Are we a racist nation?

I regularly hear pundits and politicians declaring that racism is the cause behind just about anything that happens in America that they don’t like. But is how true is it, really? I’m sure there is some racism in America. But I don’t think it’s the main reason for most of what it gets blamed for, and I don’t think it’s by any means limited to white people. Larry Elder has taken on this topic in a column for Yahoo.com:

What if actor Clint Eastwood gave an interview in which he explained why, in the 2008 presidential election, he voted for John McCain: “I voted for McCain because he was white. ‘Cuz that’s why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them. … That’s American politics, pure and simple.”

No, Eastwood did not say that. But actor Samuel L. Jackson did, in explaining why he voted for President Barack Obama — “because he was black.” Jackson also said his vote had nothing to do with Obama’s agenda: “(Obama’s) message didn’t mean (bleep) to me.” If Eastwood had said stuff like this, a cry to boycott his films would come from everybody from the NAACP to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But the popular Jackson, who played in more films during the ’90s than any other actor, makes an incredibly racist statement and it’s … yawn.

Jackson insists he just does what every voter does. If they did, Obama could not have been elected U.S. senator from Illinois (15 percent of the state is black, 72 percent white) or the president of the United States (13 percent black, 72 percent white).

I know the counter-argument is that we voted Obama into office because we didn’t want to appear to be racist. I could see that if the office weren’t President of the United States. Seriously, if a guy breaks into my house, am I going to hand him my gun so as not to appear anti-robber? That’s too important a position to hand to a guy as a feel-good prize.

Elder raises another interesting point with some statistics about the 2008 and 2010 elections:

Obama did, in fact, lose the white vote — as has every white Democrat presidential candidate since 1964. But Obama outperformed Democrat John Kerry, who ran in 2004, pulling in 43 percent of the white vote to Kerry’s 41 percent.

That jibes with my experience in 2008. I didn’t vote for Obama, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled with my vote for McCain, either. Obama was running as a moderate at the time, and I liked many of the points on his platform. But in the end I voted against him because he was a Democrat, and as such I would be less pleased with the results if he moved away from his moderate position toward more mainstream liberalism than if McCain moved away from his moderate position toward more mainstream conservatism.

Incidentally, that’s also the reason why I didn’t vote for Walt Minnick twice when I lived in Idaho. I liked the man, and I liked how he served while he held the office, but that (D) next to his name was hard to ignore. If there’s one thing I dislike more than a strong right agenda it’s a strong left agenda. Since he would have to operate as part of a larger body, I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for him, even though his opponents were not terrific choices, either.

Though it will obviously shock some commentators on the left, whenever I hear of a candidate for any public office, the question “But is he white?” never enters my mind. It simply doesn’t matter. Skin color is a very poor determinant of what a person thinks or how they plan to address political issues.

It wasn’t because he was black that I ended up not supporting Herman Cain as the Republican candidate. I’d heard quite a bit about him long before I saw a picture of him. I liked that he had strong business experience and seemed to be more plain-spoken than the others. I was hoping he’d have what it would take, because I could really get behind a good, solid non-politician candidate. But his 9-9-9 program turned me off well before any of the self-destruction occurred.

So that’s what bugs me about these people who see racism everywhere. They are completely incapable of believing a white person can disagree with a black person simply and solely on ideological grounds. Such a view is itself racist, and calls their own judgment into question. In short, someone who sees racism behind every rock and tree has something pathologically wrong with them.

If there is still any legitimate, lingering racism in this country (and I suspect there is, or at least some lingering effects of it), we will better be able to address it when these people stop turning the charge of “Racism” into a punch-line. It’s to the point that calling someone racist is taken about as seriously as someone accusing someone of having “blond moments”. Applying the tag of “racist” inappropriately only diminishes the seriousness of the charge to the point it become meaningless.

Are there racists in America? Certainly. Is America racist? No. As a nation we’re past that. Some pundits need to get past it, too.

One thought on “Are we a racist nation?”

  1. Nailed it. We will never get to be past racism until the pundits quit talking about it. I think we are mostly past it in many parts of the country. Read Condi Rice’s memoir of being Secretary of State. She says it and as a child of Birmingham, AL in the 50s, I think she is qualified to make the judgement.

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