Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Quick Word on Racism

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot to the last post, a bit of Anti-Racism 101 that one really can't repeat often enough until it sinks in and makes a difference:

While many take umbrage at the charge that they are active collaborators in ongoing white-racism (because they are truly fond of a coworker who is a person of color or whatever), it is crucial to grasp that one easily participates in structural racism and benefits from racial privilege whatever one's conscious or unconscious attitudes on racial questions -- indeed, the ready availability of naturalized racial categories already bespeaks this structural racism and privilege, inasmuch as the categories are altogether constructed by a "racial" pseudo-science that functioned primarily to abet slavery and colonial subjugation.

Whatever one's feeling in the matter, the facts are -- in the US -- African-Americans are the most economically devastated population and at once the most policed, imprisoned, and yet socially underserved population in the country. Confronted with that reality, you can either offer up a rationalization proposing some kind of constitutive inferiority in that population to account for this palpable difference -- in which case you would not only be empirically wrong, but also objectively racist, whether you admit it or not, whether you like it or not -- or you have to assume that a profound injustice is being carried out.

If you sensibly assume the latter, it is hard not to assume that this ongoing injustice was shaped by a deep history of slavery but also including the painfully more recent history of a segregation lingering on in more than the attitudes of some awful picturesque Southerners. To offer just one example to which I will return later, Segregation kept many of the crucial accomplishments of the New Deal -- which together with the organized labor movement created the American middle-class, mind you -- from benefiting most African-Americans of the time (a condition of southern Democratic support, for example, was that the New Deal would not extend to migrant workers and domestics, now think what they had in common), and a key reason the US did not get a national health service in the aftermath of WW2 when Europe did (with US assistance) was because the South feared the practical demands of providing universal healthcare access would eventually undermine Jim Crow (they were right, it would have, one more reason to champion it).

Now, to review, if one doesn't erroneously think the disproportionate poverty and policing of African-Americans bespeaks their inferiority (an outright racist view, however "nice" its proponent), but one recognizes these outcomes are the result of institutions and policies that exacerbate historical inequities in an ongoing way, one can either care about this and work to change those institutions and policies, or one can decide this is just the way things are, or it's too hard to think about, or just try to be a "good person" on terms circumscribed by these institutional and policy realities like most people do. Making the latter choice, like it or not, is also racist.

Indifference to the structural injustice disproportionately subordinating people of color in this country -- especially if one is white and a proportionate beneficiary of this structural dynamic, whatever one's distressed circumstances for whatever other reasons (human life is a pickle for all of us, even the luckiest) -- is as racist in my view as would be the false rationalization that these inequities are not so much injustice but bespeak inferiority. And this is true even if the person acting -- or refraining from acting -- on the basis of these attitudes does not express any conscious animus toward people of color in the least.

And what I have said about the state of affairs in the US, also plays out when one contemplates the larger relation of Western/North Atlantic civilization in its relation to the overexploited regions of the postcolonial world. It is not a desire for a fanciful "restitution" for past ills that should compel a civilization whose wealth and accomplishment is based in a history of enslavement and colonial violence to offer vast aid, support and investment (and I don't mean neoliberal "investment" that re-enacts colonial exploitation through "developmental" indenture and IP wealth-capture), but the simple recognition that the inequity of global poverty is a crime against human potential from which WE ALL suffer an incomparably greater loss in opportunity than is compensation by the benefit to some minority of elite-incumbents in ongoing wealth-concentration.

Returning for a moment to your point about government [the reader to whom I am responding indicated that despair over ongoing racism was part of an early attraction to anti-governmental ideology], do take careful note that I mentioned before the way the New Deal created a white middle class that excluded African-Americans and hence perpetuated their subordination. Before one draws an anti-governmental lesson from that history, pay close attention to the villains in that history. Understand that market libertarian rhetoric in the mouths of Republicans to this day paralyses an economic recovery from which people of color disproportionately suffer. At the heart of right-wing attacks against the Post Office is a historical reality of black mail carriers. Behind the paranoid fantasies of death-panels, the Affordable Care act offers unprecedented medical support and preventative care for African-Americans. Behind macroeconomically illiterate GOP hostilty to the Jobs Bill and calls for stimulus investments in infrastructure repair and renewable energy one finds a host of public sector jobs from which African-Americans have historically benefited enormously (public school teachers, beat cops, social workers, administrators, construction workers, etc.).

Always check your premises -- as La Rand used to say in a rare moment of sanity -- but always pay attention to actual outcomes, too. Without Jim Crow holding it back, the New Deal would have fulfilled the abolitionist's vision of Reconstruction -- instead, LBJ's Great Society made the attempt a generation later and prompted the Southern Strategy that shaped another generation, fueled Movement Republicanism and is dying only now in the age of Obama with the rise of the new democratic coalition for a diversifying, secularizing, planetizing people.

Not to put too fine a point on it, "anti-government" rhetoric is a functional proxy for the desirability of racist outcomes, even if the simpleton "theorists" of libertopia happen to have no racial animus in their hearts at all (we'll pretend for the moment we don't notice just how many of them are always privileged white guys).


Mike Hunte said...

Race at this point in history is nothing but a distraction from Class War and a divisive tool to pit the lower classes against each other.

Race is irrelevant, only Class matters.

Ask the dirt poor whites of Appalachia and all over America about their "privilege."

Read "The Redneck Manifesto" by Jim Goad

"Culture maverick Jim Goad presents a thoroughly reasoned, darkly funny, and rampagingly angry defense of America's most maligned social group -- the cultural clan variously referred to as rednecks, hillbillies, white trash, crackers, and trailer trash. As The Redneck Manifesto boldly points out and brilliantly demonstrates, America's dirty little secret isn't racism but classism. While pouncing incessantly on racial themes, most major media are silent about America's widening class rifts, a problem that negatively affects more people of all colors than does racism. With an unmatched ability for rubbing salt in cultural wounds, Jim Goad deftly dismantles most popular American notions about race and culture and takes a sledgehammer to our delicate glass-blown popular conceptions of government, religion, media, and history."

Mike Hunte said...

apologies for making 2 comments sub. identical, it appeared the first one did not transmit

Dale Carrico said...

I agree race politics always function in tandem with and often function as a proxy for class politics. And obviously I agree that racialized categories do not map onto socioeconomic status seamlessly. But to deny the ongoing disproportionate poverty and policing of people of color, and to ignore the legacies that play out as that ongoing reality is simply stupid.

most maligned social group -- the cultural clan variously referred to as rednecks, hillbillies, white trash, crackers, and trailer trash.

Race is nothing but a distraction, and divisive, and irrelevant one second and then white people are true victims of racism the next second? Wow, what a sophisticate you are, who would have guess with such an elegant and oh so serious pseudonym? It is easily possible to care enormously about addressing abiding poverty in Appalachia without denying the palpable reality of poverty and exploitation of people of color and caring about addressing that too. Racialized discourse remains a force through which the maldistribution of resources, opportunities, social costs, risks, and benefits plays out in this country.

While white-identified folks make incomparably greater numeric recourse to the food stamp program in fact, it is also true that Newt Gingrich was engaging in white-racist discourse -- based on the re-mobilization of stereotypes and falsehoods -- when he called Obama the "Food Stamp President" for example.

I draw the opposite conclusion from yours: one cannot understand class politics in America without understanding our race politics.

Dale Carrico said...

it appeared the first one did not transmit

All posts are moderated before they appear, and I'm not at the computer every second. By the way, "Mike Hunte" (aren't you funny, blech) I know your connection to one the Anonymoids who has been giving me trouble the last few days, so understand you are on probation. Think before you post, don't post comment after comment on every thread in a vacuum, don't commandeer or derail the Moot, try to be a wee bit deliberate. And if you don't get your way, do not immediately freak out and start insulting me with disgusting homophobic slurs and handwaving about how I am Stalin and on and on and on. You are a guest here. Behave yourself.

Mike Hunte said...

Read the late progressive firebrand Joe Bageant, "Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War"

A raucous, truth-telling look at the white working poor-and why they hate liberalism.

Deer Hunting with Jesus is web columnist Joe Bageant’s report on what he learned when he moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, which-like countless American small towns-is fast becoming the bedrock of a permanent underclass. By turns brutal, tender, incendiary, and seriously funny, this book is a call to arms for fellow progressives with little real understanding of "the great beery, NASCAR-loving, church-going, gun-owning America that has never set foot in a Starbucks."

and good old Howard Zinn....

Dale Carrico said...

Excellent, your pointlessly liberal bashing insistence that a post about the reality of white-racism needs to be followed by oh won't somebody PLEASE think of the poor whites -- as if an ignorance of the reality of white poverty is even implied by the topic of the post, which it isn't -- is duly noted. You've made your point. It's worth saying as far as it goes, but this isn't an invitation to derail the Moot or let you spam us with reviews of all your fave volumes in the endless library of white-victimhood and white-complaint, okay? Does saying that make me Stalin now?

Dale Carrico said...

Unbelievable. The insults begin again immediately. Banned.

Mike Hunte said...

I have 30 more gmail accounts, SHALL WE PLAY A GAME?

Dale Carrico said...

Get help.

Black guy from the future past said...

WOW. This Mike Hunte guy. Racism is implicitly classism. Racists know full well that subjugating and degrading people on account of their skin color will create an underclass. This is by design and the result of these dehumanizing delineations. A few poor whites here and there are collateral for the overall scheme of keeping "those damn coloreds" in check. Compared to the scores of poor blacks, not only in America, but all over the world, sauntering in fetid ghettos, those white people you mention in Appalachia and other areas, are the EXCEPTION. Poverty among black and brown people is considered A NORM. Asshole.

BTW you must have written something pretty insulting and idiotic for Dale to ban you. We liberals have a high tolerance for all types of bullshit, but unfortunately, our tolerance does not extend to hate filled rants.

jollyspaniard said...

Ditto basically.

I didn't see myself as being advantaged over blacks growing up, as Spanish immigrants we lived in the same neighborhood with them and we were equally reviled by the "real" canadians. As a consequence half of my friends were the non white children of immigrants (the other half were reviled white immigrants). However as I grew up, my status as a spanish immigrant became ok, but blacks remained second class citizens.

My social circle changed, it became all white. Blacks didn't get to go to the good schools I got to go to or they were put on a different track which steered them away from university. And since your social circle in Canada tends to track your school buddies, this effectively screens them out. I never questioned this until my last few years in Toronto. I was living in the most racially and culturally mixed city in the world but you would have never have known it judging by my social circle.

It isn't just the USA, the whole western world has a big racism problem. Although it manifests itself in different ways (class in Europe is slightly different than class in the US), and there's different bullshit rationales employed from place to place. It gets paticularly ugly along the Meditteranean but it sucks to be black pretty much anywhere in Europe. What's changed over the past ten years is that it's become socially unacceptable to point out racism. I interpret that to mean that it's getting worse, probably because of Europe's ageing population.

Re poor whites in the USA. Are there any communities of white people with a life expectancy in the 40s?

Athena Andreadis said...

For the sake of record keeping, Mike Hunte/Dale Gribble, email, is the anonymoid who farted forth about hormones etc, and attempted to clone these comments on my blog. He does log in from a number of IPs, but the tone and content of his entries are unmistakable.

Dale Carrico said...

I would propose that the Congress of Dales boot him for misconduct, but my general experience of Dales suggests that I am the anomalous one. Man, what is it with Dales? Almost as bad a swarm as Daleks. The only ones I've liked were a few straggling lady Dales.