[lbo-talk] Are Conservatives Racist?

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Fri Aug 19 18:09:09 PDT 2011

On Aug 19, 2011, at 5:45 PM, wrobert at uci.edu wrote:

> I certainly don't agree with this. As Alan pointed out earlier, we can
> still find forms of racism deeply embedded in the economic and
> disciplinary structures of the country. Additionally, the gutting of the
> social safety net has been legitimated through what Etienne Balibar calls
> a differentialist racism not grounded in biology. Confronting those
> policies also entails engaging with the forms of racism that legitimate
> and often structure them. Or perhaps to draw on Balibar's introduction to
> his work with Immanuel Wallerstein. "This is why, in the course of this
> book, I have maintained, particularly, that the (re-)constitution on new
> bases (and in new words perhaps of a class ideology, capable of
> counteracting today's... galloping nationalism, has a pre-condition--which
> already determines its contents--an effective anti-racism." I agree that
> this anti-racism has to confront the profound shifts in the theories and
> structures of racism in the country, but those forms cannot be simply
> reduced to an issue of prejudicial beliefs.

I'm not sure who said that "racism" could be "reduced to an issue of prejudicial beliefs," but maybe you just wanted to say that. But it's one thing to say that a whole lot of systemic inequalities have "racial" dimensions and another to say they're the result of racism. For example, disparities in income and wealth between whites and blacks, or blacks and everyone else, are the result of generations of history - meaning the education and occupation of parents and parents of parents, and property acquired and passed on or not acquired and passed on. And "race" - I keep putting it in quotes because it's not all that easy to define - has something to do with all that. So what then do you do about it? You fight for unions, a better welfare state, progressive taxation, or more radical stuff. Does that mean you attack something called racism? If so, where do you find it and how do you fight it? Do you throw around phrases like "living hell" and "the left is racist because it doesn't revere the Black Panther Party"? Do you hire Tim Wise to give sensitivity courses? Where will that get you exactly? Will that change a single mind?


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