Worth cogitatin' on...
[Chris Good, Atlantic Politics Channel:]
Democracy Corps, in its 18-page report on "The Very Separate World Of Conservative Republicans," based on focus groups with conservative Americans and released today, outlines many beliefs and psychological facets central to the conservative Republican mind--and racism isn't one of them.
The study breaks down the contemporary conservative anti-Obama drive into several pillars--Obama's alleged deception and hidden agenda, the fast pace with which he's pushing that agenda, his desire to drive government to the brink of failure and exert governmental control over everything, and his alleged ultimate goal of socialism and an end to liberties. But, when given the opportunity to discuss race, even the older, white, non-college-educated Americans (who, the firm says, "score highest on scales measuring racial prejudice") didn't raise it as an issue. Rather, they brought up the media's consumption with race as a motivator of anti-Obama sentiment, and the notion that they can't criticize Obama on his merits because they'll be labeled racist.
In other words, if you ask them if they're racist, they say no. "This does not mean, conclusively, that racism is absent from anti-Obama politics. Asserting that's the case means taking up a patently false assumption about racism: that it's always overt. Democracy Corps' report seems to walk that line, even if it doesn't cross it," Good writes. "Racism is about complex systems of recognition, categorization, and association. If you ask someone what they think about Obama, and they don't say, 'I dislike him because he's black,' it's not quite safe to check the 'not racist' box and move on. Quiet conclusions are often made--and they can be just as racist as the ones spoken aloud."
I haven't been one of those who've argued "it's all about race." While simple logic requires that all the white racists be anti-Obama, it's intellectually lazy to say that this means that all the anti-Obama nuttiness is because of racism. Still, it's just as wrong to rule out racism entirely or to paste a "not racist" label on the group with the most racists.
I think another argument can be made for racists who don't believe they're racist. The case of Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell, who refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple, demonstrates this pretty well. I have yet to read a statement from Bardwell defending himself that isn't blatantly racist, yet he continues to assert he isn't racist -- even as he continues to make bigoted arguments. Case in point:
"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," says Keith Bardwell of in Tangipahoa Parish. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
The fact that he's defining racism incorrectly and doesn't identify himself as racist doesn't mean he's not a racist -- clearly, he is. Just because he doesn't like that label doesn't mean it doesn't apply to him. Likewise, there are probably a lot of anti-Obama people who are racist, but don't see themselves that way.