Monday, May 26, 2008

a few thoughts on the coverage of Obama, Kentucky and race

While I have no doubt that there are racists and even bigots in Kentucky (of various races), I've been dismayed at the reduction of class and race issues to race only-- and the exclusive focus on whites rather than a broader focus on whites and blacks.

To note...

-Obama made things more difficult-- both for himself and any attempt to answer "the racial question"-- with his class-based comments about (implicitly white) rural folk clinging to their guns and religion. Imagine if Clinton were to make comments about urban folk who cling to their gospel music and AIDS conspiracy theories.

-Especially after those comments, there are clearly class-based reasons to oppose Obama-- in addition to whatever racism motivated voters. Beyond this, there are good policy, experience, and character reasons to oppose Obama-- even among only Democratic voters.

-In a sense, it goes without saying, but the overwhelming African-American support for Obama seems to be race-based and yet, it is a non-issue.

-In a word, to conflate class and race is unnecessary and unfortunate.

This reminds me of a story. Tonia and I were in a Christian trans-racial discussion group. And there was an African-American college student who was really attracted to racial explanations of various social phenomena. I asked her whether she could relate more easily to an African-American from the hood or a white college student. She didn't want to answer. But when I came back to the same question, she hesitated and then said the latter. The bottom line-- for her and, I think, for many people-- is that class differences are more important than race differences.

In any case, I'm glad that the "race question" allows the media to shine the light on some forms of racism. But to focus on one type of racism and to conflate race and class is unfortunate.


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