Playing for time

The gamification of the rightwing race shtick

© 2007 liz west, used under a Creative Commons license


You’ve seen the recent reports of attacks on elderly Asian-Americans, including a videotaped, much-publicized incident in New York (the suspect has been arrested), and may have noticed a certain, ah, coloration in the conservative coverage. John Sexton of HotAir:

After the Boulder shooting lots of people on the left were eager to fit that crime into the pre-established narrative, but their efforts backfired when the shooter turned out to be Syrian. Now we have these two attacks yesterday in New York and it seems reality just won’t cooperate with the narrative.

The media was on fire last week with talk about the connection between anti-Asian violence and white supremacy. I read at least two pieces making that case and many more that referenced it in passing. I’m sure there are people on the left eager to square this circle but obviously reality is a bit more complicated than Critical Race Theory would lead you to believe.

Sexton previously said of the NYC incident, “This is not the outcome people on the left wanted... This is not the narrative the media and the left wanted. The increase in hate crimes was supposed to blamed squarely on white supremacy but reality hasn’t been cooperating with that agenda,” etc. Sexton then cited Bari Weiss and black-on-black crime in Chicago, as one does.

Since the pandemic began, the organization Stop AAPI Hate has logged 3,795 violent anti-Asian or anti-Pacific-Islander incidents in the U.S., but conservatives had been pretty quiet about it until Robert Aaron Long killed six Asian-American women on March 16 — at which point they rushed to tell us it had nothing at all to do with the women’s heritage or indeed anything racial (See Rich Lowry, National Review: “In the Atlanta Shooting, the Narrative Trumps Facts... It’s just not the right kind of hate to fit a woke narrative of white supremacists targeting Asian Americans in a frenzy of racism”).

Now, though, since they have high-profile case of a big black guy from one of the big bad cities, anti-Asian-American violence is a major concern.

Whenever this theme emerges you can count on Rod Dreher to contribute; here’s his bit on how “the anti-Asian hate crimes in this recent wave have been carried out by black assailants.” Also this week Dreher raged about a carjacking gone wrong here in D.C. that led to the death of the driver; his McGuffin in that case is, not only was the driver’s death allegedly caused by two black teenage girls (a Dreher triple play right there!), but the victim was a man of Pakistani descent, leading to the sort of brown vs. black shtick you might remember from the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, whose identification by newspapers as a “white Hispanic” was portrayed by conservatives as the media trying to erase the minority status of their champion, which they considered a public relations advantage.

But Dreher is mainly mad that news shows aren’t making a bigger deal of the girls being black — even Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post “did not mention the race of the alleged perpetrators,” he laments, whereas in Atlanta “the suspected killer was a white man” and everyone talked about it because it “fit the narrative.” (These guys use “narrative” more often than a structuralist English professor.)

Dreher quotes at length from fellow racial obsessive Heather Mac Donald (“Had the suspects been white, their race would have led each news report, as it did for Robert Aaron Long”) and goes on a while about how badly D.C. is run by its black lady mayor Muriel Bowser (she tweeted a link to instructions on how to evade carjackings, which Dreher describes as “victim-blaming”) and rages about Black Lives Matter Plaza and how Bowser “repainted a block of a DC street leading to the White House... but she can’t find a word to say about an elderly brown man who appears to have been killed in a carjacking by two black teenagers. And of course, the media remain silent...”

The refugee situation on the Mexican border is another trigger for conservatives. Biden has eschewed the immigrant-repelling strategies of the Trump administration, and is allowing in some unaccompanied child refugees — which still leaves us with thousands of kids in overcrowded pods, opening Biden and anyone who cares about the kids to taunts from conservatives who don’t care about the kids but enjoy that the mess Trump made to immiserate and scare away immigrants hasn’t immediately been cleaned up by Biden’s less punitive approach, which they portray as Democratic hypocrisy. Byron York in the Washington Examiner:

So Trump, briefly, separated families. Biden is now encouraging families to separate themselves. In both situations, families are separated. And in both situations, the policy that led to the separations was intentional.

(Consent and agency remain conservative blindspots.)

Trump officials knew what they were doing. Biden officials know what they are doing.

What is remarkable is that, starting at the top, the Biden administration’s family self-separation policy was crafted and is being enforced by the same people who strongly denounced the Trump policy.

York even calls his column “The cruelty is the point,” an apparently joking reference to Adam Serwer’s description of Trump-era Republican policy in general; York’s view is that “cruelty is the result” in either case, so we may as well just shoo these poor refugees, whether child or adult, back into whatever hell they fled. To conservatives helping is always futile and counterproductive, especially at the border, and only gives the underprivileged the idea that we’re the soft touch the Statue of Liberty said we were.

The latest related sub-outrage taken up by the right is the San Diego school district allowing their teachers who volunteer to do so to give instruction to these refugee children. The motivation is undoubtedly to give kids who must be scared stiff some sign of caring and attention, but conservatives portray these teachers’ generosity as an injustice to their own children — who, notwithstanding that most of them are decently housed with their families, conservatives think are getting a raw deal:

ReopenCASchools adds in their next tweet: “It gets worse. 37 of the 500 teens tested positive for Covid... @GavinNewsom & @ToddGloria think this is OK but teaching kids in their own community isn’t?” Yep, there’s nothing like the classics. Wingnut bottom-feeder site Steadfast Clash snarls, “when everyone is in agreement that remote learning has damaged the progress of millions of American children, why are teachers taking a risk to teach unaccompanied migrants when they won’t even physically show up to teach our own children?”

You can be sure if these guys could get to the water that good samaritans leave out in the desert for refugees, they’d pour it into the sand — or poison it.

There’s a theme tying all these items together, and it’s not just the obvious one. Their concern over anti-Asian-American violence that only materializes when they can attribute it to black people; their eagerness to cite black crime whenever white racism is in the news; their attempts to pit brown people against black people, and their rage that brown-skinned immigrants, just by being tolerated and mildly helped, are getting something that they themselves feel they lack (not just the in-person lessons, I'm guessing, but also the sympathetic attention of decent people) — this is about the conservative belief that racism is a game.

From the Reagan years onward, they got into the habit of treating complaints about racism as mere hustles employed by race pimps to get over; we white folks were encouraged to brush off inequality and disparate treatment, because if we did not our sympathy would be exploited by the strapping bucks and welfare queens.

But now more Americans, especially young ones, take inequality and disparate treatment seriously. Conservatives feel themselves losing their grip; the kids are calling them racist, and the usual sneering strategy (like calling them “social justice warriors,” which conservatives actually consider an insult) doesn’t scare them off.

To conservatives this isn’t just a difference of opinion — it’s existential, it’s losing, getting older and seeing the wave of what they call “wokeness” washing away their legacy. It makes their whole life look like a mistake and raises the horrifying prospect that their allegedly hard-nosed, “tough love” answers to racial issues were just cruel and stupid.

So they answer every claim of injustice with a claim of their own, no matter how absurd — you bring up police murders, they say what about white people killed by cops; you bring up racially-motivated mass murder, they say what about Chicago and D.C.; you bring up refugees, they say what about my rights?

They’re playing hard and, as we have seen, mostly dirty. But in the end they’re just playing for time.