I had a discussion a while back with someone who had moved from San Francisco to New Orleans and was appalled by the open racism she encountered. I posited that I could not go back (see the header of this blog) and she countered that there’s just as much racism in the Bay. Which I concede without hesitation, certainly; history and circumstance bear that out. So what is the difference? People in Alabama will tell you how racist people are in Chicago while hanging out their Confederate flags, and I don’t know if the intent is to say “they’re more racist than us” or just “everyone else is just as bad so we should be allowed to do whatever.”
But there’s a material difference. There are plenty of Confederate flags in the Central Valley of California, and plenty enough racist-adjacents in the ranks of Silly Con Valley tech-bro-dom, especially among the Thiel and Musk contingent. But I don’t think you’re going to see an avalanche of bills in California demanding an end to early voting or restricting mail-in balloting, or banning “critical race theory” (a phrase that has become as meaningless as “woke” or “politically correct”), or protecting Confederate statues and symbols from removal. And that gets back to something else I have come to realize: I could never live in any place where the sticks have got the upper hand on the city.
Think about it. Austin perpetually (and inexplicably imho) gets a pass for being in Texas. Nashville is not being tarred with Tennessee (though maybe they should, given the extent to which paste-eating Twitter conservatives are moving there as their safe space). Atlanta – the capital of Black America, by some accounts – does not get lumped into Georgia, which is otherwise Mississippi with paved roads. New Orleans…well, that’s a unique case all the way around. But it’s not even a Southern thing. Consider some place like Kansas, or North Dakota, or Idaho or Wyoming, where there is no city to speak of and no “urban” presence and hell, precious few non-whites altogether and arguably nothing to “fear”. Nevertheless, there you go, same sort of nonsense, same catering to one-cow-one-vote wingnuts and their fever dream of reality.
By contrast, consider the Pacific coast. California does not want for red state nutballs; Red California is by rights an enormous state all on its own (as Tim Draper has repeatedly attempted to manifest). Oregon is famous for its anti-spotted-owl mania and has its very roots as a state in racism. Hell, the entire Pacific Northwest was ground zero for the militia and skinhead movements of the early 90s, in case you forgot about WAR and the Metzgers and Ruby Ridge and the like. The FBI had a branch office in Coeur D’Alene for years. But nobody thinks Washington or Oregon, let alone California, is about to tip into neo-Confederacy at the state government level, and that’s because Seattle and Portland and the Bay Area and Los Angeles have so many people that the sticks can’t get over. Without an electoral college and unequal state sizes to protect them, the QOP cannot carry its unfair federal advantage into states where it can’t work up a majority of voters.
I’m not asking to end racism. I wish we could, but I’m also realistic. What I want – and what should be entirely doable – is to eliminate the agency of racists. That’s what happens when you have a functional Civil Rights Act, a functional Voting Rights Act, a state with a Democratic lock on government and an unwillingness to bend the rules on behalf of white people outraged that their ferret-haired messiah lost fair and square for a second time. At least in a place like California, we were being driven toward the blades at a less acute angle for four years. Same deal with Biden – thanks to the intransigence of West Virginia and Arizona, we cannot have hope of improvement, but we can at least have a measure of relief; the millennium might not be upon us but at least the forces of the executive branch aren’t bent on making our country over into the United States of Alabama.
The Enemy will always be with us. As long as they are helplessly mewling, the dogs barking while the caravan proceeds, they are no more than a nuisance and can be dealt with. But when a dog won’t stop barking – or humping your leg – you have to cut his balls off. Our focus should be less on the bark and more on the balls – and we shouldn’t shirk from the snip.