Tuesday, May 18, 2010

more on neoliberal anti-racism

Googling "neoliberal anti-racism," I came on The limits of anti-racism by Adolph Reed Jr.:
Apostles of antiracism frequently can’t hear this sort of statement, because in their exceedingly simplistic version of the nexus of race and injustice there can be only the Manichean dichotomy of those who admit racism’s existence and those who deny it. There can be only Todd Gitlin (the sociologist and former SDS leader who has become, both fairly and as caricature, the symbol of a “class-first” line) and their own heroic, truth-telling selves, and whoever is not the latter must be the former. Thus the logic of straining to assign guilt by association substitutes for argument.

My position is—and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said this bluntly, yet to no avail, in response to those in blissful thrall of the comforting Manicheanism—that of course racism persists, in all the disparate, often unrelated kinds of social relations and “attitudes” that are characteristically lumped together under that rubric, but from the standpoint of trying to figure out how to combat even what most of us would agree is racial inequality and injustice, that acknowledgement and $2.25 will get me a ride on the subway. It doesn’t lend itself to any particular action except more taxonomic argument about what counts as racism.
Whether Reed's characterization of Gitlin is fair or not, the reference made me check Gitlin's Wikipedia article. Talking about the failure of the Democrats to unite, he said, "it is easier [for Republicans] to coax one of two ideological tendencies (usually the Christian right) to compromise for the greater good of conservatism than it is to persuade an identity-based group (feminists, gays, African Americans) to make concessions on what is, after all, their identity as they see it.”

I also found Walter Benn Michaels' What Matters:
In 1969, the top quintile of American wage-earners made 43 per cent of all the money earned in the US; the bottom quintile made 4.1 per cent. In 2007, the top quintile made 49.7 per cent; the bottom quintile 3.4. And while this inequality is both raced and gendered, it’s less so than you might think. White people, for example, make up about 70 per cent of the US population, and 62 per cent of those in the bottom quintile. Progress in fighting racism hasn’t done them any good; it hasn’t even been designed to do them any good. More generally, even if we succeeded completely in eliminating the effects of racism and sexism, we would not thereby have made any progress towards economic equality. A society in which white people were proportionately represented in the bottom quintile (and black people proportionately represented in the top quintile) would not be more equal; it would be exactly as unequal. It would not be more just; it would be proportionately unjust.
The emphasis is mine; that's a statistic I plan to memorize.

1 comment:

  1. I've read some of Todd Gitlin's books. He's interesting although I'd probably describe him as a disaffected hippy rather than a symbol of much of anything. Then again, that might be because I don't tend to think of people in terms of symbols.