Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The American Stain, or, Come on, White People, Stop Lying

Cartoon by Rogers Pittsburgh Post Gazette Please Don't Sue Me I'm Already Broke.
I cannot remember a more demoralizing four months in governance.

In November of 2016, about 40% of U.S. voters (give or take a couple of percentage points depending on who is counting) elected a man so vile in personality and so low in moral character that Richard Nixon looks statesmanlike in comparison, and George Bush looks like an aspiring saint.

The 60% of us who did not want this man in office immediately went into serious shock, and have since that time been descending through the various stages of grief:

    •     #1 Denial: This can’t be happening. We will take to the streets and work every second and make lots of noise and it will go back to the way it was!
    •    #2 Bargaining: Okay, maybe we can’t be in the streets every minute and maybe it won’t go away right away but we will fix it, just not as fast. Everyone will do what the can and the bad man will stop being bad, someday, maybe.
    •    #3 Depression: Shit. We have a dictator and he’s dangerous and Congress is craven and stupid and they don’t care about us one whit. It's all over. Why even live? Life sucks.

This week the country seemed to enter the depression state en masse as 45, the ugly American at the top of the pile, threw a week-long tantrum that started firing the FBI director—something that has been done only one other time in history. The tantrum continued.

Baldly admitting during a television interview that he fired Comey to obstruct an ongoing investigation into his ties with Russia, 45 humiliated his staff, threatened the intelligence community AND Comey on Twitter, and threatened to pull the funding for the ACA anytime he felt like it.Then he had the Russians into the Oval Office with no US press allowed but Russian press welcomed (because Putin asked him to, and how could he say no?)

Then he admitted he told the Russians a sensitive highly classified secret and also called Comey a 'nut job' and admitted the pressure over 'this Russ-er thing' was off now that Comey was gone.

Then his family said, hey Dad, let's all go to the Middle East! Like, um... now! Right away!

Chop, chop,  time's a wastin'.

The 45 Show never ends. I mean, seriously. This perpetual dumpster fire literally never ends.

But the real problem is us.

We all know it is, too.

The Worm Hath Turned

When I was a kid, every time a change came that hinted at somebody getting his or her just comeuppance, my Irish-American grandmother would declare smugly,

“Pammy, the worm hath turned!”

White America’s refusal to confront the legacy of slavery and an intractable acceptance of white supremacy post-Civil War is what brought 45 to power. Not jobs. Not the economy. Not his 'refreshing direct language.' Please. Russia could not have gotten so much as a dirty look from voters if we weren’t already so bitterly divided.

During the obsessive election postmortem, pundits were fond of explaining that politicians in both parties had ignored working class white America for way too long—so long, in fact, that the desperate working poor were willing to vote for a huckster and a liar.

Oh bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. 

Listen, I’m a white working class American, so is my husband, so are my kids, and so are my in-laws, and all sorts of other folks who live and vote here in the decaying rust belt, and we were, to a person, horrified by His Royal Orangeness, his filthy mouth, his racist ideas, his bold stupidity, his untreated mental illness, his horrible clothes, his fatty diet, and his piggish and criminal abuse of women.

What’s more, while some of the white working class poor wailed and moaned about brown people taking 'their' jobs and 'their' country, black Americans were struggling harder than almost any other group, and the ‘illegals’ they so despised were picking tomatoes and corn and fruit for wages no white person would ever accept—that is, if a white person could even work like that, which few will.

Some were receiving no wages at all. 

A few years ago, Michigan, the fruit belt of the Midwest, tried forcing farmers to hire white citizens over transient brown workers through state legislation. The legislature had to repeal that attempt shortly after it became law. White people were walking off these jobs after half an hour; eventually workers stopped showing up at all, and crops began to spoil in the fields.

Of course, there are all those great slaughterhouse jobs a bit farther west--jobs where South American refugee teens lose limbs and bleed to death on the cutting floor, and there is also the slavery of the tomato and strawberry pickers in Florida—a place that routinely and openly coerces ‘illegals’ fleeing brutal conditions in South American dictatorships to work for free or be turned over to ICE.

There are also all those great dish-washing jobs and domestic positions white people are missing out on. Oh yeah, and stripping and making up motel beds and cleaning up pubes and puke.

In short, all of us are suffering since the crash of 2008 (and before!), but black and brown people are suffering way more, as usual, than poor whites.

The big difference is not the suffering, it's the sense of entitlement.

When some poor whites start suffering the same harsh conditions blacks have suffered since the horror of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, some of us white folks experienced that loss of special privilege as an unfair attack. Are these people not due certain considerations just for being white?

They feel they are. Or they should be. They say as much. Openly.

White Supremacy is the gasoline that fueled the fire that energized 45’s campaign--not job loss, not aborted babies, not the tragedy of the opioid epidemics--which by the way no one gave two hoots about so long as illegal drugs only killed urban blacks--and not the terror of gays and transsexuals doing anything at all,  just daring to, you know, exist.

No, it was race. White entitlement. White whining and pissing and moaning.

And we, as a culture, as a nation, still don’t want to talk about it.

Why not? It’s been 154 years by the shortest count, much longer if you count the slaves brought here in the 17th century, before America was even a thing. Slaves that literally built the country. For free.

Too soon? Seriously? After 154 years? After over 300 years?

As my grandmother used to cluck, the worm has turned all right.

And now we have a nation ruled by worms.

This Means W.A.R.: Whites Against Racism? Why Not?

Here’s something you don’t see very often: White people talking to other white people about how not to act like racist assholes (and how not to be racist assholes, and why this is worth working on).

You just don’t see much of that.

And there’s a good reason you don’t see it.

It’s because, as a white person, if you pipe up in that voice in public, you put your own safety in peril. At the very least, you’re likely to get shouted down, or drown in a chorus of, “My great-grandfather wasn’t even HERE during slavery,” or some other whiny sniveling evasive rant. The 2017 justification for this is "I don't believe in political correctness," which, nine times out of ten is a coded way of saying, "I'm not going to be ashamed of my racism."

During the Watts riots, I was standing in line at a Mini-Mart behind five or six assorted white people, some well-dressed, some in work clothes, some just waiting to buy a lottery ticket. The conversation in front of me turned to the riots, with everyone going on about “these people who go and burn down their own neighborhoods,” while looking nervously over their shoulders to be sure no black people were around.

Being way more mouthy that intelligent, I said, “Would you be happier if they hopped on buses and burned down YOUR neighborhood?”

The silence after that quip was so heavy, I decided to leave. Right away.

Because I’m cowardly that way. I am.

I've been through worse, but I'll get to that by and by. My history is what inspire my cowardice.

I have stories to tell about race, lots of them.

Recently some online writer friends were talking about what we could do about this mess the US finds itself in, what would help, and one person suggested a blogging circle. “The only bad thing is,” she warned,”you will get trolled. If you write about politics you will get trolled.”

I used to write about politics back before 2008 but I gave it up because I got sick of trolls. That was years ago. But I thought her blogging circle idea wasn’t bad. I need a place to dump my anti-45 thoughts, and it seemed to me that it also might be the right time for me to tell my stories and talk to other white people about race and my own experiences confronting racism.

Basically I'm taking up Michael Eric Dyson's challenge to white people to challenge each other. Already I am getting shit about it, which is encouraging.

So that’s my declaration of W.A.R.

I mean to speak for no one except myself. These are personal stories and will be presented as such. They are not prescriptive or preachy, just an account of shit that has actually happened in my actual life, shit I have never had a place to share.

Take from it what you will, or leave it.

And stay tuned.