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

Stop Lying On the Black Dollar

The most common solution I see presented for the woes of the African-American community is an investment in black businesses and the development of a black self-sustaining economy similar to that of the Jewish, Chinese, Indian etc. peoples who have immigrated to this country. For a number of reasons this solution is destined to fail if our purpose is to see economic and social freedom for all black people. As a historian, I cannot help but think about the history of free black people dating as far back as the American colonies long before the revolution. There have always been black people with some money, although their number has been tiny, they have existed. Today we have black CEOs, a former black president and a bevy of black entertainers and athletes all with enough wealth to invest in black communities and create thriving economies. Why don’t they? How far do millions actually go? And are their investments equating to a change in the black condition? Recent numbers on the racial wealth gap show black people quite literally centuries behind their white counterparts in terms of median household wealth.* Why is community investment and buying black not enough? What’s stopping us from being the Jewish or Chinese communities?

Racism. Were you expecting more?

Yes, other communities have faced racism as well, and some continue to face racism, but there’s will never be the brute force of anitblackness because there’s is a residual racism, determined by their proximity to whiteness, both literally and culturally. Many have assimilated into whiteness over time (see Italians, Irish and White Latinos today *stares angrily at Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz*) or used antiblackness as a way to get ahead themselves (see all the Asian owned property in the ghetto and look into the amount of Jewish people run major industries that still discriminate against black people). See, the issue at play here is capitalism is inherently exploitive. Capitalism preaches that if one works hard enough they too can achieve and rise through to the upper class. Trends show us social mobility in the United States is incredibly difficult** and there is a finite amount of dollars and property to be had in this country, and certain groups got a two to three hundred year headstart on the landgrab (after destroying Indigenous communities whose land it was). Wealth primarily transfers from generation to generation. Black people could spend the next two hundred years investing in our own communities and “buying back the block” and still not see a dramatic shift in those trends. The deck is stacked against us.

Capitalism requires a group to exploit for labor. The United States of America became an economic superpower during the 19th century on the backs of FREE African-American labor. Over time the capitalists (those who own the means of production, not people who support capitalism) have resisted raises in wages and the rights of workers so they can pay as little as possible for labor. Fair and equal payment for labor would leave capitalists with little profit, or at least little excess, and that contradicts the nature of capitalism, a system fueled by human greed and exploitation. In the United States, the very foundation of our system is the African-Americans as the mules. We can fight our way into the system, but somebody has to be exploited. How much time would it take for black people to be so fully represented in all aspects of American society that they are no longer the assumed group to be exploited? And what would happen then? We would exploit the less qualified, unlucky and those born into poverty the way white capitalists do the poor white people now, in what we PERCEIVE as a just meritocracy instead of discrimination and abusive cycles of poverty used to fatten our pockets. I don’t believe true meritocracy can exist because humans are flawed. We are biased from the day we begin socializing, we see groups as “us” and “them” and we will translate those biases into any system we create. What’s the end goal of black capitalism? It cannot by the very nature of capitalism be the economic and social freedom of ALL black people. It has not been and will not be. The black American capitalist of old sold or transported his fellow black people as the exploited group then and they will exploit the labor of their fellow black people today.  Power in capitalism is not a righteous power, it exploits and destroys and to chase that power as a people group only ensures we’ll discriminate if everything went right for us and we could even hold that power. Capitalism requires somebody have poverty inflicted on them. Poverty is violence. 

As a historian in the making, I refuse to repeat failed propositions to free black people. History tells us what works and what doesn’t work. It shows us failed attempts, where systems are weak and where they are strong, and most importantly how incredibly adaptable the American system of racism is. We fight for a seat at a table that is constantly being moved, rearranged, taken apart and rebuilt whenever we figure out its location. It’s a game we cannot win. History tells me so. Activists and revolutionaries of old tell me so.

“We got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”

-Fred Hampton, leader of the Chicago Black Panther chapter

Working class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive ruling class. Let me emphasize again — we believe our fight is a class struggle, not a race struggle.”

-Bobby Seale, Black Panther co-founder

 

Now I will add to Bobby Seale’s statement that although the larger struggle is a class struggle, racism is still possible even if capitalism was done away with and needs to be done away simultaneously or not at all. However it is evident that those who studied and fought for freedom in the most visibly radical way ever seen in American History, knew black capitalism was not the solution. They knew their enemy was not just the rich or poor white racist, but the white capitalist manipulating the white racist to enjoy his social status over black people more than he despises the poverty he’ll never escape. There is a history of African-American leftism in the United States that predates World War II. And a history of communal living in certain African and Indigenous groups that predates the very term “socialism”. It, like much of American leftism, has been scrubbed from our history books. It would be a disservice to the freedom fighters of old (dating back to before the Red Scare that forced the Civil Rights movement to go nonviolent and Christian, i.e. MLK) to disregard the labor they put into analyzing the black struggle and drawing conclusions for us to spout made up meme facts about black buying power and fight for black capitalism, a system we have been shown and told will fail.

I don’t think I have the answers. I have no idea how to achieve the goals set by activists of old. But I know what will not work when held side by side with history. For now I resolve to study works by black ideologues, activists and revolutionaries. If we want solutions, we would do well to start from where they left off rather than repeating their path only to arrive at their same conclusions a decade late because we didn’t trust their labor and analysis enough. Or didn’t care to read it.

 

“Sorry ‘merica, but I will not be your soldier. Obama just wasn’t enough, I need some more closure.”

– Joey Bada$$, Land of the Free

“If you put crabs in a barrel to insure your survival you gon end up pullin down niggas that look just like you..”

-Ironically the black capitalist himself in a song where he advocates black economic excellence lol, Jay-Z, Murder to Excellence

*http://www.epi.org/blog/the-racial-wealth-gap-how-african-americans-have-been-shortchanged-out-of-the-materials-to-build-wealth/

**https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/02_economic_mobility_sawhill_ch3.pdf