Thursday, March 17, 2016

 How Populists Like Bernie Sanders Should Talk About Racism

Another excellent must read by Ian Haney-López and Heather McGhee in The Nation.  Quote from within:
 The reactionary economic agenda made possible by dog-whistle politics is responsible not just for the devaluing of black lives but for the declining fortunes of the majority of white families. College costs have soared because anti-government dog whistling has mainstreamed extreme cuts to state budgets. Union busting, which drives down wages and benefits for all workers, has become popular because the image of the union worker has been tarred: now not a white man in a hardhat but a black woman behind a bureaucrat’s counter. When conservatives vilify every modest public benefit, from healthcare subsidies to unemployment insurance, as handouts to the undeserving, the social contract is shredded for everyone. By exposing how the political manipulation of racial anxiety has hollowed out of the middle class, Sanders can elevate a simple message: When racism wins, everyone loses.
Dog-whistle politics involve the metaphorical use of" racial dog whistles to transmute white anxiety into support for conservative economic policies that have harmed us all."  While Donald Trump will undoubtedly go down in history for his mastery of this, the point about this piece is that either most politicians use this harmful form of politics or they, like Bernie Sanders, are insufficiently skilled in knowing how to circumvent this reactionary framing of Black folks and other people of color in order to forge a progressive, multi-racial, multi-ethnic voting bloc.  Because they're afraid of antagonizing  whites that decry anything that comes close to advocating for "race-conscious" programs, they emphasize economic hardships faced by people of color. Hence, class and economics, as opposed to race and white supremacy.  The authors argue that both class and white supremacy need to get simultaneously addressed as follows:
 We think a different approach is necessary, one that links, rather than counterposes, class and race. The progressive movement should expand from a vision of racism as violence done solely to people of color to include a conception of racism as a political weapon wielded by elites against the 99 percent, nonwhite and white alike. It’s time for Sanders and other white economic populists to take up the race conversation with white voters, by directly addressing racial anxiety and its role in fueling popular support for policies that hand over the country to plutocrats.
I totally agree that whites would benefit greatly from open discussions of white racial anxiety seeing how these kinds of politics are about dividing and conquering in a way that has successfully worked historically to fracture the 99% and in so doing, unwittingly reconstituting our highly unequal status quo.

Angela Valenzuela

 How Populists Like Bernie Sanders Should Talk About Racism

To mobilize a multiracial coalition, progressives need to demonstrate how racism hurts us all.

Bernie Sanders’s remarkable popularity going into the Iowa caucus shows that economic populism is ascendant on the left. And yet the notable whiteness of his followers forces an uncomfortable question about this emerging progressive coalition. It’s been 50 years since a Democratic presidential candidate won a majority of the white vote in a general election, and many liberals are understandably excited over the prospect of bringing white Reagan Democrats back into the fold. But what about the Obama Democrats, the multiracial coalition that forms the party’s present and the country’s future? Whether we can combine these constituencies is a fundamental question for the left. Can progressives finally come together around a unifying message that resonates with whites on class, people of color on race, and the 99 percent on both? 

We emphatically believe it’s possible, but first, the left will have to challenge its own orthodoxy that defines racism as something that wholly benefits whites and solely victimizes people of color. The truth is, in the post-war era, racism helped create the white middle class. Since the Reagan era, racism has helped destroy it. 

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