An Ode to Bigotry

American conservatism is a farce. It is and has been the wealthy paying politicians to protect their wealthy interests (i.e. less worker’s rights and tax cuts), hiding behind the vote of one of the largest constituencies in the country: poor and middle class white people. We know this because Republicans (although it’s more about the ideology of American conservatism than the party name) have been utilizing a documented strategy of bigotry since at least 1968, the Southern Strategy. Let’s walk through the Southern Strategy and what it means quickly:

1968_large

 

Above is the electoral map from 1968. As you can see much of the Deep South voted third party, an anomaly in the history of American politics. Who was this third party candidate that resonated with Americans in the South at the end of the most radical decade in modern American History? George Wallace, running as the candidate of the American Independent Party. You know what his platform was? Segregation. He didn’t win, but his impact was staggering. Winning 5 states and a rogue elector from North Carolina. The Democrats had staked their claim as the progressive (for the day, relative to America) party and Republicans saw an angry and left out group for the taking, racists in the South. From 1968 Nixon and Republicans appointed segregationist judges to federal positions, advocated for law and order in response to the protests from oppressed groups and antiwar college students and delayed desegregation efforts in the South with his outright opposition to busing, all while never admitting to the existence of a Southern Strategy. He made appeals to racists without ever saying “I’m a racist”. Sound like any other presidents we know? In 1972 Nixon won in a landslide, and the states that Wallace won in 1968, along with much of the South have gone Republican in the majority of state and federal elections since.

So now that we understand what Republicans do and historically have done to continue winning the South, and by accident much of the similarly branded Midwest, we can talk about how the Republican message has evolved over 50 years. Republicans used to be the party of small government and fiscal conservatism, they’ve morphed into the party of “social conservatism”. Fiscal conservatism does little to help anybody but the most wealthy, which of course means it hurts the majority of their voters (see the masses crying about the health insurance they’re losing after asking for 8 years for it to be stopped then repealed). Many of their voters aren’t actually fiscally conservative. Poor white people use their share of social welfare programs and never seem to decry the bloated military budget which makes up more than half of discretionary spending. They aren’t truly believers in small government or personal liberty because they beg and plead the government to stretch its powers on the grounds of Christianity or for the bold outright bigotry to make it illegal for Americans to have abortions and access birth control if they want, marry who they want, do what drugs they want or believe in who they want. So what makes them conservative? Why do they vote Republican? Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. That’s it. The american political spectrum is so skewed right that our party on the “left” isn’t decidedly pro universal healthcare, criminal justice reform or free or subsidized post-secondary education. In the real world, according to the real political spectrum Democrats are political  moderates. What does that make Republicans? It makes them stand on the border to right wing and under Trump they’re flirting hard with fascism. The bigotry, masked as misunderstanding, religion and family values keeps their voters ready and active. They’re not FOR fiscal conservatism or FOR small government, just against whatever they perceive to be liberal, which in America has become the word for not a bigot.

Now comes the fun part. We know Republicans have had poor white people voting against their interests for decades, the real question is how? How has it been 50 years and half the country still flocks to the polls to vote against all of their own interests? Let’s talk about it.

States run by Republicans tend to be among the worst nationally in health, education, and access to the internet. They are the best at being religious and/or bigoted. Republicans flood them with propaganda via Fox News, Breitbart and other conservative “news” outlets, continually worsen their schools and health so they don’t know any better and have left much of the rural South and Midwest out of the broadband internet boom so while the rest of us are fact checking Donald Trump and Paul Ryan to the minute, they eat up their lies and propaganda. The people with the least access to quality education and information, the most background in racism, sexism and homophobia and the deepest religious ties, see this combination of social circumstances manipulated by the wealthy/Republicans to keep them voting against science, statistics and data, against reason, logic and humanity. The reaches of the propaganda machine go beyond bigotry and teach myths about scientific phenomena like global warming or to feed irrational support of the military. Quite literally Republicans sell the perspectives of their voters to the highest bidder. Alongside these voters red states are full of suppressed voters kept from polls due to over the top requirements, restrictions for felons and the closing down of polling stations and locations to get valid identification in and around black and brown communities*. When you restrict the vote to only your own deceived voters and redraw the lines so they run every district, well, you win.

Now what do Republicans gain from this? Are they just evil to be evil? Of course not. What they get is job security, their pockets lined by the extremely wealthy who vote for and pay Republicans to see their their own taxes cut (i.e. the backside of the Republican healthcare bill that will strip millions of healthcare is it also cuts taxes for the extremely wealthy). Those same extremely wealthy people who run multinational corporations that employ mostly underpaid minimum wage workers ALSO get a tired, stupid and sick workforce who have limited rights in the workplace and can work until they die early from limited healthcare access and never collect the Social Security they pay into (that the government borrows from until it bleeds dry). This is the picture perfect scenario for extremely wealthy capitalists as it maximizes profit while using people as a disposable resource, another number on the books. As I mentioned in my Black Dollar blog, capitalism doesn’t have a human element, it puts profit over function.

Now this is not an excuse for Republican voters. They are adults and have a responsibility to critically think for themselves, but choose the easier route of blaming their financial and social woes on whatever group Republicans have designated the enemy, today it’s Muslims, Mexicans and Black Lives Matter thugs. This is also not a pat on the back for the moderate Democrats who have kept the vote of the left purely by being the only “liberal” option. This is merely an explanation for why we’re here. It’s the evolution of 50 years of bigotry masked as “social conservatism” becoming the only identity for a political party that is very much for sale, even to the Russians apparently. This is so why we can stop asking “who are Trump voters?” and stop calling them the economically anxious (as if we aren’t ALL economically anxious). They are a product created by extensive market research, a group whose identity and sense of self-worth comes from their social status above oppressed groups. Many of them can’t explain policy to you and most repeat the same rhetoric when they argue. They believe their propaganda more than history or data. How do we stop them? Can we save them? I don’t know. I’m a cynic so I doubt it. 60 million people willing to vote for a bigot who mocked a disabled man and laughed about sexual assault aren’t going to be swayed now if they weren’t swayed before. We can only identify them and try to keep their politicians out of office because they stand for nothing but opposition to progress and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Bigotry is NOT a political stance. Racism and sexism aren’t political opinions, that includes the wave of Blue and All Lives Matter defenders, the vocal opposition to abortion, planned parenthood and voting rights for minorities. Homophobia and an irrational belief in some “gay agenda” is also not a political stance. These are social beliefs. Wherein an even semi-functional government should not be enforcing oppressive social beliefs, America historically specializes in it. Under Obama we claimed to be post-racial and to have made bigotry into a social stance worthy of exclusion. Well here we are, polarized as ever and watching bigotry be given the spot on the platform that is should be assigned to whatever actual conservatism should be (looking at you guys libertarians).

Sidenote: Watch Democrats over the next 4 years closely. Watch if they try to inch themselves to the right to attract this passionate voting group or if they commit to being progressive and make attempts at inspiring the 90 million Americans who did not vote at all or defending their millions of voters who have had their votes suppressed. Watch to see if the Party splits over it. We live in a politically exciting time and I’m eating my popcorn from the sidelines hoping not to get caught in the crossfire.

*for example, in Florida https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2017/06/21/voter-suppression-and-election-integrity-commission/

 

“This is business: no faces, just lines and statistics. From your phone, your zip code to to SSI digits. The system break man, child and women into figures. 2 columns for ‘who is” and “who ain’t niggas’. Numbers is hard and real and they never have feelings. But you push too hard, even numbers got limits.”

-Yasiin Bey, Mathematics

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We Wear The Masc

Don’t cry. Toughen up. Be a man.

What does that mean? Sincerely, what does that mean? I’m sure you’re running over a list of rules and regulations about what men do, and probably more of what they don’t do, inspired by family, media and whoever coached your (insert sport here) team. To the men, what insults would you fight over? Honestly. “Stupid”. “Ugly”. Not fighting words yet. “Asshole”. “Douchebag”. Probably not yet fighting, hell I revel in being called an asshole. Let’s take it up a notch. “Bitch”. *fists clench* “Pussy”. *What did you say?* “Faggot.” *Square up!*

Let’s keep it real. The most insulting thing a man called be called is a woman. To be denied his manhood and demeaned, degraded to womanhood. Men are probably nodding their heads in agreement, but what does that say about our view of men in relation to women and our roles. A lot of the talk of the day is about redefining gender roles, and I am completely for it. Women have voices that need to be heard and acknowledged and they have the right to decide what being a woman means. I leave that to them. But when we say redefining gender roles, how often do we talk about redefining manhood? Short answer, never. Why? A much longer answer for another week. For now, let’s stay on the what. 

The roles as they’re set up are toxic, not just to women as we ingrain sexism and homophobia to each new generation, but to us as well. I love being a man. Don’t mistake me. I don’t love all of the rules however. Most of what the things men are supposed to be are rooted in what we are not. We are not women; thus we are not frail. We are not emotional, so we have a society of men who struggle with emotional expression and thus are most likely to express those emotions via violent crime and abuse. We are not women so our sexuality is about conquering and bragging rights, not expression or emotion. In such a culture we see rape happen to at least 20% of our women (probably higher because of unreported abuse), because we excuse men’s sexuality being out of control. We are not gay men. Point blank. So young men are afraid to ask questions, gay teenagers and young adults are at an increased risk of suicide because a literal feeling inside of them (that’s as best I can define why I like women, so I imagine it feels the same for them but pointed in the opposite direction) tells them not to like what we tell them they are supposed to like. If boys go against these rule then we bully and beat them until we break them. If you’re not stringently straight and hyper-masculine, then you’re gay. We operate in absolutes. Most of the time we write things off to boys are boys and men are men. Good old testosterone, right? Or is that just the copout? 

As best I can tell, masculinity is an ego-driven social construct that teaches boys young to prove they are masculine, that is to say not feminine (not a woman, and not gay). We’re socialized young. The difference in my talking about the oppressive nature of manhood as compared to whiteness is that I am complicit. I partake. I enforce these roles. As men, we hold societal power because of the systems that be. Thus we hold the power to unpack and redefine manhood whenever we decide. Change starts at the top.

Maybe everything above is stupid. Maybe I’m spouting off silly hypotheticals because “well I know somebody who doesn’t do that somanhood is fine”. I can say I honestly don’t know. This is my writing out an answer to my own question. This is my trail of logic as I venture into adulthood as a man, and out to define my masculinity for myself. 

What I do know, is living in constant fear of “looking gay” (as if being gay is an insult) or “acting like a bitch” (because women are lesser than us or something) tiptoeing around nonsense rules of what it means to be a man is tiring and I don’t plan to commit to this version of manhood for 60 more years.

*Homework before I write the next part of this, go on Netflix and watch “The Mask You Live In”.

“We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties.”

-Paul Laurence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask

More Malcolm, than Martin

ASIDE *I’ve been wanting to write this for about four weeks. But quizzes, papers and finals happened and true to the student life, emotional expression ranks below my GPA. Finals are done now. That being said, I feel a need to explain something in detail via a blog. Once. Hopefully once is sufficient.*

I don’t hate white people.

I know, that should be fairly obvious. But recently, more than one person has suggested or outright asked if I do. I was taken aback. Then I thought about it more and I wasn’t. Over the course of less than eighteen months I went from Uncle Ruckus Lite to Huey* and that was a lot for people to take in. I found a pride in myself, then mixed that with three different classes in one school year on American History, two specifically from the perspectives of minority groups (African-Americans and Native Americans). I took in a lot of information and mixed it with a lot of information I had compartmentalized and defined as “yeah, but not me” over the years.

It’s been a lot. I see things in my life growing up and things now through a different lens. Things that bothered me before but I decided I could ignore aren’t so easy to ignore anymore.

 

One of the most important terms I learned in school this year was “double-consciousness”. I learned there’s a word for what every single minority I know has done their entire lives. There’s a sociological term (dating back over a century) for “don’t be acting up in front of these white people.” I was shocked. I almost wanted to cry. I felt less ashamed of the years I spent trying to ask for a place in mainstream culture and for ignoring offensive things for the sake of fitting in. We have all done it, so much so that W.E.B. Dubois coined a term for it in 1903.

I could never unlearn it. I could never stop seeing myself acting different in white spaces. Like a flashback in a movie, twenty-two years of memories flooded my mind. I didn’t feel ashamed. I just acknowledged them. But with acknowledgement came transition. A phrase I’ve seen thrown around a lot recently.** “Unapologetic Blackness.” My African-American History professor said it when she told us about the first activist to say “Black Power” (Stokely Carmicahel). About the afros and bright colors of the 1970s. The boldness to be black in front of white people (an era I believe we are cycling back to Harlem Renaissance, Black Power, whatever they inevitably name my generation). It made me beam with pride. Generations past have decided they don’t want to apologize for the cultural differences we didn’t’ ask for or create, but they would wear them proudly.

That comes with a price. When you inhabit mainly white spaces for the majority of your week, not laughing when somebody mocks patois comes off as an assault, acknowledging that there are cultural differences between you and those around you, and not wanting to be part of their culture is firing shots on Fort Sumter***. The right to be offensive in “their” spaces (which is most of the academic/career/social spaces in the United States) free of guilt has been challenged. You also learn to not correct or try to educate everybody around you. That’s not my role unless addressed or asked. So to simply ignore those things which offend you and revel with the one other worker who looks like you over how amazing Lemonade was is seen as social violence. But, none of those perceived slights are my problem.

I’m not sorry. It doesn’t mean I hate white people, or have some deep bitterness against anybody. People build relationships with those they have things in common with. I don’t care what color or background you have, if you fuck with Kendrick and Beyoncé, we have something to talk about. But don’t demand I learn to like what you like to appease you. I’d sooner not be your friend. The interests that connect people (music, sports, politics, hobbies) are valid for anybody of any background. If the people who believe Ultralight Beam was gospel, that crazy dunks require equally wild responses, that Black Lives do Matter, and also like to freestyle, roast each other and look at sneakers for fun happen to be the same color isn’t racism. They are cultural differences created BY racism. Created by a history of being excluded from mainstream culture and being forced into segregated neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.

America STILL is one of the most segregated places in the world****. Even I, growing up in predominantly white spaces (special shoutout to the other 3 black kids who by dice roll might end up in one of my classes) had one best friend over everybody else, and he was black. We would hang out and do all the things other black teenagers did: marvel over beats in hip hop songs, debate Chris Brown’s place in R&B and dance greatness, watch movies where the main character looked like us, Stomp the Yard still being a favorite etc, and then turn it off when it was time to go back to our respective schools on Monday.

Double consciousness is a burden to bear. I will not anymore. Just know it isn’t racism. Racism is about hating others. In this case, it would be centering whiteness. I would be acting with white people in mind. But I’m acting with me in mind. Centering my experiences and my race for once. If you can’t wrap your mind around that, I’m probably not going to be a fun friend in the first place.

Know that not every black person feels the same as me. Martin Luther King, Jr. was just as important as Malcolm X. Both views were necessary, as we are not a monolith. I speak for me. I’ve been told this isn’t a progressive way to view the world, but I disagree. It centers on perception and what we’re trying to progress towards.

 

“Channel 9 News tell me I’m movin’ backwards. Eight blocks left, death is around the corner. Seven misleadin’ statements ‘bout my persona.”

“But mama, don’t cry for me, ride for me, try for me, live for me, breathe for me, sing for me, honesty gudin’ me, I could be more than I gotta be. Stole from me, lied to me, nation hypocrisy.”

“Yeah, open our mind as we cast away oppression. Yeah, open the streets and watch our beliefs.”

-Kendrick Lamar, feature on Beyonce’s Freedom

 

 

*Go on Netflix and watch The Boondocks.

**Mainly online spaces such as Twitter, BuzzFeed, Washington Post etc.

***The Confederacy fired shots on Union soldiers at Fort Sumter, unofficially beginning the Civil War

****http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/150625-data-points-racial-dot-maps/

The New Slur

Privilege.

Privilege.

Privilege. Privilege. Privilege. Okay, got that out of the way. A few people will have closed the page already because they hate this word, so I figured I would just give them an easy exit now. People see privilege as more offensive than any of the actually offensive slurs used so flippantly. The irony though is that I don’t want to talk about privilege. Well sort of. If you go on BuzzFeed, Hufington Post, Twitter or any other site whose readership is made up primarily of millennials, you’ll see articles, studies, data, thinkpieces, mathematical equations, soliloquies and limericks explaining privilege and what it is. If you’re not sure, please refer to Google for a relatively free education. We can all agree (if you’re still here and not on Google) that in American society certain groups succeed at a higher rate than others. It’s easier to be: white than of color, straight than LGBTQ, a man than a woman, rich than poor, cisgendered than transgendered; and if any of those things intersect, even worse. And so on and so forth. Marginalized communities have been very vocal in recent years in explaining what America is like for them. So we all keep talking about privilege. We are generally learning what it means. Why are people afraid of it?. When you mention privilege, the immediate deterrent is

“well maybe some white people have it, but not me. My family struggled.”

“being a man is hard too though.”

“…” Actually, you get the point.

People rush to defend themselves when you credit their success to privilege. This seems deterring or obnoxious, until you put it into the context of the American Dream. The narrative of being an American is to build. To own something. The value of a name (see Donald Trump). To come from nothing like their forefathers and build a new country out of “nothing”. To overcome, to triumph. So when you accuse somebody of having an unfair advantage built into the system, their only response can be to defend because your accusation of privilege is an attack on their narrative, on their tale of triumph. It’s not actually that hard to understand. It’s a built in mechanism to defend your privilege.

American history is largely taught from the perspective of us, as Americans, overcoming. The tale opens with pilgrims escaping religious persecution. Then skip past a little bit of theft and genocide, we get to the tale of persecuted colonists being unfairly treated by their government in the British monarchy (African-American slaves roll their eyes), so they declare independence, fight a war and are now a free people. Then over the next one hundred years, American innovation and ingenuity developed technological advances that tamed the wilderness that was North America. Venturing into the wilderness to the west, the bold and brave Americans created the economic powerhouse that is the United States of America (again African-American slaves and the Indigenous peoples who remain after acts of genocide roll their eyes).

Then Civil War and Rec…wait we don’t talk about that. Then Civil War because of some stuff, and then the Roaring Twenties because to be honest most people I’ve interacted with have no idea what happened in America from 1866 until about 1917 when we joined World War I (see Google for labor union assaults, Jim Crow, the lynch mobs, women’s suffrage battles etc.). So, America comes to the aid of Europe and helps end WWI. Then due to all of our greatness, the Roaring Twenties. Then the Great Depression. In the midst of one of the great lows in American History, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. So to defend our honor we skip to WWII and America is bailing out Europe (after using socialist programs and the profits from WWII to end the Great Depression) again. The Make America Great Again era follows where Mr. and Mrs. Smith built the suburbs and created the greatest and most moral era of American history (eye rolls from everybody). Then the liberals (see communists, hippies, minorities and women) destroyed America up to the present day. Pause for Reagan attempting to fix it for those eight years. Bill Clinton caught cheating on his wife. 9/11 by B…during the Bush administration, and now we’re here.

That summarizes how a large portion of the American population views American History. It’s mostly “our” forefathers building this country off of blood, sweat and tears (just not theirs), then minorities, the LGBTQ community, women etc started asking for rights and tearing everything “we” had built. If you click around this blog a few times you’ll see some historical evidence to the contrary, but that doesn’t matter. The narrative of the American Dream requires oppression. It requires overcoming to build. So even when there is virtually nothing to overcome, the default reaction to being told you had advantages is to deny at the cost of what you believe to be the American Dream being deferred. We can’t work towards dismantling oppressive systems if we each our afraid to acknowledge that some of those BuzzFeed and Huffington Posts lists include us. If each of us continues to view the world through only our own experiences, we can’t work towards something that allows an equal playing field.

P.S. For the various members of marginalized groups who may read this: There’s levels to this. It’s not just on white people to acknowledge their advantages. It’s also on men, straight people, cisgendered people etc. It’s on black men to acknowledge that black women are running with ankle weights and a backpack. That gay minorities run with the backpack and have to jump hurdles. That intersectionality matters. We’re not in a race to see who can take power and oppress others next. But to see that we all get free.

 

 

“Inter century anthems based off inner city tantrums based off the way we was branded. Face it, Jerome gets more time than Brandon.”

     -Kanye West, Gorgeous

“Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho trying to make a sister feel low, you know all that gots to go”

     -Queen Latifah, U.N.I.T.Y.

“Walk outside, he whole world hate me. Nervous stares at the thoroughfare, surveilance cameras, police tracing. Poor so hard, this shit weird, we be home and still be scared.”

     -Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Niggas in Protest

“When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless, rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen. I might not be the same, but that’s not important. No freedom ‘til we’re equal, damn right I support it.”

     -Macklemore, Same Love