Sendoff

What’s the right way to pay tribute to the late Andrew Breitbart? By doing as he did: that is, making false, racially-tinged charges for political advantage.

I was no fan of the late Andrew Breitbart. Still, a man’s death should not go unmarked by his friends, and there’s no more fitting tribute than to continue his work. So I’m glad  Breitbart’s associates chose to honor him after his demise as he would have wished to be honored:  by making a stupidly false and racially-tinged charge.

No, the already-known fact that Barack Obama, as a law student, had something nice to say about one of his professors isn’t earth-shattering news. And the claim that the professor twice visited the White House turns out to be a mere case of name’s-the-same.

Remember this – and the fact that the Heritage website continues to headline the charge in the face of its demonstrated falsity – the next time you read something from the Heritage Foundation. And please note how few of the supposedly respectable right-wing voices will bother to disclaim this, any more than they disclaimed Breitbart’s own departures from the truth.

Footnote “Critical race theory” doesn’t much appeal to me; like other movements with “critical” in their titles, it suffers from a surfeit of uncritical advocates and a paucity of careful evidence-weighing. But the claim that the late Derrick Bell was some sort of black racist seems to be discredited by his resignation from a law school deanship when the school failed to hire an Asian-American faculty member.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

12 thoughts on “Sendoff”

  1. If if he were some type of black racist, it’s simply a completely different beast. Racism against minorities is something profoundly ugly that has manifested itself deeply into our culture and institutions, with innumerable repercussions and legacy effects. Racism by minorities, against majorities who have historically oppressed them, is something different entirely.

    That conservatives routinely fail to make this distinction speaks volumes about their relationship with the fundamental realities of modern society and human nature.

    1. Does that mean white racism will become acceptable in ~30 years, when whites become a minority?

      1. If they are treated the way that minorities traditionally were treated, then yes. And you can quote me.

    2. It’s wrong to steal $10 from someone. But it’s more wrong to steal $10 from a poor person who needs the money to feed his family than it is to add $10 to a millionaire’s restaurant check. Conservatives identify with the millionaire, just as they identify with the white college applicant who can’t get into the university of her choice because some black person got the slot more than they identified with black folks who were categorically excluded not just from universities, but nearly every other meaningful opportunity. That’s not to say that the privileged aren’t entitled to justice – they are. But the privileged defend their privileges strenuously while opposing increasing opportunity for the less privileged with the same or greater vigor.

      In 30 years will white racism be acceptable? I hope not. For one thing, the situation will be quite different from the situation throughout the first 175 years or so of American history, where black people were held in bondage and then kept in second-class (hah! if only!) citizenship. White folks have had over 200 years to develop social, intellectual and financial capital, and it’s doubtful that will disappear in 30 years (or 100 years). If this advantage persists in 2045, any white racism will still be primarily about the privileged attacking the less-privileged.

      But if people of color do manage to enact reverse apartheid and steal from whites all reasonable means of advancement, then I still hope that white racism doesn’t arise. Instead, I hope that whites will bear their fate with the same grace that the overwhelming majority black people bore bondage and institutional racism for 175 years, and work within the political system as much as possible to bring about justice. I hope we won’t kill our masters – more slaves were killed by their masters than killed their masters. I hope we won’t react to the lynchings by organizing lynchings of our own – whites killed a lot more blacks in the apartheid era than vice versa. I hope that we work patiently and tirelessly against the odds to awaken the moral conscience of the nation and achieve justice by changing the laws. We’ll have a great example to follow.

    3. It’s a silly rationalization, which depends, for whatever gloss of plausibility it may have, on an assumption which is itself racist to the core: That the individual circumstances of a person don’t matter, only their race.

      So the racist white, living in poverty in Appalachia, has power, his racism matters. The racist black, mayor of a large city, is powerless, his racism doesn’t matter.

      Really, this rationalization that black racism isn’t really the same, because they’re the minority, is so silly, it’s hard to believe anybody takes it seriously. But I suppose when you belong to the same party as Sharpton and Farakan, you do need to do a bit of rationalizing to maintain the belief that the other guys are the racists.

      1. “The racist black, mayor of a large city…” Such as?
        You are comparing something that barely exists to a major cultural characteristic of white America for 200 years.

        1. James, the point is that whether the racism of individual whites, or individual blacks, matters to others, depends on individual circumstances, it can’t be deduced from skin color. There are plenty of blacks who are more ‘powerful’ than plenty of whites, there are areas of the country where blacks are the majority.

          It’s flat out absurd to declare that black racism is ‘different’, just because blacks are a minority in the country as a whole. But it’s a common rationalization among Democrats, because you don’t like admitting you’re cutting racists slack for political gain.

          1. Areas of the country where blacks are the majority? Oh you mean like the South? Yep, Blacks in the South are clearly more powerful than southern Whites, as evidenced by the number of Republican primary contenders who are actively courting their vote.

  2. The Heritage headline is only willfully misleading while technically acurate. Now that is some classy deniability. And it has the added benefit of distracting from the real question: What would be wrong with Derrik Bell visiting his former student in the White House?
    But of course both men being black it could be reasonable to assume they would be involved in an extra legal conspiracy against all white people. And both of them being so smart and all that could be really scarey. But since it never happened I guess all us white guys dodged that bullet. Whew.

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