Over the last decade, it has become increasingly clear that conservatives are using race to divide the American public. Examples include the conspiracy theory involving Barack Obama’s birth certificate, complaints against “identity politics,” blaming immigrants for taking away jobs, complaints against “politically correct speech,” the backlash against NFL players kneeling for the national anthem, glorification of the confederate flag, complaints against affirmative action policies, criticism of Black Lives Matter activists, fear-mongering about crime committed by immigrants, calling for travel bans of Muslims, and of course the all-encompassing campaign and Presidency of Donald Trump, who is perhaps the most racially divisive President since Richard Nixon employed his “southern strategy” of appealing to disaffected whites by stoking racial resentment.
The opposite of the conservative strategy is not to avoid the discussion of race, it is to discuss race as a means to bring people together.
However, due to the relative “success” of the conservative strategy of using race to divide people, there have been some liberals who have called for an end to “identity politics”, themselves borrowing a phrase that was coined by conservative dividers in the first place. While this can seem like a pragmatic solution to our current political climate, it is not, in fact, what the American people want.
This can be evidenced by the fact that Donald Trump’s approval rating hit its lowest point after he tried to argue that there were “fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally and counter protest:
President Trump’s approval rating has dropped to its lowest level ever in a Gallup tracking poll.
The president’s approval rating is only 34 percent in the latest Gallup average released Monday, while 61 percent of adults disapprove of the president’s performance, also a new high.
Trump’s approval rating has dropped at a time when he has taken heavy criticism for not explicitly calling out white supremacists and neo-Nazis in a statement condemning violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.
While divisive racial rhetoric and policies might excite some of Trump’s base, it does the opposite for a majority of the country, who have shown time and again that they are tired of racial divisiveness.
In addition, a majority of Americans recognize that racism is still a problem for the country:
A majority of Americans say racism remains a major problem in American society and politics, according to the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll.
Overall, 64 percent said racism remains a major problem in our society.
Pluralities of Americans said race relations in the United States are getting worse (45 percent) and think that too little attention is paid to race and racial issues (41 percent).
Race is not an issue that can just be ignored or downplayed, as some liberals have recently recommended. It is an issue that needs to be addressed, and in a constructive way, not in a way that further divides.
The majority of America is, in fact, in favor of racial inclusiveness, and welcomes a message that acknowledges race, but in a way that calls for races to come together.
Ian Haney López and Anat Shenker-Osorio recently tackled this subject in detail and published their findings in the Washington Post:
To test whether a combined race-class message could overcome standard Republican tropes, as well as prove more effective than colorblind progressive populism, we developed brief vignettes that described race as a strategic weapon and called for cross-racial unity to achieve racial justice and shared prosperity. Here’s one version:“No matter where we come from or what our color, most of us work hard for our families. But today, certain politicians and their greedy lobbyists hurt everyone by handing kickbacks to the rich, defunding our schools, and threatening seniors with cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Then they turn around and point the finger for our hard times at poor families, Black people, and new immigrants. We need to join together with people from all walks of life to fight for our future, just like we won better wages, safer workplaces, and civil rights in our past. By joining together, we can elect new leaders who work for all of us, not just the wealthy few.”Through focus groups, four state studies and an online survey with a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults, we examined how each race-class narrative held up against other vignettes, including a right-wing story line and a standard left-of-center, race-neutral approach. We found that addressing race and class together beat both alternatives.
“The politicians,” a white guy in our Ohio focus group said, are “telling us you have to hate the black man because he does all the bad stuff . . . They’re dividing us so they can conquer.”
A white woman in the group responded, “If we would all come together, the politicians wouldn’t have the strength they have.”