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byron-york

Byron York, who used to write for the  National Review, a right-wing opinion magazine, wrote a post the other day called “The Black-White Divide in Obama’s Popularity”. It starts like this:

On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.

To which Matthew Yglesias said:

Dave Weigel observes that all Democratic politicians are always much more popular among blacks than among whites, so it’s not clear why York would spin this as a unique attribute of Obama’s. But more to the point, what is York talking about here? How does the fact that much of Obama’s support come from African-Americans mean that he’s not “actually” popular?

Steve Benen puts it more plainly:

For crying out loud, what the hell does that mean, exactly? … The problem, of course, is that damn phrase “than they actually are.” York argues that we can see polls gauging public opinion, but if we want to really understand the popularity of the president’s positions, and not be fooled by “appearances,” then we have to exclude black people.

And Andrew Sullivan adds:

I’m with Benen. What can that last phrase possibly mean, except that African-American opinion does not count as much as everyone else’s? Yglesias and Weigel pile one.

Now it gets even worse:  York replies. First, he does not take the charge of racism seriously:

I suppose if you haven’t been called a racist by the usual suspects on the left, you haven’t been writing for very long.

Next he misses their point while turning the charge of racism against Sullivan:

… Maybe “across-the-board” would have been better than “overall,” but I doubt that would have kept a left-wing activist like Matthew Yglesias, or Andrew Sullivan, who has himself been accused of racism and, quite recently, anti-Semitism, from branding me a racist.

It was not the word “overall” that made him seem racist, it was “actually” – you know, as if blacks are not “actually” Americans but white people are, as if blacks do not count.

This is an example of white gaze, a white way of looking at the world, which sees:

  • People of colour as being at the edges of things.
  • White people as important, as having lives that matter.

And the way he replied to Sullivan and Yglesias is also a common ad-hominem way whites have of answering charges of racism:

  • The “you always cry racism” argument
  • The “you are the racist one” argument

As is completely missing the point. To write for the National Review you have to be good with words and with argument, so I have to assume that York knowingly missed their point.

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