In Which I Confess An Inability To Decipher Racial Code

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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301 Responses

  1. sonmi451 says:

    Hmm, maybe I’m misunderstanding things, but I thought the major problem people had was with his earlier quote, before the debate:

    So I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.

    So Newt in fact did bring up the association between African-Americans and food stamp, Juan Williams didn’t create that association out of thin air because he wanted to play gotcha! with Newt. 


    • sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451 says:

      I would say thought that in general, it’s pointless to play the is-he-racist-or-is-he-not-racist game. Some people are always so eager point out that we’ll never know what’s inside Newt’s heart or Paul’s heart etc etc. I’ll just stick to this – I don’t give a flying fig whether Newt Gingrich is personally racist or whether he loves black people with all his heart; he’s pandering to racist sentiments and I find that contemptible.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to sonmi451 says:

        So he’s maybe not a racist, but he does say racist things?

        Distinction without a difference.Report

        • sonmi451 in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Will you admit though that you’re wrong about this?

          There’s the association of black people with food stamps. But again, Williams did that.

          Since Newt in fact DID make that association, before the debate. Context matters, don’t you think? Not just transcripts of what is said during the debate itself.Report

          • sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451 says:

            Bleghh, I’ll stop commenting, since I think this is one of those posts I’m not going to be able to stay civil as per the requirement of this blog.Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to sonmi451 says:

              So far, so good. I don’t mind being challenged as “wrong,” especially if it’s something about which I was simply unaware.

              I would have minded being challenged as “racist” because I tried to bend over backwards in the OP to offer a posture of good faith and inquiry on an issue which I know in advance will be sensitive. But you’ve not done that [called me a racist, that is].Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to sonmi451 says:

            Yeah, I see that; it is helpful to get the direct quote that Williams was referencing in his opening statement. I thank you for that. And apparently unlike Gingrich, I can see how “Hey, all you black people are on food stamps, you should get jobs instead!” would tend to make said black people upset.

            It’s odd, though, that so little of the last two days’ worth of outrage about what Gingrich said in the debate included that context — I missed the original remarks, so that may account for a big hunk of my own confusion.Report

            • sonmi451 in reply to Burt Likko says:

              Frankly I thought Williams should have just read the quote instead of paraphrasing it. Better to use someone’s own words to indict them. Paraphrasing invites suspicions and uncertainties – “Did he really say that? Maybe Williams is just putting what he said in the worst possible light?” And so on.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Burt Likko says:

              I think, too a lot of the REACTIONS to Gingrich’s statement give you some sense of what he intended. A lot of the comments seem to essentially be (at least those who applauded) “good job for putting Williams in his place.”

              Now yes, “putting someone in their place” can have other meanings, but there’s a very explicit cultural connotation that happens when a southerner says it about a black person. Just like the use of words like “uppity” and “calling a spade a spade” are all usually innocuous but take a very different tone in a state capital where the Bars and Stripes used to fly.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Also, I refuse to believe a man who has written so many Civil War era masturbatory “fiction” that basically tries to reinforce the Lost Causer bullshit to not know EXACTLY what he’s doing when he makes statements like that in a cotton belt state.Report

              • Michelle in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Agreed. Newt knows the audience to which he panders and knows how to use racially loaded phrasing to good effect. He came up with the Rove Southern race-baiting strategy long before Rove did.Report

        • BSK in reply to Burt Likko says:


          There is a difference.  I’m sure you’ve done bad things in your life.  And wrong things.  And stupid things.  Does that make you a bad or wrong or stupid person?  No.  We need to move away from the idea that doing/saying something that can be racially insensitive or offensive immediately labels someone a permaracist who should be damned to hell.Report

  2. Burt, I didn’t see much racism either, although – to go kind of off-topic – Japanese children clean their schools. I think it’s a wonderful idea. Not that he’s Ty Cobb or anything, but Newt will occasionally hit a home run and then spit at the crowd.Report

    • greginak in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      The Newt wants to fire adults in unions to give their jobs to kids. Not quite the same thing seems to me.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to greginak says:

        The thing that I found hilarious about that whole thing is that Newt obviously has a different idea of what a school context is like.

        You want to give kids at schools tasks and pay them?  That sounds like a find idea to me, as long as it’s not just the poor kids doing it.  Especially janitorial work.

        Because seriously, I knew guys in school who would have crapped all over the bathroom just to make their classmates clean it up.

        (Granted, I also went to schools where the principal would have found out who did it and made *them* clean it up).Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          I don’t think that’s actually the case…I think Gingrich knew full well what making some kids clean the school for money would do to them in terms of the school’s circle standing.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

             in terms of the school’s circle standing

            To what extent do I need to be sensitive about the importance of this?Report

            • K in reply to Jaybird says:


              That clear enough for you?Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

              Bullying based on the socioeconomic status of your parent is a pretty common thing, from what I can tell. Now imagine adding the element of being the one to clean up toilets or trash, and generally be seen as “menial” compared to your peers.

              I’d imagine that’d be pretty traumatic.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Nob, I have been chewing on this.

                If this is correct, then that means that we are dealing with a very, very deeply rooted problem indeed…

                Let me use Maslow’s Hierarchy because I’m just that weak a thinker:

                We know that the bottom level includes stuff like food and sewage and the second level includes stuff like physical safety and the top-level includes stuff like “self-actualization” and the one below that one includes stuff like “respect from peers”.

                These attempts to address poverty are asking (telling) people that they need to abandon whatever achievements they’ve made on the 2nd highest level of the pyramid and the reward for this would be something between marginal and decent improvements of the quality of what is held on the bottom two levels of the pyramid.

                We can’t even talk about whether this would be an improvement over that when it comes to the top two levels of the pyramid because of all sorts of cultural dynamics (including the soft relativism that all of us tend to embrace).

                To overcome poverty means to overcome the significant gains made in the hierarchy by people adapting to their new culture.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

                I think this becomes more difficult when we’re talking about children, because so much of their socialization is happening for the first time and their formation of the hierarchy of needs isn’t actually fully formed yet.

                Further as a society, the US tries (with various degrees of success based on state) to protect children at least from want of basic needs hierarchy needs like food or health care. This means that although we can provide marginal improvements to their standard of living.

                This is a tricky question, but I think generally mixing self-actualization through work and the school environment is a bad idea. Particularly when we’re talking labor that is often viewed as something “beneath” most people. There IS a hierarchy to labor in the US and things like unskilled custodial work are ranked significantly lower.

                Moreover, there is always pressure to conform for children. I don’t know, maybe if you expanded after school programs to also include enterpreneurial activity? You could do SOMETHING.

                But ultimately I don’t think I have enough expertise on developmental psychology or education to make a huge, statement of finality.Report

        • Pat, I’m talking about everybody cleaning up before they go home. I’m just riffing off Newt.Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Christopher Carr says:

            Back in high school, policed by the Jesuits, the mechanism for tidying up the campus was JUG (“Justice Under God”), aka what public schools called “detention”.

            You were a troublemaker, you picked up trash.  To make things easy on himself, the Dean broke you up into four groups, gave you all a quarter of the campus, and told you all you could go home when you thought it was clean.  He left at five, and before he left, he walked the campus.  If a section was unacceptably dirty, your team was called out in the morning announcements and you got JUG again.  You screw up two days in a row, you had “Saturday JUG”, which was for the real offenders and repeat scofflaws.

            The daily version worked, with minimal oversight.  You have to know how to split the teams, so that the pernicious troublemakers can’t slack off.

            You also have to have escalation.  Probably wouldn’t work in public school.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              Escalation? Does that mean if you slack off, Batman will come smack you with a broom until you finish cleaning?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                All enforcement of anything has to come with the ability to raise the stakes until the scofflaw becomes unwilling to pay the consequences.

                In this private school, it worked out like this.

                If you screw up a little, we will keep you after school.

                If you screw up again, we will require you to spend half your Saturday doing unpleasant things.  You are required to attend, if you don’t, we regard this as an additional infraction.

                If you continue to screw up after that, we will discharge you from our community.

                Very, very few people got to step 3, but plenty got to step 2.

                In public school, I don’t know that you have the capacity to require your students to show up on Sunday.  In any event, the perniciously malicious are very difficult to excise from the community – one, because you have a legal obligation to provide them access to education until they reach their majority… and two, because there are perverse incentives about your pay coming from attendance.Report

            • I remember JUG. I always got it because I hated to tuck in my shirt or mouthed off to the disciplinarian teachers. Nevertheless, I heard at least that it isn’t actually “JUG”, but “jug”, from the Latin “iugum” (late Latin “jugum“), meaning “yoke”. There was less picking up trash at my Jesuit high school and more copying the school handbook.Report

              • Nevertheless, I heard at least that it isn’t actually “JUG”, but “jug”, from the Latin “iugum” (late Latin “jugum“), meaning “yoke”.

                Yeah, we had that explanation, too.  I think the truth is probably somewhere around both.

                Another Jesuit survivor.  Salud, sir.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      …this isn’t quite the same thing.

      As kids we clean our own class-rooms. There’s still actual janitorial staff that cleans everything else in the school.Report

      • I don’t think there needs to be. I think kids and teachers should do it before they go home. If everyone participates, it shouldn’t take long at all. And they can get graded on it.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          Hmm. Let’s play “thought experiment”.

          Let’s take my workplace, full of engineers (software, aerospace, electrical and mechanical). Let’s tell them “Guys, we’re getting rid of 90% of the janitorial staff. Once you’ve put in your full work day — including whatever extra, off the clock hours you already do — we need you to clean the building.”

          “Empty the trash, vaccuum, haul the trash out, scrub the bathrooms, replace the toilet paper rolls — don’t forget the executive offices, guys — and THEN you can go home.”

          “We’ll be judging how clean your area is on the your evaulation. Slack off and it’ll come out of your pay, peons”.

          There would [i]be a revolt[/i]. A hearty “Screw you, fuckers”. And yet you expect teachers to do it? In addition to making a bunch of unruly kids do  it?

          Seriously? I’d flip my boss off and quit if he tried that shit. Why should a teacher have to get “janitorial duties” added to his or her job requirements? Why would you even think it?

          And why would you expect teachers to suck it up and take it when no other white-collar workers would? (And I can give you an example — a bank tried to get it’s employees to “adopt an ATM” and handle the cleaning and landscaping as part of a business pride thing/cutting costs thing. The program was highly unsuccesful)Report

          • (1) because teachers aren’t in it for the money

            (2) because it works in Japan

            (3) because it teaches the value of cooperation and hard work

            (4) teachers can supervise

            (5) chores aren’t really all that bad anyways

            This is in addition to that fact that your example doesn’t fit the context at all.Report

            • sonmi451 in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              I know I promised to be more civil, but 1 and 2 are the someof the stupidest freaking reasons I’ve ever heard. Sorry, but there it is. Jesus.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451 says:

                correction for typo: “1 and 2 are some of the stupidest freaking reasons”Report

              • So, you also reject empiricism then? Amazing, how many people around here don’t believe in reality. Could you at least extrapolate on how my response is like totally the stupid?Report

              • Oh, and please be gentle. I’m a complete moron, after all.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                I called your reasons stupid, not you personally, I don’t care about your personal brilliance. Reason 1 is stupid because, well, do I even have to spell out why it’s so stupid? If some people are doing a job not primarily because of the money. does that give you an excuse to treat them like unpaid labor and pile on whatever tasks you want, even those not related to their job? (Plus at some level, everyone needs to get paid for doing a job, not all teachers are the sons or daughters of billionaires with trust funds to support their family, you know). Reason 2 is stupid because you completely ignored the argument in this particular thread that they actually still have janitors in Japanese school, not to mention what works in another country won’t necessarily work here.Report

              • “Reason 1 is stupid because, well, do I even have to spell out why it’s so stupid?”  Yes, yes you do. Yes.

                “If some people are doing a job not primarily because of the money. does that give you an excuse to treat them like unpaid labor and pile on whatever tasks you want, even those not related to their job?” You’re totally mischaracterizing my argument.

                My (1) was a response to the question: “why would you expect teachers to suck it up and take it when no other white-collar workers would?” Because teachers care about their students and want them to become good citizens. If we believe that cooperation and hard work are values and that teaching cooperation and hard work is something that teachers want and that taking responsibility for the cleanliness of their own school teaches children the value of cooperation and hard work, then it totally could fall within the purview of a teacher’s responsibilities to make sure that the school is clean before children go home. What this has to do with billionaires and exploitation is beyond me.

                “Reason 2 is stupid because you completely ignored the argument in this particular thread that they actually still have janitors in Japanese school, not to mention what works in another country won’t necessarily work here.”

                I didn’t ignore it. I actually wrote in response to it: “I don’t think there needs to be. I think kids and teachers should do it before they go home. If everyone participates, it shouldn’t take long at all. And they can get graded on it.” I neglected to mention that, in my four years working in Japanese schools, I never actually saw a janitor. I don’t deny they exist (I can’t really. What if they work from 5 A.M. to 6 A.M.? What if they’re invisible?)

                But I do think children and teachers are capable of using a mop or a dustpan. In both Japan and the U.S.Report

              • I’m pretty sure it DOES help that Japanese teachers are the 5th best compensated in the world, though…

                As for janitors, it’s a bit more complicated than simply not being around because the “shuei” is generally a combination of a janitor, a security guard, a handyman/mechanic and does a whole lot of other things.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                Nob, Nihon no kyoushi , they get respect, which translates to pay. Amerika no kyoushi wa, dewa, they get the blame for the failure of the student. And crap pay.

                It’s a win-win.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                But I do think children and teachers are capable of using a mop or a dustpan. In both Japan and the U.S.

                I think there’s a lot to being a janitor than just sweeping and mopping the classroom. Like cleaning toilets, with cleaning products that can be dangerous if not used properly. It’s also a question of motive – are you really doing this to teach kids responsibility, or because you want to save money and use the kids and teachers as unpaid labor?Report

              • David in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                Based on the numerous cleaning chemicals in my house that bear strict warnings against mixture, I hereby predict that Mr. Gingrich’s misguided plan to fire the presumably already low-paid janitorial staff of the American school system and replace them with an even lower-paid gaggle of as-yet-uneducated students will last only until the time the first one kills or at least severly sickens himself by mixing the American equivalent of Brasso and a bleaching agent, or perhaps by mixing bleach-based floor cleaner with an ammonia-based commode cleanser.Report

              • I get it. Let me stipulate for the record that I am not in favor of children climbing on top of the school to patch a leaky roof or being tasked with rat extermination; nor do I support the freedom to mix ammonia with bleach. Nevertheless, I do support children taking responsibility for the cleanliness of their own classroom and leaving duties which require professional experience to a professional.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              Echh, some of those chores can (and probably ought to) be done by the children, especially cleaning up their own areas.

              But I don’t think we’re well-served by kids with pipe wrenches doing maintenance.  Lots of our schools are pretty old.  Gotta remember, some of our public schools are the oldest buildings in the neighbourhood.   Lots of maintenance has been deferred, what with our public schools funded by property taxes.

              As for “teachers aren’t in it for the money”, don’t worry about that.   Most of them burn out after five years.   A fresh crop of idealists is grown every year in Education departments, just waiting to hit the wall.   We don’t want a well-paid teacher in this country, we’re willing to settle for the little miss nobodies and when they fail, we can blame them for everything.Report

            • Kim in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              So we ought to hire bigger bullies to beat up bullies in the classroom, rather than have the teacher engage in discipline? Ya know, like they do in Japan?

              (Japan is a VERY DIFFERENT culture, and I’d like to Strongly Urge people to watch a few documentaries about teaching in Japanese elementary schools, vis Chinese and American schools before saying “whee! it works there! Let’s use it here!” While you CAN say that, by all means, I’d rather you know what you’re saying.)Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to Kim says:

                Kim, your comment is factually incorrect on several different levels: (1) Japanese elementary schools are relatively relaxed. It’s only after entering junior high that things get strict, and that’s explained by the national exam system more than the culture (if the two can really be separated); (2) Western interpretations of Japan are generally absurd caricatures, Western documentaries on Japan traffic in exaggeration, race-baiting, and stereotype.

                I’m not really surprised at the fact I’m getting piled on here. Suggesting that Newt Gingrich has a kernal of one good idea is probably enough to summon that in this forum. But, Kim, I thought you were familiar enough with my background to avoid suggesting my position is glib or ill-considered.


              • I apologize if you felt piled on.

                I have to admit, for all the troubles associated with my schooling in Japan, I have relatively fond memories of my time in elementary school.Report

              • Kim in reply to Christopher Carr says:


                I provided a reasonably factual example of what japanese teaching tends to be like — letting the kids handle discipline themselves, and when that breaks down, hiring bigger kids to continue the pattern.


                I find this book to be not terribly bigoted (although her treatment of skinship leaves much of the term out, it’s appropriate for her context).

                You can contact Marie Norman at CMU for the video I’m referencing. Watched it in her class.I might cite it for some seriously non-introspective

                Are we agreeing more than disagreeing?

                Japan seems to focus more on “group behavior” than Americans do — they worry most about an entire class bullying someone — there’s not the sense that one person can create much of a problem as a bully.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to Kim says:

                Kim, that book looks really interesting, actually. I’ll try and get it if I ever get some free time. The tone of your last comment seems really antagonistic, in contrast to this one. If we’re disagreeing, I’m not sure what we’re disagreeing about. I never mentioned bullying in this thread. I only said that I like the idea of children cleaning up after themselves such as exists in Japan.Report

              • Kim in reply to Christopher Carr says:


                I think I was just disagreeing with the “It works in Japan” principle. Japan does many things that would be completely inconceivable among Americans — to the point of teachers/parents going through bouts of rage.

                (and what you saw as “piling on” was my “oh, I can support sonmi’s argument!”)Report

              • Well, I never made the argument that because it works in Japan, it must work in the United States. My point was that they do it in Japan, so it’s potentially workable – in response to getting piled on and threadjacked.Report

        • Hey, CC. My take on this is that this will work perfectly in the school districts that do not need it, it will fail spectacularly in the school districts that do, and the marginal ones in the middle will most likely have this work marginally (though there will be a handful of folks actually improved by this).

          As such, that’s enough for me to say that we should go for it (I’m a big fan of these kinds of things that result in just a little bit of change in the right direction for the folks in the middle) but there needs to be a foundation of… well, something… that this will build upon. This won’t build it. (Though it will help some folks who have the foundation but have never had a chance to build on it.)Report

  3. greginak says:

    Indeed the best defence, sad as it is, of R nutbag conspiracy mongering about Obama is that they do that to every Dem. Not much of a defence for calling people traitors and such but there it is.

    The Newt has been using the “food stamp…” line for a while. He used it just last week i believe but added on something about he will go to the NAACP to tell them they should want more then food stamps, they should want jobs. Maybe in that context its a bit clearer that he was referring to one race that needs to stop being so lazy. “Food stamps” seems like the new “welfare queens” line, that is what sounds icky.


    • Michelle in reply to greginak says:

      And in saying what he did about the NAACP, Newt knows exactly what audience he’s appealing to–folks like my parents: white, late 70s, Obama-haters who are afraid he’s going to turn the country over to black people if he gets re-elected. To them, Newt’s take-down of Juan Williams was a tour de force because Williams was baiting Newt. I broke my usual rule of talking politics with them to ask what they thought about Newt’s NAACP comments. They took them to mean that, like them, Newt understood that most black people don’t really want to work.

      So yeah, while Newt is definitely engaging in “media-bashing, liberal-bashing, and Christian boosterism,” he also dog-whistling in Dixie.Report

      • David in reply to Michelle says:

        I’ve been researching this for a few hours now, which has been all too distracting and makes me glad that I have the abiity to do so during the day. It appears to me that you are correct in your analysis. The exchange analysed by Mr. Likko, taken in a vacuum, is not definably racist if one only begins with the raw text of that one speech.

        However, one then adds the video, in which Mr. Gingrich is giving a hostile tongue-lashing to an african-descent male in a room full of very pasty-white individuals who are clearly feeding on some signal to applaud robustly.

        For further context, Gingrich previously went to another group of seemingly 100% white people, and told the crowd that Americans of non-anglo descent are “satisfied with food stamps.” He has continually referred to your president as the “food stamp president”, which has been remarked as a racial reference by many commentators in your media including your previous president James Carter. In 2008, he gave a speech saying “spanish is the language of the ghetto.” He described an entire nationality as “an invented people” to great applause by his party. He has described followers of the Muslim religion as analogous to the German Nazi Party. Regarding your current president, Mr. Gingrich has stated that his conduct can only be viewed in a context of “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior”, which seems to be an obvious reference of agreement with your conspiracy theorists about Mr. Obama’s birth circumstances. I ran a quick google search for the words “gingrich racist quotes” and the fifth entry was a thread on a forum called Stormfront, which I shan’t link to here as it is my understanding that the site is a haven for white racial supremacist groups. In the thread, which I perused, the readers follow many of the quotes I referred you to earlier and attempt to determine if Mr. Gingrich is a “racial realist” or not. I suppose a shorter way to say it would be to simply submit that Mr Gingrich has a long history of saying things that can easily be viewed as racist, and that it is in this context that his behavior in the clip you analyse must be viewed.

        In a still larger context, there is an open question as to how racist the party or parties whose nomination he is seeking have become. You have had several debates on this blog where the question was raised of whether or not the Republican Party, Tea Party, or Conservative Movement group are comprised by a majority of racists, an active minority, or are being falsely accused of the same. it is my belief based upon available information that this coalition is at the very least a welcoming home to people with racist beliefs, and it is in this context that the body of remarks by Mr. Gingrich must be viewed, and his words, actions, and insinuations duly checked for the “dog whistles”, which I believe is the term you are currently using for veiled, insinuated, or coded phrases intended to signal a meaning to those who wish to see it while providing plausible deniability for the issuance of public statements or an alibi for those who wish to hide that they have recognized and agree with the signal. In this case, the dog whistles are phrases repeated often by Mr. Gingrich as well as actions such as dropping the civility of proper names to address the debate moderator in a nasally pronunciation of his name while looking down the bridge of one’s nose at the man. Am I correct in my understanding of the term as you are using it?Report

  4. Jeff says:

    You can’t divorce the Williams interview from Gingrich’s earlier comment linking the NAACP and Food Stamps (Newt would, but he was having an affair with the Williams interview while married to the NAACP comment — or something).  He got the word “N*” in the comment, he only had to refer to Food Stamps (now called CalFresh in LA) to get it out in the interview.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Jeff says:

      Got a link to the original?Report

      • DarrenG in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Here’s a good summary of the recent “food stamps vs. NAACP” comment, but he’s made numerous similar ones, always juxtaposing a black individual or organization with food stamps:


        • Brandon Berg in reply to DarrenG says:

          So it seems to me that his remarks are being mischaracterized. He’s not saying that black people just want food stamps. He’s saying that that’s all that Obama has been able to deliver, and that they deserve better, and should demand better, by ousting Obama and replacing him with Gingrich. Arguably macroeconomically stupid, but not in any way, shape, or form racist.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Would you like to buy a bridge in Brooklyn while you’re at this diatribe? I can get you a great deal.Report

          • DarrenG in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Again, see the other comments in this thread.

            With the NAACP comments he most certainly is saying “black people just want food stamps and don’t really want to work for a living.”

            By repeatedly juxtaposing variants of “welfare” and “black people” he is engaging in a long-standing strategy of playing off white populist resentment through insinuating there is a large number of non-white people living off welfare at the expense of the white working class, which is both false and pernicious.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to DarrenG says:

              I have read the other comments, and they all seem to me to boil down to confirmation bias. You’ve made up your mind that Republicans are racist, and that colors your interpretation of everything they say.

              I’m not aware of any school of epistemology in which confirmation bias is considered to be a valid tool of cognition.Report

              • DarrenG in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I never claimed that “Republicans are racist,” and I’d appreciate it if you don’t attribute to me statements I never made.

                I’m referring to the very real, admitted strategy referenced by Lee Atwater that’s been used by Republicans for the last generation. It’s not a random coincidence that Newt and other Republican candidates frequently use phrases that pointedly juxtapose minorities and welfare; it’s a well-considered and time-worn tactic.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Nothing can “boil down” to confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias is having a distorted way of ascertaining what is the case.  It only exists in reference to the proposition that there is an actual fact of the matter the perception if which is being distorted by the bias.  So any question on which you claim there is confirmation bias can’t “boil down to” the confirmation bias.  In all such cases it boils down to what is actually the case.  You can assert as to what that fact of the matter is, or you can decline to do so, but nothing can “boil down to” confirmation bias. It’s a contradiction in terms.  (Like “intrinsic value” is, to the extent that it means that something has value independent of any valuer.  But that’s another discussion.)Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I think the only one actually using a confirmation bias here is you.

                You’ve come to the conclusion that any critique based on calling out racially charged language is attributed to the need for “leftists” to paint conservatives as racist.

                Now we know that empirically people are likely to take a my-side bias and consider statements only made by those on “their” side to be right. This was infamously used to posit that “liberals were more economically illiterate than conservatives” in a study that was filled with questions about economic theory that had a substantial libertarian bias.

                I think in this case, context matters. Yes, the fact that many of us feel a moral revulsion towards Newt Gingrich probably do mean we consider his statements in a less than charitable light.

                On the other hand, it’s extremely hard to look at the context of his initial statement about “going to the NAACP and telling them to prefer jobs” and making the foodstamp issue explicitly racial (by Gingrich’s choice) and then using his own defense of said statement in a state with a powerful past of segregation and racial animus, against a black media personality, in a town that’s predominantly white with an audience chamber full of extensively white, middle to upper class individuals and see something that’s rather ugly hiding in the subtext.

                To willfully ignore all that context, too is a form of confirmation bias, and I’m not aware of any reality where a critic is immune to cognitive bias when critiquing others.Report

        • Montanareddog in reply to DarrenG says:

          The quote “So I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”  is really quite cynically smart.

          Not only is it probably-intended as a dog whistle to white conservatives, but it can also be construed as concern-trolling the NAACP and African-Americans in general.Report

          • The NAACP comment is racist in at least two ways.  First he’s saying that black people want food stamps more than they want jobs.  Second, he’s saying that he–the embodiment of the white establishment–can tell them what they really need, because obviously they don’t know themselves.

            Whether Newt actually does recognize that or not is hard to say.  He’s certainly cynical enough to say it even if he grasped the context, but on the other hand he’s a guy who’s shown remarkably little self-awareness at times.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to James Hanley says:

              He’s certainly cynical enough to say it even if he grasped the context, but on the other hand he’s a guy who’s shown remarkably little self-awareness at times.

              This and that.

              Look, the dog whistle debate is subjective.  Pretty much by definition (as pointed out elsewhere on this thread), you’re going to be arguing about implied context because one person infers one thing, one person infers another, and the speaker is implying a third thing.

              That third thing can be the first thing, the second thing, both things, or neither thing.  We can’t get into Newt’s head.  As a lifelong politician, and in particular a member of the inner circle for strategy for his party’s overall campaign messaging, it’s really hard *not* to assume that he either is deliberately speaking to both things, or he quite frankly doesn’t care that his language can be assessed that way.

              Now, on the other hand, here’s where I come down on accusations of race baiting: if reasonable people of multiple stripes (discounting, say, the entirely aggressive partisan of the other party) can sit down and not come to a clear consensus about what you meant: you’re terrible at communicating.  Like, really terrible.

              Certainly along the lines of, “You ought not to be a diplomat, nor be involved in foreign policy implementation, nor be involved in any seriously contentious domestic policy.”

              There’s a number of jobs where this is kind of a prerequisite, and one of them is the job for which Mr. Gingrich is currently applying.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                So, just to be clear here, when Bill Cosby said essentially the same things he was being racist too correct? At what point does the left stop excusing bad behavior and address the underlying problem? Whether you think Newt is right or wrong, instead of doing the usual media mumbo why not have a discussion on the MERITS of his point?

                Resolved: That poor people in this country are not served by handouts but hand ups. That working for a paycheck is a fundamental bedrock of our society. That developing a work ethic starts at a young age and needs to be encouraged at all levels.

                Admitted: That minority races, especially blacks are over represented in the underclass of this society.

                We could talk about that, but why should we? It would only point out the inadequacies of the Great Society experiment that has been failing for 40 years. The left doesn’t like having its inadequacies exposed, so needs to engage in misdirection ploys. Poor Bill Cosby, a black man who wants what’s best for the black race, called a racist for his efforts.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to wardsmith says:

                Sorry, but if you really can’t see the difference between a black man talking to a black audience about these issues, and a white man, talking to a white audience about how black people should behave, then I don’t think we even inhabit the same moral universe much less one in which dialogue is possible.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

                Resolved: That poor people in this country are not served by handouts but hand ups. That working for a paycheck is a fundamental bedrock of our society. That developing a work ethic starts at a young age and needs to be encouraged at all levels.

                Admitted: That minority races, especially blacks are over represented in the underclass of this society.

                We could talk about that, but why should we?

                Okay, lets.  If minority races are over-represented in the underclass of this society, I hope we’ll agree the next step is…

                Admitted: this is due to historical structural and societal influences, not racial inferiority.

                Assuming we get past that block, what is your policy proposal?

                Is your policy proposal different from Affirmative Action?

                If it is, in what ways do you square disagreements with Affirmative Action (if you have them) with the agreement you have with your proposal?

                The Liberal response to, “Why don’t we dialogue about this” is “Well, when we bring up Affirmative Action, the Conservative screams about government pushing the white man down”.  Whether that’s fair or not, the Liberal at least has a conversational gambit there.  You can’t say they won’t have that conversation.  They *want* to have that conversation.  They just don’t want to be vilified in this conversation and then when they agree to switch over to that other conversation have the goal posts move *over there*.

                What’s the conservative gambit?  If socioeconomic inequality is admitted, and the blame isn’t going to be placed on nature but on nurture, what’s the policy proposal that will correct *this* problem?Report

              • Kim in reply to wardsmith says:

                What merit, pray tell, is there in insinuating that people ain’t working? What merit, pray tell, is there in insinuating that it’s THEIR fault the economy crashed? What merit is there in insinuating that White Folks are Better than Black Folks?

                Obama, Cosby, folks that come from a single parent household — what they’re saying? “IT GETS BETTER”

                Here I thought you hated the fucking Black Panthers, too! Haha, jokes on me.

                Cosby’s as much for going GALT as the Black Panthers were. Just all wrapped up in a motherfucking comedic persona (seriously, watch his standup), not a “dangerous guy from jail” one.Report

              • Chris in reply to wardsmith says:

                First, you should know that Bill Cosby’s pronouncements on race over the last few years have not gone over well with many black people. This doesn’t mean what he said was racist, because you’re missing a key component of racism, but it does mean that people don’t just get upset when white people say stuff.

                Also, the problem people have with the message is not that it focuses on self-reliance and working for a living. You should probably know that, too.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

                Really? The overwhelming sense I got at the time was (from the perspective of black commentators) “Cosby isn’t saying anything that we haven’t been saying to one another for a time. There is a difference between how we talk about it amongst ourselves and how outsiders talk to us. A middle class white person presumes to know where we come from and what we’re up against, and as such his perspective is less valuable, less informed, and more incendiary. You have to consider the context.”

                I actually defended this proposition as being quite reasonable at the time. If my old blog was up, I would fish out the backs-and-forths I had at the time with others.Report

              • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

                he sounded like a black panther. I don’t remember which side Field Negro and crew came down on, but I do remember that much!

                he ws saying that blacks oughta keep it in the community, not spend money outside.Report

              • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:


                aha! cite!

                Cosby sounds conservative. So does obama when he talks to blacks.Report

              • I should clarify. The above was the sense I got on the question of “How come Bill Cosby can say these things and white folks can’t?” I got the above sense and not the sense that “Cosby can’t say these things either!”

                I remember a quote from the leader of the NAACP that maybe Cosby was doing the black community a favor by airing this out. And I remember one of the primary fears being, not so much that the comments were outrageous (the way that they almost certainly would be if they had come from Tom DeLay), but that it would give cover to racists (who don’t recognize the struggles that black people actually face).

                Anyway, by way of example, I remember hearing multiple iterations of this:

                It is not remarkable that such sentiments exist. Similar comments can be heard in countless black spaces: barbershops and beauty shops; pulpits and pavement platforms; street corners and suite hallways; and civil rights conventions and political conferences. These cultural settings give such ideas an interpretive context that they often lack when they bleed beyond ghetto walls and comfortable black meeting places and homes into the wider world. Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Will Truman says:

                “How come Bill Cosby can say these things and white folks can’t?”

                Standing.  Goodwill earned in the community (hey, we had this thread go on this week about goodwill being earned and how if you didn’t have any that was a sign that you weren’t honestly trying to be a part of the community and thus couldn’t really gripe when they booted your ass out…)

                I don’t think “white folks” can’t.  I think many “white folks” can’t, because they don’t have the standing.

                White, male, predominantly upper class, well moneyed, lifelong politicians are already going to be hard-pressed to get standing.

                Those that have never really gone out of their way to earn any goodwill?  Do they deserve it?Report

              • I hope nothing I said gave you the impression that I disagreed with anything you said.

                You are exactly right.

                I would actually underline the “standing” part. It’s sort of like the Chris Rock thing. Yes, he can say things that most white people can’t or shouldn’t. Likewise, though, jokes about the south come across a lot differently from Jeff Foxworthy than from others.Report

              • Standing.  Goodwill earned in the community (hey, we had this thread go on this week about goodwill being earned and how if you didn’t have any that was a sign that you weren’t honestly trying to be a part of the community and thus couldn’t really gripe when they booted your ass out…)

                I here wish to propose a new LoOG axiom: “As two LoOG comment threads on seemingly unrelated topics grow longer, the likelihood of them cross-pollinating approaches 1.”Report

              • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

                Will, that’s true of a few things Cosby has said in the last 4 or 5 years. I’m not sure if that specifically, but my point was that black people don’t always approve of a message just because someone black says it.

                As for this particular message, in the abstract, it’s the same message that was a big part of the Civil Rights movement, one that you could have heard from the NOI, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, or any number of civil rights leaders. Ward seems to me to be irked about something else entirely that has nothing to do with the message. But I could be wrong.Report

              • I’m not sure if that specifically, but my point was that black people don’t always approve of a message just because someone black says it.

                That may be true, but I do think the response is different (in nature and hostility). Not without reason, I would say, though.Report

              • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

                Will, oh I agree. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. It just wasn’t clear to me that Ward was aware of the point I was trying to make. Ward isn’t approaching this with a lot of nuance, period, though.Report

              • Michelle in reply to Chris says:

                I think a lot of the reaction also has to do with the way the Newt phrases things. Instead of making an argument for self-reliance, he presumes to tell black people that they’d be better served by paychecks than food stamps (1) as if they didn’t already know that; and (2) as if a majority of them don’t already work for a living. Likewise, his attitude toward the poor. He’s claimed that he’s going to teach them how to get a job and how to own it, as if most of the poor don’t already work and the concept of “working poor” never occurred to him. He comes off as a condescending prick, who thinks he has all the answers. (Romney suffers from this problem as well, but at least he doesn’t dog whistle).Report

              • wardsmith in reply to wardsmith says:

                So, what I’m hearing from all the charged rhetoric in response to my query is that blacks and ONLY blacks are EVER allowed to discuss anything concerning blacks, EVER? Patrick comes closest to allowing that “standing” would allow someone to say “something” assuming said “someone” has “somehow” achieved said “standing”, which of course is undefined. Forgive me if I choose not to hold my breath waiting for that first coming.

                I’m not disputing any of this whatsoever. One million liberals and 20 million blacks will jump all over anyone who presumes to tell a black person anything about their lives or lifestyles and of course will likewise jump on any black commentator (do I REALLY need to name them??) calling them oreos, uncle toms and much much worse. Those charges were indeed directed at Cosby at the time, his “standing” notwithstanding.

                You all conveniently choose to attack what you perceive as the weakest link in my argument, neatly ignoring the meat of it. Here it is restated in bold, no one is allowed to make any kind of critique about blacks or black behavior unless they are A) already black and B) have standing in the black community and of course they must be a Democrat.

                Even then things get dicey, as Cosby found but to his everlasting credit withstood like the brilliant gifted gentleman he is. Obama did indeed give speeches where he told the black community that they needed to clean up their act, learn to speak the king’s english and stop wearing their pants around their ankles if they wanted a job. He backed off of those speeches immediately as you’ll recall, once his pollsters told him he was losing that critical demographic that he needs for reelection. Likewise at the time, he faced the same “standing” issue, since he was raised by WHITES damnit, how dare he talk to us BLACKS about ANYTHING! Those sentiments hit the commentariate instantly and often.

                The shame of all this is meaningful dialog is instantly cut off from all sources. No one dares make recommendations and the weak sauce Affirmative Action Patrick references, which as been with us for almost 3 generations now should be entirely unnecessary.

                I don’t want to threadjack here, so if Patrick or someone wants to put up an OP to discuss this I’d be happy to oblige. I think there are enough smart, principled liberals, libertarians and even conservatives present to give the discussion a good airing, PROVIDED that some in the arena do not immediately stifle said discussion by shouting down all interlocutors by calling them racist. Let’s axiomatically grant ourselves standing to allow ourselves the “right” to discuss the issues facing the black community specifically and see if we can’t work our way through the minefields to something akin to reasonable discussion. Anything less is… diminished.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

                Patrick comes closest to allowing that “standing” would allow someone to say “something” assuming said “someone” has “somehow” achieved said “standing”, which of course is undefined.

                Sure, it’s undefined.  Just like that thread about the commenting policy and whether or not this guy is violating it or that guy is too, subjectivity is part of the problem in group activities, Ward.

                Hey, man, I don’t make the rules.  I just acknowledge that they’re there.

                I think you can earn standing, yes.  I think Cosby got pushback, and Obama got pushback, and they both got way less pushback than they might have gotten if they weren’t black, and it’s probably better for everybody to discuss these things openly, sure.

                Gingrich doesn’t have any standing, though, and that’s clearly a result of his decisions.  You’re welcome to defend the guy’s ecumenical racial dialogue position if you want, Ward, but I think in this case you’re going to have some tough going.

                No one dares make recommendations and the weak sauce Affirmative Action Patrick references, which as been with us for almost 3 generations now should be entirely unnecessary.

                Well, hell, Ward, if conservatives don’t dare make recommendations then maybe they have to acknowledge that they’re stuck.  Maybe they have good ideas.  Maybe their ideas are better ideas.  But unless/until they find a local community guy who has worked for twenty years in a lower income area and earned some sort of standing, they’re probably not going to get a fair hearing.  Sure that might be bad.

                Of course, if they care about earning a seat on the table, they ought to go find that guy… and if it’s true that they do care, I’m sure there are many conservatives who can stand up and fit this bill.  Contra some of the crazy lefties, I’m sure these people exist; well meaning people of indeterminate color who have really been trying for years to tackle this socioeconomic policy problem from the right.Report

              • Clinton, another white southern politician, had standing.  Hence he could diss Queen Latifah and get less pushback than a Gingrich would get.Report

              • The Institute for Justice occasionally makes this type of effort, but they are nowhere near a large enough organization and their efforts (outside perhaps of eminent domain abuse) don’t garner remotely enough attention from conservative politicians and publications to make a difference.  I can’t think of any other right-leaning organizations or politicians that make even a minimal sustained effort to engage black communities.Report

              • It was not Queen Latifah. It was Sista Souljah.Report

              • Thanks, JB.  I should have verified before posting.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                But unless/until they find a local community guy who has worked for twenty years in a lower income area and earned some sort of standing, they’re probably not going to get a fair hearing.  Sure that might be bad.

                So when the fishing chairperson of the RNC is a black man, well that still doesn’t count does it, because after all, they were just putting a token black man there to cover their bona fides. And when a Republican gives more cabinet posts to blacks and minorities than Democrats ever did, that still doesn’t count does it?

                I can point out bias, but I can’t dismiss it. The whole splinter and log in the eye story writ large. Unless and until I and all my brethren are splinter free, I’m not allowed to talk about logs (or log rolling for that matter).

                This is a one-legged ass kicking contest and the Republicans aren’t even allowed to stand on their one leg, while the Democrats are cheating and have two (their own and the MSM). They really should just give up and give the country to the Democrats lock stock and barrel. And when it ends up a complete disaster they can just say, “I told you so”.Report

              • No prob. The debate at the time was a very, very interesting one… whether what she said was explicitly bad or merely caustic wit, whether Clinton had standing to criticize, and even if Clinton did have standing, was Clinton sincere (because if he was just grandstanding then that was another thing entirely) and on and on.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                So when the fishing chairperson of the RNC is a black man, well that still doesn’t count does it, because after all, they were just putting a token black man there to cover their bona fides.

                Ward, you’re missing the nuance.

                Does Michael Steele have a history of engaging with existing black political power groups?  I don’t know, does he?

                And when a Republican gives more cabinet posts to blacks and minorities than Democrats ever did, that still doesn’t count does it?

                Wait a second, is this the GOP acknowledging merit, or is this the GOP engaging in its own Affirmative Action?

                That’s not what I’m talking about, Ward.  It is of zero interest to me whether or not the GOP deserves the charge of “racist party” (you can probably find people who want to have that debate with you).

                I’m saying, the people that the GOP has put forward to the existing power structures in the black community as communicators to the black community probably have to be those with standing.

                There are lots of political power structures in predominantly black communities.  Some of those power structure members are white guys, if it comes to that.  Some of those power structures are actually conservative in scope.

                Hell, there’s plenty of conservative Catholics who work for Catholic charities running soup kitchens and habitat for humanity chapters and dozens of other things in very high percentage minority communities who can probably get demonstrate standing.  Why isn’t the GOP recruiting these guys and gals?

                Maybe there’s good reasons for that, Ward, maybe they’ve tried, I don’t know.  But I do know that if you’re going to constantly put middle-aged, privileged, upper-class, white guys up who really have bad communication skills (when it comes to people who are from other backgrounds) as your party leaders and exemplars, you’re picking the wrong field generals when it comes to talking about this subject.

                If I was running for the GOP ticket, I’d find the most credible member of the most solidly conservative social support organization and sit down and have a dialogue with that person on film and talk about race and class and put it up on YouTube and then I’d appoint them as a member of my steering committee.

                You know… try and earn that standing.  But hey, that’s me.Report

              • Wardsmith,

                Good points, but when we’re talking about standing, we’re essentially talking about who’s a member of the club and who’s  not.  And the political reality is that certain black people are not members of the black club.  The words “Uncle Tom” and “House Negro” may not be as common as they once were, but the question of “Is he black enough,” is still relevant (e.g., in relation to Obama).

                I’m not arguing that’s a good thing, just that it’s a reality.  So if the question is, “are black people in general going to give credence to someone’s words because they have standing, or reject them due to lack of standing,” skin color is obviously a major element determining standing, but is not by itself determinative.

                But that said, W. definitely doesn’t get enough credit for his appointees; it’s impossible to make a plausible claim that they were mere tokens. W. is clearly not a racist.  It’s little remembered now, but before 9/11 took his attention to other matters, he was determined to have better relations with Mexico, not just as a matter of realpolitic and not as a matter of white-man’s burden but because he saw them as our neighbor, and, I think, truly wasn’t impacted one way or another by their skin color.  And after 9/11 he vocally rejected the idea of being at war with Muslims.

                I have precious little good to say about W., but on that score he’s a good man.Report

              • David in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Mr. Hanley, your defense of your young “King” George the Second should be found somewhat lacking given that he had no problem taking innocent men from their families and throwing them into an inhospitable gulag in the tropics without even the benefit of air conditioned quarters, without the benefit of access to legal counsel or the right to contact their embassies or family members via letter, without any legal right to contest their interment at all, as long as they were not brought to the soil of your country.Report

              • Patrick,

                As James mentions, it’s really worth noting that George W. Bush tried mightily on this front. Not just by being the Spanish-Speaking candidate, and through appointees, but by reaching out to amenable preachers, Faith-Based Initiatives that involved a lot of Catholic Charities, working with minority groups on school vouchers (and education more generally), and so on. He had limited success (except with the Catholics) and was even mocked for his efforts at times (“Look at all those minorities on the stage of the Republican Convention and all those white faces in the crowd” — well yes, but getting more non-white faces in the crowd *was the target*).

                This, in my mind, was what a factor missing from Tod’s commentary. The GOP has, at times, very much tried making the effort (more with Hispanics than whites, but still). It largely failed (partially due to unrelated factors and screwups, partially due to some footdragging within elements of the party the leadership couldn’t bring into line). I think what we’re seeing now is, at least in part, a “screw it” over-reaction to that failure. (Also, in part, having to run up against a black president.)Report

              • So when the fishing chairperson of the RNC is a black man, well that still doesn’t count does it, because after all, they were just putting a token black man there to cover their bona fides. And when a Republican gives more cabinet posts to blacks and minorities than Democrats ever did, that still doesn’t count does it?

                These are great and perhaps even important symbolic gestures, but they are no more than that: symbolic; as such, they do little more than say “Hey! We’ve got black friends!”  The race of the RNC chairman or a few cabinet officials doesn’t affect the average person on the street, and doesn’t change the party’s policy priorities, nor does it meaningfully change whether the GOP and conservatives as a whole are making an effort to directly engage with people of color on a sustained basis.

                Ultimately, standing is going to have to be a function of old fashioned retail politics, going door-to-door, getting to know people in black communities, getting to know the leaders of those communities, discussing their problems, figuring out where  GOP/conservative policy preferences are viewed as harmful by those communities (and why), and which are viewed as helpful, and then making a concerted effort to push the latter far more than the former.

                The GOP does not even attempt to do this, at least not for the most part (I suspect I can think of one now-almost-20 year-old exception that proves the rule).  Instead, they wind up talking boatloads about the awesomeness of the Confederate Flag, the laziness of people on welfare, with special emphasis on minority welfare recipients, etc., etc.  They figure that “outreach” is unnecessary despite this because, hey, polls show that people of color are social conservatives and agree with the GOP on all sorts of things, so clearly the only reason for the GOP’s race problem is that they are unfairly painted as racists by the liberal elites in the MSM.

                The difference between standing in front of a bunch of white South Carolinians and pronouncing that people on welfare, and particularly black people on welfare, are lazy and welfare needs to be reformed, and going to a church in the middle of Harlem to proclaim that welfare is creating a terrible cycle for black Americans (whether or not this is true), and that we need to start focusing on empowering black Americans with [insert Republican economic policy of choice] to help them break that cycle is literally night and day.  Republicans and conservatives do an awful lot of the former; they do virtually none of the latter.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                As James mentions, it’s really worth noting that George W. Bush tried mightily on this front.

                You know, that’s indisputable (at least, to me).  He appointed a diverse cabinet, did outreach, and really tried hard for substantive immigration reform, for which he was rebuked by his own party.

                I think what we’re seeing now is, at least in part, a “screw it” over-reaction to that failure. (Also, in part, having to run up against a black president.)

                I think this is part of it, yes.

                I also think that yes, there is a (bit) more negative racism on the Right, en masse, because they got the Dixiecrats and they never really gave them up.

                Of course, the former-Dixiecrats aren’t as racist now, en masse, as they were forty years ago, either.

                I look at these events more as tone-deafness on the part of Gingrich and cultural wagon-circling by the crowd than some seething underlying KKKism that’s widespread in the GOP.  The wagon-circling part to some extent I give the GOP slack, because I agree with Ward that the conservative party has been convicted of its crime of embracing the Dixiecrats and that context is carried around like a dead weight around conservative proposals for social welfare reform, which is bad for discussions of social welfare reform.

                On the other hand, being practical, I’m sitting here on the outside and clucking my tongue and thinking to myself, “When hoist by your own petard, iff’n you want to get yourself back into the game, you cannot unhoist yourself with a ‘I came to Jesus, now let’s all fix this problem of social welfare reform’.”

                (edited to add)

                Come to think of it, thinking that “Hey, I came to Jesus, all is forgiven” is an acceptable method of penance isn’t entirely a misbegotten assumption. It’s just not an assumption that is going to fly with people who don’t believe that coming to Jesus is enough.

                Maybe this is part of the problem. Heck, maybe it’s a huge part of the problem.


                Allow me to draw an analogy that is NOT intended to be as offensive as it will if you just read the first sentence.

                The (GOP and race) are like the (Catholic church and pedophilia).  It was some, not all, of the organization that did the thing to begin with.  Many, if not most, if not nearly all of the organization members not only are not guilty of the crime by association, but well and truly abhor it.

                Those who convict these organizations of these crimes give not one shit about this.  They want penance.  They want a “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”.  They want the GOP/Church to sweat out the blood plus extra, and that includes everyone, even the non-guilty.  This is how organizational social crime is punished, by scourging.

                It may not be fair, it’s just what is.  And if the GOP wants to earn its place at the “race issues” table, they can’t win it with better ideas, or by putting up black candidates or brown candidates, or half-Jewish, half-Salish candidates either.  They win it by sackcloth and ashes and pain.  They earn it back by standing up and admitting to the sins of the past, and disclaiming them.  They win them back by admitting the possibility of error.

                The entire party loses face when Gingrich says, “So I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”  Not a lot, but some.

                (He could have defensibly and justifiably said, “… why the poor members of the African-American community are ill-served by food stamps when the Administration should be giving them jobs.” – Jesus, you’d think the guy would have a better talking points writer).

                When someone points out, hey, dude, can’t you see that some people would find this offensive he says, “NO.” and they lose more face.  And when the “NO” gets cheers, well, that’s pretty much sitting down to confession and when the priest asks for your sins you give him the finger.

                Now, maybe the priest is a jerk, but you’re still not going to get your dispensation that way.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Patrick, you make some excellent points but tell me, precisely when was it when the Democrat party did its penance for its 200 year history of truly loathsome behavior towards minorities but especially towards blacks? Because I just never once saw it, and I’ve lived through their entire “rebirth” and “rebranding”.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Patrick, you make some excellent points but tell me, precisely when was it when the Democrat party did its penance for its 200 year history of truly loathsome behavior towards minorities but especially towards blacks? Because I just never once saw it, and I’ve lived through their entire “rebirth” and “rebranding”.

                Ward, I’ll be honest, I dunno. Transference, I guess.

                Yes, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, but Sen. Eastland was a Democrat and so was Strom Thurmond.  The Republican party voted almost across the houses at 80% in passage *for*, the Democratic party mustered between 61 and 68% depending upon which vote you’re talking about.

                Goldwater voting against it, and then getting served up as the nominee in 1964… and Strom Thurmond switching parties supporting Goldwater and then Nixon…and Johnson signing the thing… that all put together is probably what did it.  The GOP could have told Thurmond to go drop dead and this probably wouldn’t be an issue today, but Nixon might not ever have been President and by God things would look differently right now on dozens of other counts.  They didn’t do that.  The millstone just slipped right off the Democratic party and the rest of the GOP was assigned to carry the damn thing.  Certainly the rest of the 80% didn’t deserve it, but if you don’t want to be labeled unclean, taking the “leper” into the fold is a bad idea.Report

              • DarrenG in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Excellently put, Patrick. I largely agree.

                Bush does deserve individual credit for his attitude toward minority communities. It’s one of his rare good points.

                Unfortunately, Bush’s attitude is not shared by a large amount of his party. The ham-handed tokenism of pointing to random minority appointees as a blanket defense against racism is part of the problem, of course, but only a small part.

                Look at what happened to Bush’s immigration reform efforts for a perfect illustration. Despite 8 years of horrible decisions, the only time the GOP and right-wing media ever pushed back was when he proposed semi-humane immigration reform, and a lot of that pushback was very ugly and ractially-motivated.

                Then there’s the continued insistence by the right wing that the only racism left in the country is that directed at white people, along with continued bone-headed stunts like having presidential candidates give speeches supporting Civil War lost cause mythology while standing in front of a confederate flag.Report

              • A few things in response to this:

                1.  No one is talking about “allowed” versus “not allowed” – everyone has an absolute right to discuss these issues. But if something comes across as racist to some of the participants, they have just as much of an absolute right to point that out and to, in the process, use that as a means of calling the claim’s validity/utility into question.

                2. Part of the issue is not so much “what kinds of race-related arguments can white people make” as it is “what message does it send when white people discuss such arguments in a particular manner.”  So often, including in this case, the arguments and claims aren’t part of an attempted dialogue on race between whites and people of color but instead are just whites talking to other whites about people of color.  You (rightly, IMHO) complained yesterday that TVD was being talked about rather than talked to and (rightly IMHO) found that to be inappropriately demeaning to him.  A lot of times with these types of racially charged issues, that’s more or less exactly what we’re talking about, except that instead of it being an individual who is demeaned, it is an entire racial group.

                3.  The standing issue is critical as well.  In just about any community, if you make a genuine effort to be part of it and to understand it, then standing of some form or another will come, at least with respect to those with whom you come into relevant contact.  If you lack such standing, and indeed have made little if any effort to obtain such standing, then any advice you direct at that particular community is always going to come across as offensive and condescending.  Basically, if you’ve made little to no attempt to truly understand a community, then who the fish are you to tell that community what to do?  Parachuting in for a few days and then claiming to speak for said community doesn’t work either. Conservatives have not made such efforts for the last 40 years, excusing their refusal to do so with the dodge that they, and somehow they alone, are “colorblind.”Report

              • Mark, this was solid.  Excellent.Report

              • Chris in reply to wardsmith says:

                You’re hearing things that aren’t being said. Perhaps you should have your ears checked.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Chris says:

                Chris what do you “hear” when you read this out loud? How about this? Since my second link referenced is YOU speaking perhaps you can clarify how you sound outside your own head. Your post listed not one non-white person. I’ll let you cogitate on that  a bit before I remind you inter alia of my first sentence above to which you took exception. We’re not really getting into the meat here of ACCEPTANCE of a harsh message, but who is even allowed to DELIVER said message in today’s society. BTW I heard a lot of speeches by your  Huey Newtons et al, and cannot recall one that sounded a bit like what Cosby said. Furthermore, I agree 100% with what Cosby said, I just feel badly that I have insufficient standing to agree, being a wealthy aged white person and all.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Ward, I definitely don’t hear that only black people can talk about black people. I don’t hear that, because nothing in those two comments says that, or even implies it. At this point, you’re just putting words in people’s mouths.Report

              • Plinko in reply to wardsmith says:

                I’m a big believer that there is no such thing as subtext, I don’t care much for the explanations that vex wardsmith and Mr. Berg, though I disagree with their reactions completely – the statement is bigoted on it’s face. You need know nothing of American history, nothing of the “Southern Strategy”, nor anything about black or white America to read the statement and see what it says.

                “I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps,”

                The straight text of the statement directly says that:
                1. They African American community is not currently demanding paychecks.
                2. The African American community is satisfied with food stamps.
                3. This problem is, in some way, specific to the African American community.
                4. The African American community needs Newt Gingrich to tell them these things.

                Any statement that makes these claims is, defintionally, racist. It posits that negative traits are specific to racial background, there is no other reading possible without the reader carrying it in. And I have yet to see anyone make a remotely plausible case that there is other context that renders the plain reading inferior.



  5. DarrenG says:

    Yes, it’s the constant association of “food stamps” with Obama and the NAACP, along with ridiculous claims like people using food stamps to pay for Hawaiian vacations, that’s the dog whistle, not the part about janitors.

    Newt has a very long and inglorious history of associating minorities with laziness, welfare, and criminality going way back. The Daily Show had a brilliant set of clips on this earlier this week.

    To get where he’s going with all this, you have to know Lee Atwater’s explanation of the Southern Strategy as it’s been practiced by the GOP since the Nixon era.Report

  6. Brandon Berg says:

    You don’t have to educate me about how the phrase “welfare queen” has a racial connotation…

    Honestly, I don’t get this at all. When a leftist hears “welfare queen,” he immediately thinks “black people”–and that makes the other guy the racist? I’m thinking this might be more Rorshach Blot than dog whistle.

    I just don’t see why it’s so hard to believe that this is really about disdain for people who live on handouts instead of pulling their own weight. I mean, yeah, if you start from the premise that conservatism is just a long-winded way of saying “I hate black people,” then I guess you can find things that kind of support that thesis when taken out of context. But leftism doesn’t look so great when you start from the premise that it’s just a long-winded way of saying “I hate people who are more successful than I am,” either.Report

    • sonmi451 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      When a leftist hears “welfare queen,” he immediately thinks “black people”–and that makes the other guy the racist?

      No, when people on the left hear “welfare queen” spoken by a right-wing politician with a history of pandering to racist sentiments, we immediately think “he’s using it as a dog-whistle for undeserving, lazy black people taking money away from hard-working white people”. You’re missing the important context here.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to sonmi451 says:

        And by “history of pandering to racist sentiments,” you mean saying things like “welfare queens,” right?

        The “dog whistle” charge is, at best, wildly overused with reckless disregard for the truth.Report

        • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Sorry to sidetrack, but can we get you down as someone who says that Reagan was racist? After all, he used the term “big black bucks” frequently while campaigning.

          [if not, I doubt i will continue to engage you on this thread, as our opinions are too dissimilar.]Report

          • wardsmith in reply to Kim says:

            Kim, several times now you’ve claimed that Reagan said the words, and I quote you, “big black buck”. Now I order you to put up or shut up. Show the quote. You’ll find the words big and black do not appear, you’ve added them to your mythology to make your story better. Now perhaps in your neighborhood, one cannot be a buck without being big and black, but I assure you Mike Dwyer hunts big brown bucks all the time, they do exist.

            I really do wish the left had at least one other card in their deck beyond the one called “Racist”.

            I will give credit where credit is due, the Democrats have done a masterful job of distancing themselves from their odious racist past, which on balance is lightyears worse than everything the Republicans have done since the inception of both parties. But revisionist history goes to the boldest liars I suppose.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to wardsmith says:

              Kim routinely makes up facts to support her opinions, as many of us have pointed out.  I wouldn’t expect much from her, and I just find it easier never to believe a word she says anymore.


              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                To be fair: uttering a statement that is shown to be false isn’t necessarily indicative that the utterer made that statement up.

                A great, great number of made-up statements can wind up in your lexicon when they come from sources that you yourself find trustworthy.

                Now, on the other hand, if you frequently cite things that were made up (even if *you* didn’t make them up, but got them from someone else), and you get called on it and you can’t back it up, this should be a fair wake up call that some of those sources that you trusted were feeding you lines of bullshit, and you ought to perhaps start re-examining these things that you’ve accepted from trusted third parties and testing their veracity, on your own.

                So, yeah, probably ought not to call Kim a liar.  But she’s earned the moniker “Lazy fact-checker and disseminator of dubious factoids”.Report

              • Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                yes, indeed. the “please back up your facts” is certainly warranted.

                Talking about someone who’s committed to not answering back is odd behavior, and I find myself wondering what motivates it.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Kim says:

                Kim, my apologies. I wasn’t calling /you/ a liar, I was actually talking about revisionist historians if you re-read my last sentence. Like Patrick I believe you are completely sincere in your faith concerning “dubious” facts, I would not call a sincerely misled person a liar, just misled. You’ve hung around this site long enough you realize there are many here who don’t cotton to undocumented BS, and for good reason. I don’t challenge the majority of your unsupported assertions not because I believe you’re correct, but because I don’t have the time or energy to do so. I’d sincerely love to see your sources, even if they state exactly what you do, just so I can see what’s out there in the nonsense factories of the Internet. And who knows, sometimes you might just floor me with something legitimate I never knew before. I’d sincerely love to see that too.Report

            • Kim in reply to wardsmith says:



              Next please, SIR. Should we tackle what Ike had to say about blacks? that’s rather famous too.

              I call a spade a spade, you do NO research, and come crying to me saying “HE DIDN”T DO DAT”

              /me laffs at you.

              Apologies will be accepted in the spirit given.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kim says:

                So you get up on your high horse after getting ONE fact right, for once?

                I haven’t forgotten that Sony annual report you fobbed off on me, saying it was support for your contention that Sony both had and used tanks against the people it didn’t like.  What did the report say?  Not a word about it.  (You were all high and might about that one, too, and you never apologized.)

                But to prove I am a gracious sort — kind of — I’ll say this.  I’m sorry that I doubted you this once.  I appear to have been in error.

                Are you sorry for lying to me all the other times?Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to NomNom says:

                Oh please.  You’ve already said you did that to me like three or four times.

                But while you’re at it, you can apologize for saying that $200,000 per year is the lower bound of the middle class, and that “some economist” told you.  I don’t think even you believe that one.

                Or you can flounce away, until the next time you decide that you just have to come back.  And then flounce away again.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Kim says:

                Wait, I’m confused.  How is Kim right here?  She claimed Reagan frequently said, “big black bucks,” and her links–as usual–belie her claim, rather than supports it. The first one quotes the phrase as “strapping young bucks.”  The second quotes it as “strapping black bucks.”  Neither says “big black bucks,” and one does not use the word “black,” either.

                That may be as close as Kim ever gets to proving one of her claims, but it still doesn’t actually make her “right” even this time.Report

              • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

                … because the substance of my argument is that referring to young black men as “bucks” is patently racist. not dogwhistling, just overt racism.

                As for my phrasing? yeah, it’s not right, based on my sources cited. Figure if I listened to all of Reagan’s campaign speeches I’d find one that used that. maybe not.

                “Buck” is a very dehumanizing way of referring to anyone — way worse than the “boy” some chap pol referred to Obama as…Report

              • Murali in reply to Kim says:

                “strapping young buck” is an idiomatic phrase which I would never imagine had a racial component. Hell, itslike being associated with bambi. Who doesnt want to be associated with Bambi?

                Look at the first definition here:


                A young, good-looking, and rather hot example of the male species who appears before the eyes of a lustful older woman


              • Tod Kelly in reply to Murali says:

                “Who doesnt want to be associated with Bambi?”

                (raises his hand)Report

              • Chris in reply to Murali says:

                In much of the south, “young buck” generally means black man. This isn’t really controversial. And given the pattern of his use of the phrase, it’s almost certain that Reagan (or his speechwriters) knew this. But the welfare queen shit was much, much more racist (and a lie).Report

              • Chris in reply to Murali says:

                I should add, it’s not the phrase “young buck” that people considered to be racist (I haven’t been reading Kim’s posts, but if she’s suggesting it was, then she’s off, per usual).  It was the fact that he was making it clear he was referring to a black man (and a black woman) when talking about welfare abuse that was considered racist. You know, because it was.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Murali says:

                The way I heard the term when I was growing up, it was in reference to young black men who were supposed to be strapping and virile- a bit like ‘stud’- and, it was implied, not particularly bright, which is often the implication with stud too. It was a bit like ‘bimbo’- not a flattering term, even though “rather hot” was part of it.Report

              • BSK in reply to Kim says:

                I don’t know how staunchly I want to defend Kim here because I think there are a lot of assumptions in her position, but I do think there is something uniquely problematic about referring to black people in animalistic terms.  I would say that it is always questionable to refer to another human as if he/she was an animal, but there is something particularly questionable about it when that human is a member of a group that was once the victim of chattel slavery.  Though only the most viruntly racist would still deny the humanity of black people, there is still an unfortunate tendency to speak about black folks in ways that emphasize their physicality and downplay their mental and emotional aptitude, and it is the latter that is generally recognized as separating us from animals.  For evidence of this, compare the adjectives used by sportswriters and analysts in regards to athletes: black guys are always athletic, toolsy, and freaks of nature; white guys are cerebral, hard working, and scrabby.  Ultimately, it is insulting to both groups, but the damage is felt more acutely and more intensely by black folks.

                Does this mean that one can never use an animal-related term in regards to a black person?  Hardly.  As someone pointed out earlier, a Lakers announcer (was it Chick Hearn?) got lampooned for referring to a black player hanging on the rim like a monkey, ignoring that he used this turn of phrase with ANYONE hanging on the rim.  But referring to a black guy as a “strapping buck” or whatever the phrase was… well, it would perk my ears up.  Which seems to make it a dog whistle of sorts.  Context could mitigate or exacerbate the ear perking, so I’d need to know more before drawing a conclusion.  But I think there are grounds to question and investigate a quote of that ilk.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to BSK says:

                This is an area where it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chafe, so to speak.  Often times these kinds of descriptions and words run into loggerheads specifically because one group meant absolutely no offense, and one group was still very offended.

                I remember in the 80s when you would watch the NBA it was pretty common for announcers to describe an especially naturally gifted athlete as a “thoroughbred.”  And whether it was just that most of the especially naturally gifted athletes were African American or not, I remember that it was attached to them somewhat specifically.  I do not remember seeing it ever once being used for a white player.  For rather obvious reasons a lot of black people thought this was racist.

                Who’s to say if any of that was intentional, or coincidental, or even all in my (and some black people’s) head.  It’s impossible to say.

                It seems that the way to approach it, then, is not to try to make a final proclamation that something is racist or it isn’t.  Rather, it seems obvious to me the question to ask is “Is what I’m saying offending a large number of people?”  If so, then regardless of your intent you might want to find another of the almost infinite number of words to say what you mean in a way that doesn’t offend.  Or, if you choose to go ahead because you really, really like that word and aren’t particularly bothered that it offends large numbers of people, then by all means do so – but don’t whine when people start assuming less than honorable motives to you.  You should have known that was the cow you were buying when you shined on the fact that you were offending them.Report

              • BSK in reply to BSK says:


                I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.  It is hard to know what is in somsone’s heart and mind, so making a definitive declaration of their intent based on a particular phrase is hard.  However, that is not to say that they are free from accepting responsibility for the impact of their statement.  It is a classic intent/impact discrepancy.  Questioning is preferable than accusing… there is a vast difference between saying, “What did you mean when you said that?” or “Did you notice you only use that phrase in regards to these people?” and saying, “You are a damned dirty racist who only said what you said because you knew you couldn’t say the n-word.”

                I work with young children.  They love to hang from the monkey bars.  I’m sure, in my time with kids, I’ve referred to a white child as “hanging like a monkey”.  One day, I found myself on the verge of saying this to a black child.  I stopped, electing for a different phrase.  I then started to wonder… I know I wasn’t using this in a racist way, so why shouldn’t I have said it?  Is it any less racist to use this ONLY with white kids?  If I use it for everyone, does that mitigate the potential harm?  Ultimately, I decided, as you advised here, that what I stood to gain from using the phrase at all was vastly inferior to the potential harm I could have caused (not that a child necessarily would have been harmed simply from hearing it, but had a brouhaha developed, that would have been damn harmful to the lot of the children) and, as such, I ought not to use it.

                Unfortunately, some people know exactly what they are doing when they use this phrase.  But they are not likely to be changed by any approach.  Better to focus on those who the middle, who might used such language unbeknownst and who can possibly be encouraged to be reflective enough to change.Report

              • Kim in reply to BSK says:

                +10 to Tod.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

              Oddly enough, I have been unable to find either the original text, or a transcript, or an audio recording of the 1976 speech in question.

              I do, however, see a gillion quotations of, “strapping black buck”.


              I must correct the previous sentence, I mis-read my own search results. The gazillion quotes are, in fact, “strapping young buck”.


              Assuming this is a correct quotation, Kimmie’s “big black buck” misquote is close enough to earn the Pat Cahalan fact-checking label of “True”.

              If the contrary claimant can provide original text, transcripts, or recordings, that present an alternate quote to “strapping black buck”, we will be regard this as being entered into the defendent’s evidentiary bucket.  We can then open a whole ‘nuther conversation about how this possibly erroneous quotation became attributed to President Reagan, and why he did not disclaim it.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Kim, Patrick, Jason, the record is STILL not corrected. Kim gave us some links, good. Those links were wrong. As someone old enough to have been an adult during the Reagan years I can tell you there is NO DAMN WAY he would have gotten away with saying even “Big black Buck”. What he DID say was “STRAPPING young buck”.

                Now you Patrick are welcome to give Kim a pass on Strapping=black, but if you do, I have a bone to pick with my long dead grandmother who called me that MANY times growing up, along with a large number of neighbors and even a teacher or two. I’m not quite as big as Will T here, but I’m no pushover and was over 6′ tall by the time I hit 8th grade.But for your narrative to be true, I guess I lost all that swarthiness when I got older.

                Now the NYT, no friend to conservatives nor Reagan at least has a single fact checker who isn’t too stoned or stupid to do their job and you’ll see Krugman references the CORRECT quote here. He’d have been pilloried (and rightly so) for mus-characterizing the quote as egregiously as Kim (and millions of others BTW) have done. This is exactly what I mean when I say revisionist history. By the next retelling of the story, Reagan will have said, “Big black n—-er”. We’re playing the game of “telephone” with history.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to wardsmith says:

                I have a bone to pick with my long dead grandmother … I guess I lost all that swarthiness when I got older.

                So you can pass?

                Sorry, couldn’t pass that up.  I agree with you, though. I don’t know that Reagan didn’t intend some racial connotations, but the correct quote certainly doesn’t contain it at facial value, and mis-quoting him to make sure there’s an explicit racial statement is not legitimate.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, thanks for that. I’ve set the record straight as far as the facts on the ground but whether the wild meme out on the internet can ever be tamed is another question. I won’t keep stamping out the wildfires everywhere I see them, that’s for sure. I’ll leave that job for you.

                Pass, a bit, before I threw out my shoulder I could routinely throw an NFL football 60 yards. Even in high school I had a pretty good arm, but the coach had the nickname “Ground Chuck” for a reason so even though offered a spot on the team I demurred. The best thing about tossing a football so far was having sons who had friends. I’d throw the ball waaaay down the street and they’d relay it back so everyone got chances to play catch and throw. Being Asian, my sons didn’t get nearly as big as me but they make up in form for what they lack in stature. I only wish I could still throw it as far as they can now, let alone as far as I used to. Age is treachery.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to wardsmith says:

                Hey, you purposely misconstrued me!  How dare you?  *grin*

                The shoulder…oh, man can I sympathize with that.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to wardsmith says:

                Well, there /is/ that other form of pass, but I couldn’t believe a gentleman of your breeding would ever say such a thing so went for the sports analogy. 😉Report

              • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                I don’t know that Reagan didn’t intend some racial connotations, but the correct quote certainly doesn’t contain it

                “buck”? Not racial? In that context?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

                Sorry, Ward, in fact I mucked up my own search results.

                Indeed, strapping != “black”, just “big”.Report

              • Kim in reply to wardsmith says:


                Didja know linguistics is a bit of a hobby of mine?

                We arrive at the actual source of the quandrary here: my ignorance!

                So, enlighten me! Where did you live, as a kid? Was the word “buck” used frequently by other people other than your mama? Did she mean it perjoratively (either “really bad” or “just a little”)?

                [I know we’ve got a few other southerners around here: does this fit with your knowledge]

                FWIW, and this doesn’t effect your argument, the “free dictionary” online calls “buck” something used for blacks/Indians only.

                The way I heard it quoted, and there’s nothing in my citation to prove otherwise, is that he changed the words deliberately in the South. If that’s just a use of common speech down there, that’s fine… But if it normally refers to blacks, or is meant perjoratively, that’s a different story.

                Also, worth noting: this was clearly a deliberate choice of wording. Reagan was from California, after all (at least he knew how to ride horses, dangnabit, if you’re gonna pretend to be a rancher, do it right!)Report

              • Plinko in reply to Kim says:

                “Buck” (my surname, btw) is also used down here as a nickname for one’s firstborn son, not super common but enough I get told the story often when I talk to strangers.Applying that usage to the quote would be a huge stretch, though.

                The particular usage recalls Lindsay’s “The Congo”

                Fat black bucks in a wine barrel room
                barrel house kings with feet unstable
                sagged and reeled and pounded on the table


              • Kim in reply to Plinko says:

                quick question, while we’re on about nicknames. What’s Bubba all about? Is it a nickname for a specific first name? Is it used to refer to fat kids? Is it just a generic nickname that some people wind up with?

                [odd things bug me…]Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Plinko says:

                All of the Bubbas I know happen to be older brothers of siblings who are at least 3 years younger. “Bubba” is what they said instead of “brother” and it stuck.Report

              • Plinko in reply to Plinko says:

                I’ve never heard another explanation other than that one for Bubba, but I’ve not encountered it much less. Wikipedia says it gets used as a somewhat demeaning term for Southern males as it was once very common for people to be called ‘Bubba’ down this way.


            • Robert Cheeks in reply to wardsmith says:

              “I will give credit where credit is due, the Democrats have done a masterful job of distancing themselves from their odious racist past…”

              I really don’t agree. The commie-dems USE African-Americans, at least politically. The real question is why do blacks (a majority?) allow themselves to be used and insulted by democrats? I think this form of Democrat racism is much more subtle than Jim Crowe in the South or Northern state postwar, anti-black, legislation but it is every bit as evil and virulent.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Robert, the Democrats have indeed co-opted the black community in brilliant fashion. In my discussion above with Patrick, we circle this topic neatly. 150 years of Democrat racism doesn’t compare with perhaps one decade or less of Republican racism (such as it was) but the spin meisters have done their work ingeniously and have entire generations of useful idiots and water carriers trained in our best liberal arts colleges to ensure that dominion.

                Patrick says correctly that no one of the conservative bent can gain “standing” without doing the ground work and spending the time in the community. What he doesn’t realize is that no one of the GOP persuasion is even ALLOWED in the community.The brainwashing is that complete and as Howard Stern so eloquently demonstrated, blacks in Harlem were voting the man even though every position attributed belonged to McCain. Pavlovian.

                But this is all old ground. I recommend you watch the 1998 movie Bullworth:

                Angry black woman: Are you sayin’ the Democratic Party don’t care about the African-American community?
                Bullworth: Isn’t that OBVIOUS? You got half your kids are out of work and the other half are in jail. Do you see ANY Democrat doing anything about it? Certainly not me! So what’re you gonna do, vote Republican? Come on! Come on, you’re not gonna vote Republican! Let’s call a spade a spade!
                [Loud, angry booing]
                Bullworth: I mean – come on! You can have a Billion Man March! If you don’t put down that malt liquor and chicken wings, and get behind someone other than a running back who stabs his wife, you’re NEVER gonna get rid of somebody like me!Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to wardsmith says:

                Excellent stuff WS. I haven’t seen Bullworth so I’ll Netflix it. Still the question remains; why do blacks allow themselves to be used by the Democrat Party?Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to wardsmith says:

                “150 years of Democrat racism doesn’t compare with perhaps one decade or less of Republican racism (such as it was) but the spin meisters have done their work ingeniously and have entire generations of useful idiots and water carriers trained in our best liberal arts colleges to ensure that dominion.”

                WS, I think this is a statement that is simultaneously 100% accurate and 100% specious.

                I don’t know that there is anyone out there that is arguing that for time immemorial, Dems have been color blind and Repubs have been racist.  You are of course correct that for most of our county’s history, the party that championed segregation and Jim Crow was indeed Big Donkey.

                But somewhere along the line, nationally the democratic party became the party that embraced the civil rights movement, and the republicans became the one that opposed it.  ANd when that happened, many those that couldn’t stomach this betrayal of traditional racial standing turned to the GOP.  And it’s not as if that were just a coincidence; Nixon’s Southern Strategy was based entirely on using this dissatisfaction to increase the GOP’s base.

                This, it seems to me, is the context you need to argue against.Report

              • Bulworth’s ultimate thesis was that the Democratic Party let down the black community by not being liberal enough.Report

              • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

                Perhaps part of the difficulty some people  have in discussing this topic is they refer to blacks as if they have no agency. They have been used or conned or co-opted by dems. Its not that blacks choose to vote D because they think that is best or that blacks aren’t a significant voice in the D party so they are heard and have power to push/pull D’s. Its not that blacks see the D’s as far better then R’s. And of course blacks don’t know the history and perpetrators of racism  in the US.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Will Truman says:

                Will, that’s your interpretation. Let’s not forget “Bullworth” was written by Warren Beatty and he was making /his/ point and strongly. He created a character to give voice to his beliefs. There is a lot more meat to that movie than a one sentence synopsis can do justice.

                I for one would like to see the “liberal enough” solution to the problem, stated as a plan that is, not put into action to “see if it works out”. We’ve had enough of liberal “try it and see what happens” social experiments.

                The problem with the Democrats and blacks is deviously simple. As blacks become successful, they move away from the party. Hence the party keeps them down QED.Report

    • DarrenG in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      See above. Ever since the Southern strategy the Republicans have been using phrases like “forced busing,” “states’ rights,” “welfare queens/young bucks buying T-bones,” and now “food stamp President” as triggers for white populist resentment.

      Newt is one of many who propagate the false and bigoted idea that there is a vast population of non-white people living on the dole in this country at the expense of fine, white working class folk.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to DarrenG says:

        The “non-white” part is coming from you. You really think that Republicans, or a large subset thereof, hold white welfare recipients in higher esteem than productive black people?Report

        • DarrenG in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          See the Lee Atwater description of the southern strategy.

          Republican politicians have spent 40+ years deliberately playing off white, Southern resentment of minorities for partisan political gain.

          They’re now extending this to white resentment of Latinos in the Southwest with very similar tactics.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to DarrenG says:

            Seems to me that what Atwater is explicitly saying that it’s not really about race anymore. Or that the connection to race is so tenuous and abstract that it might as well not be there at all.Report

            • sonmi451 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              Well ….. that’s a very interesting and creative way to interpret this:

              You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

              I would venture that what’s “abstract” is the wording, so they can avoid the charge of racism, not the connection to race. The connection to race is not tenuous or abstract at all. But what do I know, I’m just a silly liberal with a confirmation bias.



            • DarrenG in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              Incorrect. He’s saying that the language used is no longer explicitly racial because that’s no longer acceptable, but the connotation is still very much based on race or stereotypes about race.

              Right-wing politicians and media have very deliberately played up the idea that there is a large population of minorities living off taxpayer-provided welfare in this country to stoke white populist resentment, and with great success given the prevalence of this incorrect belief.Report

            • sonmi451 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              Well ….. that’s a very interesting and creative way to interpret this:

              You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

              I would venture that what’s “abstract” is the wording, so they can avoid the charge of racism, not the connection to race. The connection to race is not tenuous or abstract at all. But what do I know, I’m just a silly liberal with a confirmation bias.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to sonmi451 says:

                Bravo on your restraint by the way… I don’t think I could be nearly as charitable when describing a reading of Atwater’s strategy like that. I believe my comment would have something involving the excrement of a horse.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                I’m trying out the whole civility thing; the adjectives are stand-ins for other adjectives, if you know what I mean.Report

            • Seems to me that what Atwater is explicitly saying that it’s not really about race anymore

              And that’s from the guy who was complaining about confirmation bias?  Is this Bizarro Friday and someone forgot to tell me?Report

        • David in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Perhaps I can be of assistance. Here are a series of questions based on my reading and general impressions of the culture of the American States.

          1. Is it,or is it not, true that poor anglo males and females, especially in what you term the southern states, are more likely to hold views of racial superiority?

          2. Is it, or is it not, true that poor anglo males and females are a reasonably large portion of the voting base for the Republican Party, Tea Party, Conservative Movement?

          3. Is it, or is it not, true that the current rhetoric of the Republican Party, Tea Party, Conservative Movement includes frequent mention of “illegals”, a term meant to indicate persons of middle American descent who primarily speak the Spanish language, receiving benefits from public services to which they may not be entitled, or to which the Movement believes they should not be entitled?

          4. Is it, or is it not, true that the phrase “Welfare Queen”, in American parlance, is indicative of a female of african descent who has multiple children and receives a large amount of her income from public services?

          5. Is it, or is it not, true that the effects of previous discriminatory laws and conduct are still felt in your several States today?Report

          • David in reply to David says:

            I must confess some curiosity as to the answers to these questions, if one or two of you wouldn’t mind following up? I am attempting to gain a better understanding of the circumstances.Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to David says:

              David, I’m waiting to go into a meeting, but when I get out I’ll take a crack at it.  They’re good questions; I won’t have definitive answers, but I’ll give you my personal take.Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to David says:

              My answers are as follows:

              1. Yes, kind of. I think I would rephrase it to read that the less educated (which strongly correlates to income) the more likely you you are in the US to hold bigoted views of any kind. I suspect that while there is racism in the North as well, there’s a particular kind of cultural acceptance of racism in the South that is all its own. I would take that opinion with a grain of salt, as I’ve never lived in the South. On the other hand, in the places I have lived David Duke would never have been a thing, and you don’t get a lot of Bobs, so until someone persuades me otherwise I think this is true. I would say, however, that the argument that the entire South is just a big heaping pool of racism is incorrect.

              2. This is true depending upon your definition of “reasonable.”. If you mean that theRepublican Party is predominantly poor/white, than no. If you mean that like the Democratic party the GOP has its reasonable share or poor/white then yes. A poor white person in Portland Oregon is far more likely to be a Dem, for example.

              3. Yep. No one means “Canadians” when they talk about “the illegals.”

              4. Yes and no. I think different people hear this phrase differently.

              5. God yes. We’ve come a remarkable distance, but we’re still not where we probably should be, and the distance we’ve traveled has taken generations of work.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to David says:


              All of my answers are going to need to be appended with an assumed “it’s more complicated than that.” Even when I don’t expressly say so.

              1. The term “superiority” is a bit loaded (I’m not accusing you of intending it that way), so I would reframe it as “more likely to experience thoughts and feelings ranging from discomfort to hostility” when it comes to people of other races. As Tod points out, some of it is related to education more than income, though I would say that income itself does play a role. It is definitely a sharper sentiment in the south than elsewhere, though you’re likely to find more of it in places where large numbers of minorities reside. Hispanic immigrants are a non-issue where I live now (I’m more likely to hear complaints about white west coast transplants), even among poor whites, but are a much bigger issue in the southwest. The same goes for African-Americans.

              2. I would say “disproportionate” rather than “reasonable,” though that goes for all whites. Poor whites vary from place to place. My understanding is that they are not necessarily disproportionately Republican compared to non-poor whites.

              3. References to illegal immigration are almost always referencing those that come from Mexico or Central or South America. Typically Mexico. This is most typically what liberals have in mind when they talk about illegal immigration as well. It’s where the largest and most noticeable contingent come from.

              4. Tod answers this one right. It’s at least partially a question of stated and unstated assumptions, who is assuming what, who is “really saying” what, and so on. It’s an open question as to what people who have a problem with “Welfare Queens” think of poor, rural whites that are living off welfare. Different ones, we have to assume, think differently. The silence on this (though accusations are frequently lobbed) is a failure in the discussion. I may be writing a post on this soon.

              5. Different people will answer differently. Some thing that the slate was basically wiped clean by the 70’s. Others think that it was later than that (the Cosby Era or Obama’s election) but that it’s happened. Some think it hasn’t happened but probably will. Some believe it never will. Other than completely discarding the first answer (the 70’s), I think the truth is more complicated than any of these explanations. My own view is more towards the latter two, though my views on what can and should be done about this differ from a lot of people whose view is also with the latter two.Report

              • David in reply to Will Truman says:

                Thank you for answering. I would like to ask a clarification regarding your first answer, in the context of this larger discussion.

                In the USA, from what I understand and what you seem to be saying, there are pockets of poverty and pockets where poverty is uncommon. Much like where I live, poverty is sometimes associated with immigration because immigrants come in large numbers from poorer nations.

                As I understand it, in your rural areas, the poor interact with the less-poor or non-poor in a social manner at least part of the time. They are more religious, and will see each other in attendance to churches if nothing else. They will be sending their children to the same schools if for no other reason than a dearth of alternative school options in a lightly populated region. The exception to this is your rural South, where in both urban and rural settings a legacy of racial hostility means that your african-descended citizens attend african-descent churches while your anglo-descended citizens attend anglo-descended churches, and your immigrants from the central american continental region attend churches where the Spanish language is spoken primarily. However, even your rural south areas have a tendency to not include many people of african descent, and there is a social separation between the anglos and the central-americans reinforced by a language barrier. Is this an accurate assessment?

                In your urban areas, by contrast, your richer individuals send their children to schools that are private in nature, while the poorer children must go to public schools. The growth of urban cities, not unique to the USA, indicates that the poor will concentrate in certain areas, the middle class in others, and the rich in others. They will attend socially appropriate churches, and move in socially appropriate circles, and the most exposure to the poor that the middle class and the upper class will have is to be told that the poor live in certain areas where one simply does not go if one does not wish to be the victim of violent crime. Is this inaccurate?

                If the previous are correct, and these match the attitudes I have encountered in my visits to your country, then my next question would be to which of the former is apt to create more hostility and to what extent political rhetoric in your country is intended to stoke political hostility on the basis of racial resentments or feelings of superiority. Previous quotations that I have mentioned in this discussion are rather similar to the comments that conservative, reactionary,  or some would say “neo-nazi” politicians in the European zone have been making in the past decade regarding immigrant Muslims.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to David says:

                D – I am assuming that this was meant for WIll and not both of us; if not let me know and I will give you my best shot at answering.Report

              • David in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I am happy to have responses from all who wish to give them, Mr. Kelly. I have my reasons to wish to gain a fuller understanding of your nation’s circumstances and perhaps my questions will be also able to assist others in the discussion with broadening their own understandings.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to David says:

                Oh, they most certainly will.  Your questions are pretty fantastic, and will lead to good discussions I think.

                I think much of what you say is correct, but perhaps slightly off skew.  I would argue that there is indeed a disproportionate amount of what Will would call misunderstanding in rural areas.  I suspect that the reason for this is that in our rural areas, folks have the freedom to be spread out and limit their universes as they see fit – which is far, far harder to do in our urban areas.  And I think this can hinder the eradication of bigotry.  To jump types of bigotry for a moment as an example, if you live in an urban area in AMerica today, it’s pretty hard to live your life and not have some exposure to people that are gay.  In rural areas it’s pretty damn easy.  I would argue in one of these two environments, it is significantly harder to maintain a picture that all gays are limp wristed, effeminate weirdoes that have their sights on your child than the other.

                I’m not sure that I agree that those in unbar areas that have money all send their kids to private schools.  Even there, it is a very small percentage.  Still, since most public schools are designated by geography, it can amount to the same dynamic you speak of.  Kids in swanky neighborhoods still go to public schools by and large, but they end up being very, very separate from kids from poorer neighborhoods.  One way that this is being addressed in most metropolitan areas is the implementation of magnate schools; however, there are still the exceptions and not the rules at this point.

                As to which group is more susceptible to political messages of bigotry, that’s a little trickier.  In America, there continue to be racial tensions – but at the same time it there is now a social stigma attached to racism. Because of this politicians that look to appeal to people’s worst instincts rarely discuss anything approaching racial superiority.  Instead, they tend to take something that falls in a grey area, and communicate that those that might have been told that the grey area should be avoided have been wronged.  In other words, they way to blow the dog whistle isn’t to tell people that flying the Confederate flag is righteous because we should be allowed to own black people again; rather, it’s that those that are offended by the Confederate flag are fascists that are trying to take away your freedoms.  I will be curious to see if this makes sense to you, or if this is just such weird and bizarre American thing that it just doesn’t translate.

                Lastly, I’d like to hear more about the way your system does deal with Muslims – good and bad.  A guest post on this would be a pretty big hit.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to David says:


                However, even your rural south areas have a tendency to not include many people of african descent, and there is a social separation between the anglos and the central-americans reinforced by a language barrier. Is this an accurate assessment?

                This is not really accurate. There are a lot of African-Americans in the rural south. There are proportionately fewer of them than in the city, but a lot of them remain out there.

                In your urban areas, by contrast, your richer individuals send their children to schools that are private in nature, while the poorer children must go to public schools.

                This sort of thing varies pretty heavily by region and is less common than I think you are thinking it is. As you allude to, cities tend to segregate economically and so middle class and wealthier folks still send their kids to public school. When that’s not possible (say you have a pocket of wealth too small to have its own school), then you will see the private school option taken advantage of.

                (An exception to this is the northeast, where private schools are more common. Also, the Mid-Atlantic. Basically, places that had robust private school systems before the public school system took off. Also, Catholic schools are common and so in places with large numbers of Catholics, you’ll see Catholic schools.)

                They will attend socially appropriate churches, and move in socially appropriate circles, and the most exposure to the poor that the middle class and the upper class will have is to be told that the poor live in certain areas where one simply does not go if one does not wish to be the victim of violent crime.

                It depends, but I would say that this is often the case. It seems that most people I knew growing up (in a well-to-do southern suburb) have lived in poor neighborhoods at one point or another in their lives. But it’s not a prolonged exposure.

                If the previous are correct, and these match the attitudes I have encountered in my visits to your country, then my next question would be to which of the former is apt to create more hostility and to what extent political rhetoric in your country is intended to stoke political hostility on the basis of racial resentments or feelings of superiority.

                I’m afraid I don’t understand the first question? Which of what?

                To your second question (to what extent)… it’s really hard to say. There is no consensus on this. There are some that seem to suggest that any concerns echoed about crime, schools, or welfare are inherently racial code. There are others that say that there is no such thing as racist code and unless a politician is directly saying “Black people are all lazy and dumb” you shouldn’t call it racist.

                For my part, I do think that the flames are being stoked. I believe Gingrich knew exactly what he was doing. He is betting on racial animosity and he is, unfortunately, winning that bet.

                At the same time, I believe race in this country – and in the south in particular – is an intensely complicated thing. I think it is being used, by everyone in sight, to their advantage. I think the best way for it to be used to someone’s advantage is for it to be given the illusion of simplicity.

                That last part is a bit of a tangent, but I felt a need to put it in there.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

                That last bit is a pretty great summation. And if I might say would make a pretty great front page post.Report

  7. Michael Drew says:

    Burt, the issue with dog whistles has always been not that there is unmistakable implication in the words of a speaker, but that the words are received as meaning something by the audience that is not actually said (and that the speaker is aware this will occur).  So there isn’t necessarily going to be any clear indication in the words themselves.  Whether something is a dog whistle depends on the semantic context created by the prior notions of the audience and the speaker.

    “Poor people” can be a dog whistle.  It can also just be a phrase used to denote people without much money.  If Newt had the sense that when he used the term “popr people,” his audience would understand him to mean “Black people,” and he was okay with having this as a meaning that was received, then that phrase was a dog whistle even if he also entirely believed in the proposition given by his statement where poor people just refers to people without much money.

    Accusations of employing dog whistle communication can’t be proven nor disproven, certainly by reference to the language alone.  People make them because they believe this kind of subtextual meaning is being successfully transmitted, but there is no way to prove definitively that it is (unless someone fesses up).  It’s a political charge and the only way to assess its accuracy is to look at the context and judge for oneself what meaning was received by various audiences of the speaker, whether any of these had racial meaning not explicit in the words themselves, and whether the speaker was aware that such meanings would be received.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      …The important implication being here that you can absolutely wave these interpretations of the communication that is going on away as not demonstrable in the speaker’s text; and go on to say that they are mere interpretation, that they are unfair or spurious or worse (these latter you are at pains to say you don’t say, but you could say them), if that is how you see it.  No one is going to be able prove to you that you need to see these things, and no one is really going to be able to explain to you where to find it if you don’t see it (though to see it you do need to be pretty familiar with campaigns of the past and the way these things have been (alleged to have) been) done before.  It is ultimately up to you to decide for yourself whether you think this was going on here or not; no one is claiming there is proof enough to convince you if your default is not to think it is happening unless it can be unmistakably demonstrated to be.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Drew says:

      So…confirmation bias, basically.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I’d love to read you at length on the topic of race in American politics.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        …But, basically, yes, on both sides.  Precisely what I said was that no one will be able to prove it to you.  If you suspect that it happens with some frequency, then you will suspect that certain instances are examples of it.  If not, you’ll be less inclined to suspect it in certain situations.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a fact of the matter.  Just because people are inclined to see it or not to see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  But neither can it proven.  It is entirely up to you what attitude you take toward it.  Your caution about confirmation bias is a good one: if Burt (or, less likely, you) want to perform to your own satisfaction an honest assessment of whether this is happening in a particular case, then you certainly will need to set aside any inclination you have to find that it is, or that it is not.  On the other hand, if you want to approach it in such a way that you will only permit yourself to find that it is by evidence strong enough to defeat a prior decision to be skeptical, you can definitely do that too, and I can tell you from the outset that unless your skepticism is really, really mild, the evidence won’t be there to defeat it.  It is entirely up to you; you can have it your way.  But how you have it doesn’t change what the fact of the matter is, even though I can’t prove to you what that fact of the matter actually is.Report

      • Murali in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Its more than just confirmation bias right?

        I mean, if I tell you there is a dinosaur in my living room, you are going to want to see it. But if you go in and see nothing, and I tell you that it is a kind of dinosaur that is exceptionally good at hiding and would look like a perfectly normal piece of furniture anyway…

        To be fair of course, if historically there have been non-camouflaged dinosaurs in my living room before and Jurassic Park pest control has to be called in every single time it may seem different from a case where there is no history of dinosaur infestations.

        That said, is there a difference? if I were to tell you right now that there is a dinosaur in my room which has hidden itself so well that it doesnt look like a dinosaur, does it matter that there have been occasions in the past when there were non-camouflaged dinos?

        How far back in time would the last non-camouflaged dinos have been observed before we decided that the living room was dionsaur free and not infested with ninja-commando-dinosaurs.

        The crux of the question is on what basis can we say that an individual republican is giving dogwhistles when dogwhistles are by definition the kind of things which gives one plausble deniability. i.e. if I can plausibly deny that my statements are racist, how can it possibly be reasonable to believe that they are in fact dog-whistles.Report

        • David in reply to Murali says:

          I believe part of the context is that occasionally, politicians will mistakenly say what they really mean, either because they believe a microphone is turned off or because they do not realize what they have said, such as when the French President met with your president and both pronounced the Prime Minister of the nation of Israel to be a liar.

          Most recently in your nomination cycle, you have another candidate who said “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” May I characterise that as an un-disguised dinosaur sighting, and if so, does it ably indicate that the presence of disguised dinosaurs may be worth investigating?Report

    • Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Perhaps not, but we can take some guidance from what David references above — how the actual targets take it.


      Now that’s a dogwhistle, and done artfully — implying that Obama was a communist because some shmoo sent in an andy warhol themed ornament.


    • I know what a dog whistle is, I just didn’t hear any in the exchange that got people so excited.

      The gestalt, though, seems to be something along the lines of “Gingrich also said ‘X’ in the past, which was a dog whistle, and he’s said ‘Y’ too, and that wasn’t even a code it was so obviously racist, and he’s done ‘Z’ which is something that while not racist itself does sort of smell like the sort of thing that would please racist people.” In other words, the exchange with Williams was used as a shorthand to recall all this other stuff.

      The only things that seem intellectually fair to me to recall back into that exchange was the remark that Williams referenced at the start of the exchange (which Sonmi found right away, and I thank her again for that) and a very generalized association of poverty, race, and social status. Pretty much all of the rest of it seems to me to be reacting to X, Y, and Z, which were not things actually said in this debate. Reacting to X, Y, and Z is fine, but if you’re going to do that, then don’t point at the debate and howl, Body Snatcher-like, that this is also racism on display. Howl at X, Y, and Z.

      To say that the debate must be viewed in the context of X, Y, and Z is to appeal to the emotional resonance of a series of facts as a means of clarifying ambiguity about them. This is both pleasurable and potentially edifying, but at the point when the emotional resonance of a statement eclipses the need for that statement to be factually accurate, we don’t have a “narrative” anymore, we have a “myth.” The accusation of “Gingrich is race-baiting,” it seems to me, is transforming from narrative into myth. The initial quote about speaking to the NAACP which Sonmi was good enough to locate up at the top of the comments is about the only thing that keeps the whole thing grounded in fact.Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Yeah politics sucks. Al Gore got called a serial liar, which was far from the truth.

        Hillary did some level of racial-consciousness crap while she was campaigning. But as a large and significant counter to the meme that “hillary is playing to the racists” — she’s done a lot of good for black people, many of whom voted for her, and she kept the racial identification classy (NOT saying that black people were XYZ, simply saying stuff like “I like KC bbq”)Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I tried to make clear, I have no interest in trying to tell you whether you should see it, only to help you understand what it would be you would be looking for, if trying to see what others were seeing was what you were interested in doing.  That’s what ld, I  took you to be asking for in terms of responses. Sorry if I misunderstood.

        At this point I would suggest it might be worth finding an actual argument to deal with rather than trying to argue with a gestalt or composite impression of arguments.  But perhaps that’s just my personal bugaboo lately.Report

        • My apologies if I misunderstood you, Mr. Drew. I thought when you pointed me to “the semantic context created by the prior notions of the audience and the speaker,” and “the only way to assess its accuracy is to look at the context and judge for oneself what meaning was received by various audiences of the speaker, [etc.]” you were directing me to broaden the scope of my inquiry and to place the specific focus of my analysis (statements made the debate) into that broader context.

          If I’m supposed to understand Newt’s remarks in the debate by way of their being placed in the context of a series of other remarks he made elsewhere, then it seems to me we are well beyond the borders of gestalt-land. It’s not just you who has apparently pointed me in this direction here in the comments. Quite the opposite.

          I understand your observation that sometimes “poor people” might be intended to mean or understood to mean “black people.” This is so factually dichotomous from my own life experience, though, that I have trouble assimilating it on an emotional level. I’ve only ever observed poverty in America as a racially diverse phenomenon. Even if I were to broaden my contextual analysis of Gingrich to recall everything else referenced herein, I have to respectfully disagree; the fair reading of Gingrich referring to “poor people” is the plain meaning of that phrase.Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

            I should add that Tod Kelly’s very recent post also points to context and places the debate as one star among many in the constellation of statements made by Candidate Gingrich. Jason Kuznicki made a trenchant comment in that post, echoing remarks made elsewhere:

            I think this all goes back to the comments Gingrich made about wanting to speak to the NAACP: Smart white man tells black folk what they really need, because black folk couldn’t figure it out for themselves.

            If that’s not racist, then neither is the KKK.

            And I can totally see that. But again, those aren’t remarks made in the debate. The debate references those remarks, but does not repeat or even particularly strongly echo them. My inquiry was about why my visceral reaction to the debate seemed so different than the prevailing wisdom. It seems to me that can be adequately explained by the history here, but it cannot be adequately explained by the contents of the debate itself.

            Thus, context and gestalt. Again, I’m sorry if I’ve missed your point or if my decision to use your point as a frame in which to make an omnibus-level observation distorts what you were trying to say.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko says:

              The answer, I think, is that he had the opportunity to “clarify” his earlier comments, and instead he doubled down on them. Rather forcefully. Not recognizing, or not caring to recognize, the racial implications. Even as Juan Williams laid them out for him.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

                Indeed, which, after Williams makes the topic specifically how he intended his words to be understood by black audiences & whether he understood how they felt and and why they felt that way after hearing them, makes his decision to at that point switch to an emphasis on what his views are about what “poor people” should do particularly suspicious.  I am not making the formal accusation myself, but I think this is context that is hard to ignore, if not ‘evidence.’Report

            • sonmi451 in reply to Burt Likko says:

              And I can totally see that. But again, those aren’t remarks made in the debate. The debate references those remarks, but does not repeat or even particularly strongly echo them.

              But for those of us aware of those remarks before watching or reading about the debate, those remarks are in the forefront of our mind. The remarks are the reason Juan Williams even brought up the subject of race, if Newt hadn’t made those remarks, I really doubt he would be challenged on the subject of race in such a friendly venue. So it’s hard for me to separate the remarks from what Newt actually said in the debate; the remarks are not just the context, they were also the driving force for the question being asked in the first place.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

            I do think that if one is to find a dog whistle, one will have to apprehend the statements in question in light of the social context in which they are made, and if that is gestalt, then that is gestalt.  Still, if you are saying that someone is employing gestalt as a way to make the argument that this was an instance of dog-whistling, then, if it begins to become unclear just how exactly that argument goes, my view is that it is best to locate someone actually making the argument, and use their argument

            I suppose you could point to me saying that taking into account context would be necessary to hear a dog whistle in general, but since your piece preceded this comment and is primarily about whether it is the case in this instance, I think it would be better to find someone making the case about this instance in particular (preferably prior to your post), and I am not doing that.

            In your last paragraph here, I think you demonstrate that you still haven’t totally internalized the proposition here; a “fair reading” as I understand it isn’t dispositive of dog whistling (he could fully mean what the sentence says on the plain meaning of “poor people,” and just be aware that it would be understood differently, and in that case i would say that a fair reading could be said to say that his intended meaning is that of the statement with the plain meaning), though I think by that you here just mean, “he wasn’t dog whistling.”Report

            • I didn’t hear him dog whistling. Had I not exposed myself to other peoples’ reactions, I would have agreed with the statement “That was not a dog whistle.” Seeing so many other people concluding otherwise was what prompted my inquiry here.

              As to the reference to “poor people,” you’re right that I have not internalized that as a dog whistle; as I wrote above, the best I think I can do is accept it intellectually. As to the reference to earlier remarks made about hypothetically speaking to the NAACP, that is somethng I can internalize and assimilate.


              • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:


                It wasn’t the specific language of poor people that I was talking about with respect to your understanding.  it was the way you related “fair reading” to dog-whistling.  Again, I am not saying you should accept this notion even facially – it’s up to you – but the notion, as I understand it, is that a dog whistle effect of a communication will or may be robust to a “fair reading” that finds it innocuous.  However, you are here just simply defining “fair reading” as understanding the context fully enough to be positive that the speaker was unaware of any sub rosa meanings his words could have (in other words, just defining it as exclusive of dog whistling), fair enough.  But that’s not my understanding of what a fair reading is, and the idea of robustness to a fair reading is a distinctive feature of how dog whistle communication operates in theory.  As I understand it.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                “However, [if!] you are defining…”Report

  8. Alan Scott says:

    It’s really about to whom the statement was made.  Newt gave his speech in a town that has about 25 black residents.  He wasn’t telling black people to demand jobs.  He was telling a room full of overwhelmingly white people that black people should demand jobs.  That’s not really the same thing, and I wish those reporting and commenting on the story would do a better job of highlighting the difference.

    As far as using poor kids as janitors goes, racial coding is the charitable explanation.  The proposed idea is so abysmal that I’d rather have a race-baiting president.  Teach twelve year old kids work ethic by making them be school janitors?  Really?

    I have what I imagine is the rather uncommon experience of being an adult working with teen employees–some as young as fourteen.  They were charming kids and I’m sure it taught them something in the way of work ethic, but I think they’d be better served by focusing on their pre-algebra homework once the summer was over.  Certainly at my high school, the kids on sports teams or in honors classes had more work ethic than the kids with part-time fast food jobs.

    Also, I had a roommate who was a high school janitor.  One day he described the chemicals he works with on a regular basis, and which ones could get you high.  I’m extra glad that kids aren’t allowed to work as janitors, both because it puts them in close proximity with the chemicals and because it puts them in close proximity with my former roommate.


  9. Matty says:

    The original comment, which I read as “why are’t black people demanding jobs?” does sound racist and not in a subtle secret meaning kind of way.

    That said the US connection of race and poverty always puzzles me.

    I have lived most of my life in ex coal mining areas of the British Isles and am very familiar with both high unemployment and prejudice against the poor, I’ve had to sign on myself more than once. The thing is the people involved are overwhelmingly white and hearing poor as black in that context just doesn’t make sense.

    So yeah in an abstract sense I understand the concept of dog whistles but in another way I just don’t hear them.


    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Matty says:

      I think this would be akin to a Tory politician of a public school background flat out saying that poor people should simply work harder in school to get ahead while suggesting that reforms to school tuition should serve to make them more competitive.

      In British politics there’s always a social class based set of dogwhistles you can make out when talking about social services. Particularly with reference to the urban poor/labourer classes that the Tories tend to use pretty well in discussions of the middle class. You also sort of see in British nationalist parties in discussing Europe, though this as a whistle TO the working class and poor.

      It might be best to consider the US position to be similar, but the Southern Strategy has elements of both. On one hand it aims to explicitly use middle class anxieties about urban poor (which were predominantly minorities) and crime supported by their tax dollars, and on another it was meant to stoke resentment on struggling working class whites in the south to divide them from those who would otherwise be their allies (African Americans) into racialized resentment that resources were being used on them rather than “us”.Report

  10. Robert Cheeks says:

    In reading this thread, I can tell who has a commie-dem, union, public school edumacation and actually believed the bs.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      I don’t mind flagging this comment as something that ought to be considered for action vis-avis moderation, per the newly re-emphasized commenting policy.  That is, I mean, I would feel that way if this commenter had any track record of leaving border-line, limits-testing comments in the past.  I’m not sure what someone might write that could be better described by, “makes no attempt to address a point germane to the original post or another comment and instead contains nothing more than a blanket personal attack directed at the author or another commenter” than this.

      For the record, deleting comments is a really dumb way to set limits.  No one knows what limits are being set.  It seems to me it’s really only worth it to delete comments that contain truly vile sentiments that the site simply cannot host for its own good – the kind of thing that basically never appears, and perhaps has never appeared here. But obviously, the site should make its own determinations

      In my view, it is both more effective, and not subject to any claims of private censorship within a quasi-public yet fully private forum, when moderation action is necessary, whenever possible to simply provide an official statement of the sense of the management that this is the kind of comment fits a definition given in a written policy of a kind if expression that isn’t solicited for these pages.  Certainly i don’t think this instance should occasion any more than such a statement.  But at the same time, I think it should be noted that this is an example of a statement that unambiguously fits the definition given in writing of kind of comment that isn’t welcome. I can’t make that statement; I don’t speak for the management.  But I think someone who does should do it.  Else, what was the value of everything we just went over?

      In point of fact, if I were a betting man, I’d be willing to wager that this comment was actually made precisely to test to see whether anything has actually changed as a result of all the discussion in recent days. Though, in fact, the comment is actually significantly different from most of the ones this commenter has been making for the past year or more, so in truth it’s a new pushing of old limits, not a test of resolve for the enforcement of new, more restrictive limits.  But be that as it may, I would suggest that the intent to probe limits here is particularly poorly hid in this instance.  We should give him what he wants.


      [Hi Bob!  Luv ya. ;-)]Report

      • Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I’d be disappointed if action were taken on a comment like this. Look, Bob’s philosophy is, at its base, an insult to people who disagree with him. That’s not true of all conservatives, but Bob’s particular species of conservatism essentially sees liberalism and leftism, or even different forms of conservatism, as diseases of the mind and spirit. There’s no way that’s not insulting, and pretty much everything Bob says means what he says in this little comment, even if it’s sometimes dressed up in Voegelinian terminology.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

          He’s rarely this fully unrespecting of the topic at hand (clearly he could write this about literally any thread), substance-free, fellow-participant-directed, and personally disparaging all at once.  In fact, I would argue, this is a anomalous departure from his usual ability to hew to the line.  Which is not to say that what you say about his record is wrong and that he has never before clearly crossed the line; only that in the past he was close enough for toleration to win the day, especially once the precedent was set early on.  Here I don’t think an argument can be made in his favor (which is to say, against the result he greatly wants to see come to pass).Report

          • Robert Cheeks in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Actually, i thought I was being only slightly snarky (albeit dead knuts accurate) and very much restrained. This is really just my personal expression re:  a thread grounded in a peculiar non-reality conjured up in modernity’s deformed culture and proudly inculcated by means of the state-school, that makes happy,  proper thinking, state-citizens. The blog itself wasn’t bad except that Burt was confused enough by a lifetime (union-thug public school teachers) of pc silliness to ask if he missed something, which tells us a lot about Burt’s concerns. For all I know our pal Burt’s greatest fear may be to say something politically incorrect.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              Well, you ended up just dissing a bunch of people’s edumacations without actually saying anything about anything, but it looks like your schtick is going to continue to fly.  Congrats?Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Frankly Michael, I personally hold teachers as a major contributor to moral/ethical collapse. I always considered ‘teaching’ a profession, not some union job that pays wages. I am, of course, aware of the passionate, hard working teachers who’s first thought is to truth and to their children. Alas, I think they are too few in number. A cadre of determined teachers, standing against the sundry ideologies would have changed much.Report

            • Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              See, like I said, basically everything Bob says is an insult, but he doesn’t mean it personally. We’re all “deformed.”Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

                We’re all “deformed.”

                Sure, just look at our avatars.  I mean, what the hell are you, anyway, some kind of rabbitduck?  That’s just a perversion of nature.  Now compare that to Bob’s–at least he’s human!Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to James Hanley says:

                One coffee snort for Hanley!

                Chris, of course you’re right about the ‘deformed’ thing but we are working to restore reality and, as you know, any escape from these elaborate and complex Second Realities you people have constructed is going to take a great deal of time. and effort. And, as Eric has pointed out these efforts sometimes die aborning, become derailed, or are overpowered by the ‘whas happenin’ now’ cultural phenomenon. The desire to seek the truth of reality is always in tension with the desire to belong to the tribe. Just as the tenion between reality and those nasty second realities usually result in some sort of anxiety or unhappiness or misery for the spiritually diseased psyche…we see it daily. 

                Mr. Drew, I am sorry to report to you that I’ve not heard a word from management, as yet. Not even a hint of reprimand. The good news is I’m having trouble following threads on my landlined, patchworked computer, consequently I don’t comment a lot. Howevr, as you know, I’M HERE TO HEP!


                I see our pal, Bp, may be internally comparing his own secular progressivism with his reading of Mr. Lewis and perhaps the League will be witness to a rather intricate epiphany?Report

              • “The desire to seek the truth of reality is always in tension with the desire to belong to the tribe.”

                I can see this in The Quotable Cheeks we’ll probably get to work on right after the League Anthology is complete.

                We should leave this part out though: “Just as the tenion between reality and those nasty second realities usually result in some sort of anxiety or unhappiness or misery for the spiritually diseased psyche…we see it daily.”

                I’m not sure ascribing feeble-mindedness to those with whom one has ideological differences is a kosher move for public discussion. Can you give some examples of beliefs that support your assertion?


              • Having had this conversation with Bob, I can say that he can and will provide proof in the form of late 19th and early 20th century theological texts.

                It might be best to just agree to disagree.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                Christopher, unfortunately I didn’t think I had to explain the differentiation; that you might provide me the benefit of the doubt. In any event, here it is: folks who suffer from physical impairments, that is brain injuries or associated diseases or any form of electro-chemical impairments surely are excluded from this differentiation and analysis.

                I’m talking about modern ‘intellectuals’ who have chosen to embrace a closed rather than open system and those, for example,  identified by Cicero in his “Tusculan Disputations (IV. 23-32)”: wherein the observant Italian identified: “..moneymaking, status seeking, womanizing, overeating, addiction to delicacies and snaks, wine tippling, anxiety, desire for fame and public recognition, rigidity of attitude, and fears of contact with other human beings as misogyny and misanthropy..”Report

              • When does it all just come down to different people having different values – or, if you want to use scientific parlance, polymorphisms?Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Well, Bob, that’s their call, it’s outta my hands.  I don’t have anything in particular riding on it, so no worries, I’m not disappointed. Just thought yours comment was a good opportunity for us to learn what might or might not fall under the definitions in the newly re-established policy.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Michael, I think it is clear that Bob likes to use inflammatory language to define GROUPS, but I haven’t personally witnessed him using same to label INDIVIDUALS here (Obama, while an individual isn’t here). Where certain banned parties have crossed the line is in conflating the two and denigrating other commenters who may belong to a group, with similar (and frankly worse) language.

                It is one thing to say Group X is full of nothing but thieving low life liars and quite another to say Michael Drew is nothing but a thieving low life liar. You may feel it is a distinction without a difference if you feel you’re a member of Group X, but BlaiseP for instance had a rather eloquent rant against Group GOP the other day calling them mouthbreathers and so on that was perfectly fine. He didn’t call TVD a mouthbreather.

                My take on all this “group” business is that we only self-identify with a “group” insofar as it meets our needs. If you were privy to the group platform construction and were allowed to vote yea or nay on each of its planks you’d be further entailed, but you would have been unlikely to vote Yea on each and every one. Likewise my personal feeling on group membership is as I’d said before, it is a cafeteria where I pick and choose my menu items. The cafeteria may well be organized into sections with signs saying, “Liberal”, “Conservative”, “Libertarian”, “Socialist” and so on, but I am by no means obligated to do all my “shopping” under a single sign, and don’t.

                If we want to keep things cordial around here if not gentlemanly, we need to keep that distinction in mind.Report

              • Wardsmith, that’s exactly right. Oh, and, as someone who’s struggled with asthma and allergies his whole life, I take offense to the term “mouthbreather”.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Ward & CC –

                Bob’s statement was about what he thinks he could perceive about the education of some particular people commenting in this thread.  He didn’t name them, but it’s pretty clear that he’s talking about people making one of the two main arguments that are contending in the thread.

                If I told you, Ward, that from what you write, I thought I could conclude that you had a shitty education, that, in my mind, would constitute a “blanket personal attack directed at the author or another commenter.”  If I said that that applied to you and four other commenters whom I named, that would be that times five.  If I didn’t name you or the other commenters, that would be that times X.  “The group” Bob’s comment was directed at was not a general social or political group, of whom some here might or might not be members. It was specified by him that it was directed at particular people who were commenting in this thread.  He didn’t name who they were, but it is clear from context who the people were in the thread  – where he was explicit that the people he was directing the comment at could be found –  whom he was talking about.

                Ragging on the GOP is not the same thing.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Michael Drew says:

                @Michael, I’m guessing the phrase you found so offensive was this one?

                In reading this thread, I can tell who has a commie-dem, union, public school edumacation and actually believed the bs.

                Otherwise I just don’t get it. Even the phrase above is a continuation of the “performance art” that is Bob. It would have been just as funny if not moreso if Jaybird had said it, and I’m guessing you’d have taken no offense. I stand by my previous statement, no one was personally attacked and for you I’d recommend a thicker skin. As for my personal edumacation I’d never blame the school, just the student.Report

      • Jeff in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Much as I don’t much care for the Haydens or Making Light, disenvowling comments is a pretty cool idea.  Anyone who wants to work at it van probably figure out what’s being said, while those who don’t can just slide past.Report

  11. FridayNext says:

    A couple of things missing from this otherwise relatively civil debate, relative to my relatives that is, is what Newt is NOT saying. The fact is that though African Americans have a higher percentage of their population on food stamps, the vast majority of food stamp recipients are NOT black. Whites receive more food stamps than blacks. Some of the highest food stamp use in the US are in the South and Appalachia regions, rural west and mid-west, and since the housing bust some of the largest areas of growth are in formally prosperous suburbs. (Sources I used were varied from, yes, the Wiki, but also a NYT article a couple of years back with a spiffy interactive graph)

    Yet Newt singles out the NAACP and blacks as needing to be told to demand paychecks rather than food stamps. When he goes into a white Appalachian town and tells THEM TO THEIR FACES to walk away from their crystal meth labs and demand paychecks not food stamps or, even better, speaks to a predominantly black or hispanic audience and tells them that he would welcome a meeting with poor white people to tell them to demand pay checks not food stamps, then I will believe that Newt isn’t pandering to white, working class racial prejudices.

    If anyone can find quotes of him doing this, I will gladly follow them down and modify this post accordingly.Report

  12. BSK says:

    First and foremost, I didn’t read the whole article (but surely will!) but I saw this sentence and needed to respond:

    “Make It worse – what if your failure to see “X” represented not just a mistake or oversight on your part, but something that you would call a serious moral deficiency?”

    We need to move away from the mindset that every instance wherein someone does or says something that could be racially insensitive/offensive and/or someone does not recognize the potential for something to be racially insensitive/offense is evidence of a moral deficiency.  That is simply not the case.  And the longer we think that it is, the less constructive dialogue we can have.  As soon as we move away from, “What was the potential impact of that statement?” to “Who in this situation is a good or bad person?” we’ve lost our focus.  That is hard to do, because of how guilt around issues of racism has been beaten into our society, but important nonetheless.

    Okay, off to read the article and comments!  Hopefully what I’ve written here doesn’t look stupid after having done so, but I just couldn’t not respond to that!Report

  13. Mike Dwyer says:

    I agree with pretty much everything in the post. I don’t see the problem in the specific comments about kids cleaning their schools. To the contrary, it seems like janitors should probably get a little offended that people see their occupation as an insult.

    I think what Newt is getting at in this specific policy suggestion is similar to what I covered here. It’s about instilling better work habits in the poor. Unfortunately his past history of more racially insensitive remarks compounded with a liberal distaste of criticizing the poor has obscured what could have been a really interesting conversation in the puiblic forum.Report

    • sonmi451 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I don’t see the problem in the specific comments about kids cleaning their schools. To the contrary, it seems like janitors should probably get a little offended that people see their occupation as an insult.

      But is anyone suggesting that the janitor comment is the racial code? Maybe I’m not reading enough blogs, but as yet, I haven’t come across anyone suggesting that. Plus, I don’t think people are having problems with Newt’s “let’s-fire-real-janitors-and-replace-them-with-kids-because-they’re-cheap-labor” scheme because they think kids are too good to be janitors, and it’s so beneath them to be janitors. It’s the firing of the janitors and the potential exploitation of the kids that most people have a problem with.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to sonmi451 says:

        Substitute ‘administrative assistants’ for janitors and see how much reaction it gets.Report

        • sonmi451 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Well, maybe I’m not hanging out at the right hoity-toity bars you’re hanging out in, because I don’t see or hear anything that suggest people are criticizing  Newt for the fire-the-janitors scheme because they think it’s too insulting for kids to work as janitors. It’s the union-busting angle, the cheap labor angle, the potential exploitation of children angle, the Newt-is-clueless-about-school angles, that’s what people are talking about.Report

          • sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451 says:

            Not to mention thousands of janitors losing their jobs, janitors who presumably have kids themselves. Hey, daddy or mommy’s been fired, your turn to work and bring home the bacon. Guess what? The job I was fired from is now available for you! Ain’t America grand?

            Sigh. And I was so determined to be good today.



          • Mike Dwyer in reply to sonmi451 says:

            I think the conversation is already completely skewed when people view teaching kids responsibility and giving them a paycheck as exploitation.Report

            • Kim in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Try it on a three year old, and tell me again. Child labor sucks, folks. There’s a reason we have laws — and ones that can be reasonably easily circumvented.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              I think it depends on how you teach them and how you pay them. If you pay them comparable rates as janitorial staff? I guess. But using a jobs program essentially as a way to circumvent labor laws under the rubric of “helping poor people” is bullshit.Report

            • sonmi451 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Teach them responsibility by telling them to get jobs delivering papers, or mowing the neighbors’ lawn, or babysitting. What’s wrong with babysitting? I did that a LOT when I was a teenager. Why is being a school janitor the ONLY job that can teach kids about responsibility?

              The exploitation angle comes up because Newt’s biggest complaint about the current janitors is that they’re unionized, so presumably once he’s replaced all the current janitors with kids, they won’t be allowed to unionize or organize in any way. A group of children, not allowed to organize, employed by adults. You do the math.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to sonmi451 says:

                The government can’t really create a program around babysitting and newspaper delivery. They DO control who cleans up the school.

                “The exploitation angle comes up… so presumably once he’s replaced all the current janitors with kids, they won’t be allowed to unionize or organize in any way.”

                If THAT is really what people think he is basing his policy on, I really do fear for the future of the country.Report

              • Kim in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Like hell they can’t! We had “special projects” in my high school, which was a veiled attempt to get us to do some sort of volunteer/leadership thingy.Report

  14. Roger says:

    Racism is a serious breach of social ethics. It may not be as despised as rape or murder, but it is probably more reviled than lying or fraud. Racism is a serious modern ethical violation.

    When someone is accused of rape, murder, fraud or lying, we demand a burden of proof. It is totally unacceptable to accuse someone of a serious ethical breach without strong supporting evidence. Indeed, it is considered an ethical violation to accuse someone of serious ethical violations without evidence.

    I could care less about Newt or this particular case, but we do have a social problem. People are accusing others of a serious ethical violation with absolutely no support other than their subjective and biased interpretation of supposed code words. This is simply political correctness gone haywire.

    I believe accusing someone else of racism without strong evidence is itself a serious ethical violation. This applies to many of the commenters above.Report

    • Kim in reply to Roger says:

      *yawn* Don’t care. Fact is, Newt fucking hurt some people’s feelings. If he wasn’t a racist, he would sit down, say, “I’m sorry!” and then ask “So what did I do wrong?”

      Because we do have a burden of proof — but it’s how you conduct yourself after being an asshole, not DURING.

      Because we’re all assholes occasionally.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Roger says:

      …are you serious?

      And this, kids is why we can’t have an actual conversation on race in America. Evidently only terrible, murdering rapist level sociopaths are racists, therefore anyone who isn’t one must not be a racist and you can’t call out racist talk.

      What bullshit.Report

      • Nob,

        I think you badly misconstrued what Roger was saying.  (So, good job on being more controversial!)Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

          I admit I’m engaging in a bit of hyperbole here, but I think the overstigmitization of being considered racist is a serious impediment to American social debate about race. If only racists say racist things, and if racists are only very terrible people that accusing someone of being one is a social faux pas in it of itself, then it precludes the possibility of there being a dialogue on racist actions.

          Dog-whistling is a bit of racism that gets to take a pass on the presumption that only morally deficient people does anything remotely racist.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            Does this embed right?Report

          • I’m not saying I fully agree with Roger.  I just think your hyperbole really missed the mark.  As explained here your argument’s much more defensible.Report

          • Roger in reply to Nob Akimoto says:


            I am obviously trying to have a conversation on racism. I am saying it is a serious ethical breach. Do you agree?

            I did not say that only sociopaths were racists. Nor did I imply that calling a racist out implies that they are sociopaths. You just made these statements up.

            What do you mean when you wrote the following?

            the overstigmitization of being considered racist is a serious impediment to American social debate about race.

            It almost seems you are saying racism is not ethically reprehensible. Or am I just misreading?

            Let me be very clear. I am not suggesting that calling someone a racist is a social faux pas. I am saying that it is rude and bad form to accuse someone of something reprehensible in an arbitrary and capricious matter. What part of this do you disagree with?



            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Roger says:

              My contention is that dog whistles are an unintended consequence of the stigmatization of racial prejudice in the US. White, middle-class Americans have generally come to believe that racism is indefensible, to the extent that they will go to great contortions to claim they are NOT racist, and look for secondary symptoms they can pin on their racial animus.

              Essentially people look for ways to mask their prejudices. Obama put it very well in his speech on race when he mentioned that even his grandmother might cross the street if she saw a black man. There’s subconscious, cultural cues in American society that are based on racial hierarchy. It’s much like how someone might talk of class, or sex, or orientation. We don’t consciously say “oh that dude’s a fag.” We say “his taste in clothes makes him a bit metro” or…”that woman is such an overbearing bitch” rather than saying “harpy”.

              The civil rights movement did a lot to stigmitize overt racism, but it also didn’t go far enough in removing structural racially created inequality in the US. This means that a lot of the assumptions behind certain racial prejudices remained as structural impediments for minorities.

              Yet the white middle class liberals (and later conservatives) have essentially claimed that they’ve come to a color blind society. The implication here is that if you’re still hung up about race, then you’re simply accusing people of being morally deficient for the sake of  scoring points.

              Your comment touched a nerve for me because there’s this notion that racism is simply such a terrible evil that accusing someone of racism is a terrible ill. Racism IS evil, but there’s a point to play that you can have prejudices without being maliciously racist. There’s a wide world of difference between David Duke/Neo Nazis and the suburban mom who’s uncomfortable with hip hop music. They both have racial prejudices to some extent, but one is a virulent, sociopathic behavior while the other is a structural culture response.

              If you told the suburban mom that avoiding the “black” part of town was racist, she’d recoil and make reasons about how she has black friends and can’t possibly be racist.

              And this complete rejection that I could possibly have racial prejudices because only bad people have racial prejudices means that dog whistles are particularly effective, because they play to subconscious feelings that people have that are motivated by race, but they play into being from some other source.Report

              • Roger in reply to Nob Akimoto says:


                Thanks, great response. You packed a lot of valuable substance in one comment.

                I would be careful though. Your approach to dog whistles reminds me of armchair psychoanalysis. Every time they talk about cigars and donuts they are really talking about sex. Maybe. Maybe they just want a smoke and something sweet.

                I am not sure where these dog whistles end. And most importantly, who gets to define them? What if conservatives and progressives are operating under wildly different dictionaries?

                Yes you are right that people are naturally biased. Yes, we have driven overt racism under the table. Yes, sometimes people use code words. But sometimes people just maliciously project their vile on others.

                The argument goes like this… When he says X, I believe some people think Y, so he must have intended Y. When he says “Welfare Queen”, some people hear “Black Welfare Queen.” so he must be a racist. Sorry, it does not follow. Yes, it is true he could have intended the racist message. He could have just been literal.

                Progressives and conservatives are both playing games. Some conservatives really are using code words. Some progressives really are redefining phrases used by conservatives to paint them as race baiters. I suggest we take people literally unless they have a clear pattern of abuse. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Roger says:

                I agree with your general point, that there is a limit to how much connotative meaning you can take from words. Moreover it IS dangerous in that you can essentially ascribe meaning and intent to people that is very uncharitable.

                That being said.

                I think there’s a tendency, particularly for white, straight Americans to take the euro-male-christian-centric social hierarchy for granted when they speak.

                But more importantly is the political context here.

                The entire post-Reconstruction (or perhaps “Redeemer”) South was predicated on many assumptions about race. In many respects the Southern Strategy was a modern “redeemer” movement. They took their lumps from the Federals and then went back to trying to reconquer the south in a similar power hierarchy as had existed before.

                Gingrich was and is working in a political context that’s very specific. Especially when it comes to poverty in the south. White poverty is a very real, very divisive phenomenon. The political elites basically relied upon playing white poor against the African-Americans to maintain the status quo and keep labor costs low. There’s still a resentment there. Politicians like Gingrich have made a career out of playing to it.

                Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of  the poor in the south are white, the fact that Gingrich decided the ones who needed a lesson on the “value of work” and ‘demanding paychecks” were the NAACP. This in a state with a history of segregation and Confederacy worship…well Gingrich probably isn’t racist, in that he actually believes blacks are inferior. But he’s a cynical, manipulative politician who knows full well what he’s doing when he resorts to this sort of language.Report

              • Roger in reply to Nob Akimoto says:


                The funny thing is that I suspect he IS a racist. Most people are in their various ways. However, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

                People tend to take advantage of others. Racism is one of the many, many ways we mastered how to exploit others.



              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Roger says:

                Newt’s not a racist. He thinks EVERYONE is inferior to him. 😀Report

              • Kim in reply to Roger says:

                I don’t. I suggest we give people the benefit of the doubt, and don’t PAPER OVER feelings. If you’re acting like a scumbag, let me tell you it, rather than punching your face off.  Then you can apologize if no offense was meant.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kim says:

                The problem is that there could easily be a “person who cried wolf” problem here.

                Given the assumption that scumbaggery is very much a real problem that requires our attention, as a society, if someone screams “SCUMBAG!” and points and society looks and sees mere caustic wit, then, eventually, people will say “Oh, that person is yelling SCUMBAG!” again even if there is a real scumbag.

                Worse than that, it creates issues for the next time when someone who isn’t you points out scumbaggery… “is this another false positive?” is not something that you want people wondering as they hurry over to enforce societal norms.Report

              • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

                So? The appropriate person to shout down Oversensitive Wonder is a person of the appropriate minority (preferably more than one). When a general consensus is arrived at, then society can go glare at the scumbag.

                Kinda like JenaReport

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m not talking about shouting down.

                I’m talking about not showing up.Report

      • Nob, we can discuss racism in the broad sense, where it’s sort of in the human condition and it’s something that everyone needs to look out for within themselves lest they give in to the temptation of unfair stereotyping. Or we can discuss in the narrow sense – the morally odious sense.

        The problem, as I see it, is that the latter seriousness (“How can anyone vote for such a morally odious man?!?!”) can be attached to the former definition.

        I don’t think anyone (well, everyone) is being disingenuous about it. But it is one of the things that really gets in the way of conversation.Report

        • This is one area where I think TNC’s Civil War blogging is particularly important and significant, and would be infinitely more so if a similar project were ever started up by someone with a sizable conservative audience.  Specifically, I’m referring to the fact that TNC often does an excellent job of showing how all of these characters, these legends of Dixie, were indeed viciously committed to racism, but were otherwise entirely good people.  Indeed, TNC quite often even seems sympathetic to those characters even as he detests everything their legacy stands for to him.

          In many ways, I think the beauty of much of that project is that he is showing just how easy it is to fall into the trap of racism.Report

        • Alan Scott in reply to Will Truman says:

          Here’s the thing:  Newt Gingrich isn’t committing the morally odious sin of malicious racism.  He’s committing the different, but almost as odious sin of appealing to voters on racist grounds.

          Even if those voters exhibit the subtle, unintentional sort of racism that doesn’t deserve our immediate scorn, isn’t it still evil for a politician to knowingly pander to that racism?Report

    • Kim in reply to Roger says:

      Oh, so you were the one demanding proof when Jason called me a liar.

      SHAME ON YOU, for breaching your own definition of good conduct.

      (Naturally, I couldn’t care less whether you were calling him out. His behavior got the treatment it deserved, and continues to deserve).Report

    • LarryM in reply to Roger says:

      Absent the context of the earlier quote from Newt, you would have a point, at least in the abstract. Given that context, you are full of shit.

      Now, I say “abstract sense” because I admit I have no interest in being “fair” to the likes of Newt. But given his original quote, we don’t in this instance even need to have that particular debate.Report

  15. LarryM says:

    As others have said, context matters.  I have no trouble saying that he was, at least, intentionally pushing some racial buttons for his constituency.

    I will admit, though, referencing the prior thread and my comments therein, that I was reacting in part to characterizations of his later comemnts. Reading them in full, they are still disgusting, and not just for the racially charged reasons, but probably less explicitly racist than the initial reports led me to believe. Still absolutely indefensible on any level.Report

  16. Tyler says:

    I think it matters less if some people don’t see it, if we know that others do. Or rather, part of what is so powerful about racism is its invisibility, is white people’s ability to plausibly deny racism operating in the most subtle of ways. And so you can run around trying to “dispassionately” and “objectively” and “honestly” point out that you don’t see what other (usually non-white) people do. But all you really do, truthfully, is bolster your hegemony.

    It’s helpful if we remember that racism is inherently illogical, so trying to make “sense” of this kind of stuff doesn’t actually do any good.


  17. Jaybird says:

    There may (or may not) be a worthwhile article worth reading here.

    It takes on something that Rick Santorum said… specifically that the best way to make a dent in black poverty was to “Work, graduate from high school and get married before you have children”.

    There was, of course, a large outcry against Rick Santorum saying this. The essay is a response to the outcry.

    It may be interesting to do a quick compare/contrast between the Gingrich and Santorum statements to see where they overlap and how they don’t and whether the “how they don’t” contains any insights to the whole racist dogwhistle thing.

    Now, my own personal take is that the problem isn’t the racism in what Gingrich said. It’s the fact that it’s unseemly to say such things to White People who do not interact with (or hire) Black People. If you never talk to them, never buy stuff from them, never sell stuff to them, never eat with them, and, let’s be frank, never even *SEE* them… saying, effectively, “well, they should just be more like me!” will bring us to yet another “if I were a poor black kid” kinda boneheadedness.

    The worst part about the whole thing about what Gingrich is saying and whether it’s a racist dogwhistle and whatnot is that getting rid of Gingrich won’t solve the problem that he’s talking about. Getting rid of everyone who applauded his racist dogwhistle speech won’t solve the problem that he’s talking about.

    And it just got that much tougher to talk about solving the problem that he’s talking about.Report

    • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

      I am not an unbiased party here. A good friend of mine nearly got knifed from someone in Santorum’s purported school district.

      But Santorum’s getting no shrift from me, so long as he continues to steal money from a ghetto school district for his kids.Report

    • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

      Yeah. You know, if it was the CEO of Ben and Jerry’s saying “Give me a poor black kid, I’ll give him a JOB!” that’d be one thing. Because they already do that. They got feet on the ground, they’re handing out jobs left and right. And it’s helping (at least I think so…)

      Black people don’t mind listening to a person who’s actually trying, folks! It’s just moralizing on high, when you don’t bother to actually help First, that gets on people’s nerves.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Kim says:

        Problem is, that’ll just be interpreted as “fat white rich men save the black race”Report

        • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

          I don’t think so. You’re not giving people as much credit as they deserve. There WOULD be some black folks standing up and shouting back at any foolz, saying “They got ME a job!”

          They got credibility, they got standing.

          Standing is something you earn, with a lot of hard work. (I feel like if Ron Paul got elected, and ended the drug war, and stood up in front of black folks and said, “5 million black men without a criminal record because of me. 5 million hireables, five million people without a black mark on their record that will never leave” People would listen. Sure, he’d have to make that argument — otherwise you get the “have you ever set foot in the DMZ?” argument that says you couldn’t possibly have helped without knowing the situation on the ground.Report

  18. j r says:

    Putting this in the context of the NAACP comment, Newt is quite obviously making use of racial signalling.  I would go even further, however, and say that what Newt is doing is the very epitome of racism.


    What does racism do?  It creates an other, onto which negative characteristics can be placed.  It allows one group of people to exorcise the negative from their own identity and place it on some other group of people.


    Our entire present system is largely based on the transfer of wealth from one group to another by means of political mandate: corporate welfare, regular welfare, Medicare, the defense industry, the bank bailouts, the list goes on and on.  Newt doesn’t mention most of those, cause most of those involve middle-class white folks.  By harping on blacks and food stamps, he is basically allowing his audience to ignore the myriad of ways that they benefit from our current Leviathan and focus solely on one particular way in which they might possible be harmed.  Why is America in decline?  It’s not because we’re going broke fighting unnecessary wars, socializing the costs of an unaccountable financial sector, and sinking more and more money into unsustainable middle-class transfer schemes.  It’s because those lazy blacks, their big man in the White House and his liberal cronies.  That is the textbook definition of racism.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to j r says:

      Why is America in decline?  It’s not because we’re going broke fighting unnecessary wars, socializing the costs of an unaccountable financial sector, and sinking more and more money into unsustainable middle-class transfer schemes.  It’s because those lazy blacks, their big man in the White House and his liberal cronies.  That is the textbook definition of racism.


      Well, almost. I’d say it’s textbook scapegoating with a transparently racist twist.


  19. b-psycho says:

    “blacks should demand paychecks, not food stamps” implies that currently blacks demand food stamps and not paychecks. Most people using food stamps are, in fact, not black.  Either Newt Gingrich is sincerely in the dark about this fact and would gladly retract such an assumption if shown the data, or he is making this case not as a well meaning gesture towards blacks but as an appeal to the type of voter who when they hear of food stamps and other such assistance to the poor envisions lines of Lazy Negros.

    Two things about that:

    1) As the former Speaker of the Frickin House, I strongly doubt Newt is ignorant of the fact at hand.

    2) In the latter case, does it really matter whether he himself holds the view or not?Report

  20. DensityDuck says:

    LTTP here, but:

    The whole thing reminds me of the Bob Costas discussion, where there was a lengthy aside about what exactly made it racist to yell “hey, who ate all the watermelon?” at a black party guest.  “Well it just is, duh!”  “Yeah; why?”  “It just is, you idiot.”  “No, seriously–why is it racist to do that?  “Stop being such an idiot.  IT IS RACIST.”

    I don’t think I ever got an answer other than “it’s racist and you know it’s racist”.

    Meaning that the dogwhistle only exists in the mind of the hearer.  And, therefore, anything can be a dogwhistle.  “I love my wife” is dogwhistle racism–like, what, you’re saying black people don’t love their wives?  You’re saying black people don’t have wives? You racist asshole!Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I think this is correct up to a point, but only to a point.  The whole “watermelon” thing is considered by many to be a slur because for a long time white people associated the eating of watermelon – once considered a food of the poor – as being a black thing; in fact it was once considered (again, by some white people in a certain age) to be the height of wit to make the connection.

      So while I agree that it is an overreach to simply declare that saying the word “watermelon” makes you racist, it seems insincere to say there is no possible context from which people might take it as such, or that it would be the equivalent of being called a racist for saying “I love you.”

      I don’t know that Fuzzy Zoeller meant anything disparaging to Tiger Woods or even thinks differently about people of color than caucasians, but his fried chicken and watermelon comment wasn’t arbitrary, and it is specious to suggest that it was..  It is possible to both hold back the accusation, and understand why others might fling it.Report

    • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Here, sourced and cited:

      You’re expected to understand that certain things PISS PEOPLE OFF. You can do that accidentally — it’s probably not racist if you’ve honestly never seen/read about blacks liking watermelon. That does NOT let you off the hook for apologizing — because people were hurt — just a simple “Wow, I didn’t know that! I’m sorry… I can see how that offended you, and I didn’t mean to offend you.”Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Kim says:

        See, if the apology ended it, that would be fine.  But what about the times when we’re told that talking about watermelon near black people is inherently racist, and that a racist act is always racist, even one committed with no knowledge of any racist context?


        • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

          So? you did a racist thingamagarnicle. You apologized, and won’t do it in the future. You have demonstrated a good faith effort to rise above our society’s racist roots. [In short, if someone was still cussing you out after you’ve apologized, and explained that you didn’t mean to upset, and that you’ve learned something — I’d show up with steel toed boots and start shouting At THEM].

          What’s upsetting is that Republican Politicians routinely violate the basic “you apologize for hurting someone” principle.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Kim says:

            There’s a difference between “hey, that kind of thing has some nasty history in this country, and saying it makes you look like someone you probably don’t mean to look like–and I don’t think for a minute that you are trying to look like that–but it’s real easy to take it the wrong way, so you should probably try to avoid it in the future” and “THAT’S RACIST.  WHAT YOU JUST DID WAS TOTALLY RACIST.”

            And yeah, the first is bending over backwards to avoid accusing the person of being racist.  And you’re right that it’s really a pain that it’s incumbent on the aggrieved party to have to go to those lengths.  But, y’know, if you want the discussion to not be focused on “you called me racist!” then, well, you gotta make it absolutely clear that you aren’t calling anyone racist.

            And sure, it’ll likely just end up with you being labeled “touchy about stupid stuff”.  But the response there is “okay, well, you’re a jerk and I’m not hanging out with you” rather than “WHY WON’T YOU ADMIT THAT YOU WERE WROOOOOOOONG”Report

            • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:


              Both sides need to take a chill pill, I agree. The person who says “that’s totally racist” just means “you’re evoking racist imagery, and I don’t appreciate it” (with varying degrees of You Ought To Know Better).

              Remember that a lot of folks who would say “that’s racist” just mean that it’s an expression of rather systemic/societal shit that we’ve got lying around. Not that it’s about you.

              I feel kinda glad that I’m not generally wading into the firestorm guns blazing.Report

            • BSK in reply to DensityDuck says:

              FWIW, with people I presume to be well-intentioned and capable of self-reflection, I am slowly learning that the only way to effect any change in them is to help them make their own understanding of the situation.  If I name it and label it for them, it is unlikely to make any real change.

              If I am dealing with someone who I genuinely believe to be ignorant or naive on a given topic, shouting them into submission is a horrible tactic.  At the same time, ignorance isn’t exactly a defense either.  One should do their best to familiarize themselves with the customs and values of a place before arriving.  And some people should just goddamned know better.  When there was that flap a few years back about “Obama Bucks” or whatever with a watermelon field in front of the White House and whatever idiot politician claimed, “I had no idea linking watermelons with black culture could be viewed as racist,” I wanted to scream.  It is pretty hard to reach middle-age, having lived your entire life in this country, and not understand the context for that connection.

              And, shit, now we’re back on watermelons.Report

              • Kim in reply to BSK says:

                Thing is? that shit ain’t “funny” if you take out the context.

                If you, instead, showed a beaming Michelle Obama with a watermelon patch, and the cartoon said, “The latest Victory Garden — Fighting Obesity.” — with black city kids hoeing it. Then you got some room for “I was being ignorant, and I’m sorry.”Report

              • BSK in reply to Kim says:

                Well, yea. If you didn’t understand the racist context of linking a black man with fried chicken, Kool-Aid, and watermelon, than what was the point of linking him with it in the first place?Report

        • BSK in reply to DensityDuck says:


          Who is telling you that?Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to BSK says:

            If you honestly like I can go dredge up the earlier thread about how “watermelon near black people is inherently racist”.  I’ll just do a search on Google with “site:ordinary-gentlemen” though, and you can probably handle that yourself.Report

            • BSK in reply to DensityDuck says:


              I didn’t mean to imply that that argument isn’t put forth.  But WHO are the people putting it forth and how worthwhile are they to dialogue with in the first place?Report

            • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

              1) Something can be racistly offensive, without being said by someone who means it in a racist way.

              2) If someone calls that person on it, good manners say that they ought to apologize.

              I’ll relate a rather personal observation, from a relative in the 1970’s. Invited for an engagement dinner to the Deep South, she said (in her crisp Polish accent), “Isn’t it interesting, how all you whites down here sound like the blacks up north?” You could cut glass after that statement, as I’m sure you can understand. [I KNOW she didn’t mean anything by it, and I am not sure she understood how upsetting the statement was — certainly no one said a word.]Report

            • BSK in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Yikes, I’m going to avoid weighing in on that particular conversation but…

              I am generally not a fan of absolutes.  If someone is going to hang their hat on the notion that mentioning the word watermelon to a black person is inherently racist, there isn’t much ground for discussion.  Which is why we should avoid letting people holding that position shape and frame our discussions, at least on the issues where they leave little room for disagreement.Report