Thirteen Ways of Looking at Race in America

LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER Los Angeles Premiere, Hosted By TWC, Budweiser And FIJI Water, Purity Vodka And Stack Wines - Red Carpet1. In the year 2013, here’s what goes by the name of racism in the United States. Earlier this month, at UCLA, Professor Emeritus Val Rust was subjected to a classroom sit-in by black graduate students who charged that his correction of their grammar and spelling mistakes on dissertation proposals was a case of racially motivated “micro-aggression.” Rust made it clear that he wasn’t motivated by racism but by a belief that correcting such errors was part of his job. But what did that matter, alongside his students’ feelings?

2. These accusations came a few months after Oprah Winfrey’s revelation, in an Entertainment Tonight interview, of her own recent brush with the evils of racism. When she entered a luxury boutique in Zürich and asked to look at a $38,000 handbag that was hanging on the wall, the clerk offered to show her a cheaper version. The Swiss media eventually tracked down the clerk, whose own side of the story made a convincing case that race had had nothing to do with it. But what did that matter, alongside Oprah’s feelings?

3. More recently, Oprah claimed that President Obama has been treated with “disrespect” in “many cases because he’s African American.” She added that “it’s the kind of thing no one ever says, but everybody’s thinking it.” The truth, of course, is pretty much the exact opposite: ever since his appearance on the national scene, Obama has enjoyed an extraordinary level of unearned respect in many quarters precisely “because he’s African American,” and has also benefited enormously from the fact that (until recently, anyway) anyone who has dared to make any criticism of him, however well-founded, has done so knowing that a large segment of the U.S. commentariat will immediately call the critic a racist.

4. For a long time, Oprah was a classic example of a “bargainer” – Shelby Steele’s term for black Americans who “make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America’s history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer’s race against him,” and who are consequently given an opportunity to succeed on their merits. (Think Louis Armstrong or Bill Cosby.) Now Oprah (who also said the other day that America would not move beyond racism until a generation of elderly white people died off) sounds more like a “challenger” – a black American, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who tries to get ahead by manipulating white guilt.

5. During his first campaign, and throughout most of his presidency, Obama himself seemed to many to be a “bargainer” (otherwise he’d never have won in the first place), but his intrusive, inappropiate remarks about the Trayvon Martin case, which chimed in perfectly with those made by Sharpton, Jackson, and company, were very much those of a “challenger.” Like Oprah, he turned the truth about the race situation in America today upside-down: to listen to him on Trayvon Martin, you’d think that America was awash in white-on-black street crime.

6. Which brings us to the “knockout game.” While graduate students at UCLA were whining that their prof’s spelling corrections were racially motivated micro-aggressions, black youth gangs around the U.S. were committing what I suppose may be described as racially motivated macro-aggressions: unprovoked street attacks on non-blacks, the goal of which is to render the victim unconscious with a single violent blow. The mainstream media dutifully, indeed eagerly, reported Oprah’s handbag story, and her charge that Obama is a victim of racism; but many of them (as David Paulin pointed out here the other day) have delicately ignored the “knockout game,” or at least ignored its racial element. When the New York Times finally decided to pay attention to it, the result was a piece, published last Friday, which sought to raise doubts as to whether the “knockout game” is a real phenomenon or a new “urban myth.”

7. For years, Bill Cosby has been giving no-nonsense talks in black communities about the importance of self-respect and self-improvement. The popularity of his talks suggests that, unlike some of our leading many journalists, professors, and entertainers, many ordinary American blacks aren’t interested in playing the racism game, but, rather, prefer frank talk about the lethal social pathologies that threaten all of us – and that have been permitted to thrive by people who are scared to speak their minds for fear of being branded racists.

8. America, then, needs frank talk on race. So what did the New York Times run last Wednesday? Why, an entire feature, headlined “Racism in the Age of Obama,” in which several lawyers and professors provided answers to the query: “Are white Americans more racist than they were when Obama was elected?” To be sure, what the Times actually asked was this: “Have racial tensions in the U.S. changed since Obama was elected? For better or for worse?” But when the Times speaks of “racial tensions,” everybody knows the real topic is white racism. And so what we got was yet begun useless round of PC hogwash. The cheeriest replies were by a poli sci prof who said that “racial tensions have changed modestly since Obama’s election, mostly for the better,” and a communications prof who said white racism “declined during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.” Another communications prof argued that Obama’s election hadn’t affected America’s “racial tensions,” while a guy from the Southern Poverty Law Center asserted that the election had begun “a period of backlash,” making race relations “worse than…five years ago.” A civil-rights lawyer went even further, maintaining that “racial tensions…are more prevalent than ever.” (Yes, “ever.”) And a law prof claimed that whites now use the statement “I voted for Obama” as “a free pass to discriminate.”

9. Finally, there was another law prof, Paul Butler, who pronounced that “[t]he problem isn’t ‘race relations'; it is white supremacy – the ideology that white people are superior to people of color, and that whiteness is integral to the United States’s identity.” Butler, who is the author of a 2009 book entitled Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice, recalled that on the morning after Election Day 2004, a black barista at his favorite coffee shop snapped at a black beggar: “Barack Obama is president. Get a job!” I kind of liked that. But Butler didn’t. For him, apparently, every black person who isn’t doing well is, quite simply, a victim of racial injustice – period, case closed. Obama’s big offense, Butler insisted, is that he hasn’t done more mau-mauing of the sort he engaged in during the Trayvon Martin case.

10. In short, the Times feature had nothing insightful to offer about race in America in 2013. But then, the point of such a journalistic exercise isn’t to provide insight. It’s a gesture, a genuflection toward the altar of political correctness, a way of reminding everybody that the people at the Times may be a lot of things, but, hey, they’re not racists. Still, to see such a tired, predictable feature in the Times at this late date is faintly embarrassing – a sign of just how out of touch the Gray Lady is with a society in which, I think, more and more people of every skin color are tired of hearing the word racism thrown around in this pointless way. Once upon a time it meant something, and packed a punch; but it’s been used so often to silence legitimate truth-telling, and employed so frequently as a wallet-opening tool by shakedown artists like Jackson and Sharpton, that it’s lost all meaning.

11. Why not a Times series about this very subject – about, that is, the way in which the concept of racism has been systematically abused, exploited, degraded? Or how about a Times series asking this question: has Obama’s success inspired more young black people to work hard and aim high? If not, why not? If you’re a black American and show the slightest interest in getting ahead academically and professionally, there are innumerable programs and agencies and so forth that will be eager to help you out. Why aren’t more young people taking advantage of this? And why are so many of those who are taking advantage of it so ready to level accusations of racism at the very people who are trying to help prepare them for life? Why not a Times series about all this? But no, the New York Times, it seems, cannot bear that much reality. Better to round up a half-dozen or so reliable lawyers and professors and get them to tread the same old safe ideological territory for the millionth time – echoing the same old tired rhetoric about white racism – than to admit that the academy’s defining down of racism to the microscopic level has radically magnified the difficulty of honestly addressing the toxic elements of today’s black subculture.

12. If millions of white Americans voted for Obama for president despite his meager record, and re-elected him despite his lousy first-term performance, I suspect it was at least partly because they hoped his presence in the White House might somehow help get us past all this nonsense. Instead the nonsense just got ramped up higher. Oprah, one of the richest and most beloved women on the planet, used to seem the very personification of Martin Luther King’s dream of a colorblind America; when even she can’t resist the temptation to cast herself as a victim of racism, with some anonymous store clerk playing the part of Simon Legree, it suggests that even the wildest success is not enough for her – that even she, in the end, covets the frisson of victimhood; that even she is vulnerable to that foul contagion.

13. It wasn’t that long ago that black America was defined by hard-working, self-respecting people who justly prided themselves on having overcome virulent racism to attain, with much effort, a modest degree of affluence and self-sufficiency – and who, despite ample justification, refused to feel sorry for themselves. Today, in a world turned upside down, some of those people’s grandchildren, although having reached levels of success that their forebears could never have imagined, are perversely eager to grasp at even the most minuscule micro-opportunity to claim the label of victim. How sad, how absurd – and how tragic for all of us.

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  • Elizabeth capecod

    These examples show blacks complaining about being judged by the same critical standards that non blacks are judged by.
    This has become the new definition of equal treatment by progressives and liberals. It exemplifies the soft bigotry of low expectations.
    What could be more racist?

    • BS77

      Racism is a tedious, over used, meaningless word now….it is used as a cover for any legitimate criticism. If one describes behavior as unacceptable or academic performance as poor….well, then it’s all about “racism”. The response to any criticism is that it is racially motivated…even if the standards are as neutral or objective as a grade on a math test. If your failure to study and get a good grade is based on “racism”, then all hope is lost.

  • Hass

    Famous Blacks don’t give a toss about their people. It’s only when it suits them financially, they jump on the bandwagon of me too have been a victim.

    We all know they are the biggest racists, because they’re taught to hate everyone from the moment they understand.

    • Gee

      I disagree – people like Bill Cosby, Herman Cain and Allen West do in fact care deeply and strive hard to get their community on track.

      Those individuals did when there really was discrimination and they had no helping had.

      Those that got where they are via affirmative action and other discriminatory policies are the ones you are talking about

  • m4253y

    “Butler, who is the author of a 2009 book entitled Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice, recalled that on the morning after Election Day 2004, a black barista at his favorite coffee shop snapped at a black beggar: “Barack Obama is president. Get a job!”

    You may want to check your sources and correct your glaring mistake.

    otherwise a good read. well done.

  • Kafir911

    To my knowledge, Hillary, Billary, Biden, Schumer, Pelosi, Reid, Wasserman-Schultz, Sebelius, Sunstein and so on are all white. I detest all of them for their progressive/statist/Marxist policies. Oprah can’t admit she made a huge mistake so she trots out the race card. She and the “righteous brothers” (Sharpton & Jackson) should be listening to Shelby Steele, Clarence Thomas, Allen West, Walt Williams and especially, Thomas Sowell….the true leaders in the black community.

    • nomoretraitors

      Orpah, Sharpton and Jackson don’t listen to them because they are a living refutation of the “victim” mentality upon which Sharpton and Jackson make money

    • Arf

      Au contraire my friend. Steele, West, Thomas, Williams and Sowell are NOT the true leaders in the black community. Many blacks do not even know who they are and those who do, for the most part, HATE them and think of them as Uncle Toms and Oreos. I’m not talking about black thugs who think this way, I’m talking about middle class and wealthy blacks with good positions. YOU think of Sowell, West, etc. as leaders but the black community does not.

      • Kafir911

        You’re right….but they should be.

      • nomoretraitors

        That’s why the black community is in the sad state it’s in

    • Dallas25305

      Unfortunately those are not the real leaders of Blacks. The racist supreme ruler of the U.S.A. President Hussein, his henchman Eric Holder, Jackson, Sharpton and the black power gangs of hood rats attacking whites, asians and white Hispanics are the real leaders of the modern racist Black community. Time to wake up. Have you never heard of Detroit, Chicago, Phillie or a dozen other black power rat holes?

    • Seek

      They are on the left, but they are not “Marxist.” Comments like these make conservatives look ridiculous. We can’t afford that.

  • Joe Clark

    All very nice, but you mark those up not by typing a number as though this were 1979 and you were using a Selectric but by using an ordered list.

    Even conservative gays have to learn semantic HTML. This would be when you start.

  • Nate Jackson

    Thank God for smart white men and their amazing ability to explain what racism is and what it isn’t. Saves all of us Black folks the trouble of commenting on our lives as we live them.

    What that a Black barista from the future?

    • Dallas25305

      Up yours scumbag.

    • nomoretraitors

      You could save yourselves even more trouble if you quit blaming “whitey” for your choices and continually reliving events that happened in the 19th century.

  • glpage

    “And a law prof claimed that whites now use the statement ‘I voted for Obama’ as ‘a free pass to discriminate.'” When have the leftists needed a free pass to discriminate?

  • Race_Dissident

    “If millions of white Americans voted for Obama for president despite his meager record, and re-elected him despite his lousy first-term performance, I suspect it was at least partly because they hoped his presence in the White House might somehow help get us past all this nonsense. Instead the nonsense just got ramped up higher.”
    This is undoubtedly true. But it also reflects a dumbfounding naivety on the part of white voters. Hence, did anybody honestly believe that blacks and their white Leftist abettors would dispense with the weapon of racial blackmail once it had proven so effective in getting that half-breed, halfwit Barack Obama into the White House? Sad and pathetic that so many whites could be so gullible and psychologically needy.

  • USARetired

    This racist bitch should be locked away, with her money, in solitary confinement, NO visitors!

  • nomoretraitors

    Good article. But I do have to take Oprah’s side in the boutique incident. It is not a sales clerk’s job to determine if a customer can or cannot afford merchandise. That would be determined at the cash register. And if the clerk knew who Oprah was (and how could she not since Oprah is one of the most recognizable people on the planet), she would surely know that Oprah could not only afford the bag but the entire boutique as well.

    • Aeffesstoo

      Great statement. I’m glad to hear from someone who was there when it happened and knows exactly what went down.

      • nomoretraitors

        Nope, wasn’t there but I can still deduce certain things, such as it not being a sales clerk’s function to determine what someone can or cannot afford. What if you went to a restaurant, ordered off the menu but was told by the waiter/waitress they couldn’t get that for you because they didn’t believe you could afford it?

        Try providing some interesting insight like Objective below instead of sarcasm

        • Aeffesstoo

          You weren’t there, you don’t know what happened, your deduction is tainted by your obvious desire to paint this as a racial incident. Try providing some facts instead of your “interesting insight”

          • nomoretraitors

            Wrong again. I have no use for those playing the race card. And I am not accusing the sales clerk of being racist. But it did strike me as odd the clerk would refuse to show her the merchandise.
            YOU were not there, so you don’t know what happened either.
            And if you read my response thoroughly, the interesting insight came from objectivefactsmatter, not me

    • objectivefactsmatter

      That’s what made her story plausible. The problem is it looks like most of this happened in Oprah’s head.

      But I’d also add that clerks are also trained to be more consistently cautious as risks go up. In other words, they should treat everyone the same, not every product and situation the same. They are usually trained to be more cautious with products of high value and small scale. No matter who asks to look at them. Even if they knew who Oprah was, they need to be cautious because products like that are just as easily stolen by a thief observing the transaction as by the potential customer. The bottom line is that retailers must be cautious no matter what they predict about the customer’s ability to pay.

      We just don’t know enough about what happened and what the store does to manage it’s risks. There is no way Oprah could determine based on what she claims happened that she was discriminated against merely because of her race. Her whole story is just race baiting.

      Any loss prevention professional (retail security) could have explained this to her.

      • nomoretraitors

        Interesting analysis

    • laura r

      oprah looks like any ordinary black middle aged woman, she has average looks. she is not a supermodel. she didnt come into the store w/an entrouge of people, she also wasnt wearing jewels (as she said), the sales girl didnt see her get out of a limo. so proberly looked like a well to do professional women. some sales people dont want to lose a sale, they think the customer will walk out if they see $38,000 usd. so the sales person tried directing porah to a less expecsive bag. (maybe $15,000?? insulting??). also oprah changed her story as the original version was an exaggeration. dont assume that everyone is sitting in front of a TV. i have only seen her show on youtube reruns. i did see her photo in magazines, usually some story about weight & slim fast. bottomline: it was oprahs “ego”, she wasnt reconized. that store deals w/millionare blacks all the time. tima turner is a customer, they are used to black customers. so she turned the “ego” insult to a racial PR stunt to promote her film etc.

  • sbuffalonative

    When dealing with blacks, it’s always a lose-lose game.

    They complain their kids are doing poorly in school and they demand special programs. Then they complain that too many of their kids are being put in special programs.

    They complain about crime in their communities and accuse the police of not caring about them. When they police try to help and get rid of the bad guys, they complain the police are racists and too many of their young black males are in the criminal justice system.

    They complain about their ghetto communities and blame whites for not caring but scream bloody murder about gentrification and accuse whites of destroying their ‘historically black communities’.

    They use the federal government to break up ‘historically white communities’ but don’t you dare mess with their ‘historically black communities’.

    They leave their ‘historically black neighborhoods’ and when they move to ‘historically white neighborhoods’ they complain their new neighborhood ain’t like their old neighborhood.

    They complain their kids aren’t allowed in ‘good schools’ (code for majority white). When their kids fail in ‘good schools’. they demand black teachers, black administrators, black principals, black superintendents and are surprised that once they’re in the majority, the formally good schools are just as bad as they schools they left.

    They tell you we’re all the same then tell you they’re uniquely different and can’t be expected to live by white standards.

    When it comes to blacks, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    • nomoretraitors

      More proof of the folly of appeasement

  • ImNoDhimmi

    When the people of the United States selected a black man (well, half anyway) as their President, I thought that was surely proof that America had finally transcended the race issue. It is sad and disheartening that race relations have been set back by 50 years under Barry’s regime. An American tragedy.

    • Dallas25305

      In part because Obama’s personal racist attitudes have made it worse. People can see when he gets involved in crimes that involve race, including his black professor friend he mouthed off about. What other President in history has done that or made his racism so obvious to see??

    • Seek

      Why are “race relations” so important? For me, the best relations are “none.”

  • Dallas25305

    Oprah has just proven herself to be the richest Black Power racist in the country. I knew this when watching the first OJ Simpson verdict on her show. She and all the blacks in the audience where happy and cheering. A black man getting away with murdering two white people had made their day. I never watched or listened to her again. Oprah is just black power racist trash. Rich trash but racist trash just the same.

  • Bookhunter

    Blacks can be proud,
    Asians can be proud,
    Muslims can be proud;
    Whites can only be racist.

  • wuffus

    Who defined black America as hard working and self respecting? What contributions have they made to society? Hm? You started out well but you’re misled on some things.

  • Steve Bryant

    The real race issue in the US today is that blacks themselves are the one who believe their own inferiority. How else can you explain the richest woman in the US being a black woman who claims racism holds black back? How else do you explain a black man being elected president, twice, and then crying racism for 5 years? Sorry folks but modern science hasn’t come up with a way to turn blacks into white people. So until they do, either accept it…or better yet, start believing the black is beautiful message you have been spouting for the past 40 years. If blacks don’t buy it, then how ion hell do they expect others to believe it?