Skip to main content


Once again, the dramatic exposure of institutionalized black abuse by America's police forces and their subsequent immunity from consequence has struck a nerve in just about everyone, from the front line to the chat room. In the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and several other young black men and women beginning in August, racial tensions have risen quite high, as hundreds of thousands of people across the nation continue to take to the streets to protest systemic injustice. Equally pervasive as the well-deserved outrage over the abuse is the reflexive desire to justify it, blame the victims for their own alleged misconduct, and to defend the sanctity of the police state. The believers cling tenaciously to their talking points, completely failing to realize just how much they are contributing to the problem.

For example: I recently published a diary encapsulating some of my initial impressions of the whole sordid affair, to which I received only a single comment; a textbook example of white privilege made manifest, one that is worth mentioning only for its usefulness as a case study in how not to deal with situations like the one Black America is currently in.

The commenter in question goes by the moniker “techzilla,” a Libertarian in Leftist's clothing hailing from the great white state of Ohio. A glance at his commenting history shows him to be a fairly strict ideologue, one for whom focusing on technicalities is paramount to constructing his worldview. While he may technically be correct on a number of points, his framing of them is what is problematic; ignoring the brutal, daily reality of black and brown life in America in favor of lofty ideological arguments actually contributes to systemic racial divides, by erasing the humanity of blacks in the eyes of whites. This is a fairly common theme among white privilege apologists, one that allows them to remain secure in their rightness (whiteness?), while leaving them completely tone-deaf to what people of color and their allies are actually trying to tell them.

The fun begins with the very first sentence:

“The problem is not the mythical "white people" just like the victims are not only "black people"”
One of the most common tactics employed by white privilege apologists is to ignore systemic problems for individual ones. For them, racism involves active, willful participation, not passive positioning in a fundamentally inequalities power structure. Hence where statements like this, or “Not all cops/white people are bad!” or “Black people can be racist too, y'know!” stem from; the English language is woefully inadequate towards making individual  distinctions while simultaneously acknowledging broader issues, leaving plenty of room for nuance to be willfully ignored. So once again, for the cheap seats: NO ONE is making the claim that white people or police forces are in any way monolithic in belief or approach, or that all blacks are uniformly victimized by our justice system; it's just more convenient to take those claims at face value than it is to try and see beyond them.

He blithely continues:

“The root of all this conflict is without any doubt economic, and it will ONLY stop when the structural conditions are fixed. In response to economic reality, people create narratives to justify their world. In other words, racism did not create slavery, it was slavery that created racism. Racism continues, not because everyone in the system is racist, but because economics is dictating the ideology.”
As I mentioned previously, falling back on technicalities is one of the principle ways in which white privilege apologists are able to remain secure in their rightness (whiteness?) while demonstrating their good intentions. For the record, I don't think our friend “techzilla” here is a bad guy. He is, however, completely tone-deaf to the delicacy of the matter, and to how misguided and offensive his framing is. Technically, he's right, more or less. But that doesn't make him sound like any less of an asshole, or a shill for the institution. The economics that guide racism, privilege, and white supremacy cannot be adjusted until those ideologies are first deconstructed; anything else is, to coin a phrase, putting the cart before the horse.

Speaking of getting it all backwards, “techzilla” then provides us with this little gem:

“What needs to be fixed? The hearts and minds? NO, fix the perverted reality in which they exist...and you will change their thoughts.”
What's often lost in discussions over class divisions is that the “perverted reality” we all exist in is, in fact, the twin realities of white supremacy and patriarchy. America was founded on the principle that straight, white, land-owning, Protestant men are the only ones who should have a say over how our affairs are conducted, and everyone else can essentially go fuck themselves. While there have been a number of advances in culture and policy since then, it should be clear to anyone who is paying attention that this principle has not been fundamentally altered in any meaningful way, and that our entire system of governance is still structured around it. Only when we can can recognize this reality for what it is that we can begin to make real changes in areas like the distribution of wealth and entitlements.

Things get truly priceless from here, as our boy drops the ultimate truth bomb:

“I reject race as a social construct, period, not because I am unable to see race.... But because that's not how we fix the problem.”
Whenever white people say things like “I reject race as a social construct,” or the more quotidian “I don't see color,” it takes a great deal of effort to resist the impulse to pat them on the head and, with the utmost levels of condescencion, smile and say, “Good for you!” It's easy to make statements like these when your race has never been a condition upon which you have been denied practically everything, as it has been for people of color since the very birth of our nation. Racial identity is a real and potent factor in the lives of every one us, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not; for people of color, this often manifests in very real and existential crises to their liberty, their security, and even to their very lives. To tell the very people whom we've systemically required to be constantly mindful of their skin color that we simply choose ignore it is to deny their entire lived experience. The differences exist, like it or no; turning provides little more than a cheap and tawdry sense of enlightenment.

Lastly, “techzilla” resorts to a tactic that I can't necessarily quote, but I shall do my best to explain: after demonstrating how incredibly evolved he is with his refusal to acknowledge racial differences, he turns to none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to support his position, through the following quote:

“In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.” - MLK
Quoting great leaders and thinkers to support your position is quite laudable; I do so myself on a regular basis. What matters when doing so is the intent behind the usage. Quoting black leaders out of context, whether deliberately or otherwise, is a common tactic among white privilege apologists for supporting their positions while suppressing dissent. “Martin Luther King doesn't think I'm an asshole for ignoring skin color; you're not disagreeing Dr. King, are you?” to which the respondent is clearly intended to bow their head in shame and say, “Yes, massa.” This tactic presupposes that all people of color and their allies either are or should be in complete agreement with those among them that rise to prominence, further demonstrating the monolithic lens through which white privilege apologists actually do see skin color as a factor in judgement. So much for rejecting race as a social construct, eh?

The above quote is taken from the conclusion of Dr. King's book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, written and published after a number of landmark victories had been obtained in the Civil Rights Movement. It was only when a foothold of black equality was established that Dr. King then able to turn his thoughts toward addressing the underlying issues of economic injustice that fuel America's racial divides. Even then, he did so primarily through the lens of race, warning that “(t)he persistence of racism in depth and the dawning awareness that Negro demands will necessitate structural changes in society have generated a new phase of white resistance in North and South.’’ A “new phase of white resistance,” indeed; one that involves, among other things, using the Good Doctor's own words against the very people who have reaped the benefits of his sacrifice.

Continue Reading

Is there a way to suture the outrage over revelations in the CIA torture report to the #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations around the country? It seems readily apparent that the way black Americans have been treated for centuries is nothing short of torture. The only difference between then and now is that the torture has been sanitized and compartmentalized for easier consumption, but the dehumanization has fundamentally never changed, let alone abated.

The CIA torture report is low-hanging fruit to feed the incredulous, and it's easy to see why: the practices detailed within it are truly horrifying. People should be outraged over the abuses committed in their name. But our incapacity for nuance makes it easier to feel empathy for the torture of enemy combatants than for our kinsmen who have always under siege, and often through many of the same tactics. Of course, that would require us to acknowledge that black people are in fact our kinsmen, as easily as we acknowledge that Islamic terrorists are indeed not.

The ultimate commonality between the two is the sanctity of human life and human dignity, and how unevenly they are distributed in times of crisis, whether real or imagined. The threat of continued domestic terrorism from abroad after 9/11, no matter how unlikely, contained within it a kernel of truth enough to justify all manner of abuses. The intervening years have demonstrated that the lengths we've taken to prevent further attacks have not only been grossly inhumane, but ineffective. The war on supposed "Black Terror" has been waged for centuries now, much to the same end; perhaps there's a way to illustrate that to those who condemn torture in any form? I don't have an answer; I just hope I'm asking the right questions.

Continue Reading

It's Christmas season once again, and everyone is dreaming and scheming about that perfect gift their heart desires, whether to give or to receive. Department stores across America have descended into war zones, with Black Friday sounding the call for screaming hordes of wild-eyed shoppers to descend upon the nation's retail landscape, grasping and clawing for that perfect widget all to the glory of God and Uncle Sam. If there really is a War On Christmas, the operating theatre isn't Fox News, it's Wal-Mart.

For some of us, the things we want for Christmas don't have a sticker price. These things often feel as unattainable as they do intangible; when innocent children wish for world peace, we laugh and shake our heads, our naiveté having absconded long ago to the dimmest recesses of memory. Yet, our dreams remain, their deferment relying almost entirely upon an unwillingness to speak them aloud.

Across the country, tens of thousands of people have found the courage to raise their voices as one and ask for something incredibly powerful this holiday season: the gift of justice. Justice for Mike Brown,   justice for the people of Ferguson, Missouri, justice for Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Tanesha Anderson...justice for Black America as a whole. Dozens of protests have sprung up all over the country in the wake of their slayings, with the bitterly ironic rallying cry of “Hands Up, Don't Shoot” embodying a new spirit of civil disobedience that understands just how pervasive state-sponsored violence has become, and whom it impacts the most.

It's in service to that spirit that I share my Christmas Wish List for White America. To be fair, it's not filled so much with what I want for my fellow whites as it is what I want from us. We've taken more than our fair share, as it is; and what do you give to the race who has everything?

- I wish for white people to understand that protests and riots, no matter how problematic they might be for those that aren't involved, are symptomatic of the injustices that prompted them, and do not happen in a vacuum of context; and that rioting often achieves results when civility fails, because so-called “respectability politics” are designed to silence dissent, not encourage it.

- I wish for white people to realize that the exoneration of police for killing unarmed black youth, while also seriously problematic, is too a symptom of larger structural injustices, ones that we as whites have been collectively responsible for enforcing for centuries.

- I wish for white people to see that black people don't get their choice of martyrs. In fact, black people don't get their choice in much of anything in America, especially when it comes to the way they are perceived and depicted by us.

- I wish for white people to believe that many black people don't even see their dead kinsmen as martyrs, merely as grim reminders of a society that places no value on their safety; and that it's our fear and (often violent) suppression of black people's petitioning of their grievances that guarantees the ascension of dead, black iconoclasts for the public to rally behind, time and time again.

- I wish for white people to realize that there are no genuine qualifiers to the statement “(insert name of innocent black victim here) didn't deserve to die,” and that adding them serves only to allow white society justification for another black body in the morgue at the hands of some triggerhappy cop. See also: victim blaming.

- I wish for white people - white liberals in particular - to know that if it's not okay to blame innocent women for their own sexual assaults, it's not okay to blame innocent blacks for their own deaths, and that doing otherwise is the height of hypocrisy.

- I wish for white people to have some understanding of what it means to have their very ethno-cultural identity forcibly stripped away, commoditized, and sold back to them by the very people who stole it, an atrocity committed innumerable times without a trace of remorse, at the expense of the lives and limbs of millions of their kinsmen.

- I wish for white people also to understand what it is to be told that raising objections to such merciless and mechanical savagery is somehow perpetuating their own victimhood, accompanied by the cruel and mocking condescension of those who would have you “get over it.”

- I wish for white people to realize that, especially in light of what's happening in places like Ferguson, the way we treat people of color in this country completely fails to engender any respect for our nation from the rest of the world, and that many nations use our hypocrisy as cover to perpetuate their own domestic abuses.

- I wish for white people to no longer insist on drawing false equivalence between the injustices they face and those faced by people of color. While there is a certain level of intersectionality there regarding socioeconomic status, the reflexive recentering of black struggle towards white sympathies robs black people of their emotional agency, functioning as is one of the oldest tricks in the white supremacist playbook.

- I wish for white people to realize that telling black people “I don't see color,” isn't much different than telling them, “I don't see you.” We are not required to acknowledge our skin color as an existential threat to our lives, and to relay that to those for whom we have made it necessary to do so through thoughtless platitudes like this one is thoughtless and cruel.

- I wish for white people to realize that it's not only okay to believe what black people are telling them about the way white society treats them both individually and systemically are true, it's absolutely necessary if we are all to have a more free, just, and equal society.

This list is by no means complete, nor do I imagine it will ever be. There are just too many problems, and not enough solutions, or time. But hell, if I don't ask for these things now, I can't hope to get any of them in time for Christmas. Not as if there's any likelihood of that happening, but wishful thinking is just about the only thing standing between a lot of people and a lot of shit on fire right now.

To those on the front lines in Ferguson, New York City, Berkeley, and every other major city where protests are happening, and to all of those on social media who have been helping to coordinate protest efforts and are raising their voices in dissent with the black victims of state violence, I just want to say thank you. Thank you so much for what you've been doing, and what you will continue to do. Your courage and will to power have brought the presence of history upon us, and are a true inspiration.

As to the families of the victims – Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Tanesha Anderson, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, and the countless others who have fallen this year, and every year before – may you find even the tiniest kernel of peace and goodwill this holiday season in the middle of such tragedies, for you deserve it more than most. May this movement bring about lasting change of the kind we've not seen in decades, and may your children not have died in vain.

Discuss

I know that I am incapable of feeling not even the tiniest fraction of the rage and pain and sadness that so many black people experience on an everyday basis as a result of experiences like this. But if the tears in my eyes and the knot in my stomach can provide any useful comparison, then I honestly don't know how our entire nation isn't justifiably on fire by now.

There are so many dead black bodies in the morgue, in the grave...and for every one we kill, for every one we desecrate with our slander and our ignorance, another piece of our humanity dies right along with them.

How can we do this to them? How can we treat people this way? How can we be so fucking cruel?

The rest of the world mocks the way America treats its own, especially the least among us. Or worse, nations use our hypocrisy as a justification to perpetuate their own abuses. Is this the exceptionalism we wish to be known for? Being exceptional at double standards? At black and brown subjugation? At genocide?

Mike Brown was executed by a cop. Eric Garner was lynched by a cop. Tamir Rice? Killed in a drive-by...by a cop. It's  open season on Black America, and the permits are far too easy to obtain. The names of the dead go on and on and on, innocent souls begins number....is this the legacy we wish to leave behind for our children? A bloody trail of black and brown corpses, stretching infinitely to every horizon?

Chris Rock said in a recent interview that it's not "black progress" that has allowed for people of color in America to be seen by whites as something less than wild animals in need of breaking, it's white progress. That being the case, we're crawling like infanta when we should be running like devils to catch up with Basic human decency and tell Black America how fucking sorry we are. For everything. Every goddamned thing.

Discuss

An observation, however belated, about the 2014 mid-term elections:

It seems to me that, given the lines along which the American people voted for politicians (overwhelmingly conservative) versus policy (decidedly progressive) in these last mid-terms, the transformation of modern electoral politics into reality television is all but complete. This seemed to really begin with the 2012 presidential race, when the Republican Clown Car turned the primary season into a complete farce. In hindsight, those RWNJ shenanigans seem even more deliberate, a softening up of the public's incredulity designed to make a lower bar of chicanery all the more palatable (and therefore invisible) by contrast.

The schism between politicians and policy has become so wide that it seems as if much of the public can no longer see, let alone comprehend, their symbiosis. Character has all but completely eclipsed record in political advertising, and when combined with the soap-operatic stenography and endless "he said, she said" speculation of the 24-hour need cycle, people no longer seem to realize that the politicians they vote for are the very same ones who are responsible for enforcing (or failing to enforce) the policies they like.

Politicians and politics now exist in two different spheres of thought, a Venn diagram where the overlap is diminishing almost every day. The question is: who benefits? to which the answer should be obvious, at least to those of us that are paying attention: the plutocracy, the oligarchy, the fat cats, the 1%, whatever you choose to call the ultra-wealthy in America who seek to privatize their profits, socialize their losses, and couch both in the language of so-called "liberty" so the rubes will swallow it up. To them, politics is an even bigger gameshow than it is to rest of us. They would know, seeing as how they set the stage for the whole sideshow...and won't tale their hands off the rigging.

Discuss

You may have noticed by now that things can get a little verbose around here; I tend to gravitate towards big, complicated subjects, as they give me an excuse to run my mouth for much longer and far more often than I ever ought to be allowed to. In an effort to avoid solipsism and to pay deference to the brevity that so often eludes me, I've done what I can to step aside and let others do the talking as we move forward. Given the rather sensitive nature of the subject – gentrification – it's not likely to make one lick of a difference; somebody's going to get offended, no matter what. But it might as well be by someone else's words, not my own. Or at least, as few of them as possible.

Gentrification is messy. It's painful. It's costly. There are so many factors and perspectives to consider, such a large web of tensions and intentions that functions far too readily at the expense of those most ensnared by it. To the poor, mostly black and brown people who populate America's urban centers, even the most well-meaning of gentrifiers often appear like well-manicured Visigoths sacking Rome through top-down development deals, oppressive neighborhood restructuring, and the threat of state violence. Without some drastic new thinking upon the subject, this war of metropolitan attrition promises only to intensify.

Thankfully, the new thinking is out there, and as per usual, it's on the fringes of mainstream thought. Take Gavin Mueller of Jacobin Magazine, for example, who released an article last week entitled “Liberalism And Gentrification.” Mueller makes the case that “gentrification has always been a top-down affair, not a spontaneous hipster influx,” and attempts to explain why a practice once widely considered anathema by progressives has become so widely embraced among those with what he refers to as “liberal, tolerant, cosmopolitan sympathies.”:

"It’s important to understand what’s going on here. A powerful capitalist class of bankers, real-estate developers, and investors is driving gentrification, using a mixture of huge loans (to which only they have access) and government funding to push land values higher.

This leaves [America's] professional class with a choice. If their household income is in the six-figure-range, they can generally secure mortgages in gentrifying neighborhoods...Or they can pay exorbitant rent until they move back to Peoria. Not much of a choice.

Tying up your assets, your middle-class future, in home values does something to people. It alters their interests. It sutures a professional class, of liberal and even progressive beliefs, to the rapacious capitalist expansion into the city...they are aligned materially with reactionary and oppressive city restructuring, pushing them into antagonism with established residents, who do nothing for property values."

Mueller's Catch-22 goes far in explaining how even the most principled members of the gentry are manipulated by moneyed interests into so-called “mopping up operations,” designed to evict people of color in large numbers from urban neighborhoods, and how gentrification is the tip of the spear upon which America's urban poor will be skewered and removed from their neighborhoods. “Forget your fairy tales of urban pioneers bravely staking out territory in the urban hinterlands,” Mueller writes. “At every point, this has been a takeover.”
Continue Reading
The people have spoken, more or less. Scotland
will remain a part the UK for another generation.
You might have heard that Scotland recently held a referendum on voting for its independence from the UK, a move that “threatened to rip the United Kingdom apart, sow financial turmoil and diminish Britain's remaining global clout,” according to a recent Reuters report, leaving little doubt as to where they stand. No matter your opinion on the issue, it was a huge deal for the people of Scotland; voter turnout clocked in at an unprecedented eighty-five percent, with a mere ten point split between those in favor of independence and those against. Clearly, the nation is still deeply divided on the issue, but the people have spoken and the matter is more or less settled, for the time being, at least.

I've been really hesitant to weigh in on this issue, as there are so many dimensions to it that I don't fully understand, and a number of incredibly compelling arguments were made both for and against independence. (For a great breakdown of the whole affair, check out Sam Seder's recent interview with John Nichols of The Nation by clicking here.) The future of Scotland was unclear no matter which direction the people decided to take it it, but my gut tells me that what appears to be the final motivation of the "no" vote – a pledge by UK leaders David Cameron, Ed Miliband, and Nick Clegg of  unprecedented autonomy, authority, and concessions for Scotland's Parliament and her people in exchange for remaining members of the kingdom - smells like so much rotten haggis.

The pledge was hastily penned in the final days before the vote was cast in an effort to placate the public, when the tide suddenly shifted overwhelmingly in favor of independence. It was a reactionary maneuver, and one that will be difficult for UK leaders to live up to, if they're even willing to try. With the kingdom preserved and the referendum over for another generation, there's little to no compelling interest in honoring the pledge, and if we know anything about politics at all, we know that magnanimity almost always takes a backseat to pragmatism when the rubber meets the road. Once the nationalist fever subsides and the media loses interest in this story, chances are the UK will go back to business as usual, with the Scots having provided a powerfully tragic example of "nothing ventured, nothing gained" on the world stage. So much for caber tossing in the 2016 Olympics.

Poll

Do you think the UK Parliament will honor their pledge to the Scottish people

27%12 votes
48%21 votes
23%10 votes

| 43 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Continue Reading
You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.

RSS

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site