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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Saturday, September 03, 2005

the race card

It's a term you hear alot. You bring up race, someone will tell you..."you're playing the race card."

People get huffy, they get defensive.

Calling an argument "playing the race card" implies, right out of the box, that either that argument trumps everything (the defensive side)....or that the argument should be dismissed entirely on its face (the huffy side).

That's a pretty narrow view of the world. It doesn't leave any middle ground to actually have a discussion about...let's say: why the folks at Bush's Alabama press meet up were all white men, or why the folks at the Superdome were, on the whole, women, children and older people largely of African-American descent. It means we won't ever talk about race, even when it matters. Folks who "tut tut"...who use the "don't play the race card" rhetoric are basically saying...."Shut up about that. I don't want to talk or think about it. Not again."

Of course, telling folks to shut up, even when done nicely, is an endorsement of the status quo. It means that politicians who want to talk about something that's real: redlining, poverty, our increasingly segregated public schools, gun violence, AIDS, prison reform...end up using generic language like: "the Two Americas."

I understand that there are folks of all backgrounds and politics who don't want to ever talk about race in their life again. They are sick of it. They don't want to think about it, and don't think talking about race is productive. I see it. I don't think all these folks are "racist"; no one does. There's a lot of people like that. It's just true, and I admit that justice rhetoric has lost some appeal in America. (right wing radio and cynical lefty snark are so much....sexier.)

George Bush has tailored his message for just this climate. He's "nice" on the outside, but his policies paint a different picture. With George Bush, as long as you accept, or don't pay too much attention to, what he actually does or doesn't do you won't have to trouble yourself talking about race at all.

Of course, in my view, if you want to talk about GOP politics and policies, you've GOT to talk about the race card, because they've been dealing it since 1968:

"By the 70s and into the 80s and 90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out.

Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican Chairman to tell you we were wrong."

Ken Mehlman, RNC chair at a meeting of the NAACP, July 2005

Ken Mehlman was right to go to the NAACP and to apologize for his party's "playing the race card" for three and a half decades. But talk is cheap. It should have been George W. Bush at that meeting. He is, after all, the President of all of us. If Bush had once met with the NAACP in his time as President, maybe he would have found someone, a leader, who would be the right person to help those evacuated from New Orleans and Gulf Coast right now. Maybe the President would have earned some hard-won trust.

Trust is a lot harder to earn when you're asking for it in a crisis. It's a lot harder to earn when you've failed people. George Bush didn't cause Hurricane Katrina. The mess we're going to have clean up wasn't all caused by Katrina either. That's the point.

Let's come together. But let's get real. Like Ken Mehlman said, it's time for a conversation, and no subject should be off the table.


  • noticed you wrote a diary on dailykos... you sure you wanna write an actual diary and not try to incite an online revolution against the evil kos himself?

    i DO remember the diary you wrote a week or 2 ago. maybe you should stick to this blog, see how far you can make it.

    ooo, maybe i'll write an apology in an hour and hope it absolves me of any and all bullshit that spews from my fingertips.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:04 PM  

  • Funny how that works.

    You get told..."Go, do your own thing...the blogosphere is a big place."

    And then you get taunted and mocked for it anonymously.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 5:10 PM  

  • Dear Anonymous,

    You ought to be ashamed of yourself. What good are you doing by calling KO a "jackass" at this point in time, when he's obviously dealing with an issue--Katrina and its aftermath--that should make us all sit up and question politics as usual. I had some reservations myself about KO's diary a few weeks ago, but I'm damned glad his voice is out there on the left blogosphere--as I'm also glad that Dkos exists.

    Your comment is plain nasty and contributes nothing to political discourse on the left. It's only hurtful. We need to cultivate thoughtful, intelligent discourse where we sharpen our arguments here on the left, not where we gratuitously and cowardly tear each other down. It's important that we air our disagreements with one another, but only to make our cases stronger.

    Stop sowing bad feeling!

    By Blogger Myshkin, at 5:57 PM  

  • there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
    human being to supply any given army on any given day

    and the best at murder are those who preach against it
    and the best at hate are those who preach love
    and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

    those who preach god, need god
    those who preach peace do not have peace
    those who preach peace do not have love

    beware the preachers
    beware the knowers
    beware those who are always reading books
    beware those who either detest poverty
    or are proud of it
    beware those quick to praise
    for they need praise in return
    beware those who are quick to censor
    they are afraid of what they do not know
    beware those who seek constant crowds for
    they are nothing alone
    beware the average man the average woman
    beware their love, their love is average
    seeks average

    but there is genius in their hatred
    there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
    to kill anybody
    not wanting solitude
    not understanding solitude
    they will attempt to destroy anything
    that differs from their own
    not being able to create art
    they will not understand art
    they will consider their failure as creators
    only as a failure of the world
    not being able to love fully
    they will believe your love incomplete
    and then they will hate you
    and their hatred will be perfect

    like a shining diamond
    like a knife
    like a mountain
    like a tiger
    like hemlock

    their finest art
    -Charles Bukowski

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:03 PM  

  • thanks for the post.

    By Blogger Danyel, at 7:48 PM  

  • To the two anonymous posters:

    You probably aren't even reading this thread any more.

    Anyway, might as well say what I have to say, if only to clarify my own thoughts on this.

    The point of the Bukowski quote?
    --that KO is a preacher, and we should mistrust him.

    But of course, by putting that quote up there, you, too become a preacher.

    And by critiquing your use of Bukowski, or, worse, the earlier "jackass,'" I, too become a preacher.

    But where do opinions, or political discourse come from? There is political, public language already out there, and we, bloggers et al. make judgments of the basic stances already existing. We make some of them our own; we reject others. This is a matter of self definition. We stand with some, we shun some. It inevitably gets a little preachy as we preach to ourselves, trying to define who we want to be as well as what we want our society to be like.

    So some "preachers" dislike hearing what other "preachers" have to say.

    But all of us on this site and on kos are in an embattled camp. Aside from that, there is a reason why etiquette, politeness, refraining from personal attacks is important.

    I grew up in a wingnut family. I started disagreeing, poltically, from around the age of nine. But I could never cut my teeth in a poltical debate, because my conservative uncle would simply call me a name, and that would be the end of the discussion. The effect of this? I was inarticulate and shy of expressing my opinion for a long time. (And no, I don't think my opinion is particularly important, but because this is a democracy, I think it's important to have one, and to make it as well-informed as possible.) "Jackass" is the discursive equivalent of a jack-booted thug. (It might roll like water off of ko's back, but there's lots of people out there who would think twice before daring to post something again.) Of course, polticial discourse in the US has degenerated to this point. But there used to be a thing called, wit, debate, evidence, argument, reasoning, and simple politeness and respect.

    If this is preaching, so be it. I think we should refrain from personal attacks. If you don't like what ko had/has to say, give some substantial reasons. If you don't like kos--give substantial reasons. But name-calling and nastiness to people on your own side defeat your own cause.

    By Blogger Myshkin, at 11:03 PM  

  • k/o Slavery. Civil War. Jim Crow. Lynching.

    The race card. The singlemost divisive issue in America. Period.

    If there is anything good to come from this disaster, it's that America has been re introduced to her poor. And for the failure to ever adequately deal with it's racist past. And present.

    By Blogger Ratprick, at 11:19 PM  

  • I posted the Bukowski poem as a commentary on the first anonymous poster, not KO. I posted it without interpretation because the bile in the first comment reminded me of the hatred of the crowd in the poem. It was not, I admit, particularly well thought-out.

    KO, I ought to have just said something specific, but I was timid and feared being unduly saccharine. I see you as a true individual, and as an artist. Your writings are a compassionate and thoroughly human song rising out of the wilderness of a sick and coarse culture. What you write is tremendously courageous not only because you seek to speak the truth as you know it (itself a courageous act in mendacious age), but also because what you write betrays a sensitivity to your truths that is both foolish and beautiful.

    There are those who will demand from you normalcy and mediocrity -- they will slink after you with their long knives and demand that you lie on their Procrustean Bed of poor taste, bad judgment, and limited possibilities. The rancor and venom in the first comment reminded me of such people. There is a power and a perfection in their hatred, but there is also a sterility to it. Bukowski’s poem seemed apt in light of this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:59 AM  

  • Thanks myshkin and danyel and rp for your words...and thanks anonymous2 for clarifying.

    One of the downsides of blogspot comments is that they can be confusing...ie. if two "anonymous" posts come up.

    No worries in the least, and thanks for reading this blog and leaving comments...I appreciate it.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 7:59 AM  

  • k/o --

    Yesterday, in the midst of some cynical lefty snark, I accused you and others of playing The Race Card.

    I did not mean to suggest that you should shut up about race. The targets of my half-assed jab were those wisdom deliverers who use "playing The Race Card" as a tool to dismiss and silence the thoughts, like yours, that we're not supposed to think.


    I'm one of those types who copes with tragedy, outrage, rage rage, and frustration with smartass jokes. I've been trying to outgrow this gutless, unhealthy habit for years.

    Your "race and racism" post should be on every editorial page in the country. The corrosive effects of this "playing The Race Card" rhetoric should be exposed through serious writing and discussion, not snarky public therapy sessions such as what I wrote. I apologize for telling you to shut up. It's the last thing on earth I meant to do.

    By Blogger &y, at 9:19 AM  

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