Thursday, April 17, 2014

Post-Racial Blues

Do we live in a post-racial society?  Matt Bai seems to think so, writing a  long piece (at least by Yahoo! standards) on why the Democrats are making too much about race.  He tries to break the country down demographically, lumping Americans into three "cohorts," or generations, with the baby boomers being the most racially sensitive. Therefor, we can excuse Eric Holder, Nancy Pelosi and Steve Israel for speaking out on racism.

Matt falls into the Gen X group, which in his view remains "a minefield of racial tensions to be explored and negotiated."  A group that more or less rallied around Obama hoping that his election would usher in a post-racial society only to be left somewhat chagrined that things are more or less still the same.

The third group is Gen Y, or the Millennials as they have recently been dubbed, who according to Matt seem to think race is no big deal and have accepted things more or less as they are.

That's all well and good except that racism cuts across these generations and is not so easily categorized.   Steve Israel believes that much of the opposition to bills in Congress is racially motivated and largely directed at the President.  The ACA being a classic case in point.  It was a bill drawn up by the previously Democratic House (2007-2011) before Obama became President, but as the bill moved toward ratification in the Senate, after he assumed office, it became derogatorily identified with his presidency and harshly used against him ever since.

To Obama's credit, he has assiduously avoided bringing up race, knowing full well the repercussions.  This is a public which for the most part considers itself living in a post-racial society and doesn't want to be reminded of the Civil Rights struggle.  When Eric Holder questioned the motivations behind what he regards as unprecedented attacks against this administration, there were those who felt he was playing the "race card," a taboo in today's society.

Holder has long irked Republicans, who have gone after him tooth and nail from day one.  The most recent broadside is a bill put forward by Texas US Representative Blake Farenthold that would prohibit federal employees found in contempt of Congress from receiving paychecks. This bill is expressly aimed at Holder, who they personally hold accountable for the botched "Fast and Furious" gunwalking scandal, among other grievances.

Matt is quick to point out that such attacks are nothing new and that the Clinton administration faced similar scrutiny.  He seems to think the GOP has "profound and principled disagreements" with the Obama administration which are not in any way racially motivated.

Ms. Pelosi takes exception to this view point in regard to immigration. Past Republican administrations did pass immigration reform bills along similar lines, but for whatever reason the current Republican House refuses to budge on the issue, even though a bipartisan bill passed the Senate.  It seems that once again the so-called "amnesty bill" has become attached to Obama, who would find his paycheck being withheld if representatives like Blake had their way.

Farenthold is an interesting character, as he managed to edge out the former representative from District 27, Solomon Ortiz, in the pivotal 2010 midterms, after which the district was significantly redrawn to have much fewer Latino voters.  He easily won re-election in 2012.  Yet, we are to believe that the House Republicans' stance against immigration is not racially motivated.

It is because of all this gerrymandering that took place after 2010 that the House of Representatives appears to be rock solid Republican and a constant irritant to the White House.  Many of the new Representatives are Teabaggers, and have taken a hard line on every contentious issue from immigration to gay marriage, resulting in what Steve Israel feels is a Republican base "animated by racism."

New York Rep. Israel may be part of an older generation who is more sensitive to race, but Blake belongs to the same generation.  It seems that Blake learned nothing from the Civil Rights movement, as is the case with many of his Republican colleagues in the House.  They seem to be "Goldwaterites" (to use Jackie Robinson's term) who view civil rights legislation as an imposition and that everything was just fine before 1964.

If this is a post-racial society then we haven't moved very far forward.  We seem to be fighting many of the same battles.  Our communities are still racially subdivided for the most part, and as a result so are schools.  Kids grow up largely in racially defined communities with many of the same prejudices, fears and hatreds as did previous generations.  What they learn is largely through the Internet and what ever books their school districts deem appropriate.  The only difference is that the barriers are less visible than they were in the 60s.

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