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NPR Asks Gates Staffer About Racists

From taxpayer funded National Public Radio:

Is Anger Over Health Overhaul Jim Crow 2.0?

August 15, 2009

Kai Wright, senior writer for The Root, says the outrage and anger on display at health care town hall meetings is more about economic and social anxiety than health care overhaul proposals. Wright tells Guy Raz what he thinks is really driving the anger.

GUY RAZ, host:

We’re back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I’m Guy Raz.

The anger at recent town hall meetings across the country has, at times, drowned out the debate on how to overhaul health care

RAZ: There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation out there on the various plans for changing the health care system. And an essay on the website, theroot.com argues that the rage isn’t really about health care at all. The author, Kai Wright, says it’s really about the anxieties of a whole segment of America that increasingly feels shut out.

Mr. KAI WRIGHT (Senior Writer, The Root): We’re seeing the manifestations of an anxiety amongst poor and working class white folks about what is my place in a vastly changing culture and a vastly changing economy. Those are real and meaningful anxieties, and we’re seeing a group of folks trying to exploit those anxieties.

The fear of Barack Obama not being a citizen, to these notions that people would have to stand in front of a death panel and defend their right to live. We’ve seen a handful of folks, both in corporate media and the Republican Party try to elevate those ideas in effort to exploit those anxieties.

RAZ: It’s almost impossible to sort of do an empirical study on, you know, on who is going to the meetings, who is expressing anger. How can you be sure that most or many of the demonstrators are poor or working class?

Mr. WRIGHT: Well, you can’t. What we do know, and there has been some reporting on this on where the ideas are coming from. And they do seem to be coming from the militia movement. When you trace some of who the leaders are, particularly amongst the Birthers, they’re folks who have a history in the militia movement.

It’s pretty clear who they are speaking to. And these protests, to my mind, are speaking to poor and working class whites who are feeling alienated in today’s economy and in today’s culture.

RAZ: So your argument is that the anger and the rage of many people who are expressing it now is just being channeled in the wrong direction.

Mr. WRIGHT: I’d say it’s being exploited more than channeled. The GOP I think in particular is trying to exploit it. And Glenn Beck is trying to exploit it. Rush Limbaugh is trying to exploit it…

RAZ: Kai Wright is a senior writer for theroot.com. He joined us from New York.

Kai Wright, thanks so much.

Mr. WRIGHT: Thanks for having me.

You can listen to the full interview here.

However it quite telling what NPR didn’t tell its listeners that Mr. Wright works for Mr. Henry Louis ‘Skip’ Gates at ‘The Root.’

About Us

The Root is a daily online magazine that provides thought-provoking commentary on today’s news from a variety of black perspectives. The site also hosts an interactive genealogical section to trace one’s ancestry through AfricanDNA.com, a DNA testing site co-founded by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who is also The Root’s Editor-In-Chief. The Root aims to be an unprecedented departure from traditional American journalism, raising the profile of black voices in mainstream media and engaging anyone interested in black culture around the world.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.


Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is Editor-in-Chief of The Root. He is also co-founder of AfricanDNA.com, the site that powers the genealogy section of The Root.

For some further context, here are some excerpts from Mr. Kai Wright’s article, which obviously served as the inspiration for this NPR interview:

The Birthers and Jim Crow 2.0

The manufactured anger driving the birthers and health care town halls is the same white rage that has divided poor white people from poor black people for all of our history.

By: Kai Wright

Posted: August 12, 2009

If ever there was a “teachable moment” about race in modern America, now is it. With the birthers and the reparations conspiracy theories and the Nazi imagery at health care meetings, someone’s gotta explain why all these white folks are wilding out. We need an articulate, impassioned race man to clarify things. But not Al Sharpton; I say pass the mic to Jim Webb.

Remember way back when Webb, a Democratic senator from Virginia and the voice of Appalachia’s neglected white yeoman, was sniffing around a veep nod? In the midst of that media moment, he hit on an idea we’d do well to dwell upon. “Black America and Scots-Irish America are like tortured siblings,” Webb patiently explained [1] to Pat Buchanan in a May 2008 Morning Joe appearance on MSNBC. “There’s a saying in the Appalachian mountains. … ‘If you’re poor and white, you’re out of sight.’”

Webb went from there into a bizarre attack on all the nonwhite and nonblack people who he believes have hijacked affirmative action. But his core message is deeply relevant to today’s tumult. Poor whites have always gotten screwed in America, Webb told us, and they’re terribly angry about it. Whoever directs that rage harnesses a powerful political tool.

Which brings us to both the profiteering right-wing media and the aimless Republican Party stuck in its tail wind. Both have decided their survival in America’s new multiracial reality depends upon a very old playbook: pursue narrow financial and political gain by exploiting the justified anxieties of working-class whites.

As a result, we all feel like we’re living through a Saturday Night Live skit. Each day brings another twisted punch line. More than half of Republicans aren’t convinced Obama’s a citizen? Huh? Fox host Glenn Beck actually attracts viewers by proclaiming Obama has “a deep-seated hatred of whites”? Health reform as Holocaust? Really?

Most commentators try to make sense of it by harking back to Nixon and the GOP’s “Southern strategy,” when it consolidated regional power by stoking reactionary fear of the civil rights movement. That’s true as far as it goes. But years earlier Martin Luther King described it more broadly [2]. “The Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow,” he explained, summing up the region’s history in a sentence. “And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than a black man.”

The white aristocracy is still serving that gamy old bird. All that’s changed is the waiter. Gone are thugs like Bull Conner and the local elites whose power they protected. In are stooges like Beck and the corporate media elites they enrich. Rupert Murdoch may have decided that the feud between his guy Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann hurts News Corp.’s bottom line, but you’ll see no such restriction on demagoguery. And Rush Limbaugh brags [3] that 2009 revenue is “through the roof.”

These loud-mouthed robber barons bedevil national Republicans. But the party knows the fear and anger they stoke is nonetheless as useful as ever in the heat of battle, because convincing poor whites to hurt themselves remains a powerful tool for blocking reform. The ugly mobs of GOP operatives-turned-grass-roots activists at this summer’s town hall meetings are only incidentally fighting health care reform. Their real purpose is to show how frustrated whites can direct their anger at Democrats. Feeling poor, white and out of sight? It’s because that black guy’s trying to reshape America without you. Get him!

Fox’s Glenn Beck said it best: “Everything that is getting pushed through Congress, including this health care bill, are transforming America, and they’re all driven by President Obama’s thinking on one idea: reparations.” And Limbaugh, back in November [4]: “The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation’s wealth and return to it to the nation’s quote, ‘rightful owners.’ Think reparations. Think forced reparations.” (Your lips to God’s ears, Rush.)

That sounds absurd, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to assert than, say, explaining that a small, white aristocracy has spent centuries robbing America, poor whites included…

Kai Wright is The Root’s senior writer.

It sure sounds like Kai Wright is engaging in the worst kind of racial profiling, does it not?

Oh, and please note the photograph that accompanied his article.

By the way, ‘The Root’ is owned by none other than the Washington Post and Newsweek. (And surprisingly, not by Louis Farrakhan. Though we don’t know how one should tell the difference.)

As a fun thought experiment, just try to imagine the hue and cry if say, Rupert Murdoch, owned a similar publication for promulgating ‘news’ from a white perspective.

It’s unthinkable, isn’t it?

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, August 17th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

22 Responses to “NPR Asks Gates Staffer About Racists”

  1. curvyred says:

    They sound like bitter, bigotted elitists.

  2. electionhangovervictim says:

    So basically, Mr. Wright is suggesting that poor white people can’t think for themselves. That they’re all just blindly following Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh’s lead?
    Think of the outrage that would ensue if a white man wrote this same article but spoke of poor blacks and their exploitation by Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.

  3. Liberals Demise says:

    Looks to me like he is touting the neo-Obama symbol on the back of his head.

    • VMAN says:

      Well said. These tools are too stupid to realize the the swastikas are there because they’re being called nazis (which by the way they are) I’m just glad that people are finally realing that and voicing it.

  4. wirenut says:

    Infuriating, simply infuriating! My how small minds think alike. The only class this enclave cares about, is to somehow put the rest of “us” into one.

  5. catie says:

    I am so sick of this crap. I just don’t believe this. I had someone tell me this weekend that I am a racist because I didn’t vote for this dolt and I’m truly beginning to despise him, not just dislike him, despise him.

    • electionhangovervictim says:

      Did you ask this person if the only reason they voted for him is because he’s black? Because that would make them a racist. I hate people like that…completely illogical.
      I hope you told them your vote had nothing to do with the color of the candidates’ skin.

    • VMAN says:

      I have a dream of a day when a man will be judged by the content of his character not the color of his skin. Seems like I heard that somewhere. The problem is people who confront you like that don’t know that the O Hole has no character.

  6. curvyred says:

    There is hope: a local business had this sign (they are located on a major highway):

    “The American People voted stupidly on November 8, 2008 and the Executive Branch has acted stupidly ever since”

    I stopped by the business (I had not intended to stop there) and purchased a few items and told him to keep up the good work.

    • electionhangovervictim says:

      Sounds like one of Casa d’Ice’s signs!

    • curvyred says:

      I just googled Casa Dice, and they do have a similar sign, although that isn’t the business that I was referring to.

      Casa does have some very interesting signs posted on their website.

      I suppose great minds think alike – I love it!

  7. proreason says:


    proreason predicted weeks ago that crying racism would be a major tactic in the war to implement socialism via Death Care..

    But it was really too obvious to brag about it much.

    Still, it’s a nice twist though to bring Prof Gates in on it.

    Given his bona fides as an objective observor of racism.

    Isn’t this a great country?

  8. VMAN says:

    I don’t mind being called a cracker or honky or whitey or a WASP but for some reason “White folks” just burns me up.

  9. Steve says:

    Some more of Mr. (we think?) Wright’s oeuvre:

    Stories by Kai Wright

    Kai Wright is a freelance journalist in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn.

    The ‘Mortgage Meltdown’ Was No Accident
    How the mortgage industry stole black America’s hard-won wealth.
    Posted on Jun 30, 2008

    The “Colorblind” Attack on Your Health
    Since the civil rights movement’s close, blacks in particular have made no progress on what may be the most important measure of social well-being: living to see old age.
    Posted on Jun 5, 2007

    Upward Mortality
    Is racism slowly killing black Americans — physically as well as systemically?
    Posted on May 24, 2006

    Fear, Loathing, and the AIDS Generation
    If you’ve paid passing attention to the news about gay men and our sex lives in the last year, you’d think we’re all depraved, barebacking, bug-chasers. But that’s not actually what’s killing us.
    Posted on Jan 12, 2006

    Harlem’s Toxic Nightmare
    Black and Latino children are paying the price for the mismanagement that has many public housing projects saturated in pesticides and literally crawling with rats.
    Posted on May 3, 2005

    More Sex, Please
    The gay rights movement has sacrificed sexual pluralism on the altar of civil rights. While legal equality is a worthy goal, it’s also a goal that will remain elusive as long as we opt out of the sex wars.
    Posted on Apr 1, 2005

    Red, Black and Blue
    Many progressive black voters entered this election in a jubilant mood, with increased engagement and high turnout in key states. But their effect was often countered by new evangelical voters – some of whom were African American.
    Posted on Nov 5, 2004

    Sarah Jones’ Reality Theater
    Sarah Jones is making a name for herself as heir to the feminist performance-art thrones of Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg, while her romance with unvarnished urbanity puts her closer akin to Spike Lee and Richard Pryor.
    Posted on Jun 1, 2004

    What Rainbow?
    Queer people of color have been reluctant to engage the in the gay civil rights movement’s marriage battle. That’s because we don’t see what’s in it for us.
    Posted on May 21, 2004


    No wonder Mr. Gates and NPR would be so enamored of him/her. He seems right up their alleys.

    But why isn’t he in Mr. Obama’s cabinet?

  10. neocon mom says:

    I don’t know about NPR, but it seems to me PBS is holding a lot more donation drives than ever before. Of course here in leftyland where I reside, the local NPR affiliate is now able to offer Diane Rehm, Talk of the Nation and Terri Gross on weekdays instead of just classical music (wonder if porkulus had anything to do with that up-sell.)
    NPR is just preaching to its base, but if Henry Louis Gates’ name was invoked then I guarantee that even among NPR listeners, this piece struck a sour note.

  11. beautyofreason says:

    “If ever there was a “teachable moment” about race in modern America, now is it. ”

    Yes, if you are one of those citizens who dares to disagree with Obama and you happen to be a race other than African American, you are a racist. It’s that simple. We saw Obama supporters pull the race card during the primaries as well.

    Be prepared to be called Nazi, warmonger, or bigot for the mere act of talking if it does not conform to Democratic talking points.

    Puppet….meet string…

    “Let’s be very honest about what this is about,” she said. “It’s not about bashing Democrats, it’s not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston tea party was about, they don’t know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks.”

    – Jeanine Garofalo, April 16, Countdown with Keith Olbermann

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      B of R, we all knew this would come. Rush talked about it today…that Blammo the Great’s policies are hitting real mud now and getting stuck, and Americans who abhor socialistic encroachment are being labeled as racists. This, coming from the people, the group, the movement that in the 60’s who demanded that “all labels be dropped”.

      Teabagging rednecks is as much of a label as the “n” word and is intended to be the most denigrating of insults. But, they miss the mark by a country mile because there are upper-middle class folks in the millions who have never seen anything with four-wheel-drive or a gun rack and who don’t hunt, own a gun or drink light beer or bowl, or all those other “red-necky” type things. (Using Jeff Foxworthy’s criteria for redneck) who just don’t want this administration to move another got-dang inch.

      The liberal media is so far out of touch with middle class America that they have gone into the realm of particle physics just to function because their world is so small.

      But this is the ultimate result of what happens when people think they are “movers and shakers” are, in fact, just wigglers and whiners.

      My response to Jeanine would be, “Lady, you would have me lay down my life and let myself get shot by a mugger before I fought back for fear of being called a racist”

  12. artboyusa says:


    Cold black rain battered on the corrugated iron roof of the Barack Obama Community Health Center; it streamed down the broken windows and puddled on the concrete floor. From the gaggle of wheezing, sneezing, coughing and bleeding supplicants that filled the holding pen one white haired individual shuffled forward. “Hold on” he choked. “I’m coming…”

    “Who are you –Sam and Dave?” snapped the Administrator. “Let’s go! Chop chop!”

    “Sorry sir” mumbled the dotard. “Sorry…hard to walk…leg hurts”.

    “Yeah, yeah; we all got problems. Name? Number?”

    “Citizen, John Q. ObamaCare Access Number 17031955/JQ/2008 (B)”.

    “Sorry. You’re not on my database, mister. I got no records for you”.

    “Um, maybe I forgot… a number…sorry, sir. Let me just check my bar code arm tattoo”. John Q Citizen began to fumble with his cuffs.

    “No time for that, coffin stuffer. Go to the back of the line, please. And try to supply accurate information in the future. Next!”

    “But my leg really hurts…”

    “I bet it does. Smells bad too. Back of the line. Next!”


    “Don’t make me call Security. Next!”

    As Mr Citizen reluctantly retired his place was taken by another, eager for treatment.

    “Name? Number?”

    “Doe. Jane Doe. ObamaCare Access Number 14011960/ JD/2012 (S)”.

    “Let’s just pull up your records…whoa! That ain’t good! Nuh uh”.

    “What? Oh my God! What does it say? Tell me!”

    “Sorry; no can do. Confidential”.

    “But those are my records! I have a right…”

    “Confidential, I said, goddammit. Don’t make me call Security. Okay; I can make you an appointment to make an appointment to see somebody…”

    “A doctor?”

    “I said ‘somebody’, I didn’t say ‘doctor’. Are you deaf or something?”

    “What? A little I think. But mostly it’s when I cough, there’s blood all the time…”

    “Oh yuck! Gross! Just don’t do it on me, okay? I can book you in for 7.30 am on the 27th”.

    “Of August?”


    “That’s a long ways away. I’m scared; I think it might be cancer. There’s a history in my family…”

    “Hey, I didn’t ask for your life story. January 27 – take it or leave it”.

    “I’ll take it, I guess”.

    “Fine. Now we’re getting somewhere. Take this form, complete both sides in black ink, using capital letters, and take it to that room over there”.

    “What happens then?”

    “You complete another form and you go to another room”.

    “And then?”

    “Are you complaining? Huh? You better not be!” growled the Administrator. “Actually, looking at your records and seeing how much you’ve, um, got wrong with you and considering the cost of treatment…maybe I can fast track you after all”.

    “To a doctor? That would be wonderful! Oh, thank you so much!”

    “Get up! Quit licking my hand! Stop crying! And I didn’t say ‘doctor’, either. I meant fast track you to a special program just for expensive, incurable – I mean extra special – people like you”.

    “Extra special? What kind of program?”

    “Did you ever see the movie ‘Soylent Green’? No? Well, then it will be a whole new experience for you…”

  13. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/5186735/Neo-Nazi-protests-mar-the-opening-of-the-Illinois-Holocaust-Museum-and-Education-Centre-in-Skokie.html?image=1
    Picture is from Neo-Nazi protest of Jewish Holocaust Museum in Skokie – not townhall meeting!

    “Which brings us to both the profiteering right-wing media and the aimless Republican Party stuck in its tail wind. Both have decided their survival in America’s new multiracial reality depends upon a very old playbook: pursue narrow financial and political gain by exploiting the justified anxieties of working-class whites.”

    Translation: Rush, Beck and Fox are pointing out that “whites” are getting screwed. Which is exactly what Martin Luther King did for African Americans.

    “…exploiting the justified anxieties of working-class whites.”
    Should read: “…giving voice to the justified anxieties of working-class whites.”

    Can you believe that he uses the word “justified”? An alternate translation is “Whites” have “justified anxieties” about the “justified” screwing that they are getting for benefiting from slavery.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      I never owned one single human but I get stuck with the bill for past transgressions by the “We be Owed” crowd.
      So who’s benefiting from what now?

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