By Tim Wise
First, let us on the one hand thank Greg Gutfeld for brutally eviscerating the veil of disingenuous denial placed over the welfare discussion heretofore by the Republican Party and conservatives of all stripes in this election cycle. Up to now, whenever those of us on the left would point out the inherent racial subtext of their welfare-bashing, folks like Gutfeld would scream and bellow that we were playing the race card, and that welfare had nothing to do with race. We were, according to them, hearing things.
But now Gutfeld has said it quite plainly. In a discussion of black conservatives, contrasted with blacks generally, he talks specifically about “infantilizing an entire race” and making them addicted to crappy programs, by which it is doubtful he means Democratic programs like the GI Bill, or FHA loans, or Social Security, but rather, so-called welfare programs, and those that are generally derided as being of the “handout” variety. Memo to Greg Gutfeld: when speaking in code about black people, it really helps if you don’t actually mention black people. But ya know, thanks.
Why Yes, That Is a Racist Argument Actually: Following the Anti-Black Logic of Gutfeld’s Thinking
However, not only does Gutfeld’s statement prove that the right is indeed thinking about black people when they bash welfare programs and recipients, it is actually far more pernicious than that. It does more than simply suggest an implicit, dog-whistle kind of appeal to racial resentment. The argument he is making here is actually entirely racist in and of itself, because it casts negative and judgmental aspersions upon African Americans as a group, and it does this in multiple ways.
First, to believe that black folk are so weak that they can be infantilized by a political party or various programs supported (sometimes) by members of that party, is to think precious little of those same black persons. It is to suggest that a people who are strong enough to survive the Middle Passage (go ahead Greg, look it up, it’s OK), enslavement, debt peonage, convict-leasing, Jim Crow and lynching, can somehow be brought to their knees, and turned into dysfunctional children, by virtue of an EBT card or a health insurance policy that happens to cover their kids’ pre-existing asthma. To think black people so weak as to be rendered virtually inoperative as functioning adults by various social programs, while white folks in European nations who receive much larger safety net benefits of all kinds seem to have no similar problems, is to believe black people somehow less resilient, even inferior to those Europeans. If safety nets trap blacks in a so-called “hammock” of dependency as the right is fond of saying, and contribute to so many of the social problems that conservatives would like to lay at the feet of that dependency, why haven’t the much more generous safety nets of every other industrialized nation on the planet with which we like to compare ourselves, absolutely wrecked their people? How are Scandinavians still able to remember how to bathe themselves, let alone get up and go to work? Why do social programs cripple black people but not Nordic types? I wait with baited breath for an answer to this question that won’t be by definition racist. So, ya know, good luck with that Greg. Be sure to let us know what you come up with. And try and make it more than 140 characters of snark.
Gutfeld’s argument is also racist in that it relies on a belief that black people are too stupid to realize the harm that liberals and Democrats and so-called welfare are doing to them. It presumes that black people are so sheeplike they’ll vote for anyone with a (D) in front of their name, just to get that couple-hundred dollars a month in food stamp (or what are called SNAP) benefits, even though such things are so clearly and obviously turning them into children, or even, as some would have it, slaves. But to believe that black people as a group are that unintelligent, that craven, that easily manipulated, is to cleave to an intrinsically racist assumption about them. Whether you believe—as they did in the old days, and as some modern conservatives like John Derbyshire still do—that black people are biologically less intelligent, or whether you reject that argument (as Gutfeld surely would), and think merely that there is something about them culturally that causes them to be collectively stupid, the outcome is the same: you believe African Americans lack the basic intelligence necessary to realize when they are being destroyed. And if you believe that, you are a racist. End of story.
But putting the current political context and the actual data aside for a minute, what’s perhaps most infuriating about the dependence argument offered endlessly by the right in regard to black people and so-called welfare, is what an utter inversion of racial reality it truly represents. After all, no group has been more dependent on others in this nation’s history than we white folks.
We depended on the forced labor of black people to produce the wealth that financed the American revolution, and without which labor the nation could never have been built.
We depended on the stolen land of indigenous peoples and the theft of half of Mexico in a war of aggression that we started on false pretense, to then grow the nation beyond its initial geographic area and add even further to the national wealth.
Indeed, the high school from which Greg Gutfeld graduated is named for a European Friar, Junipero Serra of Spain, who depended on the forced labor of Native Californians to support the spread of Catholic missions throughout the territory, and who viewed them as children in need of harsh fatherly discipline and forced conversion from their presumably heathen faiths.
And whites depended on forced Chinese labor to build the transcontinental railroads without which the growth of the industrial economy would have been stifled.
We depended on segregation to elevate us as white people beyond the level of wealth and power that we would have otherwise obtained, by protecting us from competition with millions of persons of color.
We can sum up this conservative race-mongering and welfare-bashing pretty simply. The GOP's fundamental racial message in this year's election is: white male Christians built it, others tear it down. White male Christians are hard-working and self-reliant. Others are needy and greedy.
If you agree, vote for Romney, who's practically the epitome of Western civilization and its so-called Manifest Destiny to dominate and rule. You know, the basic belief that white = might = right. If you disagree, vote for Obama.
For more on conservative racism, see:
Republicans: White people own America
Racists deny playing race card
White Americans fear a black president
Conservatives lie about welfare
Women and Indians as "welfare queens"
Republicans want to "Keep America America"