ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more) 

Google
 

Given that math, in a base turnout election where Romney has a big lead

among white, non-college educated men, it’s understandable why he’d try

to motivate those voters with code words that remind them of their racial

difference with Obama and stigmatize that difference.

 

 

How to Read Political Racial Code

 By Touré

Using certain words to invoke stereotypes and racial fear is a reprehensible but time-worn tactic

 

6 September 2012

Part of my job when I speak about politics is to speak up for black people and say things black people need said. This mission has rarely felt so necessary as it has when racial code words recently entered the Presidential election. These code words are ancient racial stereotypes in slick, modern gear. They are linguistic mustard gas, sliding in covertly, aiming to kill black political viability by allowing white politicians to say ‘Don’t vote for the black guy’ in socially-acceptable language. Sometimes the code comes directly out of a candidate’s mouth. Sometimes it comes from supporters, or can be found in advertisements.

Do not be fooled by the canard that both parties do it. That was former RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s response when I asked him about it on my MSNBC show “The Cycle.” Using certain words to invoke racialized fear and scare white working class voters is a long-established part of the Republican playbook. The GOP is a 90% white party and has been for decades. According to Ron Brownstein of the National Journal, Mitt Romney will need over 60% of white people to vote for him or he will lose. “That,” Brownstein says, “would be the best performance ever for a Republican Presidential challenger with that group of voters.”

Given that math, in a base turnout election where Romney has a big lead among white, non-college educated men, it’s understandable why he’d try to motivate those voters with code words that remind them of their racial difference with Obama and stigmatize that difference. In this effort a word like “welfare” is extremely valuable. Sure there are more white than black Americans on welfare, but when a candidate says ‘welfare’ many whites think of their tax dollars being given to blacks.

So when Romney began running ads about Obama “dropping the work requirement from welfare”—ads which are still running even though the claim has been thoroughly  debunked—he was merely updating Ronald Reagan’s old “welfare queen” meme. Both are designed to create racial resentment around entitlements. This tactic is bolstered by the classic stereotype of blacks as lazy.

A recent Pew Research Center poll, for example, found that 57% of Republicans believe people are poor because they don’t work hard. When a recent Washington Post poll asked “Why do most black voters so consistently support Democrats?” the second reason given by Republicans was “black voters are dependent on government or seeking a government handout” while for Democrats it was that “their party addresses issues of poverty.” (The top answer for members of both parties was “Don’t know”.)

Another classic code word—that hasn’t cropped up in this election yet—is “crime.” Like welfare, even though more whites commit crimes than blacks, the word is more associated with blacks who have historically been stereotyped as wild, violent, animalistic, and immoral. As Michelle Alexander writes in The New Jim Crow, “What it means to be criminal in our collective consciousness has become conflated with what it means to be black, so the term white criminal is confounding, while the term black criminal is nearly redundant.”

The classic example is President George H. W. Bush’s famous ad using inmate Willie Horton as a way to portray Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis as soft on crime and thus unable to protect us from wild black criminals.

There’s also the cornucopia of terms and concepts created to de-Americanize Barack Obama, from calling him “Muslim” or “Socialist” to Romney surrogates like John Sununu saying things like, “I wish this President would learn how to be an American.” There is also a return to birtherism, with Romney recently joking, “Nobody’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.” The subtext of all this is: Obama, like other blacks, is not one of “us.” He is other.

Do Democrats use racial code? No. The Democratic Party is a racially diverse coalition. There would be no value to playing this game. In fact, the party has risked alienating white working class voters by fighting for people of color, a tightrope perhaps best symbolized by President Johnson signing the 1964 Voting Rights Act and then famously, and presciently, saying to an aide, “We have lost the South for a generation.”

If Johnson could see the modern electoral college map he would recognize his continuing impact in a solid red South, but many say that a white-dominated political party leaning on racial appeals to survive will not work much longer. The Hispanic population in America is rising rapidly and as Brownstein points out, “Whites have declined as a portion of the electorate in every presidential election since 1992, according to exit polls.” Those are two frightening trends for the future of the GOP and even prominent Republicans are publicly admitting it. “The demographics race we’re losing badly,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina recently told the Washington Post. “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

But for now, as the GOP paddles furiously trying to stay viable as an all-white party, we must shine a harsh light on their attempts to use old racial stereotypes to win votes.

Touré is the author of four books, including Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? and the co-host of MSNBC's The Cycle. The views expressed are solely his own.

Source: ideas.time

*   *   *   *   *

The Black Count

Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

By Tom Reiss

Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo—a stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of literature. Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle East—until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.

*   *   *   *   *

Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves

By Henry Wiencek

Is there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery? The answer is a resounding yes. Master of the Mountain, Henry Wiencek’s eloquent, persuasive book—based on new information coming from archaeological work at Monticello and on hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Jefferson’s papers—opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jefferson’s world. We must, Wiencek suggests, follow the money. So far, historians have offered only easy irony or paradox to explain this extraordinary Founding Father who was an emancipationist in his youth and then recoiled from his own inspiring rhetoric and equivocated about slavery; who enjoyed his renown as a revolutionary leader yet kept some of his own children as slaves. But Wiencek’s Jefferson is a man of business and public affairs who makes a success of his debt-ridden plantation thanks to what he calls the “silent profits” gained from his slaves—and thanks to a skewed moral universe that he and thousands of others readily inhabited. We see Jefferson taking out a slave-equity line of credit with a Dutch bank to finance the building of Monticello and deftly creating smoke screens when visitors are dismayed by his apparent endorsement of a system they thought he’d vowed to overturn.

It is not a pretty story. Slave boys are whipped to make them work in the nail factory at Monticello that pays Jefferson’s grocery bills. Parents are divided from children—in his ledgers they are recast as money—while he composes theories that obscure the dynamics of what some of his friends call “a vile commerce.” Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues


1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        

Enjoy!

*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)

 

 

 

 

 

posted 10 October 2012

 

 

 

Home  2012 Election Campaign Table