousands of other examples I could have picked.)
Using a strategy to gain white votes by vilifying blacks is horrible, please don’t get me wrong. But to bring it up so much–you’ve got us talking about white prejudice, again and again. (See my article on cultural progressives for insights into their motivations.)
Okay, enough of the intro. Here’s my comment:
Haven’t listened to the video yet (perhaps that will provide more context) but I had glanced at your article, and as a conservative I felt a pang of guilt. I believe in voting for the common good; I don’t believe in voting on the basis of what’s only good for my race. On Wikipedia, I read a slightly more complete version of what Atwater said. It didn’t sound good, but, honestly, I was left me somewhat confused–I wasn’t really sure how to interpret some of his sentences. Again, perhaps the video will clear things up.
But the reason I really want to write involves the larger question of context.
Look, you might not like it, but there are non-racists who do want low taxes and feel that there are people who take advantage of welfare. I work with the poor, and I see some (certainly not all) of them taking advantage of the system. I’ve seen young people jump on the dole, leaving older people who had better values to work year-round at difficult jobs.
Also, aren’t you and The Nation just beating a horse to death again with this article? A lot has already been said about the Southern Strategy. But here you are bringing it to our attention once more. And the events in question happened over 25 years ago.
Context: What about Reverend Wright, whose sermons even the New York Times called racist? Obama went to his church for how many years and ostensibly had no idea about Wright’s views? And why Wright’s church, of all churches. Why not another, non-racist church?
What I’m trying to get at is that there’s a need for proportionality and balance. There’s a need for putting racism in its context.