Thursday, August 08, 2013

From the discussion of racism at Crooked Timber:

Doctor Slack 08.08.13 at 1:08 am

‘No open racism’ was more or less the axiom that Nixon invented. Sophisticated crypto-racism as the substitute — the kind that talked about “states’ rights” and advanced policies that just happened completely coincidentally to disadvantage blacks, but was really about God-given free-market capitalism and the wholesome American way — was his baby more than anyone’s. That was the Southern Strategy, and his fall from grace didn’t impair it one whit. It’s still a powerful and effective means of advancing racist objectives under the radar.

The thing is, once you have crypto-racism working its obfuscationist wonders for your cause, it simply doesn’t matter any more whether you pretend to make nice with the legacy of MLK. That’s just another part of the con.

‘Racism would be over if the Blacks would just stop talking about it’ is one of the contemporary strategies of crypto-racism. You’re unlikely to run into it from people who are genuinely non-racist or even just intellectually so. It is not rhetoric of naivete, it is rhetoric of deliberate deception. Most of the people using it know perfectly well that the conservative movement still says “nigger nigger nigger” and trots out all the usual stereotypes when it thinks it is behind closed doors; it even barely bothers to veil them, most of the time, out in the open. Crypto-racism is just a shift in tactics: concede for the sake of argument that racism is airquotes-’wrong’ and then simply go on the offensive, make the other guy constantly defend himself from the wacky charge of being the “real racist.” And while the opponent is busy admiring the polish on his Overton Window, work quietly at any level of government you can find to undermine the real gains of the Civil Rights Movement. (Like the Voting Rights Act, recently staked in the heart — to virtually no fanfare or outcry — by the Supreme Court.)

Doctor Slack 08.08.13 at 1:16 am

(Having said all that — that racism has receded overall in American society, especially toward the center and left of the political spectrum, is still undeniably true. I won’t pick any one out of a list of political actors responsible, because I think it’s hard to isolate: but I can say that the overwhelming factor wherever those gains were made is shame. No matter how dedicated someone is to racism, they still want to be thought of as a good and respectable person. Where racism ceases to be good and respectable, they at minimum have to hide theirs. That’s why comment venues on the ‘Net with anti-racist comment policies tend not to attract racists, and those without do; where racists feel accepted and validated, they don’t feel the need to camouflage or “sugarcoat” their beliefs. The social change has been largely that as racism has come to be identified in more and more venues with imbecility or malice, shame and the quest for social acceptance has gradually crowded it out; a process particularly accelerated in more racially diverse centres where there is a good possibility of knowing — or at least knowing about — living counterexamples to racist or crypto-racist stereotypes. Which is why racism still flourishes best in the most homogenous regions, on which the former “Southern Strategy” now depends.)

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