Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stephen Hahn on Race and the Obama Re-Election

Stephen Hahn is a Pulitzer-Prize winning historian of race in the post-bellum South.  In Sunday's New York Times, he reflects historically on race and Barack Obama's re-election last week, particularly in the wake of the racial slurs cast on Obama by students at the University of Mississippi.  Here is a taste:

Over the past three decades, the Democrats have surrendered so much intellectual ground to Republican anti-statism that they have little with which to fight back effectively. The result is that Mr. Obama, like many other Democrats, has avoided the initiatives that could really cement his coalition — public works projects, industrial and urban policy, support for homeowners, comprehensive immigration reform, tougher financial regulation, stronger protection for labor unions and national service — and yet is still branded a “socialist” and coddler of minorities. Small wonder that the election returns indicate a decline in overall popular turnout since 2008 and a drop in Mr. Obama’s share of the white vote, especially the vote of white men.

But the returns also suggest intriguing possibilities for which the past may offer us meaningful lessons. There seems little doubt that Mr. Obama’s bailout of the auto industry helped attract support from white working-class voters and other so-called Reagan Democrats across the Midwest and Middle Atlantic, turning the electoral tide in his favor precisely where the corrosions of race could have been very damaging.

The Republicans, on the other hand, failed to make inroads among minority voters, including Asian-Americans, and are facing a formidable generational wall. Young whites helped drive the forces of conservatism and white supremacy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but now most seem ill at ease with the policies that the Republican Party brandishes: social conservatism, anti-feminism, opposition to same-sex marriage and hostility to racial minorities. The anti-Obama riot at Ole Miss, integrated 50 years ago by James H. Meredith, was followed by a larger, interracial “We Are One Mississippi” candlelight march of protest. Mr. Obama and the Democrats have an opportunity to bridge the racial and cultural divides that have been widening and to begin to reconfigure the country’s political landscape. Although this has always been a difficult task and one fraught with peril, history — from Reconstruction to Populism to the New Deal to the struggle for civil rights — teaches us that it can happen: when different groups meet one another on more level planes, slowly get to know and trust one another, and define objectives that are mutually beneficial and achievable, they learn to think of themselves as part of something larger — and they actually become something larger.

Hard work on the ground — in neighborhoods, schools, religious institutions and workplaces — is foundational. But Mr. Obama, the biracial community organizer, might consider starting his second term by articulating a vision of a multicultural, multiracial and more equitable America with the same insight and power that he once brought to an address on the singular problem of race. If he does that, with words and then with deeds, he can strike a telling blow against the political racism that haunts our country.

2 comments:

Rocky2 said...

[Good blog, John. Look at what I saw on the informing net.]

THE REAL CREATORS OF THE SUBURBS

( I experienced all this while trapped in a large American city.)

The suburbs are booming, but not fast enough. Yessir, you ghetto folks
in inner cities have started a good thing, but there are still lots of acres
outside the cities without any houses on them. So you've gotta move into
"untouched" city blocks and do the following:
Throw trash everywhere. You'll insure that your friends who pick up trash
and distribute free rat poison packets will keep their jobs. And folks can
predict the weather by the direction the trash is blowing!
Walk down the street. Better yet, rhythm down it. And when I say street
I don't mean sidewalk. Save sidewalks for your friends on cycles. Besides,
it's hard to fit many cursing, screaming, drinking, pot-smoking kids on a
sidewalk, and it's also hard to spot keys and other things left in cars when
you're walking on a sidewalk!
When walking down a street, turn your head when you hear a car coming
and stare at the driver. For all you know, it might be one of your enemies
out to get you. On the other hand, it might be only your neighbor and all
that hateful staring might make him want to move out.
Be sure to beget lots of unloved, unsupervised, unwashed two-legged
"Obama welfare meal tickets" - either through wedlock or (preferably) out of
wedlock. And let them often ring doorbells, begging for money.
Turn quiet streets into noisy jungles. Have a blast - a
long blast with your car horn under your neighbor's window at
3:00 a.m. Let folks know who the real honkies are! Blow your horn when (1)
you see the police coming (2) you want to buy some dope (3) you want to sell
some dope (4) for any other reason. Play your stereo so loudly that folks can't
hear sirens going to the latest holdup or arson. Be noisy, man, noisy!
Be cruel to animals, especially "man's best friend." Tie your dog on a
short chain under a blazing sun with no water or food or love or license or
dog shots. Make him as mean as you are. Better yet, let your dog run loose.
Neighbors love to find freshly killed cats (after hearing their screams) and
other goodies on their lawns. Pit one dog against another in bloody "canine
cockfights" while friends lounge on car hoods and cheer and make bets! And
what madness is it where folks move out and abandon pets in the house,
leaving them nothing to eat but their own droppings? This happens often in the
ghetto, and almost no one will help the animals.
Keep a good supply of Saturday Night Specials - also Sunday, Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday Night Specials. Your criminal
presence will improve your neighbor's light bill; when he isn't watching you
at night (with his lights off), he will be able to read books at night by
the light of the police helicopter searchlights!
Here's more insanity: Uncle Sam spends millions of our tax money to
move you into our neighborhoods where we lose much when we sell our homes.
So you have your nerve when you glare and swear at us when we don't move
out quickly; but you're the reason we can't find good buyers! I really wonder
what you and Uncle Sam will do when lots of folks move to the wilderness and
live off the land and consequently don't have to pay taxes to support such
sickness!
Finally, spread the rumor that all of your troubles are associated with
skin, even though you and I know that your problem isn't skin. It's sin!!!
What makes a ghetto? It's not the paint on a house (or lack of it) but all
of you two-legged pains in the neck!

(anyone is free to copy and air this paper)

Rocky2 said...

[Good blog, John. Look at what I saw on the informing net.]

THE REAL CREATORS OF THE SUBURBS

( I experienced all this while trapped in a large American city.)

The suburbs are booming, but not fast enough. Yessir, you ghetto folks
in inner cities have started a good thing, but there are still lots of acres
outside the cities without any houses on them. So you've gotta move into
"untouched" city blocks and do the following:
Throw trash everywhere. You'll insure that your friends who pick up trash
and distribute free rat poison packets will keep their jobs. And folks can
predict the weather by the direction the trash is blowing!
Walk down the street. Better yet, rhythm down it. And when I say street
I don't mean sidewalk. Save sidewalks for your friends on cycles. Besides,
it's hard to fit many cursing, screaming, drinking, pot-smoking kids on a
sidewalk, and it's also hard to spot keys and other things left in cars when
you're walking on a sidewalk!
When walking down a street, turn your head when you hear a car coming
and stare at the driver. For all you know, it might be one of your enemies
out to get you. On the other hand, it might be only your neighbor and all
that hateful staring might make him want to move out.
Be sure to beget lots of unloved, unsupervised, unwashed two-legged
"Obama welfare meal tickets" - either through wedlock or (preferably) out of
wedlock. And let them often ring doorbells, begging for money.
Turn quiet streets into noisy jungles. Have a blast - a
long blast with your car horn under your neighbor's window at
3:00 a.m. Let folks know who the real honkies are! Blow your horn when (1)
you see the police coming (2) you want to buy some dope (3) you want to sell
some dope (4) for any other reason. Play your stereo so loudly that folks can't
hear sirens going to the latest holdup or arson. Be noisy, man, noisy!
Be cruel to animals, especially "man's best friend." Tie your dog on a
short chain under a blazing sun with no water or food or love or license or
dog shots. Make him as mean as you are. Better yet, let your dog run loose.
Neighbors love to find freshly killed cats (after hearing their screams) and
other goodies on their lawns. Pit one dog against another in bloody "canine
cockfights" while friends lounge on car hoods and cheer and make bets! And
what madness is it where folks move out and abandon pets in the house,
leaving them nothing to eat but their own droppings? This happens often in the
ghetto, and almost no one will help the animals.
Keep a good supply of Saturday Night Specials - also Sunday, Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday Night Specials. Your criminal
presence will improve your neighbor's light bill; when he isn't watching you
at night (with his lights off), he will be able to read books at night by
the light of the police helicopter searchlights!
Here's more insanity: Uncle Sam spends millions of our tax money to
move you into our neighborhoods where we lose much when we sell our homes.
So you have your nerve when you glare and swear at us when we don't move
out quickly; but you're the reason we can't find good buyers! I really wonder
what you and Uncle Sam will do when lots of folks move to the wilderness and
live off the land and consequently don't have to pay taxes to support such
sickness!
Finally, spread the rumor that all of your troubles are associated with
skin, even though you and I know that your problem isn't skin. It's sin!!!
What makes a ghetto? It's not the paint on a house (or lack of it) but all
of you two-legged pains in the neck!

(anyone is free to copy and air this paper)