Wednesday, November 2, 2011

white anti-racists, get over your white selves

An anonymous commenter left this link to James Bliss's neo, marx. marx, neo. whoa….

I was with Bliss until I got to this:
and while i’m ragging on the white left (this is such a long post and i didn’t intend for it to be…) i went to a gender/sexuality studies discussion group thing that a woman from my cohort was trying to get started (and it was very good to meet her), and there was a white male marxist there (there were 8 people around the table) who wanted an introduction to feminist theory, and he half-jokingly said ‘well who hasn’t been enslaved?’ to someone who identified as a descendent of slaves… and i was so taken aback that somebody said that out loud… to a Black woman…. (it’s shocking, if not at all surprising)… and the woman he said it to is somebody i haven’t spoken to before and she was acting in such a way that suggested that, although she did have and articulated an institutional critique of racism on the campus, she was also trying not to alienate herself from the people at the table, so i lobbed a general critique to the white marxist who made the comment. something to the effect of ‘well, that’s not an atypical thing for a marxist to say… rather, it’s a common thing for any white person to say, and it’s just reprehensible to hear it from a marxist…’ but i said it in a smiling sort of way because if you return to him the (unacknowledged, everyday, takenforgranted, hegemonic and therefore acceptable) violence he just directed at another person at the table, then you’re a lunatic…

that’s the thing about white people. we tell jokes that murder people. our benign amusements are genocide. we play at enslavement.
That's when I stopped and thought, “James Bliss, get over your white self.”

Because the fact is that most of us are descendants of slaves. A privileged black woman’s connection to slavery may be a few generations more recent than a dirt poor white man’s, but when you’re dealing with 2011, deal with now: A black man moved from a million dollar house into the White House, another black man is fighting to stay the frontrunner for the Republicans, and a black woman is making heaps of money from her memoirs about being the Secretary of State. The racial mix of the 1% is disproportionate, but there’s nothing to suggest that making the 1% proportionate will improve life for anyone in the 99%. Since Bliss is wrought up in whiteness, I suggest he read some black thinkers who have a more sophisticated understanding of economic injustice, like Rev. Thandeka, Adolph Reed Jr., or Preston H. Smith.

I have great respect for Bliss’s understanding of his personal reasons to oppose capitalism, but he gets things ass-backwards when he says, “black freedom does mean the liberation of the white working class.” Obama, Cain, and Condi Rice all show with their lives that what Preston Smith calls racial democracy does not lead to social democracy, and racial democracy sure won’t help most poor blacks any more than it helps most poor whites. All it does is increase racial proportionality in an unjust system.

Bliss continues down the wrong path when he says,
...the root of capitalist oppression is, as i follow a lot of people in arguing, the commodification of African-derived peoples, then that ought to be the foundation of anti-capitalist politics.
The root of capitalist oppression is the commodification of people, period. If we’re going to end that oppression, we have to do it for everyone’s sake.

Or, as ideological antiracists like to say, stop playing oppression olympics.

Or perhaps they should remember that these words of Martin Luther King are still true: “In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.”