American race and identity politics

The GOP just ran a platform of identity politics for whites. We all need better.

More post-election thoughts.
The American right has been complaining about Democratic invocation of identity politics for some time now; basically, catering to a demographic slice without much seeming consideration for the rest of America. To date, it’s only hit a few snags: racial minority opposition to same-sex marriage is probably the biggest snag to date, internal to the various factions the Democrats cater to.
Well, Trump’s nativism is what identity politics looks like to the right. He went out, targeted the concerns of a demographic in the white working class, and gave them exactly what they wanted without consideration for the rest of America.
I’m not saying that the concerns of the Democrats’ favored factions aren’t real – LBGTQ+ rights have always been lacking, police violence against the black community is a real thing, etc – but without being able to display comity to all while also pushing for faction-specific rights, such work is always going to come off to white America as special privileges rather than equal rights, political correctness rather than courtesy and respect.
America has lots of whites. They’re losing out in terms of electoral power, demographically, and America is changing around them in ways that they’re not being consulted on. Yes, American white supremacy is a thing… but even more so is the mere fact of the American white population. America is a democracy, and white people are a large and wealthy portion of it, carrying a disproportionate weight of taxation owing to their wealth in the favored society they’ve created. White America cannot be ignored simply because it has, at times, played the role of oppressor; it cannot be discarded or assumed loyal.
American democracy is wide, and for all the reasons the GOP morally needs to appeal to minorities and their concerns, the Democrats need to appeal to whites as well, because clearly they don’t think they’re part of the Democratic party’s plan any more.
If we’re going to have two major parties, it is morally imperative that those two parties do not define themselves by race. We did that once in America. We cannot do it again.

Fear Makes Enemies from Allies

The purpose of terror is to affect disproportionate change, to enlist emotions in recruiting unnecessary armies

The world is a complicated place.

Freddie Gray dies in the back of a police van after being picked up for nothing. No one is seemingly held accountable. Maryland a black state attorney, Baltimore has a black mayor, a substantial minority presence in their police force, a majority-minority city council, and has basically been run by local Democrats for fifty+ years.
There are issues here of accountability, but they run all over the place. If they belong to any political party, they belong to the local Democrats. They certainly appear to transcend easy racial narratives on the side of any oppressor, though personally I find it easy enough to imagine the state being a tool of minority/poor oppression regardless of who’s in charge.
We know that, for example, police use of force is disproportionately applied to minorities. There’s some ongoing discussion of shootings – most research indicates a bias, there’s at least one recent study (though only examining incidents in Houston) which counter that conclusion – but personally I think it’s enough to point out that minorities get beat more often than whites in similar incidences to say that there’s smoke.
But what now?
The panacea of “better government” is not enough. Government is, by-and-large, a manifestation of society at large and for good reason. The downside is that transformation in government comes after transformation in society at large, and American society at large is struggling with itself: Black Lives Matter against All Lives Matter, awareness of the state’s largely out-of-sight minority oppression against a struggle to maintain deference to law and order. The good news is that the civil rights movements of the 60s were decried in their time for being disruptive, and that Black Lives Matter being considered similarly is at least a reminder that struggles can tip quickly.
The new, ugly wrinkle in all of this is the string of murders of police officers.That is the wedge, the worst fears of All Lives Matter come to manifest, an erosion of the ideal that it is possible to be both aware of the minority experience of the state’s violence and power, as well as aware that minority and poor communities in general require the help and aid of police. Just as any kind of terror attack is designed to drive rifts between populations, to make estranged allies and neutral parties into enemies, these shootings are terror attacks. If they work, they will erode the social capital required for change, and everyone will come out lesser.
I hope it doesn’t go that way.

Painting into racist rhetorical corners with Coulter and Trump

The argument from Coulter (and the pro-Trump right) is either 1, the Loony Left are racist and so is Donald Trump, or 2, the Loony Left is correct about White Supremacy in America and Donald Trump is being railroaded by a Mexican. Turns out both statements are wrong!

I don’t know why, but I’m always at least a little bit shocked at the breadth of what smart people can profess to believe. In this case, it’s Ann Coulter backing up Donald Trump, which really should surprise no one, and that goes double when it’s finding clever ways to make a point about how bad white folks have it these days.

It should surprise no one that Trump is a whiny asshole, nor should Coulter defending a whiny asshole be shocking either. But the rhetorical arguments she uses are worth dissecting, because it’s basically saying that you can’t have a racial critique of society in America without also letting people baselessly denigrate each other. Leave aside the fact that on its face, Coulter’s argument is either 1, the Loony Left are racist and so is Donald Trump, or 2, the Loony Left is correct about White Supremacy in America and Donald Trump is being railroaded by a Mexican. She doesn’t spend any time on that unmentioned conclusion because it’s embarrassing, and when you’re being paid to say provocative shit but you still have some ability to self-reflect you stop thinking once you hit your word quota for the day.

So, let’s take on the two points; 1, that there are meaningful racial critiques of justice and law to be made that aren’t racist, and 2, that Donald Trump is/is not full of shit (SPOILER: it’s the former).

  1. Judges are informed by their experiences. It’s why we don’t have federal judges with, say, no experience as a judge. That’s the easy call. The more interesting bit is that experience matters for all kinds of things, and that experience includes your ethnicity, your education, and generally what’s happened to you in life. There’s a reason why Plessy v Ferguson (that’s “separate but equal is okay”) was overturned: people’s experience between that ruling and later courts changed, and society decided that perhaps racial injustice is a thing that should be considered more deeply. Experience matters, and yes, you want diverse courts because there is no immaculate divine experience of the law that mortals channel into their rulings: courts made up of solely white educated liberals from the Northeast are not going to reflect the myriad experiences of life in America and that’s something you want to account for in your courts. There’s a reason you’re tried by a jury of your peers, and that experience of life is why. When an all-white jury is considered your peer group sometimes you can end up with statistically significant disparities in sentencing length and so that’s why appeals courts are a thing, and jury selection, and all that jazz.So, when someone (say a Supreme Court judge) thinks that having a different background is a good thing, she’s not professing the superiority of one outlook over another, she’s professing the utility of her own background in an arena that is largely white and male and lacking wider perspective.
  2. It is entirely different when you say, “because this person is Mexican they can’t judge me”, which is essentially what Trump was saying and what Coulter is defending here. And that difference is pretty large, because what Judge Curiel actually did is pretty straight-forward and that point seems to be lost. There are actual, formal things you can do if a judge is screwing you and Trump can afford them… but he isn’t disputing any of that. He didn’t like a ruling that looks solid, and so because he can’t win in court he’s going to just make a slur out of it. This is not Trump standing up to a power-hungry judge out of control, this is Trump getting a ruling he didn’t like and doing two nasty and dysfunctional things: 1, blaming that person rather than himself, and 2, deciding that the best, clearest reason why this judge ruled against him was because he was a Mexican (even though he isn’t).You know, if a judge ruled against me with bias and hate in his eyes because, I don’t know, he thought me some kind of virulent Communist pervert, and the ruling doesn’t pass the smell test and I find out that this guy is a John Bircher teetotaler celibate, then I might have some room in there to make hay. But if the judge issues a ruling and all my pricey lawyers shrug and move on to the next phase of the trial because it turns out the ruling is sound, and THEN I say it’s because the guy is an Italian, then clearly I’m unhinged and a whiny asshole.

I hope that both people that read this find it useful and everyone in America can now get on with being adults and selecting a coherent conservative opponent for Hillary Clinton in the fall.

UPDATE NOTE: the term “la raza” probably deserves mention. It does mean race, but it’s use is generally for Mexican-Americans or mestizos. It’s distinct from Hispanics in general, which is considered kind of a stuffy term. It’s a ethnic and cultural identifier, but is a lot more specific in application than an actual race; it’s more specific, like Afro-Cuban, than just “black”.

You’d have to be kind of ignorant of Chicano culture to think that la Raza is meant to generally imply superior genetic stock.

Paul Ryan is a coward, Trump is Racist, and the GOP is lost

When you’d take a racist over Hillary, you’re pretty much a racist too.

Paul Ryan is pathetic and cowardly. You know, if you’re pushing paper for The Man and keeping your head down to make rent and put your kids through school, I can accept some degree of moral flexibility. But if you’re the Speaker of the House and you don’t stand for something more than “hey let’s not make waves here I’ve got a great office” then you’re straight up despicable.

This guy believes that a racist President is better than a neoliberal one. I’m guessing he thinks a racist DoJ is somehow made up for by lowered taxes (or something similar), and that’s fucking amazing. It explains everything awful about the current GOP, just in higher contrast: they just don’t care about minority rights, and it isn’t even an issue of “not seeing color” and being post racist, whatever that is. It’s now, starkly clear it’s because they just don’t care: they’ll literally accept an outright racist with a long history of racism, someone who really does see color and doesn’t like it. And they’ll embrace it because Hillary Clinton is… what?

Among antiabortion folks, I could see why they’d like a GOP Congress and President and could endure a racist to achieve that end: from their perspective they’re fighting a holy war for thousands of innocent children. But Ryan? A near-libertarian hawk? Does he really love lowered taxes enough that he’d endure a racist?

… I can’t believe we know the answer to that question, and it isn’t even rhetorical. Not only that, but Ryan is joined by all kinds of folks in the GOP willing to turn their heads and just pretend like this isn’t a big deal even as they acknowledge it is very much a big deal.

UPDATE: I beat Vox by a day. They’re stealing my lines!

One Legacy of White Supremacy in America

The GI Bill helped build post-war America, but it wasn’t really for everyone

The GI Bill was instrumental (in addition to the central planning industrialization and unionization of America that happened during World War 2) in creating the modern American middle class, and its racist implementation yet another serious impediment to equality and justice in America. There are generations of people that followed in the wake of the GI Bill – such as myself – who are able to build on the wealth and resources of what my parents and grandparents were able to build thanks to the Bill, and those are precisely the resources that were denied black Americans.
The American history of white supremacy is an ugly one, and it has lots of manifestations: the GI Bill implementation, red-lining, highway routing, Jim Crow laws, the abandonment of Reconstruction… and what’s interesting to me is that I figure that the financial impacts are probably the longest-running and most pernicious and damaging manifestations. Seeing old photos of lynchings are obvious and brutal in their testament to inequality and the cruelty of the past, but because they’re so obviously awful and public, they’re much easier to discount: “well, there hasn’t been a lynching like THAT in decades”. And in some sense, that’s true. Blacks have been voting on equal terms (or near-equal terms, depending on your state’s laws regarding districting and IDs) for decades… and yet and it isn’t like Baltimore or Montgomery or Charlotte have been transformed into bastions of black freedom because of it.
Meanwhile, the financial effects chug along. They’re hidden, but their impacts go on for decades.

The North’s Cruel Hidden Racism

The financial industry isn’t afraid to screw a few points from the weak regardless of where they are relative to the Mason-Dixon line.

I always felt like Randy Newman’s song “Rednecks” offers a harsh but fair assessment of the sneering disdain the North typically has for the South’s brand of racism. I say “brand”, because that’s what it is. Did you know that Chicago is America’s most segregated city? There’s a real cultural ignorance at play with regards to what America has deemed acceptable and unacceptable levels of racism, and the echoes of the Civil War pretty much guide most of it.


Guess which parts of Philadelphia are largely black/not getting those sweet federal subsidies to build generational wealth

It’s been established that minorities get higher interest rates regardless of income or credit, and that’s a national phenomenon that doesn’t respect the Mason-Dixon line. Chicago in particular has been a hotbed of contract for deed, a method of home purchase that dodges the need for a mortgage with a high-risk loan that doesn’t build equity until the home is totally paid off… a method of home purchasing that minorities have historically pursued owing to the federal mortgage insurance being part of the redlining system, wherein minority neighborhoods were screwed out of the financial help that most of America found and finds necessary in order to buy a home.

So, anyway, here we are in the North, with decades of robbing minorities of the opportunity to build equity by forcing them out of the traditional white financial system. It’s offensive, it’s criminal, and it goes on all the damn time. What’s really gross about this is that post-2008, the libertarian right was pretty convinced that the CRA – the regulatory environment that has been attempting to force banks to not screw minorities over for a percentage just because they can – was actually responsible for (some) of the mortgage meltdown when it turns out that it was the non-regulated, non-CRA banks which were actually out of control.

It feeds fuel to the fire that America has always had a too-casual relationship to its assumed white supremacy. I suppose I should point out that “white supremacy” isn’t being used here as a KKK hoods and lynching environment, but one which simply assumes that white people are just better than minorities. Here, we see it with:

  • The assumption that lending to minorities doomed us all because they can’t be trusted with the same financial instruments as whites
  • They aren’t being screwed by the financial system and so we don’t need a CRA or CFPB, because the invisible hand of capitalism sees no race
  • The invisible hand also is assumed to not take advantage of weak political entities in order to extract rents to screw them out of a few percentage points here and there

I think that’s enough.

The point is that there’s a pervasive, institutional racism in American finance. It’s very real, and while it’s proven easy to shame lynching and hoods into irrelevance, it’s proven much more difficult to shame shady financial practices. That’s a universal truth – financial systems are pretty opaque and play around with layered abstract concepts while having the money necessary to place their opacity beyond easy restraint in a democracy – it’s just that here, it’s doubly offensive in that it’s not just classist, it’s racist.

How Times Have Changed

North Carolina has partially forgotten old racist roots in order to embrace new bigotries

Old rich white men used to lynch people for doing what they’re asking this guy to do.