Washington, D.C.—Maybe Sen. James Webb, the Democratic senator from Virginia, didn’t understand that what he was saying made him sound like a mossback from the last century. In a bizarre and unfortunate opinion article published in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Webb offered up a pitiful plaint that white folks don’t get a break in today’s America.
I’m being charitable because surely the Democratic senator from Virginia didn’t mean to sound as bigoted as the article makes him seem. No, surely he wasn’t arguing that white Americans suffer from federal policies that favor everyone but themselves.
“Those who came to this country in recent decades from Asia, Latin America and Africa did not suffer discrimination from our government, and in fact have frequently been the beneficiaries of special government programs,” Webb wrote, arguing for a retreat from those unspecified federal programs. “The same cannot be said of many hard-working white Americans, including those whose roots in America go back more than 200 years.”
Beyond being grossly ignorant about the current effects of what he calls “present-day diversity programs,” Webb is engaging in reckless racial inversion. While he carefully exculpates black Americans, whom he describes as “still in need,” Webb makes a scurrilous case that white Americans – southerners and Baptists, in particular – are being harmed by nonwhite groups who receive “special consideration in a wide variety of areas including business startups, academic admissions, job promotions and lucrative government contracts.” His solution is a call for white people to unite and end “government directed diversity programs.”
Clearly, Webb is unaware that affirmative actions programs have been effectively dismantled by the Supreme Court.
But worse, he’s oblivious to the fact that his screed treads dangerously close to the discredited divide-and-conqueror tactics of the Southern strategy. In this new formation, Webb pits the sweeping and swelling segments of America’s immigrant population against native-born Americans with the aim of rallying the nation’s “white cultures.”
If he thinks this is a necessary step toward racial healing, especially after the week the nation’s just had, then he’s even more misguided than his article reveals. Somebody, perhaps one of his congressional colleagues, needs to tell Sen.Webb to get his head out of the last, sad epoch of covert racist talk and join the rest of America in the 21st century.