Resolved: August 11, 2014

The American Movement Conservative opposition to the ACA and other current and previous social-democratic initiatives has a racial dimension.


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  • LM

    Conservatives didn’t have a problem with welfare when only whites received it. The Northern political machines in Chicago, New York, and Boston were run by “ethnic whites” who gave perks to their specific groups. The only reason the New Deal legislation passed was because Southern congressmen were assured that black people wouldn’t benefit. When the Great Society programs started and benefited Americans of all colors, suddenly social welfare programs were evil.

    Furthermore, movement conservatism has never made peace with the Civil rights movement. There was simply no way to give blacks full citizenship without federal intervention, since the Southern states showed no interest in doing this on their own. The very notion of “states’ rights” was the problem and could never have been part of the solution.

  • Agellius

    I see “social democracy” defined as “a political ideology that officially has as its goal the establishment of democratic socialism through reformist and gradualist methods.”

    Since you reference movement conservative opposition to not only the ACA but social democratic initiatives in general, aren’t you basically saying that opposition to social democracy per se has a racial dimension? So anyone who’s not a socialist is a racist?

    • Opposition to social democracy per se has a racial dimension?

      Yep. That’s the resolution.

      So anyone who’s not a socialist is a racist?

      Nope. Not part of the resolution.

      • Agellius

        I understand that it’s not part of your stated resolution, but I don’t see why it’s not implied by the resolution. Unless you’re saying that one could oppose something partly for racial reasons, yet not be a racist.

        • Racism is a significant factor in opposition to social democracy, but there are people whose opposition has nothing to do with race. Clearer?

    • “Social democracy” European-style is not classic Marxism (what Marx called “socialism” and the classical Marxists, e.g. Leninists, Maoists and Stalinists, DESPISED and frequently murdered “social democrats”); it is, instead, a “mixed economy” which grants governments the right to intervene in favour of socio-economic justice when absolutely necessary to foster the life of the community. It holds, as a principle, the notion that concentrations of economic power may be as threatening to democracy and egalitarian principles as concentrations of political power.

  • Mark VA

    I fail to see the purpose, Mr. Talbot, of your question.

    That political conservatism has a racist dimension, is an article of faith for many, if not most, on the left. Well, there it is, and there it will, most likely, remain, so what’s there to discuss?

    Are you questioning this deeply held article of faith, or are you looking for more satisfying proof? What’s your game?

    • LM

      Since I have provided ample evidence on the relationship between movement conservatism and racism, I will provide a reading list in case you need more proof:

      Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975 by Carolyn Renée Dupont

      When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson

      Strom Thurmond’s America by Joseph Crespino

      Anything by Taylor Branch

      Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class Hardcover by Ian Haney López

      The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation by Stephen R. Haynes

      Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon

      I’ll end with Lee Atwater himself explaining the “Southern strategy” that has been the backbone of conservative politics since the passage of the Voting Rights Act:

      Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964 and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

      Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

      Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

      • Mark VA


        Thank you for your in depth response, but I believe we may be talking past each other.

        I’m not denying that the political right has a racist element within it (btw: I’m a Catholic Traditionalist, and more or less equidistant from the political right and the political left). My question to Mr. Talbot is about his motivation to discuss this over-discussed and thoroughly politicized issue.

        L.M., allow me to make a suggestion: I believe that to overcome the problems we face as a culture, we could give each other slightly more benefit of the doubt. Just rehashing talking points, putting this or that side on the defensive, isn’t exactly a discussion leading to a better understanding of the problem at hand. I’ve gained this perspective thru many of my own errors.

        • Ronald King

          Mark, Your response indicates that you have insight which is deficient in a large number of people.

        • LM


          Not too long ago, I considered myself a traditionalist Catholic. A full account of why I left would be too long and rather tangential to the topic in question, but a major reason why I became disenchanted with it was because of the race issue. Catholic traditionalism assumes (or desires at least) a completely Catholic environment as much as possible and takes a dim view of those religious movements outside of the Church. A traditional Catholic should think like the Church and do what the Church says. In short, the Church should be “your everything,” if I may quote a popular song. A problem I ran into was that I quickly found that as a black American that the Church simply couldn’t be my “everything,” because all of the most important figures in black history were non-Catholics. The Church wasn’t involved in abolitionism and was only marginally involved in the Civil Rights Movement. If the Catholic Church really believes in “the dignity of human life,” how could it be such a no-show for one of the most important and influential social movement in history? Furthermore, if the Catholic Church is the “True Church,” shouldn’t the Holy Spirit or someone alerted the hierarchy that this was something they needed to give their stamp of approval to?

          The messages I was getting from fellow traditionalists, both online and in person, were not helping matters either. I would go to Catholic blogs online and read the incredibly hateful things that they’d say about MLK, how slavery is permissible from a natural law standpoint, and why the Confederacy was the one place where traditional Catholicism could have flourished. They’d also complain about Catholic schools in black areas that had pictures of non-Catholics like MLK and Rosa Parks, rather than pictures of Catholics (I want to officially state that any white person who can’t figure out why a majority black school would have a picture of MLK is officially too stupid to live). And of course, these same people would talk about how the pro-life movement is the modern-day equivilent of the Civil Rights Movement. The problem is that there is no Catholic equivilent of MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, or any of these other important figures. They just aren’t there, and I felt like I had to “neuter” my heritage to be accepted in this subculture.

          Looking to Latin America for black Catholic role models was a dismal failure. Martin de Porres came off as an Uncle Tom in a Domincan habit and the treatment of slaves was even worse in Latin America than in North America (similarly, slaves were treated worse in Catholic Louisina than elsewhere in the South). Granted, it was nice that Peter Clavier tried to alievate the condition of the slaves he ministered to, but it would have been even better if he had advocated that they not be slaves at all. While I was thrilled by the story of Palmares, it is likely the African residents of that settlement threw off the imposed religion of Catholicism once they regained their freedom:

          Eventually, I realized that my state of being was inherently non-traditional. What I mean is that the African-American, whether in North or South America, has no place in the idealized medieval European past that traditionalists harken back to. People like me didn’t join guilds, fight in Crusades, or become monks because they didn’t exist yet. The African American is a creation of the New World, built on an odd mixture of slavery, capitalism, and modernity, a motley assortment of African, European, and indigenous blood. The many colors that ostensibly black people come in is a reminder of the mass rapes that occurred in the antebellum period. Perhaps this is why the Catholic League of Decency demanded that no movie could show miscegenation or even light-skinned black people, since the precense of such people was a reminder that the color line was not as fixed as many whites would want to believe. I realized that someone like me could never fit into the world envisioned by traditional Catholicism, so I left.

        • Uluru

          I understand and yet I don’t, LM.

          Saying slavery is theoretically permissible under natural law, for example, doesn’t mean anything racist. All races have been slaves to some other people at one point in history or another. Blacks don’t “own” slavery.

          “People like you” didn’t join guilds? I guess it depends what “like you” means. They weren’t black, sure, but they weren’t weird adolescent American whites like the traddies either. It’s unclear why you feel anymore distant from the medieval than modern whites; BOTH are quite alien to it. And if you based it on class instead of race…surely there were similar class experiences always.

          As for tradland being a Eurocentric vision…maybe. But then, why speak a European language? Why speak the language of the British Empire? Isn’t that alienating too?

          Besides, there was a medieval Africa wasn’t there? Even a medieval Christian Africa.

          Can’t people, really, have any fantasyland they like?

        • LM


          Racially based chattel slavery is a phenomenon that didn’t exist until the Atlantic slave trade. The other types of bondage that you mentioned existed thousands of years ago under political systems that no longer exist,, whereas American slavery is still within living memory (at least in the sense that there are people living today who can remember talking to ex-slaves in their youth) and the government under which it existed is still around. Plus, slavery was followed by almost ninety years of Jim Crow, which is turn was followed by rollbacks of the modest social programs introduced during the Civil Rights era. The problem as I see it is that the United States was never meant to accommodate blacks as full citizens, and the post-civil rights backlash is evidence of that. I would say the same thing about Native Americans, since the original intention was that they were to be exterminated. The extreme dysfunction we see on Indian reservations is largely due to the intentional disruption of Native American communities, through forced assimilation and forced relocation.

          Catholic traditionalism doesn’t have an answer to racism. As this thread indicates, many conservative or traditionally minded Catholics don’t even think racism exists or if that talking about racism is the problem. It’s like the response to the sex abuse crisis that you see from many “orthodox Catholics,” where the problem is not a systematic cover-up of wrongdoing but that the Church’s dirty laundry got exposed. Some traditionalist minded Catholics like the late Eugene and Elizabeth Genevese-Fox were entranced by ancien regime Europe (and by extension the Confederacy) because they thought paternalistic agrarianism was more humane than modern capitalism, but I’m guessing neither of them actually had to grow up living under an agrarian system. If you don’t see a problem, you can’t solve it.

          As a historian, I’m not interested in fantasylands, whether in Europe or in Africa (that’s why I’m not an Afro-centrist). I find the Middle Ages interesting from an intellectual standpoint, but the medieval social order can’t be superimposed onto a post-industrial, pluralistic, Western liberal democracy. When I say that people like me didn’t join guilds, what I mean is that a medieval system can’t address a problem that didn’t exist then. Medieval romantics like Chesterton and Belloc had a hard enough time accepting the presence of assimilated Jews in England; I don’t think they ever imagined that a black person or a Hindi would, could, or should be considered every bit as British as they were. I’m just saying that I think that Catholic traditionalism as I’ve experienced it is very Borg-like in that it expects minorities to to fit in a very rigid Euro-centric mold and frowns upon explicit displays of non-white culture.

  • True.

    Other true statements:

    Support for ACA and welfare has a class envy dimension to it.
    Opposition to abortion has a sexist dimension to it.
    Opposition to same sex marriage has a homophobic dimension to it.
    Opposition to Isreal’s current polcies has an anti-Semitic dimension to it.
    Support for the ACA’s contraception mandate has an anti-Catholic dimension to it.

    All of this tells us next to nothing about the merits of those policies, only that there are people who support or oppose them for bad reasons.

    • Melody

      “All of this tells us next to nothing about the merits of those policies, only that there are people who support or oppose them for bad reasons.” Yes. I think that is pretty much true across the board, and adds to the mix of toxic politics.

  • Agellius

    Matt writes, “Racism is a significant factor in opposition to social democracy, but there are people whose opposition has nothing to do with race. Clearer?”

    Yes. thank you.

    I assume that when you say it’s a “significant factor”, you mean that it’s a factor for a significant number of people. So basically, a significant number of movement conservatives are racists. That’s quite possible, though I have no idea what the number might be. I don’t personally know any movement conservatives who are racists.

    I imagine that most racists would be conservatives rather than liberals, simply because “conservatism” on an elementary level stands for keeping things as they are. Still, I doubt anyone would say that there are no liberal racists.

    Suppose we say that 20% of Americans are racists. I think it’s reasonable to suppose that it’s that much or less, given the overwhelmingly negative reaction we see to any overt manifestations of racism. Let’s say that three-fourths of racists are conservative and one-fourth are liberal. Assuming also that Americans are split 50/50 between conservatives and liberals, that would mean that 30% of conservatives are racists and 10% of liberals are racists.

    Using this crude calculation, I might estimate that 30% of movement conservative opposition to social democratic programs can be attributed to racism, and 70% to other causes, e.g. not liking government intrusion in the marketplace, etc.

    Of course, some of the racists who are conservatives — let’s say half — might be conservative even if they were not racist. In other words, half of conservative racists might oppose such programs even if they were not racists. So really, it may be as little as 15% of movement conservative opposition to social democratic programs which is attributable to racism per se, as opposed to conservatives who also happen to be racist.

  • Agellius

    I wrote, “So really, it may be as little as 15% of movement conservative opposition to social democratic programs which is attributable to racism per se, as opposed to conservatives who also happen to be racist.”

    Upon re-reading it, that last clause doesn’t make any sense. The sentence should have ended after “per se”.

  • LM

    I think some of the other commenters are getting hung on the term racist, which they probably associate with people that I call “lifestyle racists” (e.g., Klansmen, Neo-Nazis, Christian Identity) who structure their entire lives around hate. While these people do exist, for the most part they don’t live in mainstream society because they are that paranoid about the possibility of interacting with other races. The bulk of racist actions have always been committed by “decent people” who would never think of donning a white sheet, but have no hesitation about disenfranchising blacks in more subtle, legal ways, which I would argue is even more violent than burning a cross in someone’s yard.

    Consider the topic of “states’ rights.” The logic behind this idea is that local people have a better idea about how the tackle the issues that directly affect them. This sounds nice in theory, but for blacks living in Southern states it was just an excuse to keep them in second class citizenship, because that was what the white community wanted. The people who were oppressing blacks weren’t faceless Washington technocrats, but their own white neighbors, bosses, and relatives (see Strom Thurmond). The Southern white community and white conservatives in general said that they knew that “the Negro” enjoyed being separate and unequal, and to suggest otherwise was communism. It’s hard for me to believe that the local politicians in permanently dysfunctional states like Mississippi and Louisiana really know what’s best for their constituents when the citizens of said regularly top the rankings in obesity, teen pregnancy, STD transmissions, child poverty, infant mortality, maternal mortality, diabetes, and inequality.

    Or consider the idea of “small government.” When conservatives complain about “big government,” they aren’t talking about cutting defense spending, eliminating agricultural subsidies, or stopping funds for bridges to nowhere. It’s always about ending entitlement programs to “those people.” No, not social security payments to elderly white people or veterans’ pensions, but “those people.” Because if they start getting “uppity,” first they’ll want to sit in the front of the bus and then they’ll try to run for president. Can’t have that happening.

  • Yes, I think so.

    I consider ACA the best thing to come out of Washington in decades. I just hope it holds on for another two and a half years. Come Jan 2017 we’ll have a white president (either Democratic or Republican) and opposition to ACA will collapse. That’s my prediction.

  • Agellius


    Do you really think that if a white Democrat had introduced the ACA, it would have passed unopposed? You seem to be forgetting about Hillary-Care: [] Or maybe you’re too young to remember.

    • When Clinton was suggesting a national health programme, the health problem in America had not yet come to eat up so much of the nation’s wealth; it hadn’t already burst out of our fiscal control. By the time Obama came along, however, it was obvious that SOMETHING had to be done. You are plucking things out of their historical context, and I agree with carboplatin’s prediction, except that I think that the system Obama devised is insufficient and will need more tinkering. However, just you watch: the “tinkering” done by the white President won’t be found to be so objectionable by America’s FAUX-“conservatives.”

  • Agellius


    For the record, when I say “racist” I’m not limiting it to Klansmen or Neo-Nazis.

  • Cojuanco

    Accord. Not that there is much one can disagree upon regarding the ACA, but it’s a fact of life that basically anything that happens in this country has a racial dimension, it seems. This country seems to have a pathological obsession with race.

  • Roger

    “The American Movement Conservative opposition to the ACA and other current and previous social-democratic initiatives has a racial dimension.”

    What an outrageous, uninformed generalization of a group. I would call it bigoted, actually.

    There’s no doubt, the implication is there to denigrate the opposition – how typically liberal of you.

    This blog is becoming more and more non-Catholic, by the day.

    • Is it your contention, then, that race is not a factor in conservative opposition to social-democratic initiatives?

    • Roger – read the resolution again. It is not, “All opposition to social democracy is racist in character,” but that racism is *A* factor on the American political right. Assuming that it is, don’t you think it is important to acknowledge that fact, and discuss how to counteract it?

      As LM has posted in this thread, I think it is pretty undeniable that the right has been exploiting racial divisions to its advantage for decades. Pointing this out, and describing it as wrong, is the only way to effect change, isn’t it?

      • Assuming that it is, don’t you think it is important to acknowledge that fact, and discuss how to counteract it?


        • Why not?

        • I think it is important for all of us to examine our own consciences for racial prejudice.

          I do not think it is important for us to examine others‘ racial prejudice.

          Logs and splinters.

          • John – by that rule, there would never have been a civil rights movement in the United States.

        • What percentage of VN readership would you say opposes ACA?

          Of that percentage, how many of those do you think opposed the version of it that passed the House with the Stupak amendment?

          Of that, how many of that percentage do you think oppose it for racist reasons?

          Given that, it seems the primary effect of discussing the racism of ACA opponents on VN is to confirm the prejudice of those in favor of it that its opponents are racists and thus not worth listening to, and that their stated reasons for opposing it are mere covers for racism and need not be addressed.

          I don’t think this does anybody any good.

  • Brian Martin

    Resolved: Statements such as “The American Movement Conservative opposition to the ACA and other current and previous social-democratic initiatives has a racial dimension.”
    have little to do with understanding the motivation of individuals and may have more to do with reinforcing stereotypes.
    It encourages knee-jerk reactions. Conservatives are racist. opposition to ACA is racist.
    It is a broad brush statement that defines movement conservatives.
    To me that smacks of painting all the people protesting the shooting of the African American teen with the brush of the few idiots who resort to looting and violence.
    My work as a therapist, as well as my faith, tell me that I need to focus on the individual as an individual.

    • Brian – LM pointed out above that racism has been a persistent feature of movement conservatism for decades. Do you disagree with his assessment?

      • Mark VA

        Mr. Talbot, I think the way your question was phrased doesn’t seem to lead to an informed discussion, as the above threads indicate to me. The question is very truncated, and close to just a repeat of a political talking point that’s been around for some time now.

        Yes, in my view racism is a part of the Conservative movement, or rather a certain type of racism. Also, bigotry can be found in the Catholic Church, and many other venerable institutions don’t always live up to their high standards.

        Merely acknowledging these things doesn’t make for a worthwhile discussion. Perhaps you could re-frame this question in some broader and less partisan manner?

        • Here’s something I have yet to hear any rightist say: “Of course racism is a big problem on the right. It is everywhere in comboxes on rightist blogs, in the electoral strategy of the Republican Party, and so on. We Republicans must make it clear that we reject this rubbish and make it clear that it will not be tolerated in the ranks any longer.”

          That would be a very simple thing to type, and would be morally praiseworthy. Why is no one in this thread saying anything like that? There’s not even something like, “While there is definitely an underlying thread of racism in rightist rhetoric, and this is a continuing issue that needs to be tackled, we must also remember that [counterpoint].”

          Here’s my sense of this: racism works as an electoral strategy for the Republicans, and is an effective means of preventing things like single-payer healthcare and other European-style social-democratic policies from being enacted. I’d go so far as to say that, were the right deprived of this tool, single-payer healthcare, government-provided childcare and other social policies that Europeans take for granted would already have been enacted in the United States.

          That they do so benefit is pretty indisputable, and the institutional right’s use of this strategy stands in the way of lots of progress on race in this country.

  • Agellius

    Matt writes, “We Republicans must make it clear that we reject this rubbish and make it clear that it will not be tolerated in the ranks any longer.”

    I think no one says this because it’s already obviously the case.

    • I’m not really clear what you’re saying, Agellius. Everyone knows it’s a problem, so it should not be talked about? That can’t be what you mean.

      • Agellius


        I’m saying that, among political conservatives, as in American society at large, racism is overwhelmingly rejected, and any instance of it that manifests itself is met with overwhelming opposition. Would that abortion and adultery were this socially unacceptable.

        • Among political conservatives, as in American society at large, racism is overwhelmingly rejected, and any instance of it that manifests itself is met with overwhelming opposition.

          I disagree with both those assertions. LM covered this above and elsewhere: while Klan/Stormfront/Christian Identity racism is a fringe phenomenon, subtler (but still very destructive) forms of racism are pervasive on the right, and are a big problem.

  • Agellius


    You write, “I disagree with both those assertions. LM covered this above and elsewhere: while Klan/Stormfront/Christian Identity racism is a fringe phenomenon, subtler (but still very destructive) forms of racism are pervasive on the right, and are a big problem.”

    Well, now we’re back to what I asked you before: Are you saying that conservatism per se is racist, so that everyone who is a conservative is tinged with racism? Or are you saying that some conservatives are racists?

    You previously said it was the latter. My question then became, what proportion of conservatives are racist?

    I estimated it at 15%. I think that having 85% of people be anti-racist is pretty good. It’s nowhere near perfect. But it’s enough that those who are in the minority are overwhelmed. As in society at large, the racists have lost. Some still survive, but they must keep their heads down and their mouths shut.

    What are you supposed to do with those who remain secretly racist? Browbeat them? Preach to them? Don’t they get that 24 hours a day as it is, in the media?

    How are we, who are aren’t racist, supposed to “convert” those who still are, especially when we can’t even identify them, since they’re already forced to hide whatever racist sentiments they espouse? What more would you have us do? Identify them with polygraph tests and put them in internment camps?

  • Agellius


    I begin to suspect that you are assuming your conclusion, and then trying to make the data fit accordingly. Thus you reason (assuming my suspicion is correct):

    Opposition to the ACA is based on race. Opposition to the ACA is pervasive among conservatives. Therefore racism is pervasive among conservatives.

    Once you brand conservative policies as racist, it becomes a truism that only racists could support those policies.

    The alternative is that conservatives mean what they say. But asking liberals to believe that seems to be asking too much.

    • Actually, I think you are begging the question, not me.

      Opposition to the ACA is based on race. Opposition to the ACA is pervasive among conservatives. Therefore racism is pervasive among conservatives.

      Nope. what I’m saying is that The American Movement Conservative opposition to the ACA and other current and previous social-democratic initiatives has a racial dimension.

      Once you brand conservative policies as racist, it becomes a truism that only racists could support those policies.

      Nope. Not what I’m saying. See above.

      The alternative is that conservatives mean what they say.

      Well, what I’m doing is drawing conclusions about their motives from what they do.

    • LM


      “The alternative is that conservatives mean what they say. But asking liberals to believe that seems to be asking too much.”

      I do take what conservatives say seriously, which is why I look at the historical roots of their ideas.The modern conservative movement was established on a plank of strident anti-communism. Not only did this mean rejecting Soviet-style communism, but anything that even gave the appearance of social democracy, which included civil rights for blacks and integration. If you assume a priori that integration is a slippery slope to the gulag (which Cold War era conservatives did), then there was nothing to discuss with civil rights protestors. Ronald Reagan, for example, was opposed to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and supported apartheid in South Africa. In 1966, he said, “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so.” All this from the man who has inspired conservatism for the past thirty odd years. Now, you might be saying that all these things happened a long time ago, but Rand Paul said only a few years ago that he was opposed to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, when pressed to explain how Jim Crow could have ended from a “states’ rights” perspective, he admitted that he didn’t have an answer. Conservatism like to say that ideas matter, but they don’t like to think about the consequences of what they themselves espouse. This quote by Jelani Cobb from yesterday’s NYT says it all:

      “An honest appeal [by the GOP] to African-Americans would start with the admission that Republicans didn’t lose the black vote but forfeited it. The Republican Party now faces the same dilemma as the mid-20th-century Democratic Party: whether its interest in black voters might ever outweigh its investment in the reactionary politics of race.”{%221%22%3A%22RI%3A7%22}&_r=0

      I think that conservatives have an ambivalent relationship with the civil rights narrative, because it fundamentally challenges most of their ideals, like limited government, states’ rights, economic individualism, the positive role of tradition, etc. not to mention the belief that everything in America was just swell before the 1960s ruined everything. The civil rights narrative, even in its most conservative form, makes it plain that, no everything wasn’t swell before the 1960s and things aren’t looking too hot right now either. To believe in the civil rights narrative is an admission that the political system created by the founding fathers was deeply flawed, that America isn’t a “land of opportunity” for many people, and that the reason why some people were able to get ahead is because other were kept artificially depressed.

      • Joshro

        The Civil Rights Act is forced association.

        What kind of a society is that?

        Is that what you really want? To interact with people who are only interacting with you because they’re FORCED to do so??

        Talk about desperate.

        Find validatation some other way.

        The dignified way is to say, “If you don’t want to do business with me, I don’t want to do business with you. If you don’t want to be my friend, I don’t want to be yours.”

        • In a world in which there is no such thing as history, that might make some sense.

        • LM


          It’s hilarious that “small government conservatives” think that the Civil Rights Act is a terrible abridgement of their freedom, while having no problem with the government legislating which door or water fountain large swaths of the population can use. The Civil Rights Act has nothing to do with whether I or anyone else wants to associate with people of another race. It’s about expecting the same rights and privileges as any other citizen and about being treated with a modicum of respect. For example, gefore the Civil Rights Act was passed, there was a book called “The Negro Motorist Green Book” that informed black travelers where they could and could not get service:

          I can guarantee that the people who complain about the Civil Rights Act being “forced association” were never in danger of having to use rely on something like the Green Book to figure out where they could be served without causing an incident. Believe me, if Rand Paul or William F. Buckley had to take a dump out in a field because no gas station in a hundred mile radius would let them use the bathroom, you can bet they’d shut up about “forced accommodation.”

        • Peter

          But isn’t the problem there relying on private accommodations for bathrooms?

          In other words, like with the affordable care act, isn’t the problem ultimately capitalist? We want the market to take care of things, so we wind up having to force the market instead of thinking “hm, maybe some things should be socialized.”

          A private bathroom shouldn’t have to take you. But a public bathroom should, and the government should have a duty to provide them.

          Then again, I can’t really go to North Korea. Ones human rights aren’t being violated just because a society doesn’t want you as a part of it. Stick with the societies that do, and don’t vacation places where you risk exclusion or worse.

        • LM


          “Ones human rights aren’t being violated just because a society doesn’t want you as a part of it. Stick with the societies that do, and don’t vacation places where you risk exclusion or worse.”

          Separate facilities will never be equal. Because black people do not have equal access to land, political power, or capital, any attempts to create a separate and equal world will be doomed to failure. Throughout the Jim Crow era, whites kept tight control over how much access blacks had to education and employment. For example, blacks in the city where I lived had to petition the all-white school board in the 1910s to get a high school built. At the time, there were no black high schools in the state, and the whites on the school board weren’t eager for this to be the first. Eventually, they relented and decided to build it, but this school would always be underfunded and poorly maintained. The school building didn’t even have indoor plumbing until the 1950s, for example, because the white school board didn’t think it was important. Jim Crow created a glass ceiling of sorts for blacks, where even the most successful members of the community could only rise so far before the system prevented you from rising any further.

          Like I said before, the people who complain about “forced accommodations” were never in any danger of being systematically shut out of American life on totally arbitrary lines. Many so-called “black people” are actually considerably lighter than many white people. If you saw my mother or I, you probably wouldn’t even know that we’re black. But as a child, she had to sit in the colored section because one-drop rule. Yeah, that makes sense.

          Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s experiments demonstrated how segregation damages the psychological development of black children, particular the “doll test”:

          “Their studies found contrasts among African-American children attending segregated schools in Washington, DC versus those in integrated schools in New York. The doll experiment involved a child being presented with two dolls. Both of these dolls were completely identical except for the skin and hair color. One doll was white with yellow hair, while the other was brown with black hair. The child was then asked questions inquiring as to which one is the doll they would play with, which one is the nice doll, which one looks bad, which one has the nicer color, etc. The experiment showed a clear preference for the white doll among all children in the study. These findings exposed internalized racism in African-American children, self-hatred that was more acute among children attending segregated schools. This research also paved the way for an increase in psychological research into areas of self-esteem and self-concept.”
          In 2006, filmmaker Kiri Davis recreated the doll test, and the results were virtually unchanged from the original tests done in the 1930s and 1940s.

        • Peter

          No I know segregation within one country can never work.

          My question was more like: why fight so hard to be part of that Babylon, then? Why not shake the dust from your sandals?

          Why wasn’t Liberia a genuine option?

          • That is just…just…there are no words.

        • Peter

          Matt, I’m trying to explain how many whites feel. If you want to have this discussion, then let’s have it. See this itself is one reason many people feel resentment: you want to have the Race discussion while simultaneously shaming people into hiding their real feelings and sticking to political correctness. No. If you want things aired and discussed, let’s air and discuss them.

          First, most whites don’t have any problem with people merely because of their skin color. If there are people with this or that skin color willing to assimilate into the nation…good for them, no problem.

          But there’s a dynamic that’s been noted something like…the black community wants to remain “Other” while simultaneously getting the benefits of being a part of the nation-state.

          There is a resentment against this in all countries, whether its about blacks in America or Arabs in Europe.

          Because it feels sort of like…like saying, “We hate it here, we’re oppressed, etc etc” complaining all the time. But then “So why not form an enclave or your own country, and not rely on white society at all. If it’s so bad excommunicate us!” Ah…but then they sing a different toon “Well, we want air conditioning and roads and fast food and cable TV.” Ah, ok. So you’re saying it’s really NOT so bad here. That you want to stay and be a part of this society because you’ve actually gotten used to the creature comforts it offers. Well, fine. But then actually stay and be a part of the society, don’t whine or segregate yourself by refusing to assimilate.

          There’s a “bitter” attitude that comes across from many politicized identity-politics blacks that can sort of feel like an attempt at emotional blackmail.

          I remember an episode of a TV show (not about race). A family’s bad behavior got a guy fired, so they felt it was only right to invite him to stay at their house until the guy got back on his feet. Except…months later he was still there, mooching and not looking for a job, and every time they’d bring the topic up, he’d guilt trip them saying, “Are you really going to kick me out after getting me fired??” Eventually it became clear that he was going to play that card as long as he could, and that he had no intention of becoming independent again (but not a real “part of the family” either) but fully intended to continue taking advantage of their guilt, being a mooch, and that part of him didn’t even want to be there either, he just wanted A) to use blaming them as an excuse for not taking responsibility for himself and B) to spite them by staying and making them uncomfortable, using the guilt-trip emotional blackmail “You owe me!” whenever they tried to push him to move on, in spite of leaving a mess and bringing over his hooligan friends at all hours of the night.

          I think lots of white Americans feel the same way about blacks. They don’t seem to like us that much, don’t seem to really want to be fully assimilated in our society, are in fact often downright bitter and rude and angry and paranoid and suspicious and contemptuous…but then nevertheless insist on sticking around using the “You owe us!” card to continue getting the benefits of remaining a part of the nation-state. Yes, things like welfare and other redistribution of wealth, which always moves from whites to blacks not the other way around.

          But this isn’t a “racist” thing, because there are examples in other countries. Another case of forced association is in the news these days: the Kurds and the Iraqi Arabs. The Kurds want their own State, but the Arabs, being in the majority, force them to stay “in” because the Kurds have the oil and the Arabs are in the majority and thus have historically had the power to do so.

          Well, it’s somewhat analogous to the US I think a lot of people feel: we have two parallel societies (and not just because of racism, but because blacks themselves refuse to assimilate) but because blacks want the wealth whites have…they force us to stay together as one non-culturally-homogenous nation-state (the problem is really not about physiological race, mind you, it’s about pluralism of culture). Except, obviously, the threat they use to do so is not that they’re in the majority, but rather the guilt-trip of “You owe us for slavery.”

          No, at a certain point enough time has passed to become an independent (independent as in non-dependent; mature, non-adolescent) People, a mature Nation of your own. At a certain point it’s like the 40 year old guy living in his parents basement. If he keeps hanging around, not because the family gets along great and is happy that way, rather indeed even when everyone (including him) is miserable and conflict-ridden, but saying “Well, you chose to have kids, so you’re responsible for me.”

          No, that may have been true at one point, but enough time has based to wean oneself off dependence and become independent rather than a sort of shadow class whose very identity depends on a sort of oppositional relation rather than ‘standing on its own.’

          Either stand on your own with a mature INdependent identity as a people (which would tend towards self-determination and a separate nation state)…or assimilate totally. But wanting to remain this sort of “class that only makes sense defined as part of a dialectic conflict” is not whole, is not mature, is not independent.

        • Peter

          I guess my point is…I think a lot of people have a historical intuition that having “Peoples within a People” or “Nations withing a Nation”…doesn’t work in the end.

          It’s not just blacks in America. It’s Scotland in the UK, it’s Quebec in Canada, it’s the whole Middle East!

          The tension tends towards one of two solutions: either the “symbiote” minority society (the image I imagine is like the ramora feeding off the shark) eventually totally assimilates into the one nation culturally.

          OR, it develops a totally independent (as opposed to “symbiotic”) identity and thus the logic of it tends towards the self-determination of the People having their own nation-state.

          Heck, even the Jews, the ultimate “symbiote minority society” throughout medieval and modern history…eventually developed into Zionism and got the State of Israel.

          Scotland is fighting this out right now. I think the referendum will probably decide the final fate of Scottish identity: is it really separate (and thus tending towards its own State, if not now then eventually). Or are they really British afterall now, and their distinctiveness will suffer a quick fading in the coming generations?

          I think most people know these are the only two options. That otherwise there is an irresolvable tension of trying to keep more than one Nation, more than one society, more than one culture, more than one people…in a single State.

        • LM


          Why should I leave? My family has been in this country even before the United States was even a concept and I think I should be accorded the rights of any other citizen. Besides, in the not so distant future, the bulk of the American populace will look like me anyway and you’ll be in the minority. When that happens, the structures of this country will either be forced to change or we’ll just end up in an apartheid state.

        • Peter

          Right. And it’s attitudes like that which make lots of whites feel “threatened” and like blacks don’t want to really assimilate and like your identity is “oppositional” and like ultimately the goal is to “take over” culturally, and that your real concern isn’t being one people, one nation, with us…but merely staking an “entitled” claim to the benefits of the State.

          Because I didn’t say leaving was the only option. Assimilation also is.

          Also, forming a separate nation wouldn’t have to be “leaving” geographically for everyone. As I’m sure you know, a large band of counties across the whole Deep South is majority black. Black nationalism could eventually aspire to take THIS as a homeland.

          Probably wouldn’t sit well with white southerners. But that’s why you build up gradually and start having communities and then regions where side-by-side in-tension living isn’t done. So that eventually you have a place that forms a truly independent society. Because right now black politics seems obsessed with entitlement, with “what can we get” from a State as a special-interest-group.

          Of course, blacks taking the South as their own seems far fetched. It’s just a mental foil for me. Which is why what I’d REALLY like to see is the other option: true cultural assimilation and dropping of all oppositionalist attitudes.

          America has assimilated lots of groups before. For historical reasons having to do with class (albeit classes based on race) it’s been harder for blacks. But I think the time is right.

          It can’t be “we have every right to be here” (and by “be here” mean merely “assert a claim to the benefits of the State.”) It has to become “We like you, we identify with you, we want to be seamless with you.”

          Immigrants at Ellis willingly Americanized their names. Meanwhile, blacks in the 60s and 70s started “defiantly” naming their kids LaQueesha. That doesn’t scream “I want to assimilate.” It screams “We’re here, we’re gonna stand in a separate corner of the party and whisper with each other…but still take advantage of the food and drinks and music, get used to it!”

          No. You want to come to the party? Then mingle. And if you ultimately think too many whites refuse to mingle and that a lack of integration is not your fault, that you’ve tried and been stonewalled…then say “screw those people, we’ll be independent adults and throw our own party!”

          But there’s this “love me! (But don’t you dare ask me to change!)” neediness right now in the black community that’s a real turn-off to many whites.

          Having a nation isn’t just about asserting ones rights to a slice of the State pie. It’s about actually forming a single people, a single culture, a single identity. And if that winds up impossible, if one likes blueberry and the other likes cherry and there’s no one recipe you can agree on…then you bake a second pie.

        • LM


          What gives you the impression that most blacks want their own country? Separatism has always been a part of the black intellectual and activist tradition, but it’s never been the most dominant one. The civil rights school of thought, which states that blacks should advocate for their rights as American citizens and fight against unjust laws and social structures, has always been much more popular. This is summed up in MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

          “In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
          It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

          The Civil Rights Movement as well as the American Indian Movement were both about holding the government responsible for the broken promises that they had made to blacks and Native Americans. I don’t see why asking for the ability to sit where ever you want in public transportation, the ability to buy a house wherever you want, or to not be subjected to extra-legal violence is perceived as “asking for special rights.”

          As the conflict in Israel and Palestine and Israel illustrates, there isn’t enough land in the world for every single ethnic group to have its own country. Blacks and whites are more the same than they are different. This isn’t like the situation with European Muslims where many of them really do have very different values than the host nation in question. Most blacks are Christian, like just whites (too Christian I think, but that’s another story), and are culturally assimilated in a way that European Muslims aren’t or choose not to be.

        • Peter

          Thank you for keeping things civil, LM. I know emotions can run high on all sides around these questions.

          First, obviously blacks are not a monolith. I have black friends who are upper middle class and totally assimilated and have no interest in identity politics.

          But there is a community that by talking differently, naming differently, having different mannerisms, and even arguably different values…especially by a sort of “tough” oppositional attitude…the message a lot of whites pick up on is “We’re different and proud and going to remain defiantly Other.” Well fine, but you can’t have it both ways.

          I note a certain bitterness with which you seem to suggest that American blacks are “too” Christian as if they’re assimilated “too much.” What message does this send? It feels like a cold shoulder.

          It feels like the message of a lot of “identity blacks” is something like “we want to be a separate nation, but share the benefits of the same state.”

          In the end, I don’t think it’s a racism issue for conservatives, it’s a pluralism issue. Pluralism is bad in a single State.

          See, the State is supposed to be an organic expression of a nation, culture, or people. It’s supposed to be the institutional expression of their collective will and sense of purpose. But that requires a certain homogeneity.

          Under pluralism, the State becomes just raw power, where different sub-groups are all vying to get the collective as a whole to go along with their desires.

          Under pluralism, the state goes from being an expression of collective communal will and values…to being sort of like a room where a bunch of people all have guns to each other’s heads and are engaged in tense negotiations and calculations of relative advantage and risk to get the collective to act.

          This collapse of collective direction or will, of course, to secularism.

          Now at this point in the US, pluralism is more than just a white/black split. It’s a white-white polarization mainly too. But it’s arguable that this happened, that the “door to pluralism” was opened…through America’s “original sin” of slavery, which brought a subjugated people into our land…because that wound up creating a parallel symbiotic culture in our midst, which causes a dialectic breaking down homogeneity until eventually everything goes and the State is a “lowest common denominator” referee in which special-interest-groups jockey to strong arm each other into using State power for their own benefit.

          So I think the racial dynamic among conservatives is lest truly racist and more against pluralism, because pluralism saps and paralyzes collective political will as State power becomes not an expression of communal will, but more a sort of prize to win or beast to tame to maximize your own in-group’s advantage.

          And as long as we have an uneasy symbiosis between multiple unassimilated sub-societies…things won’t work.

          Let’s say you have a ship. It’s sailing to Fiji where the passengers want to go. Then there’s a mutiny and some of the crew, perhaps originally indentured, says “Nope, we’ve risen up and now we want to go to Cuba.” They’re still a minority, but an influential one, with allies. So then complicated politics arise in which sometimes the Cuban party is in charge and sometimes the Fijian party and the net effect is that the go back and forth in circles never getting to either Fiji OR Cuba.

          The only solution, in the end, is for the one party to either make peace, assimilate, and agree to also go to Fiji. Or to build or commandeer or summon a new ship and head off to Cuba separately and let the original ship head to Fiji as originally planned. The “pluralist oppositional” model just has the ship of state getting nowhere.

      • Ronald King

        LM, I must say that I am extremely impressed with your knowledge, experience and perspective concerning racism past and present. Thank you.

        • LM

          @Ronald King

          Thank you. In my non-Internet life, I work at a variety of Civil Rights repositories and do research on the same topics. I’ve seen the “Young Americans for Freedom” literature about how integration is communism and the John Bircher postcards that claim that MLK spent time as at “communist training camp” (actually the non-communist Highlander Folk Academy). I’ve also been through almost every single item in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection at the King Center. Some of the posters here might feign ignorance about the roots of American conservatism, but I’ve seen the primary documents myself.

          • Agellius


            You write, “Some of the posters here might feign ignorance about the roots of American conservatism, but I’ve seen the primary documents myself.”

            You’re committing a basic fallacy. The fact that people in other places and times have adopted certain policies for certain reasons (assuming it’s true), does not prove that everyone who ever adopts those policies does so for the same reasons. If we go back to “the roots” of the left and the right, we’re going to find bad things on either side. But if it’s unfair to accuse today’s liberals of being closet communists because of the acts of their forebears, it’s equally unfair to accuse today’s conservatives of acting according to the same motives as the conservatives of the 1960s and earlier.

            I have given my background before, so I won’t go into great detail. But I was raised by a black man from the age of 5, in a predominantly minority area, am married to a non-white woman and have mixed race kids. I was a liberal Democrat until the mid-90s. At that point I began to drift away from liberalism based primarily on the abortion issue. Once I changed my mind on that issue, I became more open to the other tenets of conservatism.

            Thus my “conversion” to conservatism had absolutely nothing to do with the purported racist roots of American conservatism, and it’s fallacious to tie my motives to theirs on the ground that they also called themselves “conservative” and happened to come before me. Yes, a lot of conservatives were racist back then. I’m sure that a lot more liberals were racist back then too, compared with today. But attitudes have changed and new generations have arisen, who were raised in different environments. You can’t just assume that the same things that motivated people in the past also motivate their descendants today.

        • LM


          Being nice to or having close personal relationship to individual blacks does not preclude the possibility of supporting laws that disadvantage them as a class. The fact that Strom Thurmond had a black daughter didn’t stop him from railing against “race-mixing” and advocating against civil rights laws that would have made her life – and those of millions just like her — much easier.

  • Mark VA

    Mr. Talbot:

    Your August 12, 2014 4:29 pm reply suggests to me that you either assume you are talking to “rightists” here, or that you want everyone here to agree with your view of “rightists”.

    Since not many fish seem to be biting here, perhaps your argument would get a more vigorous reception in a bona fide rascally rightist blog ; )

  • Agellius


    You write, “what I’m saying is that The American Movement Conservative opposition to the ACA and other current and previous social-democratic initiatives has a racial dimension.”

    But you’re not saying what this conclusion is based on. Maybe your argument is this:

    Conservatives are racist. Most conservatives oppose the ACA. Therefore opposition to the ACA is racist.

    If not that, then what is your contention based on?

    • Conservatives are racist. Most conservatives oppose the ACA. Therefore opposition to the ACA is racist.

      Nope. You seem to really, really need me to be saying that, but that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that The American Movement Conservative opposition to the ACA and other current and previous social-democratic initiatives has a racial dimension.

      • Brian Martin

        “Brian – LM pointed out above that racism has been a persistent feature of movement conservatism for decades. Do you disagree with his assessment?”

        No, one would have to have no understanding of American history or of human nature in general to disagree with that.
        Perhaps I am missing the point of your opening statement. It is broad enough so that any disagreement would be ridiculous. The mere existence of one person with racists views would make your statement true. That, I think, is why people are adding meaning to your statement. It is a question of intent. What point are you really trying to make? A Sociology Professor I know said that the overt racism of the far right in America is the easy racism to see and point out, but the racism of ingrained victimhood and perceived lack of progress and ability is much more difficult to deal with. He said that the perception by white liberals that he needs them to speak for him, or that particular “black leaders” speak for “Black People” is also racist and much more damaging. I don’t know, I am a white male.
        My only point is that I believe we have to move beyond painting with a broad brush and get to the individual. When I was working with homeless families, I worked with some African Americans who said that Moorhead MN was an incredibly racist place, while others stated that it was the first place they had lived where white folks smiled and said hello.
        Until you listen to the individuals, whoever they are, and hear where they are coming from, all you have is assumptions.

      • Agellius


        You write, “What I’m saying is that The American Movement Conservative opposition to the ACA and other current and previous social-democratic initiatives has a racial dimension.”

        You didn’t answer the question. I asked you what your conclusion is based on.

        You previously wrote, “while Klan/Stormfront/Christian Identity racism is a fringe phenomenon, subtler (but still very destructive) forms of racism are pervasive on the right, and are a big problem.”

        In reply I wrote [though you evidently chose not to post it], “Well, now we’re back to what I asked you before: Are you saying that conservatism per se is racist, so that everyone who is a conservative is tinged with racism? Or are you saying that some conservatives are racists?” and if the latter, what proportion?

        I didn’t get a reply to this.

        I then suggested that maybe you were assuming your conclusion, that opposition to the ACA is based on race; and judging conservatives racist on the ground that they oppose the ACA. You denied that.

        Then I suggested that you were assuming that conservatives are racist, and judging that opposition to the ACA is racist, on the ground that it’s opposed by racist conservatives. You denied that too.

        So you contend that racism is prevalent among conservatives, and you contend that conservative opposition to the ACA has a “racial dimension”. Well, which is the chicken and which the egg? Is opposition to the ACA racist because conservatives are racist? Or are conservatives racist because they oppose the ACA?

        Or does “racial dimension” have some mysterious meaning that I’m failing to grasp?

        • Agellius: Your posts in this thread are consistent with your posts on other threads in your history here as a commenter: you doggedly question and refuse to accept any premise other than movement conservative premises, and you attempt to muddy the waters by trying to question in detail every assertion made by anyone who disagrees with you. This has the effect of shaping the discussion into the standard culture-war, Fox/Msnbc tit-for-tat, and I’m not really interested in providing a space for that.

          I find this ultimately to be tiresome. I’ll allow you the last word in this side discussion, and then I’m going to close it.

        • LM


          To understand the model conservative response both to social democracy and racism, you have to refer to Cold War politics and the way race relations had been framed prior to the Civil Rights Movement. American conservatism has traditionally been sympathetic to the white Southern perspective, especially in the form of the Southern Agrarian movement that arose out of Vanderbilt University during the Great Depression. This worldview was also encapsulated by the Dunning School of Reconstruction and the civil religion of the Lost Cause, both of which assumed a priori that the “natural” place of blacks was in some degree of perpetual servitude and that political and social equality between the races was a non-starter. This is why William F. Buckley, a Northerner who presumably should have been a bit more neutral on the issue of Jim Crow, was a staunch opponent of civil rights. I’m no fan of Ayn Rand, but even she was in favor of civil rights, and I suspect it’s because as a Russian she didn’t hinge her identity on maintaining a racial caste system like Buckley.

          As I’ve mentioned before, anti-communism was a primary driving force for the Cold War American conservative movement. However, American conservatives defined communism in a very expansive way, equating seemingly innocuous social reforms with USSR-style statism. Hence, school integration was perceived by conservatives as a shocking case of “social engineering” as well as “judicial activism.” There was also a fear that civil rights groups were fifth columns for the Soviet Union, as if the idea that blacks might want to be full citizens was just too absurd to contemplate. Public schools across the South closed rather than integrate. Mississippi actually created a shadow government to fight against civil rights activists called “The Mississippi Sovereignty Commission” that undertook important work such as investigating Elvis and the Rolling Stones for being potential communist subversives.

          There is also a long-standing fear that goes back to Reconstruction of light-skinned black people who combine the “cunning” of Europeans and the “barbarism” of Africans having political authority over whites, which is perfectly captured in D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” and to a lesser extent in “Gone With the Wind.” Much of the anti-Obama hysteria seems to stem from this fear, although I don’t think many people are even aware that they are pinging this meme.

          These twin fears of lurking communism and of a beige president motivates much of the opposition to social democratic proposals that are considered uncontroversial in other developed nations such as national health care. The very fact that the ACA, which was actually devised by the Heritage Foundation as a rival plan to “Hillarycare” in the 1990s, is considered to be “communist” is indicative of how much this term is abused.

  • Thales


    Alright. At first, I didn’t know what you meant by “racial dimension” in your resolution. Now that I’ve seen more of your comments, and I see that you are saying that race is a part of the Conservative movement, I have to disagree 100% with your position. (And I think Agellius and Mark VA are conceding too much in their comments. I don’t doubt that we all have different experiences and that people have encountered instances of racism from time to time, but for me, in my experience, most instances of racism I’ve encountered have been from people who tend liberal/progressive, instead of conservatives. Conservatives engaging in racism is quite foreign to me.)

    Why do I disagree, Mark?: Because in today’s age, race plays no factor whatsoever in the standard intellectual and philosophical arguments for “conservatism” and against (for example) the ACA, and it plays no factor in the minds of the overwhelming majority of people making those arguments. I’m not denying that a few individual “conservatives” or “anti-ACA” people might have race as a factor, when they take their positions. But I’m saying that race is no factor in the intellectual and philosophical conservative movement, as movement or as an institution.

    An analogy to illustrate: The Church currently opposes women priests and pro-lifers currently oppose abortion. I think it would inaccurate (and slanderous) to say that the Church as an institution or that the pro-life movement has an anti-woman factor, when taking the positions of opposition as they do. Their positions are made in good faith and are simply not anti-woman. The intellectual and philosophical bases of their positions, rightly understood, and as held by the majority of the members of those groups, is in no way anti-woman — in fact, those who hold these positions in good faith would almost certainly say that their positions are *pro-woman*. Now, there is very likely certain individuals who hold an anti-abortion position, or anti-woman-priest position, on the basis of misogyny. But these individuals are not representatives, and do not speak for, the “official” position of the pro-life movement or the Catholic Church.

    Final point: I had made a snarky comment that I don’t think you allowed to post. That’s fine, you’re the moderator, and it was snarky. But it was the basis of an honest question that posed itself in my mind when I first saw your post: if you see that there is a “racial dimension” in the conservative movement, do you see a similar “racial dimension” in the liberal/progressive movement? (If you don’t see that, I wonder whether would you that grant that in periods in the past, racism has been a persistent feature of movement liberalism/progressivism.)

    • Agellius


      I agree with you entirely.

  • Agellius


    It’s kind of funny that you accuse me of tenaciously refusing to grant anything, while Thales accuses me of conceding too much. : )

    In reviewing my comments, I don’t see myself “question[ing] in detail every assertion made by anyone”. I do get rather wordy, but that’s mostly me elaborating on my own ideas.

    I do question premises that I disagree with, which I think is a standard way of rebutting an argument.

    One thing I did get dogged about, was trying to get you to provide a basis for the contention you make in the resolution, which I still don’t feel you have given. You asked us to discuss the resolution. Is it only opponents of the resolution who have to justify themselves?

    Anyway thanks for giving me the last word, I appreciate the courtesy.

    • Thales


      Heh. You’ve done a great job articulating your points, and I always really appreciate your insights. I think I felt there was “conceding-too-much” happening, when I wasn’t comfortable when Mark said that the right has a racist element, and when you were speculating that most racists would be conservatives rather than liberals. (I was thinking that conservatives tend to be more religiously conservative, and that religious conservatives tend to be more non-racist — at least that’s been my experience and it seems to me that it’s been the case historically. I realize that this is not always the case.)

      Still the whole discussion is so difficult because I still don’t think that I fully understand what Matt is thinking when he says that racism is a “significant factor” in opposition to liberalism/progressivism, or when he says that conservatism has a “racial dimension”. But though I don’t know exactly what “racial dimension” means in Matt’s mind, I do know that it is something negative and something which makes conservatism suspect if it is truly present.

      Racism is so abhorrent that it is horribly insulting (and unjust) to insinuate that someone has racist motives when they don’t. I’m not a racist, you’re not a racist… and it’s really disturbing for someone to tell me that my point of view is suspect because it has a “racial dimension” (whatever that means)

      Here’s another thought: “Movement conservatism” is not a concrete thing. It is abstract concept, and it doesn’t exist without actual people who make up “movement conservatism” and who are the main articulators/proponents of it in our society. So, let’s consider actual prominent intellectual leaders who espouse and articulate “movement conservatism.” Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy — does their opposition to the ACA have a racial dimension? Thomas Sowell? Tim Scott and Allen West? Cardinal Dolan? Does their opposition to various aspects of the ACA or their support for various aspects of conservatism have a racial dimension?

      • Agellius


        You write, “You’ve done a great job articulating your points, and I always really appreciate your insights.”

        Thanks and likewise. By the way, do you have a blog?

        You write, “I think I felt there was ‘conceding-too-much’ happening, when I wasn’t comfortable when Mark said that the right has a racist element, and when you were speculating that most racists would be conservatives rather than liberals.”

        You could be right that I conceded too much. The point of course was that even granting that there are that many conservative racists, it’s not nearly enough to enable them to dictate the agenda.

        • Thales

          Nope, I don’t have a blog — not enough time!

        • Thales

          All my free time is spent here on VN!

  • Agellius


    You write, “Being nice to or having close personal relationship to individual blacks does not preclude the possibility of supporting laws that disadvantage them as a class.”

    True. It would be fallacious to conclude that because someone loves individual people of color, he would never vote for laws that harm them. It’s equally fallacious to conclude on the basis of someone voting for laws which you consider harmful to people of color, that he does so from motives of racism.

  • Brian Martin

    “These twin fears of lurking communism and of a beige president motivates much of the opposition to social democratic proposals that are considered uncontroversial in other developed nations such as national health care.”
    “The American Movement Conservative opposition to the ACA and other current and previous social-democratic initiatives has a racial dimension.”

    The problem with these statements is that it allows a facile assertion that people who oppose Pres. Obama, or oppose the ACA are opposing them due to racially motivated reasons.

    There is no room for discussion of why people actually dislike Pres. Obama or why people actually oppose the ACA. The fact is, if I as a white male say that I don’t support president Obama, in certain groups it automatically makes me suspect. Really? The problem with discussions of race is that they tend to assume lots of things, and de-emphasis or make less legitimate the experience of certain people.
    Is Clarence Thomas less of a black man and have less right to speak of his experiences as a black man than Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton? One’s politics seem to determine who is viewed as legitimate and who is not.
    Jesse Jackson, with his well documented history of using his politics for personal gain, is seen as a more legitimate voice of black people than Walter Williams. Why? because Williams is conservative.

  • LM

    I also suspect that much of the American right’s dislike of social democracy comes from our country’s Calvinist heritage. Poverty is seen not just as a socio-economic situation but as a moral indicator; if you are poor then not only does it mean that you are lazy but that you probably aren’t one of the elect either (ie God hates you). Therefore, there is no point in having social programs to help the poor if inequality is sanctioned by God. In the US, this secular Calvinism extends not just to the idea of elect individuals but elect races. If blacks and Native Americans are cursed by God, as many whites once believed (see the Curse of Ham and Mormonism’s curse of Laban), then there is no reason to feel bad that these groups are suffering. You see a similar dynamic at work in South Africa, which also has a heritage of Calvinism, white pioneerism, and an obsession with racial segregation and classification.

    • Agellius


      You write, “I also suspect that much of the American right’s dislike of social democracy comes from our country’s Calvinist heritage.”

      I agree with you there. I think Protestantism to a large extent broke up the notion of “we’re all in this together”.

      I think I’ve made it clear elsewhere, that I don’t oppose aid to poor people per se. In fact I would prefer nationalized healthcare to the ACA, because I think insurance companies are what drive up costs. If healthcare were run by the government, then at least voters could have a say in how much it’s costing them, as we do with schools.

      • Peter

        I think people are suspicious of the ACA racially also because there is a fear it just represents various special interest groups pushing to use the power of the State to maximize their own advantage instead of the common good.

        That’s the problem with racial (or other minority) identities. They raise a question of divided loyalties.

        LM has been speaking as if all this history is “black history” that belongs to her as someone “like them.” But this creates a clear “us/them” identify opposition. If were all one nation, one people, then this or that subgroup doesn’t have it’s “own” history…if they’ve integrated then their history has to be considered equally all of ours.

        I think of the American Revolution. My family didn’t immigrate until the early 20th century from Slavic lands. But guess what? We assimilated, we forgot our old language and learned English, the most we maintain of our “biological ancestral” heritage is some cooking recipes.

        So we became Anglo-Americans, and in doing so George Washington and the Founding Fathers became mine. My grandparents learned English, and even though I have no English blood, Shakespeare and Byron are now mine.

        And, on the other hand, even though my own blood probably fought in those wars…I have no particular connection to Slavic history.

        Because national identity assimilation is like a “conversion.” You convert and you get washed clean and leave your old identity behind. The Irish did it. The Italians did it. Yet it seems like blacks insist on maintaining a separate identity different from the generic American identity. Somehow other groups renounced all other identity and became “just American.” It’s arguable that Latinos will, like the Irish and Italians, will become “white” within two generations. But the blacks seem to cling to the benefits and political power that comes with being a special-interest-group with subsidiary loyalties. Why? Why the defiant refusal to assimilate?

        Well, because remaining a sub-group comes with it’s own sort of perks, I think. One of them being a disproportionate recipient of redistributed wealth.

        • Ronald King

          Are you serious?

        • LM


          I think I should specify about what I mean when I say blacks are too Christian. Church services at black Protestant churches can last anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on the denomination and which Sunday it is. Even at services at black Catholic and Episcopalian churches average 90 minutes. And you can’t just go on Sunday, of course; you have your Wednesday night prayer group, Bible study, Sunday school, mid-week services, choir practice for the musically inclined, usher/usherette duties, the deacon’s board, and so on and so forth. The average pious black person could be spending about 5-15 hours per week being religious, which to me is time that would be better spent studying math, reading, or some other secular subject. Then there’s the odious “Pastor’s Appreciation Day,” where the faithful throw money at their “man of God” (this is not an exaggeration, look on YouTube), which to me is money that could be better spent on, well, anything else.

          As I mentioned earlier, black people are assimilated; we speak the majority language, are overwhelmingly of the same religion as whites, serve in the army out of proportion to our numbers, shape the trajectory of American culture, and get elected to government position. It’s not that blacks don’t want to “become white” so to speak as much as being black in the United States is defined in opposition to being white. I’m not going to deny that there are a lot of problems in the black community, but I think this is where social democratic policies should come into play. There are countless numbers of community organizations, churches, and philanthropic organizations trying to help the dysfunction, but it’s like the Dutch boy trying to plug up the dyke with his finger. To fix such entrenched dysfunction, not just in black ghettos, but in Appalachia, the barrios, and Indian reservation will require a major anti-poverty effort, but the only thing this country likes less than discussing race is discussing class.

          As you may know, the Irish and the Italians weren’t considered “white” until the postwar period, and Catholics in general were considered fifth columns of the Vatican until the 1970s (I guess once the backlash to HV occurred, the idea that all Catholics were in lockstep with the pope disappeared). Unlike European immigrants, who consciously shed the customs of their native lands, the African culture of black slaves was forcibly taken away from them. Hence, the average black person hasn’t had any real connection to their African heritage in almost 200 years. Unless we take a DNA test, we don’t even know what parts of Africa our ancestors came from. Personally speaking, when I do research about my own family, I find a lot of white people, a lot of “mulattos,” some Native Americans (Creek and Cherokee), but no Africans; I feel like the old lady in the Wendy’s commercial asking “Where’s the beef?” except I’m asking “Where are the Africans?”
          The fact that some blacks give their kids stupid names isn’t indicative of anything other than a mistaken desire to be different, not unlike giving a child a name like Apple, Zuma, or Kal-El, as some white celebrities have. Naming your kid “Lakeshia” may not be the best decision, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a relatively minor offense, given that we live in a world where far too many parents of all races beat, starve, and exploit their children. People who are hardcore into Black Nationalism don’t live in mainstream society, and unless you live in New York, Chicago, LA, or Atlanta (and even then, you have to know where to look), you’ll probably never come into contact with such people.

          You also seem to be define assimilation as “not complaining.” In general, I’m not the kind of person who likes to wear my race on my sleeve (especially since most people can’t even tell what I am), but I’m not going to stay silent when I see or hear something that I consider to be wrong. I think of myself as completely assimilated; I’ve gone to majority white schools my entire life, graduated at the top of my majority white private college, and have worked primarily with white people in my professional life. I study Greek, Hebrew, French, and Latin, listen to opera music, and am well-versed in the Western canon. But because I don’t accept the conservative narrative, that makes me un-assimilated. When the Civil Rights Movement was occurring, blacks were told that they were demanding too much, too soon, and that they were being too radical. This was just during the non-violent protest stage in the South when blacks were just asking for minor things like the ability to vote and use public facilities, way before the Black Power Movement or the Black Panthers came on the scene. My knowledge of history and the trajectory of this thread indicates that for many whites there is never a good time to talk or think about racial issues.

          You seem to be equating the “street culture” of a certain segment of blacks in the urban ghetto with the entirety of black culture. The nihilistic attitudes seen by those in the street culture can be seen in other economically depressed demographics, such as impoverished whites in Appalachia. Along with our secular Calvinist culture, we also have what I would call a “Wild West” culture which celebrates lawlessness and violence. This can be seen not just in rap music, but in works about the Mafia (e.g., “The Godfather,” “The Sopranos”), Westerners that glamorize the life of known criminals like Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy, the entire industry devoted to Bonnie and Clyde, shows like “Breaking Bad,” etc., Besides, the vast majority of people who buy rap music are white, which indicates to me that there is a certain universality in the desire to glamorize and revel in transgressive behavior.

          I also don’t buy into the idea that nations are an organic being. Pluralism has been a fact of life in the West from the beginning, from the Roman empire to the present. We take for granted that the countries of Western Europe were always the distinct political, linguistic, and cultural entities that they are today, but that is a relatively new phenomenon. Until the 19th century, few Europeans travelled more than a few miles from their homes, and the culture and language of one village often differed drastically from the neighboring burg. The modern form of the various Romance languages were almost all local dialects that were eventually imposed over the rest of the country during the push for industrialization and modernization in the 19th century. For example, St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Bernadette were both 19th century female French saints who lived roughly at the same time, but they would not have been able to have a conservation with each other, because the former spoke what we would consider standard French and the latter spoke Basque. I’m not even sure St. Bernadette knew French, and if she did it was as a second language. Culturally speaking, the two were worlds apart, with Therese in her comfortable bourgeoise home and Bernadette living in rural squalor. The romantic nationalist movements of the 19th century ignored this kind of diversity by attributing universal essences to various people, which eventually lead to the sinister, genocidal tendencies of the two world wars.

          Even in Israel, a very self-conscious nation-state, the very term “Jewish” is contested. The customs of Jews from Eastern Europe are very different than those from Southern Europe, and both are even more different than those done by Ethiopian or Arab Jews. There are Jews there who eat pork and those who are so religious they don’t even let their kids have stuffed animals of non-kosher animals. The secular-religious divide among Israelis is so big, it makes the red state/blue state division seem tiny by comparison. If the Israelis didn’t have a common enemy in the Palestinians, they’d just be arguing with each other 24/7 about who is and is not a Jew.

          I’m not being threatening when I say that pretty soon the future will look like me. The demographics of this nation are changing and that’s an undeniable fact. The GOP’s Southern Strategy worked for so long because of a white super majority in many parts of the United States, but that won’t work anymore, not just because of demographics, but because of the re-enfranchisement of blacks and other racial minorities. Unless the Republican Party and movement conservatism in general finds a way to change track, it will soon become a regional party of Southern whites.

        • BMan


          “Because national identity assimilation is like a “conversion.” You convert and you get washed clean and leave your old identity behind. The Irish did it. The Italians did it. Yet it seems like blacks insist on maintaining a separate identity different from the generic American identity. Somehow other groups renounced all other identity and became “just American.” It’s arguable that Latinos will, like the Irish and Italians, will become “white” within two generations. But the blacks seem to cling to the benefits and political power that comes with being a special-interest-group with subsidiary loyalties. Why? Why the defiant refusal to assimilate?”

          One would have to completely rewrite American history and channel an inner Adolf Hitler to say that with a straight face. But let’s just pretend for the sake of argument that African-Americans, as a whole, indeed do not want to assimilate. So? This would only be a problem if African-American culture were inherently inferior to white culture. Are you sure that’s a position you would want to stand by? The minute you open the “some cultures are inherently inferior” can of worms, your morality immediately decays towards “might makes right,” which I believe is a cornerstone tenet of racism.

          And no, Latinos have absolutely not been accepted as white yet. The overtly racist comments from many white Americans regarding the immigration debate have outright proven as such.

        • Peter

          I’m not saying one culture is inferior. But IF a people truly doesn’t want to assimilate, they should form their own state.

          But really, if they want to be part of this one…maybe they should start listening to Bill Cosby’s “scolding” a little more seriously. He’s right on the money.

          I never said Latinos were totally accepted yet. I said “in a couple generations” they were on track. Why? Because they come here and work hard and don’t complain about it or play a victim card or have a politics based around fighting for entitlements.

  • Peter

    LM, I guess I’m thinking of people like Jesse Jackson, who have positioned themselves as the public spokespeople for all blacks. If the political discourse I heard out of that corner was like how you speak about these issues, I think we’d be fine. Sadly, it’s a lot of race-baiting instead, and I think Matt Talbot was trying to engage in more of that here unfortunately.

    Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I think as long as people have separate “racial” identities and loyalties…that’s a problem. And if they don’t…then I’m not sure what the problem is. You say “We are assimilated!” but to me, assimilation doesn’t just mean acting similar…it means not maintaining any identity or attitude of otherness or difference. Yet identity politics still seems huge among blacks. Indeed, it seems to be the flagship identity politics category.

    And you yourself seem to cling to such an identity. “Medieval Europe isn’t MY past” you seem to suggest when discussing re: traditionalism. Well why not? England BECAME my past when my Slavic ancestors started speaking English, and Medieval Europe could well become yours if you’d let communal initiation wash you of other identities and graft you onto the narrative that does have Medieval Europe as its past. That’s sort of what conversion is supposed to mean.

    I agree with you that “the only thing this country likes discussing than race is discussing class.” I just think race is sort of a red herring once you start discussing class, so let’s jump right to discussing class. But then I’m something of a Marxian that way. I’m pretty sure if class consciousness was truly raised (and I don’t think labor unions truly raise anything), racism would whither without having to be addressed “directly” at all.

    I don’t define “assimilation” as “not complaining,” but in general I do not like people fighting for rights “as a group” rather than as individuals. Why would anyone want to go to schools where they weren’t wanted? Yes, maybe it is wicked of the people not to want them…but if that is, nevertheless, the case…why force your way in? Is that really a way to make friends? By claiming a “right” to interact with people who don’t necessarily want to interact with you (even if for evil reasons)?

    You talk about the black high school, but why did blacks need state resources to open a high school? Why not pool their own resources and open their own? Ah…because they wanted/needed white money to accomplish the project, perhaps. Well, there’s where people start getting resentful. As long as a people expects to live as a minority among another people, they’re going to be dependent. Yet if all the blacks got together and founded their own City…they’d be self-sufficient and could say, “Screw the whites. In our city, we’ll treat YOU like the second-class citizens.” And maybe that tit-for-tat would teach the racists something. But they never did found their own city, really. They wanted to persist specifically AS a minority identity. And I think that’s inevitably problematic, as problematic as the presence of the Jews in Medieval Europe.

    Independence and self-sufficiency are the way. Yet even when you speak of “anti-poverty programs” and such…there’s this sense of dependence. Why can’t blacks and Indians and hillbillies pull themselves up? Somehow, some countries and communities muster up the willpower INTERNALLY to create function and prosperity on their own. Why do the blacks need “outside help” to organize. Surely there are enough to form a working polis if you all got together, no? So why this waiting for Government to come and save you from without rather than saving yourselves from within?

    What would it take to enable that? How much money would have to be thrown at the situation before poor groups would say “Enough relying on the outside world, we’re going to be Whole and functional all on our own?” How much capital? How much land? What exactly is needed until self-sufficiency and independence is possible? Because it seems to me, right now, black identity is such that it can’t conceive of itself as self-sufficient, but is by-definition merely one side of the coin in a dysfunctional and dependent psychological relationship with the rest of American society, like an extra limb that only makes sense as part of a larger organism.

    This is why I bring up the idea of blacks ceasing to be a “limb” that can’t stand on its own, and ask: why not grow a Whole and Complete body-politic of your own? Why persist in an identity and social imaginary that is always “part” and not whole? That is always defined IN TERMS OF the rest of society rather than one which is self-sustained and not conceptually dependent on a reference to anyone else?

    • LM


      I don’t think you understand how race works in America. You don’t get to decide to be white, just because that’s how you feel; if that was the case, everyone would declare themselves to be white and that would be the end of it. However, in the real world, society tells you what you are, so you either have to accept it or try to change society. After the Civil War, a number of states enacted “racial integrity laws” and anti-miscegenation that designated anyone as black who had a single black great-grandparent or in some states even one black great-great grandparent or one black great-great-great grandparent, even if they appeared white and had lived their entire lives as white people. Would these individuals have called themselves black and intentionally disenfranchised themselves and their children if they didn’t have to?

      Similarly, the pre-WWII German Jewish community was the most assimilated and wealthy Jewish community in Europe. A larger percentage of German Jewish men had served in World War I than any other segment of the German population and many of them had even converted to Christianity. Their assimilated nature was insufficient to save them, when their neighbors decided to sacrifice them to the Nazi machine. The Church wasn’t even willing to defend Jews who had converted to Catholicism, because it were more interested in maintaining it privileges in the new Nazi state than protecting vulnerable members of its flock. It’s not the fault of German Jews that their ostensibly Christian neighbors decided to join a genocidal death cult, and neither is it the fault of blacks that American society won’t let them “become white.”

      You also don’t seem to understand that blacks in the Jim Crow era couldn’t just build a public high school on their own (you can’t do that today, either). There was a single all-white school board that controlled all of the schools in a given area. The majority of the resources went to white schools and a few crumbs were thrown in the direction of the “Negro schools”. To rectify this situation, there were a few private black schools that catered to the wealthy, like the Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina, but then as now, this wasn’t an option for most blacks. A maid or a sharecropper, who might not even be able to afford food or clothes for their children, certainly wasn’t going to be able to come up with the money to send multiple children to an out of state boarding school.

      Even in cases where blacks did try to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and be independent, their efforts were often sabotaged by whites who didn’t want blacks to have success of any type. For example, the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as “the Black Wall Street” for the large number of black-owned businesses and black millionaires was completely destroyed by whites during the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, never to be rebuilt:

      The self-sufficent, all-black town of Rosewood, Florida was also destroyed by whites in 1923:

      Malcolm X’s father, Earl Little was a minister and a member of the Garveyite movement, which believed in black pride and self-sufficiency, and was harrassed and eventually killed by the Black Legion, KKK-like group that operated in the North. Coretta Scott King notes in her memoir how her father started various businesses during the Great Depression and how the Klan and their fellow travellers destroyed all of them. Even a conservative black leader like Booker T. Washington, who felt that it was more prudent to encourage Southern blacks to learn manual trades, thrift, and bourgeoise values rather than directly challenge Jim Crow, was considered to be an “uppity Negro” by Southern whites like Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina, who said protested Washington’s visit to the White House by saying, “The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place again.” Mississippi governor James Vardaman expressed a similar statement when he said, “I am just as much opposed to Booker T. Washington as a voter as I am to the cocoanut-headed, chocolate-colored typical little coon who blacks my shoes every morning. Neither is fit to perform the supreme function of citizenship.”

      So even when blacks do engage in self-sufficiency, these efforts are still considered to be dangerous and subversive and are seen as something that need to be destroyed. The point of Jim Crow was not just to keep the races separate, but to keep blacks economically, socially, and politically marginalized. Acts of violence against black homes, businesses, and houses of worship were intended to terrorize the community and prevent anyone from challenging white authority, and having a successful business was considered to be a threat to the status quo. In order for self-sufficiency to work, you have to be able to operate in an environment where you don’t have to worry about terrorism ruining your efforts, and the only way that can happen is to change the legal, political, and social structure.

      I think that poor Americans in general, whether black, white, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian, would benefit from social democratic policies. The kind of ingrained white poverty in Appalachia rivals what you would see in the worst parts of LA or Chicago, and the people who live there don’t even live in large cities where they could have access to the kinds of outreach programs and service jobs that the urban poor have. But the way poverty is framed in the United States is that social democratic programs are seen as poor black people leeching off middle class white people, even though the average welfare reciprient is a white single mother.

      • Peter

        First, the situation back then isn’t necessarily the situation today. It seems to me that, today, blacks could be a self-contained and self-sufficient society of their own and wouldn’t be bothered by racist thugs nearly so much.

        Yet, if anything, the focus on entitlements and dependent a and a victim-narrative has INCREASED.

        And even in the past…there was always emigration. Blacks fled the South for northern cities. But why did they stay in America at all? Some blacks did go to Liberia. Why didn’t more do so?

        • Liam

          Because history.

          Your musings are untethered to historical reality. Leaving the South into the 1920s (an in many places, into the WW2 era) was a VERY risky business for rural blacks, Vagrancy laws and Jim Crow entrapment practices were notorious for keeping peonage in place. Slavery by another name, as it were.

          A genuine conservative has to accept that historical injustice and oppression have a very long half-life (not just on the victims but also on the oppressors) that can’t be wished away. After the Civil War, there were certain choices, but gradually economic and political exigencies closed them. (For example, one could read a lot of the SCOTUS civil rights jurisprudence of the post-Brown era as simply a cluster of efforts to correct the original mistakes made in gutting the Privileges and Immunities Clause in the Slaughterhouse Cases without having to do it in a straightforward fashion (because people were scared of how much more new open legal terrain that would create)).

          Anyway, white people (including my family, who emigrated here after the Civil War) have benefitted with compounded socio-political-economic interest from a long history of affirmative action for white folks (especially including the New Deal and postwar boom, which was not a pure function of capitalism but very much a deliberate co-creation of government policies and vested economic interests).

  • Mark VA


    I enjoyed reading your discourse on assimilation, however, please let me address several issues:

    (a) While it’s undeniably true that the Colonists who became the first generation American citizens were of predominantly English ancestry, this new American identity was no longer dependent on it. Quite the opposite, it needed to wean itself from it, and stand on its own two American feet (see some of George Washington’s writings on this subject);

    (b) The long history of slavery and Jim Crow has to taken into account when bringing up the issue of “separatism”. This legacy is still working itself out – the process is not yet complete, for all of us;

    (c) I see assimilation as a synthesis – the best of many cultures combines to create one, great, unified, and welcoming whole – a true and inclusive Pluribus Unum, within the constitutional legal framework. We can see parts of this process around us – for example, in cuisine, architecture, music, and the inclusive nature of American English.

    Thus in my view, the American past is our past. Other pasts, be they English or Slavic, become tangential, yet may be mined for elements useful for our common American identity.

    To wrap it up, let me lighten up with two musical selections – the first is for all the Anglophiles, and the second for the Slavophiles, among us:

    • Peter

      I’d also ask…why do so many recent black-African immigrants to the US have such a contempt for African-Americans of the more native variety?

      The former seem to be making great strides in just a generation, as doctors, entrepreneurs, etc. The latter…languishing. You might not be able to unilaterally pretend to be white, but it often seems like it might indeed be better to pretend to be a recent black-African immigrant and part of that community…rather than part of the “African American” narrative, which seems to wallow in self-pity.

      • LM

        @ Peter

        There was no mass immigration to Liberia for several reasons. First, the leadership of the American Colonization Society (the group responsible for starting the Liberian project) consisted of Southern slave owners, so it was hard for blacks to believe that this group really had their best interests in mind. Second, there was no way to remove 4 million black people to Liberia en masse in a cost effective manner. Third, there were already people living in the land that was to become Liberia, and they objected to the idea of settling a bunch of Westernized blacks in their midst. Fourth, the vast majority of blacks didn’t want to go. It would have made sense to repatriate the slaves who had been originally kidnapped from Africa, but the ones who were sent to Liberia had no connection to Africa, whether linguistic, cultural, or familial. They saw themselves as Americans and felt that the whites advocating for immigration to Africa were just using that as a pretext to ignore their calls for civil rights. None of the countries in which New World slavery occurred – Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Canada, etc. – ever experienced mass immigration to Africa, because the blacks living in these countries eventually saw themselves as citizens of the countries where they lived. This is particularly significant in the case of Cuba and Brazil, where the cultural and linguistic ties to Africa are much stronger than in the United States.

        In Brazil, there actually was a state run by escaped slaves, displaced indigenous people, and poor whites known as Quilombo dos Palmares that last almost a century:

        The Portuguese were not prepared to accept this refuge for slaves, and tried to destroy it on numerous occasions, finally succeeding in 1694.

        I am also highly skeptical that Liberia could have been allowed to be an truly successful and independent nation, even if there had been mass immigration, simply because the colonization efforts occurred during the “Scramble for Africa,” when the continent was carved up by the European powers. Given the history of Haiti, I doubt that any nineteenth century European nation was prepared to accept an African country of any type as an equal. The small group of black American settlers who did show up in Liberia proved to be highly destablizing, and the tensions between the Americo-Liberian elite and the indigenous masses eventually erupted into a number of civil wars in the twentieth century. In fact, when the American colonists arrived in Liberia, not only did they build American-style churches and mansions, they also set up an ethnic caste system not unlike the one they themselves were fleeing. This suggests to me that the Americo-Liberians had have been to be pretty assimilated into American values, since they reproduced the exact same system in their new home.

        Lastly, African immigrants and African-Americans are coming from completely different backgrounds and have different expectations. African immigrants are coming to this country voluntarily, and the politics of immigration are such that many, if not most, of them already have money and university educations when they arrive here. My father, who is a scientist, works with many African scientists and all of them come from wealthy tribes and could probably choose to live and work anywhere in the world. Even those Africans who come to this country as refugees are leaving their home countries voluntarily are not viewed in the same light as black Americans and aren’t treated the same way. For example, as a young adult in the Jim Crow South, Angela Davis decided to wear a turban and speak with an accent to see if she could get service at an otherwise segregated restaurants. It worked, because the public facilities were closed to “Negroes” but not to swarthy foreigners in the general sense.

        As for African immigrants not identifying with blacks, well why should they? They come from different cultures, speak different languages, and have different customs than American blacks. There is no reason why we should expect a Nigerian Igbo to feel an instant kinship with me, than for the Queen of England to experience the same with a West Virginian coal miner. African nations are so diverse that different ethnic groups that live in the same country don’t even think they have much in common with each other (Nigeria, for example, has 300 ethnic groups speaking about as many languages). However, it appears that immigrant families in general become assimilated by the third generation, meaning that third generation African immigrants will see themselves as “regular black people” than as whatever their parents and grandparents identified as. I read an article about this phenomenon, but unfortunately I don’t remember where I read it (NYT maybe?). In any event, I don’t think African immigrants can become white either, simply because they tend to be much darker than native born black Americans, and American society in general is not too fond of dark skin.

        You act like you’re the first person to think of this self-sufficiency thing, but believe me, you’re not. There have been plenty of black-owned businesses both in the past and the present. However, I don’t see why I or anyone else should be forced to be segregated. The United States is supposed to be an open society and citizens of any color should be allowed to go where they want and visit whom they want without being molested. The problem as I see it is that black people will never be assimilated or “respectable” enough for you, no matter how many businesses they start or degrees they earn. There is a historical context behind everything I’m telling you, but you refuse to see it. If nothing else, I really think you should read “When Jim Crow Was White” or even rent “Eyes on the Prize” from your local library to try and understand the history that you’re trying so hard to ignore.

        • Peter

          I’m not saying the State should segregate anyone. Yes, public schools should be for all citizens, so should public transit.

          Where I think people may think the civil rights act went too far was in the notion of “public accomodation” whereby private business owners can’t associate with whom they want to.

          It’s their money to lose! You don’t have a “right” to service by anyone, since they’re under no obligation to have a business AT ALL. Why should anyone have to serve anyone else food? Even if it’s for a wicked reason, people should have a right to “excommunicate” people they don’t like.

          Civil “rights” of this sort only contributed to the expansion of the federal government, and now were seeing the fruits in cases like photographers being required to photograph gay weddings or bands being forced to play at them. That’s what comes of forced association.

          Yes, there is a racial element to opposition to the ACA because it was civil rights which led eventually, by the logic used, to ideas like a “right” to have your employer have to pay for your recreational contraception.

        • Mark VA

          L.M. , I agree with your analysis.

          I think that a discredited form of Darwinism may still be in circulation, and, perhaps subconsciously, occasionally affect our thinking. Three caveats: this is not to say that I reject Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (I don’t), neither is this meant as a comment on anyone’s post (it isn’t). Also, I don’t claim to be exempt from its effects. This is a general observation.

          I think this latent thinking is, to some extent, in circulation worldwide, and may find expression in many contexts. Also, someone or a group on the receiving end, may at other times be dishing it out with gusto. I’ve encountered this myself, and each time found it startling and upsetting. Doubly upsetting at those times when I’ve found myself lax in recognizing the situation. Historian Norman Davies does an excellent exposition of one of these forms of thinking in the Introduction to his book “Europe”:

          With his analysis in mind, it may be a tempting and comforting fiction to believe that Eastern Europeans are above reciprocating or passing on this kind of crude thinking. Unfortunately, some aren’t.

        • LM


          When a private business is open to the public, that means they have to serve the entire public, end of story. If you don’t want to serve the public, you need to turn your business into a private club. As I said before, the people who complain about “forced accommodation” are not the ones who would have to buy Green Books or worry about bleeding to death on the side of the road because there isn’t a “colored hospital” who would take them. When some conservatives complain about “big government,” they don’t mean that they should stop receiving Social Security payments, that agricultural subsidies should end, or that we should cut the defense budget. You know, things that would actually make a difference in terms of how much money the government actually spends. It’s just about ensuring that blacks can’t get ahead, even if whites are also harmed in the process. I’m not sure why the ACA (which was originally devised by the conservative Heritage Foundation) is unacceptable tyranny, but having the government regulate which door blacks can enter or what kind of ice cream they can eat (Mississippi once legislated that blacks could only eat vanilla ice cream on the Fourth of July) and having the police enforce these stupid laws is considered money well-spent. Jim Crow wasn’t just about private businesses deciding who they would and would not serve, as there were laws on the books that said that blacks couldn’t be served there even if the owners wanted otherwise. Real tyranny occurs more often at the local level – in the family, the community, and at the state level – than it does at the federal level. The fact that no one else besides conservative white Christians is demanding a right to discriminate says volumes about this so-called principle.

        • Peter

          Like I said, government enforced discrimination shouldn’t be allowed.

          But private discrimination must be.

          No hospital that will take you? Guess what: there are some areas (think rural Alaska) where there are no hospitals period. The two situations are practically equivalent: one enters such areas at ones own risk.

          Personally, I don’t travel to such areas.

          The fact that some areas are more accessible to some than to others doesn’t bother me. I have certain physical infirmaties that make some places off limits to me. So what? I don’t support the ADA requiring private business to accommodate me. Nor so I expect the Feds to build an elevator down the Grand Canyon.

          Everyone who wanted to make their business a private club would just add an extra step of signing people up and maintaining that pretense.

          Social security is something we pay for. It comes out of our paychecks, and they invest it, and then we are just getting it back.

          But many conservatives DONT support agricultural subsidies; I’m hugely against Big Corn for example.

          I should be able to fire anyone I want. But when it’s a black I have to fear added scrutiny that people will say it’s because he’s black rather than just because he’s incompetent and obnoxious.

          And sometimes sadly they’re the same thing. By which I mean: if I open a branch in a racist area, my salesmen have to make people comfortable. Some people are uncomfortable around blacks, just subconsciously and involuntarily (as your doll experiment shows). I personally am not, but I’ve got to make my customers happy. I’m allowed not to hire an ugly person for this reason (“ugly” not being a “protected class”) but if I base it on race (so hard to prove too)…suddenly the EEOC is on my case.

          Yet if I have a competitor who has a “family business” in the area and staffs his store with all his own (white) sons and nephews…he does better business because the racists go to him instead.

          So the fact is: there will always be discrimination in at least “one direction” since there is no way to force customers to not discriminate about shops. A white racist can never be forced to go to a black shop. But then if you don’t allow it in the “other direction” (ie, shops discriminating about customers, or employers about employees)…this creates a distinct imbalance in which consumers can excommunicate businesses without businesses being able to do the same to consumers, creating a lopsided economic relationship.

        • Peter

          I guess I should elaborate more on what I mean:

          In the days before “public accomdation”…there were no buyers and sellers, just two people coming together to trade as individuals.

          The fact that one was trading a good or service and the other was trading cash…didn’t matter. The fact that one had a permanent shop for trading while the other wandered about with their purse didn’t matter.

          There was no consumer/seller distinction. All exchanges were between two equal and undifferentiated parties.

          If you sold me a pair of shoes for $10…I was, equivalently, selling you $10 for a pair if shoes.

          This is, in reality, what all economic interactions are. They take place between two free agents and the exchange is bi-directional.

          But by establishing a legal distinction whereby the person with the goods/services is the “seller” and the person with the legal tender (which really just represents goods and services) is the “consumer”…an imbalance in this relationship was introduced.

          For one, as I’ve pointed out, the consumer becomes the “free one” who is able to say yes or no to any seller for whatever reason, whereas the sellers become obligated to serve anyone.

          But that’s only one side effect. The larger effect is the creation of consumerist culture generally, and the insertion of the State into all such interactions in the form of the “freedom” of legal tender which no one is allowed to refuse (“for the wrong reason”…which eventually expands to become “any reason.”)

          Civil rights therefore is also intrinsically connected and causal of consumerism and of a society where, in a very real legal sense, money becomes “un-refusable.”

          • Ronald King

            Not discussed in this is the power of God’s love to influence each of us to awaken from the forces which divide us

        • Peter

          I don’t think that’s discussed in the Civil Rights Act either, Ronald.

          Do you really believe the State is the instrument of God’s reconciling love?

          It wouldn’t be surprising…

          • Ronald King

            Peter, Your comment indicates to me that you are not willing to look into God’s influence beyond your present beliefs. The “state” is…

        • LM


          You have been given enough rope to hang yourself and you have done an excellent job. I don’t think the non-biased reader requires anything more from me to see this clearly. In other words, the original motion passes.

        • Peter

          Fine. I hope you enjoy going through life never knowing whether someone is nice to you because they genuinely like you, or only because they “have to” be. Because that’s the “civil” society your “civil rights” creates.

          • Peter – sometimes the better part of valor is to Stop Typing.

          • Ronald King

            Yeah that’s what I hate about the 10 Commandments

      • Ronald King

        Site your research

      • LM


        I don’t feel a need to be something I’m not to make other people feel comfortable. Most importantly, no one is going to believe that someone as light as I am just got off the plane from Nairobi or Lagos.