Touré on Racial Code Words

Touré on Racial Code Words

Touré claims in his recent article at Time that his job is to say things “black people need said.” It’s an odd way to start an article about racial politics. 

If I ever read the line “things white people need said” at the beginning of an article, I’d wonder if the author was on a watchlist somewhere. And then I’d probably stop reading.

Touré not only claims that Republicans are using racial code to win this election, he claims that Democrats simply don’t do this sort of thing. So what exactly was Joe Biden saying when he commented to a largely black audience “They’re gonna put y’all back in chains”? 

Some on the left, including the President, argued that “chains” was just a metaphor for financial bondage. The problem is that Biden said “back in chains.” Speaking to an audience that was about 50 percent black that’s clearly a reference to slavery and a low point in an already barrel-scrapping campaign.

Similarly, Rep. Lewis made a direct racial appeal at the DNC the other night when he described being beaten during a civil rights march and then asked the audience “Brothers and sisters, do you want to go back?” Is Rep. Lewis saying the Republican party supports segregation? Jim Crow laws? He doesn’t say exactly, but there’s no doubt that “go back” is code for a loss of civil rights and possibly a beating.

The evidence Touré offers to support his claims doesn’t prove what he thinks it does. For instance, he claims Romney’s welfare ads are designed to “create racial resentment around entitlements.” He then points to a Pew Poll which found that 57% of Republicans “believe people are poor because they don’t work hard.” What he doesn’t mention is that the same poll finds whites and blacks are united in opposing an overly-generous safety net:

While blacks overwhelmingly support a government safety net, they mostlyagree with whites that poor people have become too dependent ongovernment assistance programs. Currently, 72% of whites and 70% ofblacks hold this view.

Ironically, the view that government has become too big and too generous is something people of different races agree on. In the same poll, when asked about people who claim benefits they are not entitled to, 74 percent of whites found this very upsetting. But among blacks and Hispanics 59 percent felt the same way. Obviously there is a gap but solid majorities of all three groups are upset by welfare cheats. Based on this data it seems Romney’s welfare ads should appeal to everyone.

Touré also turns to a Washington Post poll in which Republicans and Democrats were asked why blacks overwhelmingly support Democrats. The top answer for both groups was “Don’t know.” The second answer for Republicans was “Government dependents/Want something for nothing/welfare.” The top answer for Democrats was “Issues of poverty/Help poor/represent the little guy.”

Clearly there is a difference in tone but I’m not convinced these answers are really all that different at base. Asked why blacks support Democrats, Democratic respondents said it was because their party deals with the issue of poverty and helping the poor. What poverty and which poor were they likely thinking about? In case it’s not clear, the next most popular answer by Democrats was “More helpful to African Americans.” Helpful how?

It’s not exactly news that one party tends to see welfare as a financial and moral hazard while the other sees the same programs as a moral imperative. But these views have more to do with the ongoing battle of small government vs. big government than they do with the race of the recipients. A majority of welfare recipients are white, after all. And as the Pew poll shows, whites and blacks aren’t really that far apart on the issue of whether welfare dependency has become too great or even on outrage over welfare cheats.

Touré concludes his piece with a reference to the now tired claim that the Republican Party is doomed based on racial demographics. Of course that assumes 90-95 percent of black Americans will continue to vote for Democrats in perpetuity. I suspect that too will change in time. Sooner or later you run out of other people’s racial fears and resentments.

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