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Americans as "Racial Cowards"

by William McGaughey

(February 2009)

Barack Obama’s newly appointed Attorney General, Eric Holder, who is the first African American to hold that position, recently described Americans as “cowards” when it came to racial matters. I assume he was referring to whites who harbored pro-white or “racist” attitudes but were afraid to express themselves openly on that subject.

A reason that many whites are afraid to express racial views is that the stigma of racism may cost people their jobs, provoke expensive lawsuits (racial discrimination being a well-established type of injury), or, at the least, consign the perceived racist to being a social pariah.

I do believe, however, that some whites, even those who express sympathy for the white race, do dare to engage in racial discussions. They are met with a conspiracy of silence. Our newspapers and other media, which ought to feature a clash of ideas, are universally committed to keeping dissent on racial matters away from public view.

How do I know this? I have myself expressed heretical views on race relations. No one has openly opposed me. What happened instead is that my expressions have been airbrushed from the public record. Silence is the preferred weapon.

In 2002, I entered in the Independence Party primary for U.S. Senate, running against the party-endorsed candidate. Hoping to inspire a racial discussion, I announced, as one of my two campaign issues, that I supported “dignity for white males”. My campaign lasted five weeks. I finished second among three candidates, with 31 percent of the vote.

The Star Tribune did not mention my name in any of its news reporting on the primary campaign, although it did run a front-page story on my principal opponent. When I attempted to place a paid ad, I was told that the paper’s “legal department” had advised the paper not to accept my ad unless I agreed to delete the reference to “dignity for white males”. The paper’s policy of silence also extended to not reporting the election results for my race after the primary was held.

I made other attempts to raise the issue of race in the following three years. First, when the Roman Catholic archbishop appeared with a panel of black ministers in north Minneapolis in December 2003 to denounce white racism, I stood up at the meeting to say that, as a white man, I did not agree with their position. One of the ministers called me “insane”. A Star Tribune reporter, present at the meeting, asked for the spelling of my name. However, no mention was made of my discordant views in the Star Tribune article that appeared the following day.

In December 2005, I convened a meeting at a library in Minneapolis billed as “an open discussion of race”. Chris Stewart, newly elected to the Minneapolis school board, agreed to attend. I would represent the “white” position. We did, in fact, have a vigorous and honest discussion of race. Three newspaper reporters, including one from the Star Tribune, were in attendance. Two of the papers, including the Star Tribune, decided against running a story on the event. The third ignored the discussion, focusing mainly on Stewart’s controversial election.

My uninformed opinion is that the newspapers sent reporters to the event looking for a lurid spectacle of white racism. If I had used angry rhetoric, shouted at people, or otherwise made a fool of myself, I’m sure the event would have been reported. But since we were having a calm and, I think, intelligent discussion of race, the editors were not interested. To suggest that “white racism” can be reasonably discussed would do damage to the political consensus that exists among media practitioners.

I do not think it is in the interest of American society, including the black community, that the orthodoxy of racial views be maintained. The Civil Rights movement was born in an appeal to white Americans to rid themselves of racial prejudice, which means judging all members of a race by the misdeeds of a few. Yet, a worse prejudice has now arisen against members of the white race. We as a group are tainted by the institution of slavery, by lynchings, and other violent acts committed in the past. This is pure racial prejudice advanced, however, in the Orwellian name of fighting prejudice.

I think that Eric Holder’s statement, provocative as it seems, is actually an appeal for Americans to move on beyond this mentality. Let’s seize the opportunity now to do that. Be not afraid.