SF State News {University Communications}

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Robert Smith on why conservatism and racism are the same

Nov. 9, 2010 -- In a provocative new book, Professor of Political Science Robert C. Smith argues that in American politics, conservatism and racism are the same and always have been.

Photo of Professor of Political Science Robert C. Smith

Professor of Political Science Robert C. Smith

"The argument is not that conservatives in general are racist, but that the application of pure conservative principles has the same effect as racism," Smith said. "I show that ideological conservatism is everywhere and is always the conscious and reflective defense of established institutions and ways of life. In the United States this has meant a defense of racism and white supremacy."

In "Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same," Smith analyzes the philosophy behind modern conservatism, charts the rise of the conservative movement since the 1960s and delves into President Reagan's record on race. Drawing on archival material from the Reagan Presidential Library, Smith explores how Reagan dealt with such issues as welfare reform and affirmative action, and illustrates the continuing impact of Reagan's presidency on Republicans and Democrats today.

Following is an excerpt from the book:

Racism in the United States…is systemic – a complex, interdependent, interactive series of behavioral and ideational components. This "systemic racism" is reflected in the unjustly gained economic resources and political power of whites; empirically in a complex array of anti-black practices; and in the ideology of white supremacy and the attitudes of whites that developed in order to rationalize the system.

This complex systemic phenomenon is what African American thought challenges and African American movements have sought to overthrow. Conservatives, however, have sought to maintain it, or, at best, to change it gradually, always prioritizing stability over justice. This then, historically and situationally, is what in the first instance makes conservatism and racism in America the same.

Posted by permission "Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same" by Robert C. Smith, the State University of New York Press ©2010 State University of New York. All Rights Reserved.

-- University Communications


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