Proof that Racists Often Put White Supremacy Over Money – Green is not the only color that matters…

You may have heard a few weeks ago about the case from the South suburbs of Chicago,  where a white family is being sued for discrimination, for refusing to sell their house to a black family. And this refusal came in spite of the fact that the black family had submitted the highest bid for the house, 1.7 million dollars. In other words, they would rather make nothing than make 1.7 million dollars from a black family. This, of course, completely contradicts the traditional economic theory that says racism evaporates in the face of economic self-interest, or that people make purely rational decisions based on material interest, and that’s why racism can’t exist in a free market, blah blah blah.

Turns out, there is more evidence of this phenomenon. The folks over at Resist Racism picked up on a story 2 and a half years ago, which I hadn’t heard about, but which makes the same point. In this case, a church in Illinois that refused to sell to a Korean church, but rather, decided to go with a white church for half as much money…


28 Responses to “Proof that Racists Often Put White Supremacy Over Money – Green is not the only color that matters…”

  1. This is a lesson for the white conservative and the white leftists who both see capitalism as the answer to racism.

    According to the right wing expansion of the free market (less govt and other distortions) will cure racism.

    According to the white left, the Marxists, the destruction of the free market (capitalism) will lead to class unity and the dismantling of the things caused by capitalism, racism, sexism and other oppressions.

    This is a two for one.

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    Tim Reply:

    @ Marc G – absolutely! The left assumes the same economistic stuff as libertarians oftentimes, just with a different end envisioned…both are wrong

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  2. Well, or course these are isolated instances when hatred trumps “market forces.” (sure)

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  3. Tim,

    Your post came at a time apropos to my own family. An elderly relative is heading for an assisted living community and his house is up for sale. He tried to make a condition of the sale that the buyer must not be black, and can’t understand why he doesn’t have the right to do that. Although that relative would never read your books, I’m forwarding this to my father who is managing the sale as Power of Attorney. He may be able to explain the whys and wherefores better after reading it.

    I have one point of logic to contest, though. The white family probably did not choose nothing over $1.7 million; they chose something less from the next highest bidder. Are you claiming they would prefer not to sell at all (with millions at stake) rather than allow a black family into their house? Seems doubtful to me…

    Thanks for all you do. You’ve helped me fight my own racism and learn how to think better.

    Eric

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    Tim Reply:

    @ Eric – actually, they took the house off the market completely for over a year rather than sell…that was the especially sick part!

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  4. Something nags me over this – and I have to say that who is anyone to know the real reason behind why this family didn’t want to sell? Perhaps the real issue was that they didn’t want to sell at all at the time, perhaps having second thoughts – you said yourself they took the house off the market for over a year after that. Clearly that seems like it has something to do with a housing issue, or personal circumstance moreso than it has to do with race.

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    Tim Reply:

    no, the lawsuit makes clear the evidence that they didn’t want to sell because the family was black

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  5. This just speaks to the fact that racism is injected into all facets of our society, in this case the economy. It’s easy to dismiss racism in the economy when it’s not acted out as overtly as stores that wouldn’t serve non-whites during segregation in the US.

    Just because it’s not as overt doesn’t mean it’s not as widespread. If anybody has any studies done on this I’d love a link.

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  6. I hate being advocatus diaboli for either libertarians or leftists ( although I AM the latter) on this point, but microeconomics decisions don’t necessary determine macros. I agree that both Libbies and lefties are dead wrong to assume that there’s only one source of oppression ( or I guess in the Libs’ view, liberation!)– capitalism. It’s the search for the magic bullet that either kills all the monsters at once or makes everything all right. Life is far more complex.
    Racism, sexism, etc., etc….. All have their dynamics, along with class economics…
    Thanks Tim for the great work you do in these crazy days of people declaring racism dead, while banners with Obama with a bone in his nose is unfurled– and not torn down by the sponsors of the event….

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  7. @Marc G.

    “According to the white left, the Marxists, the destruction of the free market (capitalism) will lead to class unity and the dismantling of the things caused by capitalism, racism, sexism and other oppressions.”

    First of all, to characterize Marxists as “the white left” evidences a lack of perspective. Hugo Chavez is not “the white left,” for example. Although I would not call myself a “Marxist” I would call myself a “socialist” and I am not white so I would ask that you reconsider your position before you start tossing generalities out there.

    Second of all, your characterization of the anti-capitalist take on the relationship between economy and racism is spurious. It is not the destruction of the free market that will bring class unity; actually you have it exactly backwards. It is solidarity (i.e. class unity across racial, ethnic and religious identity, sexual orientation and gender lines) that PRECEDES the dismantling of the system of social stratification and economic exploitation that people refer to as “capitalism.”

    To quote the Internationale:

    “Let racist ignorance be ended
    For respect makes the empires fall”

    That said, while there are certainly instances in which you can point to racism trumping economic interest, I think that to view race in the US as anything more than a caste system which was instituted to dilute class conflict among whites is to imbue it with more weight than is necessary or even appropriate. Racism emerged as a necessary ideology in America because wealthy white men were afraid of working class black people and working class white people engaging one another as comrades (see: Bacon’s Rebellion, which preceded the first big round of race legislation, as an example of the threat posed by inter-racial solidarity to the power of ruling elites in colonial Virginia). The essentialist arguments that came to define racist ideology and the denial of African and Native American humanity came later…but, in the beginning, it was all about wealth.

    Indeed, what is “white privilege” at all if it is not the reality of “whiteness” being imbued with economic value? Central to the arguments in the Plessy case was the articulation of “whiteness” as property, which made ANY white person “middle class” insofar as the color of their skin constituted “capital.”

    Race, in the US, is a tool used to reinforce class (and class oppression), nothing more.

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    Tim Reply:

    @ Darryl – that is not all it is. It is that, but it has become more as well, as it has thoroughly infected the consciousness of the working class, with or without active manipulation by capitalists, Read Charles Mills, From Class to Race, where he addresses this matter, from a Marxist perspective, but one that gives racism its proper place as a co-equal form of oppression.

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  8. When are you coming back to Seattle?

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    Tim Reply:

    @ Alexis – nothing scheduled yet, but my schedule is posted, about two months in advance here on the site, under “Appearances”

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  9. Eric: “…An elderly relative is heading for an assisted living community and his house is up for sale. He tried to make a condition of the sale that the buyer must not be black, and can’t understand why he doesn’t have the right to do that…”

    it’s hard to describe how painful it is to read stuff like this. But thank you and your Dad for trying to change his thinking.

    Tim, as always, thank you for all that you d.

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  10. “Second of all, your characterization of the anti-capitalist take on the relationship between economy and racism is spurious. It is not the destruction of the free market that will bring class unity; actually you have it exactly backwards. It is solidarity (i.e. class unity across racial, ethnic and religious identity, sexual orientation and gender lines) that PRECEDES the dismantling of the system of social stratification and economic exploitation that people refer to as “capitalism.”

    To quote the Internationale:

    “Let racist ignorance be ended
    For respect makes the empires fall””

    Except that subsequent Marxists have frequently viewed the SOURCE of that solidarity as economic. This isn’t a strawman Tim’s beating up: I’ve seen it, in the form of people who deny that white privilege is a real phenomenon because of class inequality, and in the form of people who say that talking about race and white privilege will alienate working class whites.

    Marx and Engels had their most brilliant insights and the core of their work in economic fields. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s important that we have a broad analysis that gives race/culture, gender/kinship, economy, and polity their equal due…

    “That said, while there are certainly instances in which you can point to racism trumping economic interest, I think that to view race in the US as anything more than a caste system which was instituted to dilute class conflict among whites is to imbue it with more weight than is necessary or even appropriate. Racism emerged as a necessary ideology in America because wealthy white men were afraid of working class black people and working class white people engaging one another as comrades (see: Bacon’s Rebellion, which preceded the first big round of race legislation, as an example of the threat posed by inter-racial solidarity to the power of ruling elites in colonial Virginia). The essentialist arguments that came to define racist ideology and the denial of African and Native American humanity came later…but, in the beginning, it was all about wealth.”

    See, I dunno about that.

    After all, WHY did the planters, the elites, pick RACE? Skin color? Why did they use THAT as the means to divide the working class? They could have chosen any number of other cleavages.

    They picked race because the memes for racist, colonialist contempt were firmly established in European culture. Columbus wasn’t interested in splitting up the working class when he was enslaving and robbing Native Americans.

    These factors interplay in complex ways, and I think the left rush to try to reduce it to fundamentally economic or class terms is self-defeating.

    “Indeed, what is “white privilege” at all if it is not the reality of “whiteness” being imbued with economic value? Central to the arguments in the Plessy case was the articulation of “whiteness” as property, which made ANY white person “middle class” insofar as the color of their skin constituted “capital.” ”

    Actually, a huge part of white privilege is that it’s NOT economic. It grants self-confidence, access, a sense of belonging and entitlement, etc. Poor whites competing against Southern planters may not have had much, but they weren’t Negroes, and that was enough to convince them to fight a Civil War against their political and economic interests.

    Now, you can say that those things have value, but by that logic, everything is economic and therefore class-based. The point is that people will privilege their white identity over their class identity time and time again, losing massive amounts of potential wealth and harming their own ECONOMIC self-interest to serve a different self-interest. And a lot of leftists will ignore this and try to circumvent dealing with race by just trying to say that it’s in white folks’ best economic interests to fight…

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  11. @Frederic

    “WHY did the planters, the elites, pick RACE? Skin color?”

    Because that was the one thing that they DID have in common with working class whites and thus served as the most convenient distraction from the class solidarity that, when fully realized, culminated in working class white folks and working class black folks burning Jamestown, Virginia to the ground.

    “Actually, a huge part of white privilege is that it’s NOT economic.”

    Tell that to the white guy who isn’t stopped at a police checkpoint even though he has no auto-insurance. Tell that to the white guy who is approved for a loan from a bank that rejects applicants of color as a matter of course. Tell that to the white guy who gets a house in an exclusive neighborhood (with excellent public schools) that people of color are not allowed to buy homes in.

    “Now, you can say that those things have value, but by that logic, everything is economic and therefore class-based. The point is that people will privilege their white identity over their class identity time and time again, losing massive amounts of potential wealth and harming their own ECONOMIC self-interest to serve a different self-interest.”

    Everything is economics. Control of resources is power. Distribution of resources is economy. Economy, therefore, is the expression of power and control and, in the most visceral sense, represents the choices made to determine who eats and who starves.

    The problem with racism, for me, is not that there are white folks who don’t like black folks. The problem with racism, for me, is that racists are responsible for the lack of educational opportunities, career opportunities, and opportunities for economic self-sufficiency which has always been the aspiration of people of color in the western world and which has always remained just out of reach for them because of the concerted efforts of bigots and racists who deny these people’s humanity and their RIGHT to these things.

    “The point is that people will privilege their white identity over their class identity time and time again…”

    Not if you accept that “whiteness” constitutes Capital which would make ALL white people “bourgoise.” I know Pan-Africanists who believe exactly that, actually, and cite this circumstance as the reason that white leftists make poor comrades in any true working class Black Liberation movement.

    While I do not subscribe to that view, I still am wary of taking my eyes off the ball (power/wealth.control of resources) to fixate on race. Still, I am a person of color and thus the focus on race never had to be taught to me; understanding racism as part of a larger dynamic of oppression was always a given.

    @Tim

    Word. I will read the Charles Mills book.

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  12. “Because that was the one thing that they DID have in common with working class whites and thus served as the most convenient distraction from the class solidarity that, when fully realized, culminated in working class white folks and working class black folks burning Jamestown, Virginia to the ground.”

    Was it? They could have chosen national origin in most cases. That would have kept out the Italians, Germans, etc. But they didn’t.

    They could have chosen a colonist identity and constructed that as distinct from slaves who weren’t proper colonists.

    Fact is, racist mythology existed in European society before it got focused in the way it did. The myth of Ham, for example. We see these racist memes in Othello.

    The planters didn’t make something out of whole cloth, they enhanced existing memes and warped them to their interest.

    “Tell that to the white guy who isn’t stopped at a police checkpoint even though he has no auto-insurance. Tell that to the white guy who is approved for a loan from a bank that rejects applicants of color as a matter of course. Tell that to the white guy who gets a house in an exclusive neighborhood (with excellent public schools) that people of color are not allowed to buy homes in. ”

    Yes, economic factors are quite clearly there. But it’s not just economic factors, and those white folks are often giving up FAR more economically than they’d get from racism. Indeed, that’s sort of the point. If we had an equitable society, the poor wouldn’t be malnourished.

    “Everything is economics. Control of resources is power. Distribution of resources is economy. Economy, therefore, is the expression of power and control and, in the most visceral sense, represents the choices made to determine who eats and who starves. ”

    Everything is culture and therefore race. Everything is a cultural institution. We all learn behavior patterns and learn to justify or defend them. That’s culture.

    Everything is kinship, family and gender. The way that we are raised and taught, the homes we come to, the way we are socialized…

    Everything is politics. All social decisions involve political debate and discussion. We all have to compromise and interact.

    I can make a 100% compelling argument for placing race and culture, kinship and gender, polity and state, and economy as being the “substructure” and everything else superstructure. Facile theorists in all of those respective fields try that to expand the importance of their little field. Serious people recognize that these are different aspects of society that overlap.

    “The problem with racism, for me, is not that there are white folks who don’t like black folks. The problem with racism, for me, is that racists are responsible for the lack of educational opportunities, career opportunities, and opportunities for economic self-sufficiency which has always been the aspiration of people of color in the western world and which has always remained just out of reach for them because of the concerted efforts of bigots and racists who deny these people’s humanity and their RIGHT to these things.”

    But that’s not all of it either.

    Oh yeah, the economic stuff is huge and terrible. And POCs hate it.

    But so’s the sense of entitlement that whites have and they don’t. The constant assaults to their self-esteem, that contributes to differential health outcomes for whites and black. It’s the sense of belonging, the idea that whites are the real citizens and everyone else renters.

    When I interact with people of color, the economic stuff is always front and center, but so’s the psychological things, the cultural things. That’s what distinguishes an authentic analysis of race and racism from an economistic one that is looking for a pre-programmed Marxist answer. You disagree, but I wouldn’t say that that’s a normal black answer to the question.

    Read Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege. It’s a LONG list, and the majority of things on it are NOT primarily economic. Nor do they have to do with overt prejudice and bigotry.

    “Not if you accept that “whiteness” constitutes Capital which would make ALL white people “bourgoise.” I know Pan-Africanists who believe exactly that, actually, and cite this circumstance as the reason that white leftists make poor comrades in any true working class Black Liberation movement.

    While I do not subscribe to that view, I still am wary of taking my eyes off the ball (power/wealth.control of resources) to fixate on race. Still, I am a person of color and thus the focus on race never had to be taught to me; understanding racism as part of a larger dynamic of oppression was always a given.”

    It’s a stupid view, precisely because it makes us think that we just need to educate them on their real self-interest, and that’s not the way it works at all.

    No one is saying taking the ball off of wealth, power or control of resources, though notice that ALL OF THOSE THREE ARE DIFFERENT THINGS. Inequality is not necessarily control of resources which is in turn not necessarily power. Already, you have subsumed under an economic analysis a power-based analysis which anarchists would immediately remind you ignores the central and independent role of the state and other sources of power. So I think you’ve already demonstrated a reductionist agenda.

    What people are saying is that all of these social forces, race, gender, polity and capital, need to be dealt with simultaneously. They’re all one overarching gestalt of oppression. Keeping our eye on “the ball” is playing into the shellgame. Any one of those institutions could be conquered without the rest going away, so if we commit to just dealing with one, we guarantee that the others will stick around. And every one of those institutions buttress the others. So if we don’t deal with sexism and homophobia and patriarchal masculinity, we’re going to find it nearly impossible to get a foothold when dealing with militarism. If we don’t deal with race per se, we won’t be able to conquer opposition to welfare programs. If we don’t deal with imperialism, we can’t fight racism. And so on.

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  13. I Believe that although these people may have had racially motivated thoughts then don’t have to sell to a black family if they don’t want to.

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  14. “Was it? They could have chosen national origin in most cases. That would have kept out the Italians, Germans, etc. But they didn’t.”

    I was speaking specifically of Jamestown which, as you probably know, was an English colony . This is to say that aside from indentured, and later enslaved, Africans there were no non-Anglo inhabitants so discrimination by national origin was already the default condition. As it is, laws were eventually enacted to stem the flow of Southern European immigrants to the US later. You mention Italians which is curious because Italians, when they first arrived in the US in large numbers, were initially classified as “non-white” and the last Italian lynched in the South was killed in the 1940′s.

    “Fact is, racist mythology existed in European society before it got focused in the way it did. The myth of Ham, for example. We see these racist memes in Othello.”

    No, the myth of “National Identity” and “National Character” existed in European society before it got focused in the way it did. And while those two concepts are related to the concept of race (and were in fact precursors to it), the notion that racism is anything but a modern phenomena and a product of colonial conquests is just wrong-minded. Indeed, it is racist mythology that “people have always been racist and prejudice is just natural.”

    Europeans lived next door to Africans who were technologically superior to them and culturally more sophisticated than them for thousands of years. The notion that phenotype reflected essential characteristics and that whiteness represented superiority and non-whiteness inferiority can be traced, genealogically to the 15th-16th centuries. Your example of Othello (which was written by Shakespeare in 1603, but based on a story from the mid-1500′s) only proves my point. De Civitatae Dei was the defining theological text of medieval Christianity, when Christianity was the only intellectual game in town on pain of death; St Augustine of Hippo, the author, was a Roman citizen and an African. The only reason that you know who Plato is at all is because during the Middle Ages, the western “Classics” were being discussed by Africans, in Arabic, in Spain and eventually, Christians were able to translate Greek philosophy BACK into Greek and Latin from Arabic…you’re telling me about Othello but you seem to overlook the fact that Othello was the guy in charge.

    “I can make a 100% compelling argument for placing race and culture, kinship and gender, polity and state, and economy as being the “substructure” and everything else superstructure.”

    Perhaps, but that isn’t the point.

    The issue, whether you choose to fixate on race, culture or whatever, is the distribution of power. Distribution of power is political economy, that is, “who eats and who starves.”

    “When I interact with people of color, the economic stuff is always front and center, but so’s the psychological things, the cultural things. That’s what distinguishes an authentic analysis of race and racism from an economistic one that is looking for a pre-programmed Marxist answer. You disagree, but I wouldn’t say that that’s a normal black answer to the question.”

    I am not sure what psychological stuff or cultural stuff you are referring to. I also am not sure what you mean by a “normal black answer” to the question either. Maybe you should clarify.

    “But so’s the sense of entitlement that whites have and they don’t. The constant assaults to their self-esteem, that contributes to differential health outcomes for whites and black. It’s the sense of belonging, the idea that whites are the real citizens and everyone else renters.”

    I am not aware of any constant assaults to my self esteem that you seem to believe is a mainstay of the experience of people of color. Regarding a sense of belonging, all I can say is that I am a Louisiana Creole who, for now, lives in New Orleans. My family has been here since before the end of the last Ice Age and, to be sure, I belong here; this is my land. The truth is that I view “Americans”, in general, as the interlopers here and that sentiment has not been, historically, an uncommon one amongst Creoles and other “Native Americans,” like myself. Your view of the opinions and perspectives of people of color seems to be pretty monolithic and simplistic…perhaps I should apologize for not offering you “normal black answers” to these questions?

    “Inequality is not necessarily control of resources which is in turn not necessarily power. Already, you have subsumed under an economic analysis a power-based analysis which anarchists would immediately remind you ignores the central and independent role of the state and other sources of power.”

    I disagree with you and I am content to disagree with you.

    The only inequality that matters is control of resources. Like I said, I don’t care if white people think they are super-special and awesome. I also don’t care if they don’t like people who aren’t white. What matters to me is whether or not they have the power (i.e. resources) to oppress me because if we are all economically and politically equal (i.e. if they have no more means to oppress me than I do them), then they can hate me for as long as a summer day in Alaska. In most cases that I can think of–with specific regards to racist, white, haters– I can pretty much guarantee that the antipathetic sentiment is 100% mutual and reciprocal.

    Your referencing what “anarchists” would say to my basic arguments is a little funny to me considering that there is no unified “anarchist” ideology and I like my politics black and red, if that means anything to you. In any event, the coercive apparatus of the state is a bourgoise construct. With a democratization of capital and resources, the state becomes redundant. You can call that reductionist if you like, but as with most labels “reductionist” is just an imposition and a projection. We are both talking abut the same thing: power relationships. I am not suggesting that class is more important than race in an absolute sense, I am saying that in terms of addressing the actual, material, grievances of people (i.e. access to food, shelter, clothing, education, health care etc) the only thing that matters to the have-nots is that they have not and before you expect them to abandon their dependence on essentialist paradigms, you had better damn well be able to deliver them access to food, shelter, clothing, education, health care etc because money talks and no one ever fed themselves with “good will toward men.”

    To clarify though: I am not saying that race, or gender or sexual orientation or whatever are unimportant. I am saying that the origins of all oppression are found in political economy and thus, class solidarity (i.e. a solidarity of the oppressed class) is the most effective means to combat it. Understanding racism and sexism and homophobia is necessary to achieving that solidarity, yes; but in one fundamental way there is no such thing as solidarity between the oppressor class and the oppressed class and, by definition, the oppressor class is that class with the resources to institutionalize discrimination against the oppressed.

    Race (“caste”) in the US does obscure the picture of class. The orthodox Marxist analysis, again, would say that the “Property of Whiteness” skewes class identity by allowing all white people an inherent property in their whiteness. This definition of whiteness as property has its origins in US law (see: Plessy). To the end of diminishing the impact of race, a mammoth task in a culture and society predicated on White Supremacy for so long, engaging an anti-racist agenda promotes class solidarity but, in and of itself, is only a means to that end.

    “What people are saying is that all of these social forces, race, gender, polity and capital, need to be dealt with simultaneously. They’re all one overarching gestalt of oppression.”

    Acknowledging and confronting evil is an obligation of every virtuous person. That said, waging a war on all fronts all the time will never get you anywhere…which is one reason the bourgoise left in the US has been in full retreat, ideologically, for the last 40 years and why Mr. Hopey-Change in the Oval Office who is being condemned as a “liberal” and a “socialist” is actually a far-right wing looney-tune when compared to such legendary bad guys as Nixon. But, that’s just my own observation.

    “Keeping our eye on “the ball” is playing into the shellgame.”

    Pretending like my interests, as a working class person, somehow coincides with the interests of wealthy people who derive privilege and power from the present system of class stratification is delusional and counter-productive. Call it what you like, but the impulse to group hug and pretend like morality somehow trumps class and that “wealthy people of conscience” make worthwhile political allies is exactly why the working class left in the US has failed. It is exactly why organized labor in the US is the co-opted, pseudo-corporate sham that it is. It is the reason that “socialist” Obama’s Treasury Department was recruited directly from Manhattan’s financial district.

    “Any one of those institutions could be conquered without the rest going away, so if we commit to just dealing with one, we guarantee that the others will stick around.”

    Your faith that any of these institutions could be “conquered” makes me think you were raised as a religious person. I don’t buy into messianism (including the Marxist messianic faith in the revolutionary potential of the working class). I am a fatalist; I fight oppression because it is offensive to me, not because I expect to eventually emerge victorious. On the contrary, I expect that the forces of oppression WILL win in the end, because they have proven to be more willing to engage, amoral subjugation and even slaughter to maintain their power and privilege which is something the “moral left” cannot abide. That doesn’t mean that I am content to waste my effort though and if I am going to point my finger at a villain, it will be the wealthy villain.

    “And every one of those institutions buttress the others. So if we don’t deal with sexism and homophobia and patriarchal masculinity, we’re going to find it nearly impossible to get a foothold when dealing with militarism. If we don’t deal with race per se, we won’t be able to conquer opposition to welfare programs. If we don’t deal with imperialism, we can’t fight racism. And so on”

    More liberal biting off-more-than-you-can-chew, here.

    Understanding the nature of the problem is fine. Taking action to change the dynamics is what is important though and no action, aside from mass action, matters at all. Mass action requires the solidarity of “enlightened” folk like you, and “un-enlightened” folk who look at most of your ideas with a lot of skepticism. To paraphrase a fat, old, Jewish, commie: “you spend a lot of time deconstructing and analyzing your circumstances in an attempt to understand the world; but the point is to change it” and “dealing” with sexism, homophobia, masculinity, race and imperialism doesn’t seem to leave a whole lot of time for actually challenging people whose reason for being is to exploit others…maybe that’s why the left-wing in the US has not been able to secure universal rights to education, housing, health care etc. the way LABOR PARTIES have all throughout the rest of the developed world.

    Maybe, left-wing types in the US just get too bogged down in “race, gender and sexuality” to ever focus their attention enough on the bare bones, which I see as the fact that a few people have access to excellent education, health care, housing and recreation and that the rest of the vast majority are utterly and hopelessly screwed. But, hey, that’s just me and if I didn’t feel that way, I probably wouldn’t identify myself as a socialist.

    Again, we don’t have to agree.

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  15. Brian: Who cares? Of course they don’t have to sell if they don’t want to, but when we find out that the reason is racism, we can and should call them out on it.

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  16. Tim, you’ve got two examples, and you title your post “often”? Okay.

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    Tim Reply:

    actually will, there are plenty of examples in history of this: the white labor movement historically did the same thing, for instance, in example after example…if you really need a full explication, I’ll be happy to give you books you can read on the subject.

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    Darryl Reply:

    Unfortunately, the white labor movement in the US is itself one big example of this…

    I rage because people reject class solidarity, but what Tim has hit right on the head is that the biggest reason that the American working class never engaged one another in solidarity is because for the vast majority of the last 100 years, the labor movement was just as segregated as the rest of the country and having a “segregated” labor UNION sort of defeats the purpose.

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    Frederic Christie Reply:

    I agree wholly. (And I don’t think anyone here rejects class solidarity: I embrace it wholeheartedly.) I don’t know if I’d say that’s the BIGGEST reason, though I’d put it in the top five, and certainly studies indicate that a large portion of the difference in policy between Europe and America is due to racial hatred. Another big part has to be that the working class was by definition half women (even if not working themselves, they’d be married to someone in the working class and thus part of a working class household). So being able to coordinate on gender lines would also be important, and white left and working class movements have traditionally been pretty bad on this front. And I’d personally argue that the labor movement still is fairly segregated, though obviously not by institutional decision anymore.

  17. “I was speaking specifically of Jamestown which, as you probably know, was an English colony . This is to say that aside from indentured, and later enslaved, Africans there were no non-Anglo inhabitants so discrimination by national origin was already the default condition. As it is, laws were eventually enacted to stem the flow of Southern European immigrants to the US later. You mention Italians which is curious because Italians, when they first arrived in the US in large numbers, were initially classified as “non-white” and the last Italian lynched in the South was killed in the 1940′s.”

    I know. I was also referring to the pre-colonial period. But Italians, Irish, etc. eventually DID assimilate. So the racial norm could have been made so obviously exclusive of Italians, Irish, etc. that it would have ever prevented them from assimilating. Just like Asians have never assimilated here fully but Japanese in South Africa were “honorary whites”.

    My point is that these racial memes and concepts had pre-existing strength and purchase. The elites that had a use for racism couldn’t make just anything up. In fact, I bet that those planters would have been appalled to learn that the racial norm they had pulled to their ends would eventually allow the Irish and the Italians to assimilate!

    Why does this matter? Because an economistic explanation would assume that they could just make up whatever they wanted, and that’s absurd.

    “Perhaps, but that isn’t the point.

    The issue, whether you choose to fixate on race, culture or whatever, is the distribution of power. Distribution of power is political economy, that is, “who eats and who starves.””

    I agree, assuming that “power” has a sufficiently broad definition. Power is more than stuff. It’s access, it’s the ability to create and change norms, it’s respect, it’s how labor is distributed, etc. etc.

    “No, the myth of “National Identity” and “National Character” existed in European society before it got focused in the way it did. And while those two concepts are related to the concept of race (and were in fact precursors to it), the notion that racism is anything but a modern phenomena and a product of colonial conquests is just wrong-minded. Indeed, it is racist mythology that “people have always been racist and prejudice is just natural.””

    You don’t rebut my examples. The myths of Ham, the treatment of Othello… look anywhere in pre-capitalist Europe and you see plenty of racist ideas. The construction of blacks was DIFFERENT from other non-Europeans. And of course the idea of nationality is ALSO a new, Renaissance-era invention: Remember that Machiavelli had to defend the idea of a unified Italy. I’d say monarchic power and the chain of nobility and being eclipsed nationalism since the nations were so fluid at this point.

    Further, the idea that historically, people haven’t noticed race, or ethnicity, or tribal affiliation, is insane. Yes, our construction, our taxonomy, of race is new. Nor do I think racism or tribalism or ethno-centrism is necessary to humanity any more than tyranny is. But racism, or something similar to it, is NOT new.

    “Europeans lived next door to Africans who were technologically superior to them and culturally more sophisticated than them for thousands of years. The notion that phenotype reflected essential characteristics and that whiteness represented superiority and non-whiteness inferiority can be traced, genealogically to the 15th-16th centuries. Your example of Othello (which was written by Shakespeare in 1603, but based on a story from the mid-1500′s) only proves my point. De Civitatae Dei was the defining theological text of medieval Christianity, when Christianity was the only intellectual game in town on pain of death; St Augustine of Hippo, the author, was a Roman citizen and an African. The only reason that you know who Plato is at all is because during the Middle Ages, the western “Classics” were being discussed by Africans, in Arabic, in Spain and eventually, Christians were able to translate Greek philosophy BACK into Greek and Latin from Arabic…you’re telling me about Othello but you seem to overlook the fact that Othello was the guy in charge.”

    No, Othello is HIRED, with much suspicion. Iago says numerous racist things about Othello, including disgust at Othello and his wife’s sexual life that would be completely at home in the mouth of the modern racist. And the idea that the Moor was intrinsically violent and savage is ultimately reinforced by the play’s ending. You make some good points, but ultimately it is impossible to read Othello or the Merchant of Venice or many other elements of Renaissance writing and not see ethnic, racial and national prejudice and stereotypes.

    “To clarify though: I am not saying that race, or gender or sexual orientation or whatever are unimportant. I am saying that the origins of all oppression are found in political economy and thus, class solidarity (i.e. a solidarity of the oppressed class) is the most effective means to combat it. Understanding racism and sexism and homophobia is necessary to achieving that solidarity, yes; but in one fundamental way there is no such thing as solidarity between the oppressor class and the oppressed class and, by definition, the oppressor class is that class with the resources to institutionalize discrimination against the oppressed.”

    And I’m saying that even this much more charitable impression of the matter is still a CHOICE, and an unnecessary one.

    Whether solidarity between oppressed and oppressor is possible is an interesting topic for another day, but my point is that, while in class terms poor gays are in solidarity with poor straights, in gender terms they are emphatically NOT, and in fact are in solidarity with rich gays. And that’s true even if GLBT minorities and straight people have the same access to employment and wealth.

    In short, I think your argument is only tenable if your definition for “political economy” is so vague as to misleading.

    “Your referencing what “anarchists” would say to my basic arguments is a little funny to me considering that there is no unified “anarchist” ideology and I like my politics black and red, if that means anything to you. In any event, the coercive apparatus of the state is a bourgoise construct.”

    No, it’s not. Tyrants and emperors existed before the bourgeoisie were even a dream.

    Yes, the MODERN nation-state is generally an invention of economic elites. But anarchists don’t just oppose the modern nation-state. They oppose all political coercion: Feudalism, empire, tyranny, dictatorship, etc.

    My point is that an anarchist like myself would rightly immediately want to separate your conflation of economy and state, because even if the state is a CREATION of the bourgeoisie, it is NOT one and the same. The modern state sometimes harms some sectors of the rich to protect the others, and on other occasions is forced to mobilize resources for the POOR and harm the rich.

    So already you’re trying to slip in political power and oppression in the economic door when it’s not at all clear that they’re the same. Then you bring in race and ethnicity, which is even further from being the same.

    With a democratization of capital and resources, the state becomes redundant. You can call that reductionist if you like, but as with most labels “reductionist” is just an imposition and a projection. We are both talking abut the same thing: power relationships. I am not suggesting that class is more important than race in an absolute sense, I am saying that in terms of addressing the actual, material, grievances of people (i.e. access to food, shelter, clothing, education, health care etc) the only thing that matters to the have-nots is that they have not and before you expect them to abandon their dependence on essentialist paradigms, you had better damn well be able to deliver them access to food, shelter, clothing, education, health care etc because money talks and no one ever fed themselves with “good will toward men.””

    “Acknowledging and confronting evil is an obligation of every virtuous person. That said, waging a war on all fronts all the time will never get you anywhere…which is one reason the bourgoise left in the US has been in full retreat, ideologically, for the last 40 years and why Mr. Hopey-Change in the Oval Office who is being condemned as a “liberal” and a “socialist” is actually a far-right wing looney-tune when compared to such legendary bad guys as Nixon. But, that’s just my own observation. ”

    Well, given that the Left in the United States actually overwhelmingly had YOUR concepts for a very long time, I think that’s a bizarre point to make.

    But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The fact is that GLBT minorities, and women, and racial/ethnic minorities, are going to mobilize to defend themselves. So people interested in economic and political justice can either attune themselves to those interests too and fight in solidarity, or they can say that those other interests are unimportant and be left in the dustbin of the history.

    I think the history of the Left overwhelmingly demonstrates that, unless we specifically acknowledge and counter all of the oppression the society has to offer, that movements can’t mobilize and coordinate because those dynamics play out in the movements again. It happened with the anti-Vietnam movement, it happened with the abolitionists, etc.

    “I am not sure what psychological stuff or cultural stuff you are referring to. I also am not sure what you mean by a “normal black answer” to the question either. Maybe you should clarify.”

    Read Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege. Most of her entries are things like the privilege of automatically belonging, the privilege of defining the norm of beauty and the median of normalcy in general, the privilege of not being assumed to be criminal or inferior in some way, the ability to be an individual rather than an exemplar of one’s race, etc. etc. Look at the complaints of the black woman who called Dr. Laura. She had nothing to say about economics and everything to say about how her race was causing her to be treated.

    It seems to me that your desire to view everything as fundamentally related to political economy is blinding you from fundamental ways that oppression operates.

    “Your faith that any of these institutions could be “conquered” makes me think you were raised as a religious person. I don’t buy into messianism (including the Marxist messianic faith in the revolutionary potential of the working class). I am a fatalist; I fight oppression because it is offensive to me, not because I expect to eventually emerge victorious. On the contrary, I expect that the forces of oppression WILL win in the end, because they have proven to be more willing to engage, amoral subjugation and even slaughter to maintain their power and privilege which is something the “moral left” cannot abide. That doesn’t mean that I am content to waste my effort though and if I am going to point my finger at a villain, it will be the wealthy villain.”

    So because you don’t expect to win, you should fight to LOSE?

    I happen to believe that victory against injustice is possible, but that’s neither here nor there. If you think the chance of victory is higher than 0%, and therefore it is worth any of your time to fight rather than just getting high and waiting for the world to end, then you must fight more accurately. And picking tactics that are guaranteed to fail is a waste of everyone’s time.

    As far as messianism: No, my parents were in a Gurdjeffian tradition and I’m Buddhist. I wasn’t raised religiously at all.

    “More liberal biting off-more-than-you-can-chew, here.

    Understanding the nature of the problem is fine. Taking action to change the dynamics is what is important though and no action, aside from mass action, matters at all. Mass action requires the solidarity of “enlightened” folk like you, and “un-enlightened” folk who look at most of your ideas with a lot of skepticism. To paraphrase a fat, old, Jewish, commie: “you spend a lot of time deconstructing and analyzing your circumstances in an attempt to understand the world; but the point is to change it” and “dealing” with sexism, homophobia, masculinity, race and imperialism doesn’t seem to leave a whole lot of time for actually challenging people whose reason for being is to exploit others…maybe that’s why the left-wing in the US has not been able to secure universal rights to education, housing, health care etc. the way LABOR PARTIES have all throughout the rest of the developed world.”

    But the same is also true. “Dealing” with challenging people whose reason for being is to exploit others doesn’t leave you a lot of time to deal with sexism, homophobia, masculinity, race and imperialism. No matter what, you have to turn to someone and say, “I can’t possibly have the time to deal with your particular issue”.

    That is WHY we have a movement. That way, we can focus on issues that we have the skills or interest to deal with while others deal with issues we know are important but that we don’t have the skills, time or interest to really engage with.

    In fact, my #1 priority is the same as yours: Political economy issues (war, imperialism, economic exploitation, anti-corporatism, ecology). I’d probably put gender issues at #2, race and white privilege #3, GLBT issues #4, etc.

    And all of those people dealing with economic exploitation have to then turn to people in their OWN NEIGHBORHOODS and explain why they’re not doing anything about segregation or discrimination in their own living spaces.

    “Maybe, left-wing types in the US just get too bogged down in “race, gender and sexuality” to ever focus their attention enough on the bare bones, which I see as the fact that a few people have access to excellent education, health care, housing and recreation and that the rest of the vast majority are utterly and hopelessly screwed. But, hey, that’s just me and if I didn’t feel that way, I probably wouldn’t identify myself as a socialist.”

    Well, gee, maybe part of that is because WE CAN ACTUALLY GET WINS IN THOSE AREAS?

    We haven’t won substantial, revolutionary changes in the economy to rival the feminist movement’s or the civil rights movement’s. So maybe leftists constantly bitching about evil corporations and the exploitation of the bourgoisie fall on deaf ears because to identify as the poor means to identify as a loser.

    Social justice is often rather like the drunk looking under the light for his keys which he lost on the other side of the street. We’ve opened up doors in these areas, and so we can get a lot further by continuing to push from where we’ve already gotten some slack rather than starting anew.

    The solution to that? Well, maybe we can build outwards from THOSE successes and transmute that into a coalition that can win economic change. But demanding that everyone else get on board and abandon where they’ve already gotten things set up is not only sectarian and terrible behavior for an ally, but likely to get a staunch “Fuck you” from everyone else.

    At the least, we have to KNOW about these issues and be ready to counter them in our movement. Otherwise, no matter what our movement focuses on, it’ll be riddled internally with the problems of the outside society. And black folks, women, GLBT, etc. have consistently been pretty loathe to sign up to again do the crap work while white folks again sit on top, all to screw themselves (since their relative position, and maybe even their absolute position, won’t improve one iota). So even a purely economically focused movement has to be ready to answer questions about race, gender, sexual identity, etc. and be able to have some pretty compelling answers. Your orientation prevents them as a matter of logic.

    [Reply]

    Darryl Reply:

    “Italians, Irish, etc. eventually DID assimilate. So the racial norm could have been made so obviously exclusive of Italians, Irish, etc. that it would have ever prevented them from assimilating. Just like Asians have never assimilated here fully but Japanese in South Africa were “honorary whites”.”

    Italians, Irish etc eventually assimilated because they were allowed to participate in the economy because of a need for labor and an inability of elites to simply ignore the rising elites within these immigrant groups.

    The Japanese in S.A. were considered “honorary whites” because they showed up in South Africa with money to invest.

    You say: “The elites that had a use for racism couldn’t make just anything up.”

    But I don’t agree with you. By definition, they were the ones with the power to make up anything they wanted to. Why couldn’t they make just anything up? It seems to me that that is exactly what they did…anytime pale skinned, red-haired Irishmen are being classified as “non-white” I think that’s a pretty fair indication that consistency has never been a priority for people with a mind to oppress.

    “Further, the idea that historically, people haven’t noticed race, or ethnicity, or tribal affiliation, is insane. Yes, our construction, our taxonomy, of race is new. Nor do I think racism or tribalism or ethno-centrism is necessary to humanity any more than tyranny is. But racism, or something similar to it, is NOT new.”

    The fact that you conflate race, ethnicity and tribal affiliation is insane. Yes, our construction, our taxonomy of race is new and because when we say “race” we are engaging that modern manifestation, it is not useful to assume that all of these concepts which are NOT the same thing, are the same thing.

    “No, Othello is HIRED, with much suspicion.”

    He is still in charge. Iago is still his subordinate.

    “Iago says numerous racist things about Othello, including disgust at Othello and his wife’s sexual life that would be completely at home in the mouth of the modern racist.”

    Iago is also the most outwardly evil and malevolent character in all of Shakespeare’s work. I do not think that it is fair to use opinions voiced by a representation of evil to suggest that racist attitudes were common in Elizabethan England.

    “And the idea that the Moor was intrinsically violent and savage is ultimately reinforced by the play’s ending.”

    Only if you are starting from a position whereby the Moors are understood to be violent and savage. Again, in the 1500′s the Moors were seen as technologically advanced and sophisticated when compared to Europeans. You are taking your own modern attitudes and superimposing them onto an historical context that you have no common frame of reference with.

    “You make some good points, but ultimately it is impossible to read Othello or the Merchant of Venice or many other elements of Renaissance writing and not see ethnic, racial and national prejudice and stereotypes.”

    Again, you are conflating ethnicity, national identity and race and these are not all the same thing.

    “Whether solidarity between oppressed and oppressor is possible is an interesting topic for another day…”

    Not really. If you believe that lions and lambs can lie together peacefully, then you are just deluded.

    “…but my point is that, while in class terms poor gays are in solidarity with poor straights, in gender terms they are emphatically NOT, and in fact are in solidarity with rich gays. And that’s true even if GLBT minorities and straight people have the same access to employment and wealth.”

    And I am telling you that I disagree with you. Poor gays have sexuality in common with rich gays but poor gays and poor straights have EVERYTHING ELSE in common, including marginalization from the economy and the political dialogue and process.

    What exactly does “in gender terms” mean anyway? And perhaps you can explain how in these “gender terms” that you imagine, homosexuals and heterosexuals are somehow precluded from enjoining one another in solidarity?

    I think that gay people should be able to get married if they choose, I think they should be able to have kids if they choose, I think people that want to discriminate against gay people because they are gay deserve censure, chastisement, ridicule and maybe even a little verbal abuse. If said would-be discriminators choose to engage violence against gay people, categorically, I think that people of conscience have an obligation to meet those scumbags in the streets and to give them reasons to think twice about their philosophy because anyone who is likely to hate on someone because they are gay is almost certainly as likely to hate on people of color (like me), working class people (like me), non-religious people (like me) and taking a stand for queers is taking a stand for myself because a blow against one is a blow against all and gay people, particularly working class gay people, are oppressed…just like me.

    I am not gay; I am married and I have three kids. Please, explain to me how the fact that I am not gay precludes me from standing in solidarity with gay people? While you are at it, please explain what you believe solidarity is, because the statements of belief in the previous paragraph qualifies as “solidarity” where I am from.

    “‘In any event, the coercive apparatus of the state is a bourgoise construct.’

    No, it’s not. Tyrants and emperors existed before the bourgeoisie were even a dream.

    Yes, the MODERN nation-state is generally an invention of economic elites.”

    Not generally, specifically. And again, there is no point in talking about “the state” in a non-modern context since “the state” as we understand it is a recent development with no direct equivalent in times past.

    Tyrants and emperors prior to the 15th century did not require the sort of highly centralized government, propped up by a large standing army and a centralized, and tightly controlled, economy that was based primarily on coercion and extortion, that is what the modern state is. that is what I meant by the “coercive apparatus of the state.” You eventually get that…sort of, I think.

    “But anarchists don’t just oppose the modern nation-state. They oppose all political coercion: Feudalism, empire, tyranny, dictatorship, etc.”

    I think you use the term “anarchist” too loosely and you obviously didn’t get my reference to “Red and Black” politics. Being an “anarchist” isn’t about opposing coercion. Being an “anarchist” is a statement of commitment to egalitarian principles and a rejection of hierarchical stratification. There are certainly “anarchists” who were not above a little coercing in Spain during the Civil War, now weren’t they? Indeed, any Revolutionary accepts that there will be those who will fight to maintain systems of privilege and domination and what makes you a Revolutionary to begin with is you willingness to fight for you beliefs and to IMPOSE YOUR WILL ON THOSE WITH WHOM YOU FIND YOURSELF IN CONFLICT WITH. Otherwise, you are not a Revolutionary at all, and if you are not a Revolutionary, then you have no business calling yourself an “anarchist.”

    Your generalizations make it hard to take some of what you are saying seriously. But, for expediency, just know that I describe myself as a “libertarian socialist/Anarcho-syndicalist” and I am well familiar with Goldman, Bakhunin and Kropotkin.

    “My point is that an anarchist like myself would rightly immediately want to separate your conflation of economy and state, because even if the state is a CREATION of the bourgeoisie, it is NOT one and the same.”

    The state is an artificial construct. It is a tool that can only be properly used by those with political power. The basis for political power in our society is wealth and thus, the state is a tool of the bourgoise. With a democratization of capital–effectively eliminating the dynamics of class stratification–the state is rendered unnecessary.

    “The modern state sometimes harms some sectors of the rich to protect the others, and on other occasions is forced to mobilize resources for the POOR and harm the rich.”

    I would be interested in hearing any examples that you might have of the state harming the wealthy. Taxation is not a legitimate example as even the liberal bourgoise can acknowledge that paying taxes for social services for the poor is in the interest of the wealthy (taxes and social services help to stave off revolutions).

    “So already you’re trying to slip in political power and oppression in the economic door when it’s not at all clear that they’re the same. Then you bring in race and ethnicity, which is even further from being the same.”

    The phrase “slipping political power and oppression in the economic door” doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t think I ever said that “political power” and “oppression” were the same thing.

    I also think I have been very clear that race and ethnicity is not the same thing. If anything, it seems that you were trying to conflate these things in your earlier comments.

    “Well, given that the Left in the United States actually overwhelmingly had YOUR concepts for a very long time…”

    People who worked with “my concepts” were slaughtered indiscriminately by people who realized that their beliefs represented a true alternative to the system of wage-slavery and capitalist exploitation. The Haymarket Massacre which inspired International Labor Day (May 1) was the way the US government normally dealt with people who held “my concepts: Unionization and general strikes have been the only things that have ever brought the US government to the brink of collapse such that the army had to be mobilized to repress the uprising of working people. Neither the Civil Rights movement, the Gay Rights movement or the Feminist movement has ever inspired such harsh reprisal from the state. Why? Because none of those “niche” political issues threatens the foundation of bourgoise power: the authoritarian control of capital.

    “But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The fact is that GLBT minorities, and women, and racial/ethnic minorities, are going to mobilize to defend themselves. So people interested in economic and political justice can either attune themselves to those interests too and fight in solidarity, or they can say that those other interests are unimportant and be left in the dustbin of the history.”

    I have said before that these issues are very useful for achieving solidarity and that is how I perceive the utility of race/gender/sexual orientation politics: they are a means to an end…for me, anyway.

    “I think the history of the Left overwhelmingly demonstrates that, unless we specifically acknowledge and counter all of the oppression the society has to offer, that movements can’t mobilize and coordinate because those dynamics play out in the movements again. It happened with the anti-Vietnam movement, it happened with the abolitionists, etc.”

    “Those dynamics playing out in the movement” is a fair criticism. This is why I suggest that these attendant issues of race, gender etc are useful for the creation of solidarity. However, a general strike in New Orleans in 1892 which defeated attempts by management to divide workers along racial lines succeeded in bringing the Capitalists to their knees even though the leaders of the all-white Screwman’s Union who led the strike were racists to the core. They were racists, but they were able to get past their racism briefly in the hope of improving their condition. The collective struggle of these workers, I would argue, is part of what facilitated the less oppressive racial dynamics of New Orleans, particularly in the organized labor movement there.

    “Read Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege…”

    I don’t need to read a book on White Privilege to understand what it is and how it plays itself out. However, when you describe “the privilege of automatically belonging, the privilege of defining the norm of beauty and the median of normalcy in general, the privilege of not being assumed to be criminal or inferior in some way, the ability to be an individual rather than an exemplar of one’s race, etc. etc.” I think you are assuming a lot if you believe that her experience is somehow universal.

    I think it is telling that you do not seem to understand that people of color have always created their own spaces, temporary autonomous zones, wherein none of the things you describe above apply. The did it on the plantations, on the reservations, and in their neighborhoods. I always find it amusing when white people presume to tell me what’s what regarding the experiences of people of color. You talk about privilege and arrogance?

    “It seems to me that your desire to view everything as fundamentally related to political economy is blinding you from fundamental ways that oppression operates.”

    It is not a “desire” and I am not blind to the ways that oppression operates. Again, you presume an awful lot for a person who, I am guessing, has no idea what REAL oppression feels like. I mean, maybe I am just talking trash but it seems to me that I know a little bit about oppression given that one group of my ancestors were victims of American genocide, another group of my ancestors were victims of American cultural genocide (my dad was FORCED to speak English when he went to school but it wasn’t his first language) and my people, today, suffer at the hands of racist, authoritarian cops in the most corrupt city with the most corrupt police force in the US. I have been beaten by cops, have you? I have a cousin who is sitting in prison right now who was thrown into the back of a police car and driven around for 5 hours until he “confessed” to a robbery that occurred at a time when his mother and her neighbor both saw him eating his breakfast in his kitchen…

    So, spare me you patronizing, privileged, liberal, drivel. You have no idea who you are talking to.

    “So because you don’t expect to win, you should fight to LOSE?”

    No, you should fight with integrity…which is why you are not likely to win if you truly engage the fight. If you fight with integrity, then you are dangerous. Dangerous people are dealt with severely and finally in the US. If you are suggesting watering down your politics in order to avoid the inevitable repression, then I would argue that YOU are the one fighting to lose.

    “I happen to believe that victory against injustice is possible, but that’s neither here nor there.”

    It’s not “neither here nor there.” Injustice is integral to the human condition. This is why there will always be a need for arbitration. We are, as a general rule, unjust beings. The notion that you might ever achieve some sort of utopian state free of all discrimination is a proposition along the same lines as the Christian “New Jerusalem” and, thus, a pile of delusional shite, as far as I am concerned.

    “No matter what, you have to turn to someone and say, “I can’t possibly have the time to deal with your particular issue”…That is WHY we have a movement.”

    I was not aware of any popular left wing movement in the US. You say “Well, gee, maybe part of that is because WE CAN ACTUALLY GET WINS IN THOSE AREAS?” but the left in the US has won fuck-all in the last 40 years as far as I can tell. I am not sure what great strides you are identifying in Civil Rights when Obama just green lighted the extension of Extraordinary Rendition and warrantless wire tapping.

    “At the least, we have to KNOW about these issues and be ready to counter them in our movement. Otherwise, no matter what our movement focuses on, it’ll be riddled internally with the problems of the outside society.”

    Again, you and this fantasy movement of yours…All I can say to this is if you think you are going to build a “movement” outside of society, then you are more misguided than I had previously suspected.

    “So even a purely economically focused movement has to be ready to answer questions about race, gender, sexual identity, etc. and be able to have some pretty compelling answers.”

    I said all of this…these issues need to be “dealt with” in order to create a sense of solidarity. But, the only thing that will ever fundamentally change the dynamics of power, by definition, is if the powerless (i.e. the “have nots”) take power from the “powerful” (i.e. the “haves”) and what you are talking about right there is class struggle.

    [Reply]

  18. “Italians, Irish etc eventually assimilated because they were allowed to participate in the economy because of a need for labor and an inability of elites to simply ignore the rising elites within these immigrant groups.

    The Japanese in S.A. were considered “honorary whites” because they showed up in South Africa with money to invest.

    You say: “The elites that had a use for racism couldn’t make just anything up.”

    But I don’t agree with you. By definition, they were the ones with the power to make up anything they wanted to. Why couldn’t they make just anything up? It seems to me that that is exactly what they did…anytime pale skinned, red-haired Irishmen are being classified as “non-white” I think that’s a pretty fair indication that consistency has never been a priority for people with a mind to oppress.”

    And that idea is absurd. It implies that history is guided exclusively by the actions of a tiny group of elites in every society. If that was the case, we couldn’t be having this conversation. We are having this conversation. Your argument is wrong. QED.
    In fact, elites are NOT able in every society, and I would say not able in ANY society, to exclusively set the agenda. True, they are overwhelmingly able to do so. They have default intergenerational power, so one generation can come up with the idea that imperialist war is wrong but that can be forgotten by the next. They have control over media structures. Etc.
    But the elites didn’t like MLK. They monitored him. They didn’t like Bob Marley, they didn’t like Castro, they didn’t like Third World revolutionaries in general. Some of these men they killed or marginalized. Many they didn’t.
    History is not a game where elites of societies, whether religious, economic, political or what not, have unlimited latitude and totally dominate the conversation. Otherwise no social change would have EVER occurred. The first priestly elites would have kept us in the Dark Ages forever. This didn’t happen because societies aren’t monoliths.
    So it seems that this Marxist theoretical limitation you have is so deep in terms of making societies into monolithic, unchanging structures
    Take the example of the Irish. Your response is that they needed work. FIne.
    Why not give it to black folks and make the Irish the hated minority?
    Why couldn’t they get away with that?
    If the elites can redefine the racial taxonomy at will, no time delay, no feedback from the broader society, then they could have chosen any alternative.
    They didn’t. And we know why. The Irish were clearly more white than blacks and Latina/os. They were in the pan-European club. The rich and powerful had to choose a particular story to go with. The story they chose wasn’t accidental. Nor was the way it changed.
    Elites who thought your way, that they were gods of history, were proven drastically wrong when a movement combining nationalistic, ethnocentric and racial appeals overthrew the existing establishment and created a dreadful new order that, while corporatist, also destroyed the economies of the countries it was involved in and was led by ordinary men outside of the traditional artistocratic club. Mussolini. Hitler. These men put the lie to the idea that racism can’t ever undermine the interests of economic elites…

    ““No, Othello is HIRED, with much suspicion.”

    He is still in charge. Iago is still his subordinate.”

    Just like a black manager now can manage many white subordinates, but his bosses are still overwhelmingly white. This argument is completely and totally moot. The fact that we see that Shakespeare happens to think that black folks literally could lead armies, or nations, or whatever, is irrelevant to the racist mythology about HOW he depicts those white people.

    ““Iago says numerous racist things about Othello, including disgust at Othello and his wife’s sexual life that would be completely at home in the mouth of the modern racist.”

    Iago is also the most outwardly evil and malevolent character in all of Shakespeare’s work. I do not think that it is fair to use opinions voiced by a representation of evil to suggest that racist attitudes were common in Elizabethan England.”

    But if they were ALIEN to Elizabethan England, then the people watching would have NO IDEA what Iago was talking about. (Also, I highly doubt that the racism was what made the Elizabethan audiences mad).
    The fact that Shakespeare could write those lines, before anything LIKE your quaint mythology of racism emerging whole cloth out of incredibly creative Southern planters in a COLONY of one country when no one prior had ever had a bad thought about anyone outside of their borders, proves that your argument is simplistic. It’s not wrong. It’s just not getting the whole picture.
    Precursors to modern racism existed in Shakespeare’s day. The taxonomies were well established enough that there was no need to prevaricate. “Moor”, Oriental, Turk, Ottoman… these groups were real and they were hated and feared by Europeans (not those emotions exclusively, but certainly part of it). I’ve established that. Your arguments don’t disprove it. So racism existed before your history says it does. Why doesn’t that sink your argument?
    I agree totally that the shape of modern racism has been overwhelmingly and decisively influenced by the needs of modern elites. But when we see otherwise smart people like Kissinger and the Israelis underestimating Egypt out of sheer racist contempt, we see how racism can distort even the understandings of educated, powerful elites. They can’t arise out of the zeitgeist totally, as you yourself explain pretty compellingly…

    ““And the idea that the Moor was intrinsically violent and savage is ultimately reinforced by the play’s ending.”

    Only if you are starting from a position whereby the Moors are understood to be violent and savage. Again, in the 1500′s the Moors were seen as technologically advanced and sophisticated when compared to Europeans. You are taking your own modern attitudes and superimposing them onto an historical context that you have no common frame of reference with.”

    Yes, I am sure that the people who fought numerous vicious wars with Arab opponents took plenty of time to respect the heathens’ knowledge.
    Iago says racist crap. The play ends with a clearly black man being spurred to anger in a blatantly racist way. The fact that Othello is a racial other is reinforced CONSTANTLY. And we’re supposed to think that his racial identity didn’t matter? That he wasn’t being set up by a racist mythology?
    These matters are complex. I think that Shakespeare was a good enough writer that he would never play a stereotype straight. Othello has numerous heroic and wonderful traits. Shylock’s dialogue is not one of a buffoon. But the fact that these stereotypes EXISTED and could be played upon (the miserly, cheating Jew who hates Christians for being Christians and who should be converted to Christianity; the Moor who kills his white wife who he “ruts”) is what I’m pointing out. It is bizarre to say that Europeans didn’t have a very specific idea of what the world was like outside of their borders, that they were racial innocents until some evil planters twirled their moustaches and made up a racial taxonomy by flipping a coin…

    ““You make some good points, but ultimately it is impossible to read Othello or the Merchant of Venice or many other elements of Renaissance writing and not see ethnic, racial and national prejudice and stereotypes.”

    Again, you are conflating ethnicity, national identity and race and these are not all the same thing.”

    But the first two dovetail with the other. The Nazis couldn’t establish national identity without establishing a national other. To have an “in” requires an “out”. Indeed, that’s sort of the POINT of all this, right? To make people afraid of each other? To create artificial groups to justify social control?
    Europeans certainly didn’t have the idea that blacks were genetically inferior to whites. That idea couldn’t exist prior to the 19th century. But they could have the idea that Christian Europe was a sanctified, special place, and everyone else was barbaric. Imagining that those people were all cursed descendants of Ham is not a big leap from that assumption. Neither is imagining one to be special and different because of one’s genes, in turn arising of being born in a superior place (since racists always explain genetic diversion by some arbitrary, randomly chosen aspect of European climates that they think explains superior traits’ emergence).
    “Racism” didn’t exist before the 16th century. But it didn’t get created randomly either. Why did Germans not get put into internment camps but Japanese did? Why did South Africa choose to put black folks into the Bantustans rather than poor whites? Why did the Europeans insist on officially designating people as Hutus and Tutsis? These ideas don’t come from nowhere, they’re not instantly malleable.
    For your claim to be true, it’d have to be the case that, right now, a bunch of CEOs could get up and say, “Never mind, everyone, black folks are your friends. They don’t commit crime any more than anyone else as poor and urban as they. You know who you should really hate? Italians”, and have people agree.
    It’s absurd. It’s patently wrong. We know that would never happen.

    “Not really. If you believe that lions and lambs can lie together peacefully, then you are just deluded.”

    If you think that it’s useful to call other human beings lions, then you are deluded.
    Engels owned a factory. Was he really a secret capitalist agent?
    Eugene Debs was pretty solidly middle class. Was he a secret capitalist agent?
    Clarence Darrow was a lawyer. Was he just setting us up for a fall?
    The world is not clearcut. People don’t just create cultural artifacts and have them be instantly adopted by everyone with no questioning. Not everyone who is part of an economic or racial group behaves the same way. There are black conservatives, female anti-feminists, poor people who love capitalism, middle-class and rich people who hate it, and people of Latina/o descent who oppose immigration reform. Your worldview is apparently incapable of recognizing how these people are there and why.
    Even Marxists have always recognized that bourgeois allies would be key parts of the struggle against capital. Your conclusions come from left field…

    “And I am telling you that I disagree with you. Poor gays have sexuality in common with rich gays but poor gays and poor straights have EVERYTHING ELSE in common, including marginalization from the economy and the political dialogue and process.”
    Wrong. Being gay costs both poor and middle-class gays wages. Get rid of income inequality based on class and you don’t get rid of that. Even in economic terms, your model fails.
    But so what? You just conceded EVERYTHING THAT MATTERED.
    If my basic humanity is threatened on the one hand, and $1.50 on the other, I’ll take my basic humanity, thank you.
    If I’m a black kid in the 1920s, being poor means I eke out a living to barely get by. Being black means I get lynched.
    This is why these movements have always emerged. Poor blacks fought at first for the end to their segregation. They could have cared less, initially, about macro-economic statistics or wage increases. Being able to be treated like a human being, not killed or beaten by racists, and have something like basic equality under the law came first. It didn’t matter how good wages were if you couldn’t get a job because no one would hire a black person.
    This is why Wright left the Communist Party, despite their quite profound commitment to desegregation.
    If you don’t think anyone in the world would make the calculations made above, be my guest. Go on an LGBT forum and say that all of the poor gay members should forget about gay marriage, and not being called the F-word, and having jerks like Phelps picketing their very existence, and should work exclusively on a two dollar raise in wages.
    When you are invariably hollered out, I think the point will be clear.
    Now, are there tipping points for these things? Certainly. I imagine that many poor gay people would put much less time into an attempt to raise the minimum wage by $10 if they could secure that victory within a year. Or if there was real health care reform. Same thing with poor feminists: They might put sexualized images in the media on the backburner for a year if they could get enough money to afford to be home to prevent their kids from watching that crap.
    But that’s another part of the problem. Economics-based movements are coming up against the strongest, most entrenched elite part of our society: The rich. Tim recounts how he was confused when he went to black community organizations that they’d focus on getting a stoplight. Not minimum wage, not ending segregation issues, just a stoplight. Why? Because if you told people that you could end wage inequality, they’d applaud, then stop showing up after six months when your timesink was getting them nowhere.
    So, ironically, to deal with an entrenched elite, you need to get people on board who have ANY OTHER UNDERPRIVILEGED IDENTITY besides poor (woman, LGBT, person of color) by supporting their interests that are much easier to accomplish.
    If you’re asking them to throw in the towel against the issues that face them particularly, but join them in facing the issue that faces you (so you’re asking them to help you, really, since they were already working on something that helped THEM), then don’t give a damn about their issues and think it distracts from your all-important work, THEN don’t actually ACCOMPLISH anything…
    Don’t be surprised if they NEVER come back.
    But if a movement stops the worst of hate speech in a particular town, and raises awareness about LGBT issues, and raises awareness about rape issues, then takes that momentum and invests it into dealing with a fifty cent local wage hike or boycotting Wal-Mart or getting a progressive local Proposition passed…
    THEN you can get somewhere.

    “What exactly does “in gender terms” mean anyway? And perhaps you can explain how in these “gender terms” that you imagine, homosexuals and heterosexuals are somehow precluded from enjoining one another in solidarity?”

    They’re not. But what they are precluded from enjoining each other in is a solidarity where the heterosexual poor ask the homosexual poor to join in benefiting them and not their middle-class friends and comrades in not being called the F-word anymore.
    Or when poor men ask poor women to fight for wages but not to care about sexist advertisements on TV the way rich women do.
    In gender, kinship and sexual identity terms, women and LGBT minorities identify themselves as being oppressed. They face psychological and psychic difficulties that you seem to think don’t exist and aren’t important. Damn if that’s gonna get you some friends…

    “I think that gay people should be able to get married if they choose, I think they should be able to have kids if they choose, I think people that want to discriminate against gay people because they are gay deserve censure, chastisement, ridicule and maybe even a little verbal abuse. If said would-be discriminators choose to engage violence against gay people, categorically, I think that people of conscience have an obligation to meet those scumbags in the streets and to give them reasons to think twice about their philosophy because anyone who is likely to hate on someone because they are gay is almost certainly as likely to hate on people of color (like me), working class people (like me), non-religious people (like me) and taking a stand for queers is taking a stand for myself because a blow against one is a blow against all and gay people, particularly working class gay people, are oppressed…just like me.”

    But do you think it’s worth it to spend, say, an hour of your time a week to fight for that?
    Or is it only worth it to fight for wage improvements?
    You said earlier that to fight for everything is to fight for nothing. Well, then you better be able to explain why your movement which has a much lower chance of success is more important than dealing with the issues that affect them particularly. It’s not only a pretty selfish demand (at least as regards women and LGBT minorities), but it’s also one that they’ve already answered: They’d like to spend the time in the LGBT movement, thanks.
    I’m obviously simplifying these issues tremendously. There’s plenty of poor gays who focus primarily on economic issues. Ditto poor women and poor blacks.
    But there’s also poor people of all stripes who focus on issues facing ANOTHER one of their identities.
    Saying that those identities don’t matter, that it’s all just economic anyways, is denying their own experiences: That, to them, being dehumanized isn’t worth three bucks an hour.

    “I am not gay; I am married and I have three kids. Please, explain to me how the fact that I am not gay precludes me from standing in solidarity with gay people? While you are at it, please explain what you believe solidarity is, because the statements of belief in the previous paragraph qualifies as “solidarity” where I am from.”

    Nothing. Except that you actually have to stand. Not sit and say “Sounds good”.
    In short, do something.
    But you’ve established earlier that you don’t want to.
    Unless I’m misreading you, which I hope I am.
    Having organizations specialize in things, whether it be homophobia, religious chauvinism, sexism, poverty, inequality, there’s nothing wrong with that. And spending a majority of your political time, or even ALL your political time, in any one of them, isn’t wrong either. We have to pick our battles.
    But to say that other people need to get on board because only your issue is the master issue from which everything else stems?
    Not very helpful, even if true, which it can’t be because it’s based on a bizarrely simple idea of the world…

    “Not generally, specifically. And again, there is no point in talking about “the state” in a non-modern context since “the state” as we understand it is a recent development with no direct equivalent in times past.

    Tyrants and emperors prior to the 15th century did not require the sort of highly centralized government, propped up by a large standing army and a centralized, and tightly controlled, economy that was based primarily on coercion and extortion, that is what the modern state is. that is what I meant by the “coercive apparatus of the state.” You eventually get that…sort of, I think.”

    Sparta had a standing army.
    Rome had a standing army.
    That’s actually sort of the DEFINITION of a empire.
    Rome was more centralized than we are. The emperor had near unlimited latitude.
    They even had markets, pretty different from ours. And hell, even a merchant class.
    Sounds damn similar. But no bourgeoisie. Sure, the plebeian elite, definitely. But it was the Caesar who ruled.
    I don’t understand what world you’re talking about.
    But who cares? Let’s say the “state” didn’t exist prior to the 15th century. Whatever.
    Tyrants would exist who would tell people what to do, create laws without their representation, stop free speech, crush dissent, and kill those who disagreed before the 15th century.
    Capitalism didn’t create that.
    Did the economic system of these societies? Maybe. Of course, Athens was a highly equal society in terms of wealth distribution. The richest people would have a horse and a little more pottery. And even then, it wasn’t about being rich, it was about being a rich male citizen of the right ethnic background. Miss ANY of those, not just the rich part, and you don’t participate.
    Overwhelmingly, economic power divorced from political power never got off the ground until the bourgeois rebellions. So Marx’s conclusion that economic power was the engine the whole time is arbitrary. Why?
    And if a relative pauper like Obama compared to Bill Gates has nukes and Gates doesn’t, how are class issues involved? Isn’t that just political power?
    I oppose the tyrant above even if there was literally no material inequality whatsoever and I had absolute control over my own economic life. Do you? And if you do, then do you think that a movement to preserve liberties against such tyranny is worthwhile?

    “I think you use the term “anarchist” too loosely and you obviously didn’t get my reference to “Red and Black” politics. Being an “anarchist” isn’t about opposing coercion. Being an “anarchist” is a statement of commitment to egalitarian principles and a rejection of hierarchical stratification. There are certainly “anarchists” who were not above a little coercing in Spain during the Civil War, now weren’t they? Indeed, any Revolutionary accepts that there will be those who will fight to maintain systems of privilege and domination and what makes you a Revolutionary to begin with is you willingness to fight for you beliefs and to IMPOSE YOUR WILL ON THOSE WITH WHOM YOU FIND YOURSELF IN CONFLICT WITH. Otherwise, you are not a Revolutionary at all, and if you are not a Revolutionary, then you have no business calling yourself an “anarchist.””

    *sigh* Yes, please read very literally into that.
    Of course there are times when what one can define as “coercion” is performed is okay, in the opinion of many anarchists (though even here, plenty of Zerzanites would disagree, I think non-sensically but that is their stated position). But I was clearly talking about coercion in the sense of domination, forcing those ruled by a state apparatus to do or not do, say or think things. That’s wrong, even if the society is equal, and women and men have equal rights (none), and no ethnic minorities are treated differently (they all get sent to the gas chambers for disobedience). An intolerable political sphere can exist, and is inexcusable, even without intolerable things in the economy, etc.
    But I’m not “imposing my will on those I find myself in conflict with”. Yes, that is literally what is happening, but that is like saying that me punching out a mugger is imposing my will. No one would use that phraseology.
    When someone oppresses me, I fight back to secure my rights. And when someone oppresses someone else, I do the same thing.
    Once that’s done, I don’t impose anymore.
    Yes, there was coercion, but the whole point is that it’s COUNTER-coercion: Responding to someone else’s unjust domination, tyranny or coercion.
    But the fact that we can have this discussion, and see why it’s important, and not mention one IOTA of economic issues, is my POINT. Another sphere of life, political issues, needs to be thought about separately, independently. We need to know how it works, what we want within it, and not just assume arbitrarily that it’s second to some other sphere…

    “Your generalizations make it hard to take some of what you are saying seriously. But, for expediency, just know that I describe myself as a “libertarian socialist/Anarcho-syndicalist” and I am well familiar with Goldman, Bakhunin and Kropotkin.”

    The fact that you don’t seem to be concerned with fighting state power per se makes me wonder about that. And as regards generalizations: You have declared that the state only existed after the 15th century. Wow if that isn’t a circular, generalizing argument…
    Put another way: If a law came out tomorrow that banned people making over $200,000 a year from speaking, I would oppose it tooth and nail. Would you?

    “The state is an artificial construct. It is a tool that can only be properly used by those with political power. The basis for political power in our society is wealth and thus, the state is a tool of the bourgoise. With a democratization of capital–effectively eliminating the dynamics of class stratification–the state is rendered unnecessary.”

    But one doesn’t get political power in proportion to wealth. Otherwise, Ross Perot would have won. QED.
    The political system has its own internal exigencies and logic.
    So let’s imagine that we eliminate all economic distinction between people. Everyone makes the same wage, works the same hours, controls their workplace, etc.
    Only at birth, people are put into two camps: 90% not able to vote, 10% able to vote.
    The people able to vote can attend councils that determine where roads are built, if we ban abortion, if we ban the eating of meat, etc. No one else can.
    There’s not one iota of class involved there. The people meeting in the political councils are not making economic decisions. (If you want to count the road as being an economic decision, fine, just make it purely abortion, eating of meat, civil liberties, etc.) They make no money from this participation. They don’t get cushier working hours or anything. In fact, they lose leisure time.
    Is this just? Is this appropriate?
    What about the technocracy that Bakunin warns against in God and State? No class distinction, they don’t get paid anymore than anyone else, they just decide economic and political policy with their scientific means. I think that’s wrong. Do you?
    So your first mistake is assuming that political power requires economic power. Your second is in defining the state as something that existed after the 15th century, then not caring one iota about any type of domination that existed before it. Your third is predictable from the other two: Misunderstanding how the state actually works. Obama is poorer than almost anyone in the corporate class, but his power to control global events is immense. Yes, it is highly unlikely that he will use this in any way that would impede their interests. And if he did, they’d be able to use capital flight (which itself had to be created through political means by dismantling Bretton Woods) and other political influences as a check. But remember that the losing side of the Fergusonian investor coalition still has to live with the policy of the winning side. The fact that the state is used as the battleground for investment coalitions alone proves my point: It’s not just the bourgeoisie deciding everything immediately and all getting what they want uniformly. Let alone when we take into account how court decisions can prevent them from doing the things they want entirely…
    To put it another way: Every rich person on the planet right now could be killed if enough of the military and Obama make a mistake as to whether a radar blip is a weather balloon or a missile. So much for economic power.
    If your logic was correct, Social Security and Medicare wouldn’t exist. There would be no social safety net. Unions would be illegal. Those were won with some business support but mostly thanks to poor people fighting for their rights.

    “I would be interested in hearing any examples that you might have of the state harming the wealthy. Taxation is not a legitimate example as even the liberal bourgoise can acknowledge that paying taxes for social services for the poor is in the interest of the wealthy (taxes and social services help to stave off revolutions).”

    The New Deal. The wealthy hated it. (Not all of them? Exactly my point).
    The war in Iraq. Numerous elite groups thought it was insane.
    Restrictions on abortion. Not an elite concern whatsoever, and generally something they support.
    Watergate.

    “The phrase “slipping political power and oppression in the economic door” doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t think I ever said that “political power” and “oppression” were the same thing.”
    You’ve put together political and economic power as political capital. Sorry, but they’re not the same thing.

    “I also think I have been very clear that race and ethnicity is not the same thing. If anything, it seems that you were trying to conflate these things in your earlier comments.”

    But you have said that ALL of those issues are the same thing as, or subordinate to, economic power. They’re not.

    “People who worked with “my concepts” were slaughtered indiscriminately by people who realized that their beliefs represented a true alternative to the system of wage-slavery and capitalist exploitation. The Haymarket Massacre which inspired International Labor Day (May 1) was the way the US government normally dealt with people who held “my concepts: Unionization and general strikes have been the only things that have ever brought the US government to the brink of collapse such that the army had to be mobilized to repress the uprising of working people. Neither the Civil Rights movement, the Gay Rights movement or the Feminist movement has ever inspired such harsh reprisal from the state. Why? Because none of those “niche” political issues threatens the foundation of bourgoise power: the authoritarian control of capital.”

    And yet, they inspired brutal reprisal from white folks and homophobes, respectively. (Women luckily managed to escape violence… for once). You’re confusing the enforcers, because in your mind, the only elite in society is the economic elite. But it’s not, that’s wrong, and your theory is making you make circular conclusions.
    Oh, and how much did those people win? Not all that much. Compare that to the Civil Rights movement et al.
    Hell, the Civil Rights movement faced assassinations (Fred Hampton was killed by the FBI, SNCC activists were disappeared by sheriffs), lynchings, dogs, water hoses… What more needed to happen? Were hundreds of beatings not brutal? Maybe less brutal, though I actually don’t know about that, but brutal?
    Further, the Civil Rights movement came at the end of a relative lull. In the 1920s, terror reigned against African-Americans. The 1950s were actually pretty kind relatively.
    And poor whites vote for decades before blacks and a century before women. (Voting doesn’t matter? Well, damn if black folks and women didn’t fight long and hard for it…)
    I am well aware of the brutal labor history in our country, of Pinkerton detectives slaughtering workers, of the Knights of Labor, of heroes and sheroes fighting for basic respect and decency.
    I am also well aware of the unions that didn’t let blacks in. And wanted the Chinese out of California.
    I am well aware of the Communists who fought to end segregation, and who recruited black members and associated with black people when it was verboten.
    I am also aware of the people in the abolitionist movement, and the war movement, who forced a feminist movement to emerge just due to the endless disrespect they showed their own allies.
    The Left adopted an economistic approach. It failed. The New Left did it too. It failed. And over and over, we saw left-oriented people leaving left movements to focus on their own needs and issues because the left movements were not only not helping them, but actively hostile to those needs and issues.
    “Girls Say Yes To Boys Who Say No”…

    “I have said before that these issues are very useful for achieving solidarity and that is how I perceive the utility of race/gender/sexual orientation politics: they are a means to an end…for me, anyway.”

    That’s fine, I guess, as long as you recognize that for other people, the opposite is the case.
    To be totally clear: If you had to say to me, right now, “You get four hours a day of time to devote to political life. It has to be one issue only”, it’d be economic issues I’d prioritize. I’d fight for an end to capitalism, creating new economic institutions, experiment with parecon/syndicalist structures/libertarian municipalism/mindful markets/etc., fight to raise the minimum wage $10, try to challenge the right of corporations to exist as immortal persons.
    But that’s not going to happen.
    But basically, if poor straight white men (I know this is not you per se) say to black folks, “I only care about the racism you experience as an end to the goals I’d like to see”, I suspect you’ll find a lot of them say, “Well, gee, I’ve heard this before”.
    These issues are all important, and I’m baffled at the idea that it is helpful to pick one to care about more prima facia with no room for adjustment…

    ““Those dynamics playing out in the movement” is a fair criticism. This is why I suggest that these attendant issues of race, gender etc are useful for the creation of solidarity. However, a general strike in New Orleans in 1892 which defeated attempts by management to divide workers along racial lines succeeded in bringing the Capitalists to their knees even though the leaders of the all-white Screwman’s Union who led the strike were racists to the core. They were racists, but they were able to get past their racism briefly in the hope of improving their condition. The collective struggle of these workers, I would argue, is part of what facilitated the less oppressive racial dynamics of New Orleans, particularly in the organized labor movement there.”

    Sure, and that’s all I’m asking for. Hell, that’s all I can even expect from MYSELF, given that I’m a white straight middle-class male: JUST enough solidarity, attentiveness, etc.
    But then those Screwman’s Union folks did nothing about Jim Crow. And lynching. (Probably individuals did, but many didn’t). They won a good change they gave up at another one. They don’t get off the hook for that.
    I think that this idea that we can say, “I’m going to care about your issues to get you to care about mine”, is all right in the MINIMUM, but it’s still going to run into some pretty severe problems due to quite understandable mistrust.
    To take a philosophical stand and say, “These issues are all important. All of these spheres of life oppress us, demean us, crush our humanity. But I think that, right now, economic issues are overwhelmingly so important that we need to focus on them” (a statement I EMPHATICALLY agree with), says to people whose oppression falls into multiple categories, “I’m with you. And I’m with you not because you can get me something I want, but because I want to see your injustice end, just like I do mine.”
    And, a REALLY key insight that a lot of people forget: This applies FAR more to rich/middle-class women and rich/middle-class gays than it does to most economically-focused people. They frequently advance gender or sexual identity causes at the costof basic economic justice.
    Ultimately, it seems to me that we should all be fighting everywhere we can. Since we have limited time, we can offer solidarity: “The Progressive Activist Coalition supports LGBT Awareness Week and expresses its regret that it cannot be tabling in coordination with our allies”.

    ““Read Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege…”

    I don’t need to read a book on White Privilege to understand what it is and how it plays itself out. However, when you describe “the privilege of automatically belonging, the privilege of defining the norm of beauty and the median of normalcy in general, the privilege of not being assumed to be criminal or inferior in some way, the ability to be an individual rather than an exemplar of one’s race, etc. etc.” I think you are assuming a lot if you believe that her experience is somehow universal.”

    I’m not assuming it. I’ve experienced it too. Almost every white person I’ve talked to has experienced some of the things on her list. ALL the social science data indicates it IS universal: White folks are not discriminated against, they are associated with positive rather than negative schemas, they do not face the same self-esteem attacks, etc. etc.
    These psychological advantages matter. It’s called the psychological wage of whiteness, and that wage has made it so the Screwman’s Union’s coordination with people of color is an exception, not a rule.

    “I think it is telling that you do not seem to understand that people of color have always created their own spaces, temporary autonomous zones, wherein none of the things you describe above apply. The did it on the plantations, on the reservations, and in their neighborhoods. I always find it amusing when white people presume to tell me what’s what regarding the experiences of people of color. You talk about privilege and arrogance?”

    But the fact that you have to make those zones and I don’t have to bother is a privilege. The whole society is my autonomous zone. It’s not temporary. If you want to play in normative society, you have to play by my rules. I don’t have to enter your TAZ. You have to enter my permanent autonomous zone.
    Again, I’m replying to some of the economistic reductionism combined with your apparent unwillingness to take psychological issues as important. But you’re right: Even that ability to try to encapsulate the psychology of people of color is a privilege. Good catch, I’m sorry if I gave an impression that I was trying to speak down to your experience.
    What I am saying, though, is that I know from MY experience that being white matters. But so does being the son of a recent immigrant. I know that being a white immigrant is easier than being a native person of color, or an immigrant of color, but harder than being a white native. I can see that, to whatever degree of accuracy, in life around me. Knowing what it’s like to feel alien sometimes, while also knowing the privilege of belonging and feeling safe that overwhelms that, gives me an impression of how powerful that privilege is. Ironically, I think that, sometimes, it is white folks who have one other category working against them (poverty, gender, immigrant or ethnic status, etc.) that can see the jarring sensation of not being “white”, in a sense, temporarily, and seeing what that means, of maybe temporarily not belonging.
    That psychological stuff matters. The sociology says it, my experiences confirm it, and people of color all over this board confirm it. You’re certainly in the minority as it comes to POC here…

    “It is not a “desire” and I am not blind to the ways that oppression operates. Again, you presume an awful lot for a person who, I am guessing, has no idea what REAL oppression feels like. I mean, maybe I am just talking trash but it seems to me that I know a little bit about oppression given that one group of my ancestors were victims of American genocide, another group of my ancestors were victims of American cultural genocide (my dad was FORCED to speak English when he went to school but it wasn’t his first language) and my people, today, suffer at the hands of racist, authoritarian cops in the most corrupt city with the most corrupt police force in the US. I have been beaten by cops, have you? I have a cousin who is sitting in prison right now who was thrown into the back of a police car and driven around for 5 hours until he “confessed” to a robbery that occurred at a time when his mother and her neighbor both saw him eating his breakfast in his kitchen…”

    English wasn’t my first language, either. I spoke French initially, but my parents stopped teaching me out of fear that it’d make me different among my group. It actually still gave me an accent which put me in special ed classes for about a year in third grade, being brought into the white norm. I grew up pretty poor (though not without clothing, food, etc.), and am still struggling to eke out a living right now.
    But yes, that’s not the same, and I’m aware it’s not the same. Nonetheless, I’ve identified what seems to be some bizarre neo-Marxist orthodoxies in your viewpoint, and they’ve led to some errors I think I am compellingly point out, our varying understandings aside.
    Ultimately, while you certainly have greater personal insight into those issues, whether or not everything boils down to political capital is a theoretical and sociological question that you think you’ve answered remarkably simplistically…

    “The fact that you conflate race, ethnicity and tribal affiliation is insane. Yes, our construction, our taxonomy of race is new and because when we say “race” we are engaging that modern manifestation, it is not useful to assume that all of these concepts which are NOT the same thing, are the same thing.”

    Why aren’t they? I’ve never seen a meaningful explanation as to a difference that actually matters. Fundamentally, people look at another group and see something different: Food, noses, ears, eyes, skin color, hair color, whatever. They use that as the basis for in-group out-group hatred and identification.

    But your argument makes mine almost entirely. You can get rid of racism and still have tribalism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, etc. In short, you can deal with something you happen to think is caused exclusively by an elite or originated there and can still have nasty things in the culture that precede those elites by millenia.

    Our institutions need to be better at handling cultural, ethnic, tribal and racial disputes and problems as well as political, economic and gender ones. The radical insight of the four spheres theory is that we need to be seeking radical gains everywhere.

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  19. A few corrections:

    Sparta didn’t always have a standing army per se, but the entire society was so militarized that it functionally did.

    I meant “patrician” elite.

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