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Colored WhiteTranscending the Racial Past$
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David Roediger

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520233416

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520233416.001.0001

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White Workers, New Democrats, and Affirmative Action

White Workers, New Democrats, and Affirmative Action

(p.55) 4 White Workers, New Democrats, and Affirmative Action
Colored White

David R. Roediger

University of California Press

This chapter addresses the “white worker” in President William Jefferson Clinton's attempts to distance himself from affirmative action and argues that taking a longer historical view is indispensable to understanding the recent past. It also hopes to make a modest contribution to efforts to look at the neoliberal views of race and of white working class historically. Neoliberalism's appeals to the white working class under Clinton largely focused on issues that were ostensibly race-neutral but are in fact highly charged in racial terms. The three broad generalizations presented suggest that even in its Rustin-inspired, social democratic variant race-neutrality is itself a problematic strategy and also leads away from meaningful mobilizations against class inequality. To capitulate to race-neutrality, and thus to white supremacy, is to abandon white workers to their own worst impulses and to their society's. It is to close, rather than to open, space for class politics.

Keywords:   white worker, President William Jefferson Clinton, neoliberalism, race, class politics, class inequality, generalizations

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