Ill over Racism in the Healthcare Debate

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Yesterday, my friend Megan admitted she was racist. Today, I’m admitting I am, too. We both took Harvard’s implicit association test on racial preferences, and we both got the same result.


Interesting and disturbing, isn’t it? 

So what’s the big deal with race these days, anyway? First Sonia Sotomayor was racist. Then there was the whole Henry Louis Gates ordeal, where Gates was racist, the cop who arrested him was racist and the neighbor who called the cops was racist too. Then Fox News’ Glenn Beck lost more than half his advertising dollars after he called Obama a racist.

And now the same insult has resurfaced in the health care debate. Earlier this week Tea Party leader appeared on CNN and called Obama a “racist-in-chief.” Jimmy Carter’s now calling Joe Wilson’s outburst and similar personal attacks on Obama racist, and—check this out—even your baby is racist, according to Newsweek’s cover story this week.

Some post-racial era we’re in, if “racist” is our country’s favorite insult. Right after socialist and Hitler.

What does race have to do with all this anger over healthcare, anyway? Our lawmakers and political commentators are so busy calling each other racists and reverse racists, we now have a healthcare bill introduced that Ezra Klein is calling the worst policy “possibly in the world,” and one that effectively encourages discrimination against hiring low-income workers.

And while we’re talking race and healthcare, let’s look at the stats that matter: A 2008 CDC survey found that 30 percent of Hispanics, 17 percent of blacks and 10 percent of whites do not have health insurance.

Individual racial discrimination is one thing. Systemic discrimination—racial, socioeconomic, or otherwise—is a whole ‘nother animal. Perhaps if our lawmakers (and our friends on cable news) stopped looking at each other for the slightest hint of discrimination, we’d have a more equitable bill to talk about.

Plus, if people are interested in calling out individual racists, they should just take the implicit association test. It takes 10 minutes and would spare the rest of the country—black, white, or any shade in between—from feeling any sicker in this rather unhealthy debate.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend