Does Liberation of Black and Brown Depend on Liberation of the White Working Class?

2017-03-16 – I’ve got a pretentious question for you today: Does the liberation of black and brown people in this country depend on the liberation of the white working class?

Before I answer this question directly, I want to talk about an interaction I had the beginning of this week in the comment section of The Other 98% Facebook page.

I responded to a graphic with the following text:

“This presidency is the result of
people who made Honey Boo Boo
and Duck Dynasty successful.”

To me, this was an example of the self-destructive impulse of so-called liberals to label working class and rural people as stupid—and I said so.

I don’t normally comment on this sort of thing, so I was unprepared for the response to my comment. People who liked what I had to say, generally gave me a thumbs up. People who didn’t posted comments—many of which were quite extreme.

Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s the nature of social media. But I’ve heard people defend their disgust for white working class and rural people in person. This is a real thing, not just an artifact of the Internet: many so-called liberals hate this group.

I consider that a problem—on moral grounds and on tactical grounds.

The moral position in this: as a liberal, I believe in the inherent worth of all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, orientation, etc. I believe in the right of all people to take pride in their identity. I believe that writing off people is wrong. So, when I see fellow liberals writing off white working class and rural people, I have to say “what the fuck?” That is not what we stand for. They are not the enemy.

This is true, in my mind, even if some of them are racist or sexist or homophobic or whatever. Bad behavior of some is not attributable to the group. I don’t attribute “thuggishness” (whatever that is) to African Americans. I don’t attribute crimes of a few undocumented aliens to all undocumented people much less to all latinos. I don’t attribute the despicable activities of the Westboro Baptist Church to all Christrians. I don’t attribute ISIS beheadings to all Muslims. And I don’t attribute the deplorable acts of some Trump supporters to the entire group. (Note that I am not blaming all liberals because violate this principle.)

That’s the moral position in a nutshell.

The tactical position is even more succinct: You can’t call people stupid and expect them to vote for you. Liberals have been doing this for decades.

Legend has it that, when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he said, “We have lost the South for a generation.” There is some debate whether this is true or not, but it is true that during the 60s and into the 70s southern states went from blue to red. Even in the northern states, white working class voters who were traditionally Democrats became Reagan Democrats. We say they vote against their interests because they are racist and sexist and, mostly, stupid.

This is victim blaming.

Now, let’s get back to the question I posed at the beginning of this post: Does the liberation of black and brown people in this country depend on the liberation of the white working class?

The answer is no. And yes.

The answer is no in the sense that all people liberate themselves. No one who is black or brown needs to wait until white working people are liberated.

But the answer is yes in the sense that we’re all in this together. People say that men are liberated if women are liberated. But the same idea works for race as well as sex. The more we understand and accept other, the more our own lives are enlarged.

So when I see a white racist, I think of how their life could be enlarged by casting away the racism. By the same token, when I see a liberal who is bigoted against white working class and rural people, I think of how their life could be enlarged by casting away their bigotry. And let me call this bigotry by its true name: racism.

The racist character of this bigotry is obscured by the fact that liberals who suffer from it tend to be white. How can it be that a white person would be racist against white people?

Conservatives call this self-hate. But it is not. White urban professionals and managers people do not identify with white working people or with rural people. Many white liberals would no more set foot on the factory floor than take a walk in the ghetto. They may swipe right on an African-American PhD who lives in the right suburb, but they swipe left at the first hint of a blue collar or a red neck.

The opposite is of course true. We might as well be separate races. It’s not self-hate. White urban professionals don’t hate other white urban professionals. White working people don’t hate other white working people. But the two groups hate each other.

But this hate is against liberal principles and it is self-destructive politically, as I have already said.

Can we put it aside?

Earlier in my post, I called this hatred victim blaming.

Liberals are fond of talking about white privilege. White urban professionals might have it. White working class and rural people—not so much. But I’ll tell you who has plenty of it: Donald Trump, the Congress, the Koch brothers, and occupants of C suites on Wall Street and across the country.

When liberals say that white working class and rural people vote against their interest, whose interest are they voting for? Answer that question and you will have found the culprit. Let’s stop blaming the victims of this scam.

These victims have much in common with black and brown working class people: job loss, poor access to education, poor access to health care, fragmented communities, drug abuse. You find this in rural Kansas just as you find it in minority neighborhoods of Chicago.

The people who benefit from this dislocation—the politicians and the tycoons who care nothing for the people—don’t want us to find a common ground. It would spoil their game.

So, does this mean we must accept “alternative facts”? Do we have to swallow racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. to make peace with the Trump voters? Not at all.

But Honey Boo Boo?

All I’m asking is not to make assumptions of people. Many Trump voters don’t accept “alternative facts” any more than you do. Many are open to diversity. But they are offended at how they are treated and like to troll you right back.

Even to the point of voting for a goofball like Donald Trump.

It will be hard to repair this. But the common interests are still there. If we can find it in ourselves to show a little respect.

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