I have to tell you when I first read my own U.S. Senator Jim Webb’s (D-VA) opinion column last week in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege” my jaw dropped.
This must be a misprint I thought—no sitting Democratic U.S. Senator (from the south no less) with a black population of almost 20 percent would be so openly divisive. Then I read it again, and again, and I finally grasped the point: Jim Webb is up for re-election in 2012 in a state that has turned “red” once again and he needs to bring home conservative white voters and independents that apparently feel discriminated against since Barack Obama became president of the United States. His op-ed is simply a preview I fear of what we can expect in the 2010 midterms and the 2012 presidential election.
Let’s face it folks—race and race baiting are here to stay. Pitting black against white and white against black still works in America and we had all better buckle up as I like to say because when a sitting U.S. Senator makes declarations such as this: “Forty years ago, as the United States experienced the civil rights movement, the supposed monolith of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance served as the whipping post for almost every debate about power and status in America. After a full generation of such debate, WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers. The time has come to cease the false arguments and allow every American the benefit of a fair chance at the future.”
What alternate reality is Jim Webb living in? Does he really believe that affirmative action and diversity programs have truly harmed white Americans? I simply don’t live in that America when we can all plainly see that black unemployment is double the national average, and that black men in some cities are experiencing Great Depression level unemployment in excess of 35 percent. Black infant mortality rates, incarceration rates, wealth gap, home ownership, marriage rates, education rates are all disproportionately at the bottom of the barrel (facts Webb reluctantly admits as he is talking out of both sides of his mouth).
WATCH ‘HARDBALL’ COVERAGE OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION:
But here is the point: I guess what incenses and alarms me most is that had a conservative written this column, or God forbid a Republican politician all hell would have broken loose and this story would have been carried by many news outlets. But since Webb is a Democrat, like the late Senator Robert Byrd (who once as a member of the KKK), he gets a pass. That is most unfortunate, because once again African-Americans are the losers in the “race-baiting” gamut. And I’d bet my house that despite this op-ed Webb will feel entitled to garner a large share of the black vote come the fall 2012 election. And worse, he will likely get it.
If any of us ever doubted the specter of race-baiting works well, we just have to reflect on the past week’s events with the NAACP, Tea Party, Shirley Sherrod, USDA, and Andrew Breitbart. For a United States Senator to author this kind of divisive op-ed, in the nation’s premiere conservative economic newspaper in such racially charged times as these is simply shocking.
This is exactly the kind of nonsense that Rush Limbaugh spews on airways day after day as he calls it in “Barack Obama’s America”: ”[In] Obama’s America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama’s America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, “Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,” and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he’s white. Newsweek magazine told us this. We know that white students are destroying civility on buses, white students destroying civility in classrooms all over America, white congressmen destroying civility in the House of Representatives.”
To my fellow Americans I would ask is this the kind of U.S. Senator we want: one that would divide us on issues of race and class beyond what we already are. Words penned by a statesman matter. Words penned by a United States Senator carry great weight. Words written that suggest one group is suffering because of the advancement of another are dangerous.
Sophia A. Nelson is a contributor to theGrio.com she is a political pundit and communications strategist. Her forthcoming book, Black.Female.Accomplished.Redefined. will be out in 2011.