Racism and American White Liberals

Steve Kornacki was discussing on MSNBC Dick Cheney’s comment that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder were “playing the race card”. He had three guests: two African Americans and one white, which including the host, made the participants two whites and two blacks. When the question of whether or not Republicans’ unrelenting animosity and opposition with Obama and his black cabinet members and nominees like Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch was brought up, as almost always and without a surprise, the white liberals took the position that Republicans’ unprecedented contempt, disrespect and opposition with Obama and his nominees, even when there are no reasons for their opposition, such as against Ms. Lynch, though wrong, was not due to racism. Despite desperate attempts by the well spoken black guests to get them to understand that race did play a major role in their attitudes, the white liberals did not get it.

Chris Hays, another white liberal with a show on MSNBC, said on his show that “race is not a real and physical thing” and that “there is no such thing as race”, but “racism is very much real”. It’s good that he acknowledges that racism does exist and is real, but he thinks to be against racism, you must be blind and not see any differences in physical attributes such as skin color or other visible physical features. In fact, some use the bogus “color blindness” to deny the need for remedies such as “affirmative action”. Some even go as far as using the
“color blindness” argument to deny the existence of racism, altogether, including their own. Some are of the opinion that if you just ignore racism, it’ll just fade away, that racism continues to exist because we discuss it. Some even think race is something you can adopt and pretend you’re black which I suppose would be a good way of showing you’re not a racist: hey I can’t be racist because “I’m actually black”. That’s exactly what Jay Smooth, founder of hiphopmusic.com claimed on Chris Hayes’ show on Wednesday. When Hays showed Mr. Smooth’s YouTube video lecture on “How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist”, his other guest, Nancy Giles from CBS News, who is African American, teased him for trying to sound and act like blacks in his video to which Mr. Smooth replied “I’m actually black, but you assumed otherwise”. What he seems to be advising in his video, which Mr. Hays agreed with, is that instead of calling someone racist, it’s better to just tell them that what they said was racist. Wow what an enlightening yet concept. I knew dealing with racism had to be so simple and everyone complicated it. But, of course, it’s easy for Mr. Smooth and Mr. Hays, despite all their good intentions – and I do believe Chris Hays does have his heart in the right place – to not call someone who’s racist a racist. It’s always funny when two white people, one of whom pretends to be black, speak louder about racism than the only other person there who is black. Mr. Smooth may have some good advice on racism, but I have one for him: dude, if you don’t look black you ain’t black. If you look like a white guy moving and talking like blacks and enjoying rap music and you even founded a Web site dedicated to rap music, you’re still white.

Liberals seem to have their hearts in the right place, but I’d much prefer if they had their brains in the right place. I’ve come to the conclusion that white liberals are incapable of understanding the society and social forces and phenomena, period, whether it’s social classes or political economy or imperialism or racism. I therefore believe that white liberals will not and cannot lead any social movement which among its demands also includes an end to racism or to even move the society towards ending racism. That will have to be done by black revolutionary leaders, not those who like Obama claim racism is no more or that racism is somehow the fault of the victims of racism or those who claim to be black. And given the centrality of the question of racism in the US and in US politics on all levels, I believe a movement for defeating racism, which first and foremost, among others, will take the form of countering police brutality, will have to be led by black leaders. It is with this understanding that we must support wholeheartedly militant black resistance against racist cops from Ferguson to New York. I don’t mean to downplay the importance of a movement like Occupy Wall Street. That’s also important. But it would have to link up with uprisings like the one in Ferguson and look to Ferguson-like movements for leadership.


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