But it’s the response to Katrina that is most illuminating for our purposes, especially the response from the left, not from the right. “Let’s be honest,” Cornel West told an audience at the Paul Robeson Student Center at Rutgers University, “we live in one of the bleakest moments in the history of black people in this nation.” “Look at the Super Dome,” he went on to say. “It’s not a big move from the hull of the slave ship to the living hell of the Super Dome.” This is what we might call the “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” interpretation of the government’s failed response to the catastrophe. But nobody doubts that George Bush cares about Condoleezza Rice, who is very much a black person and who is fond of pointing out that she’s been black since birth. And there are, of course, lots of other black people -- like Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell and Janice Rogers Brown and, at least once upon a time, Colin Powell -- for whom George Bush almost certainly has warm feelings. But what American liberals want is for our conservatives to be racists. We want the black people George Bush cares about to be “some of my best friends are black” tokens. We want a fictional George Bush who doesn’t care about black people rather than the George Bush we’ve actually got, one who doesn’t care about poor people.
Although that’s not quite the right way to put it. First because, for all I know, George Bush does care about poor people; at least he cares as much about poor people as anyone else does. What he doesn’t care about -- and what Bill Clinton, judging by his eight years in office, didn’t much care about, and what John Kerry, judging from his presidential campaign, doesn’t much care about, and what we on the so called left, judging by our willingness to accept Kerry as the alternative to Bush, don’t care about either -- is taking any steps to get them to stop being poor. We would much rather get rid of racism than get rid of poverty. And we would much rather celebrate cultural diversity than seek to establish economic equality.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Walter Michaels:The Trouble With Diversity The American Prospect