Liberal Racism

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This page is focused on describing types of racism that is common among liberals.  To be clear all white people are capable of these types of racisms but the purpose of this page is to help liberals understand the more common types found in their circles.

“I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color” Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility


Bad Allyship

White Exceptionalism

Class Reductionism and Identity Politics

Electability: Choosing White Racist Voters over Voters of Color

Critique of Method of Resistance

White Free Speech

White Privilege and Third Party Voting

Additional Pages that May Relate to Liberals

White Privilege

White Centering

Bad Allyship

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Allies aren’t passive or neutral!!!

Being an ally isn’t a status but an ongoing action

  • Listen and Educate
    • Listen more than speaking
      • Don’t overpower marginalized voices when organizing
  • Believe marginalized people’s experiences
    • Research online before asking to be educated
      • Its not anybody’s responsibility to tutor you on social issues
    • Listening and educating should be an on-going experience
  • When Confronted
    • Don’t make things about you
    • Don’t take things personal
    • Take feedback with humility not ego
  • Challenge
    • Use your privilege to confront/educate about racism and white privilege everywhere
    • Speak up! Confront other white people about their racism andwhite privilege
      • White people with racial issues often listen better to other white people
    • Uplift marginalized voices
      • Retweet, repost, feature, hire them

How to Be a Good Ally – Identity, Privilege, Resistance | Ahsante the Artist

MAshable: 6 ways allies still marginalize people of color — and what to do instead

Talking about race isn’t easy, especially as your conversations surrounding the topic grow deeper and more complex.

It’s simple to point out overt racism, but confronting the subtle ways people of color are marginalized, even when you’re an ally or racial justice advocate, can be challenging.

A lot of people “shy away from talking about race because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing,” says Raquel Cepeda, host of the podcast About Race. Even when you mean well, the fear of sticking your foot in your mouth could stop you from talking at all — and that’s no way to achieve progress.

To have more substantial conversations about race and racism, it’s important to hold yourself and others accountable for the ways we treat the experiences of people of color.

Educate yourself on these six marginalizing actions, and use them as starting points to help you become an even better ally.

1. Failing to “see race”

It’s common for allies to tell people of color, “I don’t see race.” Despite possibly good intentions, this denies the unique experiences of people with racial differences and important aspects of their identities.

It’s important to acknowledge that while we should all be treated the same, people are indeed treated differently based on the color of their skin. When you refuse that, you continue to place people of color on the margins, when their stories deserve the same attention and care as mainstream white experiences.

“I’m part West African. I have Indigenous blood. I have European blood. I am a woman of color and if I’m going to be comfortable in my own skin, I have to acknowledge all parts of me,” Cepeda, who is also the author of Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina, tells Mashable.

You should be able to acknowledge racial, cultural and ethnic differences without allowing it to detract from their humanity.

Instead of ignoring race completely, you can say something like, “I wish race didn’t have an impact on the way people are treated.” This acknowledges that racial differences do exist and affect how people navigate the world, while still expressing your belief that everyone should be treated the same.

2. Erasing racial experience with other forms of oppression

When a person of color tells their story and you insist on bringing your own into the conversation, that is oppressive. That takes away space and time that they very often don’t have to control the narrative of their experience.

“There’s power in being able to tell your story,” Zellie Imani, a New Jersey educator and community organizer, tells Mashable.

“And a function of oppression is to deny the oppressed to tell their stories, let alone control the narrative.”

For example, when an Asian person points out the racism they face, you don’t have to remind them about the simultaneous oppression of LGBTQ people. When a black person discusses employment discrimination, you don’t have to remind them women also face discrimination in the workplace. This ignores intersectional identities of LGBTQ Asians and black women, and oversimplifies the issues people face.

Vocalizing their experiences with race doesn’t mean people of color aren’t aware of other forms of oppression; they may even experience some of the other forms themselves. Pointing out that there are white people in the world who suffer, for example, merely pushes their concerns to the margins.

“A white gay man will not suffer the same oppression as a black man, gay or straight, because he still benefits from white privilege,” Imani says.

If you are truly concerned with intersectionality, address how other forms of discrimination can create unique oppression of people of color, rather than derailing a conversation about race.

3. Prioritizing the white presence and voice in communities of color

Allies often assume people of color will not achieve anything in the struggle for racial justice without the help and inclusion of white people. Regardless of the desire to help, it’s important for white allies to realize they’re not owed a place in communities of color.

When you tell people of color your presence is necessary, you rob them of the agency to act and speak on their own behalves. Without realizing it, you’re exercising your white privilege, undervaluing power within communities of color. White people are not entitled to having their voice centered, actions acknowledged or feelings prioritized in an environment where people of color are the focus.

While this may seem like exclusivity, acknowledge that this type of exclusion is often a tool to create a safe spaces of solidarity, where people of color can connect without the interference of prioritized voices or actions of white allies.

This, of course, doesn’t mean you’re a bad ally if you’ve done or felt these things, nor does it mean you should abandon the idea of helping at all. But it’s crucial to know when to take a backseat and show up when needed, rather than asserting your dominance over people of color. Regularly remind yourself, “This is not about me.”

4. Appointing someone as the spokesperson for their entire race

People of color often find themselves as “the only one in the room” among a white majority. This dynamic creates an environment in which they get asked questions about their entire race. In conversations during Black History Month, for example, all eyes are on the one black student. When there’s a debate about immigration, the Latina of the group suddenly has to decide what’s right for all immigrants.

The expectation placed on people of color to represent their race strips them of the individuality of their thoughts and feelings. 

Asking one person about everyone who shares the same skin color wrongly assumes they all share the same story, and puts people of color in a position where they have to take responsibility for the experiences of people they don’t even know.

Additionally, people of color “who operate in white spaces have to protect white fragility in order to protect themselves,” Imani tells Mashable, adding that to prevent hostility or to try to be inclusive, they “may be silenced or say things they may not necessarily agree with.”

If you’re curious about the experiences and thoughts of people of color, it’s OK to ask and engage in conversation. But it’s important to give people of color the space to have dynamic, unique stories rather than forcing them to provide a singular narrative they may not even identify with.

5. Discussing racial identity in binaries

In the U.S. we often think of race in a binary — black or white — but this largely ignores the nuances of how other people of color are treated. Grouping all races into the same group oversimplifies conversations about race, and ignores the different ways communities of color face discrimination.

Still, such unique attention often reduces identities to stereotypical assumptions. When Cepeda told someone she was Dominican, she tells Mashable they replied, “No, you’re too light — you have to be Puerto Rican.” Although it wasn’t intended to be malicious, this person’s comment failed to acknowledge diversity in racial identity.

You can’t assume someone’s ethnicity based on their skin color.

Cepeda’s experiences as a fair-skinned Dominican are likely different than those of an Afro-Latina Dominican, for example. When the two are conflated, both racial identities are marginalized, because neither experience is treated with the integrity and attention it deserves.

“It’s important to provide people of color with the space to have complex identities, just like white people,” Cepeda says.

Addressing racism and having nuanced conversations about its effects is impossible if we fail to acknowledge the diversity of race itself.

6. Using people of color as tokens

People of color are not trophies to show off when you don’t want to seem racist. After someone calls you out on racist behavior, replying with “I grew up with people of all races” doesn’t make you exempt from accountability. Telling people, “My closest friends are black” is not a good way to prove you can’t possibly be a part of systems that oppress them.

Even allies do this to defend themselves — and it minimizes the value of people of color in your life to a convenient anecdote to excuse your behavior.

Don’t use your friendships with people of color as a way to avoid responsibility. Instead, ask them about what they face in their daily lives, and what you can do to help.

Being called Out

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CARE2: What To Do (And Not Do) When Someone Calls You Out

We’ve all been there. Someone points out that something we do, say or participate in is actually super uncool, or even harmful, to a group of people. It’s not a fun spot to be in! We all make mistakes and have a lot of room to grow in our understanding of the world and all the people in it—and that’s okay. However, sometimes our reaction to being called out is to become defensive, dismissive or downright rude. And that is NOT okay.

This reaction is especially not okay when you are responding to someone who belongs to a group who has been marginalized and discriminated against by society at large. Your life experiences are vastly different than theirs and failure to recognize that is very problematic. Unchecked privilege is a dangerous thing and it also makes you look pretty darned foolish.

The next time someone calls you out, STOP and reflect on these points before responding:


Lash out against the person calling you out. It is a normal, biological response to feel defensive when threatened. However, in civilized society, acting on that feeling when the perceived threat isn’t actually a threat is inappropriate. It might make for good daytime TV, but not so much for civil discourse and keeping friends.

Listen to respond. It takes some serious emotional labor to set aside our knee-jerk reactions and, instead, listen to what a person is actually saying. If you are scouring a message for the purpose of refuting points and calculating how you will respond, you are not actually listening.

Shut down your critical thinking skills. This is an effect of clutching onto a defensive emotional response. When this happens, tunnel vision occurs and it is hard to see outside our own worldview. Because you are probably an adult and over the age of 4, you have more than likely acquired the skills to move past this response.

Defend your intent. The intent behind your actions does not matter when someone is explaining to you how the effect has caused harm. You are diverting the conversation away from someone whose life is being affected by your actions and onto you and your feelings about being confronted. This is not okay.

Settle on I just disagree.“ Whether or not broccoli is delicious is an issue upon which people can agree or disagree. Whether or not sexism exists or trans people know what gender identity is theirs is not something upon which people can agree or disagree. You can feel comfortable with the facts or uncomfortable! You can be invested in these issues or apathetic! But you cannot “agree” or “disagree” that these things are real.


Recognize your response as defensive. If you feel your blood start to boil and the first thought in your head is “nuh-uh, not me!”—take a breath. Identify that you are having a defensive reaction. Acknowledge your confusion and discomfort—even voice it! There’s nothing wrong with saying “I feel really uncomfortable when you say this.” Once you cross the line into “You are wrong and me doing this isn’t actually a problem” territory… you’ve lost perspective.

Listen to hear. After you’ve acknowledged your emotional reaction, set it aside and open your ears. Try to really understand the point someone is making. Do your best to see this issue through their eyes. Refrain from oversimplifying the problem so you can more easily discount it. Yes, this is hard to do, but it is necessary.

Open your mind to consider views alternative to your own. Empathy, compassion, walking a mile in someone else’s shoes: Practice it every day. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable sometimes, but it is a requirement of living in a society with other people who are affected by your actions.

Consider the effects of your behavior—regardless of intent. It’s fine to acknowledge the fact that “wow, I really didn’t mean for that to be harmful” or “I had no idea you felt that way when I do that.” Those moments are appreciated by others and promote growth within ourselves when we say them. The next step is moving past that shock and listening to what is being said about the effects of your behavior, regardless of your intent.

Acknowledge someone elses experience as truth—not something upon which you can agree to disagree.“ Just because you have not experienced life through someone else’s eyes does not mean you have the authority to suggest their experiences are not real. When you say “I disagree” that something is a problem for a group of people who are different than you, you are saying you do not acknowledge reality. Instead, you can say “I’m confused,” “I never thought about it that way,” or “that hasn’t been my experience, but I can see how it’s been yours.”

chescaleigh: Getting Called Out: How to Apologize

Non-racist vs Anti-racist

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White Exceptionalism

  • White Exceptionalism
    • Belief common among white liberal people that they aren’t part of white supremacy.
    • Belief that racism and white supremacy only relates to more openly racist white people, non liberal white people, or “other” white people.
      • “Not all white people” is a common white exceptionalism response
    • Often occurs with white people
      • Who have done some anti-racism work, usually focused on other people or systems and not theirselves
        • And believe they don’t need to do any more work
          • Especially on themselves
      • Who don’t understand they have unconsicouslly internalized white supremacy and racial bias
      • Who think racism is an explicit choice and not a system we all live in, internalize, and are complicit with.
  • Why its harmful
    • Convinces white people that they don’t need to do any anti-racism work
      • Either avoids dismanteling white supremacy
      • Or brings white supremacy internalizations and toxicity to these efforts
        • Bad allyship
    • Are unware of their own white supremacy internalizations and racial bias
      • As they effect things in their white supremacy world
        • Comment sections, friends circles, work, etc.

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Class Reductionism and Identity Politics

Progressive Racist Narratives around Identity Politics

  • The problem is the people confronting racism not racism
    • Anti-PC tactics
      • Tone policing, cherry picking, minimization and white fragility
    • “many pundits have concluded that “political correctness” fuelled the populist backlash sweeping Europe and the US. The leaders of that backlash may say so. But the truth is the opposite: those leaders understood the power that anti-political-correctness has to rally a class of voters, largely white, who are disaffected with the status quo and resentful of shifting cultural and social norms. They were not reacting to the tyranny of political correctness, nor were they returning America to a previous phase of its history. They were not taking anything back. They were wielding anti-political-correctness as a weapon, using it to forge a new political landscape and a frightening future.” Moira Weigel, The Guardian
  • Racism is a choice not a system
    • Non racist vs anti-racist
    • White Savior vs Allyship
  • Segregated white people falsely using “tribalism” and “identity politics” to avoid understanding reality
    • Instead of trying to understand why marginalize people are angry and choosing not to listen to you’re disbelief and unfounded explanations for their experiences
      • Its much easier to say they’re just “choosing” to be “tribal”
      • Place the responsibility of our current situations and divides on the “choices” of those fighting racism than on “racism” itself.
      • Blame the way people fight oppression, rather than blame an oppression they do not understand
    • “people supporting more diversity in our politics is not tribalism, rather an understanding that in a society designed for the benefit of segregated white people, marginalized people have a better chance of attaining equal rights when the people in power understand their marginalization, which is often only attained by electing someone from a marginalized community. This doesn’t mean they only care about people who share their identity or they’re “anti-white”. It means they will be fighting for everyone to have the same equal rights, rather than consciously or unconsciously protecting white people’s place in a racial hierarchy, which was in numerous studies the main reason given for why white people voted for Trump” Josh Singer – The Responsible Consumer
  • 2016 “White worker” dog whistle
    • Many progressives are calling for Democrats to work more to gain white working class votes they lost in 2016

“To ignore the fact that one of the oldest republics in the world was erected on a foundation of white supremacy, to pretend that the problems of a dual society (black vs white) are the same as the problems of unregulated capitalism, is to cover the sin of national plunder with the sin of national lying. The lie ignores the fact that reducing American poverty and ending white supremacy are not the same. The lie ignores the fact that closing the “achievement gap” will do nothing to close the “injury gap” Ta-Nehisi Coates

  • If we successfully eliminated class we would still have:
    • Institutions that pay white men more than women and people of color
    • Unconscious implicit racism
      • That more likely hires white names on resumes and shoots black people
    • A society built on centuries of systemic racism and housing discrimination
      • that has created enormous wealth disparities that will be felt for generations
    • Some of the worst segregation/spatial racism in our history
  • Class reductionists
    • people who believe economic equality is cure-all for societal ills, and would neglect policy prescriptions which seek to remedy identity-based disparities

“…race and class are so interwoven that any political project that aims to resolve one while ignoring the other does a disservice to both” Briahna Gray – Intercept

“The term identity politics refers to the focus on the barriers specific groups face in their struggle for equality. “Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

  • Many white liberals blame the 2016 election on “identity politics” and believe:
    • Liberals should unite around class issues not race
    • Racial disparities are economic inequalities in disguise
    • If we address class issues, we can fix racism
    • Stephen Bannon even concurs,
      • “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
  • 2018 Equality of Opportunity Project Study found
    • When black and white people start on the same socioeconomic level:
      • White people are more likely to earn more than black people in the same class
        • Black people are more likely to decline in class.
          • This is true for lower, middle and upper class.
        • Black boys who start life poor, nearly half will remain so in adulthood
          • while more than 2 out of 3 of their white peers will escape the poverty of their youth
        • Black boys who grow up rich are 2x as likely as their white counterparts to end up poor
        • Black men raised in the top 1%
          • were as likely to be incarcerated as white men raised in households earning about $36,000
        • The worst places for poor white children
          • are almost all better than best places for poor black children
  • Racial disparities and racial bias
    • In incarceration, unemployment, school failure
      • Prevent black boys, rich or poor, from achieving as well as whites

Since the election many of these white progressive third-party voters have been advocating new strategies to win back white working voters, such as getting rid of identity politics, which is a fancy word for advocating politically for civil rights, in order to win over more white blue collar workers who feel disagree with multiculturalism and civil rights being important issues.  People like Steve Bannon keeping fueling the fire as well.

Economic Anxiety vs Racial Resentment

  • By 2016 Obama had
    • Broke record for most consecutive months of job growth
      • 75 months of job growth
    • When Obama started the unemployment rate was 7.8% in the middle of the “Great Recession”
      • it peaked at 10% in 2009
      • Obama left office with a 4.8%
    • Obama added 11 million jobs
      • Recovering the 8.7 million jobs lost to the “Great Recession”
      • Bringing the economy close to “full employment”
      • Job growth only started to slow since Trump took over
  • Despite these trends Trump voters felt bad about economy during Obama admin up until last month
    • Immediately felt better once Trump took over
      • despite no significant differences
    • Clinton voters’ view on economy stayed

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2016 Exit Poll Data

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GMP: Can We Please Call the White Working-Class Vote the Racist Vote?

As more presidential candidates join the 2020 Democratic primary, or at least, do that weird exploratory committee thing, social media are exploding with commentaries about each candidates’ winnability. One measure of winnablity that is often casually used to rank white candidates is their ability to win the “white working-class” vote.

This is a confusing phrase because it doesn’t often try to capture what all working, poor to middle-class, voters want. Sometimes it captures the opposite. To win the white working-class vote, you don’t necessarily need legitimate economic policies that focus on the poor and middle class. You just need to win over white people living in a white supremacist society. Adding the words “working” or “class” disguises this type of white vote as a racial dog whistle or a political message that pushes racism but in a coded, race-neutral way—like implying the white working-class vote has something to do with workers or class issues and not the feelings of white people who feel threatened or left out of efforts to promote diversity and equality.

I would like to make a request to all white Democrat voters, when talking about white candidates’ “winnability” among white voters, instead of saying phrases like the “white working-class” vote or “white middle-class” vote, could we just call it the racism vote? When white people prefer a candidate based on skin color, their support for policies that benefit mainly white people, or their lack of policies addressing racism, it’s not because of their particular type of vocation or their amount of wealth.

According to the 2016 exit polls, contrary to the argument that Democrats should focus more on winning back white working-class voters, Trump did not win the poor, middle, or working-class vote. He won the white vote—in almost every category from white men, white women, white people in all financial classes (especially the upper class), white evangelicals and white people of all education levels except white female college graduates whom Clinton won with 51 percent.

Based on Trump’s explicitly racist campaign rhetoric and promises, it’s hard to say racism or tolerance/ignorance to racism, wasn’t a major factor in winning the votes of these white groups. He literally ran on a platform based on demonizing people of color from migrants and asylum seekers to Muslim refugees and immigrants to victims and protesters of police brutality. He even used an old Reagan racial dog whistle, Make American Great Again (MAGA), specifically designed to demonize civil rights achievements, protections, and programs, as the cause of our country’s “lack of greatness,” in order to win white resentment votes by stirring white backlash to racial progress.

Nikole Hannah-Jones on Democracy Now Discussing History of American White Backlash to Racial Progress from Civil War to 2016 Election

People unaware of racism or uncomfortable talking about it tried to paint an economic coating on the 2016 election, claiming there’s some forgotten midwestern, white, blue-collar population who voted for Trump because they felt left out of the economy and government policies. This has been proven false many times since the 2016 election from exit polls that show Trump supporters were more concerned about immigration and terrorism (two common Trump campaign scapegoats) than the economy and a plethora of studies that found Trump supporters were more concerned about being culturally replaced by increasing diversity, being discriminated against for being white, male, straight, Christian, etc., and losing their American way of life, which was founded on white supremacy.

This is not to say there are no poor, struggling and underserved white populations across the U.S. There are many such communities. But the majority of people making $50K or under, especially the ones who felt our recent recession the most, voted for Hillary. This may be in part because Democrat policies on average at least attempt to benefit poor- and middle-class voters (protecting unions and workers’ rights, protecting our social safety nets and ACA, pushing jobs/stimulus bills, minimum wages, protecting voter rights, supporting environmental justice, etc.).

While GOP policies often exploit these people for profit (Right to Work laws, tax cuts for the upper class and military increases while cutting the social safety net, dismantling ACA, deregulating consumer protections and Wall St., initiating nationwide voter suppression, supporting environmental injustice, etc.). And the white poor and white middle class that did vote for Trump overwhelmingly said they were  feeling more left out of the top positions of a racial hierarchy than the economy.

And for those calling for Democrats to work more to gain the “white working-class” votes lost in 2016, can we just call this the racial dog whistle it is? This is a really nice “coded” way to ask the Democrats to drop their support for equal rights and social justice to win more white voters who don’t understand systemic racism. It’s a type of liberal racism. Progressive victories should never be won by increasing oppression.

Vox: What Steve Bannon gets right about Democrats — and wrong about Trump

“Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, believes everything is going according to plan. “The Democrats,” he told the American Prospect’s Bob Kuttner, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Bannon is, at least in theory, right: If the left is focused on race and identity, and the Trump administration is focused on economic nationalism, they probably can crush the Democrats. The problem with the plan is that, in practice, the way the Trump administration gets Democrats to focus on race and identity isn’t by focusing on economic nationalism — it’s by being racist in ways that alienate voters and undermine their economic agenda and message…

…This is the argument for Bannonism: Even if the country is becoming more diverse, whites still comprise a large majority of the electorate — 71 percent in 2016 — and if Republicans can consolidate their votes, they’ll win. One way to consolidate their votes, at least in theory, is to focus their attention on the rising majority-minority political coalition, and the threat it poses to their continued political power. For Republicans, a Democratic Party focused on issues of race and identity might thus be a boon.”

This progressive white debate to advocate that we must sacrifice progressive values, such as civil rights (identity politics), in order to win over enough white working class voters to win an election is exactly what these same progressive white voters were not willing to do for Clinton.  They refused to vote for someone (Clinton) that would be a sacrifice in their personal progressive values.  But why is it suddenly okay to make that sacrifice when the sacrifice will be carried out by people under their privilege?   They threw those same people under the bus as they proudly voted third-party to protect their values.  The pattern that seems to be emerging is that these white progressives, whether its voting third party or advocating for the removal of identity politics,  is its not okay sacrificing their own personal values for progressive political gains, but its okay sacrificing the livelihoods of marginalized communities for progressive political gains.  The fact that they can even spend time contemplating this is proof of white privilege.

NY Times: An End to the Class vs. Race Debate

“A new study rebuts a widely shared view that racial disparities in social mobility are economic inequalities in disguise — the belief that if we address class issues, we can fix racism.

The report, by the Stanford economist Raj Chetty, the Harvard economist Nathaniel Hendren and colleagues at The Equality of Opportunity Project, provides an empirical basis for an economic susceptibility that black parents like me have sensed: Across generations, we are less likely than whites to rise and when we do, are more likely later to fall. We seem unable to grasp or preserve economic gains as other groups do, including Latinos and Asian-Americans.

The study’s findings build on the authors’ prior research that has empirically substantiated two insights about intergenerational economic mobility. One is that a child’s economic position is sticky: Children from affluent families are many times more likely to maintain their privileged status than children from poor families are to attain it.

The other is that while economic mobility may be individual, the conditions that enable or retard it are social. Wealthy neighborhoods with good schools and strong social ties propel even poor children toward a brighter future.

But the reality for black communities is grim.

Black families trace our economic insecurity in part to a gender divide that we see but often don’t discuss. We know that African-American daughters tend to do well. They climb the socioeconomic ladder as high as their white peers, if not higher.

It’s the boys who fail. Whether born to a rich family or a poor one, in an impoverished neighborhood or wealthy one, black boys lag behind their white peers as adults. Black boys who grow up rich are twice as likely as their white counterparts to end up poor. And of those black boys who start life poor, nearly half will remain so in adulthood, while more than 2 in 3 of their white peers will escape the poverty of their youth.

Black women may surpass their white counterparts in individual income, but they lag in household income. The men who would be their husbands are missing — incarcerated, unemployed, unable to be the partners that women want. Or the parents that children need.

And so the failings of one generation fall upon the next, as the trajectories of black boys are shaped by the absence of black fathers. Looking beyond the usual focus on how individual children are affected by the presence of their fathers, Mr. Chetty and his colleagues found that the presence of black fathers in the community powerfully shapes boys’ trajectories. Black fathers are a social resource.

The two-parent families that don’t form perpetuate African-Americans’ disadvantage across generations. The economic predicament of black men, which disconnects them from their children, threatens to ripple across families and generations.

All of which raises the question: How do African-Americans in the 21st century confront the prospect of being indefinitely left behind?

The cycle that the research documents had a beginning and it can have an end. As black women began to take advantage of the opportunities opened by the civil rights movement, black men were hit first with deindustrialization — the loss of well-paying blue-collar jobs throughout large swaths of our nation — and then with a surge in incarceration unlike anything a democratic nation had ever seen. Black children bore the brunt of their parents’ suffering. Many well-meaning Americans remained oblivious to a national tragedy.

Black men’s disadvantage has shaped not only how they are perceived but the meaning of race as well. Racial disparities — in incarceration, unemployment, school failure — fuel racial bias, which ensnares black boys, rich and poor alike. Boys like my own go from cute and cuddly to strong and manly, and so become a threat in the eyes of many. The bias, subtle yet pervasive, compounds the disparities by undermining the relationships and hope that one needs to get, and stay, ahead. And so the cycle continues.

But it need not. We can disrupt the cycle of black disadvantage. What we’ve lacked is the will to do so. We act as though economic inequality is inevitable, relegating poor children of all races to schools to which most parents would never choose to send their own children, schools often in neighborhoods where most would never choose to live. We segregate ourselves by race and class, and accept the inequality of opportunity that doing so breeds.

So many Americans profess to be blind to race, which ensures only that it will remain salient. So many worry more about appearing to be racist than working to remove the enduring taint of slavery and segregation.

We will find a way to undo intergenerational racial disparities when we find the will. And to find the will, we need to recognize what’s at stake: The conditions that challenge us imperil the future of black boys and black families and the viability of the American dream itself.”

Democracy Now: What Led to Trump’s Victory? From Racial Fear to Economic Populism

We discuss what led to Donald Trump’s surprise victory with Nikole Hannah-Jones, who covers racial injustice at The New York Times Magazine, and Lee Fang, investigative journalist at The Intercept covering the intersection of money and politics.


AMY GOODMAN: Nikole Hannah-Jones, you tweeted last night, “Its dishonest for the media to keep saying this was about working class anger, that this was populist. That erases us. And it’s wrong.” You said, “black working class suffered far more from these policies than white Americans and didn’t go for Trump.”

NIKOLE HANNAHJONES: Yeah, I think that’s the narrative that media has been using to comfort itself over the last months of this campaign, is that this a problem of the backwards and racist white America that is not representative of white Americans overall. And we just know that that’s not true. We know that, at least with early numbers, that he was winning across the board—yes, he won a very high percentage of the white working-class vote, but if this were simply about economic anxieties, who has more economic anxieties than black Americans, whose unemployment rates are at disastrous levels even now, 12 percent unemployment rate, who have been hurt by these policies more than any other group? If you name the statistic, black Americans are at the bottom of that statistic. Yet they did not go for Trump, Latinos did not go for Trump, Asian Americans did not go for Trump. So I think that this is the—this is the myth that we need to tell ourselves, when really I think we were ignoring the extent of racial anxiety, racial fear, that was across the board in this country. And we do that to our peril.

And I’d like to say, you know, I don’t know that Bernie being the candidate would have had made a difference, because what we also know was that, I think, this is the first election, presidential election, in 50 years without the Section 2 clearance, preclearance, of the Voting Rights Act. We know that that had an effect. We also know that Trump was able to get much larger white turnout. So, I don’t know that that would have made a difference. I do think the Democratic Party has an issue.

LEE FANG: But also clear is—


LEE FANG: Trump outperformed Romney among African Americans, among Asian Americans, among Latinos. He got a higher share of those votes than Mitt Romney, than John McCain. I think it’s incredibly reductionist to simply say that America is too racist. Obama won Indiana. Obama won the white working class in counties all over this country. Nate Cohn, the polling expert from The New York Times, notes that in white working-class districts where Obama performed strongest, saw the biggest drop-offs in support going to Trump. So, you know, I think it’s dangerous for Democrats to simply say that America is too racist or sexist to support progressive policies or Democrats. There’s a lot more at stake here. Obviously, Trump used a lot of racial and ethnic appeals. But look at his closing ad. Look at his—how he distinguished himself from the rest of the Republican field. It was through economic policies. He was the only Republican campaigning for presidency—the presidency that said he would protect Social Security and Medicare, while Democrats across the board have been calling for these cuts, every Republican has been calling for cuts. He’s thrown out the traditional Republican and Democrat playbook and said, you know, “I want to renegotiate NAFTA. I want to destroy and rip up these free trade deals that have devastated working-class America.” So, you know, obviously, identity issues played a part here, but it’s very dangerous to simply say that America is too racist or sexist.


LEE FANG: Trump actually performed considerably well, given the context of this race among racial and ethnic minorities.


NIKOLE HANNAHJONES: Well, I was just going to say, I don’t know who on this panel said that racism and—was the only reason for this. But what I am saying is we clearly know that there was voter suppression. We know that there were court rulings coming down to the last minute. And you cannot change whether people can vote or not, what ID they need at the last minute, and expect that that’s not going to have an impact. We know this is the first presidential election when—when Obama won in 2012, he won with a minority of the white vote. When he won in 2008, he also won with a minority of the white vote. But we did not—we also had preclearance of the Voting Rights Act. So I think we cannot deny that that has had an impact, and that Trump was able to bring out larger white turnout.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to—

JOHN NICHOLS: I want to pick up on that, if I—

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break, and we’re going to come back to this discussion. We are doing our post-election show. Yes, this is the day after. Our guests are Nikole Hannah-Jones of New York Times Magazine, Lee Fang of The Intercept, Linda Sarsour of MPower, John Nichols of The Nation and Jose Antonio Vargas of Define American. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

Washington Post:  Economic anxiety isn’t driving racial resentment. Racial resentment is driving economic anxiety.

Much debate continues about whether support for Donald Trump has more to do with racial or economic anxiety. A key question in this debate — explored by Wonkblog’s Jeff Guo — is whether economic anxiety may actually cause racism. Guo shows, for example, that Americans who think the economy is getting worse currently score highest in racial resentment.

So which is the chicken and which is the egg? The evidence suggests that racial resentment is driving economic anxiety, not the other way around.

One reason is that perceptions of the economy are often not objective and depend on people’s political leaning. A large body of research shows that party identification strongly colors people’s beliefs about how the economy is doing. Democrats and Republicans both think that the economy is performing better when one of their own is in the White House.

Partisan identities aren’t the only thing that matters. In my book, Post-Racial or Most-Racial?, I show that racial attitudes have increasingly structured public opinion about a wide array of positions connected to Barack Obama, including subjective perceptions of objective economic conditions.

For one, racially sympathetic white Americans were far more likely than racially resentful whites to correctly conclude that the unemployment rate was declining in the year leading up to the 2012 election. Before Obama’s presidency, racial attitudes were uncorrelated with perceptions of the election-year unemployment rate.

The comparison between 2004 and 2012 is especially informative. Both George W. Bush and Obama saw the unemployment rate rise by about two percentage points at various times during their first terms in office; both presidents then presided over drops in the unemployment rate during the year leading up to their reelections (about half a point for Bush and one point for Obama).

Yet the graph below shows that racial resentment had a much different impact on perceptions of the unemployment rate in 2004 and 2012. After accounting for partisanship and ideology, racial resentment had no effect whatsoever on perceptions of the unemployment rate in 2004. But in 2012, people who expressed more racial resentment were less likely to perceive that, in fact, the unemployment rate had improved.

Analysis limited to whites only. Predicted values calculated by setting party identification and ideological self-placement to the average white respondent. (Graphic by Michael Tesler)

This suggests that the national economy’s association with Obama has made racial resentment a stronger determinant of gloomy economic perceptions than it was before his presidency. However, comparisons between 2012 and earlier years cannot conclusively resolve the chicken or egg question.

To do so, it’s important to have surveys of the exact same individuals before and after Obama became president. The 2007-2008-2012 Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project can do this by testing whether racial attitudes — measured before Obama became president — increasingly shaped economic perceptions during his presidency.

The results below show that this is precisely what happened.  Racial resentment was not related to whites’ perceptions of the economy in December 2007 after accounting for partisanship and ideology. When these same people were re-interviewed in July 2012, racial resentment was a powerful predictor of economic perceptions. Again, the greater someone’s level of racial resentment, the worse they believed the economy was doing.
Analysis limited to white panelists interviewed in both the December 2007 and July 2012 wave of the CCAP Re-Interviews. Predicted values calculated by setting party identification and ideological self-placement to the average white respondent. (Graphic by Michael Tesler)

Furthermore, additional analyses indicate that economic perceptions, whether measured in 2008 or even in 2012, did not cause people to change their underlying levels of racial resentment.

In fact, multiple studies, using several different surveys, have shown that overall levels of racial resentment were virtually unchanged by the economic crash of 2008. Some data even suggests that racial prejudice slightly declined during the height of economic collapse in the fall of 2008. The evidence is pretty clear, then, that economic concerns are not driving racial resentment in the Obama Era.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that economic anxiety has no influence on support for Trump. John Sides and I presented some preliminary evidence that economic insecurity was a factor in Trump’s rise.

Nor does it mean that racial resentment is the prime determinant of economic anxiety. It isn’t.

Nevertheless, in an era where racial attitudes have become increasingly associated with so many of the president’s positions, Obama’s race is largely responsible for the association between racial resentment and economic anxiety. And this racialized political environment undoubtedly aided Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican Party.

Michael Tesler is associate professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era.

NY Times: Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys

“Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children. White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households.

“You would have thought at some point you escape the poverty trap,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and an author of the study. Black boys — even rich black boys — can seemingly never assume that.

The study, based on anonymous earnings and demographic data for virtually all Americans now in their late 30s, debunks a number of other widely held hypotheses about income inequality. Gaps persisted even when black and white boys grew up in families with the same income, similar family structures, similar education levels and even similar levels of accumulated wealth.

The disparities that remain also can’t be explained by differences in cognitive ability, an argument made by people who cite racial gaps in test scores that appear for both black boys and girls. If such inherent differences existed by race, “you’ve got to explain to me why these putative ability differences aren’t handicapping women,” said David Grusky, a Stanford sociologist who has reviewed the research.

A more likely possibility, the authors suggest, is that test scores don’t accurately measure the abilities of black children in the first place. If this inequality can’t be explained by individual or household traits, much of what matters probably lies outside the home — in surrounding neighborhoods, in the economy and in a society that views black boys differently from white boys, and even from black girls.

“One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea,” said Ibram Kendi, a professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “But for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”

The authors, including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites.

“The problem,” Mr. Chetty said, “is that there are essentially no such neighborhoods in America.” The few neighborhoods that met this standard were in areas that showed less discrimination in surveys and tests of racial bias. They mostly had low poverty rates. And, intriguingly, these pockets — including parts of the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and corners of Queens and the Bronx — were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home. Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not.

“That is a pathbreaking finding,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist whose books have chronicled the economic struggles of black men. “They’re not talking about the direct effects of a boy’s own parents’ marital status. They’re talking about the presence of fathers in a given census tract.”

Other fathers in the community can provide boys with role models and mentors, researchers say, and their presence may indicate other neighborhood factors that benefit families, like lower incarceration rates and better job opportunities.

The research makes clear that there is something unique about the obstacles black males face. The gap between Hispanics and whites is narrower, and their incomes will converge within a couple of generations if mobility stays the same. Asian-Americans earn more than whites raised at the same income level, or about the same when first-generation immigrants are excluded. Only Native Americans have an income gap comparable to African-Americans. But the disparities are widest for black boys.

“This crystallizes and puts data behind this thing that we always knew was there because we either felt it ourselves or we’ve seen it over time,” said Will Jawando, 35, who worked in the Obama White House on My Brother’s Keeper, a mentoring initiative for black boys. Even without this data, the people who worked on that project, he said, believed that individual and structural racism targeted black men in ways that required policies devised specifically for them.

Mr. Jawando, the son of a Nigerian father and a white mother, grew up poor in Silver Spring, Md. The Washington suburb contains some of the rare neighborhoods where black and white boys appear to do equally well. Mr. Jawando, who identifies as black, is now a married lawyer with three daughters. He is among the black boys who climbed from the bottom to the top.

He was one of the 20 million children born between 1978 and 1983 whose lives are reflected in the study. Using census data that included tax files, the researchers were able to link the adult fortunes of those children to their parents’ incomes. Names and addresses were hidden from the researchers. Previous research suggests some reasons there may be a large income gap between black and white men, but not between women, even though women of color face both sexism and racism.

Other studies show that boys, across races, are more sensitive than girls to disadvantages like growing up in poverty or facing discrimination. While black women also face negative effects of racism, black men often experience racial discrimination differently. As early as preschool, they are more likely to be disciplined in school. They are pulled over or detained and searched by police officers more often.

“It’s not just being black but being male that has been hyper-stereotyped in this negative way, in which we’ve made black men scary, intimidating, with a propensity toward violence,” said Noelle Hurd, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.

She said this racist stereotype particularly hurts black men economically, now that service-sector jobs, requiring interaction with customers, have replaced the manufacturing jobs that previously employed men with less education.

The new data shows that 21 percent of black men raised at the very bottom were incarcerated, according to a snapshot of a single day during the 2010 census. Black men raised in the top 1 percent — by millionaires — were as likely to be incarcerated as white men raised in households earning about $36,000.

At the same time, boys benefit more than girls from adult attention and resources, as do low-income and nonwhite children, a variety of studies have found. Mentors who aren’t children’s parents, but who share those children’s gender and race, serve a particularly important role for black children, Ms. Hurd has found. That helps explain why the presence of black fathers in a neighborhood, even if not in a child’s home, appears to make a difference.

Some of the widest black-white income gaps in this study appear in wealthy communities. This fits with previous research that has shown that the effects of racial discrimination cross class lines. Although all children benefit from growing up in places with higher incomes and more resources, black children do not benefit nearly as much as white children do. Moving black boys to opportunity is no guarantee they can tap into it.

“Simply because you’re in an area that is more affluent, it’s still hard for black boys to present themselves as independent from the stereotype of black criminality,” said Khiara Bridges, a professor of law and anthropology at Boston University who has written a coming paper on discrimination against affluent black people.

This dynamic still weighs on Mr. Jawando. He has a good income, multiple degrees and political aspirations — he is running for county council in Montgomery County, where he grew up. But in his own community, he is careful to dress like a professional.

“I think if I’m putting on a sweatsuit, if I go somewhere, will I be seen as just kind of a hood black guy?” he said. “Or will people recognize me at all?” Those small daily decisions — to wear a blazer or not — follow him despite his success. “I don’t think you escape those things,” he said.

Other Findings From the Research

This study makes it possible to look in greater detail at interrelated disparities that researchers have long studied around income, marriage rates and incarceration. Here are some of the other findings. There’s a large gap in the marriage rates of white and black Americans, even after accounting for income.

One reason income gaps between whites and blacks appear so large at the household level is that black men and women are less likely to be married. That means their households are more likely to have a single income — not two. For this reason and others, many point to differences in family structure as a primary driver of racial income inequality. If black children don’t have married parents, the argument goes, they’re more likely to grow up with fewer resources and less adult attention at home.

This study found, however, that broad income disparities still exist between black and white men even when they’re raised in homes with the same incomes and the same family structure. As this chart shows, a black man raised by two parents together in the 90th percentile — making around $140,000 a year — earns about the same in adulthood as a white man raised by a single mother making $60,000 alone.

Asian-Americans earn more in adulthood than whites who were raised in families with similar incomes. But that advantage largely disappears when the researchers look only at children whose parents were born in the United States. Non-immigrant Asian-Americans fare about as well in the economy as whites. (The study did not divide immigrant mothers into smaller groups by origin.)

The worst places for poor white children are almost all better than the best places for poor black children. In previous work, some of these same researchers looked at how the prospects for poor children vary depending on where they grow up. The middle map above shows those earlier results: Poor children appeared to have less opportunity in the Southeast and more in the Northern Great Plains. With the new data, it’s now possible to look at the effects of geography separately for blacks and whites.

Poor white children struggle in parts of the Southeast and Appalachia. But they still fare better there than poor black children do in most of America. In effect, the worst places for whites produce outcomes that are about as good as the best places for blacks. These new maps also suggest that part of the reason the Southeast looks bad for all children, in the middle map, is that the region is home to many black children who fare particularly poorly there.

African-Americans made up about 35 percent of all children raised in the bottom 1 percent of the income distribution. They made up less than 1 percent of the children at the very top. This picture captures both a source of racial inequality and a consequence of it. White children are more likely to start life with economic advantages. But we now know that even when they start with the same advantages as black children, white boys still fare better, only reinforcing the disparities seen here.

The Real Starting Positions

The ladder charts so far have shown equal numbers of black and white boys raised by rich or poor families — what would happen, in other words, if we started with 10,000 boys, and half were black and half white.

In reality, whites and blacks are not represented equally across the income spectrum. More than two-thirds of black boys are raised by poor or lower-middle-class families, while more than half of white boys are raised by rich or upper-middle-class families. The chart below depicts boys from every income quintile – not just the top or bottom ones – proportioned according to their real starting places in life.”

Pacific Standard: A New Study Confirms (Again) That Race, Not Economics, Drove Former Democrats to Trump

Research on Iowa counties that swung from Obama to Trump indicates that GOP success was driven far more by sexism and racism than by economic anxiety.

Some disproven theories simply refuse to die. Among them is the notion that President Donald Trump‘s 2016 victory was largely due to economic anxiety on the part of blue-collar whites.

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg has made that argument repeatedly of late, citing “the failure of this enormous American prosperity to reach so many people in so many communities,” and Trump’s promises of radical change, as the reasons for the president’s upset win.

But a major study published a year ago found that Trump’s support among non-college-educated whites—arguably the key to his Electoral College success—was driven far more by sexism and racism than by economic anxiety.

Now, a new study that focuses on one key constituency—white people in Iowa who voted for Barack Obama, and later for Trump—comes to that same conclusion.

“Economic distress is not a significant factor in explaining the shift in Iowa voters from Democrat to Republican between 2008 and 2016,” write Iowa State University sociologists Ann Oberhauser, Daniel Krier, and Abdi Kusow. “The election outcomes do not signify [a revolt] among working-class voters left behind by globalization.”

Rather, in 2016, “the nativist narrative about ‘taking back America’ and anti-immigrant sentiment became stronger forces than economic issues,” Oberhauser said in announcing the findings.

The study, published in the journal Sociological Quarterly, begins by noting that 31 Iowa counties flipped from Democrat to Republican between 2008 and 2016—more counties than in any other state. For each county, researchers calculated the percentage of difference between the vote for the Republican ticket of John McCain/Sarah Palin and that for Trump/Mike Pence eight years later.

The researchers noted the “level of rurality” for each county, a metric that the federal Department of Agriculture calculates using the size of a given county’s population and its proximity to an urban area. They also looked at several important economic statistics, including median household income and the percentage of adults who were unemployed.

Finally, they analyzed four variables grouped together as “social identities”: the percentage of people who (a.) were over 65, (b.) had no college degree, (c.) identified as non-Hispanic whites, and (d.) were affiliated with a religion.

“In general, the counties that swung the most [from Obama to Trump] were those that were almost entirely white,” the researchers report. Rural counties were more likely to have shifted Republican than urban counties, as were counties in which fewer people had college educations.

In contrast, “median county income, adults not working, and county employment [rates]” were not predictive of a shift in political affiliation. Nor, surprisingly, was religiosity: The researchers argue that their findings suggest whiteness “plays a greater role in explaining Trump’s support among white evangelicals than religion.”

So the less educated you were, and the less likely you were to actually know any people of color, the more susceptible you were to Trump’s fear-mongering. This suggests that these rural voters were voting to uphold “certain racialized and gendered norms,” the researchers argue.

Krier and his colleagues note that Democrats did well in the 2018 mid-terms in Iowa, picking up two congressional seats. But “prominent ethno-nationalist” Representative Steve King won re-election in his largely rural district, Krier reminds us, suggesting that the “social and geographic gulfs” between rural and urban areas are continuing to widen.

All this is not to say that liberals should ignore any county that contains a barn. Indeed, Eric Levitz recently argued in New York magazine that appeals like Buttigieg’s (Bernie Sanders has offered similar statements) make some strategic sense. They certainly represent a better strategy than dismissing a substantial proportion of the electorate as “deplorables.”

But Democrats need to be clear-eyed about what actually drove voters’ decisions, and to recognize that Trump—and other Republican candidates willing to play to voters’ prejudices—will likely hold onto those voters’ allegiance. Status anxiety, especially when it’s tied to one’s racial identity, is a highly resonant appeal, in good economic times and bad.

“At the gut level, people react to identities and protect those identities more than their livelihoods,” co-author Kusow concludes. And for many Americans, as political scientist Ashley Jardina has eloquently argued, that means their identities as white people.

Identity Politics

Vox: The battle over identity politics, explained

Steve Bannon thinks identity politics are great for President Donald Trump.

That’s what the president’s adviser told Robert Kuttner over at the American Prospect. “The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

The argument invokes a question that picked up steam after the 2016 election: Either Trump’s election was a rejection of identity politics or his election was a validation of the prominence of identity politics in the US.

Whichever you believe, there are very different implications on how the country — and especially the Democratic Party — should move forward. Should the emphasis be on finally addressing America’s long history of systemic racism, going from slavery to the criminal justice system? Or is the more pressing issue the massively corrupt, unequal economic and financial system that benefits the top 1 percent far more than the rest of the nation, regardless of race?

On one hand, some people say that America needs to continue discussing and fighting on all of the issues relevant to identity politics — racism in the criminal justice system, if gay people should be protected from discrimination, whether transgender people should be allowed to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, and so on. With some progress made on these issues in the past few years, advocates say that it’s too late to abandon them now. And Trump’s election creates a new sense of urgency to discuss these issues, because he’s so at odds with many of the ideals promoted by the left in discussions about identity.

On the other hand, some people, particularly on the left and now Bannon, argue that identity politics have served as a distraction from issues they view as more important and politically palatable — the growing income gap between the rich and everyone else, the shipping of jobs overseas, and the abuse and corruption in America’s financial system. By focusing so much on issues of identity, the argument goes, Democrats and liberals surrendered all of these issues to Trump, letting him tap into an economically populist message that drew in enough of white rural and working-class America to seal his victory.

But both of these explanations of the election have problems. They simplify and obfuscate what actually happened on Election Day. (For one, it’s unclear if Trump really is pursuing any sort of economic agenda, given that he’s passed no major bills.) They also tend to create a potentially false either-or scenario; it really may be possible to talk about economic and identity issues at the same time.

And most importantly, this debate has been far too narrow. It typically looks at what liberals and Democrats have been doing, particularly in the past few months. But it doesn’t pay much attention to how Republicans and conservatives have leveraged identity politics for decades, pushing minority groups and women to demand that the opposing political party and liberals finally fight back. Bannon’s comments, in fact, speak to exactly how Republicans have embraced identity politics — to turn white Americans against Democrats.

Identity politics is American politics

“Identity politics” is a very vague phrase, but it generally refers to the discussion of and politicking around issues pertaining to one’s, well, identity. The focus typically falls on women, racial minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and religious minorities, such as Muslim Americans. All the social issues you may have heard of in the past several years — same-sex marriage, police shootings of unarmed black men, trans people in bathrooms, the fluidity of gender, discussions about rape culture, campus battles about safe spaces and trigger warnings — are typically the kinds of issues people mean when they refer to identity politics.

There’s another side to identity politics that you hear less about in the US, particularly white identity. This is by definition an identity, but it’s one that’s so widely assumed to be the norm in America that issues pertaining to white identity are typically not regarded as identity politics.

But it is a huge part of identity — and American — politics nonetheless. In one recent study of the 2016 election, UC Santa Barbara and Stanford University researchers told white voters that minority groups would outnumber white people in the US by 2042. They found that voters who strongly identified as white became significantly more likely to support Trump after they were reminded of the country’s shifting racial demographics.

The conclusion is clear: White identity and issues surrounding it can play a big role in electoral outcomes. That helps explain why Trump won: All his dog whistles about making America great again (by perhaps reverting to a time when white people held a much stronger grip of government), political correctness, immigrants, Muslims, and “the African Americans” may have helped prime white people into voting for the racially regressive candidate. (There’s a lot more research backing this priming effect, which Dylan Matthews broke down for Vox.)

It’s important to understand this to understand how identity politics works. It’s a two-sided debate: One side wants to preserve a status quo that has historically protected a white identity that many white, straight, cisgender (non-trans), Christian Americans identify with. The other side wants to carve out an opening for other groups to be more accepted in mainstream America: black people, Latino immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and Muslim Americans, to name a few.

Notably, this debate is not new. While the term “identity politics” rose to prominence in the past few years, it is really a broader national conversation that has been going on since the country was founded. Every single step in the push to end systemic racism — from the abolition of slavery to the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter — was and is part of what’s now known as identity politics today. This historical push-and-pull has been at the heart of US politics forever, leading the country to establish the odd system with which we elect our presidents, fight a civil war, pass its first federal anti-terrorism law to fight the KKK, and take 220 years to elect its first black president.

“Class has always been racially determined in this country,” Heather McGhee, president of the left-leaning public policy group Demos, told me. “In a country where you can have a credo of equality and social mobility and the ability of any man to rise as far as his talents and drive can take him, that has always had to be put in relative terms.”

Conservatives have long been tapping into this fact of American life by combining identity politics with their other messages. Before Trump, there was the Southern strategy championed by Richard Nixon — in which Nixon tapped into white Americans’ racial resentment of the civil rights era to begin flipping white Southern voters from Democrats to Republicans. This continued through coded rhetoric about “welfare queens” and other dog whistles that suggest that big government is really a tool to help minority people at the expense, through higher taxes, of white working people. (Never mind that the plurality of food stamp recipients are white.)

This strategy has been baked into Republican politics since then. Trump was “the culmination,” McGhee said, by bringing together an explicitly racist message and a conservative economic message focused on repealing Obamacare, slashing entitlement programs, and cutting taxes. Again, these weren’t exclusive messages — they played to white rural Americans’ sentiment, as captured by Arlie Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, that big government tax-and-spend programs are simply a means to take from them and give to other groups.

Obviously, not all people who oppose some or all entitlement programs do so on racist grounds. There are economic, budgetary, and philosophical arguments against how entitlement programs work today. But racial attitudes are a motive for a lot of people, based on Hochschild’s work and many studies.

Modern liberal identity politics is in large part a reaction to this US history and attitudes surrounding race. After centuries of what many people justifiably see as oppression, they think it’s time the country has an open conversation about what has been going wrong all this time and how the country can move forward to be more tolerant and accepting of a diverse population. So they have pushed Democrats, who used to take a more conservative tone on race (see: President Bill Clinton’s “tough on crime” rhetoric and policies) or stay largely quiet about race (see: President Barack Obama), to speak more strongly about identity issues.

Sometimes the push to change the conversation can come off clumsily. There are many examples of students on college campuses acting out in ways that many people perceive as ridiculous — by, say, trying to ban speakers with different views or policing language. These kinds of stories are often dismissed as political correctness run amok.

But whatever you make of those stories, they are only a small part of identity politics. The bigger battle isn’t about restricting speech on college campuses, but who exactly is accepted in America.

People don’t want to get left behind

At the crux of both sides of identity politics is a simple problem: No one wants to get left behind.

Minority groups and women don’t want to go back to a day where it was legal for employers and businesses to discriminate against them. In fact, they want to move past the progress that’s already been made and solve other problems — such as the vast racial gaps in economic and educational attainment, the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and the gender wage gap.

But many white Americans, especially those in rural and Rust Belt areas hit hard by globalization, see identity politics as a zero-sum game, one in which they will lose out more and more as minority groups make gains.

Hochschild, a sociologist and author of Strangers in Their Own Land, provided an apt analogy for many white Americans’ feeling of neglect: As they see it, they are all in this line toward a hill with prosperity at the top. But over the past few years, globalization and income stagnation have caused the line to stop moving. And from their perspective, other groups — black and brown Americans, women — are now cutting in the line, because they’re getting new (and more equal) opportunities through new anti-discrimination laws and policies like affirmative action.

In addition to this, many white Americans feel like they can’t even talk about how they feel due to what they call “political correctness.” Michelle Goldberg, a columnist at Slate who’s interviewed dozens of people at Trump rallies, wrote that she consistently heard this from Trump supporters: “Again and again, people told me how much they resented not being able to speak their minds, though none of them wanted to articulate what exactly they were holding in. They said they hated being shamed on social media, though they usually didn’t want to say what they had been shamed for.”

The undertone here is that a lot of Trump supporters want to be able to say racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted things without consequence.

But another possibility is that these people want to be able to speak about issues — sometimes in a clumsy, accidentally offensive way, because they just don’t know the new language for these topics — without being shamed. Writing them off as simply racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted only makes them feel like their actual concerns about the economy, state of the country, size of government, and so on are going ignored. To these people, political correctness — and identity politics more broadly — have, in their view, oppressed them.

Historically, however, identity politics has been used to oppress not white people but people of color. The Southern strategy gave way to administrations that passed “tough on crime” laws, weakened the enforcement of civil rights laws, enacted legislation that suppresses voters, opposed same-sex marriage and nondiscrimination laws that legally protect LGBTQ people, and took on other actions that targeted or disproportionately hurt minority Americans and women. These kinds of policies are why we see such big gaps in all kinds of outcomes, from the gender wage gap to white versus black life expectancy.

These outcomes, in fact, are why identity politics is big today. The current movement is a reaction to decades of oppressive policies and inequality, with people now trying to change how US society and politics talk about and handle these issues to hopefully push the country in a more equal direction. It’s not that people suddenly decided to proactively bring up these issues that never existed before; it’s that they’re fed up and want the current circumstances to change.

Take, for instance, how transgender writer Julia Serano put it: “I would *love* to stop talking about being transgender. It would be absolutely wonderful to live in a world where I didn’t have to constantly consider that aspect of my person. But you know what? I don’t have the privilege of not thinking about it, because there are shit-tons of people out there who hate me, harass me, and who wish to criminalize and silence me *because* I’m transgender.”

Democrats need to find a way to balance their message

For Democrats, the issue now is finding a way to balance identity politics with other issues.

Trump won the election, as has now been well-established, by convincing white working-class voters to back him much more than they backed the previous Republican candidate, Mitt Romney. The shift was enough to overcome the demographic changes — mainly, the growth of Latino voters — that have benefited Democrats over the past few years.

It’s not just presidential politics, either. Democrats’ struggles to connect to the white working class have contributed to the party’s losses down the ballot, leaving it with no control of any level of government in America come 2017.

Democrats don’t want to see this trend continue. So they want to find a way to speak to the white working class to avoid even more of them from going to Republicans. But they also feel like they can’t stop talking about identity politics altogether, given that much of the current Democratic base is made up of millennials, people of color, and women who really care about these issues.

The closest thing to a consensus so far seems to be that Democrats need to advance a more economically populist message — one that decries the excesses of Wall Street and pushes policy ideas that could benefit the white working class along with the rest of Americans, like universal health care, free college, paid family leave, and a massive infrastructure program.

This is what key Democratic leaders have said in the aftermath of the election: Sen. Bernie Sanders argued that the party should signal that it will help all working class people regardless of race. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren reportedly told donors, according to Gabriel Debenedetti at Politico, that “Democrats need to step up their economic appeal to everyday voters.”

Beyond that, there’s basically no consensus. Some people suggest that Democrats should abandon identity politics altogether as part of taking up a populist message. Others argue that it’s possible for the party to balance both identity politics and a more economically populist message. (No one I’ve talked to in my reporting since the election has suggested that the party should change nothing or follow a solely identity politics–focused message.)

This debate is essentially an extension of one that became much more prominent during the Democratic primary. Back then, some leftists, many of whom supported Sanders, argued that Democrats need to focus more on issues pertaining to class through an economically populist message. But some liberals, many of whom backed Hillary Clinton, said that the party must excite its diverse coalition by speaking to identity issues. Now that Democrats lost to Trump, this debate has continued after the election.

One side wants an end to “identity liberalism”

Mark Lilla, a liberal historian who wrote “The End of Identity Liberalism” in the New York Times after the election, argues that the party’s messaging on identity politics has ostracized white Americans — many of whom would otherwise be receptive to the party’s economic policies.

He wrote:

Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded.

“It’s crucial to develop a message that focuses on what we share,” Lilla told me. “Not on our identities at all, but what we share about certain principles in this country.”

Lilla argued that it is not that he doesn’t care about identity politics issues. He said, for one, that he supports many of the efforts to expand and protect LGBTQ rights. But he argued that Democrats are going to be unable to do the work to expand and protect minority groups and women’s rights if Democratic lawmakers are not in power first.

“It’s an argument about strategy. It’s not an argument about ultimate values,” Lilla said. “It’s my attempt to get liberals’ attention and even progressives’ attention focused on winning elections.” He added, “You can do nothing to protect black motorists [pulled over by police] and gay couples walking hand-in-hand down the street if you don’t control Congress and, most importantly, if you don’t have a voice in state legislatures.”

There’s some evidence behind Lilla’s argument: The research, as noted above, shows white people are more likely to vote through their white identity if they are primed to think of an election in racial terms. And other research on what sociologists call “white fragility” has found that when many white people are asked to answer for potential racism, they become immediately defensive — pushing them into denial that they’ve done anything wrong and, in some cases, hardening their racist attitudes. (Much more on that in a previous piece I wrote about this research.)

So it stands to reason that the more Democrats push on identity issues, the more white Americans will be primed into voting as a racial group — and potentially for Republicans in what they view as racial self-preservation.

But it’s not just Democrats who have been raising these issues for the past few years. The whole point of the Southern strategy and dog whistles is to acknowledge and wink at these issues for white voters. After all, Trump is arguably the candidate who made the election in large part about race and identity; he’s the one who called Mexican immigrants “rapists” in his first campaign event, proposed a ban on Muslims coming into the US, and described places where black people live as hellish nightmares.

Much of Hillary Clinton’s messaging was a reaction to this, and it’s hard to see her trying the same kind of messaging against a Republican like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. But once Trump got started, she couldn’t just ignore what was going on, and she had to speak about identity issues to some degree. Still, whether that required a message that microtargeted specific minority groups is a matter of debate.

A shift to appealing to white voters could leave behind people of color

For minority groups, there’s a big risk to Democrats simply ignoring identity politics in favor of appealing to the white working class: When progressive parties felt compelled to reach out to white voters in such a way in the past, they neglected people of color in both rhetorical and policy terms.

New Yorker writer James Surowiecki gave a few examples in a series of tweets: when Republicans abandoned Reconstruction following the abolition of slavery, leaving black people to “fend for themselves” in the South; during the New Deal, when Democrats excluded predominantly black farmers and service workers from Social Security; and in the 1990s, when the Clinton administration and Democrats embraced “tough on crime” and anti-welfare rhetoric that led to policies that disproportionately hurt people of color.

Paul Frymer, director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University, told me that it’s possible this will happen again. Democrats could make the cold calculation that even if they neglect identity issues, people of color and other marginalized groups will have nowhere else to go, since they certainly can’t go to a Republican Party with a history of standing against civil rights legislation, criminal justice reform, and immigration reform.

Democrats look at Republicans’ wins with the white vote and “think two things. One, they think it’s a critical vote, which it is,” Frymer said. “And two, they think, where are African Americans going to go? Latinos to a certain extent have a little more room to maneuver — and Latinos are much more diverse, from Cubans to Puerto Ricans and so forth. But I think the Democrats think the strategy they use — appeal to this white majority and rally minority voters on Election Day by getting them out to vote — has been sufficient.”

McGhee of Demos, however, argued that the idea that Democrats should abandon identity politics and, therefore, potentially people of color for economic populism presents a false either-or scenario. She said that it’s possible for Democrats to talk about economic issues that affect people of all backgrounds while speaking to issues that affect people of color in particular. In fact, she said it could be possible to bring both of these issues together.

For example, Democrats could speak to how conservatives have leveraged identity politics in a way that’s also hurt white Americans. As McGhee put it, conservative politicians have used race to rile up their constituents on cultural issues while ignoring or even working against causes that would benefit their constituents. “The racial narrative has been the weapon,” she said, to get white Americans to vote for policies that go against their interests.

Consider, for example, that the Trump administration and Republican Congress have worked (so far unsuccessfully) to repeal Obamacare and slash entitlement programs, which would send potentially millions of white working-class Americans into poverty and rob millions of their health insurance. This would be a complete disaster for the group of people who overwhelmingly voted for Trump, even if many of them thought they were voting for their own preservation.

By communicating this kind of issue, McGhee says that Democrats can condemn racist rhetoric like Trump’s and signal to white voters that hateful rhetoric like Trump’s only masks policies that will actually hurt them.

Whether McGhee’s idea works remains to be seen. But it’s the kind of idea that Democrats will need to consider as they look for a way to balance outreach to white voters, a serious response to decades of conservative identity politics, and the many competing interests within their party.

Alicia Plerhoples: The Washington Post Editorial Board’s Claims of “Identity Politics” Are Used to Silence Us

Three days after the Democratic primary for Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the Washington Post Editorial Board accused me of running on identity politics, called me and other primary candidates “insurgents”, and praised the “establishment.” Let’s review for those who need catching up — I ran for an open seat against three white men varying in age from early 50s to early 30s. I am a black 40-year old American woman. We’re all Democrats. For much of the race, I found myself battling the Post’s biases instead of my primary opponents’ who largely treated me, my identity, and my ideas as equal. Indeed, the Post could learn a thing or two from my opponents.

The Post’s Editorial Board may find this shocking but there is not a day that I don’t wake up as a black woman. These two identifiers — “black” and “woman” — are as much a part of me as me.  What the Editorial Board wanted me to do was shed my blackness, shed my womanhood, and to pretend that those identities do not affect every single moment of my life. That is what the Editorial Board meant when they accused me of “identity politics”. They meant for me to strip away what I cannot. They meant for me to be quiet about the experiences that only (or mostly) women face, like being catcalled on the street or interrupted during meetings, or asked how you plan to be in office when you have two small children (the question the Editorial Board asked me during my endorsement interview). They meant for me to be quiet about experiences that only (or mostly) black and brown people face, like being racially profiled while shopping or driving, or shown houses only in certain parts of town. But these experiences are exactly why we need women and women of color in office; and not just in office but also talking about their racialized and gendered experiences while running for office.

These experiences translate into good public policy — good because it reflects the reality of our constituents’ diverse lives, including the lives of most of the residents of Fairfax County who are either people of color or women.

As a local elected official, I would fight for longer paid parental leave for our county employees because I know that three weeks after having a baby the last thing many women want is to return to work — one’s breasts are likely swollen with milk and post-partum bleeding and discomfort typically has not stopped — not to mention, the baby.

As a local elected official, I would not call for more Student Resource Officers in our public schools as a means of reducing gun violence because I know that black and brown students are disproportionately targeted in our school-to-prison pipeline. I know because I experienced racial profiling as a child and continue to experience racial profiling as an adult.

But the Editorial Board would have preferred that I, and presumably other women and women of color, stop talking about our identities when we run for office. Just as the rest of the United States is taking diverse perspectives seriously — discussing #MeToo, discussing reparations for slavery, discussing white privilege, discussing the threat of white nationalism — the Washington Post Editorial Board would like us to take several steps backwards. We will not. I will not.

The Editorial Board unnecessarily injected its anti-woman and anti-family bias into a race for the political head of the largest county in Virginia. It did so when it asked me and other women candidates about our families during our endorsement interviews. It did so when it lied and said post hoc that my opponent had also been asked the same question, despite them having told me in real time that he had not.

Post-primary, the Editorial Board unnecessarily injected its white privilege into the race by claiming a status quo triumph over “identity politics,” when that term is denounced and shunned by even the most mainstream of political commentators or journalists.

Shame on them. Our racialized and gendered experiences matter, particularly when women of color run for elected office and yearn to shape public policies that govern our diverse voices and bodies. We will not be shamed into silence about our identities and experiences by an out-of-touch media.

The Root: It’s Time to Reclaim ‘Identity Politics’

It’s tempting to write off critiques of identity politics the same way you would ironic tattoos or Taylor Swift as a “white-people thing,” but the term has become so hotly debated and so misunderstood that an increasing number of young people of color feel put off by it.

Recently, one Bernie Sanders supporter, provoked by an article I had written, wrote a kind and reflective email disagreeing with me. Describing himself as biracial, he confided that he found identity politics “dangerous” and “utterly pointless.” In his view, in order to be “ordinary Americans,” we had to let go of minority identities.

This feeling was echoed somewhat in a recent Atlantic article addressing a radical student movement at Reed College in Portland, Ore. In a confrontation between student protesters and a queer black freshman, the freshman told the group (who, frankly, sounded like assholes), “Identity politics is divisive.”

Just a line earlier, the freshman had said the protesters “had a beautiful opportunity to address police violence”—indicating that police brutality, an issue popularized through identity politics, was a priority to him.

Even Sanders, the progressive left’s most prominent and important figure, has pushed back on identity politics—though not quite in the way mainstream media describes it.

“It’s not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’” No, that’s not good enough,” Sanders said after Donald Trump’s election last year. Politico’s headline: “Sanders Slams Identity Politics as Democrats Figure Out Their Future”—even though voting for someone because of his or her gender or background isn’t actually what identity politics is.

For all the words spilled about the topic in the last two years, a growing number of Americans, including some so-called political experts, don’t seem to understand what identity politics is at all.

In part this is because many pundits have failed to define the term as it’s been applied historically and as it’s being understood now. Instead, we’ve been collectively arguing based on our assumptions of what it means and who it belongs to.

It’s worth redefining what identity politics means and what it has meant. It’s worth examining what it isn’t. And it’s high time to claim it.

Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, a professor of political science and chair of the gender-studies department at the University of Southern California, tells me that identity politics, in the scholarly sense, has to do with a politics of activism and engagement “that is focused on the fact that people of certain identities have specific experiences that marginalize them or prevent them from otherwise being treated equally in society.”

In this way, Hancock says, the fight for LGBTQ equality, the women’s rights movement and the civil rights movement were all, in some form, identity politics movements. It’s not a worldview, she adds, as much as it is a tool to exact very specific political and social gains.

What defines identity politics now is its focus on intersectionality, on multiple identities and how they inform the way Americans experience things like debt, employment, housing and policing. Advocates of identity politics would point out that intersectionality informs a class discussion, rather than detracts from it.

Nonetheless, it’s this specific iteration of identity politics that has drawn criticism not just from the right but from self-described liberals and progressives like Mark Lilla, whose book The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics argues that identity politics will break the Democratic Party.

Lilla and other (mostly white) liberals of his ilk, Hancock says, will disavow racism and sexism and look at them as “bad,” but also believe that tackling systemic oppression splinters and fractures progressive coalitions in ways that prevent them from getting the change they want.

In their arguments against identity politics (or what they think is identity politics), the Mark Lillas of America center that narrative primarily around white feelings and insecurities—a move that, ironically, actually does more to narrow the progressive umbrella than expand it.

As Lilla himself put it in a particularly excruciating NPR interview, “Imagine that you’re canvassing door-to-door somewhere in Missouri or Mississippi and you knock on someone’s door, and you say, ‘I’m here from the Democratic Party and I’d like to ask for your vote. But before I do, I have a series of tickets to give you.

“‘The first ticket is for your privilege. The second one is for being a racist. And the third one is for being homophobic. I hope to see you on Tuesday.’ Now, that is not going to attract or persuade anybody,” he continued.

It’s clear that Lilla’s “someone” is likely white and likely male; the subtext, that persuading this person to carry out a progressive agenda is the sole key to the Democratic Party’s future. In their arguments against identity politics (or what they think is identity politics), the Lillas of America center that narrative primarily around white feelings and insecurities—a move that, ironically, actually does more to narrow the progressive umbrella than expand it.

Mychal Denzel Smith expands upon this in his excellent rebuttal in the New Republic: “What Liberals Get Wrong About Identity Politics.” In it, Smith cites the Combahee River Collective, a collection of black feminist activists and scholars from the mid-1970s who championed the rights of women of color against “racial, sexual, heterosexual and class oppression.”

Their mission and their work, Smith points out, was never intended to exclusively affect women of color—though they operated out of their identities as black women to challenge system of power.

The founders of the Combahee River Collective wrote, “If black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” As Smith expands, the focus was always on coalition building and expanding the fight for equality on multiple fronts and with those holding intersecting interests:

“Any coalition worth forming has to take stock of those differences,” Smith writes, “or suffer an agenda that is insufficient to liberating all people.”

Part of the pushback against identity politics has been the emergence of the “alt-right”—Nazis and neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, white nationalists and white supremacists. White nationalists, in particular, whose foundational belief is that white people are under attack in this country, both in terms of population and power, practice a fun-house-mirror version of identity politics. Because they operate from a place of assumed disenfranchisement, of assumed oppression, one could argue that those groups fit the definition of identity politics.

This is different from simply being white and loving Donald Trump because he’s angry about the same white things you are. (As The Root’s Michael Harriot might write, that’s just white supremacy.)

Either way, the liberal argument that all of identity politics needs to be abandoned simply because certain white people have violently co-opted it isn’t a compelling argument, according to professor Hancock. “All tools are co-optable,” she points out.

What identity politics has done and continues to do is add nuance and detail to our understanding of the nation’s challenges. A class approach simply isn’t complete without examining race and gender—how pay inequity is particularly egregious for women of color, for example, or how wealth is shrinking in black and Latinx communities.

What confounds many pundits on the left and right is the idea that what may be good for black women or Latinx middle-income families would actually end up being good for white people, too. Identity politics splinters conversations around class only if you’re fundamentally uninterested in making people who are not like you a priority.

“We have an entire toolbox, and identity politics is one important, but not the only, tool that we have in our toolbox for progressive change,” Hancock says, adding that she’s concerned about the “all or nothing” way that identity politics’ detractors frame the debate.

Hancock also points out that most Americans don’t really know that broad solutions that prioritize specific demographics exist, so it’s difficult to envision them. She cites Rep. James Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) 10-20-30 poverty plan as one such example.

Clyburn’s proposal would require Congress to direct 10 percent of rural-development initiatives to counties where 20 percent of the population has lived below the poverty line for 30 or more years. Clyburn’s proposal leads with identifying specific communities that could gain from such a plan: “Appalachian communities in Kentucky and North Carolina, Native American communities in South Dakota and Alaska, Latino communities in Arizona and New Mexico and African-American communities in Mississippi and South Carolina.”

The proposal doesn’t shy away from identity—it reckons with it and how it defines specific communities living in poverty. And it offers a solution that could be applied equitably across those different groups.

There is a progressive future in which the shrinking of the black middle class is talked about loud and often in conversations about income inequality. There is a progressive future that values immigration reform because population growth is absolutely essential to a healthy economy.

If progressives are still riding the high from Tuesday night’s victorious election results, we should also recognize that now is the time to embrace identity politics and what it could mean for a progressive future in 2018 and beyond.

There is a progressive future in which tackling racist and political gerrymandering is as much a priority as campaign-finance reform. There is a progressive future that recognizes the fact that predatory lending primarily targets black and brown people. There is a progressive future that recognizes that affordable college is useless for undocumented students if they don’t have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protection. There is a progressive future in which the shrinking of the black middle class is talked about loud and often in conversations about income inequality. There is a progressive future that values immigration reform because population growth is absolutely essential to a healthy economy.

Sanders did something incredibly important when he pushed Democrats left: He gave progressives the range and diversity of policy options that they deserve. Americans need someone willing to push single-payer health care; Americans need a substantial increase in the minimum wage on the table. We can also ask for more, and now—a year before the midterms and three years before the next presidential election—is the time to do so.

This week’s election results were heartening not just because of the wide Democratic wins but also for the sheer diversity of those wins (diversity that extends far beyond the elected officials’ backgrounds). A Black Lives Matter lawyer who sued the police is now South Philadelphia’s district attorney. Andrea Jenkins was elected a Minneapolis City councilwoman on Tuesday, becoming the first openly transgender black woman elected to public office in the United States. St. Paul, Minn.’s first black mayor campaigned on police reform, affordable prekindergarten education and expanding public transportation.

We can go even further to create a more just, more equitable society, and if we let it, identity politics can help take us there.

Vox: Stacey Abrams’s new essay on identity politics reveals why she’s a rising star

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams delivered the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union on Tuesday — and did an impressive job. State of the Union speeches are typically boring afterthoughts; Abrams’s showed why so many in the Democratic Party see her as a rising star.

But what does Abrams really stand for, and what does she really think? To get a sense, it’s worth reading an essay by her published last Friday defending one of the most controversial ideas in American public life: identity politics.

The piece, published by the journal Foreign Affairs, is a response to an essay by famed intellectual Francis Fukuyama. In a recent book, Fukuyama lambasted left-wing movements for dividing the country by focusing too much on appeals to race and gender; he called instead for Democrats to refocus on class to win back blue-collar Trump voters.

It’s a familiar argument, and one Abrams finds decidedly unpersuasive. She argues that identity politics is simply the assertion of historically marginalized groups’ interests and right to participate as equals in society, an inevitable and necessary feature of a society marked by social oppression. The piece marks Abrams as the rare politician willing to mount a full-throated defense of the idea of identity politics; the fact that she does so in a sharp and compelling way helps explain why the Democratic Party sees her as a rising star.

Why Stacey Abrams believes in identity politics

The core of Abrams’s argument is that identity politics is not something that members of marginalized groups can ignore. If they want equality, they must address the issues and social structures that oppress them.

“The marginalized did not create identity politics: Their identities have been forced on them by dominant groups, and politics is the most effective method of revolt,” Abrams writes. “What Fukuyama laments as ‘fracturing’ is in reality the result of marginalized groups finally overcoming centuries-long efforts to erase them from the American polity — activism that will strengthen democratic rule, not threaten it.”

The point here is not that it’s bad to be labeled as “black” or “female”; Abrams personally embraces both labels. Rather, it’s that the social significance assigned to being a member of an oppressed group — the mental baggage, stereotypes, and mistreatment you experience from others as a result of your identity — is not something individuals can choose to take on or reject. Your race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion cause you to be treated in a certain way, forcing you to be aware of your marginalized social role and identify with it whether you’d like to or not.

As a result, Abrams argues, minority groups face two choices: either ignore their own oppression or engage in some form of so-called identity politics. Asking minorities to eschew identity politics is tantamount to asking them to ignore their own oppression. How can you include black Americans in modern politics if you don’t talk about police violence and voter suppression? How can you include women without talking about the gender pay gap, or LGBTQ Americans without addressing the lack of federal anti-discrimination laws?

You can’t, at least not meaningfully. In Abrams’s view, critics like Fukuyama are functionally telling people like her to sit down and shut up.

Abrams also finds the alleged alternative, a class-focused politics, unpersuasive. She points to the Democratic party’s nationwide victories in 2018 as evidence that candidates can run on identity issues and win (although Abrams herself did not).

She also argues that positioning messages based on class and those based on identity as being in conflict is part of the problem — and results in the exclusion of minority concerns from politics. It’s worth quoting her at length here:

Fukuyama and other critics of identity politics contend that broad categories such as economic class contain multitudes and that all attention should focus on wide constructs rather than the substrates of inequality. But such arguments fail to acknowledge that some members of any particular economic class have advantages not enjoyed by others in their cohort. U.S. history abounds with examples of members of dominant groups abandoning class solidarity after concluding that opportunity is a zero-sum game. The oppressed have often aimed their impotent rage at those too low on the social scale to even attempt rebellion.

This is particularly true in the catchall category known as “the working class.” Conflict between black and white laborers stretches back to the earliest eras in U.S. history, which witnessed tensions between African slaves and European indentured servants. Racism and sexism have long tarnished the heroic story of the U.S. labor movement—defects that contributed to the rise of a segregated middle class and to persistent pay disparities between men and women, disparities exacerbated by racial differences. Indeed, the American working class has consistently relied on people of color and women to push for improved status for workers but has been slow to include them in the movement’s victories.

Instead of opposing class and identity, she concludes, an effective left-liberal politics would point out the connections between different forms of social stratification — crafting an appeal that speaks to both economic and social concerns rather than reducing one to the other.

In Abrams’s view, it’s possible to build a political movement that recognizes both the particular challenges facing distinct identity groups and, at the same, manages to appeal to all of them.

“The current demographic and social evolution toward diversity in the United States has played out alongside a trend toward greater economic and social inequality. These parallel but distinct developments are inextricably bound together,” Abrams writes. “The entrance of the marginalized into the workplace, the commons, and the body politic — achieved through litigation and legislation — spawned reactionary limits on their legal standing and restrictions meant to block their complaints and prevent remedies. The natural antidote to this condition is not a retrenchment to amorphous, universal descriptors devoid of context or nuance. Instead, Americans must thoughtfully pursue an expanded, identity-conscious politics.”

Why Abrams’s argument matters

The devil is in the details when it comes to this kind of argument. It’s easy to hazily appeal to a kind of united-quilt identity politics, but much harder to create a political campaign that effectively harnesses this kind of vision.

Barack Obama was the unquestioned master of this tactic, managing to make different groups feel like their interests were being taken into account while also selling a master narrative of unity to the broader American public. But not everyone has Obama’s talents as a political communicator, to put it mildly. It remains to be seen how good Abrams will be at putting her vision into action in future campaigns, either in Georgia or nationally.

But the theory here is important in its own right. By mounting a full-throated defense of identity politics — arguably the most criticized concept in American politics today — Abrams is bolstering her reputation as a Democratic politician worth watching, attacking the conventional Washington wisdom at a high intellectual level.

It’s also notable that someone with Abrams’ level of prominence is making this kind of argument. The anti-identity politics case has become so ossified that its defenders often seem almost incapable of questioning their own premises.

In Fukuyama’s response to Abrams, he accuses her of painting white America with too broad a brush. “It is absurd to see white Americans as a uniformly privileged category, as she seems to do,” Fukuyama writes.

But nowhere in Abrams’s essay does she do that. It’s possible to recognize that the white working class has historically benefitted from certain elements of white privilege — being included in New Deal programs that blacks were initially excluded from, for example — without saying that they are “uniformly privileged.” Abrams’s attention to the nuances of identity allows for this more subtle analysis, which Fukuyama doesn’t seem to grasp.

There’s two paragraphs in particular where Fukuyama seems to give up the game. He writes:

People can walk and chew gum at the same time. Even as Americans seek to right injustices suffered by specific social groups, they need to balance their small-group identities with a more integrative identity needed to create a cohesive national democratic community.

But then later in the essay, he also writes:

In practical terms, overcoming polarization means devising a posture that will win back at least part of the white working-class vote that has shifted from the left to the right. Peeling away populist voters not driven by simple racism means taking seriously some of their concerns over cultural change and national identity.

There’s a contradiction here: Fukuyama wants minorities to talk about their issues, but only if it doesn’t offend whites concerned about “cultural change and national identity,” which he deems a less problematic form of anti-minority politics than “simple racism.” So can Latinos advocate for fewer deportations and amnesty for the undocumented, or would that tip the “balance” of acceptable topics? Can black Americans argue for affirmative action or reforming the criminal justice system? Can trans people argue for their right to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity, or is that too much “cultural change?”

This confused response illustrates the value of Abrams’s argument. Her focus is on the definition of identity politics, of showing how it is functionally coextensive with the idea of minorities advocating for their own interests. Critics of identity politics often get away with being frustratingly vague as to what exactly they’re attacking; the weaknesses of the argument only become manifest when you press them on the definition.

So Abrams is an unusually talented politician: One who can both give a great speech and engage thoughtfully in print with one of America’s most prominent academics. Put together, it shows just why the Democratic Party is so excited about her.

New Republic: What Liberals Get Wrong About Identity Politics

In the mid-1970s, a group of black feminist scholars and activists began meeting in Boston to form an organization that would address the political concerns of black women, which they felt had been ignored by the larger feminist movement. The group included renowned poet Audre Lorde, celebrated scholar/activist Barbara Smith, and future First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray, among others. They called themselves the Combahee River Collective, taking their name from the South Carolina site where the abolitionist Harriet Tubman led a military campaign that freed more than 750 enslaved people in 1863.

In 1977, the group issued “A Black Feminist Statement,” the culmination of their work to clarify their politics, “while at the same time doing political work within our own group and in coalition with other progressive organizations and movements.” They made clear that they were “actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression” and that they saw “Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.” Having found that other groups—including the civil rights, black power, and feminist movements—were lacking in their approach to ending the oppression of black women and women of color, the collective wrote: “We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation is us. … This focusing on our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially the most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression.”

That term, identity politics, has been hotly debated in recent years, most notably in reaction to the 2016 election. For some, the Democratic Party’s insistence on focusing on identity politics—or at least, a certain definition of identity politics—is what cost them the election. The most prominent and vocal critic of identity politics has been Columbia University professor Mark Lilla, who declared in a New York Times op-ed published ten days after the election “that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end,” because it had been “disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age.” Lilla expanded this argument into a book-length polemic entitled The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, released in August of this year. His main complaint is that identity politics is having a pernicious effect on the Democratic Party’s ability to win votes from “the demos living between the coasts.” He finds that a focus on identity politics at the university level is to blame, since young people are not being taught that “they share a destiny with all their fellow citizens and have duties toward them.”

Except Lilla’s argument has nothing to do with identity politics. At least, not as the Combahee River Collective, which coined the term and theorized its meaning, originally laid out. In fact, Lilla spends very little time engaging the collective’s meaning of the term, instead devoting his energy to his own interpretation of identity politics. The one time he does mention their work he is dismissive. In the book he writes: “With the rise of identity consciousness, engagement in issue-based movements began to diminish somewhat and the conviction got rooted that the movements most meaningful to the self are, unsurprisingly, about the self. As the feminist authors of the Combahee River Collective put it baldly in their influential 1977 manifesto, ‘the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression.’”

Lilla’s spin on this statement would make identity politics sound like a selfish political theory. But his bad interpretation is not the same as a bad theory. When the collective writes that the “most radical politics come directly out of our own identity,” Lilla reads this as applying to each individual group’s identity when the Combahee River Collective meant “our own” to apply specifically to black women. It is a result of their belief, as they write later in the statement, that, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” The original intent of identity politics was articulating black women’s struggle at the nexus of race, gender, sexual, and class oppressions, and then forming strategies for dismantling each of these, both in black feminist spaces and in coalition with other groups.

How Lilla misses this is beyond me, since if he read the collective’s statement in full he would have to challenge his own definition of a selfish identity politics against the group’s statements. For example, that they are socialist because “we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products and not for the profit of the bosses,” and that they believe in “collective process and a nonhierarchical distribution of power within our own group and in our vision of a revolutionary society.” He makes a lengthy argument against the notion of identity politics without ever engaging the context in which the theory was developed. He sees only a focus on identities that are not his own, not the political forces that shapes those identities and that the collective sought to engage.

Even removed from its original context, identity politics applied more broadly would not be as Lilla sees it. Identity is the place to understand what forms of oppression are operating within your own life. From here, coalitions can be built with others who face similar forms of oppression, so long as it is also understood that oppression is not experienced the same across identities. This is where intersectionality, the theory developed by black feminist scholar and activist Kimberlé Crenshaw, is useful. It helps us to understand that class oppression will look different for those who also exist at the intersection of marginalized race, gender, and sexual identities. Any coalition worth forming has to take stock of those differences or suffer an agenda that is insufficient to liberating all people.

Lilla’s failure (and he is not alone) is zeroing in on the part of this theory that acknowledges we all have varied identities, and then ignoring the rest. While the terms identity politics and intersectionality have taken hold of our discourse, the substance of these theories has been left behind. We haven’t taken the intellectual contributions of black women seriously enough to engage them beyond empty sloganeering. And since these concepts have been reduced to catchphrases, everyone has been free to fill in their own meanings. Not only does this make for a poorer debate, it replicates the circumstances which made the Combahee River Collective and their theory of identity politics necessary in the first place.

The Combahee River Collective was assembled to define a radical vision for black women’s freedom—and thus, as they believed, all people’s freedom. They did this through an antisexist, antiracist, socialist political strategy. It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Party is prepared to fully embrace this strategy, but liberals undermine it by coopting its revolutionary language, which only dilutes the impact of actual identity politics and its ability to challenge systems of power. Lilla seems to think Democrats are at fault for embracing identity politics, but the true crime is that it has been taken out of the revolutionary hands to which it belongs.

The Inclusion Solution: A Point of View: Identity Politics is Not Ruining the World

As we enter yet another political season where we continue to witness alarming polarization and seemingly no unifying themes, it is disheartening to see the United States disintegrate further into “us and them” rhetoric.  Liberal Democrats are accused of being too focused on “identity politics”—advocating for women, people of color, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community—while neglecting themes that would appeal to everyone, in particular, working-class whites. Conservative Republicans are charged with not caring about the groups that Democrats are more apt to advocate for, and even attempting to pass legislation that would set back progress that has been made over the past 100 years or so, around topics like abortion and immigration rights.

So, what is identity politics anyway? The dictionary defines identity politics as “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.” In response, I would ask: what is “traditional broad-based party politics”? I can only interpret that phrase to mean the politics of those who have traditionally been in power, which, by definition, excludes people of color, the LGBTQ community, women, and others.

We are a nation of identities, and from my worldview, the Constitution of this country was in fact built on identity politics. In the original Constitution, 3 of every 5 slaves were counted in the population for purposes of voting; this was the case until 1866 when the 14th Amendment repealed this law. Women were denied the vote until 1920; Native Americans were stripped of their land by the United States government… I could go on with other examples of how identity was, and is, the main issue for key voting and Supreme Court decisions. And isn’t lobbying a form of identity politics and a hallmark of our political system? So yes, identity politics is “a thing” and has been since the United States came into being. It seems that it only became something “bad” or “negative” when associated with historically marginalized, underrepresented, and discriminated against groups such as people of color, women, religions other than Christianity, the LGBTQ community, etc.

I strongly object to the dictionary definition of identity politics as “people of a particular religion, race, social background moving away from traditional broad-based party politics….”  I counter that these “particular” people are actually trying to move towards “a more perfect union”—one in which everyone is included, where there is equity, and a broad definition of “traditional.”

To me the issue is not whether Identity politics should exist—because they do and they always will.  History has taken care of that. The key concern for me is that identity politics not be labeled as only  pertaining to historically marginalized groups and used as a means of minimizing their issues.  Donald Trump absolutely ran on a platform of identity politics: from immigration (“Mexicans are rapists”) to religion (“Muslims are terrorists”) to taking credit for low unemployment rates for African Americans. Politics is clearly identity based. Yet, for some reason, Trump’s supporters do not talk about these racist views as identity politics. What about farmers? The Teamsters? The NRA? Do these not constitute identity groups? Are they associated with identity politics? The white working class is clearly a defined identity group, but they are portrayed as the victim in the identity politics debate.

The issue is not whether Identity politics should exist—because they do and they always will.  History has taken care of that. The key concern for me is that identity politics not be labeled as only  pertaining to historically… Click To Tweet

Opponents of identity politics as it is defined above use The Civil Rights movement to defend their position, citing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy of unity and the Golden Rule. These pundits say that we should focus on what is good for all of us and seem to feel that those who advocate for their own identity group exclude and or dismiss the concerns of any other groups. This argument was made during the last presidential election when some experts claimed that Hillary Clinton lost because she was too focused on historically marginalized groups and ignored the white working class. I think that there was a lot more that factored into her loss, and for this post, I will just leave it at that.

I agree that when we are polarized like this country is now, we need to advance a common ground type of strategy, emphasizing what we have in common and our shared vision. No such shared vision currently exists. Yet, that can only take us so far, because what is good for all of us is not available to all of us and “identity politics,” if you want to call it that, is a way of sharing with those who are not aware, or who might not care, how systems works to disadvantage specific groups of people. The issues of the white working class are just as valid as the issues of the Black or brown working class and to a point are similar. However, I posit that there are many important differences that make a huge difference in outcomes. One only needs to look at education, criminal justice, employment, or socio-economic statistics for blacks and whites to see that there continue to be statistically significantly differences favoring whites at any socio-economic level. To diminish and trivialize blatant inequities as “identity politics,” claiming that addressing them somehow excludes all other groups, is ludicrous and shameful.

To diminish and trivialize blatant inequities as “identity politics,” claiming that addressing them somehow excludes all other groups, is ludicrous and shameful. Click To Tweet

Perhaps this analogy will help make my point. We know that all cancers matter. However, they manifest differently and there is a need for different research, procedures, medicines etc. to treat different types of cancer. What if there was a movement that declared all cancer research should receive equal funds?  Should we not consider incidence, death rates, etc.?  I expect that if there was a mandate that all cancers be treated the same, we would observe higher incidences of deaths and other undesirable outcomes… and you can bet that there would be lobbying, and even protests for equity (perhaps a form of “identity politics”).

In the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) space today, we emphasize equity more than we did 20 years ago. This term has become controversial in part because of a pervasive zero-sum mentality. By definition, equity means that some people might get more support—because they started with less, due to systems built on inequality. In a society where that support is interpreted as unfair, because we believe there is a limited amount of support and we should “all get the same thing,” (i.e. equality,) inequities will persist, and by necessity, so-called identity politics will increase.

So, let’s stop vilifying groups like African-American voters who want to focus on issues like police brutality, while at the same time attaching no negative judgement or labels to business leaders who ask for tax cuts — and chalking that up to “normal politics.” Let’s refuse to write off the concerns of historically marginalized individuals and groups as divisive identity politics. All groups lobby for their own interests, and do so because they want their fair share. It’s the American way, after all.

Let’s refuse to write off the concerns of historically marginalized individuals and groups as divisive identity politics. All groups lobby for their own interests, and do so because they want their fair share.

New Republic: The Enduring Importance of Identity Liberalism

Mark Lilla argues that the Democratic Party needs to move beyond identity politics. But that’s precisely where the country’s salvation lies.

In his 1962 essay “Letter From a Region in My Mind,” James Baldwin identified the largest obstacle to progress in this country as the undying belief in American greatness. This is a myth that would have to be abandoned, he argued, if the country were to see itself as it truly is and redress its wrongs. Happily, there is at least one group in America who could see the matter with clear eyes, he wrote: “The American Negro has the great advantage of having never believed that collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace.”

You would think that the election of Donald J. Trump on November 8 would, once and for all, dispel the myth of American greatness. But it continues to undergird our political conversations, including those that address how to move forward from this calamity.

In the wake of their devastating loss, Democrats find themselves in the midst of ontological crisis, spurred in large part by the mass defection of disgruntled white working-class Americans from what used to be a blue firewall in the Upper Midwest. Last week, Mark Lilla, a professor at Columbia University who is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, offered up a solution. In an op-ed column for the Times titled “The End of Identity Liberalism,” Lilla argues for a post-identity liberalism, one that exchanges “diversity issues” and “the omnipresent rhetoric of identity” for appeals to “Americans as Americans.” A post-identity liberalism would treat issues of race, gender, sexuality, or religion “with a proper sense of scale” and focus on teaching American citizens about their political responsibilities in both the domestic and international spheres.

While seemingly well-intentioned, Lilla’s arguments—when read closely—parallel the uncomfortable demands of the president-elect to “Make America Great Again.” The problem with Lilla’s line of thinking is that it depends on a nostalgic and incomplete rendering of this nation’s past, while merely nodding at the necessity of identity politics in forming a more perfect union. He refuses to discard the myth, and avoids the challenge of genuinely reimagining American liberalism.

Lilla begins with the assertion that issues of race, gender, and sexual identity have caused American liberalism to slip into a “moral panic.” His attempts to acknowledge the benefits of focusing on these issues feel like a stiff corporate presentation that insists on its commitment to diversity. Affirmative action has “had many good effects,” and Hollywood has helped “normalize” homosexuality in American families and public life.

But these attempts at inclusivity come at a cost, which Lilla defines as a generation of Americans who superficially engage with diversity and “have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy, and the common good.” He blames the American education system, which has failed to convey “the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.” While Lilla is right to criticize the quality of education in this country, he does not acknowledge that these perennial questions are inextricably linked to issues of race, gender, and sexuality. How can we talk about class without recognizing that the poorest Americans are often people of color? Can we have a serious discussion about the common good when people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ community are treated as outsiders? And while few people would disavow the work of the founding fathers in creating a system of government we minorities remain loyal to, can we honestly understand that system without acknowledging the founding fathers’ concerted efforts to exclude minorities and women from those guaranteed rights?

Lilla offers Europe as an example of successful post-identity liberalism, detailing an experiment he recently conducted while on sabbatical in France. “My thought was to try seeing the world as European readers did,” he writes. Europeans, according to Lilla, would never dare adopt news coverage based on the “identity drama.” The choice of Europe, and France in particular, as an exemplar is odd at best. A lack of “identity drama” in the news does not efface the country’s myriad problems with forming an inclusive society. This is the same country whose cities are choosing to maintain a burkini ban despite a court ruling that called it an infringement of religious freedom. This is the same country that has come under regular terrorist attacks from disaffected minority citizens.

But to Lilla the issues raised by identity politics are more a passing fascination than a necessary part of the discourse. “Interesting as it may be to read, say, about the fate of transgender people in Egypt,” he writes, “it contributes nothing to educating Americans about the powerful political and religious currents that will determine Egypt’s future, and indirectly, our own.” In other words, if the focus on global human rights does not inform our political interests in a particular country, they are little more than fun facts. But who is to say that the recent crackdown on gay and transgender Egyptians does not contextualize the aggressive return of military rule since the 2013 coup against Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected head of state in Egypt’s history? And how can we, at the very least, not learn from these situations, and reflect more deeply on how we infringe rights in our own country?

Perhaps the most striking part of Lilla’s essay comes toward the end when he outlines what post-identity liberalism would look like:

Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another.

Lilla lists Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Franklin Roosevelt as examples of politicians who united Americans by asserting their commonalities. But this ahistorical assertion ignores the damaging effects that their respective administrations had on particular groups of Americans. While the legacy of the New Deal can’t be overstated, it left out African Americans from its benefits. Reagan did more than anyone to usher in the era of small government, which is to say a government that was limited in its ability to protect and raise up the most vulnerable. And while Clinton presided over a robust American economy, he also signed the 1994 crime bill that amplified the effects of mass incarceration and enacted welfare reform in 1996, both of which disproportionately affected communities of color.

Lilla’s essay not only revises the history of the aforementioned presidents, but also ignores the last eight years of President Barack Obama’s attempts to create a liberalism that fuses identity politics with the idea of American greatness. Last March, Obama delivered a moving speech honoring the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma, in which he asked us to consider the words of our founding fathers. He held that the language of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are a roadmap, living words that remind us that the “success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all of our citizens in this work.” Like Lilla, Obama evoked the memory of Roosevelt, but he was not blind to the truth of the past. Selma and the fight for the civil rights of all Americans, he argued, is affirmation that “America is a constant work in progress” and “that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths.” Obama’s groundbreaking premise was that American greatness can be measured, more or less directly, by how much progress African-Americans and other minorities have made toward the full equality that the founding fathers promised.

If we were to follow Lilla’s line of thinking, we would be doing just the opposite. Instead of boldly forging into the future—on a course that will force us to reckon with our national identity—we would be pining for a nostalgia-tinted past. The answer to the Trump presidency is not to abandon the progress we have made. It is not to yearn for the past glories of a nation that has wronged so many people. It is to do the hard work of abandoning this country’s self-serving myths, and realizing that America’s greatness is yet to come.

“It has become fashionable for centrist pundits to argue that Democrats should abandon “identity politics,” a concept that they say distracts from shared values. Many pundits have said that identity politics, defined as politics that center the identities of marginalized groups to advocate for social change, create divisions within the Democratic coalition. In his post-election critique of identity politics in The New York Times, the political theorist Mark Lilla wrote, “Identity politics… is largely expressive, not persuasive,” and that instead progressives should “emphasize issues that affect a vast majority” of voters. He warned that “identity politics exhausts political discourse” leaving “shockingly little to say about class, war, the economy and the common good.” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, an unfailing anti-identity politics warrior, worried last year that the post-Trump resistance erred by having a “women’s march” because it excluded men. Most recently, David Brooks lamented in the Times a “retreat to tribalism,” writing that, “Once you’ve identified your herd’s oppressor — the neoliberal order, the media elite, white males, whatever — your goodness is secure.”

In some circles on the left, identity politics is often viewed with skepticism, as something that can distract from working-class consciousness. Sen. Bernie Sanders evoked this sentiment during a 2016 talk in Vermont. “One of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics. I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American CEO of some major corporation,” he said. “But you know what, if that guy is going to be shipping jobs out of this country, and exploiting his workers, it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot whether he’s black or white or Latino.” Critics such as Lilla and Chait argue that class is an identity shared by all people who do not own capital, and can therefore be a powerful wedge issue. They note that in many cases, bringing diversity to oppressive institutions has not succeeded in reducing their oppressiveness.


Historically, identity politics movements have done much to achieve lasting, substantive gains, and these gains have frequently included attendant economic advantages. From the Civil Rights movement to gender equality to gay rights, the idea that civil-rights struggles distract or diminish the fights for economic justice is often overstated.

Racial liberalism and economic liberalism are increasingly intertwined in our country’s political context. In his 2016 book Racial Realignment, the political scientist Eric Schickler argues for a “long realignment,” the theory that progressive activists in unions and the Democratic party broadly began tie together racial justice and economic equality as early as the 1930s. A key force behind this effort was the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), a collection of unions, that pioneered the strategy of party alliances by operating the first political action committee in the country in 1944 election. Because CIO was made up of industrial unions, it understood the need of cross-racial working class solidarity; union paraphenalia during this period frequently made appeals for a multi-racial, working-class coalition. CIO was one of the few unions to vigorously fight for anti-lynching legislation, with lead organizer John Brophy declaring that “behind every lynching is the figure of the labor exploiter, the man or corporation who would deny labor its fundamental rights.” Summarizing the period, Schickler writes that both black voters and the CIO “sought progress on a whole range of economic and social issues that they believed were connected with each other.”

There were opposite forces occurring on the right. In 1951, South Dakota Sen. Karl Mundt, a fervent believer in state’s rights, was named vice chair of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee and tasked with creating a “long-range program to build up Republican strength in the south.” This push was not without critics. New Jersey Rep. Clifford Case argued that Republicans should stand with “progressive forces in Southern labor, industry and not with the Dixiecrats.” He warned that a Dixiecrat merger (“Dixiecrat” was a term used to denote the difference between segregationist Democrats and northern liberal Democrats) would cost Republicans eastern states such as New York and New Jersey that Republicans won in 1948. The debate ended when President Dwight D. Eisenhower, set the stage for the Southern Strategy — which used racist appeals to win over white Southern voters — with “Operation Dixie,” a project to build up the GOP in the South by investing in organizational capacity. Despite Eisenhower’s proclaimed desire to win over racial moderates in the growing white Southern middle class, those doing the work on the ground frequently sided with segregationists.

Fast forward to today. Most people who hold liberal views on issues of race also hold liberal views on the economy, and people who are anti-immigrant or anti-black are conservative on economic issues. Though disgraced Trump adviser Steve Bannon has claimed he can forge a coalition based on economic populism and anti-immigrant sentiment — a strategy that has been successful in Hungary and Poland — he has not been successful in doing so.

Identity Politics and Class Politics Are Inseparable

Could Democrats win over racially conservative whites with economic populism? It’s unlikely, because people who oppose racial justice also tend to oppose liberal economic policies. To test this, I created scales of economic and racial liberalism, using two questions that have been on the American National Election Studies surveys since 1972. One question asks respondents to place themselves on a one-to-seven point scale on government aid to black Americans, the other on a one-to-seven scale on guaranteeing jobs and income for all Americans. In 1972, only 54 percent of white Americans who took the racially liberal position (supporting aid to black Americans) also took the economically liberal position (guaranteeing jobs and income). By 2016, 74 percent did. And in 1972, 77 percent of individuals who took the racially conservative position were economic economic conservatives. In 2016, 86 percent were.

This is the natural logic of ideological sorting, and a lesson that Republicans have learned well. The problem is that abandoning “identity politics” fails because the Democratic party needs to maintain coalitions that include the LGBTQ rights movement, reproductive justice activists, DREAMers, Black Lives Matter. Most Democratic voters have come to have solidarity with these groups. Accord to Pew data from last year, 80 percent of Democrats have favorable attitudes towards Black Lives Matter.

Identity Politics Strengthens the left

Far from deterring individuals from economic liberalism, identity politics is associated with more support for progressive economic policy. To show this, I used American National Election Studies data from 2016 to create a ten-question index of economic issues, including support for regulation of banks, a millionaire’s tax, a scale of support for guaranteed jobs, and other progressive economic proposals. I then ran a regression analysis to see if support these policies among women was associated with views on whether it was to elect women to higher office, a measure of what might be called “identity politics.” I found that support for identity politics was strongly associated support for economically liberal policies, even controlling for race, college, ideology, age, family income and partisanship. I performed the same analysis among Latinx voters (using a question that asked how important it was to election Latinx to office), and found a similar result.

Even when I examine only individuals who identify as Democrats, these results hold up. For example, according to American National Election Studies data, 92 percent of Democratic women who believe it is “extremely” or “very” important to elect more women to office support a higher minimum wage. However, among Democratic women who think electing women to office is “moderately,” “a little,” or “not at all important,” a far fewer 73 percent support a higher minimum wage. So we can conclude that women who support identity politics (more women in office) are also more likely to support the economic liberation of working class women through a higher minimum wage.

Identity politics should be seen as a core part of the struggle for class equality. Individuals who believe in identity politics support economic progressivism. As I noted in a past column, candidates like Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian Filipina running for the 23rd Congressional district in Texas, and Dan Canon, a civil rights lawyer running for Indiana’s 9th district, belie the idea that identity politics comes at the expense of economic justice.

On other side of the caucus, centrist Democrats tend to be intersectionality lousy. Anti-abortion Democrats like Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson are centrist deficit hawks who support cuts to government spending and frequently vote with Trump. It would behoove them to accept that there is little to be gained from trying to treat gender, race, and economic justice as in conflict. There is simply no electoral benefit to be gained from abandoning identity politics because voters are increasingly sorted in such a way that those who support economically progressive policies are also supportive of racial justice and gender equity. Rather, the path forward will require an understanding of how deeply liberation from patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism are intertwined.”

Videos that display Liberals Blaming People who Attack Racism as the Problem

Johnathan Pie Blaming SJW for Trump

Tom Ballard Misidentifying People Confronting Racism as the Problem

“I feel like this was created by people who have never felt discrimination or the effects of systemic racism, or even understand that racism is a system perpetuated by the white ignorance of racism, so they don’t quite understand why so many people are angry right now. Instead of talking to those angry people or believing their experiences, they decided to silo themselves even further in white segregation and white fragility (while labeling everyone trying to see past their segregation as tribalism for some fucked up reason) where they create narratives like “its people getting called out for racism that’s the problem instead of the actual fucking racism” or “if everyone that’s suffering from racism would just talk “civil like” to the white segregated privileged folks who benefit from that racism, instead of being angry and divisive, we could figure everything out, despite the fact that has never ever happened in our history ever.”

Seriously what the fuck is wrong with white people? Why is it easier to accept these bullshit narratives than to actually listen and believe a person of color? Is it really easier to believe that every person of color must be confused by their own reality and white people, who are segregated from people of color’s experiences, are the ones that really know what they experience? Is the comfort level of white people really the most important issue right now? Does our country really need more tone policing and negative peace void of any meaningful justice?

Imagine if you and you’re family were suffering from a system that could only be dismantled if the people at the top who benefited from your suffering became aware of it. And everytime you tried to bring them awareness they labeled you as the problem. Called you uncivil, divisive, tribal. And made videos like this to discredit you. Could you imagine playing this video to Erica Garner before she died at 27 from the physical trauma people of color experience while living under systemic racism? Imagine telling her the problem is she’s just too angry or her dad’s murder was just too divisive?

I think Trevor Noah said it best, “It’s weird because America is the kind of place where someone can get more offended at you calling them a racist than the fact that they are a racist…People go, ‘How dare you call me a racist?’ Well how dare you be racist?” ” Josh Singer, People’s School of DC

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Electability: Choosing White Racist Voters over Voters of Color

Roots: ‘Electability’ Is Just Another Word for White Supremacy

Black people know things.

Despite the systematic erasure of our history, the centuries-long intentional miseducation and the collective brainwashing that this country has inflicted on us, there are certain things that black people just know. Whether it is instinctive or passed down through generations, our continued existence depends on an inherited education that cannot be extinguished.

And of all the insight and expertise that black people have acquired in America, perhaps the most important and voluminous category of black knowledge is our understanding of our oppressors. Though it may sound crass, our survival depends on our acceptance of one inescapable truth:

White people will be white people.

Navigating this undeniable reality is the impetus behind the aphorism that “a black man must work twice as hard to get half as far as a white man.” This is why parents tell their sons to erase a few levels of bass in their voices lest they seem threatening when they talk to white men with guns, badges, or jobs of any kind of authority. It’s why black women leak forced smiles through their gritted teeth so they won’t be perceived as angry. Or sassy. Or “uppity.” Or just black.

This is also why, more than any other group, black voters believe in the concept of “electability.”

These subtle but necessary compromises are the results of our experience and expedience. They are examples of a shared situational awareness. Some call it “political pragmatism” but there is another word for it.

It is white supremacy.

With each passing day, political pundits parse the chances for the combatants in the political melee for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Perhaps the No. 1 reason experts give for each contender’s likelihood of winning is “electability”—specifically, a candidate’s chances of beating Donald Trump in the general election.

Every reputable poll will overtly refer to the monolithic “black vote.” But if you listen to any dissection of the presidential race, you’ve likely heard the list of euphemisms for the other groups, which includes:

  • Working-class voters
  • Soccer moms
  • Rural voters
  • NASCAR Dads
  • The religious right
  • Moderate voters
  • Suburban voters

Although they may sound phonetically different, those categories all refer to white people. Political experts all concede that to win a national election, candidates of either party must somehow appeal to these groups. This line of reasoning is almost universally accepted. It’s why the Democratic Party always defaults to an old, white pol who becomes the presumptive nominee.

And we believe it.

It was not until Barack Obama proved himself to black voters that he became a viable challenger to Hillary Clinton. In her second run for president, Hillary based her entire 2016 primary campaign on the fact that she was the more electable Democrat, despite her losing a previous election. Joe Biden’s candidacy and lead in the polls is based wholly on the myth that he can stand on stage, stare Donald Trump in the eyes and defeat the dotard in chief even though Kamala Harris tore Biden apart like a soggy, store-brand paper towel in the first Democratic debate. Biden readily admits that he bowed to the will of segregationists and white supremacists when he actually had a position of power but now he wants us to believe that he will fight for us. Black candidates, however, have to defeat better-known candidates, the party establishment and the presumption that only a white man can beat a white man.

But it may not be true.

In the past 30 years, no Democrat has ever won the white vote, no matter how moderate they were. In his 2012 victory, Barack Obama essentially won the same percentage of white voters (39 percent) as Hillary Clinton in 2016 (37 percent), John Kerry in 2004 (41 percent) and Al Gore in 2000 (42 percent), Bill Clinton in 1992 (39 percent) and Michael Dukakis in 1988 (40 percent). White voters are never going to vote for a Democratic candidate. Even though he was a moderate, Obama was successful because he got the highest black voter turnout in recent history.

In the past 30 years, no Democrat has ever won the white vote, no matter how moderate they were.

As the demographics of America’s electorate changes, white voters become less important and other voters become more crucial to victory. According to Pew Research, white people made up 83 percent of all registered voters in 1997. Twenty years later, the number has dipped to 69 percent. And every other demographic group—black, Hispanic and Asian—overwhelmingly lean Democratic.

The most recent midterm elections showed that progressive and non-white candidates could win in places that are majority white. Ayanna Pressley won a Congressional district with mostly white voters. If not for a few voter suppression tricks, Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum may have won governorships in traditionally red Georgia and swing state Florida. Black voters in Alabama propelled Doug Jones to a Senate seat in one of the reddest states in the country.

Yet, in their pragmatism, black voters and other Democrats reflexively support candidates like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden partly because of this myth of electability that is based on the idea that white voters will only support fence-riding, old, white establishment politicians who drink Budweiser and dance offbeat. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If there was ever a time to prove that electability is a myth based on nothing but white supremacy, it’s with a president like Donald Trump whom left-leaning, sensible moderates would never cast a ballot for. Otherwise, the myth of electability ensures a future of old moderate white candidates who throw empty promises at black voters and are unwilling to take the bold steps that are needed to fight discrimination.

But that’s how white supremacy works.

White supremacy is the shadow of a long-gone ghost that still haunts this country. It is embedded in every political, social and economic system in America, but its only power is that, like many white people, we have also been convinced to believe in something that is not real. Not only have we been bamboozled into thinking that we can dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools, but they have hoodwinked us into thinking that the master will help us tear down his four-centuries-old homestead.

Trust me, he will not.

GMP: Can We Please Call the White Working-Class Vote the Racist Vote?

What do people really mean when they say ‘white working class’?

As more presidential candidates join the 2020 Democratic primary, or at least, do that weird exploratory committee thing, social media are exploding with commentaries about each candidates’ winnability. One measure of winnablity that is often casually used to rank white candidates is their ability to win the “white working-class” vote.

This is a confusing phrase because it doesn’t often try to capture what all working, poor to middle-class, voters want. Sometimes it captures the opposite. To win the white working-class vote, you don’t necessarily need legitimate economic policies that focus on the poor and middle class. You just need to win over white people living in a white supremacist society. Adding the words “working” or “class” disguises this type of white vote as a racial dog whistle or a political message that pushes racism but in a coded, race-neutral way—like implying the white working-class vote has something to do with workers or class issues and not the feelings of white people who feel threatened or left out of efforts to promote diversity and equality.

I would like to make a request to all white Democrat voters, when talking about white candidates’ “winnability” among white voters, instead of saying phrases like the “white working-class” vote or “white middle-class” vote, could we just call it the racism vote? When white people prefer a candidate based on skin color, their support for policies that benefit mainly white people, or their lack of policies addressing racism, it’s not because of their particular type of vocation or their amount of wealth.

According to the 2016 exit polls, contrary to the argument that Democrats should focus more on winning back white working-class voters, Trump did not win the poor, middle, or working-class vote. He won the white vote—in almost every category from white men, white women, white people in all financial classes (especially the upper class), white evangelicals and white people of all education levels except white female college graduates whom Clinton won with 51 percent.

Based on Trump’s explicitly racist campaign rhetoric and promises, it’s hard to say racism or tolerance/ignorance to racism, wasn’t a major factor in winning the votes of these white groups. He literally ran on a platform based on demonizing people of color from migrants and asylum seekers to Muslim refugees and immigrants to victims and protesters of police brutality. He even used an old Reagan racial dog whistle, Make American Great Again (MAGA), specifically designed to demonize civil rights achievements, protections, and programs, as the cause of our country’s “lack of greatness,” in order to win white resentment votes by stirring white backlash to racial progress.

Nikole Hannah-Jones on Democracy Now Discussing History of American White Backlash to Racial Progress from Civil War to 2016 Election

People unaware of racism or uncomfortable talking about it tried to paint an economic coating on the 2016 election, claiming there’s some forgotten midwestern, white, blue-collar population who voted for Trump because they felt left out of the economy and government policies. This has been proven false many times since the 2016 election from exit polls that show Trump supporters were more concerned about immigration and terrorism (two common Trump campaign scapegoats) than the economy and a plethora of studies that found Trump supporters were more concerned about being culturally replaced by increasing diversity, being discriminated against for being white, male, straight, Christian, etc., and losing their American way of life, which was founded on white supremacy.

This is not to say there are no poor, struggling and underserved white populations across the U.S. There are many such communities. But the majority of people making $50K or under, especially the ones who felt our recent recession the most, voted for Hillary. This may be in part because Democrat policies on average at least attempt to benefit poor- and middle-class voters (protecting unions and workers’ rights, protecting our social safety nets and ACA, pushing jobs/stimulus bills, minimum wages, protecting voter rights, supporting environmental justice, etc.).

While GOP policies often exploit these people for profit (Right to Work laws, tax cuts for the upper class and military increases while cutting the social safety net, dismantling ACA, deregulating consumer protections and Wall St., initiating nationwide voter suppression, supporting environmental injustice, etc.). And the white poor and white middle class that did vote for Trump overwhelmingly said they were  feeling more left out of the top positions of a racial hierarchy than the economy.

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And for those calling for Democrats to work more to gain the “white working-class” votes lost in 2016, can we just call this the racial dog whistle it is? This is a really nice “coded” way to ask the Democrats to drop their support for equal rights and social justice to win more white voters who don’t understand systemic racism. It’s a type of liberal racism. Progressive victories should never be won by increasing oppression.

MSNBC’s Decision 2020: Post-Debate Analysis: Michael Moore

MICHAEL MOORE: Yeah. I’ve watched and I’ve listened and I’ve listened to all the punditry over the last 24 hours. Let me say, as someone here who’s sitting in the midwest and I don’t think people understand. I think a lot of Democrats don’t understand. A lost people who are in the leadership don’t understand, this isn’t 1980. This discussion of Reagan Democrats, of this sort of — the working class, they talk about the working class like it’s Lunch Bucket Joe. The majority of the working class in this country are women. When you say working class, you’re talking about young people 18 to 35. They make the least amount of money. When you’re talking about working class, you’re talking about people of color. They make the least amount of money. That’s who the working class is. But somehow when we have these discussions on these shows, we talk about, well, “We’ve got to not get too far to the left here or be too progressive because we’ll lose that white working-class vote. Well, I don’t know. Maybe that was true 30 or 40 years ago. It’s not true in the America we live in. Nearly 70 percent of the electorate next year, eligible voters, next year in this country, 70 percent are either going to be women, people of color or young people between the ages of 18 and 35 or a combination of the three. That is America in 2019, 2020. Not this kind of conversation we’re having about how, “We better stay moderate here because we don’t want to lose— ”who? Who don’t you want to lose? Two thirds of the white men who voted for Trump? You know, news alert. They’re not coming. Some of them will come. Trump got eight million people who voted for Barack Obama either once or twice, voted for Trump. So there’s a chance, maybe a million of them might come back. But guess what? Trump only won by 77,000 votes, combined votes between Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. We don’t need a million, folks. We just need 77,000. I think we can find them with that 70 percent majority. And by the way, all the public opinion polls show, and I’ve watched Steve Kornacki, I study Steve Kornacki, and…

…The proof is there that the majority of Americans support a raise in the minimum wage. The majority of Americans believe in the Equal Rights Amendment for women. The majority of Americans are against mass incarceration. The majority done want to put people in prison for marijuana. Down the whole list of issues the majority of Americans take the liberal progressive position. And they will come out if they’re inspired to vote for the candidate that’s going to side with them. And this discussion that we’re having seems to be less about that and more about this mythical voter that we don’t want to lose in the Democratic Party. They’ve been lost. Yes, we can get some of them back. But we don’t really need them. Ann Richards, I got to meet her before she passed away, the former governor of Texas. She said to me, she said a fact that is rarely repeated is that no Democrat other than twice since World War II, since Harry Truman, only twice has the Democrat who ran for president and won got the white male vote. Twice. Once with Lyndon Johnson in the landslide of ’64 a year after Kennedy was killed. And the second time was Clinton’s second election. So, that means John F. Kennedy lost the white male vote. Jimmy Carter lost the white male vote. Clinton lost the white male vote in the first election. Of course, Barack lost it both times. So let’s stop talking about how we can get these — this middle class, this midwestern middle America, you know, quit talking about it like it’s like this. “Oh, got to get those middle Americans out there in the field of dreams, out in the corn field.” You know, it’s not that anymore. The working class is women. The working class are people of color. The working class are young people. And this whole discussion about — they’re not attacking Barack Obama. I think Lawrence said it that the good thing about liberals and Democrats is this sort of self-analysis and willing to be critical of each other to improve ourselves. And but if you’re going back even to Obama in 2008, since 2008, that’s now 10, almost 10, 11 years ago, when he won, since that moment nearly 40 million people went from being 17 years old to 18 years old. Four million every year become adults, become voters. You’ve got 40 million people in this 10 to 11-year period who weren’t voters at that time but became voters during those years from then until now. They don’t know what you’re talking about when you talk about this Michigan, Macomb County, Reagan Democrat, all this stuff. I remember my parents’ friends talking about waxing poetic about Calvin Coolidge. People are like, “What? You know, it’s — be quiet, the Beatles are on Ed Sullivan.” Let’s get out the Democratic base of young people, women, and people of color. And for the one third of the white guys who voted for Hillary last time, good on you. Come on back. And bring a couple of your buddies, who mistakenly voted for Trump. But that’s all we’ve got to do, folks. The worst thing to do is to moderate, to go to the center, and to think that’s how we’re going to win. This is how we’re going to lose. If we don’t run a street fighter, if we don’t run somebody who’s going to inspire people to come out and vote, we’re going to lose again. And I think — nobody listened to me last time when I said this, that Trump was going to win, he was going to win Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. And I don’t want to say it out loud because I don’t want it to happen but I think a lot of people watching this right now know it already did happen once so, you know it can happen again. And it will happen again if we don’t run the right candidate. A beloved American who’s not an inside the beltway politician type person, but somebody who’s going to be a street fighter and fight for that 70 percent majority that’s going to take us back into the White House. ”

Atlantic: The False Promise of Black Political Representation

The recent unrest in Baltimore, Ferguson, and other cities is puzzling in one important respect. Unlike in earlier eras, when African Americans’ political exclusion drove them to protest, blacks today are as likely to vote as whites and are well represented at all levels of government. The mayor of Baltimore and a majority of its city council are black. So are forty-five members of Congress—an all-time high. And, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, so is the current occupant of the White House. Why all the turmoil, then, at a time when blacks—finally—seem to be enjoying the fruits of American democracy?

One answer is that the appearance of black political clout is deceiving. Despite their gains in participation and representation, blacks continue to fare worse than whites in converting their policy preferences into law. This poor performance is more revealing than statistics on turnout or black electoral success. And even though its causes remain mysterious, it is very much a rationale for frustration with the status quo.

In a recent study, I analyzed group political power at the federal and state levels. At the federal level, I relied on a remarkable database compiled by Princeton political scientist Martin Gilens. It includes responses to thousands of survey questions from the last few decades. Crucially, it also tracks whether each policy referred to by a question was adopted by the federal government over the next four years. At the state level, I measured people’s ideologies using exit polls that asked whether they are liberal, moderate, or conservative. And I assessed state laws using an index of overall policy liberalism created by another pair of scholars.

At both levels, I found that blacks hold much less sway than whites. For example, a federal policy with no white support has only a 10 percent chance of being enacted, while one with universal white support has a 60 percent shot of adoption. But while a proposal with no black support has a 40 percent chance of becoming law, one enjoying unanimous approval has only a 30 percent probability of enactment. In other words, as support for a policy rises within the black community, the odds of it being achieved actually decline.

Likewise, whether most black voters are conservative or liberal, state legislative outcomes barely budge. But vary the views of white voters to an equivalent degree, and a state’s policies go from looking like Alabama’s to resembling Michigan’s, even controlling for black and white population size.

The story is similar for several other groups. The more that women, the poor, or Hispanics support a federal policy, the less likely the policy is to be enacted. Strikingly, as women move from universal opposition to a proposal to universal support, its odds of adoption plummet from 75 percent to 10 percent. Changes in the ideology of female or poor voters also have no effect on state legislative outcomes (although shifts in the views of Hispanic voters do). In contrast, both federal and state laws are acutely sensitive to the preferences of whites, men, and the rich.

These results help explain the rage that has recently coursed through America’s cities. If blacks seem not to be satisfied with (mostly) uninhibited access to the polls and (close to) proportional representation, this is because they should not be content with these achievements. What really matters in a democracy is getting policies enacted that correspond to people’s views. And on this front, blacks still have a long way to go. Their opinions—on vital issues like crime, welfare, and housing—are too often ignored by elected officials when they conflict with whites’ preferences. This grim reality is well worth getting upset about.

More broadly, the results also highlight other distortions of the political process. Unsurprisingly, in this era of skyrocketing inequality and campaign-finance deregulation, policymakers pay closer attention to the views of the rich than to those of the poor (or of the middle class). More unexpectedly, women are largely ineffectual politically despite their large numbers, high turnout rates, and substantial representation. None of these assets provides them with what a healthy democracy should: laws as reflective of their preferences as of those of men. And Hispanics seem to hold an intermediate position, neither as weak as blacks nor as influential as whites.

So how might the promise of American pluralism be fulfilled—so that public policy is about equally responsive to each group’s views? Unfortunately, this is where we reach the limits of current academic knowledge. We can now quantify the power wielded by different groups. But neither my work, nor anyone else’s, has determined what the causes of group influence might be, let alone how disparities in clout can be corrected.

Still, even in the absence of hard data, it is possible to speculate. In particular, three drivers of group power come readily to mind: participation, resources, and ideology. Perhaps groups whose members engage more actively in politics—by voting but also by attending meetings, contacting representatives, volunteering for campaigns, and so on—have more sway over policy outcomes. Or maybe wealthy groups have more influence. If money is the mother’s milk of politics, as Jesse Unruh once said, it is the affluent who control more of this vital resource. And ideology may matter too. Extreme groups may have trouble making deals and forming alliances as effectively as moderate ones.

These hypotheses point to an agenda of sorts for those who are troubled by the power imbalances of modern American politics. Automatic voter registration and other electoral reforms might broaden political participation. Reducing income inequality, and introducing public financing or more vigorous campaign-finance regulation, could lessen the impact of money on politics. And groups could try aiming for tactical moderation even as they keep fighting to achieve their ideological goals.

Ultimately, it is unclear if these policies would eliminate the power differentials that my study identified. But they would likely help. The first step, though, is simply recognizing the hurdles facing many groups as they struggle to translate their views into law.


One of the Main Reasons Why the Progressive Reconstruction Gov Failed

“Because nearly all black voters supported the Republican ticket in every election, the party began to take freedmen’s votes for granted and shifted its attention toward courting more “moderate” white swing voters.” EJI: Lynching in America

Review of the Book Brown is the New White | Steve Phillips by George Fulmore

This is one heck of a book. It covers a lot of ground, but, in the end, to me, it all fits together and makes sense.

The thesis that is repeated throughout the book is that there is a political majority in the U.S., if White liberals/progressives and the progressive people of color, mainly Blacks, Latinos and Asians, band together in elections.
This New American Majority, primarily under the Democratic Party, controls at least 51 percent of the American voters, and growing. Progressive whites make up about 28% of the electorate; progressive people of color make up another 23%. And, their numbers and percentages are growing. (Other whites are at 43%; other people of color are the remaining 6%.)

The author points out that Democrats have not won the majority of white voters in a Presidential election since the days of Lyndon Johnson. And trying to win national and other elections by pouring money into TV and other ad campaigns is generally not effective in wooing white independent voters. It is better to spend that money courting progressive minority voters, even to the extent of driving them to the polls.
The famous quote by Andrew Young about the “smart-ass white boys who think they know everything” is noted as important in all this by the author, as is the fact that Barack Obama won the primary over Hillary Clinton in 2008, not primarily because of smart white boys running his campaign, but because of the huge minority vote Obama brought out.

The trouble with the smart-ass white boys, per the author, is that they “don’t reflect the composition of the New American Majority and (they) lack the cultural competence to communicate with its members.”

In short, for Democrats, trying to win elections with white voters is a losing strategy. A winning strategy is to turn out the New American Majority, which “cannot win going forward without large and enthusiastic support from people of color.”
But, even with the demographic projections of more and more voters who are of color, no one should think that forming this coalition of progressives is going to be easy. Says the author, “this country has been obsessed with white people for 409 years.” And, “The White superiority mind set is now so deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of the nation that it infects – and devalues — nearly every facet of modern life.”

Whites run most of the businesses in the country. They make up most of the reporters and those in government positions. And, they have most of the money, which supports a continuation of privilege and advantage. And, to make things worse, they, in general, lack the “cultural competence” to understand or relate to minority communities.
What we have here, for the most part understandably, is the lack of trust and communication between these progressive groups. But, if these two groups do not unify to find unifying candidates and/or to get out to vote, they are not going to win elections. Furthermore, for the New American Majority to be successful, it must be led by people who understand and appreciate the dreams of people of color. And, per the author, “To win, one needs a rich message that resonates and inspires those who have experienced and still battle discrimination and injustice.”

The author explains that white people started to accumulate most of the money after World War II, as the G.I. Bill and federal housing programs kicked in, primarily to the benefit of whites. This left people of color way behind, and, per the author, “It is nearly impossible for the people of color (today) to catch up.” Today, white households, on average, have about 12 times more money than Blacks, and 10 times more money than Latinos.

But here is where issues can bring all progressives together. Such issues would include:
• Demands and implementations of equality in public schools
• Immigration Reform that includes a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented U.S. residents
• The agreement to combat climate change
• Tax reform and government programs to reduce inequality in income, the wide gaps in total wealth, and the advantages of inherited wealth
• Programs dedicated to helping people of color buy homes
• More control over the rising costs of health care, and the guarantees of access and affordability to quality health care for all
• A dedication to encourage and aid progressive people of color to enter politics and government service

These are the kinds of issues that can bring progressives, both white and of color, together to form the New American Majority in American politics.
But the author also makes the point that the conservatives and Republicans are lying in the weeds waiting to upset this applecart. As the author says, “Conservatives can count.” They will try to suppress the votes of people of color. They will try to entice them to think that charter schools and such will be to their benefit. They will spend tons of money to lure people of color to reject the offerings of the New American Majority.
And, of course, fear of change can affect white progressives. It is not always easy to give up political power, e.g., all-white city councils or school boards. Or to see neighborhoods “change.”

And on the other side, says the author, “People of color also need to learn about groups other than their own, including progressive whites, and they need to prepare themselves for the responsibility of leadership, by learning the skills and developing the habits required to bring about meaningful social change.”

The author ends the book with some compelling works from Martin Luther King, who in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 said, “I have the audacity to believe in a world where peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
To get there, says the author, “will require profound political change, considerable personal courage, and tireless organizing and advocacy….We have a moment where we can make history and make a better world for those who come after us.”
Can I get an “Amen” for that?

In conclusion, I recommend the book highly, if any of the above interests you. As I said in the beginning, to me, this is an important book. There is much more in it than I have been able to put in this review.

Finally, I think that this is far from the last that we will be hearing from the author, Steve Phillips.

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Critiquing the Method of Resistance

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you’d better have an established record of critique of our oppression.” Jesse Williams 2016 BET Humanitarian Award Acceptance Speech

Everyday Feminism: 10 Things All White Folks Need to Consider about the #BaltimoreUprising

As I reflect upon the most recent Baltimore Uprising taking place in the wider movement for racial justice in the United States, I can’t help but be simultaneously frustrated and inspired by the White people in my life.

I’m inspired by White friends and mentors who are striving for accountable solidarity to Black people within the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and I am constantly taking notes about how I can do more to advance the cause of racial justice through my own work, words, and activism.

But I’m also frustrated and disappointed in how so many of us are choosing to direct as much energy as possible to blaming people of Color for their own oppression and to condemning them for expressions of grief and rage that make us uncomfortable and afraid.

So as I reflect on those simultaneous feelings, I wanted to reach out through the medium of my writing, one White person to another, in hopes of inspiring us to think and engage more critically as people of Color literally fight for their lives.

1. As White People, We Are Not Victims of Racial Oppression

There is not a statistical measure that exists by which White people are oppressed while people of Color are privileged.

As such, we get zero say in how people who are oppressed respond to their oppression.

There is vast dialogue and debate within Black communities and other communities of Color about the most effective ways to realize justice, and in none of those conversations should the voices or leadership we White people who benefit from systems of racial oppression be centered. 

2. A Movement of Nonviolence Has Been Occurring – We Just Weren’t Paying Attention

So many of us call on oppressed people to act nonviolently when they are being brutalized by violent police, institutions, and systems, but people of Color have been in the streets nonviolently for years calling for an end to racist police violence.

Where were we?

Yes, many White folks have shown up and shown out in solidarity, but by and large, we White people have been silent.

It’s entirely possible for us to believe in the transformative power of nonviolent revolution without patronizingly telling Black people how they should express their anger and rage that comes from being murdered in the streets by police.

It pains me to see anger, hurt, frustration, and pain boil over into the throwing of stones and destruction of property, but we need to remember the source of this pain: systemic racism expressed through police violence.

We simply have no right to tell a community that lives with the brutalization of White supremacy daily how they should direct or express their rage.

3. The Destruction of Property Pales in Comparison to the Destruction of Lives

Why is it that we as White folks seem to be ten times more outraged by the destruction of property than by the fact that police kill Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people every 19 hours in 2015

Why are we ten times more outraged by the setting of fires than by the racist, capitalist systems that produce the poverty that devastates communities of Color?

We can say all we like that we are “feeling for the small business owners and individuals who lost their property,” but every one of those broken windows can be replaced and every burnt building can be rebuilt.

The lives of people taken by police and consumed by our systems’ endless appetites for Black, Brown, and Indigenous suffering can never be returned.


4. Dr. King Wasn’t Here for Us – And He Still Isn’t

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a cudgel for White people to use against Black people who respond to their oppression in ways that we do not find palatable.

The Rev. Dr. King was a radical revolutionary who called for a complete overturning of the racist, capitalist system in which we live. We do not get to coopt and distort his legacy or that of any civil rights leaders to maintain the status quo.

We would do well to actually read the writings of Dr. King (rather than cherry pick the quotes that support our agenda) and consider his words for White moderates:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

5. Stop (Seriously, Stop) with #AllLivesMatter

When we say #AllLivesMatter, we are participating in the erasure of the lives who sadly do not matter within our systems of oppression while injecting our own need to be centered into a movement for racial justice.

#BlackLivesMatter is a revolutionary call for change in systems where Black lives, cultures, and communities are devalued.

Here are a few links that explain this better than I ever could:

What You Mean By #AllLivesMatter” by Arielle Newton of Black Millennials

Please Stop Telling Me That All Lives Matter” by Julia Craven at Huffington Post

What’s Wrong with ‘All Lives Matter?” by George Yancy and Judith Butler at The New York Times

Tweets from Arthur Chu @arthur_affect: “Do people who change #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter run thru a cancer fundraiser going “THERE ARE OTHER DISEASES TOO” “WTF is the impulse behind changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter. Do you crash strangers’ funerals shouting I TOO HAVE FELT LOSS”

6. Having a Black President Doesn’t Absolve Us of Racism

It’s racist and tokenizing to point out individual Black people in positions of power while ignoring the vast oppression that impacts the lives of Black people in an attempt to prove that racism is over.

Citing that “we have a Black president” while ignoring the ways that Black people and other people of Color suffer in racist education systems, “justice” systems, healthcare systems, and economic systems is disingenuous at best and downright racist at worst.

The existence of individual Black politicians or a Black police chief or a Black mayor doesn’t undo the daily oppression Black people experience in our systems, particularly when Black elected officials often must tow the lines of racist oppression to stay in office.

7. Silence Is Violence

No matter how wonderful our intentions or how good we may be in our daily lives, if we are silent in the face racial injustice, we are complicit in its violence.

Worse, when we actively try to police the actions of those people of Color who are fighting for their freedom, we are committing subtle yet clear acts of racial violence.

8. ‘Being a Race Traitor’ Isn’t a Thing – It’s Called Humanity

To stand against the systems of oppression that afford us privilege does not inherently mean self-hate or White guilt.

To stand against injustice means that we are choosing to get in touch with our own humanity and to divest from systems of Whiteness while working in our own flawed and complicated ways to invest in justice and in anti-racist ways of being in the world as White people.

9. Instead of Investing in Whiteness, Invest in the Movement

If we are willing to listen, show up, and follow the Black, Brown, and Indigenous leadership of this movement, we can find incredible community filled with great love, accountability, and loyalty.

Whiteness attempts to isolate us, to make us invest in our access to oppressive systems rather than in community and people.

But there are alternatives to investing in Whiteness, and one of the most important alternatives is the community found in building trust across difference while fighting for justice under diverse leadership. 

10. Use Your Time and Energy to Call in Other White People

Our voice, energy, and labor is needed in calling in White people – our people – to change.

In doing so, we must act in ways that are accountable to people of Color and that draw upon the history of White resistance to white supremacy.


If we are simply going to defend the status quo, then we need to sit down and be quiet.

But if we are going to work with our people to inspire more White folks to accountably work for justice, then our role is clear.

And it is our responsibility to rise into that role and to speak out for justice.

The Nib: Base-less Strategy

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White Free Speech

White free speech is different.  It has institutional power behind it.  It goes beyond offensive to systemic oppressional from racial bias to lynching


“Its essential to understand that there are two different types of freedom of speech in this country. Free speech and white free speech.

White free speech carries and amplifies hate speech across 400 years of past and present systemic and internalized white supremacy often causing real harm from racial bias, racist policies, to mass shootings. Non-white free speech lacks the institutional power to do this. People of color can preach hate against white people but that hate lacks the institutional power to prevent white people from finding jobs, housing, fair treatment from police, and safety. Yet we treat both the same and use the same “slippery slope/my constitutional right is greater than your right to safety” arguments for both.

You ever wonder why the “right to safety” is not only not a constitution right but many constitutional rights take away our safety? It might be because the white supremacists who wrote our constitution to continue their white supremacy nation knew not only they safe at the top of the racial hierarchy but they also knew white supremacy was maintained by removing the safety to those below their racial hierarchy.

Hate speech is only illegal in this country if it is directly linked to “inciting violence”. Conservative judges in the 70-80s wanting to counter desegregation and civil rights gains, created a standard for “proof of malice” that’s so high its almost impossible to prove in our court systems.

We need to revisit what constitutes “inciting violence” through a racial lens living in a white supremacy world. Many white terrorists from the Pittsburgh Synagouge shooting to the El Paso shooting have been inspired by false narratives Trump, the GOP, and Fox news are spreading to maintain white supremacy by electing Republicans.  These people and organizations should go to jail for what they’re doing.” Josh Singer, People’s School of DC


NPR: Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

“Roseanne’s tweet.

NFL players kneeling.

The President blocking people on Twitter.

These stories are all about the same thing: what is free speech? Who gets to decide? And what happens when one person’s speech offends another?

As Sam observes in this episode, those questions are part of a national conversation that sounds very different on the left and on the right. Nadine Strossen’s new book attempts to dispel misunderstandings on both sides. It’s called Hate: Why We Should Resist It With Free Speech, Not Censorship. Strossen spoke to Sam about several recent news stories with free speech entanglements, and laid out her argument for why the best response to hate speech is more speech

The most effective way to counter the potential negative effects of hate speech — which conveys discriminatory or hateful views on the basis of race, religion, gender, and so forth — is not through censorship, but rather through more speech. And that censorship of hate speech, no matter how well-intended, has been shown around the world and throughout history to do more harm than good in actually promoting equality, dignity, inclusivity, diversity, and societal harmony.

On hateful speech and why it’s legal (most of the time)

You very frequently get public officials and even lawyers saying “hate speech is not free speech.” But that is not correct! The Supreme Court never has created a category of speech that is defined by its hateful conduct, labeled it hate speech, and said that that is categorically excluded by the first amendment. Speech cannot be punished just because of its hateful content. But when you get beyond content and look at context, speech with a hateful message may be punished, if in a particular context it directly causes certain specific, imminent, serious harm — such as a genuine threat that means to instill a reasonable fear on the part of the person at whom the threat is targeted that he or she is going be subject to violence.

On feeling physically threatened by hateful speech

Not only threatened. You can feel emotionally disturbed. You can feel psychic trauma, which can have physiological manifestations. You can feel silenced. These are all real harms that may be suffered by people who are subject to hate speech that is not punishable.

[Because] even though we acknowledge those harms, loosening up the constraints on government to allow it to punish speech because of those less tangible, more speculative, more indirect harms — that censorial power will do more harm that good, precisely because the pendulum can swing. Not that shockingly long ago it was left-wing speakers, communists and socialist, who were kept off campuses. And civil rights activists were kept off many campuses, because their ideas were certainly hated, certainly seen as dangerous and insulting. And today, there are serious government officials who are saying that Black Lives Matter is a hate group.

On the right of colleges to refuse to allow a controversial speaker due to security costs

First of all, nobody has a right necessarily to speak on a particular campus. Campuses can set viewpoint-neutral time-, place-, and manner-rules to allocate this scarce resource of the opportunity to speak on campus. Just the way in the city of New York, you can’t automatically get a parade permit — it’s first-come, first-served.

And make no mistake about it, in an ACLU case — I’m proud to say, quite a few years ago — the Supreme Court held that imposing higher security costs on the speaker because the viewpoint is seen to be more controversial and therefore it’s more likely to generate protests and therefore security costs — that that is just an indirect way of discriminating against the viewpoint. And you cannot do that.

On the ACLU’s public image perception becoming more aligned with the left under President Trump

That’s always been a misconception. People tend not to look at the underlying principle, but instead they look at whose ox is gored in the underlying case. And the reason that we’re attacking specific policies of Trump is that those specific policies violate civil liberties principles. We did the same with Barack Obama, with Bill Clinton. The ACLU will issue criticism or praise on an issue-by-issue basis. Trump, no doubt, as a record number of issues on which he is earning criticism. But I don’t think there is a single official about whom we cannot issue at least some praise and some criticism.

On the ACLU defending the speech rights of groups like the KKK and NAMBLA, and whether it was ever too much for her to stomach

I think the one that to me was the most vile was the North American Man/Boy Love Association. That to me — they are advocating what I see as a form of child abuse. But I do agree with the Supreme Court that advocacy of illegal conduct, including child abuse, is constitutionally protected. And people may be surprised to hear that. [The Supreme Court] drew a distinction between advocacy of illegal conduct versus intentional incitement of illegal conduct.

Because if we say, ‘Oh, well, mere advocacy as opposed to intentional incitement will be enough for this speech that’s particularly distasteful to me’ — well once you make one exception, you can’t hold the line. I know that if we loosened the standard for what was deemed to be advocacy that might be dangerous, Black Lives Matter would probably be the first thing that’s endangered. So I think you have to look at the abstract principle and just tell yourself: that is what I’m defending.

On whether the NFL’s new rule against player protests violates their free speech

Most people don’t know and are somewhat disappointed to find out the first amendment — with its free speech guaruntee — only applies to the government. Any private-sector entity, including such a powerful one as the NFL, is not constrained by constitutional free speech guaruntees. That said, one can make an argument that they should voluntarily choose to protect such a quintessential patriotic value as freedom of speech.

Good Men Project: Trump, Fox News and the Modern Lynching Movement (Part I)

How Trump and Fox News are setting the stage for modern lynching.

Twitter announced earlier this week they won’t use the same algorithms they use to detect and ban ISIS-affiliated terrorists to detect and ban white nationalists because it would inevitably lead to banning many GOP members and Trump supporters. J.M. Berger, author of Extremism, summarized this situation:

“Cracking down on white nationalists will therefore involve removing a lot of people who identify to a greater or lesser extent as Trump supporters, and some people in Trump circles and pro-Trump media will certainly seize on this to complain they are being persecuted. There’s going to be controversy here that we didn’t see with ISIS, because there are more white nationalists than there are ISIS supporters, and white nationalists are closer to the levers of political power in the U.S. and Europe than ISIS ever was.”

Welcome to the dilemma of having freedom of speech in a white supremacist society.

This dilemma has been present throughout U.S. history and up to our current political climate, allowing white nationalist rhetoric to mix with a white supremacist culture to produce violent and deadly results. This two-part article will examine the similarities between two of these situations: the post-Civil War lynching era and Trump’s political right.

The U.S. Lynching Era

In 2018 the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, informally known as the National Lynching Memorial. It is the first national memorial dedicated to the legacy of over 4,400 black men, women, and children lynched in the U.S. The site is also dedicated to the millions of black people who lived through this period of terror and their descendants still living through the legacy of lynching from a racist criminal justice system to a white supremacist society that criminalizes black people.

Between 1877 to 1950, there were over 4,400 recorded lynchings (many, many more unrecorded) in 800 U.S. counties. Lynching was a form of racial terrorism that enforced white supremacy on newly freed black slaves and their communities after the Civil War. White people would extrajudicially kill a black person who was often, but not always, suspected of a crime. Lynchings varied from private murders to public events with hundreds of white men, women, and children watching as they picnicked, often taking photos for postcards and body parts for souvenirs.

Postcard of the Lynching of Will Stanley in Temple, Texas, 1915. Back of postcard read “This is the Barbecue we had last night my picture is to the left with a cross over it your son Joe.” Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Most lynched black people had supposedly committed a crime against a white person, such as murder or rape, but most often these accusations were fabricated excuses to kill those who violated white supremacist norms from casual social transgressions, to trying to leave their debt peonage at a share cropping farm, to competing economically with a white business, to participating in civil rights movements, to voting, to simply being a black person at the wrong time and place.

The memorial structure on the center of the site is constructed of over 800 corten steel
monuments, one for each county in the United States where a lynching took place
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The history captured in this Museum came about from EJI’s massive research effort to bring to light the buried history of racial terror lynchings in the U.S., summarized in the report, “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror

This research captured several societal realities of the time that allowed for this level of terrorism to happen. Realities such as:

1. A society founded on perpetuating white supremacy

2. National stereotypes of black people as criminals and rapists to justify their oppression after slavery

3. Newspapers and politicians distorting facts and fabricating stories to instigate white mobs to lynch. The most common false narrative used to instigate white fear and violence was the myth that white women had to be constantly protected from black men who were stereotyped as savage, “out of control” rapists. In 1898, a black massacre occurred in Wilmington, NC, that killed dozens of black people and removed any political and economic power black people had gained from the Reconstruction Era. The ultimate goal of this massacre was to restore white supremacy, but white politicians and newspapers used a race-baiting propaganda campaign that sexualized black men and stoked fear of their alleged uncontrollable lust for white women. “Newspaper stories and stump speeches warned of ‘black beasts’ who threatened the flower of Southern womanhood” (Timothy Tyson, News & Observer). These efforts instigated a white mob to kill dozens of black people, banish black politicians and business owners from Wilmington, and restore white supremacy for the next century.

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Lynching in the U.S. only started to phase out as legal capital punishment took its place. All-white juries, sanctioned by a 1987 Supreme Court decision that stated racial discrimination in criminal justice does not violate the Constitution, became the perfect white supremacist alternative to lynching. These juries were instrumental in the disproportionate sentencing of blacks to death in modern times.

Voicing the Violence: Reflection on Lynching Memorial by Reckon’s Starr Civil Dunigan

GMP: Trump, Fox News and the Modern Lynching Movement (Part II)

The Modern Lynching Movement

Fast-forward to 2019, and you find a society that has still never confronted/moved beyond its white supremacist founding, people of color are still demonized and criminalized, and right-wing news media and conservative politicians are still distorting facts and fabricating stories to an audience that is increasingly more white extremist, more violent, and more heavily armed.

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The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that tracks extremist activity, found in 2017, the year President Trump took office, white supremacist murders in the U.S. more than doubled from the year before. White supremacist violence continues to rise as our president and the right-wing media add daily fuel to this racist fire such as:

1. The Trump administration defunding anti-extremist programs

2. The Trump administration creating racist policies to demonize and hurt people of color while legitimizing bigotry nationally, such as the Muslim travel ban and separating asylum-seeking families of color from their children.

3. Trump and right-wing media spreading false stories and incendiary rhetoric for political gain, such as claiming Mexican immigrants are rapists, Islam hates America, protesters of racial police brutality hate our military, and asylum seekers are dangerous invaders and the beneficiaries of a secret Jewish plot. This last lie helped inspire the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooter. “The apparent spark for the worst anti-Semitic massacre in American history was a racist hoax inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election” (Adam Serwer, The Atlantic).

These realities are fueling a rise of hate crimes and white extremist violence, with the same results as the lynching era: to terrorize communities of color in order to enforce white supremacy.  This is our modern lynching movement.

Two of the biggest instigators of the modern lynching movement are President Trump and Fox News. Below are two current examples of how they are instigating racial terror for people of color confronting white supremacy.

Trump and Ilhan Omar

Representative Ilhan Omar has been a target for Islamophobia, sexism, and anti-Palestinian beliefs since the day of her election in 2018. She is the first Somali-American, the first person who was once a refugee, and first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to serve in Congress. And she is publicly critical of Israel’s policies of violence toward Palestinians at a time in our country when the majority of U.S. politicians, media, and citizens don’t understand the difference between anti-Semitism and being critical of Israel. All of these qualifications have resulted in a variety of backlashes over the past year from smear campaigns to death threats.

The latest whitelash comes from President Trump, who tweeted an edited and out-of-context video of an Ilhan Omar speech about the dangers of blaming the world’s Muslims for 9/11—with scenes of the 9/11 attacks—implying she couldn’t care less about these acts of terrorism. This propaganda has caused an explosion of death threats again Omar. Most of her current daily death threats reference Trump’s tweet.

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When confronted about the death threats he caused, Trump said he didn’t feel bad at all: “She’s got a way about her that’s very, very bad, I think, for our country. I think she’s extremely unpatriotic and extremely disrespectful to our country.” His comments came at a time when actual people were being arrested for threatening her life. A white man from New York who was recently arrested for making death threats against Omar said he was a supporter of President Donald Trump, a patriot, and someone who “hates radical Muslims in our government.”

During a Progressive Town Hall, Omar shared: “There are cities in my state where the gas stations have written on their bathrooms ‘assassinate Ilhan Omar.’ I have people driving around my district looking for my home, for my office, causing me harm. I have people every single day on Fox News and everywhere, posting that I am a threat to this country. So I know what fear looks like. The masjid I pray in in Minnesota got bombed by two domestic white terrorists.”

Since his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump has been using post-9/11 Islamophobic stereotypes that Muslims are violent, hate America, and are “radical Muslims” connected to terrorism to gain support from fearful right-wing voters at the cost of increasing hatred and violence against Muslims in the U.S. His newest scapegoat is Omar, and the conditions for lynching reemerge as death threats against her increase. These conditions include:

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1. Rising support for white supremacy from the Trump administration and white extremist groups

2. False stereotypes demonizing people of color, especially Muslims of color

3. Right-wing politicians and media instigating white fear by spreading false narratives

Fox News and AOC

The same 2018 election that brought in Ilhan Omar and a historic number of women of color also elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, to New York’s 14th congressional district. As a self-described Democratic Socialist woman of color—known for progressive initiatives such as the Green New Deal and a proposal to abolish ICE—she has attracted the attention of numerous angry white outlets, including Fox News, as far back as June 2018 when she won her Democratic primary. According to a Media Matters study, for a six-week period from February 25 to April 7, Fox News mentioned AOC at least 3,181 times. “Hosts and guests smear and misrepresent Ocasio-Cortez’s agenda, caricaturing it while painting it as dangerous, far-left socialism.” (Media Matters).

In February 2019, a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist was arrested for plotting assassinations of top Democratic congressional leaders and liberal media personalities. Despite AOC being in office for only a month, she made it on the kill list. It’s hard to imagine that Fox News’s relentless daily demonization of AOC didn’t have anything to do with her being on this list.

Despite having a history of expressing extremist views, despite having an online browser history of searches for things like the best guns to kill black people, despite being a huge fan of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto, and despite accumulating an arsenal of 17 illegal firearms while creating a “hit list,” the federal judge released the defendant on bail. According to the Atlanta Star, the defense attorney “argued that while her client’s use of racial slurs in his ‘private writings’ were deplorable, such language was now a part of the national conversation, thanks to President Donald Trump.” As reported by CNN, the defense also claimed that “the list of names (the defendant) had assembled didn’t amount to a hit list but looks like the sort of list that our commander-in-chief might have compiled while watching Fox News in the morning.” Again, the conditions for lynching are present.

When does hate speech incite violence?

Adam Serwer of the The Atlantic stated, “Ordinarily, a politician cannot be held responsible for the actions of a deranged follower. But ordinarily, politicians don’t praise supporters who have mercilessly beaten a Latino man as ‘very passionate.’ Ordinarily, they don’t offer to pay supporters’ legal bills if they assault protesters on the other side. They don’t praise acts of violence against the media. They don’t defend neo-Nazi rioters as ‘fine people.’ They don’t justify sending bombs to their critics by blaming the media for airing criticism. Ordinarily, there is no historic surge in anti-Semitism, much of it targeted at Jewish critics, coinciding with a politician’s rise. And ordinarily, presidents do not blatantly exploit their authority in an effort to terrify white Americans into voting for their party.”

The 1969 Brandenburg v. Ohio Supreme Court case set the national precedent for regulating hate speech under the First Amendment. The Court stated that the government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.

According to Professor Richard Ashby Wilson from the University of Connecticut, “The record of prosecutions for incitement is relatively meager, and this results in part from the fact that the test for incitement is quite demanding and requires that the prosecution show that the defendant intended to directly advocate a crime and that crime was likely to occur imminently. Further, there is insufficient guidance from the courts regarding the elements of ‘imminence’ and ‘likelihood.’ This has left district attorneys in the dark about what kind of speech might qualify as incitement to imminent lawless action. Prosecutors have limited resources and therefore they tend to avoid indicting an offence when they are unsure that they possess the necessary evidence to secure a conviction.”

As we see increases in death threats, hate crimes, and white extremist violence coincide with the election of Trump and Fox News rhetoric, at what point do we need to revisit our incitement laws?  How do we balance our freedom of speech with the freedom to not experience white supremacist violence?

Many free speech advocates argue that it’s a slippery slope regulating hate speech, which could result in oppressing future civil rights movements, like Black Lives Matter. Former ACLU President Nadine Strossen argues, “The most effective way to counter the potential negative effects of hate speech—which conveys discriminatory or hateful views on the basis of race, religion, gender, and so forth—is not through censorship, but rather through more speech. And that censorship of hate speech, no matter how well-intended, has been shown around the world and throughout history to do more harm than good in actually promoting equality, dignity, inclusivity, diversity, and societal harmony.”

The problem with these difficult situations is when we don’t know the best way to move forward, we end up preserving the status quo, which at this time is a rising violent white extremism in a white supremacist society. I don’t pretend to have the answers to how to move forward. But I do believe one way to find possible solutions, whether it’s a governmental or non-governmental solution, is to create national dialogues on the connections between right-wing rhetoric and the modern lynching movement.

Further Readings

Vox: What we still haven’t learned from Gamergate

Reason: What Is Hate Speech? We Asked College Students

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White Privilege and Third Party Voting

Vox: Did Jill Stein voters deliver Donald Trump the presidency?

“In Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, one could plausibly blame third parties for the outcome. In Michigan, Clinton lost by less than a percentage point, a deficit she could have recovered from with half of Stein’s votes. Again in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where Clinton lost by one point, Jill Stein’s votes would have covered her loss. Had Clinton won all three states, she would have won the election.”

  • Final 2016 vote count
    • Confirms Clinton lost Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by less votes than Jill Stein receive in those states.
    • These states would have won the election for Clinton
  • Platform Trump was advocating for before election
    • A military deportation of 10 million Latino immigrants while labeling Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals and rapists
    • A Muslim immigration ban and registry
    • A ban on Syrian refugees
    • Less accountability for racial police brutality
    • Kicking millions of vulnerable people off their healthcare

2016 Election

(Opinion piece written by Responsible Consumer)

During the 2016 election progressives were divided about how they felt about Hillary Clinton.  Legitimate concerns about her neoliberal history and policy views mixed with Russian propaganda, Trump propaganda, social media trolls and implicit sexism made a lot of progressives more or less hate her.  And when it became clear that the Democratic party had attempted to sabotage Clinton’s rival Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primarily, while unfairly collecting the majority of superdelegates, many progressives joined the “Never Hillary” campaign.

As a Bernie supporter I’m not trying to convince anyone of the merits or flaws of Hillary Clinton.  What I’m trying to do is to argue the realities of the presidential election after the the Democrat primaries.  Clinton was facing a candidate that was advocating, to the delight of white nationalist groups around the country, things like

  • A military deportation of 10 million Latino immigrants while labeling Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals and rapists
  • A Muslim immigration ban and registry
  • A ban on Syrian refugees
  • Less accountability for police brutality
  • Kicking millions of vulnerable people off their healthcare

Despite an explicitly racist campaign and agenda, enough white progressive, whose lives were not only in no serious way threaten by Trumps agenda but looking to gain from their privilege with Trump’s white supremacist agenda, decided to vote for third party candidates, which help indirectly win the election for Trump.  Since then millions of people under third party white progressive’s privilege have been suffering from President Trump’s agenda.

On December 14th 2017, the 3 Republican FCC chairmen voted to end net neutrality while the 2 Democrats voted to preserve it. If you’re still not understanding the huge differences between the Democrats and GOP, or if your still trying to get over the total BS of the last Democrat primary, please try to understand that regardless if the Democrat candidate is not ideal, you’re not just voting for a candidate.

You’re voting on our ability to have a fair and equal democratic society for everyone, especially on the marginalized communities in this country,  which is greatly effected by GOP agendas like removing Net Neutrality and protecting things like Citizen United campaign finance policies, voter suppression laws, gerrymandering and the Sinclair Merger that would dominate 70% of our news by a pro Trump/pro propaganda company.

Please understand a presidential vote is more than just a candidate. Its about 100s of federal judges who get to make the decision to support or oppose systemic racism at its most vulnerable.  This includes the supreme court, which has the ability to overturn Citizen United or approve a Muslim ban.

Its about who gets to decide the heads of dozen of important federal agencies and their agendas like if the DOJ wants to investigate police brutality or white discrimination or if the EPA wants to support environment justice or exploit for profit the environment and environmental racism or if ICE wants to deport violent illegal immigrant criminals or anyone who looks like a Latino immigrant, including DACA Dreamers.

Your vote is about veto power over corrupt legislation, a tie breaker vote in the senate, 100s of executive orders for environmental and civil rights issues, the ability to initiate war and trade agreements like the Paris Climate Agreement, decisions over a $4 trillion budget, and the ability to launch 600 nuclear weapons with treason charges for anyone trying to stop the president.

This isn’t about being complicit with the Democrats faults. Lets always continue to hold them accountable in their Town Halls, participate in the Democrats primary campaigns and elections, and flood their offices when they don’t represent the people.

This is about, especially for people living in swing states, taking the time to understand how all our government works, the impacts of the bigger picture and for many of us, understanding our own white privilege that makes it so easy for so many of us to throw people under our privilege under the bus, so we can feel good about our conscience.

Definite Swing States (11)

Colorado (Electoral Votes: 9)
Florida (Electoral Votes: 29)
Iowa (Electoral Votes: 6)
Michigan (Electoral Votes: 16)
Minnesota (Electoral Votes: 10)
Nevada (Electoral Votes: 16)
New Hampshire (Electoral Votes: 4)
North Carolina (Electoral Votes: 15)
Ohio (Electoral Votes: 18)
Pennsylvania (Electoral Votes: 20)
Virginia (Electoral Votes: 13)

Potential Swing States (5)

Arizona (Electoral Votes: 11)
Georgia (Electoral Votes: 16)
New Mexico (Electoral Votes: 5)
Oregon (Electoral Votes: 7)
Wisconsin (Electoral Votes: 10)

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