RacismReview: As Economic Crisis Worsens, is Racism a “Luxury” Whites Can No Longer Afford?


As Economic Crisis Worsens, is Racism a “Luxury” Whites Can No Longer Afford?

As the economic crisis worsens (and the forecasts look pretty gloomy), some people are speculating thatundecided racists may no longer be able to afford the “luxury” of racism (image source).

I wish I could share Coates’ (and others’) optimism.  However, there’s lots of evidence that the McCain/Palin campaign is pandering to the lowest (racist) common denominator in ways that are both overt and intentional, as well as in ways that are practically subconscious they’re so automatic.   For example, at last night’s presidential debate, John McCain referred to Barack Obama as “that one” and at the close of the debate refused to shake his hand (opens video link).  I doubt seriously that McCain or his handlers planned either of these. Rather, McCain’s rhetorical choices and his body language suggest a deep disgust for Obama.  This may be merely personal disdain and might have been directed at any political opponent of McCain’s, but one suspects that it reflects a deep well of racism (recall, McCain for years opposed the King holiday in Arizona and until very recently publicly used the term “gook” to refer to just about any one of Asian descent).

The verbal and non-verbal cues coming from McCain are easy-to-latch-on-to forms of symbolic racism for those inclined to interpret them in that way.  And, once again, it’s clear that the campaign’s strategy is to leave the more overt signaling of this racism to Palin.  For instance,  witness the kinds of vocal responses from crowds at a recent Palin rally when supporters shouted “terrorist” and “kill him” at the mention of Obama’s name.  This kind of irrationality is a powerful reminder that historically whites have voted (and acted) in ways that were not in their economic interest in order to maintain white privilege (and not only working-class whites).  Choosing a political leader (indeed, choosing a team) based on who is best equipped to deal with the economic disaster at hand makes logical, rational sense.  Unfortunately, for many whites, this may well be the last luxury they learn to do without.


2 Responses

  1. Concerning the handshake, you are wrong. They shake hands and Obama even pats McCain on the back. While the camera is focused on the commentator they both come in view of the camera at around 1hour 32 minutes and 30 some seconds into the full video of the debate, its on Youtube under “Second 2008 Presidential Debate (Full Video)”. The term “that one” is pretty generic, if it had been a female or a white sitting there, would all these rumblings of it being racially slated be surfacing? The double standard of racially inqualities will be dramatically reduced when those who are pointing the finger stop making ridicuously radical assumptions.

  2. It is about being treated with respect and as an equal. John McCain is not stupid. McCain is aware that when speeches by he and his running mate are responded to with repeated calls that his opponent is a terrorist and should be killed, he is tapping into the most base evil instincts in his audience. And McCain reinforces that message when he does not challenge his opponent in a respectful way.

    U.S. presidents have been shot in my lifetime. Whether I agree or disagree with their politics, that is NEVER acceptable. It fundamentally undermines the whole meaning of our democracy. As they run, remember that actions taken by McCain or Obama to further taint the already diminished office of the presidency will end up hurting all of us. A diminished president is a diminished leader.

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