The Race Card

So McCain says Obama played the race card — here is my question: WTF is this metaphor supposed to mean? I’m serious. We are in a competition (like a card game), but you played a card that is not supposed to be played? Or, it is an illegitimate trump card? Can there ever be a discussion about race without someone “playing the race card”? Is it playing the race card to SAY someone is playing the race card? We see phrase used in our research too and the more I think about it, the more baffled I am by what it is supposed to mean.

Is the idea here that African-Americans get preferences on the basis of race (haha) so Obama is somehow illegitimately trying to get ahead by reminding us of his race? (this theory is laughable given the social science on what happens when race is invoked)

So Obama said the McCain campaign is trying to scare people away from him — he has a funny name, he doesn’t look like us, etc. McCain said, “we never did that, so he is playing the race card.” Well, I see them doing that. It’s subtle, but it is done all the time. That’s why the New Yorker cover was supposed to be funny, right? Someone is doing it. Doing it is not bad, but pointing it out is? That’s the silliest thing I have ever heard.

Typical white person’s response to discussions about what it is like to be a person of color in this country.

Black person: I get called n***er on the street, followed around in stores, paid less in the aggregate and perhaps in the particular, have a life expectancy 5 years less than my white counterpart with the same insurance and health history, and am more likely to be poor, in jail, and the victim of violent crime.

White person: I didn’t do those things to you; you are playing the race card! And, playing the race card makes you a bad person. I win!!

How does that make any sense?

Also, please note – there is a BOATLOAD of social science evidence that mentioning race (in the positive or negative — merely invoking race) disfavors the person of color in a variety of ways. So getting us talking about race only helps McCain.

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5 Responses to The Race Card

  1. majorman says:

    I blogged about a definition of the race card today. You may enjoy it. http://majorman.wordpress.com

  2. gradmommy says:

    I was JUST talking to my husband today about this! It’s like if I mention that I’m black, that means I’ve played the race card? It’s so effing annoying.

  3. lbsmom says:

    Bob Herbert’s column in today’s NY Times is good. One particular quote stood out to me: “…Nevertheless, it’s frustrating to watch John McCain calling out Barack Obama on race. Senator Obama has spoken more honestly & thoughtfully about race than any other politician in many years. Senator McCain is the head of a party that has viciously exploited race for political gain for decades…”

  4. vickywoeste says:

    The consensus is that Obama can only be hurt when the campaigns talk about race in this way–that is, when both sides accuse the other of playing the race card (which, in fact, Obama specifically has not done).

    Another test comment–I won’t say more until I see that this posts.

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