Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The "conversation" about race begins

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African American," former president, Jimmy Carter told NBC in an interview. Washington Post

When Bertold Brecht got cynical or angry at Communist regimes, he told them that, if the people were rebelling against their wisdom, they should "change the people." Perhaps that's what Obama needs to do -- change the people, his people. Or maybe, in time, the people will change themselves. Immanuel Wallerstein
David Seaton's News Links
Color in the United States is just a "warning signal" that history has walked into the room. But even history doesn't explain it all. Our history of slavery is pretty horrible, but slavery was horrible in Cuba and Brazil too. However, Cubans and Brazilians are much more relaxed about color. Americans, though, are not really relaxed about much of anything.

Our culture is Calvinist: brittle and inflexible even in its hedonism, where, with predestination, the devil literally takes the hindmost.

Although in many parts of Europe, for example, losing, being maudit, is considered romantic, the worst put down in American English is to call someone a "loser".

Therefore, Americans are obsessed with "winning" and "losing".

This makes American racial tension different... I think America's racism has something to do with America's puritanical streak, with its hatred of vulnerability and the vulnerable slaves were "losers" par excellence.

vulnerability of the "other", whomever that other might be is the origin of the sickest of fantasies.

This role has been passed onto the slave's descendants.

Probably the most valuable service that slaves provided even, or especially, for those who didn't own them was there being someone even the most miserable white person could feel superior to, and God knows that America is full of desperately miserable white people.
Not all of them are poor, not by long shot.

For losing and feeling miserable in America is not just economic, a study of marketing messages will give you an idea of the infinite ways that an American can be a "loser".

The entire American consumer economy, which is 70% of the total, is based on making people feel bad about themselves, making them feel poor, ugly, sick, helpless, stupid, inadequate and then offering to sell them something to relieve the pain of rejection and failure.

Those whites who fear they might be "losers" themselves, and if we look at the economic and psychological facts of life that might include most American whites, desperately need someone to look down upon as insurance against being losers and of course, since time immemorial African-Americans, even the lightest skinned among them, have served that purpose. Their status as loser was even pleasing to the abolitionists that wanted to "uplift" them.

For literally hundreds of years, besides this role as the loser, no other role beyond entertaining or lifting heavy loads was permitted them.

In 1952 an African-American author, Ralph Ellison published a ground breaking novel, “The Invisible Man”, whose title many critics feel defined the experience of people of African descent in America: that of being invisible and voiceless. In the years that followed, the people of color in the United States raised their voices and became visible, to the great and continuing discomfort of many whites. The white people of the US south who once voted solidly Democratic have punished that party’s leadership of the civil rights movement by voting solidly Republican ever since… the key to the victories of Nixon, Reagan and Bush. The “Conservative Revolution”, that only favors the rich, is based on the resentment of poor whites.

I wrote this a while back:
Making equal citizens of the descendants of slavery: descendants of both master and slave, was the inescapable duty, dharma, of American progressives. This situation made and still makes a mockery of the Declaration of Independence, which was written by a slaveholder and seconded by slaveholders... This injustice could not be allowed to stand

Lyndon Johnson, perhaps the closest thing to a man of the left that has ever sat in the White House, knew that this was his duty and although a southerner carried out that duty unflinchingly.

Master politician that he was, I'm sure he knew what was to follow: Nixon's "Southern Strategy", that opened the door to Reagan, Bush-I and Bush-II, a movement that strove mightily to undo all that Johnson tried to achieve with his "Great Society"... and largely succeeded in destroying it and gave a political base to all those whose philosophy has deprived generations of Americans of decent public health care and decent public schools.
With Barack Obama this resentment is coming to head.

Up till now, American "identity" politics was always played with surrogates: WASP men wearing masks.

Thus Bill Clinton was "America's first black president". The whatever WASP whose turn it was to woo Latinos, would eat tacos and say "juntos podemos" with an atrocious accent etc, etc. Candidates would attempt to show that they were "sensitive" to the feminist agenda and so on. Absolutely de rigueur for all white, male and protestant presidentiables was a photo at Yad Vashem sporting a yomulka. This all came with the turf like kissing babies. It was all a game.

The problems start when the Democrats decided to use "originals" instead of the traditional, "ballo in maschera". The whole charade begins to fall apart without the WASP surrogates.

All of this resntful white anger has been directed heretofore against surrogates: the Jimmy Carters, the Ted Kennedys, the Walter Mondales, the Dukakises, the Gores and the Kerrys; and all the racism was disguised in euphemisms like "state's rights" or "liberal" or "elitist" or "un-American".

Now for the first time the American white ultra-right have got the chance to actually organize and march against a real black man who incarnates all the euphemisms, instead of a surrogate.

Even a "JFK meets Sydney Poitier" figure like president Barack Obama, or especially like Obama, is an unbearable provocation -- a lifetime membership card in the "loser" club -- for millions of American white people.

The real problem in America is not racism in itself, the problem is a society or a culture that divides human beings into "winners" and "losers" and punishes the losers so mercilessly. These unfortunates simply cannot survive psychologically without their "whipping boy". DS


oldfatherwilliam said...

I think you're right on this,especially where the South and Southeast are concerned. In Oregon and generally in the Pacific Northwest it may manifest as resentment at environmental control, where the divide seems to be between planet-preservationists and those who wish to consume it as freely as ever before. The aboriginals and their descendants are not necessarily race-conscious, but how they do despise Harvard people trying to deny them the Right to plunder the countryside and the remaining wilderness. Thus our "conservatives" and "patriots".

Anonymous said...

What's romantic about eating s#$% all your life?

In my experience the people who hate the competitive side of life are always nerds who got beat up by the jocks. Nerd rage then later develops the loser into a member of ACORN or some other "radical" organization to overthrow the "system".

Losers punish themselves by living life of regrets and "what if's?".

You've been living around Eurotrash too long my friend. Atleast you didnt take the easy way out and blame this WHOLE thing on racism like most progressives. By the way, for an interesting take on progressives and the "coolies", read George Orwell's essay on Rudyard Kipling.


bailey said...

I really appreciate your win/lose outlook. Vulnerability is a dirty word, innit.
I think race focuses too much on the vicimization disease. The other two, evangelicism and litigiousness, continue to embed their way more deeply into the nation's spyche.
I'll continue to hang out with the rest of the eurotrash (lol) and watch the rest of the world quietly, softly dismiss America.
Thanks David, always well thought out...

forensic economist said...

Just a note on teabaggers - my second cousin sent us a CD of the TEA protest in Washington DC. (He was there and approved. He lives in exurban northern Virginia.)

Not a single non-white face in the claimed 1.7 million people. Signs saying "Joe Wilson was right" and "Joe Wilson for President" along with the South Carolina flag, which incorporates the old confederate flag.