The Yellow King still has me. Jonathan Chait's new essay on race in the Age of Obama is even more poorly reasoned and problematic than its predecessor.

Obama, Racism, and the Presumption of Innocence is a rebuttal to his critics that finds its momentum in a "reasonable" claim that "evidence" must be provided for the"terrifying" accusation that (white) conservatives are racist. Moreover, Chait would like "liberals" to be fair to conservatives by giving them the benefit of the doubt that while the latter's policies may support white supremacy said actors are not in fact racists.

The second claim is easily dismissed. Why presume fairness in the treatment of movement conservatives on matters of race when their political outreach and strategy has, for at least four decades, been predicated on the unfair treatment of people of color, and the use of white racism to mobilize white voters? While they/we may be too generous and forgiving--this is a flaw of ours--black and brown Americans are not that stupid or gullible.

The Republican Party is a white racist organization.

As I alluded to in an earlier essay, by way of metaphor, the post-civil rights era Republican Party is comprised of political arsonists on matters of race and social equality. Because of a fundamental concern for personal and public safety, when I see a white conservative with a can of gasoline, matches, and standing in front of a burning building, I will not for purposes of "fairness" assume that this is just a coincidence.

Chait's first demand that "evidence" must be presented as a means of "proving" white racism (or racist outcomes or intent) is worthy of more attention. There, like many others who excuse-make for White Supremacy as a social fact and quotidian reality, Chait is asserting the opposite of reality in order to force a conversation based on an incorrect assumption which then leads to an erroneous conclusion.

Chait shows this intellectual sleight of hand in the following passage:

A few years ago, Melissa Harris-Perry — in a column ironically accusing Joan Walsh herself of racism — argued that those accused of racism should be considered guilty until proven innocent. “I am baffled by the idea that non-racism would be the presumption and that it is racial bias which must be proved beyond reasonable doubt,” she wrote. “If anything, racial bias, not racial innocence is the better presumption when approaching American political decision-making.” Just how a person so accused could overcome the presumption of racism, Harris-Perry did not explain.

A huge proportion of these intra-left debates concern establishing the boundaries of precisely when and how one liberal can fairly accuse another of racism. When it comes to making such accusations against conservatives, do liberals have any evidentiary standards at all? Reading the liberal objections to my piece, I fail to detect any.

In his defense of the White Right and their racial innocence, Chait is demanding a type of racial habeas corpus as a guarantee that white conservatives will not be victims of the "terrifying" power of racist accusations by liberals and progressives.

On the surface, this is a sensible claim; however, many apparently sensible claims are actually masks and smokescreens for the absurd and ridiculous.

The bodies and lives destroyed by white racism and White Supremacy litter the American past and present, the imaginations and futures that will or would not be, as well as the long-past and of today's moment. Jonathan Chait only has to open his eyes to see them. His racial privilege allows him to ignore them. Others are not so deaf or tin-eared to their cries and yearning.

White Supremacy and white racial animus are dominant social forces in American and world history. White supremacy and white racial animus are not opinions.

Chait's desire for some type of extraordinary proof regarding claims that conservatives (or others) are racist is the white racial frame working through a position of white privilege to create a set of conditions that excuse-make for, and sustain, White Supremacy.

Chait defaults to a position in which claims of racism are somehow exaggerated, made up, or simply not true as applied to white conservatives, is problematic in a subtle way as well: contrary to Chait's suggestion, people of color and others who dare to tell the truth about white racism are not crazy, delusional, hysterical, hyper-emotional, or confused.

Moreover, when a person of color dares to speak about white racism they do so at great personal and professional risk. Contrary to the imagined reality dreamed up by white conservatives and their allies in which white people are "victims" of "anti-white" or "reverse racism", truth-telling about white racism comes with no small amount of risk and cost.

Melissa Harris-Perry was correct. The reasonable working assumption, given the historical power of the colorline in American society, should be that racism and White Supremacy are default variables in the inter-personal and inter-group dynamics between whites and people of color until demonstrated otherwise.

The reality of how White Supremacy works to negatively impact the life chances for non-whites in the United States is one of the most documented facts in the Social Sciences.

The United States, created as a White Republic and Apartheid state, demonstrates its White Supremacist bonafides in the Constitution, a "glorious" pro-slavery and pro-Southern document.

African-Americans have been human property and suffered under Jim and Jane Crow racial terrorism for much longer than they have been full and equal citizens.

The Right-wing's deranged response to Obama's election from both the mouth-breathing Tea Party foot soldiers, and the herrenvolk Republican elite, has been a textbook example of how white racism is a toxin in the body politic of the United States--one for which "generational replacement" will hopefully provide a much needed remedy.

Chait's Obama, Racism, and the Presumption of Innocence, as well as his previous essayThe Color of His Presidency, are useful tools.

To point. The phrase "White Supremacy" has been frequently used in the conversations inspired by Jonathan Chait's debate with Ta-Nehisi Coates about "black cultural pathology".

However, there has not been a clear move to define "White Supremacy" as a foundational concept whose meaning influences the broader debate about the nature of racism and the colorline in post civil rights America.

I would like to remedy that oversight with the following (less than exhaustive) list.

What is White Supremacy?


1. White Supremacy is a complex social phenomenon. It is also a relatively new invention, one that along with the concept of "race", largely came into being with the modern European imperial and colonial projects.

2. White Supremacy is comprised of habits, actions, and beliefs. It is not reliant on the specific intentions of its actors, practitioners, or beneficiaries. White Supremacy also has the power to reorient and reimagine empirical reality for those who have consciously and/or subconsciously internalized and learned its principals and assumptions.

3. Images of terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazis serve as outlier caricatures of racism in the post civil rights era. These cartoon versions of white racism do the work of White Supremacy as a social and political force because they present virulent white racism as an anachronism or the habit of somehow damaged and defective white people who should be ejected from the public square. In colorblind America, "polite" and "respectable" White Supremacy is far more dangerous to the life chances and safety of people of color than the overt racism of the Ku Klux Klan or other racially chauvinistic organizations.

4. In the most basic sense, White Supremacy is a philosophical, material, ethical, economic, scientific, religious, and political system that works to maintain the dominant and relative superior group position of those identified as "white" (and their allies) over those marked as "non-white". Other types of identities such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class simultaneously support the White Supremacist project while also complicating it.

Thus, White Supremacy is the philosophical and systemic umbrella for white racism.

5. Racism is not necessarily the same thing as White Supremacy. Racism is prejudice plus power. Without group power there can be no "racism". In American society, racism by white people is the primary means through which White Supremacy is enacted and made real.

6. White Supremacy is an evolving political project. While American society's laws and practices along the colorline have certainly changed, the relative superior group position of whites over non-whites in the West remains a relative constant.

This is one of the primary fruits of the White Supremacist project.

7. White Supremacy works on an institutional and inter-personal level. Its ultimate goal is securing more resources, power, opportunities, and privileges--material, psychological, or otherwise--for the in-group over the out-group.

White Supremacy involves, both in the present and historically, the systematic transfer of wealth, income, and other resources from non-whites to whites as a general group, and a White elite, in particular.

8. White Supremacy is a racial ideology that works to maintain class inequality. White supremacy also creates a commonsense notion that black and brown Americans are "naturally" poor and disadvantaged.

The racial logic and commonsense of White Supremacy (and a White Racist society) is sustained by not asking about first principles.

For example, what public policy decisions led to white Americans having at least 20 times the wealth of black Americans? Why are urban black and brown communities economically disadvantaged and white communities, i.e. the suburbs, have been materially advantaged by comparison?

White Supremacy as enacted through public policy made those outcomes. White Supremacy creates historical amnesia and myopia in order to prevent those first order questions from being asked or answered in (white) mainstream American public discourse.

9. Colorblind racism is the most recent iteration in a White Supremacist order where it is possible to have "racism without racists", and a black American President, while social and institutional systems still privilege whites over African-Americans and other people of color.

White racial innocence, and a sincere belief by many white folks that they do not hold racist attitudes, or benefit personally or collectively from systemic white racism, is an example of how White Supremacy has evolved to make itself relatively invisible (to willfully ignorant white people) as a dominant social force in American life.

Consequently, one of the deep tensions and challenges surrounding racial discourse in post civil rights America is how to locate a given white person's relationship to a broader system of institutional racism.

10. Austerity, neoliberalism, globalization, and the Culture of Cruelty are some of the most powerful social forces in post civil rights America. White Supremacy does not exist separate or apart from those ideologies and practices.

Chait's effort to make excuses for the racism of contemporary conservatism is mesmerizing. The mental gymnastics are great: Chait is offering up a car accident and demolition derby of intellectual work as he tries to make sense of race in the Age of Obama.

Ultimately, Jonathan Chait is providing a teachable moment about the nature of White Supremacy in a colorblind era, one that may be quite contrary to the one he had originally intended.

White racial terrorism in places like Tulsa and East Saint Louis was the tyranny of white supremacy in human form, bombing, killing, raping, and burning black people alive and their communities to the ground. Anti-racism has created no such terrors or blood-letting where white conservatives are victims.

I would like to develop my earlier thoughts on Jonathan Chait's bizarre feature for New York Magazine about race in the Age of Obama a bit more.

Tommy Christopher, writing over at The Daily Banter, kindly linked to my criticism of Chait's false equivalence excuse-making for white conservative racism.

He featured the following observation from a longer essay where I argued that:

Jim and Jane Crow were terrifying. Lynching parties that dismembered black bodies, cut them apart, forced black men to eat their own penises as the price for a “merciful killing”, or the white rampaging mobs that destroyed black wealth, life, and many dozens (if not hundreds of black communities) during the Red Summers of the American post World War one era, are terrifying.

The slave ship and the many millions killed during the Middle Passage are terrifying. The chattel slavery auction block is terrifying. The mass rape and murder of black men, women, and children on the charnel house plantations of the American slaveocracy, both after the seasoning process and in the hell that awaited the survivors of the Middle Passage, is terrifying.

Men like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn who can kill black people at will under Stand Your Ground Laws are terrifying. Police who have the power of life and death, and can use that power to murder black people who are “armed” with house keys, wallets, phones, or their empty hands is terrifying. The “don’t get killed by the cops” lecture that responsible black parents give their children is terrifying.

The thought that how despite one’s successes and educational accomplishments that because they are identified, however arbitrarily, as “black” in America means that their resume will get thrown in the garbage, a mortgage will have higher interest, or how doctors will not give proper treatment or necessary pain medication, is terrifying.

It would seem that in some ways I "buried my lede".

The most troubling part of Chait's essay "The Color of His Presidency" is his suggestion that anti-racism is some type of "terrifying" social force in American life.

He wrote:

Few liberals acknowledge that the ability to label a person racist represents, in 21st-century America, real and frequently terrifying power. Conservatives feel that dread viscerally. Though the liberal analytic method begins with a sound grasp of the broad connection between conservatism and white racial resentment, it almost always devolves into an open-ended license to target opponents on the basis of their ideological profile. The power is rife with abuse.

Of course, such a claim is absurd. However, it is compelling for those who believe that white supremacy is a passing fad, something vanquished from American life, and how people of color--black folks in particular--are now the "real racists".

Shorter version: if black and brown folks would stop talking about racism the problem would go away. This is the central fantasy of aggrieved whiteness with its delusions of white innocence and black bullying along the colorline. American society was forged by white racism and white supremacy. The valiant resistance against the status quo by people of color and a few white allies helped to make America a more inclusive democracy.

I have read The Color of His Presidency several times. It has received praise from Isaac Chotiner at the New Republic as a "superb" piece of work. Others have also said kind things about The Color of His Presidency. I remain vexed and disappointed by it.

I generally like Chait's work. But, his latest essay makes me feel like I have watched some Lovecraft-inspired play that makes its viewers go insane. As a piece of work that purports to analyze the role of race in American politics, The Color of His Presidency is akin to the Yellow King: one cannot study it too much or they will go mad.

[I wonder how President Obama, who counts Chait as one of his favorite political essayists, feels about The Color of His Presidency? I worry that Barack Obama would agree with Chait's central thesis about racial "paranoia".]

Nevertheless, I have gleamed several conclusions from Chait's riddle.

The Color of His Presidency is the very type of writing on race by supposed "liberals" which makes people of color and serious anti-racists deeply suspicious of the commitment of the mainstream "Left" (who are really centrists and Left-leaning Republicans of another age) to social and racial justice.

The Color of His Presidency rings of a default type of white tribalism and an effort to understand and excuse-make for white racism across the political divide. As such, racism is just a bad habit or an outlier of bad behavior practiced by otherwise good and decent white people who we may happen to disagree with politically.

The centrality of white supremacy to American politics and history is lost and pushed away because it is inconvenient for how Whiteness (and White people) imagines itself as benign.

Chait's piece also seems to rely on a logic that racism in the service of politics is "just" politics as usual. Politicians will use any tool to gain leverage. If racism and white supremacy--or white racial animus and resentment--are part of the toolbox, then a given political actor should be judged not as a "racist" per se, but rather as someone who uses racism for political advantage.

Politics is about power, the allocation of resources and opportunities, and basic matters such as safety and security. For people of color, white racism and white supremacy are political projects that profoundly impact our life chances, health, sanity, and freedom from violence in negative ways.

America practiced state-sponsored racial terrorism and tyranny against non-whites for most of its history. Apartheid was not a crime against humanity only in South Africa. American Apartheid, de facto and de jure, was beaten back as a force of law, but remains entrenched institutionally as a type of day-to-day practice in the post civil rights era.

The victims of white racism, especially those people of color excluded from systems of white privilege and white advantage, cannot sit back and compartmentalize white supremacy as some type of interesting intellectual puzzle, or a footnote asterisk on public policy. That is a luxury allowed for those who do not have to deal with the lived consequences which result from excuse-making for white racism.

Chait's exercise in white victimology and excuse-making for Republican racism exhibits a common habit of white liberals and centrists among the American pundit classes (and likely of many white folks in their private lives) when the "race issue" comes up in conversation.

Racism is complicated and multi-dimensional. Nevertheless, we can develop a basic rubric for understanding it. We are what we do; our habits are reflections of our values and beliefs. As such, racists do racist things. As Chait concedes, for decades the Republican Party has relied on a concerted effort of white racist appeals, dog whistles, and other tactics under the guiding principle known as the Southern Strategy, to mobilize its base.

At present, the Republican Party is a White identity organization, a White People's Political Party, and the "polite" face of White Supremacy in America.

Conservatives who advance those interests are racists.

This plain on the face fact is dodged, avoided, talked around, and denied by the mainstream news media. Why? because to tell the truth is to risk career suicide by falling into the trap laid by the White Right and its propaganda machine wherein charges of racism are fuel for the rage engine.

Movement conservatism in the post civil rights era is functionally the same thing as racism. The Republican Party has developed this brand name. They should be held accountable for the decision.

White supremacy and racism are civic evils. By implication, those who practice, enable, support, or use white identity politics for political gain--such as the Republican Party in the Age of Obama--are practicing civic evil.

Why are liberal pundits like Jonathan Chait afraid to hold conservatives and the Republican Party accountable for their racism as opposed to making excuses for it? 

Last night, at the WWE's 30th annual Wrestlemania, one of its most legendary figures lost his first match at the event in 22 years. The defeat of the "Undertaker" caused utter shock, dismay, and confusion among professional wrestling fans. That the unbreakable and indefatigable Undertaker would lose a match in "his yard" caused a collective moment of cognitive dissonance and a collective "huh?" as it trended around the world via social media.

The sun sets and rises everyday; the Undertaker does not lose at Wrestlemania. It would seem that rules are made to be broken--even those once thought immutable.

I use the phrase "politics is professional wrestling" as a way of describing how, just like the scripted events in the squared circle, that much of American politics is a battle of good guys and bad guys over relatively predetermined outcomes within what is in practice a very narrow issue space.  Politics is professional wrestling is also my way of alluding to the spectacle, fun, entertainment value, mayhem, madness, and polarization that has come to typify American political discourse in the 24/7 cable news cycle.

The much discussed public debate between The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates and New York magazine's Jonathan Chait about the "bad culture" and "pathological" ways of black folks was a very useful and necessary conversation, one stimulated in its most recent incarnation by the bigoted, white supremacist, dishonest, lazy thinking of Paul Ryan, the Republican Party's wunderkind "big ideas" guy.

Chait and Coates are so very smart. Their writing is a joy to read. Their debate, has for the most part, been a net gain for a public that has been trained for soundbites as opposed to an extended dialogue and deep thinking about serious public policy matters.

As in professional wrestling, there is a natural ebb and flow to a feud. Chait and Coates's "program" reached a climax this week with the latter appearing on the Sunday morning edition of Melissa Harris-Perry's essential MSNBC program.

Unfortunately, Chait was unable to be on Melissa Harris-Perry's show with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

A great feud also has falling action and closure--in wrestling parlance this is called the "blow off" match.

The blow off match is a way to milk a now concluded storyline for more money, to set up a new feud in the future, for a competitor to leave the promotion and pursue other ventures, and/or to give the fans a final taste of the sport and entertainment provided when competitors have great chemistry with one another.

As with boxing (Ali-Frazier), sometimes the rematch is a story unto itself and surpasses the first parts of the narrative.

Shawn Michaels' and the Undertakers' two classic matches at successive Wrestlemanias would fit the latter model.

Unfortunately, most blow off matches diminish the quality of the events and climax that led up to them. And in the most egregious examples, the blow off match can actually hurt the fans' memories of what transpired beforehand: the failed follow-up match is the heavy shadow that comes to color our memories with an ugly tint.

I am concerned that Jonathan Chait's new piece on race in America is the failed blow off match in what was a thrilling feud with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Chait is now baiting Coates in order to get a cheap "pop" from the fans.

There were earlier signs of Chait's change in attitude.

In a previous essay, Chait hinted that he was going to turn full on heel when he deployed Malcolm X as a cheap shot against Coates.

Chait has taken one step forward in that storyline as The Color of His Presidency reads like it was written by a man who was once an honorable foe, and is now having his Hulk Hogan turn, breaking character, and telling the public what his real thoughts were all along.

Chait has been held up by many of his fans as a defender of liberal and progressive values, a smart thinker (which he clearly is) and a carrier of the metaphorical flame.

To point. In The Color of His Presidency, Chait marshals solid social scientific research on the deep and profound links between contemporary conservatism and racism.

As I have said many times, the Republican Party in the post civil rights era is a white identity organization: it has fully embraced white supremacy as a brand name.

Thus, I nodded while reading Chait's use of the compelling evidence that support the above thesis. He has done his homework.  However, it would appear that Chait is willing to reject inconvenient empirical findings in the service of advancing his character's storyline(s).

Like professional wrestlers who want to shock the audience, Chait "swerves" the readers in The Color of His Presidency by chasing something worse and more facile than the obligatory cult of false equivalence which now governs American political discourse. Chait presents white conservatives as victims of persecution by some ominous cabal comprised of the "Left" and "Liberals" who use the exaggerated and unfair "cudgel" of racism against their ideological foes.

Chait is the fallen hero, the angry professional wrestling character who--and this can be great character development if used properly--adopts a distorted view of reality because they are feeling hurt, beaten, defeated, or smarting from how the climax to the feud ended badly for him or her.

His final sections of The Color of His Presidency capture this energy perfectly:

The racial debate of the Obama years emits some of the poisonous waft of the debates over communism during the ­McCarthy years. It defies rational resolution in part because it is about secret motives and concealed evil.

Few liberals acknowledge that the ability to label a person racist represents, in 21st-century America, real and frequently terrifying power. Conservatives feel that dread viscerally. Though the liberal analytic method begins with a sound grasp of the broad connection between conservatism and white racial resentment, it almost always devolves into an open-ended license to target opponents on the basis of their ideological profile. The power is rife with abuse.

If Chait is serious and sincere in the above paragraphs, his liberal defenders and fans have seriously misjudged the seriousness and rigor with which he has internalized and reflected upon the empirical data that compelling details the strong positive relationship between racism, conservatism, public opinion, racial attitudes, and the Republican Party.

Racism is a productive tool for the White Right and the Republican Party--to the degree that such elements can be dis-aggregated in the post civil rights era. White people who are racists are not "victims". For Republicans, charges of being racist are not punished. They are lucrative launchpads that secure prominent positions in the media or validate a candidate's bonafides among the white reactionary populist base as a "real American".

Chait also ignores how charges of "reverse racism", "playing the race card", or being a "race hustler" are devastating moves in the Republican Party's arsenal against those who dare to show concern about how white supremacy damages the life chances of people of color in America.

Despite Chait's claims, anti-racism has no "terrifying power".

Jim and Jane Crow were terrifying. Lynching parties that dismembered black bodies, cut them apart, forced black men to eat their own penises as the price for a "merciful killing", or the white rampaging mobs that destroyed black wealth, life, and many dozens (if not hundreds of black communities) during the Red Summers of the American post World War one era, are terrifying.  

The slave ship and the many millions killed during the Middle Passage are terrifying. The chattel slavery auction block is terrifying. The mass rape and murder of black men, women, and children on the charnel house plantations of the American slaveocracy, both after the seasoning process and in the hell that awaited the survivors of the Middle Passage, is terrifying.

Men like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn who can kill black people at will under Stand Your Ground Laws are terrifying. Police who have the power of life and death, and can use that power to murder black people who are "armed" with house keys, wallets, phones, or their empty hands is terrifying. The "don't get killed by the cops" lecture that responsible black parents give their children is terrifying.

The thought that how despite one's successes and educational accomplishments that because they are identified, however arbitrarily, as "black" in America means that their resume will get thrown in the garbage, a mortgage will have higher interest, or how doctors will not give proper treatment or necessary pain medication, is terrifying.

Likewise, how white folks can commit any number and type of heinous crimes such as destroying the American economy or committing mass shootings--and Whiteness and White Privilege shields the white community from any amount of recrimination, consequences, or communal reflection about what are in fact deadly white pathologies--is terrifying in the extreme.

Holding white conservative racists and their allies responsible for their conspiracy campaigns such as Birtherism, death threats against Obama, a concerted campaign of herrenvolk-fueled political obstructionism and neo Confederate politics, waiving the American Swastika (i.e. the Confederate Flag) in front of the White House, subtle and overt racial claims (and lies) that Obama is the "welfare" or "food stamp" president, how black Americans are lazy, Hispanics and Latinos are parasitic, and black and brown children should pick up mops and brooms to learn a work ethic because their parents do not have one, is not "victimizing" white conservatives as though they were being subjected to harassment by McCarthy, the FBI, and Cointelpro.

When Republicans are confronted by decent and civic-minded people who find white racism objectionable, obnoxious, and contrary to the Common Good, they are actually leveraging conservatives' favorite slogan--"personal responsibility".

Why should movement conservatives be spared from the fruits and consequences of their own speech, deeds, and beliefs?

Chait ends his heel turn promo in The Color of His Presidency by offering up a final dagger in the form of a pretzel-logic defense of white conservative victimology:

Obama is attempting to navigate the fraught, everywhere-and-yet-nowhere racial obsession that surrounds him. It’s a weird moment, but also a temporary one. The passing from the scene of the nation’s first black president in three years, and the near-certain election of its 44th nonblack one, will likely ease the mutual suspicion. In the long run, generational changes grind inexorably away. The rising cohort of Americans holds far more liberal views than their parents and grandparents on race, and everything else (though of course what you think about “race” and what you think about “everything else” are now interchangeable). We are living through the angry pangs of a new nation not yet fully born.

In Chait's version of the X-Men's classic storyline the Days of Future Past, white conservatives are going to be subjected to witch hunts for (imagined) racism.

Despite the mass of evidence, racism and white supremacy are not the core of conservative (and other) political attitudes in the post civil rights era. No, these are debates about principle, which for Chait, should be evaluated in a social and historical vacuum. Moreover, the ostensibly abstract values that drive white supremacy in the aggregate, and which manifest themselves through a near pathological hostility to Barack Obama, as negative attitudes towards people of color, or impact a range of other policy matters, ought not to be engaged, challenged, and exorcised.

Jonathan Chait is suggesting that this new America will mercilessly and unfairly punish white conservatives. Of course his claim is utterly ahistorical: America was founded as a white republic by law; America does not punish white people en masse for racism.

The innocence of Whiteness, and its inherently benign nature, are part of the (White) American creed.

As such, white racism is an outlier by definition in post civil rights colorblind America. White racism is a means through which the vast majority of white folks can imagine themselves as racial innocents in order to validate their own Sainthood and goodness in the Church of Post Civil Rights America Anti-racism.

The religion is wonderful: it requires no great deeds, commitments, alms, or real personal sacrifice. All one has to do is stone "those" racists as a means of offering up protection and absolution from any charge of one's own complicity with white supremacy, be it active or passive.

Politics is professional wrestling. Chait has apparently decided that there is more attention and popularity to be gained by turning heel in his feud with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Such a choice worked for Hulk Hogan in the short-term those decades ago in the mid 1990s after he left the (then) World Wrestling Federation for its rival World Championship Wrestling.

But even Hulk Hogan, who hosted Wrestlemania 30 on Sunday night, realized that you have to eventually come home.

Neil deGrasse Tyson's willingness to clearly and plainly state on his TV show Cosmos that creationism is a myth has (predictably) upset Christian fundamentalists.

Moreover, in an era where conservatism is typified by anti-intellectualism, the howls of protest that Neil deGrasse Tyson would be dismissive of the fantastical and facile thinking which often hides under the false cover of "balance" and "fairness" in American political discourse, is another source of umbrage and raw offense for the Christian Right.

The hostility towards Neil deGrasse Tyson is more than a function of simple anger or rancor towards the scientific facts he deftly and calmly presents on Cosmos.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is not an empty vessel. Neil deGrasse Tyson is also not a blank slate devoid of identity or form. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a black man. His gender and his race occupy a specific location and context in American society.

As such, Neil deGrasse Tyson is not racially unmarked.

Blackness, masculinity, and being gendered as "male", channel a rich and complicated history of fear, loathing, desire, violence, fascination, disgust, envy, strength, labor, and violence (both as a subject and object), in the American racial imagination.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, as a black public intellectual and scientist, is located within that history.

In parallel, as a black public intellectual and scientist, he defies the historical stereotypes of what blackness is as viewed by the White Gaze...and yes, however tragically, as internalized by some people of color.

A black athlete who has disciplined his body to do great things on the football field or basketball court is a source of entertainment, admiration, and envy. He or she is acceptable, perhaps even a role-model of desirability, as long as they do not speak on political matters in such a manner that challenges the approved script.

A black man who has disciplined his mind to master a branch of science--and is able to effortlessly communicate his deep knowledge to a general audience on national television--is a threat to every convention, however deep it now resides in the American collective subconscious, which limits black masculinity, the black body, and their accompanying prowess to sports, music, or yes, the bedroom.

Here, black genius is one of the greatest and most profound threats to White supremacy.

The American racial imagination is incapable of seeing Neil deGrasse Tyson in a "raceless" or "race neutral" way.

The lie of post racial America has not yet found a way, as occurred in George Schuyler's 1931 master work Black No More, to turn people of color "white".

Could it be that some white folks see Neil deGrasse Tyson as "uppity" and not knowing his "place"?

The colloquialism "uppity" has a long history: it was born from chattel slavery, Jim and Jane Crow, and white supremacy.

"Uppity" still has power and resonance in contemporary America.

The word channels an understanding that black people should be submissive and deferent to White authority. Violations of that norm--as Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and many tens and hundreds of thousands of black and brown folks have learned across the centuries--can and will be punished by violence, death, sanction, and retribution by White authority.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a target for scorn by Christian fundamentalists. We ought not to forget that race operates both along the color line, as well as the dividing lines of religion in the United States.

The KKK is a "Christian" organization. Southern Baptists supported Jim and Jane Crow and racial segregation. The home-schooling and school privatization movements have ugly origins in how white families mobilize(d) a language of "religious freedom" and anxiety over "secularism" as cover to maintain "whites only" schools and other educational facilities.

The White identity movement has strategically targeted white fundamentalist and evangelical Christian organizations for infiltration because they are viewed as ideal spaces for mobilizing "white racial consciousness" against non-whites.

Christian fundamentalists are a core constituency of the Republican Party (what is a de facto white identity organization).

Research suggests that religious fundamentalism is associated with authoritarianism, out-group hostility, prejudice, and racism.

A black scientist who challenges the sacred religious myths of the Christian Right is a natural target for a rage born of anti-intellectualism, religious zealotry, and white racial animus.

All roads for understanding the contemporary dynamics of race in American do not necessarily have to lead through President Barack Obama. But in the case of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Obama's experiences with white rage as the United States' first black president remain helpful and instructive.

Several decades ago, African-Americans would crowd around the television when it was rumored that a black person would be featured (or appear in any context) on a broadcast. The television was a site of communal celebration and dreaming that perhaps one day black and brown folks would achieve full civic equality.

Decades later, many millions of Americans watched Barack Obama win the presidency of the United States for the first time. Tears of joy and shock rolled down the faces of many African-Americans (and others) who remember seeing black folks on TV only as maids and servants. Now, one of us/them was the most powerful man in the world.

Obama's beautiful black family would inaugurate a second American Camelot.

And now there is brilliant scientist that happens to be black, who on a weekly basis, lectures and educates the American people on the mysteries of the universe.

Racial progress can be a type of blinder for its true believers and strivers. The latter expended tears and joys at how people of color have become prominent in American political and social life in roles other than as athletes and entertainers.

There is a class of white conservative reactionaries and bigots that have had the exact opposite reaction.

To them, a black man who is President of the United States is unacceptable. To them, the future of the American republic is somehow imperiled by the fact that an African-American presides over the White House.

A black man who is a starred scientist, lecturing them on TV about the fallacies and lies that govern their worldview may just be too much to accept. Why? For the Christian Right, God is white. Everyone of importance in the Bible is also white. And of course, Jesus is a white guy who looks like a surfer.

A black man named Neil deGrasse Tyson, telling them that their Christian Fundamentalist, mythological distorted versions of reality are examples of fantastical thinking, and thus outside of the realm of empirical reality, is unacceptable. What could possibly be more "uppity" than that?

The Republican Party is a white identity organization. This week, the polling firm Gallup has released new data that confirms how the Republican Party--a shambling corpse of Whiteness--lurches onward in the Age of Obama:

The increasing racial polarization in party preferences is evident when comparing the data by presidential administration. Nonwhites' average party preferences have been quite stable across the last three administrations, consistently showing a roughly 47-point Democratic advantage under Clinton, Bush, and Obama. On average, 69% of nonwhites have identified as Democrats or said they were independents who leaned Democratic, and 21% have identified as Republicans or leaned Republican.

Meanwhile, whites have become increasingly Republican, moving from an average 4.1-point Republican advantage under Clinton to an average 9.5-point advantage under Obama.

This polarization could ease by the time Obama's term finishes, in three years. However, given the already large racial gap in party preferences in his first five years, unless there is a dramatic shift among whites toward the Democratic Party or among nonwhites toward the GOP in the next three years, party preferences will end up more racially polarized in Obama's presidency than in his two predecessors' administrations.

Political pundits have generated a narrative which concludes that changing racial demographics will continue to make the Republican Party noncompetitive on a national level. The election of Barack Obama was viewed by mainstream political analysts as a coronation for "the browning of America", and the Republican Party's near, if not, inevitable obsolescence as a competitive political party.

I have thought for some time that such a claim is premature because politics is a "push and pull" story.

The Republicans have aggressively reacted to the election of Barack Obama, the country's first black president, with a strategy designed to use racial anxiety and overt racism to win the support of new white voters while simultaneously mobilizing its existing base.

The Republican Party's strategy of voter harassment, efforts to restrict access to voting for people of color, the young, and the poor, and using the courts to subvert democratic rule and consensus, is an effort to shrink the electorate so that a dying and older cohort of white voters can continue to exercise an out-sized amount of influence on American politics.

The Republican Party may be a shambling corpse of Whiteness, but it still refuses to die.

In the 2012 election, 88 percent of Mitt Romney's voters were white. Romney won 59 percent of white voters nationwide.

Gallup's finding that the Republican Party has increased its support among white voters 5 points during Obama's tenure is in many ways a function of the White Right's concerted strategy of coordinated racial appeals that range from the bizarre and histrionic (Birtherism); to outright lies (Obama is the "food stamp" president and want to give things to "lazy" black people); an intentional obstruction of governance (a record number of filibusters and holding the American federal government hostage during the debt ceiling debate by Republicans); and an assault on the symbolic power and legitimacy of Barack Obama because his personhood as a black man is incompatible with '"real (white) America".

The phrase "white identity organization" conjures up visions of the KKK or Neo Nazis. In reality, White identity organizations are any group which is dedicated to maintaining a superior relative group position for white people, and the various economic, material, political, and psychological privileges that come with the arbitrary distinction of what it means to be "white" in America.

Of course, all white people, and most certainly all white Republicans and conservatives, do not benefit from Whiteness and white skin privilege in the same way--this is of course true for poor white people (who are over-represented in Red State America).

Nevertheless, Republican elites, corporatists, and supporters of the robber baron class can use white identity politics as a means of mobilizing their base into supporting policies that in fact hurt poor, working, and middle class Americans across the colorline. The "psychic wages of whiteness" are most deeply felt when used to create an arbitrary distinction between "them" and "us"...even if it is the "us" who are hurt the most in the process.

Research suggests that the naked embrace of the Republican Party as the natural political party for "white people" is already occurring among members of the Tea Party faction. Moreover, recent work by Theda Skocpol details how the Tea Party--what is the contemporary descendant of the John Birch and White Citizens Councils--has served as a racializing experience for its white members in which they are learning to openly embrace their racial identity as central to their political decision making.

In response to this claim, there will be an obligatory protest or comment about African-Americans and their overwhelming support for the Democratic Party, such as "why can't white people organize for their own political interests too?"

Individuals and groups organize, advance, and fight for their own political goals. However imperfect in process, this is the core of interest group politics in the United States.

Of course, Black and brown folks have political interests: those political interests have been "racialized" by how centuries of personal and institutional White Supremacy have forced African-Americans and other people of color to think in terms of group uplift, survival, and advocacy. But, the Black Freedom Struggle has been radically inclusive and democratic. It created opportunities for all Americans to be more free.

There are two important distinctions to be made here.

White identity politics is based on exclusion.

The open racialization of white people's political interests is not new.

In many ways, white identity politics and White Supremacy have been the Constitutional and legal norm in the United States from the founding to the near present. Whiteness--be it mobilized and manifested by Jim and Jane, housing segregation, slavery, or "colorblind" institutional racism in the Age of Obama--is dependent upon a sense of group superiority and power over other those understood by "common sense" to be "non-white".

Although White Supremacy has morphed and changed, the multicultural, colorblind present still operates from many of its long-standing principles: black and brown people can ascend as individuals while institutional white racism still exists; white people can enjoy black and brown culture, but the former simultaneously morphs and changes the latter to their liking and sensibilities, while very often denying the equal humanity of African-Americans and other people of color in the process.

Racism works for the Republican Party in the short-term. Ironically, the Republican Party's name brand as a white identity organization in post civil rights America, and efforts to further expand its white voting base, will enable the GOP to lose by winning.

American (and world history) is replete with examples of how Whiteness does not play well with others. Consequently, the racialization of white voters' political interests by the Republican Party and its media apparatus is a threat to American democracy.

As we are seeing with the Right's efforts to subvert the democratic process, and eviscerate the social safety through appeals to white identity politics and white racial resentment, the further whitening of the Republican Party does not bode well for the American people in mass.

The historian Noel Ignatiev famously suggested that treason to Whiteness is loyalty to humanity. It is also true that treason to the Republican Party's white identity politics is loyalty to the Common Good, the General Welfare, and American democracy.

George Will, columnist for The Washington Post, has instinctively moved to defend Paul Ryan's use of Lee Atwater's strategy of dog whistle politics and subtle racism to describe "inner city" black people as lazy and perhaps genetically inferior.

Will's poison pin produced the following conclusion to his new editorial "Paul Ryan was Right: Poverty is a Cultural Problem":

Next March, serious people will be wondering why the problem Moynihan articulated half a century earlier has become so much worse while so much else — including the rapid receding of racism and discrimination — has become so much better. One reason is what Moynihan called “the leakage of reality from American life.” Judging by the malice and intellectual sloth in the left’s reaction to Ryan’s unexceptionable remarks, the leak has become a cataract.

I am happy to be included among the malice and intellectual sloth that Will so disdains. I consider it a complement to be criticized along with other truth-tellers who have called Paul Ryan and the Republican Party to account for their lazy thinking and boilerplate racism.

Michelle Malkin's Right-wing website Twitchy also agrees that folks like me are detestable and "racist" for highlighting Paul Ryan's comments. I was featured in two of their posts over the weekend. The attention--hate mail, death threats, and the like--is always fun. Moreover, the comments both on Twitchy, Twitter, and other sites have proven much of what I, and others, have said about contemporary movement conservatism.

The White Right is so mired in racism and white supremacy that it is the cognitive screen through which they process reality. Contemporary American conservatism is a racist ideology. Its adherents actually believe that they are anti-racists. Such delusions are not easily corrected or therapeutized.

George Will's defense of Paul Ryan is a more refined version of the talking points about poverty, race, and how black people have "bad culture" which the animate rank and file members of the White Right. George Will is not a serious thinker on these matters; however, George Will has to be taken seriously because of his over-sized presence on TV and in print.

For example, George Will's editorial offers up this twisted misunderstanding of macro-economics and culture:

The assumption that the condition of the poor must improve as macroeconomic conditions — which government thinks it can manipulate — improve is refuted by the importance of family structure.

Such a claim is based on a set of assumptions about social reality, political economy, and culture that I am unable to comprehend it. Bizarre.

The Right-wing commentariat's defense of Paul Ryan involves, as was done by George Will, a trotting out of Patrick Moynihan's work “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”

Moynihan's treatise is like the Bible to Christian fundamentalist homophobes, bootjack street corner preachers, or the man or woman at the barbershop or the hair salon who can selectively quote self-serving passages, but has never read the whole book.

Conservatives ignore how Moynihan identified white racism as one of the central problems facing black and brown communities. Moynihan also argued for robust government programs to confront urban poverty, fix failing schools, job supports, and financial subsidies for poor families. He most certainly would be aghast at the Republican Party's campaign to destroy the social safety net, vilify the poor, and to destroy those that the 1 percent and other corporate elites have identified as "useless eaters".

The Daniel Patrick Moynihan who stated the following would be vilified by the Republican Party and its media machine:

"First, the racist virus in the American blood stream still afflicts us: Negroes will encounter serious personal prejudice for at least another generation. Second, three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment have taken their toll on the Negro people".

Bishop Don Magic Juan, noted pimp, hustler, actor, and ubiquitous friend of rap artists such as Snoop Dogg, is now a preacher. While earnest, he lacks a rigorous grasp of biblical hermeneutics.

George Will, Paul Ryan, and those others on the Right who embrace Moynihan as a cudgel with which to slur and beat black and brown people are just like Bishop Don Magic Juan.

They all deploy "respected" books and accepted "common sense" "truths" to "prove" their own priors while offering "salvation" to those who are "lost".

The real goal for Paul Ryan and his ilk is political self-aggrandizement by ginning up white racism against "those people" in order to advance policies that hurt the majority of Americans. Daniel Patrick Moynihan would not approve of such antics. I doubt that Moynihan had any use for pimps, be they pimps of the flesh such as Don Magic Juan, or poverty pimps like Paul Ryan or George Will.

 Paul Ryan has attempted to clarify his racist argument that “inner city” black people are lazy and do not want to work. He issued a statement that:

After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make. I was not implicating the culture of one community—but of society as a whole.

This is a false and disingenuous pseudo apology. Paul Ryan is the leader of a political party that is the country’s premier white identity organization. The Republican Party has also merged conservatism and racism in such a way that appeals to white racial resentment are its Lingua Franca and a taken for granted way of thinking about political and social reality.

Paul Ryan traffics in racism because the Republican Party is a racist organization. The calculus is not complicated.

There has been some smart writing about Paul Ryan’s use of coded racial appeals. However, the majority of the news media is asking the wrong question. Instead of trying to figure out “if” Paul Ryan is a racist, the more revealing question is “what type of racist is he?”

There are three basic ways to understand Paul Ryan’s racism, both as part of a pattern of behavior by Republicans, and as an example of (symbolic) white racism in the post civil rights era.

The Southern Strategy.

Paul Ryan’s claim that black people have “bad culture”, may be genetically defective, and do not have “normal” “middle class” values about the merits of “hard work”, is a simple channeling of legendary Republican strategist Lee Atwater’s tactics for mobilizing white voters by leveraging their hostility to black Americans.

Atwater famously advised Republicans to:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

The Southern Strategy has been the cornerstone of Republican politics for at least five decades. While former Republican National Committee chairmen Ken Mehlman and Michael Steele admitted (and apologized) that Republicans use racist appeals to motivate white voters, the Southern Strategy remains central to their party’s electoral logic and approach. Paul Ryan’s racism and embrace of the Southern Strategy is the Republican Party’s conventional wisdom in practice.

Colorblind racism and White Victimology.

Paul Ryan’s use of “dog whistles” and coded racial appeals to disparage and slur African-Americans exist within a social context where overt racism is a violation of public speech norms and values.

Following the triumphs of the civil rights movement, colorblind white racism has largely replaced “old fashioned” racism.

While whites still use very explicit and racist speech in the “backstage”, private spaces, or online, America’s embrace of multiculturalism and pluralism have deemed such acts anathema to “decent” people. This is especially true for a nationally known politician like Paul Ryan.

Colorblind racism inverts reality and distorts the facts. It involves denying that racism still exists as a serious social problem; black and brown people are limited in their life chances not because of institutional discrimination but because of their “bad culture” or “laziness”; white supremacy and systems of white racial advantage are dismissed as either exaggerated or non-existent; racism is reduced to mean words by white people, as opposed to systematic institutional discrimination against people of color.

The most perverse result of colorblind racism is that many white people now believe that they are “victims” of "racism", and that “anti-white racism” is a larger problem in the United States than is discrimination against black and brown Americans. Mountains of research and empirical data detail how Americans society is oriented around maintaining white privilege and white material advantages over people of color.

Colorblind racism overrides those facts by distorting white people’s (and some others’) ability to process and understand reality.

Paul Ryan’s “inner city” comment is a quintessential example of colorblind racism. He cannot plainly state that lazy black people are genetically predisposed to idleness, crime, violence, and sexual promiscuity. However, Ryan can suggest that the supposed failures of black people are really their own fault, and that all they need to do is “work hard” and have “good culture” to get ahead in America like "normal" (read: white) people.

Paul Ryan’s defenders are enabling colorblind racism by trafficking in its other distortion of reality: white victimology. Paul Ryan is portrayed as a victim of political correctness. His black conservative pets such as Ron Christie claim that Ryan is a “truth-teller”. Ryan will tell interviewers that he is just misunderstood and is being unfairly criticized.

Once more, colorblind racism protects white people from the consequences of their racist behavior by transforming them into “victims”.

White privilege and white racial innocence.

Paul Ryan’s faux apology emphasized his intent, and how he was “inarticulate” in his claim that black people are lazy and have bad genes.

Paul Ryan meant what he said and said what he meant. White privilege is more than the unearned advantages that come with being identified as “white” in American society and elsewhere. White privilege is an assumption that whiteness, and white people, are benign. White privilege is also an assumption of preeminent good intent and innocence.

The historical record suggests otherwise: whiteness was born of violence towards people of color. Whiteness works and is made real through many lies both small and large.

Paul Ryan, like other racists, will deploy the common phrase “I didn’t mean it that way” or “that was not my intention”.

By contrast, the twin facts of white privilege and white racism are not dependent on intent.

The racist cannot tell the victim of the former’s racism how and if they should be offended.

Moreover, Paul Ryan’s claim to have made a mistake will be granted because he is white and male. The errors of prominent (as well as rank and file) African-Americans for example, are never excused away or viewed as aberrations or outliers. No. When black folks are “inarticulate” or “misspeak” the white racial frame deems such moments as indications of incompetence, or proof that people of color are somehow “not qualified” or as “intelligent” as white people.

The white gaze does not view black Americans as individuals. When a black person makes a mistake it becomes the focus of a “national conversation” about the black community, one in which “black leaders” are forced to publicly explain and condemn the actions of other black people. There is not an equivalent ritual for white people. White conservatives and the white community will not be forced to condemn Paul Ryan. Nor will white people be held publicly accountable for Paul Ryan’s and the Republican Party’s racism.

Whiteness deems that Paul Ryan is a “racial innocent”, an “individual”, and that he should be treated as such.

Paul Ryan and other movement conservatives are racial political arsonists. Ryan’s racist claims about lazy black people with bad genes are a function of a willful political strategy and determined worldview. They are not exceptions, outliers, or bizarre happenings.

Racism is a habit for white conservatives because racism and conservatism are the same thing in the post civil rights era.

Paul Ryan and other conservatives can claim that they are innocent of their racist political arson. But, they are repeatedly caught, hiding behind the dumpster, or in the bushes, as the building burns. One hand is busy, down the trousers, working in onanistic fervor as the conflagration spreads. The other hand is concealing a lighter. The police approach, shake their heads, and say “you again!”

Paul Ryan and his fellow racial political arsonists in the Republican Party apologize, flummoxed, and indignant with the police that “you have the wrong guy!”

The police will just slap his wrist and say “don’t do it again”. Why? Because Paul Ryan and other racial political arsonists in the Republican Party are really decent people who are just misunderstood.

Paul Ryan is the leader of the Republican Party’s “intellectual” wing. He has been described by the news media in fawning terms as a “policy wonk”, a “numbers guy”, and a “serious thinker”.

Consequently, Ryan's recent claim that "inner city" black men are lazy and have no work ethic is a revealing insight into the current state of movement conservatism and the former's supposed intellectual gifts.

There is no genius in Paul Ryan's claims: his arguments about lazy black people are a boilerplate post-civil Rights era Republican talking point.

To advance this claim, he leveraged Charles Murray's discredited research on the relationship between I.Q. and race. Ryan's intellectual slippage is not a new habit. In his anti-poverty tome, which purports (and fails) to discredit President Johnson's Great Society era programs, Paul Ryan misrepresented and distorted research findings.

He is intellectually dishonest; Ryan's claim to be a serious thinker on matters of public policy is a cheap, and not very convincing, parlor trick.

It is also a perfect fit for the post-fact universe and anti-intellectualism of the present day American conservative movement. Paul Ryan's recent observation about the laziness of black people is also providing an additional lesson in how the Republican Party has now fully merged conservatism and "symbolic racism".

Moreover, in a moment when Republicans have suggested that black and brown people’s children should become janitors to learn a “work ethic”, that Obama buys black people’s votes with food stamps, and that “real Americans”, i.e. white people, are losing “their country” to non-whites, Ryan’s argument is a rather flat channeling of the Southern Strategy and Reagan’s opines about “strapping black bucks” and "welfare queens" living in luxury as they leech off of white people.

There is an ugly hypocrisy at the heart of Paul Ryan’s efforts to chastise African-Americans (a group of people who quite literally built the United States and have never received compensation or reparations) for having “bad culture” and perhaps even defective genes.

Paul Ryan is an Irish-American. The same arguments that Ryan is making about the “bad culture” of African-Americans, and their supposed “laziness” and “idleness”, were made against his Irish ancestors by eugenicists and race scientists in the United States and Europe.

Charles Murray’s intellectual forefathers had little to no use for the Irish. As such, they spent a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out just what type of “white people” the Irish were, and how they fit into the family and hierarchy of whiteness.

Those who are considered “white” in the 21st century may not have been part of that racial group during an earlier part of American history. Jews, Slavs, Poles, Armenians, as well as Eastern and Southern Europeans more generally, were not considered “real” white people by the consensus scientific authority of the 19th and early to mid 20th centuries.

The sociological evidence is rich: political cartoons during the 19th century questioned how and if the Irish were fit for American democracy by depicting them as apes, and comparing them with similarly caricatured and stereotyped images of African-Americans. The question of “how” and “if” the Irish were suitable for American democracy also emphasized their Catholic religion, and cast doubt on if “papists” were capable of being proper and loyal citizens.

Even as late as the early decades of the 20th century, leading American eugenicists and race scientists such as Madison Grant--author of the infamous tract The Passing of the Great Race--were unsure of the relationship between the Irish and "white civilization":

By the 1920s, some eugenicists seemed ready to admit the Irish or "Celts" to a racial status closer to Anglo-Saxons. But not all. In the Passing of the Great Race, a highly read and influential attack on "race mongrelization" the eugenicist Madison Grant waffled about where the Irish stood.

Grant observed that a physical change had occurred among the Irish in America. The "Neanderthal physical characteristics of the native Irish--the great upper lip, bridgeless nose, beetling brow with low growing hair, and wild and savage aspect:--had largely disappeared. The Irish apeman of Nast's cartoons had evolved a more human form. Yet, with the Irish, in Grant's view, looks could be deceiving. When it came to intellectual and moral traits, "the mental and cultural traits of the aborigines have proved to be exceedingly persistent and appear in the unstable temperament and the lack of coordinating and reasoning power, so often found among the Irish."

Race is a social construct. Its boundaries change according to the social and political questions of a given moment. Race is a fiction; race is also real in terms of how it bounds and influences a person’s life chances by virtue of how society locates them both within and relative to a given group.

Historians Noel Ignatiev and David Roediger explore this process and detail how the Irish in America earned their whiteness in the seminal texts How the Irish Became White and The Wages of Whiteness. Most recently, Nell Irvin Painter’s A History of White People offered up a beautiful synthesis of the many ways that whiteness was manufactured and understood from antiquity to the present in the West.

The centuries-long story of Irish assimilation from a group judged to be below or perhaps somewhat equal to African-Americans in their supposed lack of intelligence, and propensity for violence, sexual impulsiveness, and unfitness for “white” civilization, to now being fully “white”, and where Paul Ryan can easily channel race science and eugenics, is a testament to the malleability of race and the enduring power of White Supremacy.

Whiteness is an expansive and changing category: this is one of the primary lessons taught by the colorline in the United States. We must also not overlook how the path to full whiteness is made easier by both hating and resenting African-Americans.

To point. The Republican Party’s outreach to white ethnics in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement leveraged such sentiments as it built a new coalition of “working class” white Democrats and soon to be Republicans.

In all, Paul Ryan, like many other Republicans, has deployed racial dog whistle politics and symbolic racism to slur the work ethic and character of black people in order to mobilize their white, racially resentful, voting base.

Of course, the Republican Party and its neoliberal allies are silent on how the very economic policies they have advocated and advanced since the 1960s are in many ways responsible for the structural and institutional inequality that has created the “jobless ghetto”.

Those same policies have suppressed wages, generated abhorrent levels of wealth and income inequality, destroyed the American middle class, and created structural unemployment such that there are more job seekers than available positions.

Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randian dreams and twisted understanding of Catholic social justice have resulted in him being the metaphorical doctor who is making the patient sick while simultaneously blaming said patient for not getting better fast enough.

This is a cruel joke. The punch line is the suffering of the American people.

Paul Ryan’s racism and ego have enabled him to willfully misrepresent the research which details how the denizens of inner city and poor black and brown communities are desperate for job opportunities.

Of course, Paul Ryan’s “bad culture” and “lazy” black people thesis is mute on the question of white poverty, white “bad culture”, and white folks’ dependence on the federal government.

Whites constitute the largest group of poor people in the United States. White people also receive a disproportionate amount of federal assistance. And Red State America receives much more in federal money than any other part of the United States.

If Paul Ryan was intellectual honest, he would re-frame his talking points and faux-concern about the black, “inner city” poor, to include white poverty. I wonder, how would Republican voters respond if Paul Ryan told them that they were poor and unemployed because of their laziness and bad culture?

Charles Murray voiced his concern about the cultural pathologies and declining fortunes of poor and working class white Americans in his book Coming Apart.

Paul Ryan embraces the discredited I.Q. race science eugenicist arguments of Murray’s book The Bell Curve in order to slur and disparage African-Americans. Would Paul Ryan ever dare to find public inspiration in Charles Murray’s research about the cultural pathologies and failings of white people in Red State America?

The answer is no.

George Zimmerman signed autographs at the New Orlando Gun Show last weekend.

His claim to fame? Killing Trayvon Martin.

A question. What type of person would want George Zimmerman memorabilia? What type of person would want to endorse his stalking and murdering of an unarmed teenager whose "crime" was walking home and not being sufficiently submissive to a racist, gun toting, street vigilante?

Autographs are sought from celebrities. The man or woman on the corner; the local drunk; the town loser; or the anonymous median percentile average person is not a real "star". Nor does their signature or photo have any cache or quasi magical power as a type of totem or fetish which can be channeled by its owner.

Zimmerman's autograph is a way for his fans and public to idolize him.

Zimmerman's signed photo is also a way for his supporters to be closer to him, and to "own" part of his "success" and "power".

The autograph of George Zimmerman, a man who is "famous" only because he stalked, hunted, and killed an unarmed black teenager, is for those who seek it, a validation of their right to kill and murder at will those people that they deem to be the Other and somehow "less than". The South's hyper-masculine and racialized norms of honor both legitimate and sustain such logic.  

If one cannot be the hero who slays the dragon, at least he or she can touch the blood soaked sword or keep company with their idealized selves.

Consequently, for a particularly racist and pitiable part of the (white) American public, George Zimmerman is their knight and role-model because he sanitized, cleansed, and protected his community (read: castle) from an outside (black) invader.

Trayvon Martin's literal body--black and male--was deemed suspect and a threat by virtue of its existence in the white space policed by George Zimmerman, what was a racist police action legitimated by infamous "Stand Your Ground" laws.

The black body under Jim and Jane Crow was judged a threat in the same way. Sundown Towns and other types of de facto and de jure laws and customs served White Supremacy by controlling the movement, labor, and bodies of African-Americans across the United States. When African-Americans violated those norms of White authority and power they were subjected to lynchings and other types of extra-judicial punishment.

The spectacular lynching was a ritual that was designed to purge the white body politic of what it saw as the toxic, invasive, citizenship and presence of African-Americans.

It is important to note how black Americans during Jim and Jane Crow were not killed in an efficient way such as by a bullet to the head or a knife to the throat: instead, they were tortured, dismembered, burned alive, and reduced to trinkets and prizes for the white crowds in attendance.

The recent TV show True Detective featured the satanic and ritualistic murders of girls and women. True Detective's violence was not new; it is a pale echo of the spectacular violence which was visited upon African-Americans for almost 100 years.

Lynching was a ceremony that reinforced the group position of whites over people of color. Because they were acts of group terrorism, lynchings also helped to create a cohesive and intact white community across widely divergent lines of class and property.

Ultimately, lynching was a type of magic that used racial violence to give power to white people by ceremonially taking it away from African-Americans.

The lynching of thousands of African-Americans spawned a type of national popular culture. During the 19th to 20th centuries, lynching photographs and postcards were a way for white people across the United States to enjoy the power that came with their supposed total control over and intimidation of the African-American community.

In many ways, lynching photography was one of the country's first types of mass popular culture.

The vast majority of white Americans would never attend or participate in a spectacular lynching. But, they could buy a postcard or photo of such barbaric events as a way to reinforce their full allegiance to Whiteness, and membership in what was then a still expanding and evolving notion of the "white race".

The people who buy George Zimmerman's autographs and photos are contemporary heirs to a long tradition of White Supremacist violence against people of color in the United States. It is true that Trayvon Martin was not hung from a tree, forced to eat his own genitals in order to stop the torture, or burned alive before being physically dissected for souvenirs.

However, the idea of Trayvon Martin's murder, and the symbolic power of the black male body being vanquished and killed by someone such as George Zimmerman, holds a special place in the political imagination of the American Right-wing with its gun obsessions, neo Confederate politics, "black crime" fantasies of the "knockout game", Birtherism, and twin myths of "reverse racism" and "white oppression".

The defenders of George Zimmerman--and especially those who buy Zimmerman's "art" or autographs--are worshiping their hero and his "great" feat of vanquishing a "threatening" and "uppity" black person.

In the 19th and 20th centuries such racially resentful and bigoted white people would trade and traffic in lynching photography and postcards. In the age of social and digital media this same type of person, and those who identify with them, use the Internet and cable news to circulate their idealization and hero worship of men like George Zimmerman.

Dr. Ben Carson is a supremely talented and gifted surgeon. He is a credit to the medical profession.

He is also a black conservative darling who gave a rousing speech to the Right-wing faithful at the 2014 CPAC event.

These facts exist in tension with one another.

In some basic ways, Carson's role as a black human mascot and cheerleader for the White Right is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath he took as a doctor.

On a basic level, the Hippocratic Oath is a commitment to the truth. By comparison, Ben Carson's role in the Republican Party is based on lies and distortions.

Ben Carson’s fulfilling of the Republican Party’s fantasy that African-Americans are somehow hoodwinked and bamboozled in their decades of support for the Democratic Party is the first lie.

Here, Republicans, movement conservatives, and the White Right have reframed centuries of black citizenship and struggles for freedom into a narrative wherein African-Americans are dumb, stupid, and childlike.

Apparently, African-Americans are not reasoning and sophisticated citizens capable of making their own decisions in the service of collective self-interest. No. They are stuck on a “plantation” and need black conservatives such as Ben Carson and Herman Cain to rescue them.

Ben Carson is a happiness pill. In any other context, this would be an extremely troubling role for a medical professional.

As a happiness pill, Carson is a placebo, a fake drug and a high, a salve for Republicans. His purpose, like that of other black conservatives, is to be human chaff, an ointment, which relieves them from the mountain of evidence and charges that the Republican Party is a racist organization.

Carson is also a poison pill for the Republican Party.

His political vision is a failed one; he is playing the role of a black conservative political snake oil salesman to racially resentful white voters. More troubling, Ben Carson’s blackface version of white conservatism is a de facto embrace of white identity politics

The second poison pill is Ben Carson's claim that "Obamacare" is "the worst thing since slavery". His scare mongering Sarah Palin inspired death panel distortions of healthcare reform threaten to do real harm to the American people.

In fact, people of color in mass, young people, the elderly, as well as the poor and working classes, will all benefit from Obamacare.

A question: Where, and to whom, are Ben Carson's primary commitments as a medical professional?

Ben Carson is a doctor. His obligation to the truth, to do no harm, and the Hippocratic Oath, should demand that Carson not lie about the positive impact of Obama’s healthcare reforms in order to win support among his handlers in the Republican Party. Instead, Ben Carson has chosen the applause of white conservatives over his commitment to public health.

A second question: Is President Obama's expansion of the opportunity to buy health insurance really the worst thing to happen to American freedom since the enslavement of black Americans?

Although he has offered a facile clarification and more doublespeak on this issue, Ben Carson has repeatedly said that the answer is "yes".

What do the facts reveal?

After formal slavery ended, African-Americans suffered under almost 100 years of racial tyranny under a system called Jim and Jane Crow. They were robbed of citizenship and voting rights and subjected to a new type of bondage under debt peonage, convict leasing, and sharecropping laws. Thousands of black men, women, and children were also murdered by spectacular lynchings.

For Ben Carson, Jim and Jane Crow and its horrific racial violence are apparently not as bad as Obama’s healthcare reforms.

Carson is also invoking slavery in order to suggest that expanding healthcare opportunities is a type of “tyranny.”

What does the historical record tell us about white on black chattel slavery?

The enslavement of African-Americans was brutal: it was one of the greatest crimes in human history.

Millions of black people died during the Middle Passage; many millions more were killed by white on black chattel slavery across the Black Atlantic.

In all, white supremacy and racism were a total social system that involved religion, philosophy, science, economics, law, and ethics as it worked to legitimate a social hierarchy that judged "white" people superior to "non-whites".

White supremacy as a social and political system was prefaced on the dehumanization of people of color. Its logic extended to the medical and biological sciences.

"Medical Apartheid" was one of the systems of power that was born from centuries of white supremacy in America. Like slavery, it was cruel and inhumane.

For example, African-Americans were treated without anesthesia. Old, infirm, or "physically unusual" slaves were also sold to medical schools and private doctors for experimentation and study.

In addition, medical schools in the South tried to win students from the North and elsewhere with their promise of access to cadavers and other "subjects", i.e. black Americans, for examination and study.

How were these “subjects” treated?

Black women had their reproductive organs removed or otherwise manipulated by white doctors without the use of pain medication.

The backs of black human property would be cut open so that spinal cords could have boiling water poured on them to experiment with treatments for pneumonia.

African-Americans would be subjected to forced heat stroke in order to see if they could be cured of that affliction. One survivor recounted his experiences as:

...Ordered a hole to be dug in the ground, three feet and a half deep by three feet long, and two feet and a half wide. Into this pit a quantity of dried oak bark was cast, and fire set to it. It was allowed to burn until the pit became heated like an oven, when the embers were taken out. A plank was then put across the bottom of the pit, and on that a stool. Having tested, with a thermometer, the degree to which the pit was heated, the Doctor bade me strip, and get in; which I did, only my head being above the ground. He then gave me some medicine which he had prepared, and as soon as I was on the stool, a number of wet blankets were fastened over the hole, and scantlings laid across them. This was to keep in the heat. It soon began to tell upon me; but though I tried hard to keep up against its effects, in about half an hour I fainted. I was then lifted out and revived, the Doctor taking a note of the degree of heat when I left the pit.

Vivisection by "night doctors" remains alive in the lived memory and oral traditions of African-Americans, where stories have been passed down about the torture and experimentation conducted on black slaves (and others) by white doctors.

The legacies of Medical Apartheid remain today with racially disparate healthcare outcomes and quality of care across the colorline.

Carson's political blackface routine is even more tragic as it involves an African-American betraying his commitment to truth-telling in order to advance the interests of a political party and movement that has neither love nor respect for people of color.

Ben Carson's suggestion that an effort to extend access to healthcare is in any way remotely akin to the enslavement, rape, murder, stolen labor, exploitation, abuse, and cruelty suffered by millions of African-Americans is a scurrilous and abominable lie.

It flattens history.

Moreover, Ben Carson is disrespecting the legacy of his ancestors by legitimating one of the American Right-wing's most popular lies, that African-American slavery "wasn't really that bad".

For all of his medical expertise and genius, Ben Carson is an example of the potent power of Right-wing political excreta to work in a human centipede-like fashion, as disinformation is recycled back and forth among those who live in the closed loop that is the Right-wing echo chamber.

Ben Carson is also a black conservative. There are few more lucrative jobs in American public life. And it is an especially good job if one can secure it...even if said job involves betraying one's professional ethics while eagerly consuming and regurgitating the Republican Party’s political waste at an open trough such as the annual CPAC meeting.