Harder to Handle

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I know from my personal experience that people with strong racial and other biases are unlikely to admit those biases even to themselves. I grew up in a Republican family. My parents voted the straight Republican ticket in every election. They never espoused hatred toward blacks, hispanics, Jews, or any other group.

My mother did have strong anti-Catholic feelings that she expressed frequently. She never explained the source of her antipathy toward Catholics. My father would never have done anything overt to deny rights or dignity to another person. But I knew my parents for over fifty years. And I can tell you that they were deeply prejudiced against blacks, hispanics, Asians, Jews, and Catholics.

If they have ever thought about homosexuals they would have been prejudiced against them, too. My parents believed that heterosexual white anglo-saxon protestants were the only group that should be entrusted with political authority. Their political hero was Barry Goldwater. They voted according to their prejudices. While my parents loved their black mailman, rooted for black baseball players, and enjoyed the music of Nat King Cole, they believed that blacks lacked the intelligence to handle responsibility.

My mother died before she had ever heard of Barack Obama, but she believed that the secret goal of all Democrats was to force her to wait in line in a public clinic to see a foreign-born doctor. Ironically, my mother’s white personal physician married a black woman. My mother never quite understood that, but she liked the doctor and his wife.

My father got prostate cancer later in his life. His health insurance assigned him a black doctor. My parents were amazed that the doctor was competent and caring. Did this change their prejudices? No. They freely admitted that there were always “a few good ones” in any minority group.

My wife and I have Republican friends and neighbors. It never takes any of our conservative friends very long in a conversation before they begin making disparaging remarks about ethnic minorities. It’s usually only a matter of minutes. The obsession with President Obama has been almost comical if it weren’t so sad. Republican Jews who think that their gentile conservative allies don’t harbor deep prejudices against them are living in a dream world.

I know many gentile conservatives, and all of them are deeply anti-semitic. They’d just never admit it. Those of use who grew up in conservative families understand the complexities of prejudice. Conservatives may be effective at fooling each other about the depth of their prejudices, but they don’t fool everyone.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I don’t think this applies to all or most conservatives – and I don’t think SB is saying that. Having this personal background is clearly a searing one for someone who has left the fold, as it were.

But we are truly fooling ourselves if we don’t admit that this does exist and that it is a powerful undercurrent pervading our politics. In some places more than others, in older generations more than others. But it’s deep and it’s real and trying to understand politics without grappling with it is like trying to make sense of a play if a good chunk of the dialog were missing.

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