Tag: racism

I Understand You

lizza-trump-theories-1200Hey, you. White dude with the red cap. You with the gun rack in your pickup’s rear window. You who live in a white rural town where people are real and eat real food and have real values and go to real churches.

I understand you.

You think I don’t, but I do.

What? Did you think I was born in a city? Well, actually you’re right. I was. I was born in Santa Monica, CA. But I didn’t stay there long. I’ve lived in Ohio. I’ve lived in Texas. I spent six years of my life in rural Utah, and there’s a good chance my town was smaller and whiter than yours.

I understand you.

It’s not hard. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not that deep.

I know that people of color in your towns have to be careful how they act, lest they eat your shit. The only reason I got a pass was that I was passing. My skin is light enough that people didn’t know, right away, that I was “a n—–.” (They’d have felt no embarrassment at spelling out the slur.) I know that gays and lesbians have to hide who they are to avoid your violence. I know how religion binds your communities, because I saw, from the outside looking in, how it bound mine.

I know the stories you use to explain your lives to yourselves. I know you see yourselves as standing in a line. It’s a long line. At the front are the rich people, and you think that if you stay in the line, don’t ask for too much, and behave yourselves, the rich people at the front will one day shower you with riches and all will be happy. You don’t question why there has to be a line, or why you’re the one standing in it. As long as the rich people at the front pass down an occasional treat, it’s a sign of their goodwill. And as long as the darker people are behind you, which they deserve because they’re more unruly and impatient than you, and don’t talk English as good as you talk it, all is right and just.

This is the story your ancestors used to explain slavery to themselves. Most of the more southerly of them didn’t own slaves, but they hoped if they stood in line, one day they could. Later, under our nation’s 100 post-civil-war years of legal apartheid, your grandparents could still tell themselves that no matter how bad off they were, they were better than the “n——“. They could vote, get the front seat on the bus, and ogle a white girl’s ass without dying for it. And if any “n—–” tried to get in line in front of them, there were hoods to wear, crosses to burn, and branches suitable for nooses.

When this system of apartheid was dismantled, suddenly people wouldn’t let your parents, or you, use the word “n—–” anymore. You got yelled at for it, and that hurt, partly because feeling guilty hurts, but partly because that meant that the darker people had moved up in line a little. Soon, black people were on TV and in movies and ads. They played sports. They were cops and lawyers and business executives. Black bodies were closing in on your position in line. Some were ahead. And what’s more, it looked like some of your fellow pale people, ones who lived in cities and always made fun of you, were helping them cut in front!

Yeah, I think I understand you.

Then along came a black President, with a foreign, black name. He never could have been in line. Now he’s at the front of it! How can that be fair? The treats were supposed to come to you first! And when he sends something down the line to you, bails out your auto industry, stabilizes the banks, gets you health care, you’re bewildered. Where does that–you won’t say the word because you’re not racist–get off trying to help you? And why isn’t he doing more? And why is he also helping those other people you don’t like: the gays and lesbians and Mexicans and Asians who don’t live in your town because…well…any one of them who tries gets the message? Now you’re pissed off. And now those fancy types are telling you you’re racist and sexist because you’re angry about all the non-white, non-male people ahead of you. You’re not mad because you hate them. You don’t hate. You’re mad because people of color and women don’t deserve those spots. The rich people promised your grandpappy.

I understand you.

You never got mad at the rich guys or their promises, even though they’re made of lies. You’ll never get that they told your grandpappy to stand in line because they feared he might revolt and then died laughing when the poor sap fell for it. You’ll never ask why your grandpappy, or your pappy, or you, never made common cause with the people of color to take what the rich man was denying all of you. Instead, you’ll let the rich guys pollute your land, air, and water if it means a job. And you’ll elect the smiling toady the rich man asks you to vote for so he can go to Washington and make sure that no uppity people ever try to give you health care, education programs, housing assistance, or the right to form a union. Why would you want those things? The rich guys at the front of the line will be passing down a treat for you anytime now. Anytime.

I understand you.

At last, one day, the rich guys stopped passing their treats down to you. They took your factories away and left you. And that confused you. Where’d the line go? Where’s your shower of riches? They couldn’t have been fibbing all along, could they? No. It must be the fault of those liberals in Washington. They regulated them too much. They drove them away. They’ll pay for that, them and the city slickers in Hollywood who make jokes at your expense and sip lattes and drive nice cars and know Jews. (Not that you’re antisemitic. Why would we think that?)

Idiots. You think voting for Trump upset the elites in Washington? They’ll adapt. They have money, influence, and time. They’ll be here long after Trump’s gone to Orange, Rapist, Con-Man Heaven. You may think by electing Trump you threw a brick at Washington Elites, but you hit poor people, the elderly, the vulnerable, and yourselves. After four years of Trump, your pockets will be emptier, and his fuller. Your towns will still be sucky and poor, and you’ll still be sad, paranoid, and angry. But maybe, if you’re good, Trump’ll send you some of those Trump Steaks. That should tide you over, because now that he’s at the front of the line,  the wait for the shower of goodies can’t be much longer. You’re so close. Right?

Yeah, I understand you.

 

Willis Carto, Sugar Daddy to Holocaust Deniers, Is Dead

From the SPLC:

According to reports from white nationalists, Willis Carto, a man active on the radical right for more than 60 years, has died, aged 89. Carto was one of the most active and influential white nationalists of the past century and leaves behind a legacy of vile racial hatred, especially towards Jews. He heavily influenced a number of racists who were active in the latter part of the twentieth century, such as Klansman turned-politician David Duke and William Pierce, founder of the National Alliance, at one-time the most dangerous and best organized neo-Nazi organization in America.

He earned the respect and admiration of vile people everywhere. The rest of us should feel free to speak ill of the dead.

 

The Neo-Nazi (Who Wants To Be) Next Door

I’ve seen documentaries about Neo-Nazis and skinheads many times before, so nothing in this one, posted today at The New York Times, comes as a huge shock. The subject here, Kynan Dutton, combines raging racial paranoia with a dim kind of nerdiness, like a bigoted version of Mark Borchardt. I doubt he’ll follow in the footsteps of recently convicted mass murderer Frazier Glenn Miller, if only because he seems too preoccupied with arranging and re-arranging the various Nazi flags on his property, but it’s sad to see what Dutton’s decided to turn his life over to, and even sadder to see he’s got five children to indoctrinate into his one-family racist cult.

See for yourself:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000003898128&playerType=embed

Rough Week

Suspect_in_South_Carolina_shooting_has_b_3080120000_20077645_ver1.0_640_480Sorry to have been away for a bit. Early last Tuesday morning, my digestive system suddenly decided that it was Tommy DeSimone and that the rest of me was six weeks late on the money I owed him. I feel markedly better now, but for a very long stretch of hours I’m convinced that I and the toilet became one.

But at least I wasn’t in South Carolina getting shot by a bigot.

In response to this vicious racist attack, we got the usual bullshit from the usual quarters. GOP Candidates couldn’t bring themselves to admit that it was a racist attack because it’s an article of faith in their party that the only racial problem that exists is the epidemic of minorities falsely accusing white people of racism. The gun nuts claimed that lives could have been spared if only the church’s congregation, staff, and passers-by had all been packing heat. I imagine both groups pre-write these statements to be released whenever a hate crime or mass shooting happens. I guess we’ll know when a press release calling for all teachers at a local elementary school to be armed lands on a reporter’s desk when no shooting has actually happened.

It is somewhat mollifying to hear that the flag that should have never been up in the first place may be coming down. I refuse to give Governor Nikki Haley any credit for that, at least, any more credit than should accrue to someone who, only very reluctantly and under great pressure, does what she’s supposed to do.  (She’ll be getting back to making sure black people in South Carolina have a hard time voting, and that none of her poorer citizens get any health insurance.) Instead, I credit those who applied the pressure.

Still, we’ve got tons of nonsense to get through. Fox News (sigh) is now obsessed with policing President Obama’s use of “nigger” in an interview, while missing his point: that racism isn’t over just because it’s no longer socially acceptable to use racial slurs in public. No doubt they’ve got their pundits lined up to tell us who the “real racists” are. Fox News won’t win the argument, but by throwing enough dust in the air, they’ll obscure the point long enough that everyone will forget what it was. We’ll also get the single-achievement-ends-racism idiots who’ll say “Okay, we took down the flag. Racism’s over now, right?”

What is the source of all this nonsense? Here’s my theory. White America really, really, really, really, really doesn’t want to take responsibility for its greatest crimes, and it will credit any argument, however ridiculous, that tells it it doesn’t have to.

“Something very worrying is happening in France.”

Writing Summer of Long Knives meant spending a lot of time immersed in the crimes of the Nazi regime. It would be pleasant to imagine that those crimes, and the mindset behind them, are museum pieces now, to be studied with the same puzzlement we would a Canopic jar, but recent articles about the rise of racist violence in Western Europe generally, and in France particularly, shows that the sickness is as virulent as ever:

From the Washington Post:

In Western Europe, no nation has seen the climate for Jews deteriorate more than France.

Anti-Semitism has ebbed and flowed here and throughout the region since the end of World War II, with outbreaks of violence and international terrorism — particularly in the 1980s and early 2000s — often linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Jewish leaders here are now warning of a recent and fundamental shift tied to a spurt of homegrown anti-Semitism.

This month, authorities arrested Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French national, and charged him with the May killings of four people inside a Jewish museum in Brussels. The attack was the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in Western Europe since a gunman killed seven people, including three children at a Jewish day school, in Toulouse in 2012. Nemmouche allegedly launched his attack after a tour of duty with rebels in Syria, prompting fears of additional violence to come as more of the hundreds of French nationals fighting there make their way home.

In a country that is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, the first three months of the year saw reported acts of anti-Semitic violence in France skyrocket to 140 incidents, a 40 percent increase from the same period last year. This month, two young Jewish men were severely beaten on their way to synagogue in an eastern suburb of Paris.

Near the city’s Montmartre district, home to the Moulin Rouge and the Sacré-Coeur basilica, a woman verbally accosted a Jewish mother before rattling the carriage of her 6-month-old child and shouting, “dirty Jewess . . . you Jews have too many children,” according to a report filed by France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, not far from the rolling vineyards of Bordeaux, stars of David were recently spray-painted on the homes of Jews.

And, as it was seventy years ago, Jews aren’t the only victims. They’re after the Roma again as well (From the Toronto Star):

A vigilante attack against a Roma teenager raised pressure on the French government Tuesday for its policies toward the ethnic minority even as the president condemned the “unspeakable and unjustifiable” violence that left the boy bleeding and unconscious in a grocery cart by the side of a highway.

Anti-discrimination groups say violence in France is rising against Roma, also known as Gypsies, who come primarily from Eastern Europe and are often blamed for petty crime.

Many live in makeshift camps on the sides of highways or in vacant lots, lacking running water or electricity. Without regular documentation of their residence, they have a hard time enrolling children into school, applying for subsidized housing, getting national health care or finding permanent work.

Several dozen Roma families in the boy’s makeshift camp in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, a grim northern suburb of Paris, cleared out Tuesday, abandoning what was already one of the poorest areas in France.

“The motive of this lynching, it was vengeance,” prosecutor Sylvie Moisson told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, saying the teen’s condition remained life-threatening. “To practically condemn him to death is barbaric.”

Police say about a dozen young people went into the Roma camp Friday after a series of burglaries in the area. They seized the boy, who is about 16, and took him to the City of Poets, as the local housing project is known. There, police say, he was beaten unconscious, stuffed into a shopping cart and wheeled to the roadside.

Luc Poignant, a police union official, told LCI television that doctors put the young man into a medically induced coma “because he was in so much pain.”

France, I realize that austerity sucks, that economic stagnation and recession tends to bring out the asshole in everybody, and that those assholes would rather hunt scapegoats than figure out a way to end austerity. (This is one of many reasons why smart economic policy matters.) But you guys lived next door to this once, and you know how it went for your neighbors (and, eventually, for you). You should know that any state in which its possible for two of its citizens to have this conversation is one that should be deeply ashamed of itself (from the same WaPo article):

“I walked into my kosher sandwich shop the other day and the owner asked me, ‘Is it time to leave? Are we Nazi Germany yet?’ ” said Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based international director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “We’ve got the National Front in first place. We’ve got Dieudonné, spreading his hate. So I told him, ‘Well, do you really want to be the last to go?’ ”

Stupid Things Great Writers Say

Let’s start with V.S. Naipaul, Nobel Laureate of 2001:

I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.

I’d be interested to see Mr. Naipaul put to a blind test. The closest thing we have online comes from The Guardian and from Nicole Bernier at Beyond the Margins. I took both, scored 60% accuracy on The Guardian’s test, but only 29% on Nicole’s test–my first eight answers were wrong. Statistically this makes me an average guesser, nothing more. Maybe Naipaul’s could hit 80% or better on both. Maybe that’s why he won the Nobel. (I kid, but don’t assume it’s because I love.)

The whole thing did get me thinking more broadly about the jackass pronouncements of brilliant writers. It’s strange. A author writes a compelling piece of fiction. It moves us, scares us, or makes us laugh. The author certainly has demonstrated a skill at spinning amusing and illuminating lies, but many try to translate this into erudition of a more general kind and turn authors into sages.

Given the nonsense a lot of brilliant authors take seriously, we should be at least a little more circumspect about doing this.

D.H. Lawrence, modernist author:

You have a Sam, a fat slow fellow, who has got slower and more slovenly as the weeks wear on. You have a master who has grown more irritable in his authority. Till Sam becomes simply wallowing in his slackness, makes your gorge rise. And the master is on red hot iron.

Now these two men, Captain and Sam, are there in a very unsteady equilibrium of command and obedience. A polarized flow. Definitely polarized.

The poles of will are the great ganglia of the voluntary nerve system, located beside the spinal column, in the back. From the poles of will in the backbone of the Captain, to the ganglia of will in the back of the sloucher Sam, runs a frazzled, jagged current, a staggering circuit of vital electricity. This circuit gets one jolt too many, and there is an explosion.

‘Tie up that lousy swine!’ roars the enraged Captain.

And whack! whack! down on the bare back of that sloucher Sam comes the cat.

What does it do? By Jove, it goes like ice-cold water into his spine. Down those lashes runs the current of the Captain’s rage, right into the blood and into the toneless ganglia of Sam’s voluntary system. Crash! Crash! runs the lightning flame, right into the cores of the living nerves.

And the living nerves respond. They start to vibrate. They brace up. The blood begins to go quicker. The nerves begin to recover their vividness. It is their tonic. The man Sam has a new clear day of intelligence, and a smarty back. The Captain has a new relief, a new ease in his authority, and a sore heart.

There is a new equilibrium, and a fresh start. The physical intelligence of a Sam is restored, the turgidity is relieved from the veins of the Captain.

It is a natural form of human coition, interchange.

It is good for Sam to be flogged. It is good, on this occasion, for the Captain to have Sam flogged. I say so. Because they were both in that physical condition.

It’s a good thing old D.H. was always broke. I’d hate to think what would have happened if he’d ever employed a housekeeper. Lawrence claimed that such a master/servant blood bond, strengthened through horrific violence, is infinitely preferable to contemporary employer/employee relationships. I don’t know. I’ve never much liked being an employee, but I’ve always been gratified to know that I could sic cops on any boss who raised a hand to me. I get that modern capitalist relationships have their alienating drawbacks, but Lawrence’s cure seems far worse than the disease.

Ezra Pound, modernist poet, rabid anti-semite:

You let in the Jew and the Jew rotted your empire, and you yourselves out-jewed the Jew.

And the big Jew has rotted every nation he has wormed into.

Your infamy is bound up with Judaea. You can not touch a sore or a shame in your empire but you find a Mond, a Sassoon, or a Goldsmid.

These gems came from Pound’s Italian radio broadcasts, made in support of Il Duce. I take it a close reading isn’t necessary. Pound gets credit for a great deal in literature. Certainly without him James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway would have had a rougher time getting their work out and noticed. Pound advanced 20th century literature. He also advanced 20th century fascism and gave intellectual cover to people who murdered millions out of bigotry. I’ll leave the question of which is more important to you.

Orson Scott Card, renowned sf author, homophobe:

 Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity’s ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships.

As a man of letters, Card doesn’t bat in the same league with Pound and Lawrence, but he is a figure of renown with the science fiction community, which by now must be well practiced in separating an author’s work from his personality. I wish them luck with that. With every statement like that, and Card just keeps on making ’em, it gets harder.

Henry Rollins, the rock and roll raconteur, once said that if you read the graffiti that your favorite band left backstage at a venue, your opinion of the band would plummet. The same is true of writers, and it’s going to get worse. Once upon a time, an author could cultivate a kind of semi-divine detachment from the audience, speak rarely, and every so often toss his work to the crowd the way John D. Rockefeller tossed dimes to the nobodies. But now, authors have to be on Facebook and Twitter, and have to push to do blog tours and interviews and speaking gigs, and thanks to the internet, every weird, stupid thing we say lives forever.

I’m not sure how to feel about that. What I try to do is ask myself whether the thoughts I express today will look barbaric twenty years from now. At the same time, I think about the bullet Shakespeare dodged. As far as we know, no one wrote down all the racist, sexist, monarchist shit that he surely must have thought.

Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering?

Today is the anniversary of the birth of the following people (among others, naturally): Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Auguste Rodin, Charles Manson, and Neil Young. So, as you can see, some Novembers the 12th look good on reflection, while others have some explaining to do.

Jeanette Winterson’s depiction of a fundamentalist mother in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit reminded me of my grandmother, who devoted herself to Christian Science’s idea that faith can heal illnesses. The total cost: my aunt’s hearing in one ear, my maternal grandfather’s and great uncle’s deaths, and finally her own life, painfully ended in 1988 by a long, unidentified ailment. It’s impressive when people follow their beliefs in spite of everything–not always in a good way.

An interesting, yet in many ways unsurprising, analysis of racist post-election tweets and their origins. (Note to those with weak constitutions: the tweets are quoted in the article, and they are deeply offensive.)

Video One (Hugh Laurie, “Sophisticated Song”):

Video #2: (RFK at the 1964 Democratic Convention, introducing a film about his recently murdered brother. It’s an extraordinary scene, with an extraordinary standing ovation that simply won’t end. After the speech, RFK broke down and wept on the fire escape. The speech starts at 12:35, but it’s better, I think, to watch it in full.)

Quote for the day: “It strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture we have an expectation that man can always solve his problems. This is so untrue that it makes me want to cry — or laugh.” –Kurt Vonnegut, Playboy interview