Friday, May 21, 2010

Racism, The New Improved Version

America excels at repackaging old stuff and selling it as a "new and improved!" brand.

The Tea Party and its fanatics are right wing crazies reformulated. Instead of Evangelical Christians gathering to chant and sing, you now have the "new and improved" Tea Party with their bizarre posters and their ranting. Same glop in the can, just a new label with "new and improved" slapped onto it.

Here's a video from Rachel Maddow and a bit from an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic:

I saw this over at Gawker, and thought that Rand Paul might come off better if I saw the whole video. I think the whole video made it worse. What's most troubling about this interview is not that Paul opposes a portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it's that it's clear Paul hasn't thought much about his position. Lacking a rigorous intellectual framework for his opposition, Paul is wobbly on defense. So what you see, in the main, is Paul trying to change the subject--at one point, I think he actually asks (rhetorically), "Am I a bad person?"

But Paul never settles down and to make the argument. Rachel Maddow repeatedly raises lunch counters, and it would have really pleased me if Paul had just made the case for private sector discrimination. Frankly, I can see the outlines of the argument and am not totally unsympathetic to it. Indeed, I think there's a beautiful justice that's visited upon the random politician who, to this very day, is routinely exposed as belonging to a white country club. There's a kind of social sanction in that embarrassment that I don't think the law can bring. (That said, I trust the people who were actually there more than my own abstract theorizing.)

But what about red-lining? Does Paul know anything about blockbusting? Does he think banks should be able to have a policy of not lending to black businesses? Does he think real-estate agents should be able to discriminate? Does he think private homeowner groups should be able to band together and keep out blacks? Jews? Gays? Latinos?
The joke is that the Tea Party sells itself as a "new" political viewpoint that is going to be honest with people. But as you watch Rand Paul, you see the same old song and dance of a new, and inept, politician doing some fancy stepping to avoid answering direct queestions with an honest answer. Instead, he is a chip off the Bush II media "control" approach where he keeps repeating his talking points and refusing to actually answer simple questions with simple answers.

Rand Paul is a fanatic who thinks "private business" has all the answers. So why then, did this wonderful private business ignore the racist right wing laws of the Jim Crow years and just give people services in a race-blind way? They didn't. Private businesses are not tools for social change. They reflect the dominant culture. No businessman who wants to stay in business is going to be an agent for social change. No businessman in the Deep South would throw open his doors to black, white, red, yellow, and purple. The KKK would have burned his business down. Business needs the cover of public law to do the right thing. Rand Paul doesn't understand the simplest of points about racism and business and social change.

He is blinded by his ideology that says "trust private business to do the right thing". But there is no instance in history where private business has led social change or delivered social justice. I haven't seen any business that stepped forward during WWII to take a stand saying "don't intern these Japanese as dangerous enemy aliens". I didn't see any company stepping forward and leading the social revolution to give women equal pay for equal work. I can't think of any company that has a public policy of leading change to give gays social rights. Private business is in business to make money, not lead social change. Rand Paul is disingenuous to pretend that business delivers a just society.

No comments: