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The Race Card: Democracy’s Parasite?

We may always be plagued by the race card; the unscrupulous will always identify its power.

by
Clayton E. Cramer

Bio

July 15, 2013 - 8:32 am

It is apparent to just about everyone that George Zimmerman’s trial was heavily involved with questions of race. For many blacks (and more than a few liberal whites), it is a clear sign of racism that Zimmerman was not immediately arrested, charged, and tried. For many conservatives – a group which of course includes many minorities — the subsequent decision to charge him with murder seems like a clear case of political opportunism by Florida authorities, a play to racial hate panderers like Rev. Al Sharpton, the model for Rev. Bacon in Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities.

I am not going to try to split the difference on this: there is no question in my mind that Zimmerman should have been found not guilty — indeed, that he should never have been tried.

But I do think it is important for Americans to understand why so much of the black community and many white liberals see the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent decision to not charge Zimmerman as evidence of racism.

Politicians — specificially, Democratic politicians — have been playing the race card in American politics for a long time. In the nineteenth century, not only Southern Democrats but even many Northern Democrats played the race card, calling the opposition party “Black Republicans” to emphasize that Republicans were looking out for blacks to the detriment of whites.

This book cover shows how Democrats argued that, with the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, we should next expect black men to be pursuing white women for sex.

Once the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed Congress — with a significantly higher percentage of Republicans voting “yea” than Democrats — the Democratic Party did not stop playing the race card. They just changed which race they were trying to inflame to vote irrationally.

Those who wonder why blacks have been so easily swayed to vote Democrat by crude appeals to race have only to look at the nineteenth century, when Democrats used the same approach to get white votes. Democrats play the race card for a reason — it works, and it works well. In the same way that P.T. Barnum’s famous saying — “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public” — says something ugly about popular tastes, the way in which appeals to race always seem to win elections says something ugly about how easy it is to sway people with appeals to the lowest common denominator.

There’s another element to this problem, however: history. America has a really ugly history when it comes to race relations. You don’t have to go back all that many years to find abuses by police and courts that were widespread and commonly accepted as just the way things were. A friend of mine who was in the Air Force was driving across Texas in the early 1960s in a fairly new car — that alone was sufficient reason for a policeman to pull him over, because a black man driving a nice car was obviously a car thief or a criminal. In those days, most people had only black and white photos with them, and in one of those wallet snapshots, his wife looked white. So he was arrested and spent a bit of time in jail, until he was able to convince them he was married to a very light-skinned black woman.

Nor were these problems strictly Southern. I can remember my shock, in the early 1970s, when a coroner’s inquest in northern Arizona took twenty minutes to decide that a black man found hung had committed suicide. What’s the problem with that? Not only were his feet bound together, but his hands were tied together behind his back.

Now, at this point, some of you are going to start muttering that there is a lot of racism out there now going the other direction — what are clearly racially motivated attacks by blacks on whites. I agree; there are a lot of young blacks being whipped into mob or individual violence based on race by those who make a living promoting hatred of whites. It is certainly easier to blame whites for what are now largely problems the black community imposes on itself, in much the same way that Democrats into the 1950s found it easier to blame white poverty on blacks in the South or Asians in the West, rather than face the real causes. But the memory of past abuses makes it too easy for the race panderers to keep playing the race card.

Thomas Jefferson made a very depressing observation in Notes on Virginia (1785) about why he did not think it was possible to abolish slavery and have whites and blacks live together in one nation:

Deep-rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations;… and many other circumstances will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions, which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.

I used to look at that and think that Jefferson’s assumptions of black racial inferiority drove that pessimistic assessment, and certainly, that was part of why he came to this dark conclusion. But I increasingly fear that Jefferson correctly identified that the race card is just too tempting a tool for politicians to use in their bid for power. I dearly look forward to the day when each of us is judged by the content of our character, and not the color of our skin. But I am losing faith that the race card can ever be crushed by a democracy.

Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012). He is raising capital for a feature film about the Oberlin Rescue of 1858.

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Top Rated Comments   
The Platters Jackie Robinson , Sugar Ray and the Supremes were superior art forms. Rap is crap. it is noise, as pleasant as Janis Joplin or George screaming for his life while being attacked by a black thug.

Holder and Obama are ugly racists. We are all George Zimmerman now.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
----- "There’s another element to this problem, however: history. America has a really ugly history when it comes to race relations."

Compared to *what*? This is what really tees me off. America began as a minor English slave colony. The big slave-colonies were in the Caribbean. Big bucks down there. America was the backwaters. Okay? Now look at all the racial history that has taken place since those early, pre-colonial times. It has been a steady and constant, upwards development in terms of the notions of "race" that we hold today. TODAY, America is the most "racially" open and accepting nation, and culture, in the world -- though you would never know it from the leftist/liberal MSM.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Opinions may vary - but crime statistics demonstrate cause and effect pretty spectacularly. One quick perusal across the violent crime spectrum clearly demonstrates who is the hunter and who is the prey in America.

I'm growing really tired of the excuses - and this article gets dangerously close to excusing really bad behavior, color be damned. I'm not interested in three generations ago. I'm interested in the here and now because most of the people who experienced white racism and dead and gone.

Since I can't entertain what happened before Jim Crow, or even the late 60s for that matter, I can only judge my my own lifetime of 53 years.

And in that time, I have never had a problem nor been threatened with someone of Asian descent, Latino descent, Indian (native or otherwise), even someone from a predominantly Muslim country - black, brown or white.

But my entire life from athletics to schools has been one fraught with incidents of racial animosity from blacks towards me - male and female. And when they started the integration of busing into my predominantly white school in the late 70s, virtually every black that got off the bus was bitter, angry and looking for trouble.

That's not to say that I haven't had a few friends who were black. But they are the exception to the rule. My own personal experience is that most blacks have been hateful, spiteful, dishonest, and sometimes threatening.

I'm not taking the blame for profiling roving groups of young black men and now, even gangs of young black women. You bet I do. If that makes me racist, so be it. But if you are white, yellow or brown, you're a sanctimonious fool if you don't.

Math doesn't lie...

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (47)
All Comments   (47)
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So how has Government "helped" the black "community?"

Civil rights act = FAIL
Voting rights act = FAIL
Affirmative Action = FAIL
War on Poverty = FAIL
Welfare = FAIL
Aid to Dependent Children = FAIL
WIC = FAIL
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This book cover shows how Democrats argued that, with the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, we should next expect black men to be pursuing white women for sex.

Well, they were right!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One way to discard the race card is for the U.S. Supreme Court rule that it is unlawful to designate people by their sex or race. We will be classified as human beings.
Thank you same sex marriage advocates for you may soon discover the "LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES." Observing people being hoisted on their own petard is soooo much fun.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My idea is for corporate America to burn the damn card. No more bowing to the race-baiters, no more cash offerings to the shakedown artists, no more holy blather about diversity and inclusiveness, no more affirmative action, and no more withdrawing sponsorship of shows that flirt with political incorrectness. Just ignore the PR backlash and talk like the rest of us.

The race-baiters know where the money is. If corporate America won't bite, the baiters will die of starvation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This administration promotes racial disharmony by their actions. The DOJ will not prosecute the New Black Panthers when they threatened voters, Pres. Obama said that Martin looked like his son if he had a son, and will not tell his constituents to restrain themselves.
Because racial discord works to the advantage on this administration, hopefully, this will be the last black man to hold the office.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Jim Crow was despicable, but not surprising. In the forties, fifties and sixties, in Texas where I grew up, blacks were segregated, kept out of sight, and forbidden to venture into the white part of town and use "white" facilities. At the same time, most blacks were poor, illiterate, not averse to a little "scavenging" once in a while to get a buck or two, and the thought of social intercourse with people like that was genuinely repulsive.

But attitudes have changed. A great social sea change has occurred, if you will. We as a society, and folks I gotta tell you the left was in the lead on this, have decided that amends must be made and we now see that blacks, at least educated, half civil blacks, are treated like long lost cousins in most venues. And I believe individual relations between the races at that level have never been better. Down in the 'hood, now that's something else, but not too germane to my point.

As part of the sea change, opportunities for blacks have opened up at every level. To the point that we now fight over whether and how much preference should be given to blacks in admission to Harvard, Stanford, public and private jobs, and the like. On the local level the same phenomenon exists. Any qualified, reasonably civil black gets hired instantly. I have been in that market; I know.

Now the point of this little rant is that the world has change for all minorities and doors are open, BUT MANY WILL NOT WALK THROUGH THEM. THAT'S ACTING "WHITE".

So what are we now to do?








1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If this were a half-way rational society, we'd keep the doors open and simply refuse to accept non-civilized behavior. You play the game in a civilized fashion or starve.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yup. And there are may blacks who would agree -- especially those who have the misfortune to live in a neighbors dominated and destroyed by the "yos."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
----- "There’s another element to this problem, however: history. America has a really ugly history when it comes to race relations."

Compared to *what*? This is what really tees me off. America began as a minor English slave colony. The big slave-colonies were in the Caribbean. Big bucks down there. America was the backwaters. Okay? Now look at all the racial history that has taken place since those early, pre-colonial times. It has been a steady and constant, upwards development in terms of the notions of "race" that we hold today. TODAY, America is the most "racially" open and accepting nation, and culture, in the world -- though you would never know it from the leftist/liberal MSM.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You want bad race relations? Try Africa, the Hutus and the Tutsis for instance, or the Japanese vs the Chinese.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I read British newspapers and love reading their comments. The Brits have this idea that Americans are the most racist people on the planet.

It has been my pleasure to point out to them that we ARE them. We were populated BY them. Then I go on to point out our record has been a whole lot better than theirs regarding how we treat people of differing backgrounds and color.

This seems to shock them, but considering they don't know their own history it comes as no surprise to me that they don't know we were their colony.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would add: TODAY, "race" is a thoroughly discredited psuedo-scientific relic of the past. But the Left refuses to allow us to move forward. That old, discredited concept of "race" is just too damn useful to them and their agenda to balkanize the American Civil Society into a hodgepodge of racial/ethnic interest groups that they can manipulate to the end of time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I appreciate this article greatly, but the quote is:

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. -- H. L. Mencken
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think Mencken was parodying Barnum.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There's another rather bizarre aspect of the current definition of "racist", which is whether or not one accepts or rejects black culture. If you find gangsta rap and the fashion fads that go along with it repulsive you're considered a racist. If you celebrate it's "authenticity" and think it's a superior art form, then you can't be a racist.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Then count me a racist. I can't stand ANY of it. The music, the gestures, the slang and mangling of speech and the clothes make me want to hurl!

Seeing low riding pants on young men just makes me shudder in disgust! I seriously have to control the urge to say, "pull your damned pants up, fool!"

The only people who like those pants are cops trying to chase them down because they fall around their ankles and trip them up.

The whole "culture" is just crass and barbaric to me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Platters Jackie Robinson , Sugar Ray and the Supremes were superior art forms. Rap is crap. it is noise, as pleasant as Janis Joplin or George screaming for his life while being attacked by a black thug.

Holder and Obama are ugly racists. We are all George Zimmerman now.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Overt White European Identity Politics will be back in the mainstream within 10 years or so.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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