Keith Olbermann Special Comment: Clintons and Race Video

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Countdown with Keith Olbermann Special Comment: Clintons and Race
The issue of race makes a lot of folks uncomfortable -- and that's especially true right now when the nation is closer than ever to electing the first black President of the United States. As my new newspaper column this week shows, many serious people who dominate our political debate have reacted to this historic election and their own queasiness about race by exposing their prejudices.
On one side, you have the ostriches -- the political "thinkers" like Reihan Salam and Michael Lind who look at the Race Chasm and pretend it doesn't exist. These people look at a racially polarized election map, and explain it away with either flippant fact-free stories about Hillary Clinton's "waitress-mom sensibility," or wild theories about Northern European migration trends from a century ago. They expect us to forget that most often the simplest explanation is the most obvious -- especially when it comes to a black-white racial divide that has been a defining characteristic of American culture since our country's inception.
On the other side you have the minstrel show producers -- the media and politicians who are more than thrilled to exploit race and treat African-Americans as less than human. My column offers up all sorts of specific examples of this, but I think Keith Woods of the Poynter Institute summed it up best. Appearing on PBS this week, he said: "You see a full vocabulary for talking about white Americans in this debate, from blue-collar, a euphemism for white blue-collar workers. We talk about lunch-bucket Democrats. We talk about the soccer mom and the NASCAR dad, all of which are euphemisms in the national discourse for white Americans. And then we talk about black people, as though they are all the same, with pretty much all the same views."
Each side is expressing a form of bigotry. In denying the racial divide exists, the ostriches are telling African-Americans that racism is just their imagination. In other words, the whitewashing (no pun intended) legitimizes racism by pretending it doesn't exist. The minstrel show producers are more honest than the ostriches -- they are overtly telling African-Americans that they are unimportant, even though that's positively false in both the human and political sense.
The silver lining in all of this is the fact that -- despite the ostriches -- we may start to have a much-needed national conversation about race, to the great consternation of wealthy white pundits like Bill Kristol. As all of this racism oozes out of the political establishment for all to see, we can recognize just how bigoted American culture is and recognition is the first step towards addressing a problem.
Another primary day, another reemergence of the Race Chasm. With a population that's 7.5 percent black, Kentucky fits right into the Race Chasm, and not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton is favored to win. In Oregon, the population is just 1.9 percent black - outside the Race Chasm - and Barack Obama is favored to win. As I've always said, it's hard to say race is singularly responsible for any given election result. But clearly, the Race Chasm dynamic is at play.
To review what the Race Chasm is: In states with very large African American population, racial politics is a major force, but the African American population is able to offset the segment of the white vote that is racially motivated against a black candidate. In states with very few African Americans, racial politics just isn't a part of the debate. But in states with a moderately sized African American population, racial politics exists, but the black community isn't large enough to offset the segment of the white vote that is racially motivated. The Race Chasm - ie. those states in the middle like Kentucky - are more than 6 percent but less than 17 percent black. They have been the states that have given Clinton most of her wins.
Tags americans, barack, bill, black, card, clinton, hard, hillary, jackson, jesse, john, mccain, obama, people, race, racist, white, working

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