Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Racism and the Transit Strike

There was a huge gulf between the way black and white New Yorkers viewed the transit strike, which goes a long way toward explaining the racialized way the strike was covered in the media (not to mention how it was discussed more privately).

First, check out the racial breakdowns of folks' reactions to the strike:

From the Wednesday, December 21st WNBC/Marist Poll

The blame game

Question Wording: Who is more to blame for the transit strike the transit workers union or the MTA?

Transit Workers Union



NYC residents








African American








Question Wording: Overall, do you favor or oppose the transit workers union decision to strike?




NYC residents








African American








This racial gulf is affirmed in this NY1 Poll:

Thirty-five percent of white residents blame the union over the MTA, while only 12 percent of African-Africans and 17 percent of Latinos do.

New Yorkers of different races are also split over whether the union's demands are fair. Less than half - 38 percent - of white New Yorkers do, while nearly three-quarters of both African-American and Latinos find the TWU's proposals are fair. Three times as many white New Yorkers say the union is more to blame for the strike than African-American New Yorkers.

So depending on which poll you believe, whites blamed the union either two or three times as much as blacks did (with Latinos more in the middle). It's like the difference between what Red and Blue states believe to be the facts about Iraq. The views are mutually contradictory, completely irreconcilable. Unfortunately, in the case of the transit strike, white people dominate the media. To read the headlines of any of the dailies this week was to read the venom of white people pissed off at black people.

As a friend of mine emailed,

I think the whole reaction to the transit strike is racist. I've seen these blogs run by white liberal Ivy league NYC newbies who post pictures of black or Latino MTA workers asleep in the ticket booth with captions that deride their "labor." Meanwhile, they are sitting in Madison Ave. offices stealing company bandwidth and time so that they can post stupid thoughts about stupid movies in between checking gawker and craigslist. What happened to worker solidarity?

I blogged earlier about how fucked up and racialized this "lazy transit worker" meme was. It reminds me a lot of Reagan's mythical "welfare queen," the lazy black woman trying to steal "our" money.

It wasn't just individual racist reactions to the strike. It wasn't just Bloomberg's racial code of calling the strikers "thugs." There were substantive issues about race at the heart of the strike.

As train operator Douglas Brown said to NY 1, "This is New Orleans all over again. We're fighting for pension benefits. When this union was Italian and Irish they had a 20-year pension."

The polls suggest that black people got this. The headlines, TV reports, blogs, and anecdotal evidence suggest that white people couldn't have cared less.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Talking out my ass in part, but to tack on one what I think was one more racial difference in perception: white people kept saying "b-b-b-but the strike is illegal." To black people, civil disobedience over principle hearkens back in part to civil rights struggles.

  • At 2:39 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Ah, probably true, especially for older people who vividly remember the civil rights movement.

    It's just sad how brittle liberalism seems to be.

    I'm telling myself that the white people in the polls are post-Giuliani transplants from suburbia. Those aren't real New Yorkers. That's what I'm telling myself.

  • At 2:54 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Um, a fair number of them are probably the pre-Giuliani racists who elected him in the first place. New York has never been a heaven of racial harmony.

  • At 5:28 AM, Anonymous jolo said…

    2ยข from a very external point of view.

    It seems quite clear to me that someone working at a bank is unlikelier to agree with a strike that forces him to carry strangers in his car, while a worker e.g. in public services is more likely to see the reason for the strike and to think "they're right, I have to do that in my job too".

    My point is that this is not only a racist thing, but depends on the income and living standard of the people asked. A strike is a class struggle - whether you consent or not depends on the class you feel constrained to.

    Best wishes and happy holidays
    jolo (south Germany)

  • At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Alexander "Benjamins" Hamilton said…

    To a certain extent, yes, but even in that light, race and class are inextricably entwined in New York. And there were also quite clearly racist elements in the way white people expressed the resentment that probably arose in part from the inconvenience you mention.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com