The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse.

According to Stanford University law professor Richard Thompson Ford, America’s conversation about race is often overwhelmed by distractions.


With Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, Ford discusses his newest book, The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse. Milloy moderates a lively Q and A session – The Aspen Institute.

Politico: Race drives strategy, stirs uncertainty


Race drives strategy, stirs uncertainty

By far the most likely thing that could derail Obama’s victory is a racial backlash that is not visible in today’s polls but is waiting to surge on Election Day — coaxed to the surface (to the extent coaxing is needed) with the help of coded appeals from McCain and his conservative allies.

Racial issues tend to hover in the background in much of the public analysis of the Obama-McCain horserace — often mentioned but not usually as the dominant factor. By contrast, it is increasingly the subject of obsessive interest in the nonstop, not-for-attribution conversation that takes place between reporters, political analysts and campaign sources in the heat of an election.

As a result, much of the news coverage and commentary that the media will produce over the next month will flow from the assumption that racial antagonisms are an unexploded bomb in this contest. By this logic, if Obama does not head into Nov. 4 with a lead of at least several points in the polls, there is a good chance he’ll be swamped by prejudice that will flourish in the privacy of the voting booth.

“If Obama loses a close race,” James Carville told our colleague David Paul Kuhn, “it is almost inevitable that [racism] will be a very big part of the interpretation of the race.”

Huffington Post: Normon Soloman: Projecting an Obama Victory

Huffington Post: Normon Soloman

Projecting an Obama Victory

Twenty years ago, presidential nominee Michael Dukakis emerged from the Democratic National Convention with a 17-point lead in a Gallup Poll. One of the main reasons that the lead disappeared was a scurrilous TV ad, linking Gov. Dukakis to a prisoner who committed a rape during a weekend furlough. The commercial included an ominous photo of the African-American convict, Willie Horton.

Now, a “Willie Ayers” ad is getting plenty of media attention, and Sarah Palin is accusing Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” The McCain campaign is eager to implement desperate measures for its desperate times — making preposterous claims to link Obama with terrorism — scraping toward the bottom of the barrel and heaving larger quantities of mud.

Any confidence that such tactics will have scant effect on the electorate is misplaced.

There’s also the matter of race — and, more to the point, racism. “Many older Democrats quietly admit they will not vote for Mr. Obama because they fear he would put too many blacks in power, or be hamstrung in office by racial opposition,” the New York Times reported from Florida on Oct. 4.

This fall, no one knows exactly how much we’ll see of the “Bradley effect” — named after the defeat of the black mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, who received conspicuously fewer votes from whites than election-eve polling had predicted when he ran for governor in 1982.

Atlantic: Ta-Nehisi Coates: Another way of thinking about “racism without racists”

Atlantic: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Another way of thinking about “racism without racists”

Allow me the liberty of generalizing here–whites are most concerned about racial bigotry. That is, “I don’t believe in interracial marriage” or “I don’t want black people living next to me” or even “I think black people are prone to crime.”

Black folks don’t like racial bigotry, but they’re mostly concerned–not about racism as bigotry–butracism as oppression. That’s a loaded word, I know. But let’s go to the dictionary” an unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power.” I think job discrimination falls under that category. I think redlining falls under that category. I’d hesitate to call the drug war “racial oppression,” but with that definition, I think there is a case. So, as I’ve mentioned in comments, blacks aren’t so much worried about whether white people like them, they’re worried about the fact that in New York City, their job prospects are about the same as white guy with a record. In that world you can have a guy who isn’t a racist bigot–but in fact is a racist oppressor. It may be “racism without racists” but it’s still “racism with racist oppressors.” Frankly, that terrifies me.

From a black perspective, the intent of white people is irrelevant–the effects are what matter. Thus we fear–I fear–this perverse self-congratulation over the fact that “racism as racial bigotry” has been banished, while “racism as racial oppression” lingers. I don’t much care about Obama and white racism because he won’t suffer any racial oppression. Heh, one could argue that white racists who vote against him could be contributing to the oppression of themselves.The “racial bigotry” fight is weird because, truthfully, only white people themselves can truly answer that question. It has to do with what’s in a man’s heart. But the question of racial oppression is much clearer. Certainly there’s much much less of it today than there was a half a century ago. But it’s still a big problem.

Atlantic: Ta-Nehisi Coates: More excuses for racists

Atlantic: Ta-Nehisi Coates

More excuses for racists

Nicholas Kristof makes an interesting point this morning:

Senator Obama is facing what scholars have dubbed “racism without racists.”

Before I go forward I want to be clear about a couple things. Kristof’s column is puzzling because by the end he concedes that, in fact, these people are racists (averse racists, one scholar calls them). But more importantly, there is this: too much has been made about the effects of white racism on the presidential contest. I’m tired of hearing about it. If It’s not some guy telling us that Obama that he has to woo racists, it’s some other guy telling us he’s going to lose because of them. I thought that the Yahoo story Kristof pillories was bunk. As I’ve said before, I have no idea how many votes Barack Obama will lose because he’s black, or gain because he’s black. And at this point, I just don’t care.

But there is a certain strain of argument that seeks to make excuses for the bigots among us. Somehow the civil rights struggle has been defined down to getting white people to have a beer with us. So if you profess to “earnestly believe in equal rights,” you aren’t a racist–even as you actively discriminate against black people. This is civil rights reduced to some sort of citizenship pledge. David Duke doesn’t think he’s racist. Michael Richards ranted “he’s a nigger” on stage, but was shocked to be called a racist.

But really racism was always at its worst because it was invisible and insidious. The worst thing about housing segregation wasn’t that blacks couldn’t live around whites–it was that whites actively sought to rob black communities of wealth. The worst thing about school segregation wasn’t that black children didn’t go to school with white children–it was that whites defunded black schools. This is what led Malcolm to denigrate integration as the right to sit next to white people on the toilet.

LA Times: Frank talk of Obama and race in Virginia

LA Times

Frank talk of Obama and race in Virginia

The isolated towns of Virginia’s Appalachian coal region are home to strong labor unions and Democratic political machines that date back generations. Yet voters here who eagerly pushed Democrats into the Senate and the governor’s office are resisting Barack Obama.

Some Americans say Obama’s race and uncommon background make them uncomfortable — here those people include Democratic precinct chairmen and get-out-the-vote workers. Many Americans receive e-mails falsely calling Obama a Muslim — here a local newspaper columnist has joked in print that Obama would put Islamic symbols on the U.S. flag.


And so Obama’s supporters, as they push to win this dead-even battleground state, are talking directly about race, betting that the best way to raise their neighbors’ comfort level with the prospect of the first black president is to openly confront their feelings.

When Cecil E. Roberts, president of the coal miners union that shapes politics in much of this mountain region, talks to voters, he tells them that their choice is to have “a black friend in the White House or a white enemy.” When Charlie Cox, an Obama supporter, hears friends fretting about Obama’s race, he reminds them that they pull for the nearby University of Tennessee football team, “and they’re black.”

“I’ve never been prejudiced in my life,” said Sharon Fleming, 69, the wife of a retired coal miner, who spends hours at the union hall calling voters on behalf of Obama. “My niece married a black, and I don’t have a problem with it. Now, I wouldn’t want a mixed marriage for my daughter, but I’m voting for Obama.”

Newsweek: Moderate Voice: On “Racism without Racists,” “Unconscious Discrimination,” and “Aversive Racists”

Newsweek: Moderate Voice

On “Racism without Racists,” “Unconscious Discrimination,” and “Aversive Racists”

I generally agree with and commend Nicholas Kristof’s very humanitarian and compassionate efforts, viewpoints and articles. But, this morning, with his New York Times column, “Racism Without Racists,” he has really confused me.

Kristof’s column starts as follows:

One of the fallacies this election season is that if Barack Obama is paying an electoral price for his skin tone, it must be because of racists.

On the contrary, the evidence is that Senator Obama is facing what scholars have dubbed “racism without racists.”

Kristof then presents statistical, scientific, and anecdotal data and “evidence” to prove such an oxymoron.

For example,

Most of the lost votes [by Obama] aren’t those of dyed-in-the-wool racists. Such racists account for perhaps 10 percent of the electorate and, polling suggests, are mostly conservatives who would not vote for any Democratic presidential candidate.

Rather, most of the votes that Mr. Obama actually loses belong to well-meaning whites who believe in racial equality and have no objection to electing a black person as president — yet who discriminate unconsciously.


Still, a huge array of research suggests that 50 percent or more of whites have unconscious biases that sometimes lead to racial discrimination. (Blacks have their own unconscious biases, surprisingly often against blacks as well.)

I am no social psychologist, but when Nicholas Kristof claims that there can be “racism without racists,” that there are “well meaning” white people who “discriminate unconsciously,” who have “unconscious biases” against blacks, who are “particularly likely to discriminate against blacks…in ambiguous circumstances,” and that there are “aversive racists, those who don’t think that they’re racist,” I am truly confused. Perhaps I need to take some of Professor Dovidio’s courses.