Wednesday, October 5, 2011
What is the difference between Hank Williams Jr., whose latest bit of rightwing fuckery was comparing President Obama to Hitler, and Salon writer Gene Lyons, who last week, in defense of American white liberals, compared writer and respected academic Melissa Harris-Perry to the KKK for pondering in The Nation if Obama is judged differently by the white left due to racial bias? Very little. Both men speak from a place of race and gender privilege. Both men display a wariness and distrust of "uppity" Ivy League black targets, dismissing their ability and accomplishments. And both men would likely deny that their opinions are at all rooted in race bias. But Lyons, the liberal, possesses an especially dangerous form of race bias--the sort that goes defensively unexamined. The sort that recognizes that racism exists, but only over there with the rednecks and Confederate flag-wavers. The sort that uselessly defines real racism as firehouses and dogs or, in the modern era, monkey-emblazoned Tea Party signs, but remains ignorant of the institutional and subtle bias people of color confront every day. The sort that thinks an ACLU membership and logon at Daily Kos makes one immune to the entrenched biases inherent in our society--no need to proactively challenge assumptions or analyze politics or pop culture. The sort that undermines the supposed racial inclusiveness of the progressive "tent" by dismissing the lived experienced of African Americans.