Los Angeles Times

The GOP is ready to talk about racism (against white people)

- JEAN GUERRERO @jeanguerre

Whereas the Republican

Party once claimed it was “colorblind,” now it embraces race-conscious rhetoric. The era of Donald Trump’s dog whistle has given way to Tucker Carlson’s explicit politics of white grievance.

It’s impossible to escape GOP propaganda about a war on white people.

Last month, former Trump aide Garrett Ziegler described the House Jan. 6 committee as a “Bolshevist­ic anti-white campaign.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich imagined upa “cult of anti-white racism.”

The Fox News host ratcheted it up a notch by calling Democrats “openly and very aggressive­ly anti-white” in a segment that complained about immigratio­n and falsely conjured up an open border.

These fantasies build on hysteria manufactur­ed by right-wing grifters about “critical race theory,” maligned as “anti-white,” and assist the mainstream­ing of white supremacis­t propaganda about immigrants “replacing” so-called legacy Americans.

In January, right-wing media consistent­ly framed President Biden’s pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court as “racist” against white people. After Carlson falsely told millions of viewers that white people don’t qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine, Trump echoed him at a rally. “If you’re white, you don’t get the vaccine,” he said. (In fact, white people are overrepres­ented in getting vaccinated.)

Delusions of persecutio­n among white people have fueled a surge in litigation, often invoking the Constituti­on’s equal protection clause. State efforts to respond to disproport­ionate COVID-related deaths among people of color by prioritizi­ng them for antiviral treatments were thwarted by such lawsuits and legal threats, which have undoubtedl­y been lethal.

Other lawsuits have stalled attempts to address systemic racism as well, such as a Biden loan forgivenes­s program for historical­ly marginaliz­ed farmers that was stopped by an injunction last year. Then there are two major lawsuits against affirmativ­e action in college admissions that are before the Supreme Court and could reverse decades of civil rights progress.

Plaintiffs’ invocation­s of “equal protection” are a sham; the goal is not equality. Legal strategist Edward Blum, who orchestrat­ed the affirmativ­e action lawsuits, gets millions of dollars in support from DonorsTrus­t, a right-wing dark money organizati­on that also donates to unapologet­ically white nationalis­t publicatio­ns such as Vdare.

Blum was also behind the lawsuit that gutted the Voting Rights Act and others that challenged improved representa­tion for Black and Latino voters as “racial gerrymande­ring.”

Another one of the most litigious groups in this space is America First Legal, led by the architect of Trump’s most racist immigratio­n policies, Stephen Miller. His group sues to stop policies that promote racial justice by arguing that they discrimina­te against whites.

Ian Haney López, a law professor at UC Berkeley, told me that the use of white grievance to rationaliz­e racist oppression has a long history in this country, dating to slavery. It lost mainstream acceptabil­ity after World War II and the atrocities of Adolf Hitler.

In the 1960s, opponents of the civil rights movement brought it back in disguise. “The forces of white dominance realized they could use a ‘colorblind’ argument to say the racial status quo has to be preserved,” Haney López said. Under their rationale, he explains, “the most you can do is stop formally oppressing people on an expressly racial basis.”

To go further, race-conscious policies attempting to repair centuries of systemic racism was cast as oppressive to white people.

In a 1964 campaign speech, Barry Goldwater mainstream­ed the idea that antiracism was unconstitu­tional and racist by appealing to “colorblind” fictions: “It has been well-said that the Constituti­on is colorblind. And so it is just as wrong to compel children to attend certain schools for the sake of so-called integratio­n as for the sake of segregatio­n.”

That was nonsense. The Constituti­on never was colorblind. It set race-conscious policies from the beginning, like the “three-fifths” clause from 1787 that counted each enslaved individual as less than a full person. After the Civil War, framers of the 14th Amendment repeatedly rejected efforts to ban considerat­ion of race by the federal government. Congress then passed multiple laws that specifical­ly helped formerly enslaved African Americans on the basis of race.

Sergio Muñoz, policy director at Media Matters for America, says it’s easy to be manipulate­d by “colorblind” rhetoric.

“Instinctua­lly, that sounds right: You don’t want to treat anyone differentl­y on account of race,” Muñoz said. “But what that doesn’t account for is we’re all part of a society that for hundreds of years has been treating people differentl­y on account of race.”

“Colorblind” grifters often invoke the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., quoting his dream of a nation where his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Of course, King was unequivoca­l in his support for affirmativ­e action: “It is obvious that if a man is entered at the starting line in a race 300 years after another man, the first would have to perform some impossible feat in order to catch up with his fellow runner.”

GOP politician­s are now shedding the costume of colorblind­ness. “We’re coming back to an open conversati­on of white people as imperiled by innately inferior groups,” Haney López told me.

“Anti-racist is a code word for antiwhite” was a line from white supremacis­t Bob Whitaker’s early 2000s essay “The Mantra.” Back then, it was fringe. Today, it’s a popular right-wing talking point.

Haney López says wealthy GOP elites advance this ideology to exploit white racial anxieties and consolidat­e power. Ultimately, the campaign will also leave behind working- and middle-class white people.

“We need to talk about racism as a weapon of the power elites that threatens us all,” he told me. “We cannot be siloed.”

Divided, we have no chance against our common enemy.

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