Open Thread on Racism and Propaganda II: Racial Justice Becomes Digestible
This was quoted in gjohnsit's recent diary on the new McCarthyism: "Is This the New Russia?"
If I believed that “white privilege” was a term meant to diminish my personal achievements... if I thought “white privilege” meant that I had to apologize for things that happened before I was born ... if I thought that “white privilege” meant that I need to be ashamed or embarrassed for being born white... if I thought that “white privilege” dismisses the very real hardships and challenges that I’ve had in my life.. if that was my understanding of white privilege, I’d probably be a little resentful about it, too.
But that is precisely what "white privilege" currently means.
And this comes from a woman who was one of only three white people protesting the new Jim Crow in Jacksonville, FL in Dec, 2000. It comes from a woman who continued to protest the new Jim Crow in 2004, along with a small percentage of white Democrats, while the other white Democrats did things like
1)Keep their asses in their chairs and sit on their hands (AGAIN!) up on Capitol Hill. This included Hillary herself. Yet we are now supposed to consider her the champion of Black rights.
2)Make it a banning offense on their website to say the 2004 election was stolen. Yet Markos Moulitsas is supposedly a stalwart ally of Black people, while I and others are called racist for opposing Social Security cuts and drone strikes.
3)Successfully gaslighting Bev Harris and others who asserted that the electronic voting machines were insecure and compromised.
4)Literally running away from me at a Dean event when I wouldn't just shrug and agree with the notion that we should let the racist 2004 election heist slide because "Well, they aren't going to re-do the election, so what does it matter?"
It comes from somebody who for a couple of decades occupied the position of being one of the few white people in the Black crowd at the Trayvon Martin vigil, the Michael Brown protest, and many other events--even the first MLK Day at the University of Pennsylvania! (of course, I went. I was shocked when I saw that the only white people there were basically me and the University officials.) Over those two decades, I got used to the fact that, if I wanted to meet a white friend at the rally, it would be really easy--just get up on something and scan the crowd, because there would be so few white people it'd be easy to find them.
From the early 90s to around 2006, I got used to being one of a handful of white people surrounded by Black people every time I just followed my own political beliefs--what I thought was right.
I have never claimed any credibility for these actions before, not because I didn't show up, not because I didn't do the work, but because I didn't think my actions were something to boast about. I was even confused when, in 2004, a Black woman threw her arms around me and thanked me for protesting in 2000.
It's not like it was charity or altruism. I was doing what was ordinarily right--fulfilling the basic obligations of citizenship. Showing up.
But now, apparently, Black leadership has decided to embrace all those white people who didn't show up, some of whom were actively on the other side in their time of need, endorsing those who were in the "Nothing to see here!" crowd and the gaslighters. They're even helping the gaslighters expand their gaslighting program to all those who don't fall in line with the gaslighters' cheap and superficial political goals. It's easy--just call dissidents racist. If they're white, it's a surefire way of silencing dissent. Black political leadership, Black people in the white corporate media, and some Black people online are actually providing cover to people like the Clintons. Even when members of the fraudulent, racist Bush administration, attempt to rehabilitate their reputations by the incredibly superficial gesture of saying something bad about Donald Trump, there seems to be little or no appreciation of the hypocrisy by Black leadership or Black media figures.
How the hell do you stay silent when the man who became President by climbing up on your disenfranchised backs says something like this:
Earlier this year, George W. Bush voiced his displeasure about both the political climate and some of the President's policies when peppered with questions about Trump's controversial actions on immigration and his targeted travel ban.
"I don't like the racism, and I don't like the name-calling, and I don't like the people feeling alienated," Bush told People Magazine. "Nobody likes that."
He liked the racism fine when it was his personal stepladder to power.
I don't need, or particularly want, Black people to be grateful to me for showing up. Like I said, it seems to me like a course of action that should just be what a person ordinarily does.
But am I mad when Black people decide to embrace a bunch of cowards who had the power to do something about the most racist events of the last twenty years, and did nothing? When they decide to embrace the white people who looked away--or ran away? Am I mad when they decide to embrace the white people who were actually doing what they could to make our work harder? The white people who were gaslighting the white people who were actually trying to fight the new, computerized Jim Crow? The ones who were engaged in doubt creation about Ohio?
It's odd that people so unbendable as to freak out over a picture of a white toddler or a misstated sentence that might be racist if you squint at it a little, are more than willing to let bygones be bygones with the Clintons, the Bushes, and their execrable political enterprise, which has been racist in multiple ways from the beginning. But this isn't just about forgiveness. This is an active alliance. Black politicians, Black people in the white corporate media, and some Black people online are actually, actively providing cover to the people who said things like this:
And used campaign tactics like this:
And then there's this:
And I'm not even going to get into the moral abyss that opens up when George W. Bush and his administration get asked on TV for their ethical opinions on Trump's racism. Lots of Black people are apparently just fine with that. I guess rehabilitating the reputation of the man who climbed up into the Presidency on the backs of Black people purged off voter rolls, locked out of polling places, and harassed at police checkpoints on the way to vote is fine, while the ACLU posting a picture of a white toddler on Twitter is heinous.
Black leadership, Black media figures, and some ordinary Black people online, have decided to side with white people who have backstabbed Black people repeatedly, while helping those white people engage in an ongoing smear campaign against the white people who did right and showed up. And the smear campaign has the goal such things usually do: to silence dissent.
If you can't disprove somebody's points, do this:
These tactics used to be firmly in the wheelhouse of a certain portion of the right, what we might call the Lockstep Right: authoritarian, dogmatic, and anti-rational, they are a political machine which runs, nearly exclusively, on the politics of the smear. This was Lee Atwater politics, promoted at high levels by people who operated cynically to spread lies and sow doubt, lies which were obediently taken up and spread by the not at all cynical, loyal, dogmatic base. It was a politics of choosing a team and then adopting its talking points without question. It was a politics of follow-the-leader, where the leaders of one's side can never be wrong. Any conservative who broke faith was ripped to shreds:
Clarke has provided information that raises serious questions about Bush's role in fighting terrorism -- the centerpiece of his reelection campaign. For this reason, Clarke wisely braced himself for the worst. But the onslaught surprised even him.
he told CNN at the end of a week of being attacked. He added, "The issue is not about me. The issue is about the president's performance in the war on terrorism. And
The most vicious public attack so far has come from the White House's representative in the Senate, Majority Leader William Frist...But the Majority Leader .
Frist questioned Clarke's ability by suggesting that he was responsible for not preventing terror attacks on his watch -- despite all Clarke's efforts to do just that. He also claimed that Clarke was now "pointing fingers" to shift blame from himself, when Clarke is the only official to acknowledge his failures.
-- asserting that Clarke had "dissembled in front of the media," with no explanation of when or how.
Tangentially, it's fascinating that 13 years ago, this sort of commentary was being produced by CNN. It's fascinating to see the extent of the transformation that's happened to the press in less than 15 years. But the real point here is that this sort of character attack is now as much a tactic of the so-called liberal Democrat as it was ten years ago of the Bush Republican. They differ only in their choice of target. Bush Republicans called their targets traitors, cowards, and terrorists; liberal Democrats call their targets racists, white elitists, and white supremacists.
This is the best reply I found to the above attack:
We are going to ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton was a “Goldwater Girl,” or that you once stated to a Clinton biographer that “[t]he first time I ever heard of Bill Clinton was the 1970s,” or that it has already been well-established that Sanders worked with the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) at the University of Chicago in the 1960s. We are also going to leave aside the fact that every mention of Bill Clinton in your book Walking With the Wind described an instance that he opposed some policy that you cherished. Instead, we are going to talk about another person that you never saw or met...
Presidential politics might be the backdrop for this story, Representative Lewis, but this has nothing to do with Bernie Sanders. The hurtful nature of your comments has to do with your erasure of the people who worked outside of the spotlight and the national press to make sure that the Civil Rights Movement touched every corner of Black America. As I said earlier, you did not know or meet my grandmother. .
Here's another character attack, based on a lie, delivered by a liberal Democrat. As is usual with the Democrats, the charge is racism:
Dolores Huerta @DoloresHuerta
I offered to translate & Bernie supporters chanted English only! We fought too long & hard to be silenced Si Se Puede! #ImwithHer #NVcaucus
Here's the actual video footage:
As Susan Sarandon pointed out, there was no chant of English only from the floor, and the video proves it.
Susan Sarandon ✔ @SusanSarandon
Link to the entire vid. The translation ask starts at 53:30 & mod says English Only at 55:18. NO CHANTING. https://www.ustream.tv/embed/recorded/83452078?html5ui …
Once the video proof that Sanders supporters had done nothing racist started circulating, the mainstream press, which had been promoting Huerta's lie at the speed of light, backtracked into the default defensive position of character assassins: both sides are a little wrong.
Actually, both sides weren't a little wrong. One side told a lie. In fact, those of us on Twitter at the time received a tweet from America Ferrera saying "It doesn't matter what you chanted. You don't shout at Dolores Huerta." It doesn't matter? It doesn't matter whether people were making a racist attempt to silence a Latina activist? It doesn't matter whether that's true or not?
Those of us on Twitter at the time soon learned why it didn't matter. Another Hillary supporter tweeted smugly: "It doesn't matter if it's true. The story's out there now."
It's unclear how any politics capable of doing good could survive these methods. Any political movement or organization which relies fundamentally on hatchet jobs, in particular hatchet jobs based on lies, cannot but have a corroded moral core. I hope it goes without saying that such a reliance on character assassination does not suit, and will not serve, a revolutionary movement dedicated to fighting one of the most powerful and tyrannical mechanisms of social control that has ever existed in this hemisphere. Using charges of racism as a tool of habitual character assassination cannot but corrode the very meaning of racism, since racism will be redefined as necessary to suit each particular hatchet job. For racism is, in this political context, neither a problem to be solved nor a sin to be repented, but a tool with which you take down politically inconvenient people. Ending racism isn't the goal; headhunting is the goal and the idea of racism provides the means.
Simultaneously, the fight against racism has shifted its focus to images and words, rather than deeds and entrenched social structures. In other words, it's a staple of current anti-racist activity to swarm the ACLU for posting a picture of a white toddler with an American flag, just as it also is a staple of current anti-racist activity to take down statues and flags, and to wait for the next racist thing Trump posts on Twitter. These concerns take up the attention, the oxygen, and leave those who wish to investigate and challenge the actual white supremacist infiltration of the nation's police gasping:
These concerns also take attention off the connections between law enforcement and the War on Terror--and through the War on Terror, to imperialist forces outside the United States. The police, as an institution, isn't reliant solely on homegrown racism and its tactics anymore. It has also learned "counterterrorism tactics" from the army that has been practicing pacification techniques for decades on Palestinians.
Rather than examining either of these influences on the police, rather than bringing attention to the presence of actual white supremacists within law enforcement, the current tactic of anti-racist activists appears to be focusing on Nazis who are not police officers, those who are willing to protest in public. The few hundreds who march in support of the swastika are the problem, especially those working for minimum wage at a pizza chain. Not the white supremacists who are entrenched within the police nationally. If a brave SJW wanted to identify a white supremacist, perhaps identifying those among the police, who are hiding behind their badges, might be more to the point than identifying a Nazi pizza boy, but don't say so--you might get called racist.
We live in a time where statues of Confederate racists are focused on as a provocation to Black people, when this is happening:
We also live in a time where the idea that poverty and racism are connected has been nearly wholly abandoned. In fact, when Bernie Sanders mentioned it, he was attacked as stereotyping Black people as poor. In other words, talking about the connections between race and poverty is racist.
The economic aspect of anti-racist discourse is on the decline. The focus on the racist police is being replaced with a focus on a small group of racists marching for the swastika--instead of a deep analysis of how the groups that sponsor those marches are also infiltrating the cops. Racism is being used as a character attack on anyone who disagrees with the status quo, while Clintons and Bushes are getting a social justice makeover for their tattered reputations. Racism is even being used as an excuse why not to break up Wall St:
"If we broke up the big banks tomorrow . . . would that end racism? Would that end sexism?”
Hillary Clinton’s questions, and the resounding “No!” that came from her audience, are a distillation of some of her campaign’s most consistent attacks on Bernie Sanders in the recent Democratic primary. But for a moment, let’s set aside the ridiculous framing of the question — no piece of legislation enacted tomorrow would “end racism” — and let’s set aside the electoral context in which it took place.
Instead, let’s turn to a substantive issue at the core of Clinton’s neoliberal politics. .
The Jacobin is right. We are witnessing Right-wing fringe groups, especially those dumb enough to come out in public, are easy sacrifices which the white establishment can make without changing one iota of its racist behavior toward Black people. It costs the white establishment little or nothing, and gains them a reputation for anti-racism while keeping the majority of Black people in the same rotten position they've been in pretty much since Reconstruction. The larger category of "deplorables" serves the same purpose. (So do the Confederate statues beloved of those same people.)
Too bad, right-wingers. Those politicians that you thought had your back for the last 35 years actually are willing to serve your head up on a platter. This is because they aren't actually conservative any more than they are liberal. They do not have ideological principles. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know.
Meantime, even though economic and legal conditions for the majority of Black people stay rotten, some percentage of the Black population in this country is enjoying its new status as the establishment's favorite sons and daughters. They are not favorites in the sense that they will get a better economic deal or get treated fairly by the legal system, but they are favorites in the sense that the media will lavish attention on them and a few of their concerns, and politicians will make a lot of speeches about them. Some, like a DKos author I used to follow, responded to this new political environment by writing a long, victorious diatribe about how it's Black people's turn in the sun now, how the rich establishment now favors Black people over white people, and now Black people are going to get jobs while white people languish in poverty. In other words, neener, neener, you're poor now. (I am not seeing this new economic prosperity getting extended to a majority of Black people. Just saying.) Some in the mainstream press, with greater subtlety, talk about how the failure of Bernie Sanders' campaign shows that you can't win a Democratic primary without the Black vote. In other words, enabling Hillary Clinton, a racist, to get what she wants, gives Black voters some kind of associative prestige that apparently derives from being able to smack down a white leftist who was the only white politician to attend John Conyers' 2004 meetings on the Ohio election fraud.
Apparently the schadenfreude is fun for everyone--and, of course, this politics requires an assortment of upper-middle-class Black people to be politicians, media figures, think tank consultants, the heads of big NGOs, and lawyers. So this tactic provides material benefits for that portion of the Black upper middle class that works in politics and media. But the rich, and mostly white, establishment only favors digestible Black concerns. It only supports those Black voices that are willing to lease their moral capital to the establishment in exchange for attention being paid to those digestible concerns. And if allowed to continue, the fight against racism will ultimately be whatever the white political establishment and corporate media wish it to be.
No matter who you are, you cannot let yourself be used at the same time that you accomplish your liberation.
The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.