Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Gates affair: looking on the bright side

A multiracial group of police officers on Friday stood with the white officer who arrested a prominent black Harvard scholar and asked President Barack Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick to apologize for comments the union leaders called insulting. Associated Press
David Seaton's News Links
It has always been a truism of the classic left that the "class struggle" in America is eternally short-circuited by racism: that the hostility of working class whites toward blacks, and working class blacks justifiable mistrust of their white "comrades", always meant that the bourgeoisie could divide and rule them in comfort. In short, racial hostility would always trump class loyalty in America.

The clearest example of this was Nixon's "Southern Strategy", whereby tricky Dick pried loose the heretofore populist, "a chicken in every pot", southern whites from their age old, "solid south" loyalty to the Democrats and enfolded them into the Party of Abraham Lincoln, something which violated not only their most precious traditions, but also their every economic interest.

Thus, in America, so the saying goes, politics are racial, not class, based.

Perhaps this is changing.

Commentators from all over the world have affirmed that the election of America's first African-American president heralded a post-racial America.

In a rather perverse way, perhaps the professor Gates arrest hoo hah is this new America's first icon.

Hey, don't laugh! Look at it this way: as the quote above from AP shows, a multiracial group of working class union members stood united with their white "comrade" and faced down two members of the upper middle class, a Harvard professor and a former professor of the University of Chicago, (the second professor just happens to also be the President of the United States of America).

This multiracial workers union solidarity has stopped these powerful and prestigious men dead in their tracks and has the president -- supposedly the most powerful individual in the world -- back peddling rather smartly.

Is this a sign of the changing times?

As more men and women of color take their places in positions of power, naturally defending their privileges and the system that provides them with those privileges; as their color becomes increasingly incidental to their power and the status that goes with that power; as the oppression they, by the very nature of their position, exert on those beneath them is less and less identified with a particular skin color, will this -- in a deteriorating and stagnant economy -- bring the oppressed of all colors together to fight oppression... no matter the color of the oppressor?

If this is where post-racial America is taking us, then the "establishment" is soon going to be heartily sorry that they ever took this road and it will be interesting to see what tactics they may use to get the races conveniently back at each others throats. DS


stunted said...

Were this a union of just about anyone other than policemen, I would say you have a point. Perhaps I'm just a relic of the sixties, but I have difficulty in seeing this hoo hah in terms of upper middle class blacks oppressing a member of the working class. Police represent the very authority you speak of, and they brook no criticism or backtalk. Theirs is certainly a very tough job, but the cards, when the going gets tough, are all stacked in their favor and they can be prone to abusing the power they have over ordinary citizens. Mouth-off to a cop,even in your own home, you're going downtown. Any criticism of a man in blue is automatically insulting. I thought only the pope was considered infallible. I'll believe in a post-racial America when the racial make-up of the prison population comes more in line with the census count.

I haven't seen that painting in 20 years--thanks.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Still, for all of that, a multiracial trade union's membership has united behind one of their membership on a class basis.

Perhaps the difficulty and the danger of their work makes policemen's loyalty to each other transcend racial identity. I imagine something similar might happen in the armed forces.

Whatever it is, as a trend, it is post-racial and it would be positive if the rest of the society (including the prison population) acted likewise... that was the point I was trying to make.

bailey said...

America's sub-cultures and fringe movements are bubbling to the surface, from the birther movement to the rest of it.

MSM and congresspeople are listening to their constituents and giving them a larger megaphone than before because of all the economic distress, possibly.

Diversity is finding full representation and it's not a smooth process.

It's ironic because the one thing we do better than anyone else, is 'inspire' assimilation.

Stephanie said...

"Still, for all of that, a multiracial trade union's membership has united behind one of their membership on a class basis."

I'd say they united behind him on a professional basis, in the way that doctors close ranks, although I take your point.

I share stunted's difficulty in seeing Sgt. Crowley as a sort of working class hero. Crowley was the one who held the upper hand in the situation and he didn't hesitate to exploit that.