The Shifting Racial Paradigm | Sojourners

The Shifting Racial Paradigm

Two recent political storms threaten to rain all over black people's parade, and we have neither an umbrella or a rain cap, no raincoat, boots, or even all-purpose Totes. The implications of President Bush's veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1990 and the "defeat" of Louisiana Republican State Rep. David Duke for the U.S. Senate are more significant than what many of the progressive or liberal civil rights organizations and political leaders -- black or white -- have allowed.

Duke's popularity and Bush's veto (or, more accurately, the sentiments influencing Bush's veto) both share the same roots: the notion held by many whites that minorities, primarily blacks, have gotten over without any individual initiative. They strongly believe that the federal government is no longer for white people and that it is held hostage to every Tom, Ricardo, and Harriet crying racism, sexism, or any other "ism."

The burden of finding our way through the backlash of pent-up white resentment will not be solved at the polls, or by crying racism, or by bemoaning the fact that the federal government has turned back the clock. The civil rights veto and the increasing legitimization of David Duke (see "David Duke's Short Journey From KKK to GOP," May 1989) pose an intellectual dilemma for blacks more than a political problem.

How will we blacks think our way out of the crises we find ourselves in on so many fronts? What is our role in the changing political landscape? And what new creative paradigm can black intellectuals devise to chart our collective way through the 1990s and into the 21st century?

IT WAS MOST INTERESTING to see David Duke in Washington, DC, to observe the Senate's failed attempt to override the Bush veto. It is easy to dismiss his comments as racist patter. But when you realize that many of the people who did not vote for Duke this time said that they could have if he had not been in the Klan, he is not so easy to dismiss.

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