The opinion revolution in thinking about race

Matthew Yglesias, in an article called The Great Awokening, documents the revolution in white American thinking about race during the past five or so years, especially among Democrats.

Democratic presidential candidates, including those who call themselves centrists and moderates, are talking about reparations and systemic racism.  These issues would have been considered too hot to handle five years ago.

The charts he ran with the article tell the story.

In an earlier era, civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. complained of being held back by the hesitations of white liberals to take a stand.  In the present era, white liberals are more militant—at least in opinion—than the majority of black people.

In short, opinion is more polarized among self-identified liberal and conservative white people than it is between average white people and typical blacks or Hispanics.

The change in public opinion is a very good thing, and white liberals deserve the credit for bringing about the change.  But maybe at this point liberals are more militant than necessary.  If we’re concerned about what’s best for our black and Hispanic fellow citizens, they, not whites, should be setting the pace.


The Great Awokening: Reparations, systemic racism and white Democrats’ new racial liberalism by Matthew Yglesias for Vox.  Hat tip to Bill Elwell.

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16 Responses to “The opinion revolution in thinking about race”

  1. thetinfoilhatsociety Says:

    And isn’t it interesting, that in 50 years of affirmative action (itself a form of reparations), that test scores haven’t improved? That outcomes haven’t improved? Isn’t it interesting, that as diversity in our country has increased, income inequality increases? One would almost think there was something else going on besides “institutional racism.” Frankly, if white liberal females (particularly) want to offer reparations and want more diversity, they are welcome to provide it on their own. Leave my over taxed dollars out of it.


  2. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    To blame affirmative action as reparations is extremely uninformed. Racism remains strong. This has been shown in numerous studies and sets of data.

    Blacks are more likely to be stopped, frisked, arrested, charged, and punished more harshly even for crimes that whites commit at greater rates. Worse still, the reason blacks are so often shot by police is because, as research shows, police are more likely to perceive blacks as holding a gun when they aren’t and more likely to perceive whites as not holding a gun when they are.

    Even having a black-sounding name (compared to a white-sounding name) will severely decrease the chance of getting an interview for a job, even when the application for the person with the black-sounding name is far more educated and qualified. With white flight and increasing inequality, there is far more segregation than has been seen in a long time. It’s not only racial segregation increasing but also economic segregation, as inequality rises higher than has ever existed in both US history and world history.

    Even the diversity and conflict today pales against that seen in the past. A cursory glance at history will teach one the vast difference, no where near as bad as it once was. The early 1900s violent conflict between races and white ethnicities is hard to imagine now, as we live in such a peaceful era as the data shows. Immigration rates aren’t particularly high at the moment. Even undocumented immigrants have been at a historical low point these past couple of decades.

    What has worsened the sense of divide and conflict, as I pointed out, is the worsening inequality. As Keith Payne shows in the Broken Ladder, this makes everything far worse for all involved, even the rich, since it mimics the stressful conditions of poverty. But as Eric Uslaner points out, diversity itself is not an issue when there isn’t segregation, which is simply another form inequality. So decrease inequality of all sorts down to a manageable size and Americans will begin to act like normal humans again, which is to say treat one another like normal humans.

    The inequality, the division and conflict we experience has largely been artificially created. And so it can be dismantled in the same manner. We simply have to realize that it was built as social control and, as long as we play into the hands of the elite, we will remain controlled. We have to learn to act smarter than they are treating us, as presently the elite assume we are too stupid to figure out their games of manipulation. We need to show them that we are smart enough to do what earlier groups attempted to do by organizing and seeking solidarity across social identities, whether real or imagined.

    The Broken Ladder
    by Keith Payne

    “This air rage study is revealing, but not just because it illustrates how inequality drives wedges between the haves and the have-nots. What makes it fascinating to me is that incidents of rage take place even when there are no true have-nots on a flight. Since an average economy-class ticket costs several hundred dollars, few genuinely poor people can afford to travel on a modern commercial airplane. Yet even relative differences among the respectable middle-class people flying coach can create conflict and chaos. In fact, the chaos is not limited to coach: First-class flyers in the study were several times more likely to erupt in air rage when they were brought up close and personal with the rabble on front-loading planes. As Ivana Trump’s behavior can attest, when the level of inequality becomes too large to ignore, everyone starts acting strange.

    “But they do not act strange in just any old way. Inequality affects our actions and our feelings in the same systematic, predictable fashion again and again. It makes us shortsighted and prone to risky behavior, willing to sacrifice a secure future for immediate gratification. It makes us more inclined to make self-defeating decisions. It makes us believe weird things, superstitiously clinging to the world as we want it to be rather than as it is. Inequality divides us, cleaving us into camps not only of income but also of ideology and race, eroding our trust in one another. It generates stress and makes us all less healthy and less happy.”

    Segregation and Mistrust
    by Eric Uslaner

    “[C]orrelations across countries and American states between trust and all sorts of measures of diversity were about as close to zero as one can imagine… [L]iving among people who are different from yourself didn’t make you less trusting in people who are different from yourself. But that left me with a quandary: Does the composition of where you live not matter at all for trust in people unlike yourself? I had no ready answer, but going through the cross-national data set I had constructed, I found a variable that seemed remotely relevant: a crude ordinal measure (from the Minorities at Risk Project at my own university, indeed just one floor below my office) of whether minorities lived apart from the majority population. I found a moderately strong correlation with trust across nations – a relationship that held even controlling for other factors in the trust models I had estimated in my 2002 book. It wasn’t diversity but segregation that led to less trust.”


  3. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    “In an earlier era, civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. complained of being held back by the hesitations of white liberals to take a stand.”

    There is a bit of disagreement about that. MLK was becoming radical in his latter years, ever moving toward rather extreme left-wing views. This increasingly put him at odds with the respectable members of the black community, the social conservatives in the church and the fiscal conservatives in the middle class.

    Some who knew MLK saw it as his way of indirectly criticizing certain blacks while allowing them to save face. If he were perceived as attacking them, they might turn against him. But he could frame the criticism as being directed toward another group because he knew white liberals would mostly take it without complaint.

    “In the present era, white liberals are more militant—at least in opinion—than the majority of black people.”

    I highly doubt it. Much of what we hear from white liberals is social identity posturing. I live in a majority white liberal community and, for the most part, the action doesn’t match the talk. In fact, recent years of data showed that this community had one of the highest racial disparities of marijuana arrests in the country. The rate of blacks being stopped by cops was also higher.

    As it is also a literary town, there was someone to point out the hypocrisy of liberals and write a book about it, A Transplanted Chicago: Race, Place, and the Press in Iowa City by Robert E. Gutsche, Jr. The local media is also ‘liberal’ in the mainstream sense, but Gutsche shows how racially-biased it is even in a Democratic town that is in a state that almost always goes Democratic.

    “In short, opinion is more polarized among self-identified liberal and conservative white people than it is between average white people and typical blacks or Hispanics.”

    I’m willing to bet that the divide is significantly generational. It would be useful to see a more detailed breakdown of demographics. For one thing, I know from Pew data (Beyond Red vs Blue) that most people who hold liberal positions don’t identify as liberal. So, ‘liberal’ has become more of a label of social identity than necessarily a meaningful label for an actual ideological position.

    Consider that the majority of the public doesn’t identify with either party and, on many issues, are to the left of both parties. But it is interesting to note that younger minorities (younger whites too) are increasingly embracing other labels such as ‘socialist’. The problem isn’t that white liberals are too militant but not radical enough, as they so often are defending some mythical ‘moderate’ ‘centrism’ and lesser evilism.

    “The change in public opinion is a very good thing, and white liberals deserve the credit for bringing about the change.”

    I’m not so sure they deserve much credit. Mainstream liberals love the Clinton Democrats who were a major force behind the racialization of the war on drugs and mass incarceration, not to mention corporate deregulation and much else. The Clintons, as with Obama, didn’t come around to openly supporting same sex marriage until years after the majority of Americans already had been supporting it.

    Mainstream liberalism often lags behind public opinion, often on social issues and even on environmental issues but especially on economic issues. Most Americans, for example, wanted healthcare reform far to the left of Obamacare, want more regulation of corporations, and higher taxes on the rich — none of which mainstream liberals will back and only all these years later out of fear of populism are coming around to finally relenting to public opinion.

    This regressive impulse of mainstream liberalism goes back to the Cold War. But that doesn’t mean it will show up in polling. Liberals know how to say the right things in order to maintain their image as “Good Liberals”. When it gets tough or when the capitalist order is under threat, many if not most of those same self-identified liberals will defend the status quo.

    As for liberals more general, including those who don’t identify as such or at least not consistently, that is a whole other kettle of fish. I could fit that more general category and I don’t have issue with actual principled liberalism. It just seems that the most liberal people are precisely those who don’t identify as such. I’ve often defended liberalism in trying to maintain this larger liberalism. But I finally gave up on that thankless task.

    “But maybe at this point liberals are more militant than necessary. If we’re concerned about what’s best for our black and Hispanic fellow citizens, they, not whites, should be setting the pace.”

    I suspect minorities are far more militant than white liberals. It’s mainly that minorities are also more jaded by real life experience, including jade by the hypocrisy of good liberals. This has led many minorities to have lower expectations of what is likely to happen in this society, even as they increasingly hold left-wing positions, at least in terms of younger minorities.

    So it seems to me. That is my assessment based on following polling and survey data over the years. But the data is so mixed and confusing in many ways. I could be wrong about much of it. The best data is probably Pew’s Beyond Red vs Blue. It’s the only data I know that comes that comes from a large-scale survey that is broken down in lots of demographic detail and so gets beyond mere labels.


    • philebersole Says:

      For Martin Luther King Jr.’s impatience with white moderates, I refer you to his Letter From Birmingham Jail, which was written in response to white moderates telling him to go slow. John and Robert Kennedy were among them (at this point)

      Jonathan Reider’s Gospel of Freedom tells of Dr. King’s disillusionment with the majority of white people, and also how he and other civil rights leaders especially valued white people who were truly committed to the cause.

      Of course in Dr. King’s day, being radical even in opinion involved risks to one’s social position, one’s job and, in some parts of the country, one’s safety, and this is no longer true.

      For survey data on the divergence between white liberal opinion and average black opinion, check this post


  4. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    @philebersole – Yeah, I knew what you were talking about. It is the same Letter From Birmingham Jail that I also was referring to.

    Some interpreted it as also a criticism of moderate blacks, specifically the church leaders and business elite. As with white moderates, black moderates were telling him to go slow and, in both cases, MLK saw that as problematic. These comfortable and complacent white and black moderates, as MLK expressed it, weren’t militant enough. His specific complaint was that these moderates were full of talk while lacking in solutions and actions. The moderates feared a violent reaction, but MLK purposely sought out violent reactions for he understood that he had to create conflict in order to motivate change. That is why he always made sure the news media were at these events to film them for the national public to see. These were carefully staged events that were meant to show the failure of moral compromise, in showing the violent response to non-violence.

    MLK directly explains this in his letter. The following is part of what he says, but he goes into much greater detail in the letter.

    “You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.””

    Besides that direct quote of MLK himself, the interpretation I brought up came from a book I read about MLK, but I don’t recall now the source. Going by what I found online, it might’ve been from Julian Bond, a civil rights leader who personally knew MLK (he was in a class taught by MLK and he later worked with MLK in the civil rights movement). Take it or leave it. My point was simply that there are always multiple ways of understanding the past, since the original context isn’t always obvious from a reading of a text.

    “Student activist Julian Bond first met Martin Luther King in 1960 when he was a student at Morehouse College. The two became better acquainted when Bond joined the small staff of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which shared an office with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In 1966, when Bond was refused his elected seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, King preached against the legislature’s action and organized a march in support of Bond.”

    “Julian Bond at least in his lectures said “white moderate” was code for black ministers and other black leaders who had theirs but wouldn’t join the movement and that King understood many whites were indifferent because the black church and many black leaders urged peace in our time. Those whites would get off the sideline if organizations such as the black church picked a side. The targets would understand what King meant. King was announcing an intention for them to play ball or face war. Malcolm X’s later use of the term House Negro and Field Negro wasn’t plucked from the sky.

    “The protests, boycotts, and the sit ins were organized by young people, not he accepted leadership class.”

    Click to access 7257_4440.pdf

    “Black moderate leaders thought him too militant.”

    Malcolm X’s legacy as one of the most important paths toward African American self-awareness
    by Jana Vrublová

    “King recognized soon that the white moderate, often the middle class whites, are committed to the status quo and do not want to change anything, because this position was just comfortable for them. As I have already mentioned, King understood the passive approach towards the evil system as cooperation with this system. He maintains that those who just recognize the crime, but do nothing about it, are guilty too. He had similar approach towards the African Americans, who are part of the middle class and refuse to be involved in the civil rights struggle, because they are afraid of losing the privileged positions or they just want to maintain the system they know well. […]

    “In his book “Stride toward Freedom” King was in 1958 talking about three possible ways to deal with the oppressor. The first group is passive. According to King, being passive towards oppressive system means you cooperate with the system. In this statement he had probably addressed both white and black moderate. The second group reacts to the violence by using violence. King says that this is the vicious circle bringing no good, since the violence is always immoral; is a product of vice, and the violent response is destructive. However, he maintains, like Malcolm does, that by forcing the white person to respect the black person you are not going to solve anything. The third possible way to deal with the violence is a “non-violent resistance”; King points out that this is the right way and African Americans may achieve their goals by being at the same time “militant and nonviolent and by forming the mass movement”.”

    “Liberal anti-racists like to cite Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It’s a great letter, especially for its criticism of white moderates and middle-class blacks, but they miss many of its implications. King was criticizing people who were sympathetic to ending racism, but who offered no solutions other than talk and patience. King always had solutions.”


    • philebersole Says:

      Letter from a Birmingham Jail is (among other things) an argument with two groups of people. One is the white moderates who thought he was pushing too fast. The other was the black militants who thought that non-violence was weakness. This is the plain meaning of his words—whatever additional hidden meanings you choose to read into his words

      I was an adult when Dr. King wrote his letter. I never met a black person who thought Dr. King was going too fast or too far.

      The important point – which I don’t think you disagree with – is that there has been a drastic change in white liberal opinion over time. This is reflected both in public opinion polls and my own experience.

      Public opinion polls can be biased or inaccurate. But if polls continue to be made in the same way over a period of time, they are an accurate measure of change.


      • Benjamin David Steele Says:

        Immediately after speaking of the “middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses”, MLK follows it with the statement that “I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.”

        He makes it clear that he is including these “middle-class Negroes” as part of the complacent who advocate “do nothingism”. That is the plain meaning of his words, as it is directly what he stated in no uncertain terms. There is no need for additional or hidden meaning since those are his words. You may “never met a black person who thought Dr. King was going too fast or too far”, but apparently MLK did or else he wouldn’t have written about them in his letter.

        Sure, white liberals have become more liberal over time. The same is true of black liberals as well. Heck, even conservatives have become more liberal over time. Many positions that were considered radical by most liberals in the past are considered mainstream and moderate by most conservatives today. Almost every demographic has become more liberal over time. Liberalism has become normalized, such that (according to Pew’s Beyond Red vs Blue) a large portion of consistent liberals (i.e., liberal across the board on all issues) actually identify as conservative.

        If we are going to have meaningful comparisons, then compare all whites to all blacks or white liberals to black liberals. But to mix entirely different categories is simply serving a particular mainstream ideology that is attempting to control the narrative.


      • Benjamin David Steele Says:

        I’ll give you another generational divide. And I’ll do so by giving you another response to your statement that, “I never met a black person who thought Dr. King was going too fast or too far.” But first let me put it in context.

        Part of it is that MLK has been sanitized in the history books. Most white right-wingers in the mainstream (Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, etc) will praise MLK these days. The same thing is seen with conservative and moderate blacks who, if they were to be honest, would have to admit they oppose MLK’s actual activism in his later years.

        For most people, MLK’s radicalism is long forgotten. His name is now safe to utter. But after MLK started advocating his anti-war and socialist views, respectable whites and blacks alike turned against him. That was at a time when his radicalism wasn’t yet forgotten because he was still alive. It’s easy to forget how unpopular MLK had become near the end of his life a he was further radicalized. There is probably a reason he was assassinated then and not earlier.

        Now to the example I wanted to give. Moderate black leaders in the 1990s supported the Clinton’s racialized war on crime. Bill Clinton even gave a speech about getting tough on crime while standing in front of black prisoners chained together with the most famous KKK memorial in the background. As a Southerner, Bill Clinton knew the message he was sending and so did blacks. Those same black leaders would have hypocritically praised MLK, but if MLK had still been around he would’ve despised everything they stood for.

        Those ’90s black leaders were not only older but also wealthier. The victims of the policies they supported were disproportionately poor blacks. Older blacks had benefited from a growing middle class, whereas younger blacks were hit by a worsening economy. GenXers, for example, were the only age group to experience a recession in the ’90s and so did worse than their parents. Older blacks saw the worsening conditions among younger blacks and so essentially blamed the victims. It turns out that, besides economic problems, GenXers also experienced the highest lead toxicity rate in generations. Respectable blacks advocating the locking up of poor blacks wasn’t a moral response. It was straightforward class war, what MLK was fighting against in his seeking cross-racial solidarity among the poor.

        That relates to the continuing generational divide. White liberals are on average younger than the overall black population. Then again, the exact same is true in comparing black liberals and the overall population, black or white. So, yes, most white liberals are to the left of most blacks, just as most black liberals are to the left of most blacks too (and most whites as well). The important detail is that blacks are becoming more liberal with the younger generation. But such accurate reporting wouldn’t fit the narrative that the corporate media wants to spin.


  5. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    You write that, “Of course in Dr. King’s day, being radical even in opinion involved risks to one’s social position, one’s job and, in some parts of the country, one’s safety, and this is no longer true.”

    It is a different situation. That is true. But punishments are still very much real. One’s political and social views can still determine the jobs you get, determine whether you get shut out of the political process, determine your getting academic tenure or not. Two academic examples I can recall offhand are Howard Schwartz and David Graeber. I’ve heard of many other cases over the years where academics don’t get employment or lose it because of their views or activism.

    I read an article about a local guy. He wasn’t an extreme activist or anything, but he had a weekend free and on a whim decided to with friends to Washington DC. While there, he joined in a protest against Trump. Along with many others, he was caught up in a federal case that portrayed him as a ringleader and for years now has been trapped in an expensive legal situation that requires him to regularly return to DC. It has wrecked his life.

    This kind of thing has been happening quite often in recent decades, as the government becomes increasingly authoritarian.

    “I think that self-proclaimed anarchists can fit into an establishment university, so long as their anarchism is limited to the written and spoken word–universities can and do welcome people espousing all sorts of beliefs; it is just when professors and students behaviorally challenge power structures either off or on campus that trouble begins. It would seem that Professor Graeber’s activism both on and off campus is what put the kybosh on his tenure application. Another way of looking at this is to say that activism matters–matters so much in fact that those who engage in it must be marginalized.”

    Click to access howards-end.pdf

    “A few days before Howard Eilberg-Schwartz was scheduled to launch the Jewish studies program at San Franisco State University, he was persuaded by the school’s director of human resources to attend an all-day seminar for select faculty members, students, and local Jewish leaders. It was to be Eilberg-Schwartz’s introduction to the school’s Jewish community, and, understandably, he was nervous. As part of the program, participants were asked to respond to a series of provocative questions by moving to a designated area of the room. When the question “How central is Israel to Judaism?” was posed, he self-consciously took a spot among the smallish group that answered “Not terribly.” And when attendees were asked if they thought the statement “Zionism is racism” was anti-semitic, Eilberg-Schwartz — who sees the movement to create a Jewish state within the broad context of European colonialism — shuffled over toward the corner designated “No.” This time he stood virtually alone. […]

    “Indeed, that fateful morning in the summer of 1994 would set the stage for a year of conflict between Eilberg-Schwartz and the local Jewish community, one that would culminate in his preipitious departure from the university — and academia altogether — in the fall of 1995.”

    About the last part of your comment, you say that, “For survey data on the divergence between white liberal opinion and average black opinion, check this post”. My point, as always, is that it’s complex. The differences between the young and old is often greater than between other demographic divides, such as between liberal and conservative. The data you shared, as I recall, didn’t break public opinion down into such demographic categories such as different age groups for blacks and other minorities.

    White liberals may be to the left of most blacks, but they aren’t to the left of black liberals or black Millennials. I’d argue that the comparison isn’t meaningful, since most whites are certainly not to the left of most blacks. Whites who identify as liberal tend to be younger and so comparing them to all blacks may be indicative of mostly a generational difference. Like young whites, young blacks are also more likely to identify as liberal.

    Let’s take a concrete example. Not only do the majority of blacks support reparations but support is even stronger among the young, a position considered radical beyond the pale in mainstream politics and media and certainly opposed by the vast majority of whites. This is not exactly an anti-militant stance, considering that would’ve been even more radical in MLK’s lifetime.

    Or consider the polls on ideological labels:

    “Interestingly, blacks and hispanics both have a negative view of capitalism. However, blacks have a more positive view of liberalism while hispanics have a more positive view of socialism.”

    “The University of Chicago’s GenForward Survey of Americans age 18 to 34 finds that 62 percent think “we need a strong government to handle today’s complex economic problems,” with just 35 percent saying “the free market can handle these problems without government being involved.”

    “Overall, 49 percent in this group hold a favorable opinion of capitalism — and 45 percent have a positive view of socialism. Socialism gets higher marks than capitalism, though, from Hispanics, Asian-Americans and African-Americans. Sixty-one percent of Democrats take a positive view of socialism — and so do 25 percent of Republicans.

    “Contrast the millennials’ opinions with those of their parents. A survey last year found that only 26 percent of baby boomers would prefer to live in a socialist country. Among young people, the figure was 44 percent.”


    • Benjamin David Steele Says:

      The obsession with white liberals is similar to the obsession with the white working class. In both cases, it ignores blacks and other minorities who are liberal and/or working class. It creates a narrative of divide and conquer by manipulating and managing public perception.

      A similar thing in the opposite direction is seen in how black Protestants are separated out in polling data but white Protestants usually aren’t. It creates confused comparisons because the categories aren’t demographically equivalent.


    • philebersole Says:

      When I wrote my comment about radicalism, I was thinking of radicalism in terms of race, It’s not acceptable, as you point out, to question capitalism, militarism or Zionism.

      What is called “political correctness” is what I call harmless radicalism. It questions everything except the existing distribution of wealth and power.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Benjamin David Steele Says:

        That is what I mean by white liberals being full of talk that rarely if ever leads to action. Minorities may talk less big but they are also morel likely to be more serious about action. Consider the Black Lives movement that consisted mostly of blacks, not white liberals. Even in this majority white liberal town, when there was a Black Lives protest it was mostly blacks, despite blacks being a tiny fraction of the population.

        White liberals aren’t particularly militant. Quite the opposite, if anything. Nor are they the leaders on racial issues. It’s like how Democratic politicians will say all kinds of things on the campaign trail, such as how Hillary Clinton would make entirely different promises depending on which demographic she was speaking to, but she didn’t intend to keep almost any of those promises. Still, if you were to have Hillary Clinton answer a poll, she would give all the right answers that a good liberal is supposed to support.

        Harmless radicalism isn’t radicalism at all. It’s empty rhetoric. But even the rhetoric isn’t always that strong. As the one example I like to repeat, consider the lag time on same sex marriage. Democrats, if on nothing else, are portrayed as being the leaders on social issues. Yet the Clintons and Obama didn’t come around to supporting same sex marriages until years after it had become a majority opinion among the general public.

        Where is the radicalism that threatens much of anything? When was the last time the liberal class genuinely threatened the racial order? The only way they could do that is by simultaneously challenging the social, political, and economic order. That ain’t going to happen. So, the words of white liberals don’t mean much more today than they meant earlier last century. As always, white liberals will only do the right thing long after the victims have been fighting injustice and long after the right thing becomes popular opinion.


  6. The Great Narrative of Awokening | Marmalade Says:

    […] at Phil Ebersole’s blog, he posted about Matthew Yglesias’ article The Great Awokening. Ebersole wrote that, “In the […]


  7. philebersole Says:

    I am white, and I think of myself as more of a liberal or progressive than anything else. Most of my friends are white liberals.

    I am a member of the Unitarian-Universalist Association, an eclectic religious movement which is now involved in a big effort to make white people more aware of the feelings and concerns of black people and other minorities and the same in regard to men and women, straight people and gay people, cisgendered (a word I only learned a year or two ago) and transgendered and so on.

    None of my white liberal friends is an elitist or a member of an academic or financial elite. Some are struggling hard to survive in our unforgiving economy. None of them is a self-serving hypocrite. They all sincerely want to do the right thing in the good way.

    They are doing good—many doing more good than I am. it is important to fight injustice by dominant groups against marginalized groups, but it is also important to not lose sight of the larger issue..

    Climate change, the warfare state, financial crime, deindustrialization, the attack on public services and public welfare, the attack on labor—none of these is a specifically a white person’s issue.

    I am not a self-hating white person. Neither am I a self-hating liberal. Peace.


    • Benjamin David Steele Says:

      My post wasn’t intended as an attack on you, on whites, or on liberals. It was simply a criticism of a mainstream narrative.

      I too am white. And I too think of myself as along the lines of liberal or progressive, although my views have shifted a bit over the years. Though not presently a member of UU, I have attended in the past.

      When I speak of an elite, I mean it literally. An elite exists. I never claimed you or people you know are elites. Nor did I claim that you or people you know are are self-serving hypocrites.

      That is why I too was arguing that we shouldn’t let rhetorical manipulation to get us to lose focus on the larger issue. What you mention aren’t white person’s issues. That is my point. This is the problem of falling into the narrative of the “white liberal” or the “white working class”.

      Likewise, I’m not a self-hating white person or liberal. You seem to imply that is what I am. Being self-critical of one’s own side is not the same thing as being self-hating. I’m being critical because I want our side to succeed, to achieve actual benefit and progress according to our values, ideals, and goals.


    • philebersole Says:

      I didn’t say, nor intend to imply, that you were attacking whites or liberals. I didn’t say, not intend to imply, that you are a self-hating white person or liberal. I didn’t say, not intend to imply, that you think that I or my friends are elites. I did not attack you, nor say that you were attacking me.


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