Offensive Remark of the Week: White People Just Don’t Get Enough Credit for Stopping the Whole Lynching Thing Edition

by Cara on March 23, 2008

in 2008 election, assholes, Barack Obama, bigotry, discrimination, media, offensive remark of the week, politics, race and racism, Republicans, social conservatives

Clearly, it should go without saying that Pat Buchanan is a fucking nut. Really, I try to ignore these types more than anything. I just don’t have the time to follow the disgraceful career of every racist, misogynist, homophobic, nationalist, religious fanatic puppet of the Republican party.

But this time . . . oh, this time. Buchanan has written a column as a response to Barack Obama’s recent speech on racism in America (all emphasis in quoted text is mine). And as far as I can tell, Buchanan’s feelings are really hurt because Obama didn’t take the time to personally thank him for the fact that slavery ended and rich white dudes like himself only continue to demand slightly more subtle forms of oppression. It’s a good point; for everything else he’s said, I don’t remember Buchanan ever remarking (in public) “that slavery thing was a pretty sweet ride — why don’t we bring that back?” Why the hell aren’t all those uppity black folks sending him thank you cards?

Really, read the whole thing; it’s a fucking doozy.

The “white community,” said Barack, must start “acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds … .”

And what deeds must we perform to heal ourselves and our country?

The “white community” must invest more money in black schools and communities, enforce civil rights laws, ensure fairness in the criminal justice system and provide this generation of blacks with “ladders of opportunity” that were “unavailable” to Barack’s and the Rev. Wright’s generations.

What is wrong with Barack’s prognosis and Barack’s cure?

Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, “everybody but the rioters themselves.”

Was “white racism” really responsible for those black men looting auto dealerships and liquor stories, and burning down their own communities, as Otto Kerner said — that liberal icon until the feds put him away for bribery.

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

Aww. Buchanan feels he isn’t being listened to and has to remind the entire world that he presumably has a white penis. I’d feel so terribly bad for him if a single word of it was true. But please, wait, because that’s the intro. It gets about ten times worse.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.

Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

Ignoring, for a moment, all of the shit about how social programs have done such good for black people (in some cases they have; regardless, I’m under the impression that white people are eligible for food stamps, student loans, public housing and every other program he lists, and that Republicans are adamantly and openly opposed to all of them) and the idea that black people are totally equal now, so all this stuff about “racism” is a big sham.

Really, what it comes down to is this: Buchanan is not satisfied and will not be satisfied until Barack Obama and every other black man in American society, successful or otherwise, gets down on his knees and says “Yessir, thank you Massa for not publicly beating and castrating me. Thank you Massa for enslaving members of my race and saving them from their savage heathen ways and bringing them to the civilized Christian world where we can worship your white god and serve nice white folk like yourself. Yessir, I will be going to the back of the bus now, where I will do my best to act as though I don’t exist and deserve the same rights as you and your pretty white family.”

Of course, Obama and all of his fellow black men do deserve to be publicly beaten and castrated. As Buchanan goes on to explain in the rest of his column, black men are rapists and violent thieves who are in jail because they’re just, well, worse than white people, and not because we do our best to put black men in prison for breathing (black women don’t get any specific mention in this column). Also, Jena was apparently a hoax (maybe Buchanan just thinks that hanging nooses actually is funny, and therefore the word “hoax” is an accurate descriptor?) and we don’t hear nearly enough in our liberal black-run media about how evil black people really are. Which is why we should thank good men like Buchanan for being unafraid to speak about the truth of white supremacy and how the uppity black folks are all just too ungrateful to thank us for pretending as though they are human for all of these years.

The fun thing about the backlash against the Obama speech is that all of the powerful white guys are freaking out about what I considered to be a big compromise and disappointment. Allow me to clarify: I thought that the speech was brilliant. It was beautifully written and politically genius. But large portions of it just made me cringe. The defending of Geraldine Ferraro. The suggestion that calling something racist is necessarily nothing more than dismissal. The strong implication that the pointless, ignorant resentment that so many white people feel towards black people is somehow understandable and justifiable. The “personal responsibility” bullshit that sounds all well and good on paper but has an obvious and well-known, definitely racist history in politics.

Seeing his background and knowing with certainty that Obama is an extremely intelligent man, I find it very hard to believe that he actually does feel all of this to be true. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part, and in any case, the whole thing has bothered me. On the other hand, remarks like those of Buchanan, along with so many other right-wing voices, bring me back down to earth and force me to acknowledge what I kind of knew all along: it was the only speech he could have given. And that in terms of maintaining a viable political career, the limited truth that Obama did speak was actually fairly brave.

Of course, it could have been braver. And I want a president who is honest and stands by his or her beliefs with integrity. I also want a president, not a martyr.

The fact of the matter is that I read Buchanan’s words and think that he’s absolutely nuts, and either the world’s most shameless liar or tragically delusional (my best guess is a combination effect). I wonder how even the soulless slime at WND could print something this jaw-droppingly racist. I honestly and literally read the thing with my mouth hanging open in horror. I wish that people like Buchanan didn’t exist, and might be a bit happier pretending that they didn’t (of course, that would be a self-serving exercise of white privilege). But if there is any silver-lining at all to this hateful drivel, it’s that it serves as an important reminder of what we’re dealing with in this country. In fact, as Buchanan managed to not use a single racial slur or spit something about how black people should get jobs or go back to Africa, (I’ve heard both, and not on television) it gets a hell of a lot worse.

It’s a reminder that I needed, and it’s begrudgingly and sadly but still with certainty that I admit Obama did the right thing. Because the Buchanans in this country may not be able to win elections, but they are far from being obsolete.

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{ 31 comments }

1 Ran March 23, 2008 at 6:10 pm

It’s really weird; Buchanan really seems just completely unaware that not all black people are many copies of one person. Yes, most American blacks are better off than African blacks, just as most American whites are better off than (say) most Eastern European whites, but inequities inside our society aren’t justified by inequities outside it. Yes, some blacks have committed serious crimes; no, the majority of blacks don’t therefore owe anyone any gratitude for not instituting collective punishment (or, if we want to be honest about it: for being subtle about the collective punishment).

2 Ran March 23, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Sorry, typo: that should read “[…] are better off than most African blacks, […]“

3 Jen March 23, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Buchanan makes me incredibly ashamed of my whiteness. I’m appalled that a politician can say such garbage today and not be ridiculed, let alone agreed with.

4 amy March 23, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Pat Buchanan makes the common mistake to assume that “giving” anyone Christianity is a gift. I’m pretty sure that the people of Africa had a well functioning religious system before we brought them out of their “barbaric” chaos.

5 Cara March 23, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Amy, I found that particular remark to be one of the most blatantly laughable ones. Of course, it’s one that many people seem to believe as though we’re still living in colonial times where many white people seemed to genuinely think that forcible conversion to Christianity was actually the right thing to do. It scares me to think of how many people are still living in that disturbing fantasy world.

6 Ran March 23, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Nonsense. You and I may not believe that the Reverend Wright is better off for being Christian, but certainly he believes he is (since Christianity, IIRC, teaches that the only way to Heaven is through faith in Jesus). Since he’s responding to the Reverend’s comments, it makes sense to take that belief for granted.

(The comment’s crazy anyway, because it assumes that the descendants of the Christianity-receivers owe gratitude to the descendants of the Christianity-receivers. Buchanan apparently really thinks of American blacks as Africans who have the good fortune to be in America, rather than as Americans who have the misfortune to be the targets of widespread and systemic racism.)

7 Cara March 23, 2008 at 10:56 pm

Actually, the column is not a direct response to the Reverend’s comments. It’s actually a response to Obama’s. But the paragraph in question seems to be neither; in fact, in the sentence preceding his claim that forcing religion on a group of people was a good thing, he referred to “black folks” in general being very lucky to live in America, the introduction to Christianity being one of the supposed benefits. Also, from what I know about Wright and Obama, I think and certainly hope that while they clearly believes in their faith very strongly, they would not support invading countries for the supposed or actual purpose of forcible conversion.

But I do agree with your second assertion.

8 Al March 23, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Great article Cara.

Isn’t it interesting that in Mr. Buchanans erudite analysis of the reasons black men are in prison for rape in disproportionate number, he neglects to add that he and his ilk, over the entire history of the US, have done an excellent job of positioning black male sexuality at odds with white, female virtue. So much so, that we have an almost cultural urban legend at play anytime a black man is even suggested of having sexual involvement with a white woman.

9 les March 24, 2008 at 10:24 am

Cara,
I thought Obama gave a great speech. I appreciated the fact that he acknowledged “white resentment”. I am white, and from my experience, I thought he was right on the money with his description.

I don’t deny that racism exists. I certainly don’t feel superior to any black person, but I have to admit that I am not without my own prejudices. I have always tried to keep an open mind and recognize racist thoughts when they arise.

I have read about “white privilege” and while I can understand it and even apply it, I do have problems with it. Yes, I don’t have to think about my skin color when I apply for a job. But many whites don’t see that as a privilege. (Remember that perception is reality). My family doesn’t feel privileged in any way. But I guess from a black person’s point of view, we are. But having the privilege of white color doesn’t mean that my life is free of unfairness. Hard work doesn’t always pay off, and I can’t count on getting anything I want just because I am white. I am not suggesting that my woes are comparable to those who experience racism. I am only asking for understanding.

Cara, I like reading your column and appreciate your thoughts, even if I don’t entirely agree. I am no fan of Buchanan’s so I am not here to defend him. But any discourse on the topic of racism must include both black perceptions and white perceptions.

10 Cara March 24, 2008 at 11:01 am

But many whites don’t see that as a privilege. (Remember that perception is reality).

The privilege is precisely the ability to not see it as a privilege. And perception is not reality. People’s personal perceptions are important to address and understand, but that doesn’t make them true. Many people don’t perceive forcing a woman to have sex when she has agreed to sex before as rape. And yet, rape it is.

But having the privilege of white color doesn’t mean that my life is free of unfairness. Hard work doesn’t always pay off, and I can’t count on getting anything I want just because I am white.

I don’t recall anyone, here or elsewhere, ever arguing otherwise.

“Privilege” does not mean having a perfect life and the entire world at your fingertips. It means having an automatic leg up. Which as a white person, you do, and so do I. I also have a leg up for being straight, for being a cis woman, for having been able to afford a college education, and for being able-bodied. I am discriminated against based on my gender. The disadvantage does not cancel out the privilege, nor does the privilege cancel out the disadvantage. They work in complex, different and sometimes separate ways. If I was male, my life would also likely not be perfect. But I would receive a net increase in my amount of privilege.

11 les March 24, 2008 at 11:36 am

Cara,
Thanks for your response. Yes, I know that perception is not reality, but when perceptions get more discussion than reality, well, the reality gets lost.

I never felt that your blog suggested that white privilege meant a perfect life. But I have read descriptions of white privilege elsewhere that have a condescending tone. Something like “white privilege exists, if you don’t agree you’re an idiot” does nothing to promote understanding of the subject.

12 Kate March 24, 2008 at 2:44 pm

When I read Buchanan’s statement in the Washington Post the other day, one thing that really jumped out at me was his mention of the slave ships. I kind of got the impression that he was either trying to paint it like the slave ships were a good thing, or that some other people brought them over and it was the glorious white people already in America that cultivated their population.

13 Cara March 24, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Maybe Buchanan thinks that “slave ships” are really just a cool, fun kind of “theme” cruise.

14 sara March 24, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Its true that there are far too many whites who have ridiculous views on racial realities in the USA, but its also true that there are far too many blacks which equally warped views.

Far too many whites believe that racial discrimination in America has ended and that blacks are truly equal in society.

Far too many blacks see racism as the reason for every single bad outcome in black america. Too many blacks think like Jeremiah Wright, that white america conspired to create HIV/AIDS in a govt lab and infect the black community.

My point is that both perceptions of race in America are absolutely ludicrous, and whites are not the sole harborers of foolish ideas related to race.

15 Al March 25, 2008 at 5:07 am

Hi Sara,

Perhaps you are right that in the final analysis, some of the views of certain elements of the black community may be considered extreme, or perhaps not grounded in how you and I view our perception of reality, but I have to say that comparing views on the origin of HIV to the failure of white people to understand the dynamics of race in America, and the concept of an unequal playing field, is not at all a fair comparison.

For one thing, the failure of the majority white culture to grasp key principles of racial dynamics, has a direct and measurable effect on those who are not white. Black people “constantly seeing racism”, or being overly paranoid (in your opinion) on theories of viral etiology, does not have a measurable effect on white people, unless of course the white person was being racist, or can in fact be implicated in the concern around origins of a virus.

Lastly, while I personally don’t subscribe to the idea that HIV was a government conspiracy, consider that less than fifty years ago this country purposely, and without their knowledge, infected black men with syphilis to study theories of transmission and contagion. Given that and other unethical medically based scenarios that are a part of our recent history, I am hard pressed to find alternative considerations of infectious disease in the back community, as hyperbole or simply an excessive reaction.

16 Ran March 25, 2008 at 9:29 pm

@Al:

> […] less than fifty years ago this country purposely, and without their knowledge, infected black men with syphilis to study theories of transmission and contagion.

I’ve never heard of that, though it sounds like some misunderstandings I’ve encountered regarding the Tuskegee study. If you’re not just misremembering what happened at Tuskegee, I don’t suppose you have a link to more information about the study in question?

17 Cara March 25, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Two seconds of searching turned up information that the study you’re referencing was hugely racist an unethical. I suppose that we could quibble that “knowing of a medical condition and failing to treat it for the purposes of studying how it would kill the person who was infected” and “infecting the person” aren’t exactly the same thing, but they’re pretty fucking close. They allowed a known infection to continue and didn’t inform the patients in question. With treatment, there was a damn good shot of the infection going away. If they didn’t cause purposeful original infection, they did cause purposeful continued infection.

18 Al March 25, 2008 at 11:49 pm

“Misremembering”?

I have a masters degree in community health, and wrote my thesis on the measurable effects that systemic oppression on the basis of race, gender, class, and orientation have on the chronic health of people in disenfranchised populations.

Anyone who is even remotely aware of the Tuskegee “study”, is fully aware that part of the public health approach during that time towards STD management and treatment, was largely based on a preventive model, utilizing health education and various forms of prophylaxis. Both of which were routinely denied to participants in the study.Therefore, yes, infection was *caused* by a purposeful withholding of tools and information. Action and intent.

It would seem to me that if you are as familiar with the study as you infer, you wouldn’t require someone else to provide your resource material.

19 Cara March 26, 2008 at 7:43 am

Anyone who is even remotely aware of the Tuskegee “study”, is fully aware that part of the public health approach during that time towards STD management and treatment, was largely based on a preventive model, utilizing health education and various forms of prophylaxis. Both of which were routinely denied to participants in the study.Therefore, yes, infection was *caused* by a purposeful withholding of tools and information. Action and intent.

Aha! There’s a leap I failed to make right before bed last night. An absolutely excellent point.

20 Ran March 26, 2008 at 8:38 pm

I wasn’t quibbling, I was asking a question: specifically, I was wondering if you were accurately describing a study I didn’t know about.

And I’m sorry for writing “misremembering,” but at the time it seemed more polite than “lying your ass off about.” I won’t make the same mistake next time.

21 Ran March 26, 2008 at 9:22 pm

And Cara, for the record, I actually read the Wikipedia article before commenting here, and I agree that the study was racist and unethical — I’d go a lot further than that, actually — especially when they didn’t even terminate it after syphilis became curable, for G-d’s sake. But obviously Al disagrees, because he feels the need to completely distort the truth — lie about what they did and about why they did it — in order to make his point. Their actual actions and actual reasons were indefensible; so why make stuff up?

(Incidentally, Al, do you have any links to support your current claim that the scientists withheld prophylaxis? The Wikipedia article doesn’t say that, and you kind of threw away your credibility on this topic when you got into a three-paragraph huff at the suggestion that someone with a Master’s degree might occasionally misremember something.)

22 Cara March 26, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Ran, I don’t see how Al has exaggerated or lied about anything. And if the men didn’t know about their condition, they obviously were not informed enough to take the precautions to prevent spreading the disease. It doesn’t seem to me that it’s even remotely logical to assume that in while withholding a medical condition and refusing to treat it, they provided the men with information about how to prevent spreading the disease they didn’t know about! The Wiki article does say that 40 of the men’s wives were infected, so I’d say that’s a pretty good hint as well.

23 Al March 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm

Ran,

Well, at least you are transparent.

Though I’m curious as to why you would assume I am lying about a study that has been widely documented in various publications as being deliberately deceptive to black men in both the scope of their involvement in a potentially (and likely) harm inducing experiment, and failing to provide informed consent regarding reasonable risks and subsequent precautions. This is not in any way complicated.

Are you actually suggesting that what I describe did not occur? Because so far, you have come up just short of actually doing that.

24 Al March 26, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Sorry, posted too fast.

Ran, what is “my point” you seem to think I am trying to make? Trust me, nothing is hidden here, and what I have stated please, take it literally.

As to this:

“when you got into a three-paragraph huff at the suggestion that someone with a Master’s degree might occasionally misremember something”

No, not a huff, simply stating that this is a topic I am both personally interested in (furthering anti racist ideas) and professionally familiar with (thus mentioning the masters). Specifically, because the issue we are discussing was used to extensively frame the introduction to my thesis.

As to providing links, are you kidding me? The seminal points around this topic are the intentionally deceptive ethical guidelines in a study that is known above all else for – you guessed it – its intentionally deceptive ethical guidelines!

25 Ran March 26, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Al,

Your last comment seems quite reasonable. As far as I can tell, certain statements in your first few comments are factually wrong in objective and IMHO important ways; but obviously Cara doesn’t see it that way. And since in your last comment you don’t come off as the crazy asshole that I thought you were after your first few comments (sorry), I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt here, that either I’m misunderstanding what you wrote, or that your errors were unintentional, or that you simply take as common knowledge various key facts about the experiments that for some reason aren’t mentioned on Wikipedia or elsewhere on the Web that I’ve looked, or perhaps that there’s some other reasonable explanation for the seeming errors.

26 Red Seven March 28, 2008 at 7:18 am

Ran, when you’re arguing against someone with real credentials and the only thing you’re using to hold up your side of the conversation is a freakin’ Wikipedia article, you might want to reconsider who’s the crazy asshole in the debate.

I’m starting to wonder what your larger “point” is in insisting that those who ran the Tuskegee experiement weren’t purposefully infecting black men with syphillis and withholding treatment. Has it crossed your mind that there are those with racist motivations to cover up certain truths? Are you suggesting that the American oppression of black people really isn’t all that bad? Is the final destination of your logic that Jeremiah Wright (and, by extension, Barack Obama) are just crazy, foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics with no real justification for their anger? Are you perhaps suggesting that Pat Buchanan has a valid point that we should consider?

27 juju March 28, 2008 at 11:29 am

Ran,

Wikipedia is NOT an authoritative source. If you are not able to find useful materials on the web, take advantage of the resources available to you at the research branch of the public library in your local area. Run a search on the applicable journal databases, or ask a librarian to assist you. The librarian can also run a web search for you. You can also call/email a question to a medical librarian in your area. Here’s the link to the Internet Public Library’s “Ask a question” page: anhttp://www.ipl.org/div/askus/

28 Ran March 31, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Red Seven: I appreciate that you phrase your potential straw men in the form of questions, instead of simply assuming them as many might. The reason for my insistence is simply that I care deeply about factual accuracy — more than is always reasonable, TBH, and I do try to be accommodating (everyone makes mistakes, myself included) — but in this case I actually don’t think I’m being terribly unreasonable. I really think there’s a significant difference between an insano-racist doctor who lets a curable disease take its natural fatal course in a patient who already has it, and an insano-racist doctor who actually infects someone with the disease. (But obviously either one should be in prison or a mental hospital or something.) Also, when it looked like Al was waving his credentials as a flag and a substitute for facts, it was hard to be sure that he had actually had said credentials. The Web has no shortage of people who claim credentials they don’t have.

Juju: Well, I was able to find useful materials on the Web, just not any that corroborated Al’s claims. Thanks for the link, though: it looks really useful. :-)

(And of course you’re right that Wikipedia isn’t an authoritative source; that’s why I asked Al for a link that did support his claims.)

29 Gina May 1, 2008 at 12:20 pm

As an African-American woman, I was shocked but not surprised. Thank you Cara, for this post. With regards to the comments about the experiments – I suggest you read a book called Medical Apartheid. The author researched how both slaves & freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments that were conducted without their knowledge. I dont think people will ever understand the level of damage that has been done to the African-American community. I really appreciate reading the comments of those who try to walk in our shoes.

30 steve June 7, 2008 at 12:18 am

LOVE the “fucking nut” comment … But this scumbag showed his own personal stripes years ago. For many years (beginning in the 1980s), Buchanan (and his just lovely sister, the only person he can get to be his PR flack) thought that the single most important thing he could talk about, write about, speak about — Was whether some machinist from Milwaukee named John Demjanjuk was or was not a Nazi war criminal called “Ivan the Terrible”. The US government said “Yes!” but old Pat thought otherwise. And for some reason decided that Demjanjuk’s cause was HIS cause, too! Anyone interested in the case should check the Wikipedia story about ‘John Demjanjuk’. It is not very pretty. Anyway, Buchanan is just nauseating … But I do have to give him props for being interviewed by Sascha Baron Cohen for his ‘BBC show’ and going along with it even after he quickly figured out it was a scam. But just imagine the odor when Pat Buchanan and Larry King get in line next to each other at the latest White House BBQ buffet …

31 literarycritic June 9, 2008 at 10:21 am

I really think there’s a significant difference between an insano-racist doctor who lets a curable disease take its natural fatal course in a patient who already has it, and an insano-racist doctor who actually infects someone with the disease.

Ran, do you not see that the effect is actually the same? Failing to provide information and treatment for a sexually transmitted disease necessarily means that it will be passed on to others. These doctors clearly understood that the infection would be passed on to the sexual partners of the totally unaware “study participants,” and they sat back and let that happen, knowing it would happen. If that’s not “actually infecting people” with syphilis, I don’t know what is.

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