Saturday, January 03, 2004

I'm no fan of Howard Dean, but I must admit that he's getting an unfair rap for his recent comments about race. Conservative news sites and bloggers, and even some not so conservative ones, are in an uproar about Dean's statement that "dealing with race is about educating white folks." Mickey Kaus goes off on Dean for not talking about blacks' "culture of poverty and dependence."

But here's the full quote from Dean:

"Dealing with race is about educating white folks," Dean said in an interview Tuesday on a campaign swing through the first primary state where African-American voters will have a major impact. "Not because white people are worse than black people about race but because whites are in the majority, and therefore the behavior of whites has a much bigger influence on hiring practices and so forth and so on than the behavior of African-Americans."

Dean clearly states that whites are not "worse than black people about race." He is merely stating the obvious. Since whites make up the vast majority of Americans, racist behavior on their part, even if limited to a small minority, is still going to have a huge effect. Moreover, I'd go further than Dean and say that the problem of racism in American IS a white problem. Even if you grant Kaus and others the point that certain behaviors among individual blacks are detrimental or destructive, what is the genesis of those behaviors? Conservatives and neo-liberals like Kaus seem to assume that blacks came down from Mars the day after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. In their thinking, slavery, Jim Crow, and other manifestations of racism have nothing to do with the current status of black Americans. Everything comes down the individual choices of blacks, with little or no responsibilty for white individuals or institutions. This thinking is morally obtuse at best, and racist at worst.

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