When Racism Distorts A Journalist's Logic

An editorial columnist for the Kansas City Star shows us what would likely become the default defense against criticism leveled at a President Obama's administration. It'll be about racism.

The Drudge Report today posts this link: PAPER: ‘Socialist' label called ‘old code word for black'...

The link is to an article entitled "Shame on McCain and Palin for using an old code word for black" by Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star editorial page columnist.  Diuguid, an African-American and journalist by university training, is vice president for community resources at The Star.

The thesis of his editorial is that, in using the word "socialist" to refer to Obama, McCain and Palin have "simply reached back in history to use an old code word for black" as was frequently done, Diuguid writes, by former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover when he thusly described "African Americans who spent their lives fighting for equality."

So, here's Diuguid's attempt at a logical syllogism.

(Major Premise) Hoover labeled African-Americans who fought for equality as "socialists" in order to "set whites apart from those deemed unAmerican and those who could not be trusted during the communism scare."

(Minor Premise) McCain/Palin label Obama's economic plans for America as "socialist."

(Conclusion) Therefore, Palin and McCain are using an old code word, as did Hoover, for "black" when they call Obama's economic policies "socialist."

Now if, historically, American socialists tended to be black, Diuguid's Syllogism might have one leg to stand on. But that's not the case.

There's Eugene Victor Debs (1855 - 1926).  He ran for President both as a member of the Social Democrat Party in 1900, and representing the Socialist Party of America in 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920.  He's one of the best known socialist in the American history.  His parents came from France.  Eugene was not an African-American.

There's Norman Mattoon Thomas (1884 - 1968). He was the Presidential candidate for the Socialist Part of America six times.  He was an ordained Presbyterian minister.  Norman was not an African-American either.

And we can't forget Edward Michael Harrington and David McReynolds and...well, you get the point. The American socialist movement has been led by white guys.

Barack Obama's supporters note that he was just a small boy when William Ayers and the Weathermen were setting off bombs. Sarah Palin was six years old when Hoover died in 1972.

So where does The Kansas City Star editorial columnist derive his logic?  Here are excerpts from three of his most recent articles.

"I support Obama and his plans for America, but I also know this country's burning fires of racism. The discrimination blacks face isn't as bad as it once was. But the hatred is strong enough that the majority is unlikely to elect an African-American leader... I wouldn't be surprised to see Bush toss the keys of the stalled-out nation to McCain as America fails the presidential diversity test. But I'd love to be proven wrong on Nov. 4."

"If Obama is elected, we may begin to rediscover America. Maybe then we can drop our guard and our fears. Maybe then the fight motif will disappear from American politics and we can begin the hard work of repairing the damage in U.S. race relations, economics, opportunity and America's global image."

"Minorities and women, who had made great gains since the civil rights movement have lost ground financially, in education, jobs and justice. Children of middle-class minorities today are less likely to attain the same economic status as their parents compared with white kids who still can do better.  The right and far right have pushed their own sense of the ends justifies the means. Ethics and what's moral just don't matter. Toxic toys and deadly baby food were OK until too many people started to die. Subprime loans were OK until they started to pull down the global economy."

Editorials are about espousing an agenda and Diuguid has one.  On the editorial page, there's nothing wrong about that, nothing at all. What fails, though, is his logic. Why? Because when logic yields to racist assumptions, regardless of the color of the source, it always fails. Every single time.

There are white racists.  And there are black racists.  Racism comes in many colors. And the sooner we all admit that, the better off we'll all be.

If Obama is elected President, whenever he's criticized for his job performance we're likely to hear more variations on Diuguid's Syllogism. 

Update: Bookworm satirizes Diuguid with her post "Famous black socialists." 

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