Reaching for racists before Black people is a bad look

You don’t have to take a population’s rights away in order to suppress them. You can just nullify the rights. We’ve been doing it in this country a long time. For instance, Black peoples’ right to vote is on the books, but literacy tests, poll taxes and gerrymandering are all tactics used to nullify that right ever since we attained it. While those are all great tactics, they’re not the best. The absolute best way to nullify our vote is to not give us a candidate who actually represents our interests. Problem solved.

This brings me to Mayor Pete. As of this writing he’s neck and neck with Bernie in the disastrous Iowa Caucus recount and he may well be the front-runner very soon. He did this by moving from a progressive candidate to a moderate candidate. While that move may have worked in Iowa, it doesn’t work on me. And by judging from his polling numbers, it doesn’t work on anyone who looks like me.

Some people see becoming moderate as a smart move, but I don’t. I see it as disingenuous. It means he’s not a man out to bring his vision of the country to the people. Instead he’s someone who’s interested in presenting himself to the world, and he’ll tell people whatever he thinks they want to hear in order to do that. That on its own is bad enough, but it’s actually much worse.

Right now the Republican Party is more openly racist than any other time in my memory. Mayor Pete’s lack of Black support leads to him becoming more moderate which means he’s trying to get Republican votes. In other words, including Black folks is too hard, so welcome in the racists!

The thing is, it’s actually pretty easy to get my vote for president. All you have to do is say what I want to hear. That’s what the whole system is based on, unanchored promises. Unfortunately for Pete, you have to listen to people in order to tell them what they want to hear. While he seems to have no problem doing that with “moderates,” he doesn’t really do that when it comes to Black people. Not to put too fine a point on it, but now is when it’s actually easy to support Black people. Now, when it’s just listening and unanchored promises. If he can’t even do that now, what chance could we possibly have if he’s actually got to face down the bigot army of Mitch McConnell? And now as I look at the potential for Nominee Pete, I think about walking into the voting booth, and having to choose between two motherfuckers who prioritize racists over me. Again. I think about all the white liberals who would want me to vote myself into oblivion for the sake of things like climate change despite their silence while people who look like me suffered under its causes and effects for decades. I think about voting on every other race and issue and just leaving the president boxes blank. Then I think about how some people would view that as not doing enough, as though voting for president could in any way fulfill your social obligation in 2020 America. Then I think about the 4.4 million people who think just like me and I genuinely wonder how long this thing can actually hold together.


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That which divides us: Could it be…um…racism?

The impeachment is so frustrating. It’s a foregone conclusion that the Republicans in the Senate will acquit the president. Watching the Democrats stride toward the Pyrrhic victory of leaving a mark of shame on a shameless man makes my face hot. But the thing that personally frustrates me the most is the daily stream of books and think-pieces and social media threads in which white people openly wonder how we got where we are. “How is he the president?” “Why are we so polarized?”

If you were to start at the beginning, if you google it, you’ll find this:

rac·ism

/ˈrāˌsizəm/

noun

prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

I hate that definition. It’s just so…white. It makes an assumption that race is a neutral and natural thing. It is written as though at the beginning of humanity people from all corners of the globe gathered together in one sacred meeting space in order to name themselves according to what made white people comfortable.

“What do you call yourselves?”

We call ourselves people.

“Well, that won’t do. That’s what we call ourselves.”

We can all call ourselves the same thing.

“I don’t think so.”

Why not?

“I got it. You’ll be called ‘Africans’.”

What’s that?

“Africa is a giant land mass. You’re from there, so you’re African.”

But that giant land mass is a home to countless cultures and languages, most of which have nothing to do with one another. By no means do the millions upon millions of people living on that giant land mass think of themselves as one people. We don’t pray like each other or cook like each other. We don’t even look like each other.

“Close enough.”

Excuse me?

“Anyway, who’s next? You? You’re from Asia, right?”

There was no grand coming-together. It was not a community decision. In fact, the idea of race as it is commonly understood in this country, was actually designed so that one particular group would be superior. The idea of race itself is prejudicial to everyone except white people. This is why who’s allowed to be white changes (see: Italians, Irish). And this is one of many reasons why it is not possible for white people to experience racism.

Whiteness not only allows itself to define the actual word but each and every example as well. For instance, accusations of racism often lead to the white proverb. If the accusations can make it past that test, the inevitable conclusion is often, “I’m sure they didn’t mean it that way.”

(So, look. If you try to make racism about your intent—a thing only you can know and therefore only you can decide your own guilt—just know that we see that as an admission.)

Where this all goes wrong for white people is that while they are not able to actually experience racism, the behavior itself is incredibly self-destructive. But since they define it to their own exclusion and accept accountability on a strictly voluntary basis, they can’t see when they are being destroyed by it. That is how we end up with one political party functioning almost wholly as an agent of racism and the other political party wondering how we got here, how he’s the president and why we’re so polarized…Or why self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives could possibly back a man with a very public record of being the most financially irresponsible American alive…Or why self-proclaimed Christian conservatives could possibly back such a milquetoast, wannabe Caligula…Or why 53% of white women would support a man accused of sexual misconduct by at least 25 other women.

If there were only some common thread…Perhaps we’ll never know.


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Learning from others’ history, and our own…or not

Back in early 1980s England the coal industry was fundamental. And if you lived rurally and got a job in a coal mine, you were pretty much set for life. Of course, the dangers of that job could’ve meant for a very short life, but the job paid well and the unions looked out for you. Naturally, the conservative government hated that and tried to take power away from the unions. The unions hated that and so they went on strike. For a year. Basically, the unions were like, “You want to reduce our power? OK. How about we shut down the entire bloody industry?”

But then Margaret Thatcher, prime minister at the time, was like, “Oh, you want to shut down the entire British coal industry? Fine. Fuck you forever.” She then proceeded to let the entire industry die. And just like that all of those economically secure jobs for life were gone.

As time passed those high-paying, secure jobs were replaced with low-paying bullshit jobs without any security at all. And of course, as is traditional in western societies, a fair amount of those jobs ended up being done by immigrants. Rural England felt tossed to the side, but they also gained something from that struggle: a hatred of conservatives.

Three-and-a-half decades later, along comes conservative dumb-shit Boris Johnson. He’s running to continue his career as prime minister, campaigning primarily on the racist-ass Brexit ticket. At the time, most people thought it’d either be close or he’d get stomped. But it went the other way and the world was shocked. How’d that doofy motherfucker flip all those rural, conservative-hating districts? Pretty easily, as it turned out.

All those open-minded, liberal areas? Well, you never would’ve guessed it, but there’s something they hated more than conservatives: immigrants. That’s right! All lil’ Boris had to do was walk into those towns, point at the immigrants doing those low-paying bullshit jobs and say, “Look! Someone stole your jobs!” and open his arms to widely embrace the landslide that was his victory.

Speaking of places that suffer on a molecular level from xenophobia/racism while ignoring it deliberately and completely, we’ve got an election coming up right here in the good ol’ US of A and we sure could learn a lot from the UK’s current predicament.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not confident we will, though. The Republicans are all in lock-step and every time I turn around I seem to hear Democrats talking themselves into another four years of 45. Last week I got into an argument with someone who said “I gotta hand it to him, he’s good at marketing!”

I turned to this person and said in a voice that was just a little too loud to be backstage at the show we were at, “No he’s not. Do you think he’s running around a room full of executives manically scribbling on a white board, expounding on constituent analytics? He doesn’t know a fucking thing about marketing. Or anything else. You’ve never met anyone as stupid as that guy. He thinks windmills cause cancer, ffs.”

Rightfully, a little shocked at my tone, they responded, “I just mean he’s persuasive.”

Unintentionally upping my volume, I continued, “No he’s not! He couldn’t convince shit to stink! What, do you think there were just a bunch of voters marching up to the voting booth thinking, ‘You know, I never hated Black or brown people before, but listening to that tiny-handed, piss-skinned imbecile from that dumb-ass reality show lie about Obama’s birth certificate for five years really brought me around!’? Fuck no! There’s just a whole lot of racists who’d felt shamed into silence right up until a Black president got elected. Then it was time to take a stand!”

That’s when I noticed that everyone else backstage had been shushing me for a while, so I stopped. But had I continued I would’ve made the point that the systems that are America are now and have always been dependent on racism. And I mean since the beginning. For example, did you know that just prior to the Revolutionary War, the colonists didn’t really care whose flag they were under? It’s true and one of the ways the founding fathers convinced the population to get behind the war was to start a false rumor that England was planning to enslave the colonists. “Enslavement” was the word they used and you bet your contemporary ass that every single person moved to action by that word said, “I ain’t no nigger!” as they loaded up their rifles.

I always feel like this American apple hasn’t fallen very far from that English tree. I hope November proves me wrong, but either way, you know what to do.


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