An odd and very remote encounter with racism. Or was it? To be continued.

I’ve got a ton of good stuff to blog about, and I hope to get to some items over the next few days. Right now, though, I’ve got to say something about a weird experience I had yesterday.

I was on the train back to Boston, cleaning up the transcript of an interview I’d done in New Jersey, where I was reporting on a nonprofit news organization called NJ Spotlight News. I paid more than I usually do so that there would be a human set of eyes looking it over before sending it back. The quality was excellent — but there was a section in which my subject and I were talking about race. Every reference to “White” was uppercase and every reference to “black” was lowercase.

If you’ve been following changes in news style over the past few years, you know that some pretty significant shifts have been implemented. The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Boston Globe all decided to start uppercasing Black but not white. Here’s how Globe editor Brian McGrory explained the paper’s reasoning in January 2020:

Effective immediately, we’re updating the Globe stylebook to put the word Black in uppercase when it is used to describe a person’s race. After consulting with leaders in the Black community, we’re making this change to recognize that the word has evolved from a description of a person’s skin color to signify a race and culture, and as such, deserves uppercase treatment in the same way that other races — Latino being one example — are capitalized. Unless otherwise requested by a person we’re writing about, we’ll use Black, which is considered to be more inclusive, rather than African-American.

Why not “white”? As the AP described it, “white people in general have much less shared history and culture, and don’t have the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color.”

The Washington Post took a different position, uppercasing both “Black” and “White,” explaining, “Stories involving race show that White also represents a distinct cultural identity in the United States.” That’s fine, and I suspect that at some point others may follow suit.

But referring to uppercase White people and lowercase black people is something you’d expect from the racist dark reaches of the internet. I was kind of startled to see it come from a reputable transcription service — and no, I’m not going to name them, so don’t ask. I might let them know (now I’ll have this blog post to send them), and if I get a response, I’ll tell you what they said.

Ron Paul’s racist ties get another airing

It’s good to see that Ron Paul’s dalliance with racists and anti-Semites is getting another airing. The Weekly Standard is recycling James Kirchick’s splendid New Republic article of four years ago, in which we learned that newsletters with names like Ron Paul’s Freedom Report and the Ron Paul Political Report were filled with gems such as a reference to Martin Luther King Day as “Hate Whitey Day.”

Paul, naturally, claimed to know nothing.

The New York Times gives the charges an airing today. For what it’s worth, here’s what I wrote for the Guardian in early 2008.

Poll illuminates tea-partiers’ views on race

Thanks to Greg Mitchell’s Twitter feed, I know far more about the New York Times/CBS News poll of tea-party supporters than I would have if I’d relied solely on the Times’ polite take. (The Times does better with an interactive presentation of the complete results.) What you really want to do is check out CBS News’ coverage, starting here. A few findings that are worth pondering:

  • Fewer than half — 41 percent — believe President Obama was born in the United States. Thirty percent flatly declare that Obama was born in another country, and another 29 percent don’t know. In other words, 59 percent of tea-partiers are either hard-core or soft-core birthers.
  • Then again, 32 percent of Republicans believe Obama was born in another country.
  • Eighteen percent of Americans identify with the tea-party movement, and just one percent of them are black. Not surprisingly, 52 percent of this overwhelmingly white group say that too much is made of the problems facing black people, and one-fourth believe the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.
  • Fifty-four percent are Republicans, and 41 percent are independents. Given that 73 percent say they’re conservatives, it stands to reason that most of the independents are politically to the right of where they perceive the Republican Party to be. Just 5 percent say they are Democrats.
  • Sixty-four percent believe a flat-out falsehood (other than the birther falsehood): that taxes for most Americans have risen during the Obama presidency. In fact, they have fallen.
  • And here’s the explanation: 63 percent say they get most of their news from the Fox News Channel, and large majorities hold favorable view of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.
  • While anger is a prime motivating factor, tea-party “activists” turn out to be even angrier than mere supporters: 72 percent of activists are mad as hell, compared to 53 percent of supporters.

Conclusion: Anyone who thinks the tea-party movement isn’t motivated by racial fears is deluding him- or herself.

Looks like we’re back in Kansas, Toto

Oh, my. A first-term Republican congresswoman from Kansas named Lynn Jenkins told folks attending a town meeting recently that her party needs to find a “great white hope” to do battle with President Obama. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Jenkins told the crowd:

Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope. I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington.

Jenkins proceeded to rattle off the names of several Republican up-and-comers, all of whom were, uh, white. She later apologized through a spokeswoman.

Sounds like the classic definition of a gaffe. That is, she accidentally said what she meant. As Charles Pierce observes, when they say it’s not about race, it’s about race. (Via TPMDC.)