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Straight Talk on Race

by Bill McGaughey


Race must be a wedge issue in American politics since Al Gore got 90% of the African American votes in the 2000 election and white voters went for Bush. What is it that the Democrats offer African Americans or that Republicans offer whites? One would be hard-pressed to find much of substance.

After legal segregation was abolished in the South, government action became less relevant to race relations since racism is a matter of the heart. That did not stop white politicians from proposing to help black people in various ways. Affirmative action in education and hiring, antidiscrimination laws, preferences for minority businesses, and super penalties for "hate crimes" were legal remedies proposed to overcome continuing racism in white society.

The problem is that preferential treatment on the basis of race violates the principle of equal treatment under the law. There is a limit to how far government can go in this direction before the courts invalidate such laws. That means that the politics of race must move away from substance and focus on politically correct speech. And so you have the Democrats (except for Howard Dean) groveling before "representatives of the black community". Republicans win votes from whites by refusing to go to that extreme while showing racial "moderation" lest they offend the white suburban "soccer moms". No one want to talk honestly about race since that might disturb their respective rackets.

I am a Democratic candidate for President who dares raise the subject of race. I am a white man who opposes affirmative action. This past summer, on August 16th, I hosted an open discussion of race on the grounds of the Iowa state capitol in Des Moines. While all the other Democratic candidates for President were invited to participate, none chose to attend this racially mixed event. The discussion was balanced and fair.

As a Presidential candidate, I frankly admit that racial politics serves me badly as a white male; I object to it on those grounds. I would also go to the black community and ask whether this kind of politics has served its interests well. Has government increased job opportunities for blacks? What about the burgeoning prison population? What about education and health care? Have four decades of obsequious gestures from Democratic politicians improved the general condition of black people in America? Have those nice-looking men in suits done much for you?

The fact is that our economic and political leaders exploit people on an equal-opportunity basis. The leaders of our large corporations ship production jobs to low-wage countries to boost profits and then use the improved profit reports to boost their own compensation. Attorneys plunder productive enterprise wherever legal weaknesses can be found. Politicians tax and spend to suit lobbyists' wishes. People everywhere should be rising up against bad government, but instead they are so busy fight each other over race that they fail to notice their common abuser.

Racial politics is today's premier social-control mechanism. There is no doubt that the legacy and values of the Civil Rights movement have become like a civic religion, sternly enforced in corporate America. The white males who control the big corporations are not just giving way to political pressure; they want affirmative-action policies. These white men have no sense of kinship or loyalty to persons of their own gender and race. As their outsourcing policies show, they have no loyalty to U.S. workers in general. Most workers are still white males. If you can demonize these people, then you can abuse them with impunity, you can cut their pay; for it's easy to kick a racial bigot.

An explanation that I have seen for the racially "self-hating" streak in white society has to do with "competitive altruism". According to this theory, social elites have always been focused on exhibiting "altruistic" behavior. In the 19th Century, their "good deeds" consisted of endowing churches and sending missionaries to convert the heathen in Africa. In the second half of the 20th century, the altruistic elites of America have been conspicuously fighting white racism and helping disadvantaged blacks. Having racially "tolerant" attitudes and doing related good works is one of the essential requirements of belonging to today's meritocratic ruling class. You do not become upwardly mobile in America by joining the Ku Klux Klan or expressing racial opinions thought characteristic of poor Southern whites. That is beyond the pale of what socially enlightened suburbanites will tolerate.

I, however, am a white-male graduate of Yale who will shout from the roof tops that this kind of politics is wrong. Call me a racist. Call me low class. I am interested in getting better leadership for this country. I'm therefore running for President on a platform which calls for ending the politics of gender and race and supporting the dignity of all persons. Yes, if there are vestiges of institutional segregation or discrimination directed against blacks, then by all means let's discuss what needs to be done. If not, I refuse to engage in further racial browbeating of my white brethren, albeit in a low class. To them, I say: Be losers no more. Rise up against this shame-based politics. It holds nothing for you.

To my African American friends, I say: We may have more in common than our different skin colors would suggest. We really should be talking about what we can do politically to bring more and better jobs. Would you support reduced work time, single-payer health care, and an end to "free trade" ? These are at the heart of my policy, white man though I be. Can we not together try to build a better world?

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