The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

A Tale of Two Words

| 109 Comments

Two phrases have come up over the last week.  One is the old, “Racism is prejudice plus power,” the other is, “White people need to recognize that they benefit from racism.”  It struck me that one thing going on here is that the words benefit and power are being used in a way that I do not think useful for understanding and fighting the injustice that affects all of our lives–yes, all of our lives, even if some more than others.

When we are told, for example, that white people, or straight people, or men, have “power” this seems to mean (I speak under correction), have advantages.  But power, at least in the social sense, means the ability to force another to do what you wish, through violence or its threat, or economic coercion.

It seems as if there is some sort of magical transformation happening here: “Almost everyone who has actual power is white and male, therefore, if you are white and male, you have a share of that power.”  Is that actually the thinking?  If it is, I hope my expression of it is sufficient to show its absurdity.

The working class only has power when it is united, and racial and sexual divisions are used to prevent that unity.  That is why I do not have the benefit of any sort of decent health care: because racism and male chauvinism (to be sure, along with many other things) have been used to keep the working class from exercising its power to destroy the parasitic health insurance and profit-based privately-owned pharmaceutical companies.  I am denied the benefits of scientific discovery because those divisions interfere with the power we need to prevent the gutting of NASA and other research programs that could increase human knowledge.  I do not have the benefit of living in a world where everyone around me has access to education and culture.  I do not have the benefit of truly effective mass transit, of efficient renewable energy, of a program to fight climate change. All of these are things that could be, and must be, fought for by a united working class.  But the working class is kept divided by, among other things, racial prejudice.

So, no, I do not benefit from racism.  If my sex, my race, my sexual preference, and even more, my fairly comfortable (if uncertain) middle-class income mean that I am less oppressed than many of my brothers and sisters, this does not mean I benefit from racism.  And it certainly does not mean I have power.

In essence, you are telling me that I should work to make those who are more oppressed than me as oppressed as I am.  Seriously?  Is that the best we can do?  Perhaps you claim it is a “start?”  That someday in the future all racism and sexism will vanish, and we will all be equally oppressed, and then we can work together?  Well, first, no, I don’t think that day will ever come without the destruction of capitalism, and, secondly, I think that this “start” works to drive the class apart, to set sections of the oppressed against each other.

And then there’s a purely tactical point: If you actually manage to convince someone that he benefits from racism, is that a very strong argument that he ought to devote himself to fighting it?  It seems to me that part of the fight against racism involves pointing out the ways in which it hurts everyone.

To summarize: if, instead of working as hard as possible to increase, accent, and solidify categories such as race and sex, we were to devote our efforts to bringing the working class together, fighting ignorance where it occurs within the class as part of organizing its independent strength, we could actually do something that would give us all power, and work to the benefit of the entire working class, and, ultimately, the human race.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

109 Comments

  1. Well put. Let the stream of rebuttals and re-rebuttals begin…

  2. It depends somewhat in how we define “benefit”. Too many people have all sorts of -isms which are used to define themselves as right and others as wrong. Apparently that is sufficient benefit to foster their religious, patriotic, racial, and other class biases. The “benefit” is primarily psychological – and the benefit doesn’t pay for the costs.

  3. Steven; a very good description of the problem. It is how I see things, namely that I am less oppressed than minorities. Not benefiting directly by my so called “power”. I have no power over minorities but I would like to see them raised to the same level of oppression as I am.

    Do I benefit by my race and sex? In a way, yes. It made it easier to get my foot in the door than would minorities. I also benefited by my education (which was not based on my race, but on my parents, my hard work and some luck). I also have the disadvantage of my age, in that it would be very difficult for me to get a job (if I thought I could handle a full time job) because of my age. These days, good jobs are really scarce (a result of oligarchs decisions), not mine. So, the world isn’t fair. I didn’t create it nor can I change it by myself.

    I see this attack upon white males, because they are white males, as part of a clever movement to repress minorities and to otherwise divide us all along various lines (sex, age, race, religion). To divide and conquer. It is an easy trap to fall into. From the minority viewpoint, it is really easy to look “up” at white guys that are doing better and ascribe that difference strictly to their race. Not much different than some white person looking “down” at minorities and ascribing all their problems and oppression as a direct result of their race. Both are prejudice.

    There are plenty of white males in the middle and lower working classes who really are anti-minority. That was part of their upbringing. I doubt that we can change them. They have become more openly hostile to minorities lately. Many are still fighting the Civil War. I don’t agree with them and resent being treated as if I were one of them regarding minorities. So these attacks on all middle class white males, just serves to generate resentments both from the minorities and from the white males that are sympathetic to the minorities’ condition.

    As you say, the only way to get improvement is to work together, not to attack each other. The oligarchs don’t want this. They want us at each others throats, fighting over the scraps of jobs at the wages dictated to us.

    Many people have been convinced that life is a zero sum game. Namely, we are all in direct competition. I can have a job only by taking it away from somebody else. That is not strictly true, though it seems to be going more that way.

    This country is awash in money. The money spent on the F-35 program alone would eliminate poverty, pay for free education and free health care. But the gatekeepers have chosen who will benefit from the wealth. And it isn’t us.

    So, we can either work together to try to improve things (need unions, actually vote), or else we can hold onto our prejudices and all go down in an economic death spiral. It is interesting that in many places with the most minority suppression, the minorities do not vote in significant numbers. Yea, they are making it hard. But do it anyway.

  4. John Scalzi had a pretty good writeup of how the term “white privilege” is both misused and misunderstood because privilege is a “trigger word”. He explained it instead in terms of “level of difficulty all other things being equal”

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

  5. skzb

    David: Yes, I’m familiar with the post. And here is my answer: http://dreamcafe.com/2012/05/16/scalzis-latest-but-i-didnt-get-my-say/

  6. skzb

    Just for the hell of it, I followed my own link above and reread it. In the comments, I said this: ” I believe that, as the economic crisis deepens (the underlying crisis, of which the cyclical ones are an expression), the options of the ruling class will narrow. This years run by neo-fascist Ron Paul indicates that sections of the ruling class are dipping their toes in the possibilities of extreme measures of repression. They aren’t there yet, but I think they will have to be, and sooner rather than later. Of course, I could be wrong.”

    This was in May of 2012. Hello, NSA. Hello Ferguson.

  7. Ok, this is everyone’s favorite “house boy” from California…

    Steven, miss you.

    Now, with all that out of the way, I think you may be putting a little more weight on the two phrases then what should allowed for a dumb idea. You and I both know, and have spoken about this at length at Convolution, that “racism” is racism…”power” is not required. As evidence, refer to poor towns in Arkansas that have had signs telling black people to not be found on the street after sunset. This “rule” was not law, it was enforced by the citizens of the towns. I would also submit for your consideration, wait for it…”The Black Panthers”. Yeah, I said it. For all the good ideas and justice that they tried to stand for, they were a racist organization, brought into reality in direct opposition to the racist society that they lived in. And the “Panther” focus, like the racist society it was born in, was black people (the group of people that had no power). They were trying to fight racism, by being racist.

    And to your point of “being oppressed less”, I do not think the argument is “oppressed less”. I think the argument is “racist ideas have infected the political structure, and that slants governance toward ‘white’ and ‘male'”. As evidence, and I will forewarn anyone that thinks the Constitution of the United States is holy document, I am about to talk some shit about the creators of the document here…Just skip to the next paragraph, you’ll be fine. Now, read the Preamble of the Constitution. Feels good, right? Not a single racist word in it…not one. Ok, now that we all feel good, imagine the psychological gymnastics the writers of the Constitution had to go through in order to write this document and not allow women to be equal members of society. In case you are doing percentages on this one, THIS AFFECTS HALF THE FUCKING POPULATION!!!! Now, lets talk about racism…Wait, why? Between all women and black people, white men are already the real minority. But this thought was not the social norm. And still, I get July 4th of in celebration, while my governance argues whether or not Ricky Martin should be able to marry the person that he loves. And the Pledge of Allegiance end with, “and justice for all.” (I am dancing a jig on a big ole soap box right here, and I know it.)

    So, when a police officer pulls you over, you are less likely to be considered a “threat” on sight, I agree you are “oppressed less” but I think your point is lost in the hyperbolic conversation. As evidence, I offer the statement given by David Hajicek, in this very blog; “Do I benefit by my race and sex? In a way, yes. It made it easier to get my foot in the door than would minorities.” The nuance of the idea of being “oppressed less” was lost. Don’t be offended yet, David…I will try to offend you later. David, in his statement, thinks “being oppressed less” is the same as a “benefit”. I say…No, in order for it to be a benefit, you have be granted a thing/possession/status that is above the norm. In his statement, minorities are oppressed (status-lowered) and he is the norm (status unchanged). If he was benefiting, it would look like, “someone showed up at my house and gave a scholarship because I was a white male.” That is not what happened, according to his statement.

    Now, to the idea of “I see this attack upon white males, because they are white males, as part of a clever movement to repress minorities and to otherwise divide us all along various lines (sex, age, race, religion).” David, just stop. The argument against racism is not attacking white people, it is trying to accurately articulate the problem in order find proper solutions. Talking about racism in America without talking about “White Men”, is like a doctor talking about the rattle snake attached to her patient’s arm without understanding how the snake venom destroys human cells. Just removing the snake is not enough. Evers, King, X, The Panthers all tried to equalize the racist playing field. Did the rhetoric get ugly? Of course it did. Did “stupid” enter the conversation, trying to change how people understood the problem? Of course it did. Steven, David, and I are apart of the same, one, singular race. “the human race” (Yeah, I intentionally did not use capitals out of disrespect toward idea of our race. Get over it.) We look different because our bodies derive from bloodlines that had evolved and adapted to differing areas of the planet. RACE IS A FUCKING MYTH! This is the right answer to the question of racism. It should be screamed in schools, put in the stone of Mt. Rushmore, and should be the last sentence in the founding document of any and every country on the face of any planet where humans live. Once you say and believe that, the idea of doing something to “white men” because of racism is ridiculous.

    And since David brought up the other “-isms” (age-ism, sex-ism, race-ism, etc.), let me address that. We are actually not having the real conversation. The REAL conversation is the “-ISM” part of “racism”. What do I mean? I mean we are talking about the white specks in the chicken-shit that was dumped on our $60.00 steak. Instead we should be looking at the whole meal and ask, “Why does the chef keep putting chicken in all the food? Fuck that asshole!!” The race part of racism is arbitrary… I offer you this contributive note:

    “Racism: To treat someone differently based on their race.”
    “Sexism: To treat someone differently based on their sex.”
    “Agism: To treat someone differently based on their age.”
    __________________________________

    “Ism [suffix]: To treat someone differently based on their {arbitrary ignorant choice based on prefix}.”

    This is where we should all stand…united as human beings, not as a class, not as a minority, not as a political party, not as citizens of countries. We should be SCREAMING about “Global Child Pornography” because those are “MY” children, belonging to “MY” human family. We should SCREAM about “Global Human Trafficking” because those are “MY” mothers, father, brothers, sisters, children, parents…each and every one of those trafficked people belong to “MY” human family. It is the best and seemingly, the only REAL reason to fight Warlords in Africa, Corruption in India and China, poverty on two-thirds on two thirds of the planet, and the idea in the mind of the moron down the street that keeps saying, “The South will rise again!!”

    This is what our conversation should be. It seems like the more noble conversation. Because “that” conversation saves us all…not just a minority? I mean, if someone would REALLY want to do some good, or something. Kinda. Maybe. Or we could just watch John Steward and John Oliver make dick-jokes on TV. Either way is a good use of the internet on a Sunday…after porn, of course.

    Speaking of which…were is my baby oil?

  8. skzb

    James: First of all, it is a joy to hear from you! Hope everything is well. Second, thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I’m going to chew them over for a bit, then reply.

  9. I expect nothing less from you Steven…

    By the way, Parfi-erotica[sp]…FUCK YOU, lovingly.

  10. skzb

    James: Okay, after some thought, you said many things I agree with, some I disagree with, and there are a few “Yes, but”s. For example, the racial prejudice of the Black Panther Party was dramatically overstated by the media (no surprise there). And yes, while they were a fundamentally nationalist group, with all the limitations that impllies, there was little or no hostility to white people per se. That was while I was in the Party, and our Oakland comrades spoke with them on a number of occasions (often behind sandbags), and those comrades who were white met with no racial hostility.

    As for the Constitution, what you say is true, but it is important to remember that the Constitution was a huge step forward for humanity–compare it to anything that had gone before. Of course it is not sacred; of course it is flawed. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t advance the human condition, and to ignore this is to see history in a narrow, one-sided, unscientific way.

    Your comments on race are, in my opinion, dead on. “Race” is an artificial construct, first used to justify the African slave trade, then after the U.S. Civil War used as a means (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) of keeping the working class divided. Successfully, too–it wasn’t until the rise of the CIO that the labor movement was able to present a united front against capital (to be fair, the IWW took a damn good shot at it, and was successful in inolated cases). But, yes, our “race” is human.

    Class, on the other hand, is not an artificial construct–it is a reflection in our thoughts of actual conditions–of the most fundamental relations in human life, to wit, how we make a living. Do we do so by hiring others to labor in order to realize the surplus value, or by selling our labor power to others, so THEY can realize the surplus value? This makes all the difference, and to ignore is to dangerously misunderstand how society operates. Yes, we *should* all be united as members of the human race, working together; but we *cannot* be as long as the need for profit is what drives production, because as long as that is the case, there will be war between those who labor, and those who live off the fruits of others’ labor. Racism is not a random, “bad idea,” but serves a specific and dangerous purpose aiding the exploiters. The police who murder black youth serve the interests of the exploiters, as do those who insist that race is the only issue, because both groups work to keep us at each others’ throats, instead of fighting to end exploitation and oppression for everyone.

    Finally, regarding Parrfirotica, you know you loved it. Your mouth said no but your eyes said yes.

  11. Oh, Steven, my beautiful Steven… Your intellect is sooooooo sexah. I am not sure you got my points down completely, and so, like you, I will continue to wave my…finger in the direction of “racism”.

    When I was speaking about The Panthers “focus” on black people, I meant that their membership was all “black people”. They had an external dialogue, but the membership, completely racist.

    The Constitution: If the generation of human beings creating the document had the bravery to live up to the spirit of humanist dignity they put on the paper, I would agree. And I will grant you, I might be bitter on this point, but if they put good ideas on a piece of paper and then don’t obey them, I don’t give them any credit for forwarding the human condition to a more healthy place. After all, other people were talking about being a humanists, or at least freeing people from slavery, at that period of time. No credit for dictation without emancipation!

    On race: We are in agreement? Now I know I am twisted! Psychologist with big white net to San Jose, Ca., STAT!!!!

    On Class: You say, “is not an artificial construct.” I agree. This was a tiered construct (globally speaking) based on income and/or the ability for a person to have a comfortable lifestyle without working for a wage. I am with you…we can argue about the finer points of Class, and what the classes are. But my position on where “class” should fall in the argument about race, is the same place where I feel everyone else should stand. Racism is a bigger, longer standing belief than “class-ism”. (Fuck, yet another -ism…) And we can argue about our positions on “class-ism”. But racism affects everyone across the board, regardless of status. We can talk about racism in the microcosm of “class-ism”, sure. But perspective should be a thing that we use to keep conversations in proper focus, and then add emotion appropriate to the scale of the focus.

    Now, on to the really important part of our conversation, Parrfirotica (I threw-up a little in my mouth, right there…and I blame YOU!) Okay, I am better now. YOU FUCK!!!! Wait, let me clarify… My mouth was not saying, “NO!” I was moaning incoherently. Any relationship of the sounds I made to any language ever spoken by man, is purely coincidental. My eyes were not saying, “Yes!” THEY WERE TWITCHING, YOU FUCK! And obviously, you got a Merrit Badge in Morris-Code, but EYE TWITCHING IS NOT AN ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE, YOU FUCK!!!! (especially while being tortured) That being said, and understanding certain elements of your fantastic love-life, I can see how you might mistake my physical state as an orgasm of pleasure. In fact…I WAS HAVING A PSYCHOLOGICALLY INDUCED FRUSTRATION-SEIZURE, YOU FUCK!!! And, I might add, taking into account the giggling Jen said you were doing when you wrote the Parrfirotica piece, YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO TORTURE PEOPLE, YOU FUCK!!! And being an upstanding member of the “I am trying to keep my brain healthy” club, I hold you accountable. And now that I have reached Stage Five of Parrfirotica Exposure, the sudden triggering of Tourete’s Syndrome is unsettling. But I will say my sex life is beginning to settle down as long as I use a “flesh-light” lubed with Vaseline and minced glass, once a week. I am getting much better, YOU FUCK!!!

    Steven, I would love to see you. When you come back to California, let me know. Now that black people are allowed to have jobs in the High-Tech Market and collect the paycheck for it. I am not afraid to be seen buying you a steak dinner. If you bring Parrfi…I will resist the urge beat you senseless with your own metaphors.

    Honestly, my brother and friend…you are loved and missed.

    YOU FUCK!!!!

  12. skzb

    James: ‘When I was speaking about The Panthers “focus” on black people, I meant that their membership was all “black people”.’ Ah. All right. I stand corrected.

    No, they didn’t live up to all they put into the constitution, or the Declaration of Independence. But they made a start. They were unable to eliminate slavery for another four-score and seven years, but the progress they made was important, and it *was* progress. And this start inspired the poor and working people in Europe to fight for human rights until nearly the end of the 19th Century; surely that counts for something. The ’48 Revolutions in particular, and even the Paris Commune of noble memory, were all influenced by that document, and by the efforts to fulfill its promise.

    Regarding “classism” see here: http://dreamcafe.com/2013/09/04/why-i-dont-use-the-term-classism/

    “I can see how you might mistake my physical state as an orgasm of pleasure.” Pshah, you know you loved it. (Also: ROFLMAO)

    I’d love to get back there and hang out with you guys again. I have a convention somewhere in California coming up, uh, sometimes. I should look that up and let you know.

  13. So many fond memories of James enjoying the fuck out of the beloved Paarifotica!

    Steve, the con you’re thinking of is this one.

  14. skzb

    Jen: Right, next July. Thanks.

    And, yeah, didn’t James just love it? Never seen anyone enjoy literature so much.

  15. “The working class only has power when it is united, and racial and sexual divisions are used to prevent that unity.”

    That’s one way to look at it, but it’s only valid for those who agree with you about what’s at the base of societal ills. For people who believe racism or sexism is the predominant evil, your focus on economics diverts the focus from what they know is more important.

    “That is why I do not have the benefit of any sort of decent health care…But the working class is kept divided by, among other things, racial prejudice. So, no, I do not benefit from racism.”

    Just because you have not received the benefits you wish you have does not mean you haven’t benefited. Race, sex, class or any other quality that defines a minority into a seconday position benefits the majority. Two examples:

    Just by having the name Steven, you are twice as likely to be called in for a job interview if you were to send in a resume. Researchers tested a form of racism by sending out 100 identical resumes, 50 with names associated with white people (ex. Emily and Steve) and 50 with names associated with black people (ex. Shironda and Quannell). Identical backgrounds, identical economic class, different races – whites won.

    Just for being a man, you are perceived as more competent. The Wall Street Journal interviewed scores of HR heads from the Fortune 100 and they learned that 60% of the time, if a man and a woman had identical backgrounds that did not include the exact job for which they were interviewed but did include something similar, the man would be hired on the assumption he could adapt to the new situation while the woman could not.

    “And it certainly does not mean I have power.”

    Natural selection does not benefit individuals, it strengths populations. So it is with racism, classism, sexism etc. – one privileged individual may not feel powerful, but the majority does wield enormous power over those society views as Other.

    “That someday in the future all racism and sexism will vanish, and we will all be equally oppressed, and then we can work together? Well, first, no, I don’t think that day will ever come without the destruction of capitalism…”

    Are you saying that before capitalism, men and women worked together in perfect equality and no group of people ever demonized a foreign group? All of humanity’s social ills stem from capitalism and have never existed in pre-capitalist societies?

    “And then there’s a purely tactical point: If you actually manage to convince someone that he benefits from racism, is that a very strong argument that he ought to devote himself to fighting it? It seems to me that part of the fight against racism involves pointing out the ways in which it hurts everyone.”

    People are not automatons; we all have different priorities. I’m a white woman who has pitched fits when people at work have walked right past my black co-workers to ask me something any of us could have answered. To me, that sort of oblivious blindness insults my friends and demeans all of us and, in the long run, it weakens society. Others value racism because they like to think of themselves as better than a huge swath of humanity simply by the circumstances of their birth. Still others refuse to see that there is any particular harm in racism and want to ignore it in favor of supporting some other -ism that affects them more directly.

    “To summarize: if, instead of working as hard as possible to increase, accent, and solidify categories such as race and sex, we were to devote our efforts to bringing the working class together, fighting ignorance where it occurs within the class as part of organizing its independent strength, we could actually do something that would give us all power, and work to the benefit of the entire working class, and, ultimately, the human race.”

    I disagree. Classism is just as great an evil as racism and sexism. If humans ever get to the point that we simply stop seeing the world in black and white, as Us v. Them, and view ourselves as one great and diverse society in which everyone has equal worth, then we will have reached a point we can be proud of.

    NB: As I was proofing this you posted that pointer to your earlier classism post. I disagreed with it at the time, so I’m not going to alter my usage of it here, but for the record I’m using it to indicate thinking of others as a subset of society based on the sort of work they do, i.e. as yet another way of dividing people into us and them.

  16. Talk about drinking from a fire hose. There is a lot here.

    James, I think you need to cut the framers of the Constitution a little slack. That was 250 years ago. It was an extreme departure from the norm at the time. It was revolutionary. ;>)

    We all seem to see racism and the other isms as a tool to divide us, to take advantage of us and make less of us. Yes, it is worse for some (much worse) than others.

    Regarding the profit motive; capitalism (properly constrained) is a useful mechanism for distributing jobs and wealth. Unconstrained it will destroy us all. History has show us that any economic system can be abused.

    History has also shown us that Humans have an unending list of ways to divide others from “us”. By nation, by tribe, by language, by religion, by “race”, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, class, income, politics, hair color, age, you name it. I don’t think this has all been imposed on us from on high. It seems to be part of our hard wiring to find differences and distrust them. In the past, it was a survival mechanism, don’t trust the stranger. Some people still operate at that level. It is part of their hard wiring as well as their upbringing. I don’t say this to justify the status quo, but to point out that eliminating these prejudices is not a simple task. Eliminate one and another takes its place. It is a “whack a mole” proposition. Gee that’s depressing.

    The OP was discussing blaming White Men for the problems of blacks (and other minorities). And whether that blaming served any useful purpose. It might make some blacks feel better, but there is the cost of widening the divide. Since our country measures everything by money, I think the more useful goal would be to increase the economic position of minorities and those at the bottom. That is something that people could maybe agree upon and which would eventually get rid of some racism. That would be opposed by some whites at the bottom of the economic totem pole as they want somebody below them. So what ever is done needs to help them also. Tough problem.

    If we could magically make “race” go away as an issue (Prang, we all have the same skin color), that would solve some problems. It would decrease the cops shooting people for being black. It would make it easier for some former blacks to move up the economic and social chain. But this is a predatory society. So other means would be found to keep some people down. Again, that justifies nothing, but it means this is a tougher problem than thinking one could make racism go away by assigning blame.

  17. I have to agree with everybody. Things would get a lot simpler if we could stop think of all the ways people divide themselves up except one. If people were only divided that one way, then we could get rid of the one last holdout separate group and after they’re gone then everybody would have to treat everybody else like we’re all the same. It seems strange to me to imagine every woman treating me just like her husband, but eventually I might get used to it.

    Sometimes groups of people who feel that they are alike try to get power over the rest of us. It used to be aristocrats who had the power, and the serfs and the small numbers of independent free people who had no aristocrat to protect them from thieves and aristocrats just had to deal with it. Now the nobility is not as important, and somebody else has the leading role.

    Ideally we would create a system that nobody can take over, but how to do that? Anybody who gets the power to keep people from taking over the system, just might have taken over the system already….

    If we get rid of the crony capitalists who perhaps replaced the real capitalists (if there ever were such things), who will get the advantage then?

    Well, self-selected groups often try to take advantage. What about other-selected groups? What if somebody decides to put you in a group of people who should be persecuted? That’s bad for you. And you don’t get to decide what group other people will put you in, unless you can somehow stop them. When we decide who the bad guys are, we are doing that. In general it seems like a bad thing to do that to people.

    But how can we stop the bad guys from taking over the world unless we label them so we know who to fight? It’s obviously wrong to group innocent people together and persecute them as a group, but if we don’t group the actual bad guys together as a group and persecute them then they won’t get persecuted enough. And if we don’t persecute the bad guys they’ll get away with it.

    Sure, mistakes will inevitably be made, but isn’t it better to accidentally persecute a few innocents than let the bad guys get away?

    When I look at it too abstractly it all looks bad. It only clears up when I narrow the focus. When bad people persecute innocents, like racists and sexists, and nationalists and social just warriors do, it’s bad and wrong. But when I persecute labelled groups of actual bad people, I’m doing the right thing.

    The fundamental difference is that I am right and they are wrong. So it’s right when I do it and wrong when they do it.

    If there is a god, that god is on my side.

  18. I do wish someone would ask working class white men whether they would trade their privilege for the oppression of an Oprah or a Herman Cain. The historian in me wishes there was some way to ask working class white men in 1850 whether they would trade their privilege for the oppression of a William Ellison or Madame Antoine Dublucet.

  19. “The working class only has power when it is united, and racial and sexual divisions are used to prevent that unity.”

    Acknowledging those divisions is not the same as creating those divisions – you’re shooting the messenger. Racial differences might not be really real, but we live in a society that makes them real, by treating people of different “races” materially differently. L. Raymond gave a bunch of good examples.

    And in the case of the most material of examples, risk of being murdered – trans people for example have a wayyyyyyy higher chance of being murdered than the rest of the population, and very specifically because of transphobia, because there are people who hate them for being trans. No decent scientist could look at the drastically different murder rates and not at least consider transgenderedness as a potential factor.

  20. Ok, first, to everyone who is participating in the RACE conversation. Whether I agree with you or not, the intellect and honesty of the discourse is truly beautiful to see. You have all been very brave to place your beliefs front-and-center for all the world to see and let your ideas “stand and fall” on the weight of their own merit. I am truly honored and thankful to be a part of the dialogue.

    David & Steven: No, I do not think I will the “Framers” a pass. I offer you this example of what I consider healthy accountability:

    I am an American. The United States is where I love and breathe. My skin is dark caramel-brown, but I am NOT an African-American. I do not come from Africa. I do not speak Erdu or Swaheli[sp]. That said, my country was founded on the deaths of 120,000 Indigenous Indians. My country, believing Indians were savages, marched the remaining indigenous tribes to the brink of extinction. My country killed some RIDICULOUS amount of Japanese people bordering on the order of 220,000 in three days. And in the last decade, my country can possibly be responsible for the deaths of up to 500,000 people in the middle east. Not to mention the tortures, beatings, rapes, slavery, etc. I do not back away from any of it, it is the empirical history. I know for each these acts, someone put forward justifications. But that does not absolve my country of any one of those deaths…not one. And even in the face of all that, I am an American.

    I hold the “Framers” to the same level of account. The wrote down a group of good ideas, and then did not follow them. Instead, they allowed a structure that swelled the ranks of slaves (not just of black people, but of white women…they were just a higher status, but still property). And lets not discuss what these same men allowed governance to do to the Indians. Now, Steven…correct me if I am wrong, says we should acknowledge the “Framers” for forwarding the human condition by breaking with the standard model of governance based on a deity and holy decree. I will give them the “separation of church and state”, although one could make a strong argument that we have not exactly gotten that part right either. [POST-EDIT NOTE] I would be willing to give them credit for advancing the human condition for other white men at the expense of everyone else, but I do not think this is much of an acknowledgement..[/NOTE] But that is not being sighted as their “contribution” to the human condition. It seems like I am being asked to give those men credit just for the simple act of writing it down. If I wrote down “all human beings be safe” on a sign and placed that sign above my front door, then turned around and raped 40,000 women while panting, “women are only exist for the sexual pleasure of men”…at the trial, you would not say, “Well, your honor, the rapes are a bad thing…But look at the wonderful sign above his house!! We should give him some credit for THAT!!” NO! And if someone did say that, you would have to resist the urge to beat that person about the head-and-shoulders with a baseball bat that had rusty nails driven through it. Any credit I would give those men would be DWARFED and rendered insignificant by evil they allowed to persist. That seems the honest position. The ideas were mostly excellent…their implementation was criminal, to say the least.

    Jen and Steven: I see the violence inherent in the system. You two are in collusion to oppress the black man with your Parrfirotica. THAT’S RIGHT, BITCHES!!! I AM PLAYIN’ THE RACE CARD!!!! And for no other reason than your own personal amusement. I mean, for fuck-sake, how lame is that?! The Koch Brothers are doing the same thing to everyone, but at least they are going to be able to buy more hookers and blow with the extra cash generated by their increased market share. I know they have their hearts set on pulling a train on Anne Coutler. We all know, that is gonna take some cash. I am just saying, live up to the full potential of a BAD EXAMPLE, FUCKERS!!!!

    {Post Script: I recognize bringing the Koch Brothers and Anne Coulter into this may possibly be over-the-top. I apologize to any republicans that are butt-hurt by the previous “Parrfi-bit”. BUT IF YOU CLEAN OUT THE CLOWN CAR ONCE IN A WHILE, PEOPLE WOULDN’T MAKE FUN OF YOUR POLITICAL POSITIONS!!! Besides, it is starting to stink in there.}

  21. skzb

    James: Thank you; another thoughtful comment. I would like to reply with an example. In ancient Jewish law, it is decreed that women, once divorced, be kicked out of the house with nothing, to make it on their own as best they can. Pretty horrible, huh? And certain sorts of unscientific atheists love to point to it as an example of the horrors of religion. But what this law was replacing was one that said divorced women be killed out of hand. Do you see my point? Human thought advances slowly, and with contradictions, just as any other discovery–it makes as much sense to mock that ancient Jewish law as it would to mock the early astronomers who put the Earth at the center of the universe.. We learn, we advance, in all spheres–particularly in the sphere of human freedom.

    The US constitution didn’t even give the franchise to white men–it gave the franchise to white men who owned property. It was not until Andrew Jackson (one of the most vile human beings to occupy the White House, and that’s saying a lot) that the property restriction was removed. And that was *another* step forward. Emancipation of slaves was another. Women’s suffrage another. The rise of the CIO another. The Civil Rights movement another.

    The impression I’m getting, James (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that you are focusing on the Founding Fathers as individuals, asking, “Were they good or bad?” I beg to submit that the more important question is: what effect did the US Constitution have on human history?

    The general tendency in the United States since it’s foundation has been for greater equality. It is been slow, it has been contradictory, it has been accompanied by unspeakable horror and brutality. But, nevertheless, the overall trend has been for greater equality.

    In my opinion, this is especially important now–because both parties of big business are doing everything they can to reverse that trend–spying on us, murdering us, making clear movements toward a police state. To fight this, we need, above all, to understand it. To dismiss history with, “it’s just more of the same” is to leave us ideologically prostrate. It is no accident that the ruling class is more and more attacking and slandering the French Revolution, the US Civil War, and every other effort they, themselves, once made in the direction of equality. We must understand, and we must fight.

    I will leave it to Jen to answer your absurd claims about Paarfirotica.

  22. WTF is Paarfirotica? Couldn’t find it in any searches.

    We have been focusing mostly on the “oppression” of minorities supposedly by all white people. While oppression is real, that may not be the worst of it. If I were black (or some other obvious minority), the thing that would really gall me would be the insults and humiliations that would be part of every day life. Insult added to injury.

    Another problem is that you only need one “white male” asshole in a group to make it seem like all whites are racist. A black may wonder why the other whites haven’t shut this asshole up. A couple reasons, 1) he’s an asshole and can’t be shut up and 2) there are too many of them and assholes seem to stick together as a power group. Yup, not a good excuse. But people tend to avoid conflict.

    James, it really is not fair to judge ancient people by today’s (or your personal) standards. When I was young, I tended to do this. But the more I learned, the more I understood that people (even cavemen) did the best they could under the constraints that they lived under. Ancient people were pretty much just as smart as we are. Their ignorance was not caused by a limitation of intellect (at least for the healthy people). As an example, I point out the Antikythera device from about 2000 years ago. The same applies to political or social systems. It is easy today even to find countries that we would consider socially backward or even more oppressive than our own. The point is to move forward.

  23. skzb

    David: You can find it under “downloads” above. God help you.

  24. Thanks Steven.

  25. Steve, the Constitution didn’t specify the race of who could vote. There’s a decent write-up here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_rights_in_the_United_States Property was the requirement everywhere; in most, but not all, states, gender and race were the second obstacle.

  26. I found myself, as usual, nodding along to that music, Cousin. Among other things, this post is a clear, concise picture of how our generation of activists see the problems of racism and sexism, and why that puts us at odds with activism based on privilege theory.

  27. skzb

    Um. I hadn’t considered that there was a generational element in it. But now that I think about, yeah, there is–it is one thing to read about Nixon, Vietnam, the civil rights movement; another to have lived through those experiences. Must think about this.

  28. We cannot overlook the results of greedy people in power. These people are in a position to profit directly and immensely from applied racism. This is different than a normal white guy having a job (though that is a benefit) while minorities might not.

    I am talking about the systematic creation of conflict based on race for the purpose of profit. Look at the military industries profiting by selling riot and full blown military gear ti the police departments.

    Another example would be what led up to the Sioux uprising of 1862, right here in the upper Midwest. http://www.twincities.com/ci_20975718/revisiting-war-that-shaped-minnesota-150-years-later

    What the article does not say is that Sibley and Ramsey stole the money (about 5 million dollars) given to them to feed the Indians on the reservations. Only about 10% of that was given to the Indians. The Indians were prevented from hunting. So the Indians were starving. At the same time, their reservation land was being sold to settlers.

    Today, the banks are profiteering by directly persecuting blacks, minorities and poor whites. It is to the banks advantage to create friction and hostility as it can be used to distract people from and to justify their predatory practices.

    One is tempted to think that racism is the primary problem. It surely is the most vexing thing for minorities. But greed and corruption are the engines that drive this prejudicial system. We shouldn’t forget that. Without that monetary motive, it would be much easier to eliminate racism. If blacks were suddenly wealthy and had some power, racism would largely go away as it serves no purpose.

  29. skzb

    David: Good, thoughtful comment.

  30. One thing that annoys me about “racism is prejudice plus power” is that it’s a unilateral redefinition of “racism”, which means simply “race prejudice”. If people want to convince others that prejudice plus power (or privilege) is qualitatively different from or worse than other kinds of prejudice, they’d do better to say so instead of creating confusion and irritation.

    When I was young (say ’70s), I was told that there were two kinds of power–“power to” and “power over”. My experience living in a town that’s mostly Hispanic has convinced me that I don’t have power over members of ethnic minorities. But I do have the power to walk around mostly white neighborhoods elsewhere without getting stared at or attracting attention from the police. In other words, it might be reasonable, though it might also be misleading, to call advantages “power”.

  31. We have been “played”. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this is NOT a bottoms up problem (that is, all the little people hating each other), but a top down problem (powered by big money). Sure, at our level, person to person, it is pretty much bigotry and racism. But big money keeps stirring the pot and putting out spokes people and politicians who will make sure racism is kept going. Why else would there be so many talking heads spewing hate.

    The worst thing that could happen to big money is for us all to stop fighting each other and suddenly realize that most of our problems are deliberately caused by big money in their quest for profit and power. Because then the pitchforks and torches would come out.

  32. skzb

    David: Yes. I’m convinced that is exactly the case.

  33. Mr. Hajicek,

    “But big money keeps stirring the pot and putting out spokes people and politicians who will make sure racism is kept going. Why else would there be so many talking heads spewing hate.”

    I suggest there are so many talking heads on public broadcast media saying ugly things because there are so many more private citizens online doing the same. That is, the audience is there and making itself heard, giving support to those who pander to the fadists of the moment and who disseminate the outrage in a more public forum, and that, it turn, is taken as validation of their position by private citizens, who in turn give more support, etc etc.

    “The worst thing that could happen to big money is for us all to stop fighting each other and suddenly realize that most of our problems are deliberately caused by big money in their quest for profit and power. Because then the pitchforks and torches would come out.”

    This is the part I feel I have to dispute. I would argue that to focus on economics as the basis for the riots, as opposed to be just one of several factors, is a lazy way out. It lets people concentrate on one issue. To work on just one solution is so much easier than looking at a half dozen intertwined problems that need to be all sorted out together. It’s also inapplicable to most of the violence typical of US history.

    What’s happening right now in Feguson is nothing new at all. There has always been racial violence whenever two races or societies have been in contact, just as there has always been political violence when opinions differ, religious violence when superstitions differ and sexual violence when there are men and women together, and if you take that all away you will still get gingerism or another form of ostracism. Way too many people are trained from birth to divide the world into us and them. Some divisions even seem to be built in. However, every generation in the US and much, or maybe most, of the world has been an improvement over previous generations in terms of what violence we do not find acceptable and won’t put up with.

    A wonderfully interesting book is “American Violence: A Documentary History” ed. by Richard Hofstadter & Michael Wallace. They break up their study into chapters on Political, Economic, Racial, Religious & Ethnic, Anti-Radical & Police and Personal Violence, then Assassinations & Terrorism and Violence in the Name of Law, Order & Morality. As the publisher says, “The book clearly demonstrates…that most social reforms in the United States have been brought about without violence.” It turns out to be still available, if you’re interested: randomhouse.com/book/81387/american-violence-by-richard-hofstadter. (My copy is from 1971, and I had assumed it was out of print.) It’s a good introductory survey of social upheaval in the US.

  34. We will have to disagree on some of that. Our social leaders have choices. They can choose to increase racial tensions or to point out that racism and all that goes with it are wrong and it should be stopped. I’m sure there are lots of people in the latter category, but we don’t see them put up on the TV spotlight. Instead it is all the bigots and hate mongers who get prime time. I feel this is because those in charge want to keep the hatred going. Why? Because there is money in it. If it were not profitable, things would change direction tomorrow.

    You would think politicians (whose job it is to improve things) would be speaking out against racism and exploitation. But one party is instead doing everything it can to increase racial tensions. The same party funded by Big Money. Therefore Big Money sees a return on investment in keeping the hatreds going.

    Yes, it is complicated, we agree on that, I’ve said that. In fact, it is so complicated that if you try to deal with everything, it is impossible to deal with, especially when the “system” is working against you. To stop something like this, you have to shut down the primary engine powering it. Which is money and easy profits. Expose the man behind the curtain. These are not all white men either. Some blacks are fully willing to screw over other blacks for profit.

    I personally think Big Money has read the situation wrong. Namely, there is more money in the long run in getting rid of racial/social problems. But in the short term, we have banks and others making windfall profits keeping the old system going. It is slavery by another name. And it isn’t just blacks or minorities that get sucked into debt slavery. They are just the most obvious. Then you need brutality and punishment to keep them in their place.

  35. “Instead it is all the bigots and hate mongers who get prime time. I feel this is because those in charge want to keep the hatred going. Why? Because there is money in it.”

    I’m not sure it’s worth trying to dissect the details. But it’s possible that media see *their* money in it, because whatever gets the most attention is good for them in the short run.

    On the other hand, it’s possible that somebody who is thinking about the long run has the clout to make the media do this, whether or not it’s good for them in the short run.

    The consolidation of media ownership would appear to make it easier to direct. On the other hand, there may be no direction, maybe nothing counts to the owners except the profit on the bottom line.

    “I personally think Big Money has read the situation wrong. Namely, there is more money in the long run in getting rid of racial/social problems.”

    The problems could lead to a lot of destruction of their property even before they lose everything. But maybe the ones who get to make those choices don’t personally own that property and are willing to write it off.

    My problem with this sort of reasoning is that it is unfalsifiable. Since Big Money gets to make its own choices, anything that happens can be interpreted as its choice. Even things that look completely self-destructive can be interpreted as Big Money’s mistakes.

    If you are planning to do things that require you to predict Big Money’s responses, you have to pick some model of what Big Money is likely to do. And then you have to hope you’re right enough, or else make backup plans to deal with unexpected choices.

    If it’s just trying to understand the situation apart from specific plans, then I find it intensely frustrating because there is no way to find out about the details, and speculations about them wind up being on general grounds that don’t predict well.

  36. James, as soon as skzb earns enough money from Paarfirotica via the free download mechanism, we’ll be using it to fund our next trip to see you and oppress you in person! Isn’t that exciting? I’m excited.

  37. J Thomas, of course “if it bleeds it leads” is part of the news business. But there is a lot more going on than that. Nearly all the major TV and radio stations are owned now by a handful of politically conservative super rich people or businesses. This started during Reagan. The conservatives simply bought up the opposition so that now their view of the world is what is presented for consumption. They do this even at a loss. That is a fact, not speculation. Now you may think I am speculating about their motives for controlling the news? There are plenty of studies showing that channels like Fox News are simply falsifying reports to present a conservative bias to things. So I don’t think speculation is needed.

    You say that this may be done because that’s where the money is. Look at somebody like Rush Limbaugh who spews a continuous stream of conservative hate and bigotry at 28 million a year. He has been propped up by conservative PAC money as advertizing revenue does not cover his salary. http://samuel-warde.com/2014/04/left-wing-right-wing-now-agree-rush-limbaughs-sell-date/

    It really isn’t hard to show that conservatives are trying to control the information that we are allowed to see. Then I speculate that if they want to control the information, they must have an agenda. That makes sense. Their agenda is to keep political conservatives in power. Then you have to ask yourself what things work toward that end. Racial tensions is a great big element in that. As long as you can keep the blacks from voting. So far they are being successful. These are not big leaps of logic and can be backed up by doing some internet research. It may not satisfy the requirements of a PhD thesis, but it is OK for understanding what is going on.

  38. Mr. Hajicek,

    I disagree with much of what you say, but it’s a question of nuance rather than the basics. I actually prepared a response asking for clairification of a few things, addressing some others and touching on a related topic, but I’ve decided it just isn’t possible to have a complex exhange in a message forum, so I chucked it. I just didn’t want you to think I am ignoring your points.

    I love a good discussion of social subtleties, but it needs more room.

  39. I just wanted to thank L Raymond for her excellent points.

    Economics are a part of this, yes. But to say that one does not benefit from systemic racism and sexism misses the point that privilege isn’t about where an individual stands, but where those of us in a given demographic stand compared to demographics with more or less privilege.

    All things being equal (meaning, from the op’s position, comparing oneself to all others in the same economic status, but a different race, or female) the author has more opportunities available on a day to say basis than poc or women, and experiences fewer daily microaggressions (which, among other things, can negatively affect one’s health due to stress). That is because the systemic oppression of those who are not white, male, straight, etc means his chances to reach success are better than those who lack said privileges.

    Why does it seem so hard for certain people to recognize how one benefits (unintentionally) from systemic oppression of others?

  40. The racial problem looks hugely different depending where you are viewing it from. I’m kind of looking at it as a systems analyst. I just don’t know how to solve the problems from the bottoms-up. It is a much too complex and difficult set of problems at that level for me to come up with something useful. I’m not ignoring them or the view from that direction. So maybe we can both be right. ;>)

  41. skzb

    “Why does it seem so hard for certain people to recognize how one benefits (unintentionally) from systemic oppression of others?”

    Why does it seem so hard for people to understand that by casting things in terms of benefits and privilege, they are aiding the oppressors who wish to keep us apart, and turn us against each other?

    Not being unreasonably stopped and frisked and threatened–not to mention murdered–by police is not a benefit, and it is not a privilege. It is a right. If many of my brothers and sisters are denied this right, than I have a duty to fight against that as part of fighting against all other forms of oppression. And a key element in that fight is to take such categories as race, sex, sexual preference, and understand them as a tool of those who wish to divide us.

    Whoever works to try to turn me against my brothers and sisters, whether from the right with overt racism, or from so-called left with identity politics and privilege discourse, is an enemy of equality, however well intentioned.
    .

  42. skzb: Of course that last paragraph in your most recent reply marks you as a tribal enemy who is probably in the pay of the kyriarchy (as far as some people are concerned).

    One might almost come to believe that divisiveness, factionalism, and self-destructive controversy are essential features of the politics of resistance to oppression.

  43. skzb

    Heh. One might almost think so. 🙂 If I were a materialist, I would say that it is because we are always subject to the pressures of the class enemy, and these pressures are bound to be reflected, in whatever distorted ways, within the workers’ movement. I might even go further and say that if this wasn’t the case, we’d have eliminated oppression, inequality, and injustice decades, if not centuries ago. Oh, hey, I AM a materialist.

  44. “privilege isn’t about where an individual stands, but where those of us in a given demographic stand compared to demographics with more or less privilege”

    If privilege theorists stopped there, I would agree. But individuals are not statistics, and when there are twice as many white people living in poverty as black folks, complaining about disproportionately misses the fact that tens of millions of people of all hues and genders are suffering needlessly. Why quibble about the house slave’s privilege when the problem is the master’s rule?

  45. Will, just who are these “masters” you speak of? It is none of us as far as I can tell. When people get clever with words to try and pretend that people like us are the “masters” who have power and privilege and are holding blacks down, I kind of throw up my hands and say, “oh for goodness sake.”

    Just because I might have some things better than most minorities doesn’t make me a “master”. That is the problem with this direction of thinking. It conflates not being persecuted with being a “master”. Apparently there are only two possibilities: master or slave. Not very constructive unless the desire is to remain a slave.

    If you want to go against the “masters”, you need to go against the REAL masters.

  46. @skzb:

    “Why does it seem so hard for people to understand that by casting things in terms of benefits and privilege, they are aiding the oppressors who wish to keep us apart, and turn us against each other?”

    I turn this around. How does it help you to deny society treats certain segments better than others? To acknowledge is not to endorse.

    “Whoever works to try to turn me against my brothers and sisters, whether from the right with overt racism, or from so-called left with identity politics and privilege discourse, is an enemy of equality, however well intentioned.”

    How is it useful to declare war on people who see many problems where you see just one? How do you justify saying that something that does not affect you directly is less important than something you care deeply about, that people who want to ameliorate the lot of others with specific problems are your enemy because they’re not lining up a firing squad to deal with the single foe you’ve identified?

  47. David, my bad for not spelling that out—I was continuing a metaphor from another discussion. The masters are the capitalists. The house slaves are the people who, in general, are treated a little better than the field slaves. Privilege theory is all about the privilege of white men and the oppression of women of color, and does not care whether the white men are homeless and the woman of color is Folorunsho Alakija or Herman Cain’s daughter Melanie.

  48. skzb

    L. Raymond: “I turn this around. How does it help you to deny society treats certain segments better than others? To acknowledge is not to endorse.”

    I do not deny it, On the contrary, I insist it is true. And then to the best of my ability, I explain why it is, and what we can do about it.

    “How is it useful to declare war on people who see many problems where you see just one.”

    I see all of those problems too–and point them out to anyone who will listen. It is because that foe is not simply “my foe,” as you put it, but it is the one responsible for all of the oppression that others are upset about. And if that oppression is to be ended, the first step is recognizing the enemy. We have a common enemy, he is right *there*. If you are looking off *that* way, I feel like should point out that you are shooting in the wrong direction.. By remaining silent I am helping no one.

    And permit me to observe that in the original post I listed many ways in which racism does effect me directly. Racism and sexism hurt me and everyone I care about. That is why I fight to eradicate them.

  49. “I turn this around. How does it help you to deny society treats certain segments better than others? To acknowledge is not to endorse.”

    You’re pointing at the problem without seeing it. To acknowledge is not to change. Identitarians and universalists both want a fair world and both recognize that sexism and racism and so many other isms exist. What identitarians fail to offer is a solution. Or rather, they think acknowledgement of a problem is an answer. But many Confederates acknowledged that slavery was unjust, and acknowledged their privilege as white men, and it still took a war to end slavery.

  50. Thank you Will. I see now what you were saying.

  51. “Do I benefit from [this, that, and the other “ism”]”? It depends what you measure.

    I’m better off than blacks in common American racist situations. I’m better off than women in common American sexist situations. But on the other hand, I believe I’m *worse* off than *I* would be in a non-racist and non-sexist society.

    Which is just as well; I’m not sure I’m a good enough human being to work actively to remove actual advantages I had for the benefit of others.

  52. I happen to be in the middle of re-reading the Khaavren romances RIGHT NOW, as I discover the existence of Paarfirotica.

    *giggle*

    Jen, you are a terrible, terrible, wonderful influence on Steve. Keep it up. 🙂

  53. O. Sicily: “That is because the systemic oppression of those who are not white, male, straight, etc means his chances to reach success are better than those who lack said privileges.

    “Why does it seem so hard for certain people to recognize how one benefits (unintentionally) from systemic oppression of others?”

    To amplify what DD-B said, we could take the case of a white male SF writer. Quite possibly, racism has prevented mute, inglorious Barneses, Butlers, Delanys, etc., from competing with that writer. On the other hand, it has also taken from some people the opportunity to become readers of SF, reducing the market for that writer’s book. To a first approximation, I’d expect these effects to balance out and our writer’s success to be about the same. But on top of that, all SF readers lose by not having the choice to read those black writers, and of course the people who could have become SF readers have also lost. So in this story, nobody benefited.

    It’s not the only story, but oppression doesn’t mean the non-oppressed *necessarily* benefit.

  54. @skzb:

    “I do not deny it, On the contrary, I insist it is true.”

    You’ll have to excuse me. I clearly leapt a fair bit in having misinterpreted that post in light of your OP about not benefiting from racism – I somehow got that you were suggesting you weren’t benefiting because you decided it didn’t exist.

    “I see all of those problems too–and point them out to anyone who will listen. It is because that foe is not simply ‘my foe,’ as you put it,…”

    My use of “foe” was only based on your reference to an enemy, which I feel is a harsh description for someone you disagree with.

    “…but it is the one responsible for all of the oppression that others are upset about. And if that oppression is to be ended, the first step is recognizing the enemy. We have a common enemy, he is right *there*. If you are looking off *that* way, I feel like should point out that you are shooting in the wrong direction.. By remaining silent I am helping no one.”

    Am I correct is thinking you’re saying that you want to tell everyone to rise up against a particular economic class – I’m unclear if you’re referring to the 1%, capitalists in general, or anyone who’s not an hourly wage worker – and if we annihilate that particular class, there will be no racism whatsoever? No sexism? No bigotry of any sort? That’s what you seem to be saying above (“If I were a materialist…”).

    I know Engels said this in his introduction to “Anti-Duhring”:

    “Then it was seen that all past history was the history of class struggles; that these warring classes of society are always the products of the modes of production and of exchange – in a word, of the economic conditions of their time; that the economic structure of society always furnishes the real basis, starting from which we can alone work out the ultimate explanation of the whole superstructure of juridical and political institutions as well as of the religious, philosophical, and other ideas of a given historical period.”

    And you *seem* to be echoing this. However I have not seen any studies whatsoever that back up this claim that understanding economics will explain everything about society, or that eradicating economic inequality will do away with the human instinct to ostracize people who are different, and so I’m confused about what you’re suggesting, and why you seem to feel racism & sexism spring from economic conditions.

    So in short: *Are* you saying that eradicating economic inequalities will eradicate racism, sexism et al?

    “And permit to observe that in the original post I listed many ways in which racism does effect me directly. Racism and sexism hurt me and everyone I care about. That is why I fight to eradicate them.”

    You did, and you went on to say you don’t enjoy any benefit from racism. But we’re both white and we both benefit socially, politically and economically from that fact – as has been demonstrated by countless experiments over time – regardless of any negative effects it has on friends, families or our stress levels. Your saying you don’t was the cause of my error; I carelessly mixed up denying the existence of benefits with denying the source.

  55. “You did, and you went on to say you don’t enjoy any benefit from racism. But we’re both white and we both benefit socially, politically and economically from that fact – as has been demonstrated by countless experiments over time – regardless of any negative effects it has on friends, families or our stress levels.”

    If we’re going to talk about benefits, we must do it by comparing against something else.

    For say 1840, we can see clear benefits. If black people grew cotton and white people wore it, the white people benefitted. If blacks raised hogs and whites ate pork, the whites benefitted. Poor whites maybe didn’t get the cotton or the pork and had to grow their own, but they at least got to feel like they weren’t on the bottom.

    But imagine life in 2040 if we get cheap energy. The cotton gets planted, irrigated, harvested, and cleaned by mostly-automated systems. Hogs take somewhat more care but still a whole lot of the work is automated. The transportation system is automated — who would trust human beings not to have accidents? You mostly don’t need people to work for you at little benefit to themselves.

    Imagine that the few people who actually do useful work get most of the benefits, and everybody else gets a dole. Is that a good system?

    How about almost everybody does symbolic work that does not actually produce muchy of anything, but they have to obey their bosses so the bosses get to feel bossy, and the bosses get the lion’s share of the spoils while the underlings get small shares and a remainder is on the dole to keep the underlings scared. Is that good?

    How about everybody gets pretty much, since production is limited mostly by resources unless we artificially reduce it to create class distinctions? There’s a limited amount of land to use, the ecosystem can handle a limited amount of our waste, etc. But everybody gets lots of whatever we can produce in quantity. How much better off are you then, if somebody else is kept in artificial scarcity?

    When one woman can produce eight square inches of homespun a day, then you are better off if your wife has a couple of slavegirls producing cloth who wear rags themselves. When the only reason not to automate the whole process is that sweatshops in third world countries are cheaper for capitalists, do you really benefit?

  56. skzb

    L. Raymond: “You’ll have to excuse me. I clearly leapt a fair bit in having misinterpreted that post in light of your OP about not benefiting from racism – I somehow got that you were suggesting you weren’t benefiting because you decided it didn’t exist.”

    I’ll quote one of the relevant bits: “That is why I do not have the benefit of any sort of decent health care: because racism and male chauvinism (to be sure, along with many other things) have been used to keep the working class from exercising its power to destroy the parasitic health insurance and profit-based privately-owned pharmaceutical companies.”

    I am saying that an end to class society is necessary but not sufficient to end racism. Furthermore, that the fight against racism should be seen as part of the fight against capitalism.

    “But we’re both white and we both benefit socially, politically and economically from that fact”

    No we don’t. Those things others calls benefits are not benefits–they are fundamental rights that we should all enjoy. The fact that others are deprived of certain rights does not make it a “benefit” that I have them, it makes it an outrage that they don’t.

  57. I wish an identitarian would list the privileges of homeless white men instead of taking them for granted. They may not look as wonderful then as they now seem. But I could be wrong, of course.

  58. Will, in the homeless man scenario, a white homeless man is statistically less likely to be harassed by cops, arrested, or beaten/killed than a homeless person of color. A female homeless person would be at greater statistical risk of rape.

    It’s about “all things being equal”, statistical differences in various demographics. Being able to name a few powerful rich black people doesn’t disprove the stats of higher arrest rates, traffick stops, rates of rape, longer jail time, harsher sentencing, and higher rates of death by cop for black people compared to white people.

  59. O. Sicily, yes, it is very much about all things being equal, and under capitalism, class trumps race and gender. Is a racially proportionate class system your goal? My goal is the abolition of class. Forgive me for quoting something you may’ve seen that I wish everyone knew: In 1967, Martin Luther King said, “In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike. … I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”

    There are still twice as many poor whites, and basic income is still a good solution, at least so long as we must live in a capitalist society. It’s certainly far more helpful than privilege-checking.

  60. I like what Steve said: “No we don’t. Those things others calls benefits are not benefits–they are fundamental rights that we should all enjoy. The fact that others are deprived of certain rights does not make it a “benefit” that I have them, it makes it an outrage that they don’t.”

    And fundamental rights get turned into “privilege” (an emotional trigger word) through verbal slight of hand. The problem with the word “privilege” is that it implies that someone (whites) should not be allowed to have this privilege. So that we all get to fight over the scraps of an economy and respect left to us by our overlords, who I expect find this kind of discourse highly amusing.

    An old engineering joke: When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is hard to remember that you came here to drain the swamp. Most blacks are still in the swamp (figuratively) so their anger and frustration are understandable.

    I received a post a while back that was a well written fallacious argument that came to the conclusion that every single white person, no exceptions, is evil. Stuff like this may be emotionally satisfying for those who are suffering from prejudice, but it does them a huge disservice by turning whites into the enemy. Blacks have enough enemies without going out of the way to make some more.

    So if the goal is to drain the swamp, it might be better to work together to get that job done rather than throw mud at each other.

  61. I’ve work part-time at the Public Theater for the last two years, where my position as a “seasonal worker” is used as an excuse to deny me the State mandated benefits enshrined in the glorious document commonly called “Obama-care”… but I digress. Also, since I also have a full time day job, it really is no skin off my nose, unlike most of the twenty-something theater fans working as ushers… but I digress from my digression.

    Right, so I see a lot of great plays! And since the Public’s mission statement is “Culture for everyone”, quite a bit of it provokes thought. Stephen, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that you’d love “Father Comes Home from the War”, a brilliantly written tale of a Texas slave named Hero who accompanies his Confederate Colonel master as a valet in exchange for a promise of freedom, but that’s not the play I’m obsessing over right now.

    “Straight White Men” is a play by Young Jean Lee, and I just can’t decide if it is purely sophomoric, or if it is actually saying something valuable but with a failure of art to support the point. The characters are three brothers and their aging father, all together in dad’s house to celebrate Christmas. They obsess endlessly over privilege, in fact, in the first scene, the two youngest brother’s are playing a game of their mother’s invention called Privilege… a re-branded Monopoly with Excuse cards and under-valued domestic labor bonuses for the thimble and iron… that she made up to teach them “not to be assholes”. Between them, they cover most of the archetypes of middle class white privilege: a successful writer/teacher youngest brother, a successful banker middle brother, a wealthy engineer father, and an inexplicably unsuccessful oldest brother who dropped out of a PhD program to spend the next twelve years making copies in temp jobs at grassroots, social activist organizations.

    There is a lot of maundering about whether success is always selfishness. There are a lot of frat boy antics and gorging on beer and junk food (OK, granted, us straight white guys DO like our beer and takeout Chinese!). There is a lot of reminiscing on their childhood when the oldest brother was the brilliant, driven activist who got teachers fired and lead his two brothers in the Young Revolutionaries Club, teaching them Marxism and small unit tactics, There are plenty of heated arguments about whether the eldest brother is living with the dad and periodically bursting into tears because he is “stuck in a negative mindspace”, “depressed by his student loans”. or “trying to render himself invisible, because any success by a white guy, no matter how well intentioned, can only make the world worse”. That point of view is ironically championed by the banker brother, who freely admits that he has completely given up on the idea of making the world better in even the smallest way and clearly admires the oldest brother for burning his own life down in pursuit of his ideals. In the end, I’m not really sure there is any more point to it than that.

    So, is Young saying that identity politics inevitably leads to paralysis or is she actually saying that for white dudes, “That the best thing for a man is not to be born, and if already born, to die as soon as possible,” as one character quotes from the Greek myth about Silenus and King Midas? If anything, she seems in agreement with Will and Stephen, but since the play dismisses Marxism as readily as it does every other philosophy, I’m left thinking that Nihilism might actually be her preferred view.

    Frankly, I’m personally on the fence about the best course to break humanity out of its stupid tribalism. I love many of the goals and tactics of socialism, but I fail to see any evidence that it really does reduce racism. Maybe I’m wrong? I haven’t studied them in depth, but the USSR, China, western states like Norway and Sweden, in all of them it seems to me like racism and sexism survived a shift in economic system without missing a stride. Granted, none of those nations might meet your criteria for a well run, socialist state, but does anyone have hard evidence that decreasing economic disparity through state intervention decreases racism or sexism independently of social movements like Women’s Rights?

  62. I only know one thing about reducing racism quickly: in places where folks of mixed races are neighbors with equal wealth, there ain’t significant racism. But if you add economic inequality to the mix, things go straight to hell fast. It’s why I keep coming back to Basic Income: it’s a solution that many capitalists support. King knew something about racism, and that was his answer.

  63. To support that, you might look at the changes in racism in the Old South between 1960 and today. Yes, there are people who say things are as bad as they were in the days of Jim Crow, but they’re…I’m being kind now…less informed than they believe.

  64. Will- but that is the problem with social science… can you separate the effect of economic improvement from the effect of the civil rights movement? I don’t doubt that a better distribution of basic support has a positive effect on many social issues, but I truly believe that the simian adaptation of socially enforced guilt has a powerful effect as well.

    If all the other apes sneer at you for knocking over a juvenile every time you are feeling grumpy, then you are less likely to keep doing it. Humans might feel less need to put each other down if they are feeling like there is enough stuff for everyone, but I’m not sure that they really stop unless they are made to feel that doing so breaks the social contract.

  65. L. Raymond,
    “Am I correct is thinking you’re saying that you want to tell everyone to rise up against a particular economic class – I’m unclear if you’re referring to the 1%, capitalists in general, or anyone who’s not an hourly wage worker – and if we annihilate that particular class, there will be no racism whatsoever? No sexism? No bigotry of any sort? That’s what you seem to be saying above (“If I were a materialist…”).”

    Not against a class, but against the class system–the fundamental social organisation of capitalism. And no, dismantling the class system won’t immediately remove the effects that system has had on individuals and institutions. But until it is gone, we’ll have only limited success eliminating its effects.

  66. This isn’t about playing oppression Olympics. My feminism (and anti-racism, and anti-classism, etc ad nauseum) will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

    While eradicating the class system is a laudable goal, it will not eliminate other forms of oppression. There is a larger number of poor white people than black people in this country, but when you look at proportions, black people are disproportionately represented in groups like lower income, lower education, imprisonment, arrest, police brutality victims, rape victims, etc.

    I really wish discussions around black death and white privilege didn’t constantly get derailed into white people talking about the existence of poor white people. Socioeconomic class isn’t protecting black people from being killed by police. A good education doesn’t prevent a black job applicant from being passed over for a white job applicant with similar (or identical) qualifications. Same with female and male job applicants.

    How do you eradicate a class system without acknowledging that other isms are a large part of why so many people in various groups are held back? How can you honestly say “classism matters more than anything” in the wake of 3 black men’s deaths being ruled not worth pursuing charges?

  67. Comments that are actually from Will:

    larswyrdson, guilt tends to make people double-down on their views. There are studies suggesting racism grows worse in places with active anti-racism programs. For example: http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/CIB/CIB9798/98cib20#problem

    And I don’t think it’s online, but you might track down “An Examination of Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive Theory and Practice in Social Work Education” by Macey and Moxon.

    O. Sicily, I think I’ll stick with Martin Luther King’s solution. I confess, I wish identitarians would quit derailing discussions of economic inequality by focusing on subgroups instead of the greater problem, but I realize that’s what their belief system requires.

  68. skzb

    O. Sicely: “While eradicating the class system is a laudable goal, it will not eliminate other forms of oppression.”

    Quite right. It is not sufficient, but it is necessary–without the destruction of class society, eliminating other forms of oppression is impossible. But even more important is that organizing on a class basis against capitalism is the best way, in my opinion, to attack racial and sexual oppression. Organizing around the issues of racial and sexual oppression without a focus on the destruction of capitalism, inevitably leads, at best, to illusions that these problems can be solved under capitalism, and more likely to an increase in racial and sexual divisions within the working class.

    I would never suggest letting up on the fight against racism; but I strongly favor putting that fight into a context where it can be won. Other efforts are, in my opinion, self-defeating.

  69. Another of my favorite quotes: Malcolm X said, ““You can’t have capitalism without racism.” Neoliberals want to prove him wrong, and they’re right that capitalism without racism is possible in theory, but without sharing the wealth, the US’s and the world’s economic hierarchy will continue to be racially disproportionate. Class mobility in the US sucks for everyone.

  70. Here is kind of a fine point, but it is significant. I think capitalism (as we have it) incorporates “class-ism” as a tool. Class-ism is based largely on wealth and income disparity. “Buy our product and you will be perceived as belonging to a higher class than you are.” Capitalism also feels keeping wages down is always to its advantage. Capitalism is not above using any tool to increase profits.

    But as you mentioned, if the income disparity mostly went away, a lot of the race-ism would also go away. Capitalism would then use different class distinctions (prejudices) for marketing purposes.

    The recent cases of police violence toward black men makes me think that racial progress is being made, because the police are being used as a tool to try and keep blacks in their place. I hope the federal judicial system throws those cops in jail.

  71. I think that the idea that a more socialist society will be a less bigoted one is rather flawed. Sweden has, in my opinion, a pretty great tax structure that promotes income equality. However, racism is still a huge problem there.

    Japan had a strong socialist-capitalist structure, yet even before the bubble burst racism (especially against Koreans) was still atrocious. They’ve become less racist with time, not because they’re more socialist (they’re the opposite) but because younger generations aren’t being taught to hate Koreans and other groups.

    I don’t think eliminating the class system is a realistic goal for the near future. I think for most poc, dealing with racism and its roots (which are not strictly based on economics, but is fed by the human tendency to find groups to which you are superior) is much more pressing than a plan to drastically change the economy in a way that hadn’t been seen in recent history. Raising the minimum wage to a working wage? Sure. Increasing worker rights? Absolutely. Eliminating the class system? That’s downright nebulous, and for someone dealing with the real hardships of being a poc in this country, it looks more like philosophy than actual solution.

    I’d also like to address something about the thread overall that’s been bothering me.

    With the exception of L Raymond, this thread has been a lot of privilege 101. Why on earth am I having to explain to someone that a white homeless person still has privilege over homeless poc?

    This type of comment thread, where the daily struggles of poc against systemic and social racism are shunted aside because “everyone is effected by the class system” just reads as white people not wanting to discuss how they fit into the systemic oppression experienced by poc. It reads as white people wanting to briefly mention that of course they think racism is bad, but then spend the rest of their time talking about things that oppress THEM instead.

    I originally responded to this thread because I was shocked at Brust seeming to claim, in the wake of Mike Brown and now Eric Garner, that he doesn’t benefit from systemic racism because *semantic backflips* he’s still oppressed by the class system. He later clarified his position (and I’m glad), but this thread still feels like a room full of white people armchair-pontificating about how dramatic economic structure overhaul would REALLY solve racism (and other isms) while ignoring all the voices of poc on the news and on the Internet who are suggesting ways we could be improving things RIGHT NOW.

    It reads like white people (for whom economics and classism are the biggest oppressive forces) assuming that the problems they experience are universally oppressive, while poc are insisting that MAYBE NOT BEING PROFILED, HARASSED, AND KILLED BY POLICE would be a better immediate issue to deal with, along with racism in the justice system.

    It reads like white people saying if their problems are solved first, everyone else’s problems would go away. But race relations have been improving in this country, not because class equality has improved (it certainly hasn’t) but because of activists changing people’s minds, and children growing up in an environment that tolerates less and less bigotry each year.

    So it’s frustrating to read this whole thread, and see people ignoring my and other poc’s experiences and observations about how to improve racial and gender equality, and deny that privilege exists because homeless white people and Obama.

    Does anyone else feel this way?

  72. Your complaints are common to people who think social identity is more important than class identity. I’ll simply note that socialists have always been at the front of the struggles for racial and gender equality—the first white people Malcolm X praised were socialists and Muslims, and the word “feminism” was coined by a male socialist. Malcolm X said in the early ’60s, “You can’t have capitalism without racism” and without a way to increase class mobility, that’s still true today.

  73. skzb

    “Why on earth am I having to explain to someone that a white homeless person still has privilege over homeless poc?”

    Why on earth am I having to explain to someone that decent housing, effective medical care, personal safety, an acceptable income, and and general equality are rights, not privileges? Calling what that a “white homeless person” has a “privilege” in any sense indicates that you accept as given a fundamental inequality. I do not.

  74. O.Sicily, Your post makes me wonder, just what the heck are you looking for?

    It is wrong to look at this as a strictly “white” problem that only whites with their supposed power can solve. It is much more complex than that. Nor do I accept the loaded term “white privilege” to describe the problems (its also insulting to many whites). If that is your only perspective, you will accomplish nothing. It forces the obvious notion of swapping black privilege for white privilege as most people in America see this as a zero-sum game. It also assumes blacks are powerless to improve themselves (an insult to blacks).

    We all agree that in general whites are treated much better than blacks. Racism is real, especially down South. Even bigots and racists agree to that. So stop pretending that we cannot see the racism. Racism is blatantly obvious to everybody as are many of the problems that go along with it. Racism is also tied into conservative politics and some businesses.

    I have worked with blacks, I have worked over blacks, I have worked under blacks. The common denominator was a desire for the tasks/projects/business to succeed, and a professional and respectful attitude. I never heard or said a single negative word about those people or situations – not one. That is my goal, to make my experience more universal.

    Give us a list of specific things that could improve the obviously biased racial system here in America or even for Americans in general.

  75. I am not calling those things privileges, and neither is anyone who uses the term privilege. Please don’t be obtuse, particularly about a word that is largely found to be helpful for people in marginalized communities.

    Here’s one poc explaining privilege and how to be an ally:

    5 Tips For Being An Ally: http://youtu.be/_dg86g-QlM0

    I’m exasperated and throwing my hands up in this thread because it’s not a unique phenomenon. Saying “this racism is horrible, but let’s talk about classism” is shifting the focus to a “solution” that isn’t. Yes, financial equality is important. Absolutely, healthcare should be a human right. But neither of those things prevent poc from having this horrible systemic violence they experience.

    Wealth can improve someone’s stats on some violence and other injustices, but it doesn’t change that a wealthy black person is far more likely to be harassed by police than a wealthy white person, and a wealthy woman is nore likely to experience sexual violence than a wealthy man.

    While I find the arguments over semantics irritating enough, what really gets me is that the theory of improved race relations via improved economic equality is being debunked. In multiple countries. Including this one. Right now.

    What’s improved equality is laws and activism. Besides voting, one really important way we can improve equality is to be politically active and try to get others to be active as well. Support body cameras on police with strict regulation on who gets to control the on/off switch (hint: not the police). Call out discriminatory actions when you see them. Volunteer at organizations that do real work toward increasing equality.

    And maybe, in the wake of yet another black death at the hands of (predominantly white) law enforcement, write a blog that does more than complain about word choice in social justice. Maybe talk about the systemic racism that keeps reinforcing the occurrence of these incidents.

  76. Trust me, I get that the issue with the word privilege is that it implies not being harassed shouldn’t be a right, but it’s a special perk. I understand the concept behind the argument. I simply disagree with it, disagree with the timing of this blog post, and dislike that this thread is going the same direction so many comment threads do when people are uncomfortable facing how they benefit from a system that oppresses a demographic they don’t belong to.

    As for what if like people to do about it, see above.

  77. skzb

    ” I simply disagree with it, disagree with the timing of this blog post, and dislike that this thread is going the same direction so many comment threads do when people are uncomfortable facing how they benefit from a system that oppresses a demographic they don’t belong to.”

    The timing is the critical thing. Now, as rage sweeps the country over these brutal police murders, the ruling class runs scared–as well they should. They marshal all of their resources. In particular, those who want to keep this safely within the harmless confines of identity politics. The oppressors fear the power of the working class and will do everything they can to keep us apart. There is no way to tell, when someone works to prevent class unity, if he is a dupe of the oppressors, or a conscious agent. But either way, it must be fought, and it must be fought NOW.

    Now is exactly when we must reject all efforts to divide us. Now is when we need to come together as a class, because as a class we have the power to destroy them. Oppression will never end so long as those who profit from it hold power, and only the united working class can wrest power from them. It’s that simple.

    I do not want to be an ally. I want to be a comrade.

  78. Family business in Austin had my attention this past week, so I’ll jump back in at this point.

    “I do not want to be an ally. I want to be a comrade.”

    What you are saying here suggests otherwise. You don’t want to be comrades with people who hold different opinions than you do as to what is the worst problem they face because they’re “enemies of equality”. You want to lead them, to tell them what is most wrong with their lives and to correct their ignorance because you feel you know what’s best for them. Now, there are some cases when this paternalistic approach can work, for instance when dealing with those who are anti-vaccination. But of course when we tell them they’re wrong, we can show them facts – we can cite studies about disease prevalence and papers explaining herd immunity, and if we needed to really make a statement, we could lock a healthy person in a room with a bunch of sick people and let the anti-vaccination people see she (probably) doesn’t get sick.

    You, on the other hand, are making a positive assertion not only about what you personally think is the most important societal problem, but what you insist *everyone* should think is most important, while not offering any reason to agree with you.

    The most powerful man in the world is still having his right to be in office questioned because of his race. Countless stories about public appearances by female politicians include comments on their clothes or observations about their homemaking skills or lack of them, except in those countries where women aren’t even allowed in public at all, no matter to what economic class they belong. But you want to insist class is the single greatest problem? That getting rid of the entire economic class system (thanks, Ms. Bull, for the clarification) should be the *single* focus of all disadvantaged people in the world? Demonstrate it, please. Offer us something other than your bald assertion that fixing what affects your life most immediately will fix everything that affects non-white and/or non-male people most immediately.

    What data can you adduce to demonstrate removing the class system will also eliminate racism and sexism or, failing that, what historical incidents show I’m wrong and that the holders of an ideology which rejects those who don’t agree 100% with their aims and methods has effected lasting social change?

    Re your dislike of the word “privilege”, I fail to see how believing something should be different makes it evil to point out how things are now. Your white homeless man does, in fact, suffer fewer disadvantages than his non-white counterpart would. He’d enjoy fewer disadvantages than a non-white middle class man would, because he’d be more likely to be talked down then taken off to jail if he went into a rage on the street, while, for example, John Crawford was shot dead in a Walmart while standing still and holding a BB gun he was planning to buy.

    As usual, Leonard Pitts has put it beautifully:
    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article4249431.html

    “Privilege, you see, is not about being born with a silver spoon in one hand and a scholarship in the other. One can be poorer than dirt and a sixth-grade dropout and still enjoy white privilege. Because privilege is about the instant assumptions people make about you — your worth, your honesty, your intelligence — based on color of skin.”

    And he tells of an incident in which his wife was treated like dirt while he got results:

    “What I had experienced was male privilege, the ability to be taken seriously at an auto shop because of my gender. Now, to unwittingly benefit from misogyny does not make one a misogynist. But to pretend said benefit did not exist would be profoundly boorish.”

    I’d add “counterproductive” to that last line.

  79. “You, on the other hand, are making a positive assertion not only about what you personally think is the most important societal problem…”

    I suspect I’ll always be amazed that there are people who think poverty and economic desperation are not the most important societal problems. Well, at least I don’t get bored this way.

    Has Leonard Pitts said he would trade his middle-class lifestyle for some of that dirt poor white privilege? The kind of privilege that keeps you from feeding your children well or going to a dentist is not a privilege I’m interested in. I think bourgeois identitarians keep saying “Don’t play oppression olympics” because they know the poor of all hues will always win that game.

    And, no, rejecting identitarianism is not the same as denying that racism and sexism and all the other isms are still a problem. All cults claim to have the true solution; rejecting a solution has nothing to do with denying a problem.

  80. skzb

    ‘What you are saying here suggests otherwise. You don’t want to be comrades with people who hold different opinions than you do as to what is the worst problem they face because they’re “enemies of equality”.’

    I am really, really tired of those who insist that I am claiming some form of inequality or oppression is *worse* than some other. At this point, it is hard not to believe it is deliberate misunderstanding.

    Nevertheless, I’ll try again. It is not about what form of inequality is worse for this or that person, it is about how to fight inequality. I do not object to identity politics because they want different things, but because their method of fighting will, in my opinion, make things worse.

    “What I had experienced was male privilege, the ability to be taken seriously at an auto shop because of my gender. Now, to unwittingly benefit from misogyny…”

    Perfect. There it all is. First of all, I’ll note in passing that anyone who cannot tell sexism from misogyny is going to be helpless upon meeting misogyny, just as someone who claims excessive authoritarianism is “fascism” will be unable to recognize the threat of actual fascism. More important, the notion that being treated like a thinking human being is a *privilege* is enough to make me spew. It is not a privilege; it is a basic human right, and one that his wife was deprived of. He is right to be angry about it; but as long he keeps the focus in this whole thing on himself and how HE is treated, the problem will never be addressed.

  81. “And he tells of an incident in which his wife was treated like dirt while he got results”

    In a capitalist system, the immediate way to deal with that is for him to explain why he is taking his business elsewhere.

    Tell the manager that. Email it to the complaints department and to the CEO. And then don’t go back.

    Capitalist corporations make a big deal about making their employees respect customer rights in minor ways that don’t cost them much money. They will make their employees treat women with respect in every way that shows, because it costs them very little — provided they see that customers prefer it that way.

    They will of course have less respect for poor people because they won’t buy as much. To the extent that blacks are poor, they will continue to get less respect that way.

    I’m not sure what it would take to effectively oppose that way of thinking. I see a lot of people who work hard to increase their status. In fandom a lot of people work hard to increase their status as fans. In SCA a lot of people work hard to increase their status there. It seems to color people’s interactions any time they get beyond personal. Could we arrange a system where everybody gets the same status?

    Well, a friend told me about how it was for him in his southern city a generation before my time. Each Sunday a lot of middle-class white people would dress up in their Sunday best, and the girls and women would wear white gloves, and they would go to a fine local restaurant, often hotel restaurants. They would sit at tables with white tablecloths and enjoy a meal that cost them a significant part of their weekly food budgets. The staff were mostly black. The patrons could not be black, and would not be seated if they were not dressed properly, etc. It was mostly about who you are.

    He contrasted that with going to McDonalds, where if you are wearing shoes and a shirt and you have the money, you can buy whatever you want. If there’s a line you must take your place in line. They don’t care in the least *who* you are, their job is to treat all paying customers equally.

    McDonalds is not exactly the standard of equality I have in mind, though.

    If everybody got the same money that might be an improvement, but wouldn’t the status games go right on in some other context, and people would still face lots of discrimination that hurt them?

    Still, if everybody got the same money that would almost certainly be some sort of *improvement*.

  82. I would think the goal is to eliminate racial inequality (and sexism and other forms of identity ism) in a meaningful way. That would seem to me to be a good goal.

    The problems are many. So many that it is basically impossible to fix all the problems at once. I can’t even think of an appropriate analogy to this kind of complexity. But still there are things we can do which will help. Which will move us closer to eliminating the problems associated with racism and other isms.

    O. Sicily listed some good things to work on. Is is possible to get cops to stop killing unarmed black guys without going to jail? Hell yes! Is income equality (for equal skills) possible? Hell yes! Is education equality possible? Hell yes! Can every citizen be allowed to vote? Hell yes! Can we stop banks from robbing people? Hell yes! And so on. There will still be bigots and haters and racism, but their power will be greatly diminished.

    There is nothing easy about accomplishing any of those things. It takes a long-term organized commitment by both whites and blacks and every other minority to accomplish those things. Nothing fun. No magic bullet. No expecting someone else to solve the problem. Hard, grinding work. It appears that recent events may be motivating people to at least fix the police problem. I would think the other problems are equally obvious, but perhaps they are not immediate enough right now? Best to focus on one thing and stopping people from killing you is a good thing to do. Voting is extremely important if you want to make some changes and this is doable, but right now it seems that black people do not vote in significant numbers. Until they vote, they will be ignored.

    The “system” likes all the injustices that it doles out for profit. The “system” feels threatened (Duh) and is tightening it’s grip causing more anger. I know Steven talks about a socialist revolution. I’m against an armed revolution (hopefully it won’t come to that) as it causes more suffering than it solves. The Tea Party guys seem to want one. So the potential for violence is high.

    The recent Supreme Court rulings allow the government to be openly purchased by the highest bidder. And that isn’t “The People”, making the situation even worse. It makes me think the Supreme Court is pretty ignorant and lacking in imagination. When the government starts thumbing its nose at the population, things go to hell fast. If a revolution starts, they are going to be among the first up against the wall.

  83. “I am really, really tired of those who insist that I am claiming some form of inequality or oppression is *worse* than some other. At this point, it is hard not to believe it is deliberate misunderstanding.

    Nevertheless, I’ll try again. It is not about what form of inequality is worse for this or that person, it is about how to fight inequality. I do not object to identity politics because of they want different things, but because they’re method of fighting will, in my opinion, make things worse.”

    I understand, and I am tired of not getting a straight answer when asking questions, although I am not willing to attribute it to malice, just to our having such totally different perspectives. I suspect you are taking as personal attacks or offensive challenges what are to me pretty straight-forward questions. I don’t think I’ve been being obscure, but I’ll lay it out step by step.

    Please correct whichever of these points is wrong:

    1) As a Marxist, you’re a believer in mass uprising to change society.

    2) As a revolutionary, you believe in having flexible plans that assimilate existing social conditions in order to further your goal of a general uprising of the working class.

    3) The current protests happening now are such a condition. That is, the protestors’ determination to curb the state’s police power and their anger about social conditions make the participants prime recruits for a more general workers’ uprising.

    If those three points are correct, then:

    4) What tactics could be employed to convince them to turn their attention from a mostly racial protest to join your class uprising?

    Honestly, that’s what I’m trying to get.

    Within these assumptions, you can see why it’s confusing for you to say that people who consider racism to the prime evil in their lives are “enemies of equality” while insisting you don’t think their concerns are a lesser problem than your own and that want to work with them, although you won’t say anything about *how* you’d work with them. How would you convince them? Or if you feel that’s still too personal, let me ask how would a seasoned Marxist agitator move them from racist anger to working class anger?

    This is purely a tactics question. I’ve read a lot – a very, very large lot – of Marxist writings in the past year and more, and they talk about uprisings and energizing this or that group, and they talk about learning lessons from this or that uprising, but none of them go into specifics, mostly because they claim the exact reaction depends on the specific circumstances. Well, OK, given these recent specific circumstances, what approach would convince these protesters to move into a workers’ uprising? What would you say to convince them?

    I really am curious, because if there is one thing all of these writers are missing, it’s a cohesive plan of action. I’ve been using these protests as a sort of final exam for Marxism. To be perfectly honest, I think Marxism is a bunch of idealistic garbage but I am willing to reconsider that conclusion. To that end, I’ve been reading about these events on explicitly Marxist sites, sites I’m pretty sure are Marxist (they use all the right jargon etc.) and non-Marxist but self-declared revolutionary protestors’ blogs and twitter feeds, and with one exception none of these sources mention any concrete plans of action for their current night’s work or the future. That is, there is no perceptible difference between Marxists’ actions and reactions, and those of the generality of protestors. Hence my questions directed to you, who has so often talked about the scientific nature of Marxism, the laws of history and the need for revolution.

    And if this is not clear enough, I swear to god I quit.

    The thing about white privilege is clearly a derailment and so I drop it, although I think an awful lot is left to be said.

  84. “… if there is one thing all of these writers are missing, it’s a cohesive plan of action.”

    I might as well give my point of view, althought it might be objectively wrong.

    I think that if Marx were here today, and he published a cohesive plan of action, maybe a whole lot of Marxists would try to carry it out as best they could.

    But Marx is dead. And so if a Marxist scholar who has studied Marx for 40 years and has a good reputation as a Marxist publishes a cohesive plan of action, a small minority of Marxists will look at it and then argue about it. Because he isn’t Marx.

    So something does work out along Marxist lines, it will be something that sort of spontaneously evolves. People will look around and wonder what to do, and they will see what to do and do it, and it will coalesce into something workable without needing a cohesive plan ahead of time.

    These days it would probably have to be that way even if there was somebody who could get cohesive plans going. The US government may already have the technology to find organizational masterminds from the way they communicate, and remove them. Maybe they can prevent cohesive plans.

    Around 25 years ago I read about an example where they tracked a shipment of explosives across europe, and tracked movement of groups of trained terrorists, and then they rounded up all the participants. In the interrogations they explained all the details of the plot the computer program had put together, and the terrorists replied that yes, that was the sort of thing they would have done but they hadn’t actually worked things out that far.

    Of course the same advanced methods completely failed to prevent 9/11. People say it was only a failure to put the pieces together, and that may be the explanation.

    It’s possible that there’s no longer room for mass movements created by small groups of conspirators with a top-down plan. Remove the top level conspirators and it falls apart.

    Instead Marxists may turn out more like kibitzers. In a baseball game there will be fans who are experts on the game, and the teams, who know all the batting averages and who are better than anybody else at predicting how the game will go. But they have no effect on the game. That metaphor is flawed because baseball involves two teams of expert players, and the coaches’ strategies are important. Fans of mass movements might have some local influence, they might make some difference persuading groups of people what to do in particular circumstances. I would expect those results to average out, but still there are big differences between being a fan of revolution versus being a baseball fan.

  85. L. Raymond, for what it’s worth, almost all the language you use to describe Marxism and your frustration with it could be used to describe the frustrations of universalists with identitarianism. Perhaps the most important point is the bit about “no concrete plans”. When identitarians do offer specific plans, they’re either not unique to any ideology, like O. Sicily’s mention of police cameras, or they’re based on no science or a denial of science, like the notion everyone is racist or the way to change a system is to attack individuals rather than the system itself.

    And last, I think if I said that I believe identitarianism is “idealistic garbage”, I would be lying to myself if I claimed that I was open to reconsidering that. People who are committed to a belief system like to think they’re open-minded because they know that’s a virtue, and so you’ll hear, for example, some conservative Christian evangelists announcing that they’re open to being proven wrong. To an outsider, that seems dishonest, a ploy for stealth evangelizing, but perhaps because I tend to trust people, I think they sincerely believe they’re open to being proven that their belief is wrong. What they don’t realize is that belief can’t be proven wrong with words. It can only be proven wrong by having the circumstances of your life change in ways that the belief system cannot explain. I would probably be an identitarian today if I’d become comfortably (in the economic sense) middle class; it took a life change to move me from progressive liberal capitalism to democratic socialism.

  86. skzb

    L. Raymond: “I am tired of not getting a straight answer when asking questions”

    You may recall you said something like this once before. On that occasion, I spent hours going through every comment you had made on this blog searching for question marks, and failed to find any unanswered questions. I’m not going to repeat the exercise, but would you feel inclined to point to these questions? If you wish, leave messages in the topic itself.

    “1) As a Marxist, you’re a believer in mass uprising to change society.”

    Yes, I believe mass uprisings occur and they frequently change society, and, are, in fact, the primary way society has so far found to move itself forward.

    “2) As a revolutionary, you believe in having flexible plans that assimilate existing social conditions in order to further your goal of a general uprising of the working class.”

    Hmm. This may be beside the point, but for the sake of precision: My goal is not a general uprising of the working class. My *prediction* is for a general uprising of the working class. My goal is that, when it happens, it wins. As for “flexible” plans, I’m not entirely clear on what that means. The plan is the construction within the working class of a leadership with the knowledge and understanding to carry matters through to a conclusion, and, as part of this, a fight for the unity and independence of the working class. If by “flexible” you mean the exact details of how this happens depends on circumstances, then yes.

    “3) The current protests happening now are such a condition. That is, the protestors’ determination to curb the state’s police power and their anger about social conditions make the participants prime recruits for a more general workers’ uprising.”

    I do not believe this is the case. I believe the anger that is building, and the protests are both signs of this increasing anger, and potentially an object lesson in class unity. There is also a danger of these protests being harmlessly diverted into support for capitalism with nothing changing, and hence mass disillusionment, thus making class unity more difficult. Hence the urgent need to make clear what is actually happening, what forces are at work. What is most vital at this stage is, 1) understanding the inter-relations of forces that are causing this, and 2) communicating this understanding to as broad a mass of people as possible. It is important to note that 1 and 2 are not, in fact, sequential, but have a dialectical relationship in which each informs and builds on the other.

    “4) What tactics could be employed to convince them to turn their attention from a mostly racial protest to join your class uprising?”

    An entirely valid question. But, as I hope is clear by now, I do not think any such tactics are needed or desirable. Revolutionists are no more responsible for revolution than a midwife is responsible for pregnancy. At the point of birth, having a knowledgeable, steady, perceptive, skilled midwife can make all the difference. That is relationship between the revolutionary party and the revolution.

    ETA: On reflection, the paragraph above doesn’t answer the question. Let me try it this way: The “tactics” I see as necessary involve trying to make people aware of the relationship between police violence, racism, the huge income disparity, NSA spying, imperialist war, and the increased militarization of the police. I think these are all connected, that the common source is capitalism at a particular stage, and that the way to deal with them involves building a socialist alternative to the Democrats and Republicans.

    ‘Within these assumptions, you can see why it’s confusing for you to say that people who consider racism to the prime evil in their lives are “enemies of equality”’

    I deny that I have said any such thing. I said people who seek to split the working class along racial lines are the enemies of equality. In fact, many people identify racism as the most difficult thing they have to contend with in their lives, but believe the answer to the problem lies in class unity.

    I hope this helps.

  87. “Perfect. There it all is. First of all, I’ll note in passing that anyone who cannot tell sexism from misogyny is going to be helpless upon meeting misogyny, just as someone who claims excessive authoritarianism is “fascism” will be unable to recognize the threat of actual fascism. More important, the notion that being treated like a thinking human being is a *privilege* is enough to make me spew. It is not a privilege; it is a basic human right, and one that his wife was deprived of. He is right to be angry about it; but as long he keeps the focus in this whole thing on himself and how HE is treated, the problem will never be addressed.”

    Thank you skzb for expressing this and about “white privilege” much more eloquently than I could.

    I am treated by the police the way all humans should be treated by police, but a big part of that is because I also treat them the way all humans should be treated. I’m not face down in the McDonald’s parking lot with a shotgun to my head like the white guy I saw this summer because I’m white – it’s because if a cop talks to me, I talk to him like a fellow human being.

    I grew up dirt fucking poor. Went to public school – often wearing home made jeans if that means anything to you. I received scholarships based on my grades and test scores and worked jobs to pay for the rest of it – and they weren’t glamorous “you’re white, here’s your job” either. I earned my two degrees because I worked my ass off. Every job I’ve ever had I’ve had to compete for and I’ve put in for jobs that I didn’t get that white, black, asian and a mix of genders have gotten instead of me. Not because of their color or sex either – the people selecting that position chose them instead for a variety of reasons.

    So you know what? I enjoy my “white privilege” because its the same privilege that every human should have and I seek to extend that same privilege to every person I interact with.

    It’s the same way I’ve “enjoyed” “American privilege” when traveling, working and living overseas both in Europe and Asia. You flash that blue passport and doors open for you. People want to take your picture. People want to help you. So when I see a foreigner having trouble here in the US, I help them. My best friend who I consider to be an uncle for my son, is an illegal immigrant from Indonesia working to provide for his family back home. He became my friend because he’s a good person who works hard at it. Not because I’m white and can help him.

    You want to end “-isms”, it starts at home. I fully believe in and endorse the preamble of the Declaration. They are inalienable human rights. But if people don’t educate and raise their children to believe in it also, it doesn’t work.

  88. “I fully believe in and endorse the preamble of the Declaration. They are inalienable human rights. But if people don’t educate and raise their children to believe in it also, it doesn’t work.”

    The problem is, if it doesn’t work unless you believe in it and you deal with other people who believe in it, then in practice those rights are fully alienable. In practice they are not rights at all but privileges we extend to each other.

    Calling them rights is part of the process of persuading people that they ought to extend those privileges. I approve of the goal, but still the claim is not in practice true.

  89. “In practice they are not rights at all but privileges we extend to each other.”

    I disagree with this statement. I view a privilege as something extra. For example: my son has the privilege of playing on the Wii if he has done his school work and chores. He has the right to expect me to love him, discipline him and care for him.

    As an American citizen, I have many rights protected by law. It is not a privilege for me to exercise those rights. At the same time, I have the responsibility to be a good citizen! You know who doesn’t have the same rights as me? A convicted felon.

    It’s my responsibility to live within the laws of the country and within the laws of society. If I’m a rude, obnoxious asshat, I’m giving up some of my rights to participate in society from the sheer standpoint that other people won’t want to be around me. You know what I don’t do? Be rude to other people intentionally. And I recognize that when I’ve made a mistake I have to do something to fix it. If I break the laws, I have to recognize that I might be arrested, jailed, and have to plead my case in court. It would be my responsibility to submit to the police, peacefully and without rudeness.

    Hell, i just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time at one point and ended up with a cop pointing a gun at me. Guess what? I didn’t get shot. Because I extended to the cop the same rights that I expect from other people (and yes, I know the counter is that if I was black it would be a different story – just so you know, my black friend was with me and he didn’t get shot either. Probably because he was with me. And if you’re wondering, that is sarcasm).

    If no one broke the laws, guess what wouldn’t be happening? Police profiling and unreasonable searches. So change society to not have law breakers. Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you have to break the law.

    If you want a better society to live in, then raise your children, your nieces and nephews (or set an example for the young people in your life) on how to extend those rights (not privileges) to other people. Call out adults you observe who are oppressing others. Stand up.

    Maybe it is because I am a large white man I feel comfortable doing this in public. Even though my parents were crap, the society I was raised in taught me that it was correct for me to speak up on other people’s behalf if I didn’t agree with what was going on. Public shaming goes a long way towards changing people’s behavior. Even apes do it.

  90. Seth, it’s plausible that we’re only using our words a bit differently, and don’t disagree on the realities.

    “I view a privilege as something extra. For example: my son has the privilege of playing on the Wii if he has done his school work and chores. He has the right to expect me to love him, discipline him and care for him.”

    “Even though my parents were crap, the society I was raised in taught me that ….”

    Did you have the right to expect your father to love you, discipline you, and care for you? Did he do all that OK? It’s good that one way or another you got what you needed.

    Things that people regard as rights are in fact frequently violated. (You give the example of a cop pointing a gun at you and you didn’t get shot. I think it usually goes that way, probably the large majority of the time when cops point guns at people they don’t shoot them. You think it was because you did the right thing, but if you had done the same exact thing and gotten shot you wouldn’t be here to tell us about it…. Not to say that’s likely, just that the odds are biased because the dead don’t post.)

    Lots of people have parents who don’t give them the things you say are rights. You can’t shame people into loving their children. We just have to get along as best we can. Yes, it’s good when we *can* encourage people to do what’s right.

    “If no one broke the laws, guess what wouldn’t be happening? Police profiling and unreasonable searches. So change society to not have law breakers. Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you have to break the law.”

    You say you’ve been poor. It looks to me like a lot of poor boys get into a situation where all the decent things they can do look boring and have very little reward. But they can do things like shoplifting and then burglaries, and get a lot of excitement and a small reward that looks big at the time, and get away with it almost 100%. Then after likely hundreds of crimes, finally they get caught once and get introduced to prison culture.

    If we wanted to have less crime we wouldn’t do it this way. It looks to me almost like a whole lot of poor boys are intentionally getting funnelled into prison. They each have other choices available — they can take up religion, or look hard for chances to make their own opportunities out of their class, or accept boredom and sheer poverty. But the ones who don’t have something special going for them will do the obvious things, and wind up prisoners. It’s as if it’s designed that way on purpose….

  91. Seth.

    Dude.

    Tamir rice was shot and killed by cops, and he wasn’t breaking the law.

    As #crimingwhilewhite demonstrates, plenty of people (mostly white) break the largest and never face consequences. Yet most black people have stories of being pulled over for no reason, or stopped and frisked, or, in the case of black women, being suspected of prostitution because they’re with their white bf/husband/partner.

    This is exactly what we say when we say white privilege: the privilege of walking through life thinking you’ve gotten to where you are solely because you treat people right, not because people in positions of authority over you treat you better than they treat people in a different demographic.

    Your post is effectively blaming black people for being profiled. If that’s not your intention, please reconsider wiring a post in which you chalk up you lack of arrests solely to “treating cops with respect” and “not breaking the law”. The history books (and news) are full of poc and some poor white people who were arrested or even killed while not breaking the law.

    I agree that these things should be rights and not privileges. From the perspective of someone who doesn’t have the privilege of being a large white man, I’m saying that those are not rights I actually get to experience. My being sexually harassed when on foot or on transit isn’t because I’m not treating others with respect, it’s because they don’t treat me as having the right to go about my day without being harassed. As a large white man, from where I’m standing, you have the PRIVILEGE of not experiencing almost daily sexual harassment when in public.

    It SHOULD be everyone’s right to walk around without being harassed by others, but that’s a right not afforded to most women, and as such I see not enduring that as a privilege because it’s an extra not given to me. You can say it’s a right, but for me it’s a right I’m still having to fight for.

    For black people (children and adults) being treated with suspicion by police when they’re literally doing nothing wrong (read:no crimes being committed) is a violation of what should be rights, but they’re rights that area only afforded to white people most of the time. From many black people’s perspectives your ability as a large white man to be treated respectfully by police is a right they SHOULD have, but in reality is an extra they do not experience, a privilege that even now protesters are trying to change, after several UNARMED black man and boys were killed by police in as many months.

    What frustrates me so much about this discussion is that is clear who actually hasee taken time to read posts, articles, books, and consumed other media by poc on the issue of racial inequality in terms of modern day life, and women on the issue of sexism in daily modern life.

    Aside from dismissive posts about “identitarians” from what I can only assume are white probably men, it’s just frustrating to have people continue to be blind to how the demographic they belong in as white people gives them unfair advantages: advantages that we ALL AGREE should be rights for everyone.

    Yet aside from a fantasy of a Marxist uprising or sudden unrealistic shift in an entire globe’s economic system, I haven’t seen anyone besides me and L Raymond speak about what we should be doing in the crisis which likely inspired this post and was so quickly shunted aside for Marxist back-patting, and a forum equivalent of “well sure black lives matter, but really #alllivesmatter, and we’re totes going to ignore how fucking incensed poc and allies are over that distraction”.

    I guess I’m really disappointed that one of my favorite authors responded to this crisis not wit sympathy and solidarity for the causes poc are pushing for right now, in the moment, but felt like it was the right time to explain why marxism. And that he doesn’t like the words privilege and benefits because they should be rights, when the whole point of the protests and outrage have been that black people only have those rights on paper.

    Ya heard? We only have those rights on paper. So maybe don’t use a time of tragedy for black people as a reason to wax poetic about marxism.

    And to be clear, since the comment format here is a bit muddled, I’m not just taking to skzb when I’m posting. I’ve been trying to respond to specific people. In this case I’m annoyed with almost everyone in this forum who has said since version of “yes racism matters, but really it’s about class” or “but as a white person, I’ve never experienced these things black people are complaining about, so they probably are being disrespectful to police” or “there are poor white people so BOOM CLEARLY WHITE PRIVILEGE DOESN’T EXIST LOL”.

    So again to be clear, I’m not aiming this at just the op.

    But damn you guys. If you ever needed an example of the type of mostly-white discussion that makes poc trying to discuss racism feel unwelcome, it’s this one.

    Oh BTW I forgot to include one of my friend’s responses when she was reading this post (not jumping in because it was so clearly a dismissive space for her issues)

    “‘In communities that are mixed white and black with similar incomes, there isn’t significant racism.’

    L
    O
    L”

    So I guess if you want your space to be a safe place for poc and other marginalized groups (with the exception of poor white people) to discuss their most pressing concerns without being dismissed as “identitarians who want to divide the world by labeling everything”, you missed the mark.

  92. Thank you j Thomas. Now if you take into account the statistics on rates of being stopped, arrested, charged, and sentenced between black and white men, it becomes clear that even poor white men still are given more second chances than black men. And that’s one example of the way institutionalized racism affects poc more harshly.

  93. O. Sicily, apparently I do not have white male privilege, because I have been stopped for no reason. Or to be more precise, for the flimsiest reasons, because cops who want to harass people usually have a rationalization ready.

    As for Tamir Rice, yes, that was yet another example of a cop killing, but do you think the killings of Christopher Roupe, Nick King, and Andy Lopez should be ignored because they had white male privilege? Roupe was holding a WII controller, King and Lopez each had toy guns.

  94. O. Sicily, do you have a link handy to show that poor white men get more second chances than black men? If you look at US prison statistics by race and class, they line up remarkably well with the racial statistics of poverty, which shouldn’t be surprising, since most prisoners come form poverty.

  95. J, I agree with you that much of what we’re saying are in agreement. Where I differ is your choice of the word “privilege.”

    Yes, rights are violated all the time. In the cop example, two things happened: 1) I did the right thing, and 2) the cop did the right thing. It’s an example of things working the way they are supposed to. Good for me and my friend (who was protected by my “bubble of whiteness 10 feet – grants a re-roll on racist cop behavior table”) and also good for the cop.

    “Supposed to” is an inherently risky area to get into. I don’t like to go there. So I’m going to leave that one hanging.

    No, my right to have a father that was worth a damn was violated. So I work hard at being a good father now. Same as millions of other dads are doing everyday.

    I agree that you can’t convince/shame/force anyone to love their children. You can shame people by calling them on their BS and bad behavior. Occasionally it even sticks. If I don’t speak up, then aren’t I tacitly sanctioning their behavior?

    My degrees and post collegiate work have all been in economics. I totally understand what you’re saying about “It’s as if it’s designed that way on purpose….”. It’s one of the problems of a capitalist market. Labor which is not protected by a strong union and government regulations will always get the short end of the stick which leads to poverty. That’s really one of the functions of a business – to use the cheapest inputs possible and gain the most income possible for the business (not necessarily the owners of the business, but the business itself can be viewed as a separate entity that is seeking it’s personal growth without regard to anything outside of itself).

    We need a strong government that isn’t heavily influenced by corporate interest. That’s not going to happen anytime soon. One of the functions of a business is to protect it’s own interest. The easiest way to do that is to influence the government.

    We need a strong society that insists on doing the right thing and training the people in it that, as you said above, rights are rights and all people should have them and experience them (I just removed the word privilege).

  96. O. Sicily: “This is exactly what we say when we say white privilege: the privilege of walking through life thinking you’ve gotten to where you are solely because you treat people right, not because people in positions of authority over you treat you better than they treat people in a different demographic. ”

    You missed the point of what I wrote. I got to where I am because I worked my ass off. I didn’t get any handouts. I didn’t get accepted to college or selected for my jobs because I’m white.

    I’m not going to fucking apologize for being white.

    Your post reminds me of Eddy Murphy’s skit on SNL where he does whiteface and the banks just hand him money. Hysterical. Laughed my ass off.

    You know why I got a loan for a house this year? Cause I worked hard on my credit, I saved money, and I have a good job that I can depend on. Not because I’m white.

    And black people do have the same rights. Every black person and woman that I work with (and that’s not a small number as I work in a large government Department) owns a house and pays a mortgage. Guess they must have had a white friend get it for them.

    Go ahead and denigrate them a bit more. They worked their asses off to get where they are too.

    Guess what? They aren’t going to jail or getting shot either.

    My wife is a small white woman. She faces discrimination and shit every time she steps on the street. It’s not safe for her to go places alone. It’s not right that that is the case. It’s not fair and I never said it was. Instead of buying a car five years ago from one dealer who would only talk to me (when my wife was buying the car) we went somewhere else and we told the stupid fuck why we did it. The look on his face was priceless.

    Change society by training people to respect everyone. Of course, if everyone actually respected everyone rights, the crime rate would fall to zero.

  97. “You can shame people by calling them on their BS and bad behavior. Occasionally it even sticks. If I don’t speak up, then aren’t I tacitly sanctioning their behavior?”

    I don’t know. If the point is to feel good about yourself, then do whatever helps you feel good about yourself. If the point is to improve their behavior, then find out how to do that. I don’t get much feedback about the effects of drive-by criticism.

    I have some anecdotal evidence. Like, once when my first daughter was very young we took her out in her stroller, the temperature was around 62, and an old black woman stopped us on the street and loudly told us that our baby didn’t have enough blankets and she was freezing to death. I was embarrassed. I felt my daughter’s hand and she felt warm to me. The woman yelled at us that we didn’t know how to take care of children and people on the street looked at us. We got away from her and felt upset. I was sure we were doing the right thing, and I was more sure after getting scolded than before. I think it might go that way a lot apart from objective facts.

    It feels good to be the one telling somebody else they’re doing it wrong. I’m not sure how often it actually helps.

    There are probably ways that help, but I’m not sure I understand them or how to teach them. Here’s something I noticed when I lived in Texas. One day one of my neighbors talked to me and mentioned that in Texas it’s the law that when you drive you have to have your lights on if your windshield wipers are on, and she liked to follow the law. I replied that I did it because it seemed like a good idea but I hadn’t known about the law and thank you. A couple of weeks later another neighbor told me that when he was pulling out onto the main road and an 18-wheeler was coming up he liked to let it go on by. There was always a big space there to pull into, but those things moved fast and if you got in their way they couldn’t stop and they were deadly. I thanked him and said I agreed. But by that time I saw the pattern. They didn’t butt into other people’s business and tell them how to drive, they just said what they liked. My neighbors had been watching me very closely, and when they saw me or my wife do something they didn’t like they warned us about it without any accusations, and I think I took their warnings a lot better than I would have if they told me I was a rotten driver who wasn’t safe on the road.

  98. As an aside: This discussion seems to have been limited almost entirely to addressing racism against blacks. Depending on where you are, racism may affect other minorities, or even whites (e.g., Hawaii), or ethnicity. I agree blacks have the worst and most obvious problem to deal with. Sexism is perhaps even more wide spread (and just as big a problem in the black community). Luckily not many women get shot by cops but an awful lot get beat up by their husbands.

    O. Sicily: Please explain to me why it is an “advantage” to someone of color and perhaps female to assert that the main problem in our society is a universal “white male privilege”?

    I can see that this kind of thinking provides a convenient focus for anger and frustration. A way to simplify reality, someone to blame, a way to kick back. Yeah, that can make someone feel better. But I don’t see what the mechanism is that is supposed to help eliminate the racism in America. It appears counter-productive to me.

    When my ancestors came to this country, they were an oppressed minority. Certainly not as bad as blacks, but still significantly marginalized (stupid Swede, dumb Bo-hunk) as recently as my father’s generation. To say that by association, just because I am white, my family and I are responsible for the lingering results of slavery, that just sticks in my craw. I am perhaps the first generation in my family that has the luxury to even consider helping blacks.

    None of the people in this forum are for racism (or sexism) in any way and we all want to eliminate it. We will do what we can. I will help (and have helped), not out of a sense of guilt, but because it is the right thing to do. But any virtue in my doing that is totally eliminated if all I am doing is assuaging my guilt over my “white privilege”.

  99. “My degrees and post collegiate work have all been in economics. …. That’s really one of the functions of a business – to use the cheapest inputs possible and gain the most income possible for the business (not necessarily the owners of the business, but the business itself can be viewed as a separate entity that is seeking it’s personal growth without regard to anything outside of itself).”

    Well, it’s possible that getting taught economics (or business school may do that even more) has persuaded you that this sort of thing is natural.

    But when businesses are part of a community they try to do good for the community as a whole, at least as they think of their community. You don’t empoverish everybody else and live in a mansion up on a hill where everybody can see you, unless that’s the kind of community you want.

    It’s possible that the idea that businessmen ought to be psychopaths has been *taught* to a whole lot of people, in school, and before this teaching became commonplace a lot of businessmen didn’t so much feel that way.

    I read that when integration came in, Atlanta accepted it pretty smoothly while Birmingham had the firehoses and police dogs and axe handles etc. And the claim was that this was because the people who owned Atlanta lived in Atlanta, while the people who owned Birmingham lived in Atlanta.

  100. J: yes, that’s more of what I was talking about with speaking up. The other part is if you see someone being discriminated against to do something at the time.

    I wasnt talking about local business. I was talking about the large multi national corps. In general they don’t care too much. Hence the willingness of them to move from country to country when financially feasible.

    Local and regional businesses are often amazing for their communities. In fact communities do not survive without local thriving businesses.

    Sorry for any typos and such. I’m on a phone.

    Mostly I agree with what you say.

  101. I get the feeling that prestigious ivy league business schools today teach that the ONLY responsibility of a corporation is to make money (Friedman doctrine). From the way large corporations behave, it appears that they don’t even have to obey the laws. Everything is legal if you don’t get caught. It’s only going to get worse if we don’t break up the largest corporations and send some CEOs to prison.

    Back when I studied economics, companies were still supposed to be part of the community. It was when Reagan took office that he announced in his inaugural speech that in effect, ‘greed is good.’ Then things went to hell.

  102. O. Sicily: “a fantasy of a Marxist uprising.” So when it comes down to it, you don’t care about class oppression any more than you think SB cares about racism. You accept that the poor are always going to be among us and you are going to devote yourself to changing things as much as possible within the current system. You and Mr. Brust actually are in fundamental disagreement about the world, and you actively oppose his politics. So on a practical level, you have demonstrated that Brust is at least correct that these debates do undermine opposition to current power structures. Regardless of which of you is right in your priorities, the system has won again.

    Let me pose a hypothetical: 70% of a state’s impoverished are white; 30% are black. Black people are twice as likely to be impoverished as white people; black people are more likely to be disadvantaged by social services directed at the poor, more likely to be harassed by law enforcement, less likely to escape poverty, etc. Let’s say we acknowledge that all of those are horrible problems that need to be worked on and that they won’t simply disappear as class oppression is eliminated (though it is hard to imagine they won’t at least be mitigated by that.) At the end of the day, isn’t the poverty itself still the state’s biggest problem and on an absolute level, aren’t the 70% a bigger priority for the state than the 30%, as unfair as that might be from a historical perspective. And wouldn’t the best solution be for the 70 and 30 to embrace each others aspirations as their own and work together to change the state’s policies by one means or another. For various reasons black and white people who are not economically challenged (at the moment) would prefer that we not come to that conclusion. Some of them do this for nobler reasons than others, but at the end of the day they live in a class-blind world in the same sense that many whites live in a race-blind fantasy. I guess that’s their privilege.

  103. David, I’m not ignoring you, but I’m too disappointed and frustrated with this thread to continue.

    I’m bowing out of this conversation. I have fatigue from having this same conversation all over the Internet since mike brown was killed.

    If you’re really interested, truly interested, in finding the answer to that question, I recommend googling things like “white privilege 101” or Jessica Williams’ street harassment bit on the daily show or John Oliver and Jon Stewart’s takes on Ferguson and Louis ck’s bit on “being white” and on and on and on.

    Eventually when you’re asking someone to educate you on 101 shit it means you’re not bothering to find that info on your own first.

    Again, if you’re legitimately interested in finding out why this comment thread is so frustrating for many poc (who didn’t bother commenting here because for them it’s just another place to feel frustrated, exhausted, and marginalized) check out videos from Jay smooth (illdoc on YouTube), chescah Leigh on how to be an ally, Aamer rahman on reverse racism (which illustrates the systemic, ingrained nature of racism and is a response to anyone whining that people who discuss privilege are the real racists), and anything by hari kondabolou.

    The above paragraph is all videos by poc. I highly recommend watching these excellent videos, absorbing them, and then rereading this entire thread and try to think how those people would feel about most of the posts here.

    Actually, I think most of the people in this thread could really do with consuming more media by poc, based solely on ridiculous comments about “white homeless people prove white privilege doesn’t exist”.

  104. Since you prefer POC on race, I highly recommend this short piece by Adolph Reed Jr.: http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/Antiracism.html

  105. Mr. Hajicek,

    “Back when I studied economics, companies were still supposed to be part of the community.”

    Are you familiar with benefit corporations? They’re relatively new, and I don’t know of enough data to determine if they’re actually making a difference (there are only about 1,000 of them in the world right now), but this is a type of corporation that is meant to be partially immune from activist investors who are much, if not most, of the driving force behind so much corporate ugliness.

    Their articles of incorporation spell out some sort of public good the company intends to do, such as finance 10% of a local school district or whatever is feasible. Stockholders cannot take legal action against the board of directors for failing to maximize profits if doing so would prevent the company from carrying out the proposed benefit, so it’s meant as a protection from activists and venture capitalists who want to gut a company and move to the next target.

    A cynic would note that the model legislation was crafted on behalf of a non-profit which certifies that benefit corporations have followed their charter (www.bcorporation.net), but I haven’t looked into what they charge for the rating service so it’s possible cynicism may be misplaced.

  106. O. Sicily, I searched for “white privilege 101” and finally found one site that isn’t snarky or condescending. I get it that from the POC position, whites appear “privileged.” I put it in quotes because the site acknowledges a slightly different definition of privilege than is common usage (have it better, rather than perpetrating an injustice). I think we all agree that whites (males in particular) have it better or easier than POC or women. The motivation is for social justice, without defining what that might be. We get that.

    I don’t mean to sound snarky and I am sorry you find this stressful. My experience is that when somebody deflects what should be a simple question to answer, that person does not really have an answer or hasn’t really thought about the question.

    I would suggest that the dogged insistence on the specific word “privilege” is a bit of word magic as it has two meanings. Namely accept it for one meaning (advantage) and then apply it with a different meaning (injustice). By that process, all whites are guilty of injustice toward all blacks. A pretty heavy accusation, and no judgment is required.

    I was watching on You-tube, a black comic with a black audience, explaining racism to whites. The essence of his skit was, “Look at your arm. Is it white? Then you are a racist. (applause). Look at your other arm. Is it black? Then it is impossible for you to be a racist. (bigger applause).” Then louder, “It is impossible for a black person to be a racist, if you think he is, then you are wrong.” That kind of sums up most of the arguments for privilege that I have heard. Namely, it is emotional revenge rather than logical.

  107. L. Raymond, I’ve only seen a little bit about Benefit Corporations. I think we are more familiar with the Non-Profits that are run as profit centers (for the executives). There are also getting to be more co-ops (I think). As that seems to be a good compromise.

  108. Mr. Brust,

    What you say about methods isn’t the sort of info I am wondering about, but it’s probably what I’m asking about, if you see what I mean.

    The midwife analogy is interesting and not entirely in keeping with most of the writings I’ve been going over but since I haven’t stopped rading them, just trying to understand their point, I’ll keep that image in mind and see if it helps clarify what they’re trying to say.

    “I hope this helps.”

    I think any time two completely different perspectives can collide without bloodshed is helpful no matter the ending.

  109. skzb

    L. Raymond: “I think any time two completely different perspectives can collide without bloodshed is helpful no matter the ending.”

    Indeed!

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