Does floating unfounded allegations of racism help Obama?
August 19, 2012 2 Comments
The other day I came across a commentary in the Christian Science Monitor that absolutely floored me. Offered by two academics, McIlwain and Caliendo, its headline questions: “Is a pro-Romney ad racist? Five questions to ask yourself.”
Apparently, the coauthors don’t think Democrats can ever make a racist appeal, so they only focus on the Romney campaign. To them, it’s not a question of if but which of his ads will be racist. As we’ve seen with Joe Biden’s “unchained” appeal,” this myopic model leaves voters unable to account for racism when it actually happens.
You can’t find racism from the left if you’re only looking right. But with advanced degrees in the humanities and social sciences, the coauthors command a toolkit that enables them to pick out the finest notes of that pesky racism “dog whistle.” Funny though, only a self-selecting pool of liberal academics have the authority or ability to discern them. Good thing they’ve taken the time to help the rest of us out!
The examples the coauthors provide in their commentary are tenuous at best. They advance their arguments on mere possibilities. Does this sound familiar? Elements of Romney’s ads “could be interpreted” or might “imply” some kind of racism. A string of possible but weakly supported claims puts the piece just a notch above Harry Reid’s completely groundless claim that Romney didn’t pay ten years’ worth of taxes.
In one section of their commentary, the authors warn against the deployment of stereotypes. Their metric for determining a potential stereotype is wide, vague, and subjective. They bar Romney from any avenue of attack, while allowing Obama to proceed. Consider this passage on criminality:
For instance, while the Obama campaign might charge that Romney is a felon – a strong attack to be sure – there is no historical association between whites – as a group – and criminality. That association is present with respect to blacks, however. Thus, the message functions as a stereotype, not merely a criticism of one individual.
Have you ever watched a Hollywood action movie? The villain is always some rich white guy in a suit!
Or, think of the TV series 24. Each season, there are two levels of bad guys. The first wave of villains might be terrorists from a fictitious Middle Eastern country, a Mexican drug cartel, or maybe opportunistic African warlords. But then, somewhere around hour 10 or 12, the ultimate culprit emerges: always a cold, well-heeled white guy who is an unscrupulous industrialist, a crackpot defense hawk, or otherwise a liberal’s gross impression of Dick Cheney. And this from a show with supposedly conservative leanings!
Although not matching McIlwain and Caliendo’s cherry picked “historical” or “group” criteria, Team Obama’s felon accusation against Romney exploits a real Hollywood stereotype embedded in the American consciousness.
Indeed, racism was a serious problem fifty years ago, but some folks haven’t gotten the memo that things might have improved just a bit. This fact is easily missed by those who can’t put down their Critical Race Theory books.
It is sad that unsubstantial claims of racism get undying attention in the media. The effect, whether intended or not, is to silence genuine criticism and steer the conversation into divisive, unproductive territory. Just by running McIlwain and Caliendo’s commentary, the Christian Science Monitor sanctions a free tarring of conservatives, a gift to Democrats and their allies.