Sunday, March 13, 2016

Race And The Big Rip-Off

Lately I’ve been reading that liberals don’t understand race. That we don’t understand it’s real, and it’s not just a product of the economic system. You can’t convince white working class racists that their “true” interests are in unifying with black people – that’s the argument – because they want a system that keeps them from being on the bottom rung of the social ladder.

Okay, fine. I can appreciate that. Racists want to be racists. It’s going to be hard arguing them into taking common cause with people of color. With Muslims. With immigrants. White skin privilege is a nonmonetary reward, but a reward nonetheless.

In fact, companies already know about this kind of thing. You ever notice how your bosses have lots of little ways of rewarding you for a good job without actually spending money?

Maybe it’s an email with some nice words. Maybe you get your name in the office newsletter. Maybe they put your face on the wall, and underneath is the sign: Employee of the Month. Makes you feel good too, doesn’t it? You don’t like that it does, but you can't deny it.

That’s how they get you. And that’s what racial privilege is. It’s an Employee of the Month sign from the company that just cut your benefits, fired all your friends and gave you their workload as part of what they call a “promotion,” only without the salary increase.

Don’t get me wrong. It would have been terrible for you not to get that Employee of the Month sign. Oh yes. They beat, and cage, and they hang the people who don’t get the Employee of the Month signs under their pictures. It doesn’t help you to have it. But not having it can kill you.

Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives? No, not really. Because second prize is you’re fired, and third prize is that they can shoot you in the middle of the street, and nobody does a goddamned thing about it.

But you know what first prize is? First prize is they handcuff you to your job, they slice a little bit of money off your paycheck every single year, they cut the number of teachers from your kid’s school, let your neighborhood water system get poisoned and the pavement outside your home crumble, as all around you police start beating up people and squeezing them for nickels like they’re running a massive criminal protection racket.

They are killing you slowly. And every day your bosses come in and tell you to keep it up. Keep helping them. Every day they say this:

“You know what? You’re one of the good ones.”

You’re one of the good ones.

That’s what the rich man running for president from the party of the bosses tells all his fans. They’re the good ones. He says they’re all going to make America great again, and he tells them that what’s holding them back – the reason the infrastructure is ruined and the jobs are gone is all those other people out there, the ones who weren’t good enough, who couldn’t get the Employee of the Month signs on the wall. Just like the boss tells you everyone has to pull together to meet the company deadline, since you’re short-staffed after all the layoffs.

The rich man running for president acts like he’s going to help change things. Never mind that he and guys like him have been in charge the whole time. Never mind that he’s one of them - He brags about it! And never mind that by dividing you from the rest of the workers, the rest of the people at the bottom… by dividing you from them, he is selling you on exactly the same deal that he and his buddies have been selling you for decades while your whole world fell apart.

Never mind that. Because he says this time it’s going to be different. Even though he won’t tell you how. And you believe he’s honest, that he’s not afraid to say what he thinks, even though it’s just a cruder, uglier version of the same thing his party has always been telling you. Even though it’s obvious he’s telling you everything you want to hear, everything that’s kept you working away at that desk, in your seat, quietly doing what they tell you, and not causing any trouble.

You going to help him, because you’re one of the good ones.

See, black people already know what that means. They’ve been told that, and they know it’s a sign that a whole nation is scamming you. It means a system has been rigged against you, and you need to fight for your dignity.

Well, how about this? In reality there are two kinds of people at the bottom: There are people who know who their friends are and what they have to do – people not afraid to see their situation clearly. And then there are people so stupid they can be bought off by a goddamned sign on a goddamned wall, a stupid slogan, or a clown cracking racist jokes on TV.

Now who’s in last place?

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  1. Excellent, and very thought-provoking.

  2. What you're not getting is that Trump's supporters don't care much about race. That's a leftish obsession. They care about race about as much as they care about Mohammed; they might say something outrageous just because it pisses off liberals, whom they hate, but they don't particularly care beyond that.

    They care about jobs. They barely have jobs, and those jobs aren't secure, and things are getting worse for them. Trump appeals to them on issues of trade - he talks about building some protectionist barriers that might make their lives a little more liveable. That's what people see in him.

    It so happens that the presidency has about zero power over trade issues, where Trump is a surprisingly good candidate (from a working-poor standpoint), and almost unlimited power over the military. Trump's foreign policy and military views are preposterous - he's the poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger effect. He'd be a horrible president, and very possibly the last president ever. But if you don't understand what people see in him, you don't understand how to oppose him.

    1. Your first statement is wrong. I stopped reading.

    2. You'd like to think that, wouldn't you. The world is simpler that way.

    3. The world's pretty complex, but some things are, in fact, simple.

      You're wrong. See?

    4. Let's put it this way: there isn't going to be a productive conversation between the left and the Trump supporters who take racism seriously. Way too much contempt on both sides. The ones who are worried about their increasingly tenuous economic prospects are worth targeting. They're worried for good reasons, and the Democrats aren't offering anything to make them less worried. Bernie was trying, at least.

    5. There isn't going to be a productive conversation between the left and the Trump supporters.

      People who are worried about the economic prospects of the working class are called liberals. They're on the left. People who channel that worry into racism are Trump supporters, and they're being scammed.

      The Democrats aren't perfect. But the Republicans have been scamming the working class for decades.

      See? Not hard.

  3. Trump's offering economic protectionism, not just racism. That's something a lot of working class people want very badly, because they've been forced to compete with very poor people for their jobs, and that hurts.

    Hillary's offering TPP and other free trade deals. Those are not in the perceived interests of the working class.

    P.S. Both parties are scams. It's a classic good cop - bad cop routine. The only real novelty is that each party is good cop to half the population and bad cop to the other half.

    1. You're downplaying his racism, and the threat it represents.

      It's laughable to say there is an equivalence between the Dems and the GOP. The GOP is the party of stripping away all regulation, social programs, and worker protections, whenever possible. It's their game plan. That and rolling back rights for women, gay people, and people of color, ignoring climate change, turning every school into the fucking OK corral, and taking their foreign policy cues from the goddamned Book of Revelation.

      How can you not see that?

    2. But yeah, Hillary was in favor of some bad trade deals. Not ignoring that. She's also in favor of a level of interventionism that should sicken any decent person. Sure.

      But cut it out with the false equivalence.

    3. I'm not saying they're equivalent. If you go back to the comment that started this all, it concluded that Trump would be a horrible to apocalyptic president.

      I am saying that Trump is promising some trade protections that many of the working poor want, very desperately.

      Can we peel those supporters away? With Bernie, we might have. With Hillary,no.

      Nevertheless, trying to understand your opponents' motivations is usually a good idea, both for the strategic advantages it provides and as a useful antidote to self-righteousness.

    4. But you also said this: "Trump's supporters don't care much about race."

      and this... "Democrats aren't offering anything to make them less worried."

      and this... "Both parties are scams."

  4. Most of the Trump supporters that I know, and I work with some, don't seem to care much about race.

    Democrats certainly aren't offering any particular hope to working class people worried for their economic future (not counting Bernie, who was never going to be the nominee). If anything, Clinton's trade deals are likely to make their problems worse.

    And I see no contradiction in considering Hillary to be the lesser of the evils on offer, while still ranking her rather high on the scale of evils. I can even understand how an economically insecure person who wasn't particularly threatened by racism might think the scales tilt the other way. I consider that a misjudgement, but economic fears are much more salient for many Americans that fears of tragic military, even nuclear, misadventure. One of those fears is a defining feature of their lives, and the other is pretty abstract for now.

    1. I'm sure the racists you know don't think they're racists. That's kind of how racists operate.

      And it is Trump who offers no realistic hope to working class people. He panders to them using racism and bigotry. Trump offers them scratch-n-win ticket hope. The Democrats - even Hillary - offer real hope. You don't seem to get that.

      And the risk of accidental nuclear war is probably not high on the priorities lists of idiots, yes. That's why they're idiots.

      You're downplaying racism as a factor in this election, which is naive and irresponsible. You're wrong on the relative merits of the Democrats and Republicans. And where you're not wrong, you're not making an actual point, other than to tell me how you once had a conversation with a Trump supporter, and he seemed like a nice fella who was worried.


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