Race and Politics, Revisited
By ANDREW ROSENTHAL (Blog)
A post in my blog on Tuesday, about the undertone of racism in American politics, drew a great deal of angry e-mail and critical commentary, most recently from the Bill O’Reilly program on Fox News. I thought the subject was worth another visit. Some people who have reacted to the post have sincerely taken issue with my opinions, which is one of the reasons we publish opinions – to generate debate. Other responses – comments on the blog that we did not post, through e-mail, on Twitter and from other sources – have been more unpleasant. Some have been overtly racist themselves, including bigoted references to my last name. Some have attacked me for saying that anyone who criticizes President Obama is a racist. That would be a ridiculous claim, had I actually made it, which I did not. And others have made the argument that I should have accounted for anti-white racism, which some readers say is a real problem in this country. There are members of minority groups who make racist comments, but if there is some evidence that white Americans, especially white men, suffer from racial discrimination, I’d love to see it. One thing I could have made clearer in my blog post is that racially tinged and outright racist attacks did not begin with the election of Mr. Obama. They have been going on for a long time, and yes, particularly from Republicans. This bitter strain was evident in my first assignment for The Times in the 1988 general election, when the infamous “Willie Horton ad” was used against Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee. Mr. Dukakis was also the target of xenophobic attacks based on his Greek heritage. The debate over immigration reform has had a river of racism running through it. The racial theme continues in the 2012 presidential campaign. One day after coming in fourth in the Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich appeared at a town hall in Plymouth, N.H., where he offered to attend the NAACP convention and explain “why the African-American community should demand paychecks instead of food stamps.” The idea that black Americans don’t want paychecks is condescending and outrageous. (Mr. Gingrich, who calls Mr. Obama the “food stamp president,” also has been advocating employing children from housing projects to clean toilets in public schools so they can learn there are alternative careers to pimping and drug dealing.) The NAACP did not comment on Mr. Gingrich’s offer to speak, but the organization attacked Rick Santorum for a remark he made at a voter forum in Iowa. “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money,” Mr. Santorum said. “I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.” (Mr. Santorum later said that he’d been misunderstood, that he was stumbling over his words and it just sounded like he said “black.”) In a statement on Wednesday, the NAACP President, Benjamin Todd Jealous, said: “Senator Santorum’s targeting of African Americans is inaccurate and outrageous, and lifts up old race-based stereotypes about public assistance. He conflates welfare recipients with African Americans, though federal benefits are in fact determined by income level.” That’s very well put.
In Urban Studies two schools of academic thought answer the “urban question”: the ecological and urban political economy schools. Because the “urban question” allows us to ask how we can address and understand urban inequalities in American cities, I will argue that to fully grasp the “urban question” one should take a perspective that composition of society and space as mutual. First, I will develop a working definition of “the urban question”. Second, I will write on the ecological school’s view of the “urban” question and how their vista explains but inadequately addresses urban inequalities. Third, I will review the...