Sen. Jim Webb’s back with another rant against affirmative action. In case you missed it, the Virgina politician took to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal late last week to tackle the “myth of white privilege,” and while it has provoked the usual rage and skepticism in some corners, the general consensus seems to be that folks are over it.
First, Webb’s argument: poor white folks exist, too. And they’re not all the same. But they’re still often overlooked because everyone who’s not white benefits from government entitlement programs, namely immigrants of color:
The injustices endured by black Americans at the hands of their own government have no parallel in our history, not only during the period of slavery but also in the Jim Crow era that followed. But the extrapolation of this logic to all “people of color”—especially since 1965, when new immigration laws dramatically altered the demographic makeup of the U.S.—moved affirmative action away from remediation and toward discrimination, this time against whites. It has also lessened the focus on assisting African-Americans, who despite a veneer of successful people at the very top still experience high rates of poverty, drug abuse, incarceration and family breakup.
Charing Ball at The Atlanta Journal Constitution calls Webb’s particular brand of white, citizenship-having angst a perfectly timed throwback to Southern strategy politics. Nothing like touching on the deep-seeded racial anxieties of whites and blacks during a recession to get a few votes. After all, it’s not like immigrants of color are exactly riding the rails of American privilege these days.
Between the Shirley Sherrod scandal and the Tea Party trading jabs with the NAACP over who’s more racist, this summer’s shaping up as a hot house for regressive public debate. All Webb’s op-ed proved is the obvious: that we’re missing out on having productive conversations on race and racism.
Photo: Creative Commons/Rob Shenk