Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In Other News -- The Rise of the Racist Right (Again)

The Summer News Cycle is winding down -- the shark and missing white people stories are being put away (this summer it seemed to be white boys going missing rather than the usual white women), and the presidential campaign for the 2016 election is being given the media's main spotlight.

Bernie, The Donald, Herself... and the wild card of Ol' Joe (Biden)... seem to be sucking out all oxygen from the newsroom.

The Bernie campaign is the one with the most populist energy in that the campaign is drawing large crowds practically everywhere. Some of those crowds are immense. They seem to arise spontaneously. In some ways, the Bernie campaign reminds me of the Howard Dean phenomenon when time was, and I cannot help but recall the real shock the single digit vote results in the primaries were. How could that be, we all wondered, when he had been drawing such enthusiastic crowds? Why could he not even break into double digits -- except in Vermont?

Well, I think Bernie is going to be faced with a similar situation. How such large and enthusiastic crowds translate into such a small vote result is something for a scholarly study I haven't seen yet, but I suspect it will happen to Bernie (though he might do better than HoHo did.)

The #BLM interruptions of his campaign speeches and his subsequent acknowledgement of and policy program to redress structural and institutional racism has been taken as a marker of Bernie's civil rights and progressive cred. But what he doesn't say is the same as every other politician on the national stage. He won't endorse or repeat the principal demand of the protesters: "Stop Killing Us."

Nor will any other politician on the national stage.

Not one.

The killing is apparently something to deal with in the future, the distant future preferably, once the problem of structural and institutional racism is solved. Or maybe the killing isn't to be dealt with at all. It's really hard to say.

The killing, though, is the immediate, emergency problem, and the rate of police killings keeps climbing despite all the protests, inconveniences and interruptions of routines that the protesters engage in.

The message here is that the political class as a whole -- Bernie included -- is not particularly troubled by the killing. Nope. I've seen arguments that it is actually quite a rare thing for someone to be killed by the police (despite a higher rate of police killings than just about anywhere else in the world) and those who are killed for the most part "needed killing" anyway, so the problem of police killings is not really that much of a problem when you really look and sort it all out.

Racism, though, is something else again.

At least that's the political message.

Racism is the issue that we must tackle with all available resources and from every angle. Structural racism, institutional racism, historical racism, personal and private racism, overt and public racism, all must be tackled and dismantled, or we will forever face an intractable, socially destructive  problem of racial injustice and discrimination.

And we're better than that. Or something.

So I was cruising around the interwebs and found a story that said the Prairie View, Texas, city council had voted to rename University Blvd to "Sandra Bland Drive Parkway," and I thought, "well, isn't that something?" Not necessarily progress -- that would be expecting too much -- but at least it was an acknowledgement that her life mattered. And that's something.

The story I read was from Channel 2 in Houston, and the comments on the story were filled with racist invective, literally in every comment I read. Oh my. I've seen this before on the internet. In fact, I see it pretty frequently. Racist invective seems to be a feature of the internet, not a social bug at all. It's built in to the structure of internet commentary somehow, but every time I see it, it's a shock. I thought I was fairly sophisticated about these things, but the sort of racist animosity I've been seeing for the last several years -- and sheer amount of it -- is both bewildering and shocking.

I regard it as specifically an internet phenomenon and not particularly representative of the general feelings and beliefs of Americans, but I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it is just the tip of a racist iceberg...

What I saw and read in the comments on the Channel 2 story about renaming the street on which she was manhandled and arrested for Sandra Bland was appalling, but it's not unique.

Apparently since the removal of the Confederate battle flag from places of honor in several Southern -- and some not so southern (ie: Albuquerque) -- places, a certain variety of white racist, incensed at the disrespect for their flag, have taken to arms and are prepared to fight the nigra tide that is sweeping over them... yadda, yadda, yadda. It's just ridiculous, but there you are. OK then. So be it.

The problem with this kind of white racism is that even though it may involve a relatively small minority of white folks -- though I can't be sure of the size of the current racist rise -- it can be very powerful because it taps in to America's original sins -- black chattel slavery and Native American genocide. Both were fundamental for the nation's creation and sustenance. There could be and would have been no United States of America without them.

Every effort to overcome those original sins has been fiercely resisted by some white folks for generation upon generation, and so far, while there has been progress -- chattel slavery has been largely eliminated, genocide renounced if not ended in practice -- these sins are still inherent in the nation's very being. The current level of racist internet trolling may be shocking to me, but apparently there are plenty of white folks who live this racist reality all the time.

It's powerful and it's dangerous.

I suppose that so long as it is largely confined to internet trolling, it's not really a serious problem, but I don't know that the internet actually confines it.

The #BLM movement has forced the issue of disparate justice and violent racist policing into public consciousness (again -- it's really always been with us) but so far has been ineffective in reducing the level of disparate justice and violent racist policing. In fact, the rate of police killings has substantially increased this year over last, and courts will still cheerfully charge, try and sentence black and brown folks far more severely than whites for the same offenses. Those same courts will also overlook police violence and killing.

In other words, nothing has yet positively affected the problem which has long since been identified.

At least superficially things are getting worse, not better.

There are some hopeful signs which I will try to get to in another post. But for the time being, the white racist trolls are having a field day.

Not a pretty picture.

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