“Kick-a-Nigger” Politics 3

by KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY
Counterpunch

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…. These are people who pay no income tax.”

– Mitt Romney

Welfare is back as the handiest weapon in the racist rhetorical arsenal. It’s back in the speeches of Republican candidates and surrogates, on right wing radio, and even in the language of those young “individualists” who see themselves as politically hip because of their perceived proximity to anarchist types. They believe the poor are poor because they want to be poor. Or are failed individuals. Or have grown so used to poverty that they are satisfied waiting for a check, that they like making the often humiliating trek to the local Department of Social Services office. ‘Welfare’ is back, which is to say ‘kick-a-nigger’ politics is in full swing.

I didn’t invent the term “kick-a-nigger” politics. I first heard it from black, southerner, democratic South Carolina State Senator Kay Patterson.  Patterson is getting along in the years now, but in his younger years he sometimes spoke with a pronounced, folksy, “Ole Black Joe,” “Foghorn Leghorn,” slow drawl or slave dialect whenever he thought circumstances warranted it.  Sometimes it was funny, other times niggerish and embarrassing.  He had lots of sayings like: “When the shit hits the fan everyone in the room gets some on ‘em.”  He would often remind folk of the times when politicians like former SC Governor “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, Strom Thurmond’s godfather, ran for office as a pro-lynching Democrat. This was after Reconstruction, when most southern white politicians rolled back the post-Civil War black gains. They put Jim Crow in place, rewrote state constitutions to codify perpetual white rule, set up ‘separate but equal’ schools and communities. And they ran for office on, as Kay put it, “who could kick-a-nigger the hardest to secure white votes.”

In the black community, kick-a-nigger politics has helped reinforce racial solidarity. Many people of color quickly assumed that the 47 percent Romney was talking about were black and brown people.  Although the African Americanspopulationis estimated at 42 million plus, or 13.6 percent of the total population, even before Romney’s remark sunk in, the talk amongst blacks was pretty much “who you with, Obama or the white man?” Obviously, being poor and receiving government help isn’t a black thing. African Americans are most certainly not 100 percent of Romney’s 47 percent, but they are almost 100 percent against him.

Racial solidarity is a trick bag. During the Democratic Convention, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein my friend Deves Toon, and I were talking on a Charlotte street corner. A young, white, male on a bike interrupted us to let it be known that he was a Ron Paul supporter.  Goading him, I mentioned Paul never took full-on responsibility for the racist articles published in his now defunct newsletter. As if by reflex, he launched into talk of a “culture of dependency” and “welfare.”  I cut him off, called him a racist and said, ‘So you want to start a conversation with a black man with the word welfare coming out your mouth?’  In an instant there he was, playing the victim of the threatening black guy.  “Don’t put your hands in my face, man,” he said, fully aware cops surrounded us.  ‘I have no intentions of putting my hands on you or doing any violence to you,’ I said, tossing in reparations and reminding him how this country was really built on the backs of enslaved African labor.

“Get over it,” he said.

That’s about the time one out of the hundred or so police on the scene stepped in.  The officer, who was black, (and who moments earlier was jokily called “general” by another officer) told us we were “not gonna be disorderly on the corner.” I told him I thought I he was being disorderly for butting into a political dispute. I called him ‘dude’ and suggested that if he intended to arrest me for disorderly conduct then he should just do it. He said he wasn’t, but I wasn’t “gonna be disorderly…” and “my name’s not dude.”  With South Park’s Eric Cartman (“You will respect my a-thor-i-taaay!”) in mind, I sniped, ‘oh, you want to show your authority.’ Then I let it go and walked away, as jail would have kept me from watching Bill Clinton’s speech.

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3 comments

  1. What about those of us who live in countries that do not have the same sort of racial history, and where ‘on welfare’ is not assumed to be synonymous with any race in particular?

    Is it permissible that I can be critical of welfare policies without being tagged racist?

    And if so, is it not permissible for somebody who does live in the United States to criticize welfare policies on the same grounds that I do, which are unrelated to race?

    Please let me know what us po’ dum white folk are permitted to think, and what opinions are auto-banned as RAYCIS.

  2. I just recently linked to an article by Walter Williams that was very critical of the welfare state from a black conservative/libertarian perspective.

    No opinion is banned from this forum, whether the topic is economics, race, or anything else. In six years that I’ve managed this forum and its predecessors, I’ve banned 2 people, both of them for their continued personal attacks on other participants and not for their views on controversial questions.

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