Monday, June 09, 2008

NY Times Blogging Heads: Is Racism Over?

I love the New York Times, although lately I've had very little time to indulge in it. On occasion I've noted a link to 'Bloggingheads', but 'till today never followed it. The Bloggingheads topic featured on the NY Times online edition today caught my attention and I took the leap. The format of Bloggingheads is mostly that of two participants, seen in a split video screen, discussing a topic via an internet video feed. It is non-moderated and free flowing.

(The Bloggingheads video follows lower down. The video may not be visible if you're reading this post outside of my blog).

Is Racism Over (in US Politics)?
In this 'edition' of Bloggingheads two (black) academics discuss the Obama-Clinton primary race, which has since concluded. In one or two of the states that Hillary Clinton took, race seemingly played a decisive issue in voters' minds. Simply put white voters voted for the white candidate. Does this support the notion that racism is still very much active in American politics or is there a more complex explanation? This kind of discussion can off-course be very gloomy and dark. However, the two academics paint a very interesting and nuanced picture. One which gives hope that non-racialism may have taken a few steps forward in the States.

Their discussion is also one which in my view looks at racism from different angles, not simply white on black. A very refreshing aspect, which is sorely lacking - although not totally absent - in South African deliberation on this very important matter. Their analysis goes where few discussions tend to, that is to a place where you also take a critical look at the validity of ideas which would normally be used to defend your own 'position'. I'm going to be keeping an eye out for these two guys, it's worth the trouble!

By the way, the 'two guys' are John McWhorter of the Manhattan Institute and Glenn Loury of Brown University.

Will the presidential election results reflect on racism in the US?
If Barack Obama gets elected as the next US President there will off-course be a very strong argument that America has indeed come a very long way in how it views race. His winning of the Democratic ticket is that already, although we are dealing with the more progressive of the two dominating political parties. One can also argue that in the popular vote, i.e. even more so than in the delegate count, things turned out very evenly for the two Democrats. Thus, for argument's sake, if virtually all Republicans and independents voted for McCain and a large portion of Clinton's supports did the same Obama will end up short by a country mile. That will off-course not automatically signal racist convictions amongst voters. It may be a genuine conviction amongst voters that McCain stands for better policy and is a better leader (not my conviction). A better explanation will probably be that America is still in the hold of politics of fear. But should Obama win the presidential race, and at this stage it seems there is no reason why he couldn't, surely it has to say something about a changing America - at least in as far as racism is concerned?

Obama on racism
It was unavoidable that the topic of race would surface somewhere in the primary race, as it did. Obama handled the issue, I believe, with exceptional well phrased candour and grace. If you missed THE speech on racism, by Obama, during the primaries read the post I wrote on it here (YouTube video of full speech included).

The Bloggingheads video
The very interesting section of the McWhorter & Loury discussion (approx. 6-min) featured on the NY Times' website follows directly below (you'll need a broadband link to watch this).

To view the full discussion, which I recommend, click here (It intro's with a bit of personal banter before diving into deep water - running time = approx. 45-min).

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