July 23, 2010

Race in America

Having an ongoing conversation on this whole Tea Party phenomenon. Me and the rest of the country. I have one friend who has suggested that liberals have responded too fervently to the Tea Party, and thus allowed them to gain prominence. Another thinks that the anger was always there, and that the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palin are just using and exploiting that anger.

I have to say that I think there is something else going on. I think there is a deep seated fear that white protestants are losing their favored place in our society. I am the first to admit that this anger would be there if Hillary had won instead of Barack, but have to believe that some of this is still about race. Had Hillary won, it would have just been more about non-traditional women winning out, or about those non-protestants who are taking over. But with Obama it is about race, and non-traditional Christianity.

I don't watch Rachel Maddow that regularly, but thought this was a pretty good take. Of course she is pulling together a lot of things and assuming motives. But I don't think she is far off. Students of history will know that this phenomenon has long legs. One interpretation of Bacon's Rebellion was that the elites needed to find a way to allow poor, landless, whites keep their guns, but give them a way to have a little more status without giving them land or power. It was at this point that Virginians decided to opt more for lifetime slavery v. short term indentured servanthood. We saw that same process repeated in the lead up to the Civil War when Southern elites told poor white farmers that the Yankees wanted to take away their chance at land and success and would give that land to the slaves. Then poor whites would be at the bottom instead of being able to look down on enslaved Africans. In the post Reconstruction south, when poor white farmers started to coalesce with poor black farmers in some populist movements and even politically, we saw a rise of segregation and Jim Crowism.

Throughout this history, whites have been warned to be afraid of non-whites in many forms. Native and black men were supposedly sexual predators, and so supposed sexual contact or even bad intentions became the justification for lynchings and massacres. Perhaps my historian colleagues can help flesh this out, but the story is an old and sordid one. I think Rachel is connecting that to the current way that conservatives on Fox and talk radio are talking about race, and I think she is on to something. That is not to say that liberals and civil rights' activists have not made missteps. Of course they have and can. But the record is heavily weighted to the other side.

Anyway. Check it out and let me know what you think. Oh, and there are some new gadgets that Blogger made available. Hvae to see how they work.

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1 comment:

Streak said...

Well hell. Blogger gives me the option of allowing you to share or click some reactions, but they don't seem to be showing up. Maybe later.