Monday, March 17, 2014

Understanding Paul Ryan's Racism in Three Easy Steps

Paul Ryan has attempted to clarify his racist argument that “inner city” black people are lazy and do not want to work. He issued a statement that: 
After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make. I was not implicating the culture of one community—but of society as a whole.  
This is a false and disingenuous pseudo apology. Paul Ryan is the leader of a political party that is the country’s premier white identity organization. The Republican Party has also merged conservatism and racism in such a way that appeals to white racial resentment are its Lingua Franca and a taken for granted way of thinking about political and social reality. 

Paul Ryan traffics in racism because the Republican Party is a racist organization. The calculus is not complicated.

There has been some smart writing about Paul Ryan’s use of coded racial appeals. However, the majority of the news media is asking the wrong question. Instead of trying to figure out “if” Paul Ryan is a racist, the more revealing question is “what type of racist is he?”

There are three basic ways to understand Paul Ryan’s racism, both as part of a pattern of behavior by Republicans, and as an example of (symbolic) white racism in the post civil rights era.

The Southern Strategy.

Paul Ryan’s claim that black people have “bad culture”, may be genetically defective, and do not have “normal” “middle class” values about the merits of “hard work”, is a simple channeling of legendary Republican strategist Lee Atwater’s tactics for mobilizing white voters by leveraging their hostility to black Americans.

Atwater famously advised Republicans to: 
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, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.” 
The Southern Strategy has been the cornerstone of Republican politics for at least five decades. While former Republican National Committee chairmen Ken Mehlman and Michael Steele admitted (and apologized) that Republicans use racist appeals to motivate white voters, the Southern Strategy remains central to their party’s electoral logic and approach. Paul Ryan’s racism and embrace of the Southern Strategy is the Republican Party’s conventional wisdom in practice.

Colorblind racism and White Victimology.

Paul Ryan’s use of “dog whistles” and coded racial appeals to disparage and slur African-Americans exist within a social context where overt racism is a violation of public speech norms and values.

Following the triumphs of the civil rights movement, colorblind white racism has largely replaced “old fashioned” racism.

While whites still use very explicit and racist speech in the “backstage”, private spaces, or online, America’s embrace of multiculturalism and pluralism have deemed such acts anathema to “decent” people. This is especially true for a nationally known politician like Paul Ryan.

Colorblind racism inverts reality and distorts the facts. It involves denying that racism still exists as a serious social problem; black and brown people are limited in their life chances not because of institutional discrimination but because of their “bad culture” or “laziness”; white supremacy and systems of white racial advantage are dismissed as either exaggerated or non-existent; racism is reduced to mean words by white people, as opposed to systematic institutional discrimination against people of color.

The most perverse result of colorblind racism is that many white people now believe that they are “victims” of "racism", and that “anti-white racism” is a larger problem in the United States than is discrimination against black and brown Americans. Mountains of research and empirical data detail how Americans society is oriented around maintaining white privilege and white material advantages over people of color. Colorblind racism overrides those facts by distorting white people’s (and some others’) ability to process and understand reality.

Paul Ryan’s “inner city” comment is a quintessential example of colorblind racism. He cannot plainly state that lazy black people are genetically predisposed to idleness, crime, violence, and sexual promiscuity. However, Ryan can suggest that the supposed failures of black people are really their own fault, and that all they need to do is “work hard” and have “good culture” to get ahead in America like "normal" (read: white) people.

Paul Ryan’s defenders are enabling colorblind racism by trafficking in its other distortion of reality: white victimology. Paul Ryan is portrayed as a victim of political correctness. His black conservative pets such as Ron Christie claim that Ryan is a “truth-teller”. Ryan will tell interviewers that he is just misunderstood and is being unfairly criticized.

Once more, colorblind racism protects white people from the consequences of their racist behavior by transforming them into “victims”.

White privilege and white racial innocence.

Paul Ryan’s faux apology emphasized his intent, and how he was “inarticulate” in his claim that black people are lazy and have bad genes.

Paul Ryan meant what he said and said what he meant. White privilege is more than the unearned advantages that come with being identified as “white” in American society and elsewhere. White privilege is an assumption that whiteness, and white people, are benign. White privilege is also an assumption of preeminent good intent and innocence.

The historical record suggests otherwise: whiteness was born of violence towards people of color. Whiteness works and is made real through many lies both small and large.

Paul Ryan, like other racists, will deploy the common phrase “I didn’t mean it that way” or “that was not my intention”.

By contrast, the twin facts of white privilege and white racism are not dependent on intent.

The racist cannot tell the victim of the former’s racism how and if they should be offended.

Moreover, Paul Ryan’s claim to have made a mistake will be granted because he is white and male. The errors of prominent (as well as rank and file) African-Americans for example, are never excused away or viewed as aberrations or outliers. No. When black folks are “inarticulate” or “misspeak”, the white racial frame deems such moments as indications of incompetence, or proof that people of color are somehow “not qualified” or as “intelligent” as white people.

The white gaze does not view black Americans as individuals. When a black person makes a mistake it becomes the focus of a “national conversation” about the black community, one where “black leaders” are forced to publicly explain and condemn the actions of other black people. There is not an equivalent ritual for white people. White conservatives and the white community will not be forced to condemn Paul Ryan. Nor will white people be held publicly accountable for Paul Ryan’s and the Republican Party’s racism.

Whiteness deems that Paul Ryan is a “racial innocent”, an “individual”, and that he should be treated like one.

Paul Ryan and other movement conservatives are racial political arsonists. Ryan’s racist claims about lazy black people with bad genes are a function of a willful political strategy and determined worldview. They are not exceptions, outliers, or bizarre happenings. 

Racism is a habit for white conservatives because racism and conservatism are the same thing in the post civil rights era.

Paul Ryan and other conservatives can claim that they are innocent of their racist political arson. But, they are repeatedly caught, hiding behind the dumpster, or in the bushes, as the building burns. One hand is busy, down the trousers, working in onanistic fervor as the conflagration spreads. The other hand is concealing a lighter. The police approach, shake their heads, and say “you again!”

Paul Ryan and his fellow racial political arsonists in the Republican Party apologize, flummoxed, and indignant with the police that “you have the wrong guy!”

The police will just slap his wrist and say “don’t do it again”. Why? Because Paul Ryan and other racial political arsonists in the Republican Party are really decent people who are just misunderstood.


RPM said...

The only people "unaware" of Paul Ryan's racism seem to be the corporate, race baiting, pro war, propaganda media. Even dumb racists that always say"I'm not racist" know when someone is being racist. Those secret Klan meetings never went out of style. Feigned ignorance isn't fooling anyone anymore. Righteous indignation at being accussed of being bigoted doesn't hide it any better than the hood did. I can't imagine any anti-racist person would fall for these lame excuses of ''I misspoke or someone didn't understand my intent.'' Bullshit. Not content with keeping up this idiotic tradition they are branching out their code words to include homosexual discrimination. Now you hear them talk of "religious freedom" to gay bash. They are still very open in their anti hispanic rhetoric but the day will come soon when the codewords will be much more subtle than illegals. No one will fall for it either. Racists will know. Non racists will know. And while it will always be disgusting I'm happy that this is the best they can do. They can't be bigoted in public anymore. They don't want their kids to know. They don't want their friends to know. They don't want their coworkers to know. Everyone knows but they're all still ashamed. The jerking off in a corner metaphor was good. And like the teen getting caught, they will mouth off a crazy excuse because they don't want people to think less of them. Bigots already lost. They know it. That's why they're pissed off.
And finally, I know it's called the southern strategy for historical purposes and all, but can we finally just call it what it is. The bigot strategy. When he dog whistles he's not just doing it for the south. The republicans have got a lock on that till demographics change. He's doing it for the racists in the North and West. Doesn't always work for them but sometimes it does. Remember in our home state Walker is Governor, and he made his career in my hometown because he opposed any and every civil rights legislation. He even torpedoed the high speed rail project just like his cutting bus routes, because it would allow blacks from Milwaukee to get to jobs in suburban areas of greater Milwaukee where Walker and his racists anti-poor buddies are from. Their was plenty of dog whistling in his campaign and Wisconsin isn't Tennessee or Alabama. So let's also in the spirit of honestly stop calling it the southern strategy and call it The Bigot Strategy. Than after awhile we can call it something else. Finished.

Learning IS Eternal said...

Somewhere above the nose and between the eyebrows...

The fact they allowed to speak reckless w/o consequence is just... Normal. This what they do, slander & apologize. The batch process of racism.

Did anybody see or remember the black Doberman looking lap dog Ron Christie attack Angela Rye on MH-P for suggesting the tea party had overt racial tones in their message? If only someone would have choke-slammed him right then & there for disrespecting a woman like that and posturing as if she were a man. Yet he thinks rp is a truth teller.

White Priviledge is a helluva drug?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Ryan goes on to explain: "We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our communities. " which sounds like something I have heard in non-conservative circles. However, my personal opinion and the opinions I have gleaned from conservatives diverge from there.

So my dad and step dad are overtly racist people and they are conservative, this is why I have always been able to see through conservative arguments as well as their general failure to look at the whole picture when it comes to other issues. My other family members, however, cannot be overt bigots because it's obviously wrong, though they slip up from time to time.

There's one member of my family who I occasionally get into a conversation with, but they're always abrupt. She's an independent, but has voted conservative in at least the last two elections. She said, "People have called my husband and I racist." As I am opening my mouth to suggest why that may be so, keep in mind I am being extremely careful to not call them racist, she shakes her head and says, "no, no, no" like "I don't even want to hear anything that challenges my perceptions" and the conversation is over. I imagine she falls into the category of symbolic racism and colorblind racism.

So just so you know, they fall into the same party line, yet one says "I'm not racist, but..." and the other says, "Yes, I'm racist, blacks and Mexicans are ruining this country."

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I'm curious if you can elaborate, what does racism look like in Wisconsin? I'm from Texas and West Virginia, so they are different I hear.

Not that it really matters, but if you have a chance to think about it, I would like to hear about it.

rikyrah said...

Paul Ryan meant what he said and said what he meant. White privilege is more than the unearned advantages that come with being identified as “white” in American society and elsewhere. White privilege is an assumption that whiteness, and white people, are benign. White privilege is also an assumption of preeminent good intent and innocence.
One of the best paragraphs you have ever written.
This mofo quoted CHARLES MURRAY.
See, there are some things as a Black person that are non-negotiable. And, I don't have to ' try' and find 'good faith' with a mofo that quotes CHARLES MURRAY.
Not today.
Not tomorrow.
No time. Anytime.

DanF said...

Ryan's a Charles Murray racist. The kind of racist that doesn't think he's a racist because he deals in the world of cold, hard "facts" - no emotion, just the "facts" ma'am - wherever they may lead. They are too narcissistic or stupid to understand that their "facts" rest on a foundation of repeatedly debunked, self-referential racist bullshit - or they simply enjoy the absolution the faux-science gives their conscience to avoid doing something about inequality and racism.

How can you quote Charles Murray favorably and then use the "out-of-context" defense? Murray IS the fucking context and he's a straight-up racist.

RPM said...

Milwaukee as of 2013 is still the most segregated metro area in the country. Having never lived in the South I can't personally tell you what the differences would look like. I have had some friends that have lived in New Orleans and New Mexico. When they described their experences after living in Milwaukee for most of their life, it seemed similar. To me at least. I think the midwest and the rest of the non south for that matter(especially in the east which lives in their own bubble but that's a whole other topic) still think of the South as pre 1960's. You will always find outliners but for the most part I think racism is much more "Subtle" everywhere in the nation. Like the article and my earlier commit suggested, bigots would like us to think a corner has been turned. Coding is everywhere. Black neighborhoods are now referred to as 'bad neighborhoods' as even the ghetto carries to many negative connotations. If you ask some random white person in my city, is it incredibly racist, depending on their self awareness and education, would most likely say no. Same answer if you asked if the country is racist.
The biggest failing of the civil rights struggle is that it's opponents correctly labeled it as the end of the conversation instead of the beginning. School segregation, incarceration, poverty divides, and employment discrimination are as bad if not much worse than they were pre 1960's. That is hard for some people to fathom, especially if they lived through church bombings, attack dogs and separate bathrooms. The right wing never gave up they just changed tactics. African americans know this but it seems that most white"liberals" still don't. Now different civil rights and social justice types focus on personalized issues rather than the big picture.Focus primarily on keeping roe vs wade rather than universal access to contraception, paid maternity leave, comprehensive sex ed. and equal pay. Focus on keeping the voting rights act rather than decriminalizing drug use, jobs programs, affordable housing, and free public education that recieves the same budgets as all private schools. The right wing never gave an inch they just fooled the left into thinking they had. Now all center left people seem to care about is maintaining the status quo. Prior to 1960 in my city we had Socialist Mayors for 40 years and actually cared about the public good. Now we have 50 plus years of Democratic rule that allows this segregation and poverty to continue because it's better than what the Republicans offer. That's not a conversation. That's not a debate. That's a victory for the right wing. Get people to settle for a little and you can get them to settle a lot.

kokanee said...

Re: "The biggest failing of the civil rights struggle is that it's opponents correctly labeled it as the end of the conversation instead of the beginning."

Brilliant observation.

kokanee said...

Paul Krugman, a well respected Democrat, writes:
Just to be clear, there’s no evidence that Mr. Ryan is personally a racist, and his dog-whistle may not even have been deliberate. --

CdV begs to differ:
Well if one is a member of racist party and mining racism for political gain is their core strategy then yes, one is a racist. --

CdV --Is Krugman a colorblind racist apologist or just horribly wrong?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

"The racist cannot tell the victim of the former’s racism how and if they should be offended." CDV

Myshkin the Idiot said...

only 5 of the 22 most segregate cities in America are in the Civil War South Houston, Birmingham, Miami, Memphis, New Orleans.

Milwaukee ranks number one, but I have seen others that rank Detroit as number one, not that "which city is more racist" matters when a majority have some history of racial segregation.

The type of racism I encountered as a kid from adults in Texas was the kind of hate you to your face, with a lesser degree of tokenism that uses race banter as a bond across the colorline.

Here in WV, a mix of Maryland sentiment and southern sentiment, there's more of a 'don't talk about it' vibe from most people. "we are willing to like you enough to put up with you, but behind closed doors, we will hate on you if we feel we must."

DanF said...

Nice catch. :-) I've always understood a racist as someone who wields power (economic, political, physical) over another based upon race and a bigot as someone who feels one race is superior to another - however they either do not have political/economic power to bring to bear or they do not use it. For the most part, the Caucasian bigot to racist Venn diagram looks like a circle, but I think you can be a racist and not a bigot. For Krugman I think this equates to "Ryan endorses de facto racist policies, even though Ryan's not a racist" - when he might have meant "Ryan's a racist, but I don't think he's a bigot." Don't know though. Krugman lobs bombs at the political establishment from within the media establishment. There are probably lines he's not allowed to cross and still get invited on the shows.

IMHO - A congressman quoting Murray clearly falls into both the racist and bigot categories.

kokanee said...

Re: "I've always understood a racist as someone who wields power (economic, political, physical) over another based upon race"

Yes. Or condones or believes in such a system...

Re: "I think you can be a racist and not a bigot."

If racism = prejudice + power then you can be a bigot and not a racist but if you are a racist then you are also a bigot.

For a full explanation, see CdV in action:

I think Krugman is a racist too. Just more colorblind than your average Pug (Republican).

Myshkin the Idiot said...

ahh... the youth. I don't know, I see both types of racism, prejudice, and bigotry in older and younger people. I think it depends on who you're with. Like I said in my comment below, there are older people in my family who don't think of themselves as racist, who generally don't talk about race, but when they do it comes out and they don't see anything wrong with it.

Then there are younger people I met that love racism, people in high school. If you follow @yesyoureracist on twitter you will see many of the overt racist retweets are from young people. They think they can get into a circle of likeminded white folk and will drop some racialized jokes like it should be okay. If you're with them and you make it apparent it isn't okay with you, they may change their tone around you, but wait until they get somewhere it is acceptable.

One of my brothers friends and I were talking in a bar once and I mentioned I was thinking about moving South, not sure where. He told me I should move north as there are less black people there, if I care about that sort of thing, I told him I didn't when I should have told him to fuck off.

My brother also told me a joke one of his friends committed in his house. He put signs over his sink and toilet. Over the sink he wrote 'whites' over the toilet he wrote 'n*****s.' My brother thought it was hilarious, just a little joke. I told him I didn't think it was funny and he reassured me their black friend thought it was funny.

Maybe younger and older generations are different, but I really don't think they are that far apart.

RPM said...

Like I said anecdotal evidence is not something we should base are beliefs on since prejudice works the same way. It sounds like your regional experiences with white racism is different from my on on a personal level. I'm sure their are many similar examples of the toilet story happening around random acquaintances I've met but I haven't heard about them. I generally let people know what I'm like upfront so they would be less likely to say some racist shit like that to me and expect it to go well for them. I don't have any problem telling someone they are bigoted regardless of their relationship to me whether they be family, friends, coworkers or even employers. Calling people out on this is a way to shut up that backwards thinking. Shame is a great motivator when they stop and think why they feel ashamed when someone calls them on their prejudice. Strangers are more likely to say some dumb shit to me if I haven't opened my mouth in front of them. So perhaps a lot of the people Ive encountered over the years are more explicitly racist but know not to say or infer anything around me. As for the website you mentioned, you can find a million depressing things online that will make you lose all faith in humanity if you look for it. It still falls in the trap of believing that no progress has been made between the young and old and that the world will continue to suck. Having racist immediate family, friends, and coworkers that fall in an age group can color things for you. Hopefully you'll see different experiences in your children that will give you more hope for the future of harmony. That might seem a bit idealistic but realism without optimism is just cynicism and that's not an outlook that would make you want to fight for anything. So hope for the future, work on the present, acknowledge the past and next time tell your brother and his friends to fuck off.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I understand anecdotal evidence isn't the best way to examine this kind of information, research in younger people starts looking into implicit bias, and I believe it has been proven that a majority of whites hold certain prejudicial attitudes even though they might not want to. Prejudice formed by stereotypes and socialization are deep.

"Banaji’s research focuses on how implicit attitudes and preferences first came to be. “We know that many of them are learned by us after we are born…but our minds seem infinitely ready to learn them, for some reason.” This curious “readiness” has led Banaji and her colleagues to conduct studies utilizing young children, as well as adults, in order to look for patterns in the appearance and development of implicit attitudes. They studied children’s explicit attitudes towards certain groups, but also measured their unconscious biases using an IAT. They found that younger children spoke more openly about their preferences, while older children and adults tended to mask their biases with more socially acceptable language. However, “on the IAT, if white American adults are showing a certain level of preference for whites over blacks, then young children in that group are showing the exact same preference.” These IAT data seem to invalidate the assumption “that young kids should not really show some of those biases, because they are still evolving.” In fact, implicit bias is present in what looks to be exactly the same form in children (as young as age 6) as it is in adults. Disturbingly enough, implicit biases may begin to develop at a far younger age than we previously thought."

Barack said...


Yastreblyansky said...

Yep, and on the other hand "He cannot plainly state that lazy black people are genetically predisposed to idleness, crime, violence, and sexual promiscuity." Citing Murray is plain enough for all practical purposes.

jdmeth said...

There will always be racism, just the majority will change. With the browning of America Hispanics will soon be the majority. Of course officially racism will end because only whites can be racist. Just be warned, Hispanics don't like Blacks either and they don't have white guilt..

chauncey devega said...

That gets us back to racial formation and how whiteness is dynamic and expansive. Many of those "Hispanics" will be fully brought into being "white" just like Italians and others were before. "Black" hispanics and their children will be considered "black" as their descendants internalize America's rules of race.