A little context: A Kos writer yesterday beat the crap out of the NY Times for the paper still not “getting it.”
New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet continues to be there, for some reason, despite recent blunders and buffoonery from the paper (like the Tom Cotton op-ed pressing for military violence against protesters—the one the Times editors solicited, but allegedly never bothered to read before publishing). As such, the Times will remain incapable of any introspection into just how badly their journalistic model has failed in an era when government officials are brazenly lying to the public on a daily, briefing-by-briefing basis,
My personal response to that was that the Times does some things poorly, and some things, like its recent examination of eviction risk and other economic and social injustice issues, extremely well, AT TIMES. I referred to the recent NY Times world-class op-ed entitled:
You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument
The black people I come from were owned and raped by the white people I come from. Who dares to tell me to celebrate them?
This piece as idea and essay is one of the finest in recent times, in any publication, imo.
I didn’t note, but could have, that some of its essays in the Sunday Times Magazine are spectacular for issues on what I call “The Twin Justices”—Social Justice and Economic Justice. Well, just last Sunday, The Magazine includes one of the finest essays I have ever seen in a very long time, on skin color in the US as one of the three worst caste systems in modern history, led only by Nazi Germany and the entire Indian caste system. I would have put aparteid in South Africa up there as well, but cannot quarrel given the rest of the piece:
America’s Enduring Caste System
Our founding ideals promise liberty and equality for all. Our reality is an enduring racial hierarchy that has persisted for centuries.
By Isabel Wilkerson
(Regarding George Floyd’s murder), what we did not see, not immediately anyway, was the invisible scaffolding, a caste system with ancient rules and assumptions that made such a horror possible, that held each actor in that scene in its grip. Off camera, two other men in uniform, who looked like the lighter man, were holding down the darker man from the other side of the police car as dusk approached in Minneapolis. Yet another man in uniform, of Asian descent and thus not in the dominant caste, stood near, watching, immobilized, it seemed, at a remove from his own humanity and potential common cause, as the darker man slipped out of consciousness. We soon learned that the man on the ground, George Floyd, had been accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill, and, like uncountable Black men over the centuries, lost his life over what might have been a mere citation for people in the dominant caste.
In the weeks leading up to the country’s commemoration of its founding, protests and uprisings took hold in cities in every state, in Bakersfield, Charleston, Buffalo, Poughkeepsie, Wichita, Boise, Sioux Falls. Protesters tore down a statue of Christopher Columbus in St. Paul, Minn. They toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va. And the country was forced to contemplate the observation of Frederick Douglass a century and a half before: “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?” What, we might ask in our day, is freedom to those still denied it as their country celebrates its own?
And the author follows:
America is an old house. We can never declare the work over. Wind, flood, drought and human upheavals batter a structure that is already fighting whatever flaws were left unattended in the original foundation. When you live in an old house, you may not want to go into the basement after a storm to see what the rains have wrought. Choose not to look, however, at your own peril. The owner of an old house knows that whatever you are ignoring will never go away. Whatever is lurking will fester whether you choose to look or not. Ignorance is no protection from the consequences of inaction. Whatever you are wishing away will gnaw at you until you gather the courage to face what you would rather not see.
We in this country are like homeowners who inherited a house on a piece of land that is beautiful on the outside but whose soil is unstable loam and rock, heaving and contracting over generations, cracks patched but the deeper ruptures waved away for decades, centuries even. Many people may rightly say: “I had nothing to do with how this all started. I have nothing to do with the sins of the past. My ancestors never attacked Indigenous people, never owned slaves.” And yes. Not one of us was here when this house was built. Our immediate ancestors may have had nothing to do with it, but here we are, the current occupants of a property with stress cracks and bowed walls and fissures in the foundation. We are the heirs to whatever is right or wrong with it. We did not erect the uneven pillars or joists, but they are ours to deal with now.
And any further deterioration is, in fact, on our hands.
Unaddressed, the ruptures and diagonal cracks will not fix themselves.
And she quotes near the end of this lengthy essay:
“This is a civilization searching for its humanity,” Gary Michael Tartakov, a social and cultural historian, said to me as we discussed caste in America at a conference in 2018. “It dehumanized others to build its civilization. Now it needs to find its own.”
This, I think, is a key part of what the post-Trumpian, (and post-Republican) American needs to be about.
Ms. Wilkerson does an absolutely spectacular job of articulating how skin-color-as-caste plays out in America. Now we have to fix it, using the opportunities I hope to get with the slamming of Trump and his cronies in November—assuming they don’t cheat their way back into power.
I am actually pretty excited that we can go there—and I assume that ALL of the “lower castes” and their allies among whites will give the hopefully-triumphant Democrats no room to wiggle out if they do not attack our caste system, hard.
I add to this another essay, by Betsy Hodges, former Mayor of Minneapolis. I hope you will see why:
The White former mayor of Minneapolis with a manfesto for social justice.
As Mayor of Minneapolis, I Saw How White Liberals Block Change
But this revolutionary moment is inviting us to be a part of the solution.
By Betsy Hodges
Ms. Hodges was the mayor of Minneapolis from 2014 to 2018.
As the mayor of Minneapolis from 2014 to 2018, as a Minneapolis City Council member from 2006 until 2014 and as a white Democrat, I can say this: White liberals, despite believing we are saying and doing the right things, have resisted the systemic changes our cities have needed for decades. We have mostly settled for illusions of change, like testing pilot programs and funding volunteer opportunities.
These efforts make us feel better about racism, but fundamentally change little for the communities of color whose disadvantages often come from the hoarding of advantage by mostly white neighborhoods
In Minneapolis, the white liberals I represented as a Council member and mayor were very supportive of summer jobs programs that benefited young people of color. I also saw them fight every proposal to fundamentally change how we provide education to those same young people. They applauded restoring funding for the rental assistance hotline. They also signed petitions and brought lawsuits against sweeping reform to zoning laws that would promote housing affordability and integration.Nowhere is this dynamic of preserving white comfort at the expense of others more visible than in policing. Whether we know it or not, white liberal people in blue cities implicitly ask police officers to politely stand guard in predominantly white parts of town (where the downside of bad policing is usually inconvenience) and to aggressively patrol the parts of town where people of color live — where the consequences of bad policing are fear, violent abuse, mass incarceration and, far too often, death.Underlying these requests are the flawed beliefs that aggressive patrolling of Black communities provides a wall of protection around white people and our property. Police officers understand the dynamic well. We give them lethal tools and a lot of leeway to keep our parts of town safe (a mandate implicitly understood to be “safe from people of color.”) That leeway attracts people who want to misuse it.
Clearly, the “Hoarding of Advantage” is about caste, viewed here by a white person who saw it upclose. The two pair wonderfully, I think.