How Attacking Racial Political Identities Perpetuates White Supremacy

January 20, 2021
2 min read

“Being black should not influence a political view,” reads one prompt in Jubilee’s “Black Liberals vs Black Conservatives” video.

All three conservatives step forward in agreement. “Being Black should not influence how you think politically,” says one of them. “What’s good for us as Black folks should be the same as what’s good for everybody else.”

“I vote based on the issues I care about, and the issues that I care about stem from my personal experiences as someone who was raised in a conservative household,” says another.

“Do you ever vote your religious beliefs?” the third questions him.

“Yes,” he responds.

Why is it easy to politically identify alongside party and religion lines, but not race ones? One can be a Democrat, Republican, or Christian voter, and others will respect such identities, but as soon as you identify as a Black voter or Black political candidate, it’s like you’ve committed a crime: discussion of policy ceases and personal attacks begin. “You’re racist for seeing racial differences in political leadership and interests. Stop pretending it’s the 19th century. We don’t have slavery or segregation anymore, move on.”

Towards most political identities one might disagree with, the reaction is first apathy, then perhaps questioning of the specific policies or ideologies attached to that identity. The conservative in the video’s religious political identity led to a conversation about abortion, for example. But the aversion to racial political identity is different: the reaction is not apathy, but belligerance. There is something going on here.

That something is the ideology of color-blindness, a shield deliberately created to protect those who didn’t want to from confronting actual systems and experiences of racial injustice. Nixon appealed to America’s “color-blind” constitution in opposition of school integration. “We want a colorblind society, a society that, in the words of Dr. King, judges people ‘not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,’” Reagan proclaimed in a 1986 radio address after establishing MLK day as a national holiday, while using this very same concept to shut down civil rights legislation.

Today, color-blindness and aggressive opposition to race as a political identity function in much the same way. Invalidating opinions because they are associated with race is a way to conveniently invalidate experiences and structural problems associated with race, while keeping them as far from the realm of serious consideration as possible. After the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other innocent Black Americans earlier in the year, I heard arguments that these deaths were the result of bad policing, not racism. Sure, you could look at subsets of facts until this argument is correct, but it begs the question, why do you feel such a need to pursue this alternate framing? Why are you so averse to framing it as an issue of race, when race is so clearly a factor, and a symptom of much larger underlying problems? Seek earnest answers to these questions, and you will observe white supremacy in action.