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We Have Race on the Brain

6. Politics of Race. Let’s face it—racial politics are primarily a liberal-Democratic domain. A politician or jurist such as Harry Reid, Judith Ginsburg, (on abortion) or Joe Biden gets a pass on insensitive language that an entertainer and commentator like  Rush Limbaugh does not. I think the unspoken rule is something  like, “I am so clearly progressive that any uncouth slip must be a slip,” versus “He is so clearly not progressive, that any uncouth slip is a window into his flawed soul.” (Note again, that had a white jurist, Sotomayor-like, said "As a wise white man" he would have been disqualified from the Supreme Court, or had he prefaced a speech [30 plus times in a few minutes] with "I am a white guy," "as a white man," "we whites," "I am white," "I don't forget that I am white," we would have nominated him for Klan service rather than the Supreme Court.) (Yes, I know the postmodern apologies about "power imbalance" and "historical contexts," but this is 2010, not 1965.)

Note too, how liberals are vicious to conservative minorities without worry over sounding racist. Clarence Thomas and Alberto Gonzales learned that.  Gonzales was ridiculed by liberals as an affirmative action disaster in a way the far more inept Eric Holder is not. Indeed, the only politically-correct criticism of affirmative action seems to be in the context of a liberal’s efforts to deprecate a conservative Hispanic or black. Only then does “he didn’t earn it” seem to be  legitimate discourse.

7. Politically-incorrect realities. When Obama foolishly entered the Skip Gates mess, he was shocked by the public ire. His own sermons on diversity and stereotyping got as much traction as his “clingers” speech or Holder’s “cowards” outburst. Why? Because a majority of Americans of all races feel that if the police do pull over African-Americans more than others it might just be due to statistically higher incidents of criminality, human nature being what it is.

In other words, almost everyone in some sense profiles privately, as I think Jesse Jackson once pointed out. When one walks to the car at night in LA, one takes precautions if the person behind you is black, male, and young, and not so much if Asian, female, and old. Age is a criterion, race another, gender yet another — as well as a general knowledge of average US crime statistics . That tragically is just the way it is.

When Joe Biden and Harry Reid gave their white-guy takes on Obama that he was “clean” and did not have a “negro” accent, I think they were trying to say that to the degree Obama sounded white and acted white, he reassured centrist voters. Everyone expressed ritual shock, and then quietly dropped it.

As liberals, they were exempt from the reaction that a Limbaugh encountered when his similar statements earned him censure from various sporting interests; but, in fact, they were simply echoing many in the black community who complain that those like Obama (who are not celebrities) are “sell-outs” who have to use special accentuation and strained parlance when speaking to black audiences that they are either unaccustomed to or never use elsewhere. (Note CNN Roland Martin’s advice to Obama to go “gangsta” on the opposition — a racialism that would have earned an Imus-like penalty for a non-black commentator.)

How odd that one reverts to the culture and parlance of the inner city to establish fides (like ritual attendance at the pulpit of the unhinged racist Wright), while rejecting those very ideas and values to "make it" in America. Close examination of that mindset will show how condescending, paternalistic and careerist it really is. (Why does not Obama speak in his normal tone when addressing black audiences, in the manner that won him advancement rather than use the parlance that is a hindrance to mainstream success?)

(Hillary, remember, at times changed her cadences and life experiences both to black audiences and to what she thought, as a remote Wellesley graduate, the poor white underclass would like to hear (cf. Obama's blast that she acted as if she were Annie Oakley).

So where are we? In one sense very far. The United States is a vast multiracial society that, despite multiculturalism, embraces one official language and still shares a common culture. Among the middle classes, race doesn’t matter all that much, and the society is not plagued by endemic racial and religious violence we typically see abroad.

But among the elite, where the lucrative jobs, prestige, and big money are — sports, entertainment, law, academia, medicine, high-power finance, big government and politics — our elites con each other. They often strain to find some sort of ethnic or racial or gender edge over the  competition. Most Americans assume racial affinities and go about their business; elite utopians demand there be none — and then prove themselves far more racialist.

If white, the careerist elite professes to be liberal and a diversity proponent while himself conning to rely on his money, background and contacts to nullify the new diversity prejudice. Usually at universities, the white guy top administrator would surround himself with diversity appointments and talk down about the faculty’s lack of diversity. Most ignored the bottled piety and assumed the careerist dinosaur just wanted to survive. The white-guy leftist on television will talk ad nauseam about diversity on the assumption that such preemption shields him from the sort of diversity affirmative action salvo that might knock out his own job.

One of the reasons I liked farming (six contiguous neighbors — two Armenians, one Japanese, one Punjabi, one Mexican, one German) was that action not pretense mattered. And stereotypes were OK, if instantly backed by empirical evidence and if not pressed too far.

In contrast, one reason I disliked academia was that in such a dry, bored self-created landscape, pretense trumped action, and one’s tribe, not one’s essence, was the key to career advancement. I never heard a Mexican neighbor say he was Mexican or an Armenian vineyard grower talk of his vaunted heritage or the German claim privilege — they all succeeded or failed on their own ability, or lack of, to grow food at a profit.

In academic lala land, scholarship and teaching too often came second, bumper-sticker identification first — another sign that with supposed intellectual progress, so often comes moral regress.