Tuesday, March 08, 2016
Battle lines being drawn
Southern Beale takes exception to Bernie trying to "shush" Hillary, and apparently it blew up on Twitter during the debate.
NPR tells me today Sanders' "ghetto" remark was a gaffe if only because it presumes the life of an American black family is lived in, or getting out of, the ghetto. I grew up in a small East Texas town without a ghetto. The north part of town (typical for Southern towns, for some reason) was the "black" part of town, meaning a place of poor land values and poorer dwellings, where blacks were isolated by economics and by law, laws that fell but didn't displace people automatically. Of course, 50 years later even I know enough not to speak broadly of the problems of blacks in America being rooted in living in "the ghetto" and being poor. It's blinkered at least to speak that way, if not nearly racist. You might as well say all "Mexicans" are migrant farm workers, and all Asians are nerds who run the world. And it ignores entirely the rural poverty of America, a poverty that affects whites as much as it does blacks and Hispanics.
It would change my tune if you replaced Robert Kennedy in that picture with Bernie Sanders. But I don't expect that to happen, either.
The funniest part is, what was "most important" in the debate depends entirely upon your perspective. Then again, perspective matters.
In some ways Bernie is a product of his background, as we all are; and his background includes "shushing" women (if I ever did that to my wife in our nearly 40 years of marriage, I'd have been a worse husband than I've been, and be legitimately in as much trouble as I deserved) as well as seeing the problems of blacks as those of poverty. We fought that fight in the '60's; the "War on Poverty" was a defining struggle, although it went about as well as the "War on Drugs."
Maybe "War" is our problem?
But Bernie reflects his history, his background, his assumptions; and more and more they collide with modernity. I'm hardly a millennial, but to hear a white man talk about the problems of blacks being connected to life in the "ghetto," well, I wonder what decade that guy is stuck in. As Larry Wilson asked: “Did you just say all black people are poor and live in ghettos?” To which he added: “I think I just found your racial blindspot, dude.”
The problem with discussing race is that we all have blindspots, because we all start with the assumption that our experience is normative. Yes, context matters; but context is much more than the words a politician says at a particular time; they include the historical setting in which those words are spoken.
Presidential campaigns are very, very long job interviews. One of their functions is to be revealing. That's one more reason never to be the subject of one. There's something about the process that is actually disqualifying: the people who want the job probably shouldn't have it. The people who should, shouldn't have to go through this.
They do have to, though; and it's never pretty.
Posted by Rmj at 7:19 AM