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The official blog of Fausta's Blog Talk Radio show.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Racism, explored and exploited from the UK

Siggy just brought this article to my attention:
Obama victory will prolong US racial divide, says British equality chief


Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, claimed that the Democratic front-runner would ultimately disappoint the African-American community and dismissed the notion that he would be "the harbinger of a post-racial America" if he becomes the country’s first black President.
Let's take a brief look at this gentleman's occupation: he's "equality chief".

Would it be too harsh to say that he has a vested interest in perpetuating inequality, since otherwise there would be no point for his high-placed position in the bureaucracy?

Phillips believes that


guilt over transatlantic slavery was behind Mr Obama’s support from middle class whites
Let's ignore, for the purposes of this post, that Barak Obama's own mother is a middle class white. I don't expect Phillips considered this fact when making his assertions.

The United States waged the most deadly war in its history to abolish slavery. The struggle for human rights in the United States continues to this day to ensure that every person has equal rights under the law.

Additionally, most of the middle class whites in the USA are descendants of people who immigrated from other countries AFTER the emancipation proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, or whose ancestors had arrived shortly before the Civil War, for instance, the Irish fleeing the potato famine of 1847.

None of those whites were in any kind of situation to own much property, never mind property in slave states, much less slaves.

So I'd like to ask Phillips, why should middle class whites feel any guilt over transatlantic slavery? How many middle class whites have even one ancestor who owned a plantation or worked in a trade associated with the transatlantic slavery trade?

Are there more important issues than "middle class white guilt over transatlantic slavery" to those very same middle class white prospective voters in this year's Presidential campaign?

Phillips continues,


"If Obama can succeed, then maybe they can imagine that [Martin Luther] King's post-racial nirvana has arrived. A vote for Obama is a pain-free negation of their own racism. So long as they don't have to live next door to him; Obama has yet to win convincingly in white districts adjacent to black communities," he wrote.
Record numbers of voters of every ethnic background are participating in the Democrat primaries and caucases, most of them white. Does Phillips sincerely believe they would not want to live next door to Obama but would gladly have him as Commander in Chief?

In Phillips's mind, Bill Cosby is a "sad and lonely figure". Cosby has laughed his way to the bank by being Bill Cosby, but let's not tell the "equality chief".

The "equality chief" believes that ultra-successful people like Bill Cosby and Oprah get there by "not making an issue of historical racism if their own race is not used against them". Phillips probably didn't have cable TV the day Oprah grilled Mark Furman over the coals during the OJ Simpson trial.

Of course, being in charge of an Equality and Human Rights Commission blinds you to the achievements any member of any minority may attain out of their own merit. The blacks who achieve, according to Phillips, do so only through cashing in on white guilt,


Mr Phillips said that there was no "British Obama" in part because the black British community was much smaller and therefore less likely to produce such high-achievers, and because "Black Britons can't bring centuries of white guilt to bear with the devastating impact that African-Americans have done for two generations?.
What does that mean, that to the "equality chief", a black Presidential candidate is one sign of "devastating impact"?

Perhaps Phillips is embarrassed. Alvaro Vargas Llosa, writing at The New Republic (that arm of the vast right wing conspiracy),
In Europe, one senses a quiet shame. The left, which loves to criticize the Unites States for its imperial foreign policy and its discrimination against blacks and Hispanics, is not really saluting Obama. There have been few gushing articles in Italy's La Repubblica or France's Le Monde. And by sending the message that it might be ready to elect an African-American, a part of mainstream America is showing the industrialized world a more open-minded attitude than the United States usually gets credit for. This is particularly embarrassing in socialist Europe. Contrast the attitude of those white Americans who are ready for a President Obama with the conditions that have led France's North African immigrants to riot on the outskirts of Paris. And have the Scandinavian countries ever generated anything comparable to Obama among the minorities who are tended to so generously as long as they don't make too much noise?
As long as he's secure his job, it probably doesn't matter.

UPDATE
Here's Erik Svane's letter to the IHT from June 20, 1997
As I wrote in letters to the editor to the Washington Post and the IHT 10 years ago (where it says "the/American president" below, I wrote "Clinton" at the time):

I should like to know on behalf of whom, exactly, America's president should apologize over slavery. I myself, like the majority of today's U.S. population, am descended from immigrants who arrived after the turn of the 20th century and therefore have nothing to do with the treatment of blacks on the plantations (or that of Indians on the plains, for that matter).

As for Americans living at the time slavery existed, over twice as many whites lived in states where slavery was illegal and where it had been so, for the most part, since before the French Revolution. The president can hardly apologize for the South either, since most whites even there — two thirds of them, to be precise — did not own a single slave.

Maybe the president should apologize for the planters and slaveholders? But they inherited the system they dwelled in, and although they certainly did little if anything to change it, in what way are they more guilty than the English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and other European nationals who introduced it in all their colonies (including, of course, the future United States) and whose only reason for not introducing it onto the European continent proper (as well as the North of the future U.S., needless to say) was the absence of a propitious climate?

And how, finally, are the above-mentioned whites more guilty than the African tribes whose warriors raided neighboring villages to sell their enemies to the Europeans?

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5 Comments:

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Erik said...

As I wrote in letters to the editor to the Washington Post and the IHT 10 years ago (where it says "the/American president" below, I wrote "Clinton" at the time):

I should like to know on behalf of whom, exactly, America's president should apologize over slavery. I myself, like the majority of today's U.S. population, am descended from immigrants who arrived after the turn of the 20th century and therefore have nothing to do with the treatment of blacks on the plantations (or that of Indians on the plains, for that matter).

As for Americans living at the time slavery existed, over twice as many whites lived in states where slavery was illegal and where it had been so, for the most part, since before the French Revolution. The president can hardly apologize for the South either, since most whites even there — two thirds of them, to be precise — did not own a single slave.

Maybe the president should apologize for the planters and slaveholders? But they inherited the system they dwelled in, and although they certainly did little if anything to change it, in what way are they more guilty than the English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and other European nationals who introduced it in all their colonies (including, of course, the future United States) and whose only reason for not introducing it onto the European continent proper (as well as the North of the future U.S., needless to say) was the absence of a propitious climate?

And how, finally, are the above-mentioned whites more guilty than the African tribes whose warriors raided neighboring villages to sell their enemies to the Europeans?

http://www.iht.com/articles/1997/06/20/edlet.t_40.php

 
At 8:17 PM, Blogger Fausta said...

Erik, that is a great letter. I'm adding it to the post. Thank you!

 
At 9:44 PM, Anonymous GM Roper said...

Fausta, great post and it reminds me as to why there are so many "liberals" who try to put guilt trips on the rest of us. I note that guilt is about what we do. You robbed a bank, you are guilty, I beat up a hobo, I'm guilty. But guilt is about behavior and SHAME is about who we are as a people. I suspect that for years, liberals and their ilk have tried to use guilt to shame America not for what we (the American Peoples) did, but for who we are. And way too many have fallen for it over the years, that is why a poultroon like Clinton can "apologize" to africa and get barrels of ink on what a great thing that is, but Bush can actually do much to improve the lives of Africans and it gets hardly any ink at all. Guilt vs. Shame... it should be obvious.

 
At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fausta,

You might want to check out George Weigel's opinion piece from Feb 28 at WSJ Online. It's in the International Section and it's called Liebe Europäer.
I read the article by Helmut Schmidt to which Weigel responds. My reaction was f*** off. Weigel does a better job.

Isn't it strange that Europeans worry so much about the state of our souls that they must constantly point out our failures?

There was a bit of TV text news yesterday about German comedian Herald Schmidt. He accused Germans of being provincial. His example: The gay man-about-town mayor of Berlin personally picked up from the airport all the Hollywood stars who arrived in Berlin for the Berlinale film festival. (I mention the gay part because the mayor uses this as proof of his and Berlin's sophistication.) Anyway, Schmidt asks, "Can you imagine New York constantly reporting how great each arrival finds the city?"

expat

 
At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Gringo said...

"Can you imagine New York constantly reporting how great each arrival finds the city?"

LOL! Instead, there is the classic hard-boiled cabby whose attitude is "Take it or leave it."

For all the rude, gruff, in a hurry reputation that New Yorkers have long had, I will never forget before I knew the city, how New Yorkers would come up to me in the subway and offer directions to me, when it was obvious I didn’t know how to get where I wanted to go.

 

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