Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is "Straight White Male" The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is? Part Four

I just left a comment at “Lowest Difficulty Setting” Follow-Up which went into moderation. In case it never comes out, here 'tis. The quotes are Scalzi's claims:
"wealth and class are not an inherent part of one’s personal nature"

Under capitalism, wealth and class are at least as much a part of one's personal nature as race, a social construct that was a creation of the slave trade.

"speaking as someone who has been at both the bottom and the top of the wealth and class spectrum here in the US, I think I have enough personal knowledge on the matter to say it belongs where I put it."

Herman Cain could make the same argument.
Since I'm at my blog now, I'll unpack this a little:

I haven't been at the top of the wealth and class spectrum, but I spent two years at Choate, so I've lived with those folks. However, I spent my earlier years at public schools in northern Florida, and I graduated from Western High School, an inner-city Washington school that was mostly poor and black, and I've mostly lived in working class neighborhoods since then. So I think I have enough personal knowledge on the matter to say it belongs where I put it.

Which is the bogusest of bogus argument, of course. Let's look at a couple of people who know more about this than John or me.

Regarding racism and slavery, historian Eric Williams noted in Capitalism and Slavery:
Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.
As for classism and racism, Rev. Thandeka, author of Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America, wrote in "The Whiting of Euro-Americans: A Divide and Conquer Strategy":
...we must not forget that white racism was from the start a vehicle for classism; its primary goal was not to elevate a race but to denigrate a class. White racism was thus a means to and end, and the end was the defense of Virginia’s class structure and the further subjugation of the poor of all "racial" colors.

RACE - The Power of an Illusion at PBS.

Race, class, and "whiteness theory" by Sharon Smith


  1. I hope your comment makes it through. I agree with you, obviously. Class and wealth are inextricably linked with racism, sexism (equal pay for equal work, anyone?) and a whole lot of other -isms that go into the white male privilege structures.

    I think Scalzi's done a very good thing, and it's gotten a lot of traction so yay, people paying attention to stuff that's usually shoved under the rug. But it can be improved upon.

    1. Agreed that he's done a good thing in principle--I get as tired of clueless white male capitalists as anyone--but I hate the identitarian spin that he and his bourgie pals put on it. There's something incomplete about being willing to discuss every privilege except wealth, and then when it comes up, relegating it to a sideshow.

      Hmm. To be clear, I like John. I like lots of conservative and liberal capitalists as individuals, but in every case, my favorite Upton Sinclair quote applies: 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.'

    2. Just checked. He deleted it. Cultists like discussions of opinion versus opinion, but they hate data that doesn't jibe with their model of reality.

  2. Bless you. I've been trying to explain the class divide, but I feel like most of what I say falls on deaf ears.

    My response to Scalzi's post is here:

    You might also like:

    If you haven't already seen it.

    And personally I find the statement "wealth is not a part of who you are--I know because I've been poor," extremely suspect. The older I get, the more I realize that growing up in poverty defined me far more than anything else about me, including my gender.

    1. Thanks for both of those links. I like yours very much, and I suspect I've underestimated Sady Doyle, who I've only encountered in her manic feminist mode. She and I have more in common than I knew.

      And, yeah, in this society, poverty and wealth shape you as much as being a serf or lord shaped folks under feudalism.

  3. Thanks very much. I'm glad you liked the link. "The Percentages" was the first thing of Sady's I'd read. Had no idea she'd also written work on feminism. Not my cup of tea, either. :-)

    1. She took the position that Assange must be guilty of rape because, well, she believed he was. I think women rarely lie about rape, but when you're talking about justice, you're not supposed to simply bet the odds. But on feminist bingo cards, "presumption of innocence" equals "supporter of rape culture."

      Well, that's all a digression. I'll cut her a little more slack now.

  4. I don't know about Sady, but it took me a long time to realize I was mad about having no money, and not about working in male-dominated culture. Everyone *told* me I was behind because I was female, so I thought my life was so much harder for that reason. Lots of anger--focused in the wrong direction.

    Not that being female doesn't have any effect. The class effect was just so much larger, and everyone (including me) ignored it.

    I guess I should thank John Scalzi for at least helping me clarify the real issues.

    1. Sady's young, and she writes for capitalists, not socialists. Maybe she'll figure it out, but if so, it'll probably be the way most of us do, the hard way.

  5. See also Freddie deBoer:

    1. Good find! I'd given up on Balloon Juice as a haven for liberals, but I like that.