Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Some Random Thoughts on Race and Society.

The Supreme Court held today that crucial parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act are unconstitutional.

I could go on at length why this is not a good idea for the United States as a nation or Americans as a people except that Lemieux does all that already at the link.

If you're paying attention you understand that in many parts of the United States "conservative" outfits like True the Vote (as well as the usual suspects involved in gerrymandering electoral districts) are doing everything they can to ensure that anyone they suspect of voting to the Left of Lester Maddox is ghettoized into their own crowded districts when they can't disenfranchise them altogether.

I want to think about this for a moment, though, as part of a larger part of American life, a part us white folks really hate to think and talk about.

That's the part where we have to take one in the seat of the pants if we want to change the way "race matters" in the United States.

And the part where we haven't, and it hasn't, and race still matters in the United States.

Less than it used to, but matters.

Let's start with this: us white folks fucked over them colored folks - them folks being mostly colored dark brownish-black tho we didn't mind giving the redskins and brownskins and yellowskins a kick in the ass, too, whenever we could - for pretty much most of the first 150 years of this country or so.

Women didn't get such a great deal, either, but we've already talked about that a little.

Let's not kid ourselves.

This wasn't some sort of little gentle corrective slap from time to time.

Being black in the United States from 1776 to about 1969 was about as much fun as being the littlest guy in the yard at Salem Correctional Institution for Men.

If you were lucky you had to sit in the back of the bus and work for peanuts while taking crap from the scrawniest little bastard flying KKK colors. You lived in the shittiest parts of town and your kids went to the shittiest schools and got the shittiest educations. You worked at shitty jobs for shitty wages - less than the white boys doing the same shitty jobs - and shopped at shitty rundown stores for shitty products the white folks didn't want.

If you were lucky.

If you weren't you got beaten up, or raped, or killed. You got run out of town with nothing but the clothes on your back. If you were foolish enough to be accused of anything - or even just being nearby when someone else was accused of anything - you ran a real good chance of getting murdered out of hand.

Speaking for my home town, it was against the law to be black in Oregon from 1844 to 1926. The law wasn't much used, mind you, but it was there, and the knowledge of it probably had a lot to do with how few African-Americans ended up here.

Since the end of WW2 life in the United States has gotten better for those citizens-who-aren't-white-people. Lynching has been stopped. Overt, legal discrimination is dead as the dodo. Social, political, and economic opportunities that did not exist for blacks (and hispanics and asians) fifty years ago are now mandated by law and enforced by social pressure.

Let's not kid ourselves here, either.

If you're poor in the United States (and poor trumps white, by the way, in my experience...) things are pretty nasty for you.

If you're poor and you're NOT white, well, chances are that you STILL live in the shittiest parts of town and your kids still go to the shittiest schools. You still get shitty jobs and you still get shitty pay. The likelihood that you're out of work and unable to find work is higher than if you were white and always has been.

Some of this is because there are some real fucking bad habits that have worked their way deep into African-American communities and African-American culture.
(Mind you, when you're the punk of the prison yard you end up learning some pretty degrading tricks to earn your smokes. Doesn't mean it's not your problem. But it means that you need a little more than just the warden telling you that he's told the Aryan Nations gangsters to stop bending you over the weight bench four times between dinner and lights-out for everything to be peachy-keen from there on.)
But a hell of a lot of it is because the rest of us have run like sonsofbitches any time there was a danger that we might wind up living and working alongside African-Americans.

We - largely the "conservative" and white "we" - have fought "affirmative action" that would have forced us to take on black people as peers in our schools and jobs whether we liked it or not. We've white-flighted every time black people have moved in next to us. We've worked very hard to avoid doing anything that would have seriously inconvenienced us as a means of trying to rub out the long-lasting effect of all that lynching and slaving and general 150-some years of fucking-over.

Well, it's worked. Many black Americans still have some problems here in America - and some black Americans still have some very big problems in America - and today the U.S. Supreme Court said that despite that history of fuckery it's fine with the fuckers fucking with other people's voting because "taking race into account" was okay as a reason for the fucking for 150 years but not when you're trying to unfuck the fucking for the past 50 or so.

The public in its infinite wisdom is now solidly against anything that can be described as "affirmative action" or "reverse racism" as if somehow trying to erase the legacy of all that racist shit was in itself racist. Because we're all "post-racial", right? If you walk into a bank to get a loan, or into a traffic stop, or into a polling place it doesn't matter if you're black or white, right?

Let's not kid ourselves.

We can keep going along just fine the way things are. Lots of black people (and hispanic and asian and other not-white people) are way better off today than they were. Nobody is going to Bastille the Capitol building because they can't be CEO of Goldman Sachs or because every so often they get stopped for driving while black; the U.S. 2013 ain't the slums of Paris 1788.

It's just that us white folks should be willing to look at ourselves and admit that we're okay that some people who don't look like us are a little more troubled and a little poorer and a little less part of the life of our nation so long as "we" don't have to make any sacrifices to change that.

That seems a little small and a little mean and a little miserable to me.

Hey, I don't like the idea of sacrificing something to make some anonymous black guy more likely to have what I've got any more than Lester Fucking Maddox did.

But I like to think that I'm a better man than Lester Fucking Maddox, and that my country is, too.


Ael said...

With every mean-spirited step towards the new gilded age, overall social cohesion goes down.

Rio and Istanbul are warnings: Wide spread civic unrest is not a thing of the past. If/when it happens, how can the oligarchs be *sure* of the loyalty of their minions?

Better not to go there.

Leon said...

From my view in communist Canada, the underlying message below the "anyone can achieve anything" of the United States is an uglier "fuck you, I've got mine" message.

Usually it's the 1% or elites to the unwashed masses. This time it's the white population to the non-white.

FDChief said...

Ael, Leon: Those were the thoughts occurring to me as I was posting these.

U.S. politics as currently on display is captive to a "conservative" minority determined to return to the social and economic climate of 1929 and is prepared to take a hammer to "democracy" to do it. Gerrymandering, vote-suppression, outright lies, fear-mongering...it's all part of the same toxic brew.

And it is exactly that sort of reckless and insane nihilism from the entitled classes towards the "others" that produces the kinds of deep and long-lasting social fracture lines that exist in places like Brazil and Turkey (and much of the world, too, in greater or lesser forms).

As I said; the promise of the U.S. (one that we've often not lived up to but promised all the same...) is that if you stay within the system, play the game, be good little citizens, that you have a good chance - maybe not absolutely an equal chance, but a good chance - of getting a place at the "big kids'" table, getting a piece of the better life, getting a shot at your kids becoming a CEO or a Senator or a general.

And don't get me wrong; I think that the U.S. still offers much more hope for a black person in a white society than, say, a Kurd in Turkey or a favelista in Brazil. But the modern U.S. Right seems to think that that hope is too much, that we MUST turn back the clock to 1965 or even 1929 or 1864.

I think a large part of this is that part of this white-conservative sect is old fuckers pining for the days when the nigras and bitches had to ride the back of the bus. And the the other part is what Pierce calls the "Reagantots"; the Young Republicans that came of age in the 1980s and don't remember the deep and bitter divisions in American society in the late Fifties and the Sixties that had many of us unsure whether our country would erupt in open civil war or, at least, bloody rebellion.

So they're happy to try and shove the people they hate - the uppity darkies, the pushy feminists, the agnostics and the liberals and the hippies - down (or back down) into the social cellar by any means they can.

Because they're greedy. And ignorant of history. And clueless.

But what they're doing in unbelievably toxic and I can't think that we won't regret letting them get away with it...

Syrbal/Labrys said...

And the asshat in Texas is already calling for voter ID laws....he didn't even wait TWO HOURS after this law was gutted.d Right, we've changed alright. And not for the better.

I'm just about to the point where I stop fearing for my nation and figure it has already gone past the point of no return. But other events in Texas last night give me a wee spark of hope...

basilbeast said...

I know who-of you write, SL.

There's something there in Texas to add to the argument being bounced about here and at MP and RAW concerning women in the military.

I'm convinced that physical strength or toughness takes a back seat to mental toughness any day of the week.

I'll take "scrappiness" over "buffiness" if my back is ever against the wall, in any situation.


This feels like a tipping point for Texas. Watching a small woman in running shoes and a back brace stand up for thirteen hours to those bullying Republican Senators in order to make sure women in Texas were not stripped of their rights was inspiring. It was real, and it's something Washington DC should consider when they play their stupid non-filibuster filibuster games on a daily basis. Last night, a small minority of scrappy Democrats backed by thousands of observers and fans defeated corrupt Republicans. That's a reason to celebrate.

But that's off-topic. Rub it in, Leon the Canuckommunist.


A huge part of the American dream is the gathering of wealth. In reality, it's a nightmare.

Luke 12:

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

This is the heresy of Religio Americana.

The Rich and Successful are that way b/c they are Blessed by God.

The poor? Not so much blessed.


basilbeast said...

Furthermore, religion was employed to explain why the black and other non-whites were inferior.

The story of a pissed-off drunk in Genesis 9 and 10.


FDChief said...

basil: Here's the bottom line on this story; the Supremes eagerness to bring back Jim Crow and gerrymandering mean that your "...small woman in running shoes and a back brace..." is likely to get kicked out on her can next election.

How 'bout that for some righteous rendering-unto-Caesar?

As my old platoon sergeant would have said; what a fuckin' fuckstory.

basilbeast said...

Well then, Mr. Chief, we'll see how much "scrap" is in her and her supporters' scrappiness.

Time, once again, will reveal all.


Pluto said...

AEL: "Wide spread civic unrest is not a thing of the past. If/when it happens, how can the oligarchs be *sure* of the loyalty of their minions?"

Hate to say this, but between the semi-desperate employment status of millions of Americans and the Patriot Acts, the oligarchs have got this one covered.

They can screw up in other ways, they most definitely are not super geniuses, but they've already thought through the implications of this part of their security puzzle.

Ael said...


The Russian Oligarchs had it covered as well, just before the revolution.

Politics is a game of perceptions and intentions. A seemingly solid landscape can change in the blink of an eye. Just ask Nicolae Ceaușescu.

Leon said...

Basil, I'd love to watch the video but your capitalistic swine running-dog imperialist video won't play in my freedom loving glorious peoples democratic nation.

I'll assume it's praise for our glorious workers banking system where the executives only get moderately filthy rich.