Race 2012 Transcript
President Obama Audio: Thank you. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America, there is the United States of America.
TIM WISE, AUTHOR, DEAR WHITE AMERICA: LETTER TO A NEW MINORITY: I think that the phenomena of having President Obama in office, and even when he was running for office, complicated the discussion around race.
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE, 2009-11: That’s the conversation America needs to have, but we can’t have it because we start off from a position of fear.
JOHN ZIEGLER, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER, MEDIA MALPRACTICE: Just take the interviews you’re doing for this documentary. I guarantee people are afraid to say what they actually believe because they don’t want to be portrayed as being a racist. I’m just too stupid to abide by that.
TEHAMA LOPEZ, ASST. PROF., POLITICAL SCIENCE, OHIO UNIV.: I think some people conflate the idea of talking about race with racism itself. You know, to speak about race makes you a racist. Well that’s just not true. I can talk about rape and not be a rapist.
RACE 2012 LOGO: A CONVERSATION ABOUT RACE AND POLITICS IN AMERICA. A FILM BY PHILLIP RODRIGUEZ
RANDALL KENNEDY, PROF., HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: I did think of my father on inauguration day. He was a refugee from Jim Crow racism. Would he have been surprised? Yes, he would have absolutely been surprised. But he would still say that unfortunately too many people of color, Latino people, black people, Asian people who are poor, are still getting the short end of the stick.
RICH BENJAMIN, AUTHOR, SEARCHING FOR WHITOPIA: We thought that with the election of Barack Obama we would have a post-racial society. Obviously we don’t have that.
RONALD BROWNSTEIN, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Minorities are being hammered by this economy. Not only in unemployment but in the disproportionate losses in the housing collapse and the tragic story, really, in the African American and Hispanic community, the vaporization of wealth.
EDUARDO BONILLA-SILVA, PROF., SOCIOLOGY, DUKE UNIV.: Whites used to have an advantage over non-whites, particularly blacks, ten to one. Now the gap between whites and non-whites is twenty to one. So in the last three years things have gotten worse for everybody, but significantly worse for people of color.
VINCENT HUTCHINGS, PROF., POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIV. OF MICHIGAN: The bottom line is simply and starkly this: white Americans have more of the privileges, more of the resources and more of the rights than other Americans have, and that has been true from the beginning. But the problem as it were is that there are fewer white Americans now than there used to be, at least proportionately, and that’s a recipe for trouble.
CARD: We Called it Nation Building
WISE: Whiteness has been this imbedded structural dominating paradigm whereby being white, being classified as white, has given one certain advantages, certain access. Right after the Constitution was ratified, the very first law that was passed in this country by the Congress was a Naturalization Act, which said that only free white persons could be citizens. Before they raised revenue, before they solidified an army, before they did anything else, they said, “Let’s make sure we understand that we’re the only ones who are going to be citizens of this place.”
WISE: And all throughout history we’ve seen how whiteness has shaped public policy. Think about the Homestead Act. Two hundred and forty million acres of free land given to white folks and yet we didn’t call it a handout, we didn’t call it welfare, we called it nation building.
FOOTAGE: GI BILL AD: And that’s why Congress passed the law.
WISE: In the 1930s and 40s, the FHA program, the VA loans in the 40s and 50s, the GI bill, all of these programs which were in theory open to everyone but in practice racially restricted to whites almost, almost exclusively, we didn’t call those handouts, we didn’t call that welfare, we called that good macroeconomic policy and the building of a middle class.
FOOTAGE: GI BILL AD: A job, a business, an education, a home.
CHRIS ZEPEDA-MILLAN, ASST. PROF., POLITICAL SCIENCE, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIV.: The reason why we’re having the discussion of what American identity is going to mean with regard to race and ethnicity can, I think, specifically be traced back to the 1965 Immigration Act.
FOOTAGE: LYNDON B. JOHNSON: This bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill, it does not affect the lives of millions, it will not reshape the structure of our daily lives, or either our wealth or our power.
WISE: The immigration reform of ‘65 really turned on its head roughly 80 years by that point of immigration restriction.
ZEPEDA-MILLAN: The assumption would be that having an immigration system based on family unification, which is what the 1965 Immigration Act did, would increase those European immigrant groups that traditionally had a long history of coming to the United States. The number of immigrants that started coming more, and in increasing numbers were immigrants from Asia, Latin America and Africa.
WISE: And I’m not sure that in 1965 the people who supported the immigration reform at that time really realized the kinds of substantial, I don’t just mean demographic change, but cultural change that would take place.
CARD: A Postcard from the Future
BROWNSTEIN: As recently as 1980, 80% of the country was white. The 2010 census was a postcard from the future because it showed us that the overall population is now slightly more than 36% non-white. And the best estimates are that we will be minority- majority in the overall population somewhere between 2040 and 2050. This is a different country.
MIKE MADRID, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: As a country we’re struggling with what that means. What does the loss of a white America mean?
MADRID: What does a loss of an Anglo, western European culture mean? By the end of our lifetimes we will look very different and we will be leaving America, this continent, this place, this idea to a country that looks entirely different than what we came into. And there is a fear that it’s not going to be what our story was.
CARD: Whites: The Raceless People
BENJAMIN: In the late 2000s I came across this census information saying that white people were moving to neighborhoods and communities that were already extremely white. And so I had to find out what was going on. So I packed my bags and I embarked on a 2-year journey, 27,000 miles to the whitest communities in this country, what I call “Whitopia.” I visited an exurb to get the exurb flavor. I visited a booming beautiful Whitopia in the Pacific Northwest.
BENJAMIN: And then I visited a Whitopia that has a lot of golf and a lot of older people. I wanted to look at Whitopias here in the coastal cities. Carnegie Hill, which is smack in Manhattan, is as white as Utah or Idaho. And that’s the fascinating tension that I was curious about is on the one hand, this country’s getting more diverse, more globalized and browner, and on the other hand, pockets of this country are getting whiter, more tribalized and more conservative. In most cases, the people in Whitopia were extremely friendly to me. But at the time, I should say, that I was in Whitopia, I had shorter hair.
BENJAMIN: Most people don’t explicitly move to these Whitopias for racial reasons. Other qualities draw them to this community, such as social safety, comfort, and these qualities are implicitly associated to whiteness in these people’s heads. They said, “When I fled Phoenix, Arizona or L.A. I didn’t want that social strife that I felt in those former communities,” and that would include what they called graffiti, what they called crime and what in many cases they called diversity.
BONILLA-SILVA: So what are the pathologies produced by white isolation? I think it produces racialized perceptions, racialized behaviors; it limits their likelihood of developing the skills to interact with people of color. By 18 they have never gotten the social skills, the cultural skills, to think about us, to feel us, to even conceive us as beautiful people who have something to offer. Middle-class, upper middle-class whites can segregate themselves from us, they can be theoretically good by saying, “I’m all for diversity,” except they don’t have a diverse lifestyle.
BONILLA-SILVA: Poor whites may defend their privileges in a more direct, in-your-face way, and the more educated tend to have a better grasp of the way of talking about race in a way that is subtle, now you see it, now you don’t, but ultimately defending the racial order. They can defend white privilege by saying things such as, “I am all for equal opportunity, I want people to be judged by the content of their characters and not by the color of their skin.
BONILLA-SILVA: Therefore I’m against affirmative action, because it is discrimination in reverse.” So the language of liberalism is used to maintain systemic white privilege. And they don’t see that, they don’t even process that because they think they are beyond race. So they are the normative people, they are the universal people, they are the raceless people.
ZIEGLER: I’m not sure I understand what it means to feel white. Hmm. I have to be honest, I haven’t thought a lot about that, because I don’t go around thinking about my whiteness. Well here in California, I’m a minority, I don’t get treated like a minority, but as a white person, I’m a minority. I never really took a lot of pride in our majority status, to me it wasn’t important because to me color shouldn’t matter; we are all equal. As a white person you’re not even allowed to feel like you’re a white person it’s not even a part of your identity because inherently there’s something wrong about that, or racist about it. First of all, there’s no “we”, there is no “we” the notion of a “we” when it comes to white people is hilarious. I mean, there’s absolutely no “we” in white.
MATT BARRETO, ASSOC. PROF., POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIV. OF WASHINGTON: I think you have two possible outlets for whites. One is there will be whites who are liberally oriented and progressive on racial issues. I think the other is that you will see whites start to feel alienated, anxious, nervous.
QUESTION OFF CAMERA: Should whites pursue their interest in a self-conscious, organized way?
ZIEGLER: The answer to that question is no. The media narrative is so set that any discussion at all of white people, even as a culture – forget about white power – is inherently racist and therefore illegitimate. So not only is it morally questionable, it’s logistically impossible.
BENJAMIN: Oh it’s true that in political debate in this age you can not defend whiteness explicitly. But you sure as hell can defend whiteness by attacking public spending, by attacking the public school system, by attacking immigrants, etc. Whiteness defends itself in very coded language.
FOOTAGE: ROMNEY AD: Under Obama’s plan you wouldn’t have to work, and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare. I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this message.
BENJAMIN: When Mitt Romney frames the campaign as opportunity versus entitlement, that’s part of the long-term racial code. It’s almost exactly the way that Richard Nixon framed his Southern Strategy. In other words, white people are about discipline, industry and opportunity, everything they obtain is through their own hard work. Whereas an entitlement society is about undocumented workers and people in the cities.
FOOTAGE: NEWT GINGRICH: President Obama is the most successful food-stamp president in American history.
BENJAMIN: Now yes food stamp usage has gone up under Obama’s tenure, but so has Medicaid. And you never heard Newt Gingrich call Obama the Medicaid president. That’s because Medicaid isn’t tied up with race in the way food stamps are.
ZIEGLER: Now if the economy gets really bad, then all bets are off, because if you don’t have a job you have nothing to lose. So if we see unemployment continue to go up, I think we’re going to see some major problems in the race arena.
BENJAMIN: For the first time in 70 years, the majority of whites believe that their children will not be financially better off than themselves. And the fear is that traditional institutions and markers in this country feel broken to many white people. The classroom, the nature of work, the economy, the border itself. I think that people attribute all this quote/unquote chaos in this country to race because the real factors are so abstract. How do you explain and understand globalization? How do you explain and understand technological change? What you do understand is: “That was my dentist’s office and now there’s a Spanish sign above it.”
ZIEGLER: One tribe is losing power to another tribe, that tribe’s going to get upset. And when they have nothing to lose, that’s when we’re going to have to really watch out.
BENJAMIN: A great nodal point of white anxiety is that the American Dream is broken. And if the American Dream is broken, whiteness itself is broken.
BROWNSTEIN: One of the most striking findings in public opinion is that African Americans and Hispanics are now considerably more optimistic than whites are about the prospects for the next generation. For African American families, you know, they may look back two generations and have a sharecropping great-grandmother. Hispanics, same thing, can go back two generations or even one generation to abject poverty in rural Mexico. And they can see within in the life of their own family, doors opening, opportunities being created. Whereas if you’re a blue-collar, white worker in Toledo, Ohio, you remember when you were a kid, either your own dad, or the guy down the block pulling out on Friday afternoon with the boat attached to the truck going to his cottage by the lake. And that life is just not available to you anymore.
WISE: What I think is happening is this: white folks are looking at the future of the country, they’re looking at an America that no longer is defined exclusively by us, where we no longer have hegemony. So relative to your expectation level, relative to what you thought you were entitled to, it seems like the whole world is ending.
ZIEGLER: There are a lot of very good people who listen to talk radio who earnestly, sincerely believe they are losing their country. And they are scared, they are scared for their own personal financial well being and they’re afraid for the future of their country.
CARD: Blacks: What Our Ancestors Wanted
KENNEDY: When Barack Obama was elected there was this extraordinary feeling. I think it was a combination of the Emancipation Proclamation, Joe Louis defending his title, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
HUTCHINGS: African Americans had high hopes about what it would mean for Obama to be in the White House. For black Americans that hope was primarily about the symbolism of a black family as the first family. There’s no denying that Obama’s presidency has nevertheless coincided with bad economic times in black America. Depression-era level double-digit unemployment, home ownership plummeting, not because Obama is necessarily responsible for these outcomes, but it’s hard to deny that they have occurred in spite of his presence in the White House. Now four years into that term has some of the bloom wore off of that rose so to speak? Uh, probably a little.
BENJAMIN: We still need meaningful urban policy; we still need meaningful economic policy. The symbolism of his being the first black president only takes you so far.
CLAIRE JEAN KIM, ASSOC. PROF., POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE: Within the black community we see some very visible critics: Tavis Smiley and Cornell West touring the country with their poverty tour asking the president, “Why aren’t you paying attention to poverty?” The Congressional Black Caucus, Representative Maxine Waters saying, “You’re not paying attention to black unemployment rates, which are the highest they’ve been in 25 years.”
HUTCHINGS: American voters in general are vulnerable to symbolism. Black Americans are as vulnerable to that as any other group of Americans. And unfortunately politicians are aware of it and they can take advantage of it. What Obama has done is what Democratic candidates have done for generations, or certainly for many years. Not talk about race unless they have to.
KIM: He ran a completely de-racialized campaign where he was essentially cuing white Americans and non-black Americans the entire campaign I think: “Don’t worry, I’m not too black, I’m not just going to represent black interests.”
BENJAMIN: Barack Obama is a shrewd manager of his brand identity.
FOOTAGE: PRESIDENT OBAMA (Singing): I’m so in love with you.
BENJAMIN: And part of his brand identity indeed maximizes his black skin as a forward positive element.
DEBRA DICKERSON, AUTHOR, THE END OF BLACKNESS: When President Obama checked African American or black on the census, and nothing else, I was embarrassed for him. He’s done what he had to do to be politically viable. I don’t fault him for that, but it is a repudiation of his mother and the grandmother who raised him. Oh, it’s just so sad, this little existential box we allow other people to keep… I won’t even say it’s nailed shut, it’s like a jail cell door that isn’t locked. Push the door open and walk out.
LOPEZ: For me it’s helpful to think about Barack Obama as being both black and biracial and that those things are both important. I think to take one and not look at the other is rather unfortunate.
KENNEDY: As a pragmatic electoral politician, there are limits, very sharp limits on what Barack Obama can say, how much he can push the race question. Even a person as powerful as the President of the United States has got to watch his mouth with respect to the race issue.
STEELE: I look at it this way, this is a two-way street. It is as much about what the opportunities that are afforded to African Americans are as it is what we afford ourselves. Do we get hung up on white racist America and have to deal with that or do we like, “Yeah, yeah we know what’s there, but that’s not going to stop me from you know, creating the cotton gin?”
DICKERSON: Frederick Douglass, a fugitive slave in the 1850s, was miles ahead of racial thinking now. Carter G. Woodson, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison—these were people who were focused on what black people could and should do. They spent so little time talking about white people.
FOOTAGE: JAMES BALDWIN: Do you still think, I gather, that the nigger is necessary? Well it’s unnecessary to me, so he must be necessary to you. I give you your problem back. You’re the nigger baby; it isn’t me.
DICKERSON: Now, the duty of all black people who—especially those of us who came after the Civil Rights Movement, what are we being called upon to do? We don’t have to go out and face Bull Connor. All we have to do is step into the freedom that our ancestors won for us.
KENNEDY: A lot of people have envisioned the idea of blacks leveraging their electoral power by being more in play. If somebody is in play you gotta bargain harder to get ‘em.
FOOTAGE: MIA LOVE: Who looks at the seemingly impossible and says, “I can do that,” that’s the America I know.
KENNEDY: At the same time, there is a good reason why blacks overwhelmingly have gone Democratic. The Democratic Party has been more welcoming, more attentive to policies that will advance, you know, black people’s interests by far.
DICKERSON: I have great friends who are black Republicans and you know I talk to them like, “Convince me, make it possible for me to go to some of your meetings. “ I actually did at one point, I made a few overtures but I just didn’t think I could stomach being around that kind of institutional hard heartedness.
DICKERSON: The Democrats drive me bananas. That Kumbaya, granola and Birkenstock take on politics which I think is patronizing, you know, with the adherence to the sort of ridiculous notions of what’s racist and what isn’t.
STEELE: The fact of the matter is, you need to have that conversation and you cannot allow the left, nor the right to stereotype your expectations.
CARD: Asians: Honorary Whites
KIM: There’s a handful of scholars arguing Asian Americans are the new whites. And the kind of things they point to, high educational attainment, high median household incomes, intermarriage rates with whites, low residential segregation rates compared to Latinos and blacks, so we see it along those kinds of measures, one could argue Asian Americans are doing better than other minority groups.
BONILLA-SILVA: As a black Puerto Rican I can tell you the average person from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan is darker than me. Yet, in the social order they are viewed as honorary whites, and in some cases, white. So because we have this self-selected group with great command of the English language, with a cultural capital, and they’re doing quite well by adopting the logic of the system.
FOOTAGE: GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL: I’m Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana. Tonight we witnessed a great moment in the history of our republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African American president stepped forward to address the state of our union.
BENJAMIN: The Bobby Jindals and these people should be held definitely accountable to race as it exists right now. He is the governor of Louisiana and look what’s going on with economic inequality in Louisiana. He gets to have his cake and eat it too. He gets to say we’re in a post-racial America and yet he benefits as a sort of Affirmative action case as someone who represents diversity.
WISE: They are all speaking out of a playbook that was not written by their communities. It is not a playbook, political, ideological or philosophical, that came out of South Asian American communities or African American communities. These are playbooks written by white think tanks, by white policy experts, and I think just cause they’re people of color, doesn’t change that the project to which they’re attached is a very white one.
BARRETO: This stereotype that is passed along to highly successful Chinese or Indian, South Asians, is one that allows whites, especially conservative whites, to sort of relieve their racial guilt.
FOOTAGE: MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Dinesh D’Souza. [APPLAUSE]
DINESH D’SOUZA: Thank you very much. It’s a real pleasure to follow Bobby Jindal. I want to welcome you all to Indian American morning at CPAC. Woo-hoo. [LAUGHTER]
KIM: On the one hand Asian Americans are seen as being between black and white, right, on sort of an inferiority-superiority scale. But on the other hand, Asian Americans uniquely in American history are seen as perpetually other and perpetually foreign, often as agents of foreign powers, which is something you usually don’t see black Americans – until President Obama, you don’t usually see them depicted that way. There’s always this implicit idea that you’re more loyal to your racial group or your country of ancestry, than you are the United States, there’s always that sense of threat that you might be the agent of racial retribution.
WISE: Asian Americans don’t have the same connection to whiteness which may have been the case 20, and 30, and 40 years ago where the understanding was you sort of have to get with whiteness to succeed. And I think that confounds a lot of conservatives who figure, “Oh we can get the Asian vote, they’re hard-working, industrious, entrepreneurial people, they’ll naturally respond to our message.” And yet in election after election the Asian American community votes 2 to 1 for the more liberal candidates. So they must know something about themselves and their interests that white Americans and particularly white conservative Americans haven’t figured out.
CARD: Latinos: Rewriting the Narrative
BARRETO: The idea of race itself as we understand it here in the United States is completely different than the concept of what race means in Latin America, whether it’s Mexico, Brazil, Argentina – you pick the place. Latin America has a very different conceptualization of race.
BARRETO: Latinos draw their racial and ethnic heritage from a mix, from Spanish conquistadores, to African slaves, to Aztecs or Incans, and that a little bit of all of that is in all of us. That’s not to say that in Latin America that there’s not racism. There’s terrible racism. We don’t have the same categorization in Latin America that we do in the United States. When they try to put Latinos into these boxes, “Well these Dominicans, they’re black,” or, “Some of these Cubans or these people from Argentina, aren’t they really white? These are whites.” They don’t see themselves as white. You can have Latinos who have way, way darker skin than an African American and not consider themselves African American. And you can have Latinos that are extremely light-skinned and would not consider themselves white.
MADRID: The standard of what race means in this country is the African American versus white experience. But African Americans are the only ethnic group that came here in the numbers that they did by force and were enslaved. It’s an ugly scar on the country’s history, I get it. But that has become the standard through which we view identity politics in this country, and it is a false model.
MADRID: But there’s also this realization that from the Latino community that wait a second, maybe we’re not this oppressed minority group, maybe this system that we have been politically railing against, and this narrative that we bought into is a myth. Are Latinos going to continue the politics of being a racially aggrieved minority, or will it take on a more aspirational quality as it rises rapidly into the middle class?
ANA PUIG, CO-CHAIR, KITCHEN TABLE PATRIOTS: I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I moved here when I was 14, back in 1986. We came with eight suitcases and started from scratch. The United States is truly the land of opportunity. You can come with nothing, but if you’re willing to work hard, you can make something of yourself. I think claiming that you are a minority gives you an advantage. And you know how I filled out my census form? I put myself down as a Caucasian.
QUESTION OFF CAMERA: No Latina?
QUESTIONS OFF CAMERA: No Hispanic?
PUIG: Nope. Because I don’t believe in using that to my advantage. I wanna be able to become somebody, not because of the color of my skin but because of my hard work and my intelligence. Enough of the racial talk. Let’s talk about us all loving the United States of America, whether you have a green card, you’re here illegally, or you were born in the United States, we’re all here because this country can provide something for us and we love this country.
WISE: There’s always been this tension within Latino communities between the lure of whiteness, which is very real, and the reality of white supremacy.
LOPEZ: I think that how much or how little discrimination there is in the United States will affect the way that Latino identity is formed.
LOPEZ: The United States government officially recognized on the census in a way, that Latinos are an ethnic group and that they’re not a racial group. What I argue is that Latinos are actually being racialized, because there is meaning assigned to their identity, because there are consequences for those identities. It means that people say, “Hey, you know, I come from an immigrant past and I know what that is and I’m going to do what I can to protect the well-being of immigrants.
GALINDO FOOTAGE: MALE: —and empower [INAUDIBLE] nation.
CARLOS GALINDO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: We want to think that we’re easily accepted by all Anglos and that we are now also Anglos but we’re not.
GALINDO FOOTAGE: “Who’s leaching off the tax payers?” “The illegals. We can’t balance the budget if we have all these illegals coming into this country. My healthcare is 500 dollars a month, if the illegals weren’t here I would be paying 220 per month. My house was broken into two times by illegals… “But let me finish.” “I’m tired of the illegals. If we have to hire 10,000 more sheriffs like Joe Arpiao then I’ll go for that.” “So how is that wanting smaller government? That makes no sense, it’s an oxymoron.”
GALINDO: Although we love this country as much, we’re US citizens, we are looked at differently. That’s a fact.
GALINDO FOOTAGE: Do you understand how damaging and traumatic you are to me? Because you are too ignorant to absorb anything.
MADRID: So you’re seeing the extremes on both sides dig in and it foments this unrest.
MADRID: We have a habit of retrenching on the race issue because we don’t know how to positively engage. The millennial generation, they are a step removed from the immigrant experience, very sensitive to it because their parents were immigrants, but they were born here. Their entire political outlook is very, very different. They have no political experience or history with that issue, even though it’s so deeply engrained in the language of Latino political discourse. Increasingly, as Latinos enter what I call this third generation, the ethnic politics don’t mean anything.
LOPEZ: We need to keep our finger on the pulse of the youth. In my class we talk about issues of racial authenticity and people challenging how Mexican are you. And sometimes I don’t know if that resonates very well with my students. I don’t know if it’s really the language of younger people today. There are some times where I feel it is difficult for them to name race specifically, to feel comfortable in doing that, or to think that it even has meaning in their lives. And maybe that will actually mean an opening up of possibilities of what it means to be Latino, rather than a constriction.
BARRETO: Racial hierarchies are getting turned on their heads all over the country. Some places in the Bay Area where African Americans are holding quinceañeras and having piñatas at their party because that’s the dominant culture, Latino.
MUSIC: Timoteo El Charro Negro singing in spanish
BARRETO: El Paso is another place that the Latino identity is the overwhelming identity. You have a soon-to-be Congress member who just unseated a Latino in the primary and he goes by “Beto”; he is adopting the Latino identity. He speaks Spanish and he’s a white guy.
FOOTAGE: BETO O’ROURKE AD IN SPANISH
CARD: A Certain Displacement
MADRID: Up until very, very recently, the last couple of decades, racial discourse was about black and white. We’re at a point now where we’re transcending that because we have become a much more diverse nation.
BARRETO: Latinos are now the second largest racial, ethnic group in the United States after whites. We need to stop living in the old black/white paradigm because it’s not here. It hasn’t been here for 30 years.
STEELE: It’s foundational. The country’s built on it. That’s 400 years of history, you just don’t—it’s not going to walk away and get wiped off the map because one sector of the population’s numbers have grown larger or is now a majority. It’s not going to happen.
KENNEDY: Is it the case that black America is going to feel a certain sort of displacement from being the iconic victims of racial mistreatment in the United States? Yeah, probably.
KENNEDY: There has been a racial narrative where slavery was there, where certain figures, you know, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr.—those are sort of the iconic names. Well, things were changing, new episodes, new figures, new narratives.
MADRID: America can only be America with immigrants and immigratory influx. That has always been the American narrative…this infusion of these hard-working folks are maybe a reflection of what we used to be.
CARD: The Republican Conundrum
FOOTAGE: JOHN MCCAIN: A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him [BOOS], please, on being elected the next President of the country that we both love.
KENNEDY: The Republican Party is still grappling with this issue of how much does it want to repudiate the image of itself as the white man’s party.
BROWNSTEIN: Over 90% of the total votes in the Republican primaries this year came from whites. That’s who is picking their nominee and that’s a pretty tight leash on their ability to reach out to new constituencies that most of them recognize they need to embrace in the long run.
FOOTAGE: MITT ROMNEY (NALEO 2012): And I’m going to address the problem of illegal immigration, in a civil and resolute manner. We may not always agree but when I make a promise to you I will keep it.
BROWNSTEIN: On the other hand, the loudest voices in their current coalition are bitterly opposed to the most obvious things they would do to reach out to Hispanics, and it’s not clear how you make the leap from the voters you have today to the voters you hope to reach tomorrow.
BROWNSTEIN: You saw the pressure in the primaries this year. When Mitt Romney wanted to outflank Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry on the right, he chose immigration.
FOOTAGE: REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES DEBATE: If you don’t deport them how do you send them home?
MITT ROMNEY: Well the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide that they could do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.
BARRETO: No one thought that Mitt Romney was actually going to lose this thing, yet he moved so far to the right to try to shore up that white conservative base that he has now put himself, and any other Republican surrogates, because they all have to stay on message, they can’t go back to the center and have a reasonable discussion with Latinos.
FOOTAGE: MITT ROMNEY: Hi, how are you today.
BARRETO: They’re not concerned about African Americans at all.
MADRID: It’s not that Latino voters don’t like the Republican Party. They just don’t like Republicans. And that’s for good reason. It’s the tone and the tenor with which we address issues.
FOOTAGE: CONGRESSMAN STEVE KING: We can also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn’t kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.
BROWNSTEIN: Bush tried to do it—2006 at 23% Republicans voting for an immigration bill that included a pathway to citizenship. By the next year, as the talk radio base got inflamed, that completely collapsed.
TALK RADIO (unknown): “This is regarding immigration. I’m really glad about Arizona.” “Everyday I see an illegal immigrant in a chair being pushed around by his wife, smiling as they go, collecting free care from the United States of America, laughing all the way to the bank.” “You’re a foreigner. Shut your mouth or get out.”
BROWNSTEIN: By now there’s not a single Republican other than perhaps Lindsey Graham that would endorse a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. So this is the conundrum: you understand what you have to do to reach out, but your current coalition is really averse.
PUIG: I understand the pressing need that we have to reach out to the Latin community in this country, to the African American community in this country, because I think the Democratic Party has done a really great job at getting the message through to them that they are the humanitarian party, they are the ones there to help you know those poor people that are at a disadvantage. And when—I don’t think that’s really the truth.
STEELE: We know Daddy King was a Republican. The NAACP co-founded by Republicans back in 1909 and I have chastised our party for, for breaking that link quite frankly and abandoning the opportunities to reconnect and rebuild along, not just the social conservative lines, but tapping into that entrepreneurial spirit which has historic—I mean we’ve always been, even from the early days of slavery an entrepreneurial people. We’ve found a way to build something out of nothing, to create opportunities where none exist.
KENNEDY: My mother’s politics in many respects, would be—would resonate with Republican Party notions in terms of social issues, in terms of fiscal issues too in certain respects. But my mother would not think of voting for a Republican presidential candidate because I think in her view, and I think rightly so, she feels that the Republican Party has not fully and thoroughly and sincerely repudiated uh anti-black Racism.
CARD: The Democratic Conundrum
FOOTAGE: Among the half-dozen Democratic candidates, George McGovern came into the convention with a decided edge.
HUTCHINGS: The way I’ve often looked that the two-party system is that we have two parties in this country, one party of racial conservatism and one part of racial moderation. We don’t have a party of racial liberalism. During the 1960s racial liberalism of the Democratic Party led to this decline of support among white voters. Racial liberalism means an assault on, well on white privilege. And an assault on white privilege is not popular among whites. The DLC emerged in the aftermath of the failed election of Walter Mondale in 1984, when it tried to re-brand the Democratic Party so that it wasn’t the party of minorities and uh indeed, Bill Clinton grew out of the movement to try to moderate the ideological image of the party.
FOOTAGE: BILL CLINTON AD: They’re a new generation of Democrats, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and they don’t think the way the old Democratic party did. They’ve called for an end to welfare as we know it so welfare can be a second chance, not a way of life.
HUTCHINGS: Clinton was fairly adroit at discussing race, but doing so symbolically but not giving ground substantively and to some respects, Obama does, well comparable levels of ideological gymnastics to at least make some symbolic overtures to their racial minority base.
FOOTAGE: PRESIDENT OBAMA (NALEO 2008): We need immigration reform that finally brings the 12 million people who are here illegally out of the shadows.
BARRETO: He made the statement, “My first year of office, I will pass comprehensive immigration reform”. He didn’t say, “But listen, along the way, I’m going to deport a million and a half people.” He has record deportation levels. Each year of the Obama administration has been more than any year that Bush ever did.
MADRID: The President did pivot and make a significant if largely symbolic gesture with the Dream Act voters a week before the NALEO conference when he hadn’t done anything for three years before.
FOOTAGE: PRESIDENT OBAMA (NALEO 2012): I’ve said time and again, “Send me the Dream Act, I will sign it right away.” And I’m still waiting to work with anyone from either party that is committed to real reform.
BARRETO: If that had not happened, that policy change on June 15, I think he would have had a serious enthusiasm problem among Latinos.
HUTCHINGS: It’s a difficult dance for Democratic politicians, not just Obama. They’ve had to somehow manage to fashion a set of policies that simultaneously appeal to blacks and browns, and Asian Americans as well, even as they try to hold on to white voters by trying to distance themselves from affirmative action, expansive welfare policy, expansive immigration policy.
MADRID: Everything that is happening to the Democratic Party is all very predictable. Every other demographic group, whether it was the Irish, the Poles, Eastern Europeans, coming at the turn of the last century, Ellis Island, as immigrants became Democrats, urban Democrats. Immigrants don’t come to this country looking for capital gains tax cuts. They have become institutionalized players within the Democratic Party. So there’s no question there is going to be some short term gain for Democrats. The medium- and long-term prognosis is not good and the reason why is because they are fundamentally a coalition party. There’s no underlying ideology that’s keeping all of these disparate, diverse groups together, and the only coalescing glue is an anti-Republican sentiment. That’s not a good long-term strategy.
CARD: The Next America
LOPEZ: If there is anything that’s more difficult to talk about or as difficult to talk about as race is to talk about class.
BENJAMIN: Sometimes racial debate in this country is a convenient excuse for powerful people of all races to not talk about class. “Oh, is so and so racist? Oh, does so and so hate Latinos? Oh, is so-and-so dating an Asian?” And we love these silly racial debates, I mean when you know when there’s a racial controversy…Gates and his beer.
FOOTATE: BEER SUMMIT: It just happened and we can now show you the picture, at least a few moments, the White House press cameras were allowed in to capture this beer between…
BENJAMIN: You’ll get a lot of Google hits, it’ll trend, but really this country is avoiding like the Dickens a meaningful class analysis.
DICKERSON: We’ve all been trained in this very knee-jerk, jingoistic attitude, there are no classes in America. Yeah okay, there’s no classes in America. Excuse me, are you familiar with the concept of the hood, or the trailer park? Who goes to substandard schools and who doesn’t? And looking at that racially is a smoke screen.
DICKERSON: Had the one percent not taken absolutely everything away from me, I strongly suspect that I would still be in my cushy apartment in Northwest D.C. going to my cushy dinner parties, and being on fancy panels saying, ‘We really need to work within the system.’ But I don’t see anything working short of the kind of thing that Occupy is doing. Just in your face, in your face, in your face. It was a huge mistake on the part of the 1%, letting white people know that they didn’t matter either. They’re rescinding their whiteness.
DICKERSON: They’re niggerizing white people. The great thing about that statement ‘We’re all niggers to the 1%’ is that when I say that to white people in the movement they just go, ‘Word,’ you know, they get it.
STEELE: When we talk about poor we immediately jump to black or we immediately jump to Hispanic and what we need to talk about when we talk about poor is American people living in poverty regardless of the color of their skin.
LOPEZ: I think what’s interesting, you know, about the Occupy movement is, is this language of the 99 versus the 1. Um and if people identify with the 99 that’s a different type, that’s a different type of consciousness altogether.
BARRETO: They were able to absolutely able to inject the 1% or 99% to sort of divide and really shine the light on the maldistribution of wealth in this country. But in terms of a long-term agenda, I think that they will not be as successful. It really appears to be a movement that is ideal for a younger cohort, a cohort who’s at a time in their lives that they have very little resources and they’re also at a time in their life where they maybe have a little extra time to be able to have those rallies.
ZEPEDA-MILLAN: The Occupy movement is still a very white movement, right? And I believe one of the reasons why is because of their tactics and strategies. Latinos need to work. We have one of the highest labor force participation rates in the country. So choosing the tactic of not going to work isn’t going to be one that will necessarily resonate with or that Latinos could do even if they wanted to. We don’t have that class privilege.
BENJAMIN: And this is not a black/white issue, it’s not a brown/white issue, it’s the 1 percent/99 percent issue. When the elites have abandoned the public sector—they’re not putting their kids in the military, they’re not putting their kids in the public schools—they’ve abandoned this country.
BROWNSTEIN: One of the biggest challenges we face as a country is what could be literally decades of structural, political, and economic conflict between what I would like to call the Brown and the Gray. Under-eighteen generation, 47% nonwhite. On the other hand, 80% of today’s seniors are white. A lot of older whites who look at this young population that is predominantly nonwhite say, “Why should I pay for them to go to school? Why should I pay for their healthcare?” For people who they don’t really see as part of their legacy.
BARRETO: As those Boomers age and want to have access to social security, huge government expensive program, Medicare, huge expensive government program, they’re going to be looking to protect their resources and think, “What a minute. Can the federal government afford these other policies?” That was the healthcare debate. It’s not that they’re against government spending. They’re not. They don’t want any government spending on people who are not like them, and that includes blacks, Latinos, immigrants and poor people.
BROWNSTEIN: The reality is unless we move those kids into the middle class, we’re not going to have the earnings to pay the payroll taxes to fund the social security and Medicare for the retiring white baby boom.
BROWNSTEIN: Who are the retiring white baby boomers going to sell their houses to if this enormous millennial generation, dominated by minority kids, is stuck in the lower-middle class and never a ascends? Are we going to do what we have to do to get those kids into the middle class or are we going to try to go around the world and import talent because that’s easier to do than to get a kid from South Central, LA into graduate school. That’s a pretty damning statement about what we think we’re capable of as a country.
KENNEDY: I think that all too little attention is being paid to the question, what do we want. We want racial justice, everybody says that. But what is it? Do we want to continue to recognize and to nurture racial collectivities or do we wanna do away with all of that, we wanna just be individuals? And I think we are just beginning to grapple with that.
MADRID: We are rewriting the racial narrative in this country; we’re changing the very construct of who we are. It’s innately American what is going on right now, that’s why it’s a positive development, it’s just incredibly scary to people.
BENJAMIN: I think the black/white racial divide is a diminishing idea, especially as this country becomes browner. Part of me is thrilled that you have this generation that isn’t growing up with all that loaded baggage of the Civil Rights Movement and they see this country, and they see themselves, and they see the world with new, fresh eyes. So yes, we need a new space of post-racial thinking. But it’s not just symbolic and wishful thinking, that we can actually measure it.
LOPEZ: Race is always happening, it’s always being made. I think the way that we experience it in maybe one time in our lives is going to be different from another. I mean we’re always working things out, we’re all works in progress. But one thing about race that we should know for sure is that it’s not static.
[END OF AUDIO]