Monday, August 02, 2010

Bob "the Daily Howler" Somerby, around the bend on race issues

Bob Somerby has gone around the bend when it comes to dealing with issues of white racism as their emerge in current politics. His 07/30/2010 Daily Howler post spits rage at Shirley Sherrod and various other liberals (Digby, Howard Dean, Ed Schultz, Joan Walsh) for suggesting that that nice white man Andrew Breitbart might be a racist. I mean, all we have to go on his the man's own words and actions, how can we possibly draw conclusions from such flimsy evidence?

Apparently, in HowlerLand, no white person can be considered a racist unless he or she stands up in public and declares, "Ah'm a racist and ah'm proud uv it and ah hate n*****s!"

For instance, in this video that appeared on the website of a hazily-defined group of Sarah Palin admirers called "Team Sarah", by Somerby's standards it would be entirely illegitimate to assume that this fellow is a nasty old white guy who hates black people.

After all, this fine white man is nice enough to call Barack Obama an "angry Negro", not an "angry n****r", so it would be so awfully unfair to call him a white racist. And just because he sounds exactly like every overt segregationist in the pre-1965 Deep South when he says that it's the "white people" who are standing up for themselves after 50 years of having things stuffed down their throats - presumably by someone other than "white people" - Lordy, we can't call the guy a racist.

After all, he didn't say he thinks other races are inferior to whites. He's just proud of being an angry white Amurcan standing up for the white folks who have been oppressed by some unnamed group of presumably other non-white people, people who live like "rats."

Just to be clear, so far as I'm aware, Somerby himself has not made any statements about this noxious little video. But I'm using it to make two points. One is that Somerby's approach to talking about white racism in contemporary politics and journalism has gotten downright silly. Somerby has gotten so kooky on attacking liberals for mentioning white racism out loud that he attacks Howard Dean for saying someone is not racist - because that implies that Dean can make a reasonable judgment about who is racist.

The other is that overt white racism of the kind displayed in that video is becoming increasingly common in American politics. Arizona's Republican Sen. John Kyl just joined Sen. Lindsey Graham, supposedly a "moderate" Republican by the standards of High Broderism, in calling for the repeal of the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment (Jimmy So, Kyl: Illegal Aliens' Kids Shouldn't Be Citizens CBS News 08/01/2010). The 14th Amendment not only guaranteed citizenship to freed slaves and all others born in the United States; it also extends the protections of the Bill of Rights to actions by the states, not just actions by the federal government. Discrediting and repealing the 14th Amendment was a cause of the oldtime, overt segregationists. Repealing even birthright citizenship could up-end the whole structure of civil rights jurisprudence in favor of racial and ethnic discrimination. People who actually care about that stuff can't pretend that it's all just benign speculation about the Constitution when leading Republican embrace an idea of that kind.

I'm beyond being willing to cut Somerby any slack on his weird defenses of white racism, made in the form of blasting liberals who do object to it as bigots, haters, condescending elitists and superficial partisans. If he has any standard at all by which he would judge any statement or action or combination of them as evidencing white racism, he seems to be working with such a narrow definition that anything this side of a screaming lynch mob wouldn't fit into his understanding of what white racism might be.


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