I have been silent on the whole liberal racism dust up over at Salon.com and The Nation. The car wreck is good sport. Beyond that, my thoughts would be tangential to the conversation and would just get folks upset.
My friends and I have shared a long running conversation about liberal racism. It is a peculiar beast. Conservatives, who are the most frequently tarred, and with good reason, by the label of being "racist," display a variant of white supremacy born of a willful historical myopia that couches white racism as being a mere "inconvenience" or historical oddity (when in fact white supremacy is the dominant historical narrative in the modern world).
By comparison, liberals are hyper-conscious of race and racial inequality. "Progressive" attitudes on race are central to liberal-left identity.
However, this race consciousness does not immunize them from being active racists or from holding beliefs that are deeply informed by a premise that people of color are inferior, or perhaps stated in a more benign fashion, are merely "different." Here, difference becomes a signifier of a compelling and curious Other.
This Other needs saving, this Other needs to be understood, and this Other needs help. He is pathological and cannot escape the myriad of limited life choices that await him. She is damaged by the dual oppressions of white racism and black male sexism. They cannot overcome racial adversity and white supremacy without our help.
The danger of this paternalistic attitude is that for some self-consciously progressive members of the Left, they, like their conservative nemeses, are also afflicted by a myopia that works to preclude self-reflection. These good liberals believe they have a pass which excludes the possibility of racist thought, speech, or action. Ultimately, these good liberals are incapable of being racists because they are the friends of the poor coloured folk of the world. These good liberals are supposedly our most erstwhile allies...
You see, America is a sick society. We are all deeply afflicted by white supremacy. Black people, white people, brown folk, all of us, have internalized and reproduced this social order. Some of us are more conscious of it than others. A rare few try to speak truth to power so that we can overcome this debilitating social ill by bringing it to the light, by exposing it, and by challenging it whenever we see it.
This divide in experience, how white supremacy impacts us differently, operates in our lives, structures our memories, and gives some more voice than others--and by doing so simultaneously precludes both empathy and sympathy (note the difference) from the empowered towards those less so--is how white supremacy operates as a lived system in this country.
The label of Conservative or Liberal does not make one immune from this sickness, it merely filters and shapes how it is expressed.
As brother Malcolm said, liberals are also invested in this system of inequality and they should own and confront it.