Friday, October 16, 2009

Because What America Really Needs Is Yet Another Teachable Moment About Race!

I was pretty busy yesterday so I just caught a snippet of the uproar over how Rush Limbaugh was denied his constitutional right to be a part owner of an NFL team. I think the only thing preventing this from being a bigger story was the Balloon Boy thing and for that, at least, the Heene family has my thanks.

In fact, it was in trying to escape Balloon Boy coverage that I channel-surfed my way to MSNBC, only to see Al Sharpton and Pat Buchanan arguing about it.

Oh, geez.

Well, that kind of tells us all we need to know about how Hardball’s producers saw this story: another chance to go 10 rounds on the race debate! Pass the popcorn or maybe we should all reach for our politically correct beers? It’s another “teachable moment,” America! Cripes.

Seriously, MSNBC: just how productive can another Sharpton v. Buchanan debate on race really be?

I just caught Sharpton saying
The people that thought he was an asset began to think he was a liability. He’s trying now to make this like this is some wounding of American conservatism, he was rejected by his own partners, ultimately.

at which point the conversation was handed to Pat Buchanan who sputtered something about how it was “shabby,” “vindictive,” “petty,” and “disgusting.” With Pat Buchanan fast running out of adjectives, I switched back to Balloon Boy.

Basically I was able to glean that conservatives think this was all liberals’ fault (Red State’s take was pure comedy gold.) Aside from rolling my eyes and thinking “we get blamed for everything!, what is there really to say to an allegation like that? What did we do? Did we create an environment where Limbaugh’s racist rants are deemed inappropriate? If we did, good for us. But I never thought that was a liberal thing; I thought that was a decent people thing.

My mistake.

Despite all of the “teachable moments” our news media gives us, I’m going to agree with Adam Serwer, who pointed out yesterday that a big chunk of the right seems awfully confused about what racism is.

Writes Serwer :

On the one hand, there's the general anxiety on the right that comes from the recognition that one can't actually treat black people this way and expect there not to be social consequences. On the other, there's actual bewilderment about the very concept of racism -- conservatives understand in the abstract that racism is bad, but they seem incapable of identifying actual racist behavior. Instead, because (a) racism is bad and (b) liberals are bad (c) racism is a quality possessed by liberals. By definition, conservatives cannot be racist, because they are good, unlike liberals, and therefore nothing Rush Limbaugh says is racist. Moreover, while liberals have sometimes intimated racial motivation for conservative criticism where there isn't any, conservatives have refused to recognize when attacks on the president become attacks on black people. Calling the president "an angry black guy" is one of those times.

I do think that’s it in a nutshell. The noisy fringe of the conservative base, which tends to view everything two-dimensionally, does seem unable to identify actual racism. Take Rush’s younger brother David Limbaugh, a conservative writer and columnist for as well as the ultra-right wing website Newsmax. He called Maureen Dowd and Jimmy Carter racists because, as he wrote back in September:

I ask you: Who is more likely racist, the person who sees race every time she turns around or the person who aspires toward colorblindness?

Whaa...? So you’re saying you’re not racist, you’re just stupid?

You know, the opposite of racism is not being colorblind, especially in this day and age when “colorblind” is a nonexistent, unattainable ideal. So while you may strive all you like, you won’t get there by using “colorblind” to excuse your own racism.

In fact, what David Limbaugh and his ilk display is what's called "colorblind racism”. And no, I'm not making this up. Stephen Colbert parodied it beautifully with the bit about how he thought he might have a black friend but couldn’t be sure because he doesn’t see race. However, if anyone called him racist he’d be sure to show them a picture of himself with his black friend.

Hilarious. Those who write about colorblind racism say the “colorblind” argument has been used as a cover for a more nefarious kind of racism, the kind that says one group of people is allowed to continue to oppress another group because they have decided racism is a “thing of the past.”

This is not about race so much as power; the group that has traditionally held it is unwilling to give it up, and they don’t care what race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. that you may be. Progress! Sure, your kids can attend the same school as theirs, but let’s make sure everyone knows their roles, okay? You stay in your social and economic place with the limited opportunities parsed out to you and leave the rest of the pie for the folks who have traditionally gobbled it up.

For some reason we never seem to get to the “power” part of the race conversation. A big reason is because having Al Sharpton and Pat Buchanan offer “two sides” of the Limbaugh issue doesn’t educate anyone about anything except that our news media is dominated by a bunch of buffoons.

So, back to Rush Limbaugh. Like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and the rest of the right-wing gabbers, he’s spent his entire career chasing headlines by being controversial. The price for that is when you step outside your little bubble you run across business partners who don’t view controversy as a selling point. It might sell books, but controversy doesn’t sell football.

Rush just got smacked by the free hand of the market. His business partners didn’t want problems with sponsors, issues with the players and all the baggage that comes with having a controversial figure as a partner.

Sorry, dude. Don’t blame liberals, though. Maybe what Rush Limbaugh needs from this "teachable moment" is a little personal responsibility.