All Woke Up?

Charles Blow highlights one of the saddest truths about the Russian interference with the 2016 electoral cycle: the dampening of the minority, and especially the millennial black vote. They may have been woke to their cause, but they went to sleep as to their interests.

According to a May Pew Research Center report, “The black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election.” The report said that the number of naturalized citizen voters was up from 2012 and the turnout rate for women was mostly unchanged from 2012. And while the percentage of eligible millennials who said they voted in the last election rose among every other demographic group, it fell among black millennials.

This is a version of “What’s the Matter with Kansas” only on the left. In the name of ideals, one votes against one’s own interests. The result, not surprisingly, is a sort of sideways movement of despair, a righteousness of the put-upon and the defeated.

The righteous, solitary vote can convey virtue when it is the subject of reflection and affirmation of ideal, but what happens when what looks like our opinion is the result of manipulation? As Blow has it, “what we do now know with absolute certainty is that in making their electoral choices, black folks had unwanted hands on their backs, unethical and illegal ones, nudging them toward an apathy built on anger.”

Sometimes Woke is not woke.



Conservatives and racism

Rod Dreher gives voice to an understandable opinion, this in his continuing discussion of shitholes, domestic and foreign.

It really ticks me off how many (but not all) liberals insist on inserting race into these discussions and calling conservatives racist (or at least implying that we are racially insensitive). As if people of all races and classes are not capable of living virtuously, and to believe that they are is a sign of bigotry.

What Dreher appears to be seeking is a middle ground, one that is difficult to get at (or more properly, to hear). Is there a center right view on race that can be heard, or must it all devolve into thinly veiled contempt?

Let’s just say the conservative political class does not make it easy.

At both the national and certainly at the state level, this is a group that at its best comes across as indifferent, or silent all the while framing policies questions with “dog whistles.” At worst, of course, this class doesn’t advance the dog whistle legislation, but something worse, something that can be seen as actually harming minorities. Our state house dockets are filled with both approaches. So really, one cannot blame those outside from looking and wondering if in fact this political class actually sees minorities.

And what is the alternative? The left often offers a politics of performing, of posturing — a reaction noted by Sam Murrell.  The twin posturing can easily become a sort of shadow dance, where real the performance (or the glee of not recognizing) mirror each other, in a word, a profoundly white conversation. What goes missing between these two political posturings are the voices of conservative and middle of the road blacks. It’s not that there exists a valid conservative take on the problems of race, but rather that it so rarely gets heard amid the noise. This productive middle gets obscured, or pigeon-holed, or dismissed.This is the class that goes to church, the educators and entrepreneurs, a natural conservative class and yet the political conservatives? Too rarely do they cross the line to engage, or to let these voices impact theirs. Too often they choose their own rhetoric, drop the ball, and  too often, prove unreliable.

Why I No Longer Participate in Racial Reconciliation Services
Povety as Culture


It’s still the problem of the color line.

Rod Dreher spent a day sputtering about Sarah Jones’ exploration of Dreher’s stance on race. Her essay in The New Republic pushes on the tacit racial nature of Dreher’s words.

The blog post was classic Dreher, … (he) did not specifically refer to people of color, but he didn’t need to; he just invoked their ghostly outlines and let the reader fill them in. His defense of Trump’s remarks are damning, not only for him personally, but for a certain kind of conservative intellectual who believes he is better than the vulgar ethno-nationalists at Breitbart. It is the logical end of a train of thought that often trails off and goes unspoken, just as those minorities in Dreher’s post are not directly identified but targeted under broad euphemisms like “the poor.” It is a conspicuous silence that has been there all along.

Is Dreher an enabler of the racist alt-right? or the victim of one more over zealous  SJW (our Social Justice Warriors). Or could it be, as he argues, that her stance is basically one of privilege?

I don’t know Sarah Jones and her crowd, but I have a strong suspicion that a lot of them are lashing out so strongly at me over the “shitholes” stuff, and wildly distorting my words, because in their heart of hearts, they know that they would never live in impoverished neighborhoods marked by violence and chaos. Where in the DC area does Sarah Jones live? If she doesn’t live in a poor, violent neighborhood, why not? She could save money if she did. Where does Jonathan Merritt live in Brooklyn? Where does Jemar Tisby live in Jackson, Miss.? And so on.

This is deflection (Jones her self does not live in Washington, but in Roanoke, at some distance). Some part of Dreher’s discussion in fact lies with the question of race and what is at best, an indifference to race. DuBois observation for the 20th C is still pertinent, as policies and tweets of the administration have shown. I would suggest that this larger context, this cultural shift underway provides a frame for understanding conservative commentary. So what appears to a conservative as benign or even obvious, may be read in quite different ways elsewhere. To this we can also add the geographical frame. Think about it: Louisiana has a history, an approach to race; so does Appalachia; and for that matter in my case, so does growing up in a university town in the Midwest.

Now the case in point: it is difficult to read the paragraph from the perspective of Michigan without thinking of race; it’s the stuff of our region’s history. When Jones says “fill in…” — ah, we do this a lot, especially over by Detroit. Likewise, the question Jones asks of the Benedict Option — did it really only mention race a handful of times? That seems like a valid, if awkward critique, not in making Dreher a racist, but in pointing to a blind spot, itself the creature of a particular and local setting.

But before we mount that high horse, we should note, we all suffer from the same disease, simultaneously better than and yet worse than our words. It happens.


Sarah Jones: SJW Propagandist
Rod Dreher’s Race Problem

Purity culture

Rod Dreher sticks his foot in it

Let’s think about Section 8 housing. If word got out that the government was planning to build a housing project for the poor in your neighborhood, how would you feel about it? Be honest with yourself. Nobody would consider this good news. You wouldn’t consider it good news because you don’t want the destructive culture of the poor imported into your neighborhood. Drive over to the poor part of town, and see what a shithole it is. Do you want the people who turned their neighborhood a shithole to bring the shithole to your street?

No, you don’t. Be honest, you don’t.

I don’t recognize these places, existing as they do in Dreher’s mind. The reality? the poor neighborhoods of our city are filled with families working hard to get by.

What is perhaps most irritating about the entire comment is the notion of separation, that of course, we don’t want these folks with their “destructive culture” living next door to us. We are offered a NIMBY response, a repetition of red-lining only with slightly better tools. The consequences are not simply for the poor, but for us as well. Separation, distance makes it possible to tacitly allow injustice to grow in our society, and hardness of heart in ourselves.

At another level, when the talk turns to “shithole” countries or places we are in the realm of a purity culture, a topic that Jonathan Haidt has explored. We must separate from “dirt”, “dirt is to be rejected. It is easy in all this to move from the physical descriptions which Dreher provides, to its metaphorical or political dimension: those from shithole neighborhoods don’t deserve the same respect, protection etc. The American language of race lurks just below the surface, as do any number of anti-homosexual screeds.

And spiritually, what is this concern about purity, but a crossing on the other side of the road? The Kingdom, the good city, this place will be built by mercy, by seeing the neighbor even in the shithole, by recognizing  that what is proclaimed in Word, what is seen at the Table, can be shown working together.

Of Sh*tholes And Second Thoughts


Lasting Damage

One of the saddest aspects of the current era is the rolling-back of real progress in racial relations. James Bouie begins with the line from the inauguration, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” and reads it not as a commitment to economic populism but as a statement of racial solidarity.

 Far from acting as a president for all Americans, he’s governed explicitly as a president for white Americans and the racial reactionaries among them. He’s spoken to their fear and fanned their anger, making his office a rallying point for those who see decline in multiracial democracy and his administration a tool for those who would turn the clock back on racial progress. If those Americans are the “forgotten men and women” of President Trump’s inaugural address, then he’s been a man of his word. That simmering pursuit of racial grievance has been its defining characteristic and threatens to be its most enduring achievement.

It is the politics of white resentment, and to overturn it is not a matter of policy proper but something else.

The resistance to Trump’s brand of politics cannot just be resistance to the president himself and the Republican majorities that enable him and his administration. It must also be a resistance to the habits of mind—and material realities—that produced the situation the country finds itself in.

Habits of mind, however, are not simply if ever, the product of schools, but arise from deeper, religious roots. To repair and heal, we must also be transformed.

Donald Trump’s Enduring Promise

Abortion and the Rise of the Religious Right

Allison Vander Broek picks at one of the puzzles of the Christian Right, viz. it’s relation to the anti-abortion movement. Did the Christian Right really arise as a reaction to Roe v. Wade, as the common internal narrative would have it? Or should we follow along after Randall Balmer, and think of the Christian Right as emerging out of the reaction to the civil rights movement, and particularly the emergence of the white Christian schools? Vander Broek notes the absence of evangelical engagement on the question of abortion (something Balmer does as well) and proceeds to ask a couple of questions,

Why did evangelical leaders create and perpetuate the narrative that abortion is what spurred them to political activism? … Why might American evangelicals craft an origin story that’s so off base from reality?… Could it be that it’s a much more heroic tale that evangelicals got into politics to defend babies rather than to oppose desegregation?

Vander Broek decides that the racism narrative is the dominant one, the secret sin of evangelicals. This may be a case of reading our history through lens of the present: the Christian Right drew from several streams.

What Balmer omits is the role of Orange County, where the children of the Okies took on Northern California elites, waging war over several cultural issues, while holding to a virulent anti-communist ethos. This was a movement grounded in the sociology of the sunbelt suburbia, whose issues were not schools but the cultivation of American values. In their emergent mega churches they shaped a politicized faith that elected Ronald Reagan to the governors mansion. Their rise and impact is nicely document in Darren Dochuk’s From the Bible Belt to the Sun Belt (Norton: 2010); the flavor of the movement can be caught in None Dare Call It Treason.

A second stream that plays an important role in the evangelical church and in national politics are those immigrant churches of the Upper Midwest. These were organically Republican communities that also incorporated a high degree of religious motivation to their politics. Social issues were important, but often with a slightly more communitarian shape; and while there was a caution about racial issues particularly in urban areas, nonetheless the community maintained an openness to civil rights. These were the churches that self-defined as evangelical and not fundamentalist, a community that maintained numerous academic institutions: Bethel, Calvin, Trinity Evangelical, Wheaton, and others.

And then there are is the southern revivalist stream that Vander Broek and Balmer identify, whose life was shaped by the reaction to the civil rights movement. Even this has a deep root. The southern revivalistic church was a populist phenomena, with the weight of that racial narrative; it shared the rejection of the post Civil War centralized state. This is the seedbed of Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones, and the nascent Moral Majority.

The genius of the Paul Weyrich was to find the issue that took these three regional movements and organized them to a common political purpose. As Balmer relates

“The new political philosophy must be defined by us [conservatives] in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition,” Weyrich wrote in the mid-1970s. “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Weyrich believed that the political possibilities of such a coalition were unlimited. “The leadership, moral philosophy, and workable vehicle are at hand just waiting to be blended and activated,” he wrote. “If the moral majority acts, results could well exceed our wildest dreams.”

This new movement would indeed become powerful, but not all at once. It’s politics grew not only from political strategy but for a host of cultural reasons. It was the long march of a generation, a topic for the next time.


Can I Get a Whiteness?

The notion of white guilt as a felt need apparently is not supported by the surveys. At least according to George Hawley, in The American Conservative. He comments

even if there is a powerful, coordinated effort to shame and demoralize whites, it does not appear to be working. The self-flagellating whites so derided by the alt-right and even many conservatives are a tiny fraction of white Americans.

What is also clear is that the impact of race as a forensic item and to a lesser extent in the carried assumptions of whites remains. While whites may not have the “feeling” they certainly gain the benefit of the racial doubt. A century later, the problem continues to be the colored line.