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If Virginia Is For Lovers, Is West Virginia For Bigots?

On Sunday, my local paper featured a column by Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts regarding West Virginia and the “problem” some of its residents seem to have with voting for Barack Obama. The column stated that, according to exit polls from their primary, two out of every 10 voters stated that race was a major factor in how they cast their ballots. Mr. Pitts referred to a clip from “The Daily Show” featuring a white woman who explained her refusal to vote for Obama: “I guess because he is another race. I’m sort of scared of the other race ‘cause we have so much conflict with ‘em.” Pitts went on to remark how sad he found this and made a point that Critical Race Theory scholars from Derrick Bell on down have been making for decades: That the white poor have been victims of a con job by rich whites, who have used them as fodder to maintain their own socio-economic status going back to the “states’ rights” justification for the Civil War and continuing on with them as the front line of white supremacy. As Derrick Bell would say, instead of forging an alliance with poor blacks based on shared interests, poor whites would rather cling to their supposed white privilege and look down on blacks instead of realizing that their alliance with rich whites based on perceived common white privilege has been of little or no benefit to them.

Pitts put it well:

My point is that race has often been used as a means of distracting and diverting the white poor. They had little in life, nor any realistic expectation of having more. But the one thing they did have – or so the con went – was whiteness itself. Which meant they had someone to be better than. Someone to look down upon.

Pitts is far more charitable than I am. I don’t see poor whites who believe as that one West Virginia woman does as victims because I think that’s too condescending and lets them off easy for a conscious choice. I think they choose to be disassociated from blacks because they can’t possibly imagine that people they perceive to be beneath them could be of benefit to them.

Funny. I’m sure that’s what rich whites think of them.

I would ask them, in the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that Republican party been workin’ for you the last eight years?” If they would be so shallow as to vote for McCain over Obama solely because of Obama’s race despite Obama’s promise to overhaul a government that has worked more against them than for them, well then, they deserve their sorry lot in Appalachia.

Which leads me to question: If Virginia is for lovers, is West Virginia for bigots?


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