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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Paul Ryan Isn't So Different From Barack Obama

Posted by on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 9:00 AM

When it comes to racial rhetoric, sometimes they're practically indistinguishable from one another. Ta-Nehisi Coates explains:

Last week, Paul Ryan went on the radio to address the lack of virtue prevalent among men who grew up like me, my father, my brothers, my best friends, and a large number of my people:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

A number of liberals reacted harshly to Ryan. I'm not sure why. What Ryan said here is not very far from what Bill Cosby, Michael Nutter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama said before him. The idea that poor people living in the inner city, and particularly black men, are "not holding up their end of the deal" as Cosby put it, is not terribly original or even, these days, right-wing. From the president on down there is an accepted belief in America—black and white—that African-American people, and African-American men, in particular, are lacking in the virtues in family, hard work, and citizenship:

If Cousin Pookie would vote, if Uncle Jethro would get off the couch and stop watching SportsCenter and go register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics.

Cousin Pookie and Uncle Jethro voted at higher rates than any other ethnic group in the country. They voted for Barack Obama. Our politics have not changed. Neither has Barack Obama's rhetoric. Facts can only get in the way of a good story. It was sort of stunning to see the president give a speech on the fate of young black boys and not mention the word racism once. It was sort of stunning to see the president salute the father of Trayvon Martin and the father of Jordan Davis and then claim, "Nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life."

From what I can tell, the major substantive difference between Ryan and Obama is that Obama's actual policy agenda regarding black America is serious, and Ryan's isn't. But Ryan's point—that the a pathological culture has taken root among an alarming portion of black people—is basically accepted by many progressives today. And it's been accepted for a long time.

Read the whole thing. "Racism is just the wind, here. Racism is but the rain," Coates concludes. If we recognized this in Seattle, we would, to take one example, be fighting tooth-and-nail against the displacement of African-Americans out of this city instead of acting as if gentrification is inevitable or necessary. But progressives aren't nearly as anti-racist as they like to think they are.

 

Comments (22) RSS

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notaboomer 1
coates has to talk about cab drivers instead of to them like the great white friedman unit.
Posted by notaboomer on March 19, 2014 at 9:26 AM · Report this
2
I'm just curious, but how does one fight tooth-and-nail against displacement in the face of gentrification? Name specific policies or actions the city or the various communities could take.
Posted by decidedlyodd on March 19, 2014 at 9:27 AM · Report this
3
Ugh, this kind of liberal view from 30,000 feet crap just doesn't help anyone. There are huge substantive differences between Paul Ryan and almost any Democratic politician that go far beyond whatever similarities you can suss out in their rhetoric. These differences make all the difference in the world for people whose lives are on the brink. Most moderate politicians have tacked rightward in their rhetoric the last 20+ years, but they still won't vote for a Ryan budget. You have to be pretty fucking privileged to not appreciate the massive chasm in actual policies and the philosophies behind them between a Mitt/Ryan America and an Obama/Biden America.
Posted by longball on March 19, 2014 at 9:34 AM · Report this
lark 4
Ansel,
I am not understanding Coates anymore. I used to read more of him but I'm troubled by some of his logic.

I think Ryan was smeared so does Andrew Sullivan:

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/03/1…

I don't believe one needs to compare the rhetoric and vocabulary of Pres. Obama & Rep. Ryan. I think the end result is the same, improving our fellow Americans' lives in the decaying American inner city. Yes, many of them if not the vast majority are African-American. I understand that. But don't you, I, Obama, Ryan, Liberal, Conservative and Cosby et al want that to happen?

I'm not affixing blame here. I merely believe Pres. Obama & Rep. Ryan are offering ideas. If Coates believes positively comparing Obama to Ryan is heresey, well so be it. But, I'd like to hear a few positive ideas from Coates. There's an urgency here.
Posted by lark on March 19, 2014 at 9:37 AM · Report this
seandr 5
Given that Trayvon Martin was raised by an intact and nurturing family, odds are that he would have fared well in life and eventually become a good father to his own kids, had he not been murdered.

And whether we're talking about the inner city or the trailer parks, there can be no question that many kids are being "raised" in families devastated by drug/alcohol abuse, self-destructive patterns of behavior, and ignorance, and that that cycle tends to repeat itself across generations.
Posted by seandr on March 19, 2014 at 9:45 AM · Report this
6
Would "fighting tooth and nail" mean moving out of 80% white Capitol Hill to make room for black folk to move back in? Or is that a step our young Ansel isn't willing to consider?
Posted by robotslave on March 19, 2014 at 9:52 AM · Report this
7
Is it possible that many progressives, including many prominent African Americans, accept "that a pathological culture has taken root among an alarming portion of black people" because it is so obviously true?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on March 19, 2014 at 10:03 AM · Report this
meanie 8
The elephant in the room every time we drag out the social justice alter to talk about how hard it is on African Americans is their waning relevance in social commentary at all.

As WASP type whites lose majority status, we will soon live in a world and a city like Seattle where the majority groups will be largely Hispanic, Asian/(indian) and immigrant African.

In ten years the Jessie Jackson vs the man fights of the 80s will seem like a failed social experiment that we spent too much time on. While we ignored the general plight of ALL poor people in a vain attempt to *fix* racism.
Posted by meanie http://www.spicealley.net on March 19, 2014 at 10:09 AM · Report this
9
@3 I think you should read the piece more carefully - TNC is not peddling an Obama/Ryan equivalency theory.

"[T]he major substantive difference between Ryan and Obama is that Obama's actual policy agenda regarding black America is serious, and Ryan's isn't."

I don't know how you can read that and think he's saying their real world effect is the same. He's not making that mistake.
Posted by the other one on March 19, 2014 at 11:05 AM · Report this
Ziggity 10
@7: Obviously true from your personal interaction with zero black people on a given day, or obviously true from your Clint Eastwood-style empty-chair black person that you've cobbled together from soundbites and carefully selected news reports?
Posted by Ziggity on March 19, 2014 at 11:35 AM · Report this
11
If they promise not to turn my street into a war zone (and turn down the rap "music") they can live next to me.
Posted by CultureShock on March 19, 2014 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 12

This was shortly after Spike Lee defined inner city men as a bunch of hipsters invading his neighborhood and driving up prices.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on March 19, 2014 at 12:14 PM · Report this
13
@7, nah, I don't think you can be progressive and believe in that white supremacist trash at the same time.
Posted by GermanSausage on March 19, 2014 at 12:31 PM · Report this
14
@10 I think poverty and racism make life hard for African Americans. I think the fact that poor blacks murder one another with alarming regularity makes a bad situation worse.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on March 19, 2014 at 12:32 PM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 15
@14: Have you ever considered that poverty and racism might have an impact on crime rates?
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on March 19, 2014 at 12:39 PM · Report this
16
@15 I think poverty and racism explain some but not all of the high rate of criminality among African Americans. Latinos are also an ethnic minority and live in poverty at about the same rate as blacks. Yet Hispanic Americans kill each other far less often than African Americans do.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on March 19, 2014 at 1:06 PM · Report this
fletc3her 17
Context and audience does matter somewhat.

Men commit 89.5% of homicides and are 76.8% of victims. That's at least as striking as the racial imbalance in homicide rates. Maybe we should talk about that.
Posted by fletc3her on March 19, 2014 at 1:21 PM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 18
@16: "Some, but not all." Okay, you are getting there. Now, while there are sociological similarities between the African American and Hispanic American populations, why don't you consider some of the differences between them. You might start with considering how those respective populations came to be in the United States. And I'd also take a really close look at the racism that both groups experience and have historically experienced to see how it differs.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on March 19, 2014 at 1:24 PM · Report this
Ziggity 19
@14: So to answer my question, looks like it's both.
Posted by Ziggity on March 19, 2014 at 1:27 PM · Report this
20
"5 Given that Trayvon Martin was raised by an intact and nurturing family, odds are that he would have fared well in life and eventually become a good father to his own kids, had he not been murdered"

You could say the same about Eric Townes, Justin Ferrar, Nicole Westbrook, Yankel Rosenbaum, Antony Grazonni, and thousands of whites, Asians, blacks and Hispanics murdered by blacks. What makes Trayvon's life more worthwhile? Because he was killed by a Hispanics, I mean white, man? You sure can't say it was the "social injustice" of it since Townes killer was out of jail quickly, the TubaMan's killers did no time, Yankel Rosenbaum's killers did no time (except one who did a few years 14 years after the crime) and Danny Vega and Nicole Westbrook's killers were never even apprehended.
Posted by hayden c on March 19, 2014 at 2:38 PM · Report this
21
There's a big gulf between saying "this culture has a problem that needs to be fixed" and saying "this culture has a problem so we need to deny them food, housing, and health care and put them all in jail."
Posted by unpaid reader on March 19, 2014 at 2:40 PM · Report this
22
Whites move out of area: WHITE FLIGHT!!! RACIST!!!

Whites move into area: GENTRIFICATION!!! RACIST!!!

Can any of you endlessly enlightened inner-city liberals please tell me what the solution is in this case?
Posted by William F. Fuckley on March 19, 2014 at 4:08 PM · Report this

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