Friday, February 13, 2015

Three points from Adolph Reed's speech, “How the Left Redefined Social Justice: Capitalist Class Power and Inequality from FDR to Obama"

I heard Adolph Reed speak last night about the transformation of the American left since 1945, and afterward, I told Emma, "There's a whole lot of smart on that stage." Like many intelligent thinkers, Reed seems a little uncomfortable when he's reading, but his content makes up for that. But a lot of the fun comes with his asides and afterward, when he's dealing with questions.

Now, I didn't take notes, so I apologize if I misremember anything, but here are three points that especially struck me. I've put bits in quotes that I hope are accurately remembered:

1. Where the old left called for solidarity, the new left calls for diversity.

2. "Race is ethnicity." That's one of those things I've known for decades without being able to condense to three words. Reed pointed out that your only other choice is to endorse—my words now, not his—pseudo-science. If you reject "racial realism", race is ethnicity. Which, I'll add, has always been true. Even at the height of Jim Crow, black folks who could pass as Egyptians were treated differently than the locals.

3. On the contradiction of institutional racism: "Racism is an attitude, and institutions can't have attitudes."

Since there's not a transcript or a video online yet, here's a link to a talk with Reed from 2014: On the "desiccated hollowed out vaporous left"