Racism from the Right; Racism from the Left


Racism comes in many flavors and colors.

There’s of course the hateful, fear-mongering racism Donald Trump spews regularly. That’s what immediately comes to mind when we hear the word “racist.”

But that’s so crude, so unsophisticated. You’d never catch a “gentleman” like Jeb Bush uttering such vitriol, much less a left-leaning intellectual who believes in equality for all, right? Of course not. Yet racism is alive and well across the spectrum.

Check out Jeb Bush Supports Racist Book That Claims Blacks are Poor Because They’re Lazy and Inferior from Americans Against the Tea Party:

Jeb Bush revealed during an interview with National Review editor Rich Lowry that his views were “informed” by the racist literature known as The Bell Curve — gentle-beings of the internet, behold, your moderate GOP candidate!

The book, which was penned by Charles Murray, a “scholar” at a right-wing think tank known as the American Enterprise Institute, argues that intelligence differences among the “races” explains inequality in the United States. His book has widespread support among racists who want to push pseudoscience.

That’s what you might call compassionate, conservative, blue-blood racism. More on that, later.

Lest you think the political left is racism free…

Enter Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz in When Activists Hijack Campaigns, Vital Causes Suffer, which appeared in the Huffington Post, generally well regarded on the political left. Rabbi Yanklowitz purports to have a problem generally with activists speaking out at events dedicated to a different cause. Sorry, Rabbi, but my take is that you have a specific problem with the tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement. Check out how extensively he discusses BLM as an “example”:

My concern about this topic doesn’t come from a vacuum. There have been several recent, escalating “hijackings” of political events. In August 2015, Senator (and now Democratic Presidential candidate) Bernie Sanders went to a large meeting in Seattle to defend Social Security against congressional Republicans who are trying to curtail the program. No sooner had he begun to speak than a woman identifying herself as a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Seattle seized the microphone, called for a prolonged period of silence for Michael Brown (whose killing by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer was the catalyst for the movement), and then began giving a speech. At this point, Sen. Sanders left the stage and the entire rally came to an abrupt end.

Senator Sanders, who was an organizer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), had been arrested for protesting racial segregation, and had marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., eventually came to an understanding with the group and other civil rights groups. However, conservative media seized on this incident immediately. Indeed, FOX News still has a video on its website titled “‘Black Lives Matter’ activists hijack Bernie Sanders rally.” RealClear Politics, a right-leaning website, also prominently featured the event with the title: “‘Black Lives Matter’ Protesters Disrupt Bernie Sanders Event in Seattle, Sanders Gives Up the Mic to Them.” While left-leaning media tended to favor Black Lives Matter, we may ask the question: Did this hijacking help the cause of Social Security, which in 2015 provided nearly $870 billion in benefits to more than 59 million Americans? Should we allow Social Security to be reduced, privatized, or even eliminated because some of its proponents do not agree with every just cause?

Although he did cite the Oregon situation as an additional example, it was BLM that he belabored in order to make his (invalid) point.

Consider what Yanklowitz is actually saying. Those BLM activists who are seeing innocent blacks mowed down on the streets of too many cities should not breach protocol by interrupting an event focused on social security. Really? Given the crisis at hand for Black America (actually, America), how can anyone suggest that BLM activists should not use every nonviolent means at their disposal to curtail the killing of innocent Black Americans? And how can it be anything other than racist to suggest that the urgency of BLM should take a backseat to a discussion of freaking social security?

Yanklowitz is not alone on this front by any means. In July, at Netroots Nation, considerable anger was directed by supposed progressives at BLM activists.

The message is unmistakable: “We don’t like seeing innocent Blacks shot by police, but you’re kind of inconveniencing us with your style of protest. You really should protest less disruptively, so it’s easier to ignore you.”

Stunningly, to support his point, Yanklowitz noted how Roosevelt had ignored civil rights in order to get buy-in from racist Southern Democrats:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a calculated decision to ignore racial civil rights during most of the New Deal. In exchange for this arrangements, southern Democrats helped pass critical New Deal legislation, such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, disability benefits, and the minimum wage.

While significant political injustice was tolerated in both cases, would we be better off today without these amendments or the essential New Deal legislation? I think not.

Why of course. No big deal if economic and social justice for Blacks is delayed by a quarter century, as long as the delay benefitted working-class whites. Never mind that silly notion about “justice delayed is justice denied.”

Ironically, I wrote a counterpoint to this two years ago in Dr. King’s Nightmare, which highlighted the absurd disparity between black and white wealth:

What derailed the dream? How is it that, 50 years out from MLK’s speech, black America has such a dismally small slice of our nation’s wealth?

Here’s how: In the 1940s through the 1960s, U.S. economic opportunity and upward mobility outside the African-American community were the envy of the world. Back then, economic inequality was plummeting.

While discrimination kept black America mired in poverty, Dr. King watched tens of millions of other Americans climb from humble beginnings to affluence. So, he justifiably believed that if African Americans could break free from the yoke of racial discrimination, they too could share in the American Dream.

It would take a generation or two until most of them made it, but eventually they’d get there.

Soon after the chokehold of racial discrimination on the advancement of blacks finally started to loosen, however, America began its return to the society that existed before Dr. King’s birth, where a small slice of the population lives in opulence while average Americans struggle to get by.

Today, it’s not social injustice, but extreme inequality that constrains economic mobility, not just for black Americans, but all of us. America, once the land of opportunity, now has a level of economic mobility lower than that of almost all other rich countries.

By the time African Americans broke mostly (but not entirely) free from racist constraints on their economic mobility, they were whacked with a new obstacle: the almost equally suffocating injustice of extreme inequality. They’re not the only ones suffering. But because they were locked out of the egalitarian economic progress that took place during Dr. King’s lifetime, they’re disproportionately represented in the group now stuck on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

Effectively, economic justice delayed was economic justice denied. But that, to Yanklowitz, is a smaller cost to pay than the cost of having activism for one cause jeopardize progress on another. He’d have us believe that he’s only using BLM as an example. Sorry, I just don’t believe him.

What Yanklowitz exemplified in his piece is the liberal variant of racism.

And it’s every bit as ugly as the other variants.

Even from a Rabbi.


  1. few were interested in the immigration issue in arizona until 30,000 marchers blocked 24th street in march 2006 cutting off the east side of phoenix. until ferguson, young black lives didn’t matter as the rodney king riots had been forgotten. why do you need to carry a baseball bat? to get your attention! and yes bob I have said this before just as black lives matter has to march over and over again every time it happens.

  2. Although Inunderstand you perspective to a certain extent, I have to disagree with your main point on why this is similar to racism. I don’t fault the BLM protesters for doing what they did, however I do see it not acomplishing much.

    Thomas Edsall has a great article in the NYT today titled “The Republican’s 50 State Solution”. I think it gives a stong insight to some of the problems liberals have in succeeding on getting people to focus on their message and achieving success in making progress towards overall social change. In a perfect world all can be accomplished in one great sweeping movement. That is unfortunately not the way things work. You cannot win the war by always going for the nuclear option. Sometimes wars are won through several small battles. These battles take time and varied tactics but also require a focused strategy that is centered on the overall victory. Republicans have figured this out and have slowly acomplished capturing a slow victory through a common focus and drawn out war. They understand how to battle bit by bit knowing in the end the result will be complete victory.

    Just because the Rabbi sees the benefit of taking the approach I mentioned does not make him on the equal ground of racism as a Trump or misguided Bush belief in phoney science. I think the Rabbi sees the benefit in focusing on the battle at hand. That does not make BLM less important. However, a victory in one area may mean progress in another. Example, rather then strictly trying to go after some sort of national reform on police conduct, perhaps a local focus and energy on eliminating certain leaders will lay the foundation for such reforms. Wouldn’t getting rid of a Sheriff Joe or certain state legislators accomplish more then interupting Bernie Sanders?

Comments are closed.