Overcoming American racism: We ain’t there yet

A couple of powerful stories at The Nation deserve your attention this morning.

In the first, Rick Perlstein examines a 1981 recorded interview with the late Lee Atwater (now released publicly for the first time as part of the article) in which the old conservative henchman for the Reagan-Bush administrations explained the evolution of white southern racism in some rather disturbing terms. The conclusion: Atwater’s clumsy and offensive attempts to deny the persistence of racism only confirmed its still-powerful grip on white southerners.

In the second, Ari Berman explains the folly of the Supreme Court’s current flirtation (explained here by Sharon McCloskey earlier this morning) with doing away with section 5 of the Voting Rights Act — a law reauthorized by Congress by overwhelming margins just six years ago.  To quote:

“Indeed, only a Supreme Court wholly divorced from reality would review the record on voting rights since Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006 and conclude that a key pillar of the law was no longer needed.”



  1. david esmay

    November 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    When Atwater had his George Wallace moment as he was dying from a brain tumor he gave a very insightful interview to Alexander Lamis for his book “Southern Politics of the 1990’s”. In it Atwater outlined the GOP southern strategy, and opposition to the Voting rights Act, “You start out in 1954 by saying nigger, nigger, nigger. By 1968, you can’t say nigger– that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states rights, all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now that you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are economic things and as a by-product of them is that you’re hurting blacks worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is a part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me– because obviously sitting around saying “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger,nigger.”
    One has to be in mind that Karl Rove was one of Atwater’s best friends and inherited his mantel, and became the guardian and implementer of this strategy after Atwater’s demise. Atwater may have had a change of heart on his death bed, but the Republican party he served so well, did not.

  2. david esmay

    November 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    If any one is offended by my use of the N-word, I apologize. But as the father of two bi-racial children I am offended by the statements of many on the right. If you think this is b.s., just look me up on facebook, go to photos, and my kids, now grown are there for anyone to see. They were and are exceptional students and athletes, and I am very proud of them. Beside the fact that the GOP’s platform of exclusion is offensive to many, what is truly offensive, is that in 2012, race is still an issue in this country.

  3. david esmay

    November 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    You can add Voter ID to the list of GOP code words in their new line of propaganda.

  4. Jack

    November 14, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    If the GOP truly had the best interest of the American people at the heart of their issues then perhaps their talk about reducing regulations and government would have some sort of meaning to the American people. Fact is the election revealed the majority of Americans aren’t buying the GOP party line.

    To swing future elections to the favor of the GOP there will be continued efforts to pass, at state level, voter suppression and other laws to be used as the edge of the wedge for the ongoing disenfranchisement of people in poverty, people of color, people with disabilities and senior citizens.

    Save people in poverty there are many in the groups listed above that are middle-class America therefore the assault on the American people has been defined and unveiled. The GOP in NC long ago declared open season on anyone deemed worthy of being looked down on by them. (Now it’s gone national.) There will be laws signed by newly elected GOP governors that will openly facilitate the disenfranchisement of people they govern. So if anyone feels safe because they’re not a member of any the above groups it is then a guarantee that someone you deeply care about is.

    But hey, it’s just business from the GOP perspective.

    However, regardless of economic status when it comes to being denied a legal right we’re all in this together. When you’re denied I’m denied and when she’s denied he’s denied.

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