Posts Tagged ‘Race’

Several years ago, I heard a news report about a gunman who walked into his workplace and killed not only his supervisors, but several innocent fellow workers. My reaction was “Damn! Why didn’t you just kill your boss?!”

That night, I wrote the lyrics for “Postal.” I’d been screwing around with the chord pattern for a while before that, and everything fell into place. The song basically wrote itself; it urges people who go postal to just kill their bosses, and not their co-workers. (My thought at the time was, “Who could possibly object to that?”)

A year or two later, my band at the time, Pinche Blues Band, recorded it.

I was surprised by the reaction to the song.  Even the most progressive white folks I know, extremely cynical leftist musicians and PC guilt-ridden liberals, thought it was “sick.” Though some eventually came around to seeing it as “getting inside the mind” of a shooter. They were wrong. I was literally urging people to shoot their bosses and not their innocent co-workers, if they decided to go that route. (Not a good idea, needless to say–too many negative personal consequences.)

In contrast, my black neighbors (middle-aged ex-gang bangers from one of the hellholes back east–and no, I’m not going to get more specific–and one of their pops, a longtime blues musician in that hellhole) loved it. A couple of my  ex-gangster Mexican neighbors did, too. As one of the neighbors put it, “I”m comin’ for you, motherfucker!” I was very surprised at how much they loved the song: everybody else was lukewarm at best (something I very much didn’t anticipate — I thought everybody on the left side of the spectrum would love it).

Here it is. Make up your own mind. Is the reaction to this a reflection of small sample size, a reflection of how awful I am as a human being, and how some people who sympathize with me are “sick,” or a reflection of how much more badly black folks get shit upon than even poor white folks in this society, how much most white folks are in denial?, and how much so many of us, poor black, white, and Mexican, want vengeance?  Here ’tis. Enjoy. And reflect, please. And then do something about it.




GUILT, n. The preferred leftist means of manipulating the white working class into political activism, and a means particularly favored by academics and those from upper middle class backgrounds. The theory behind this is that telling people who are under constant financial stress, have no or inadequate medical insurance, who put off necessary dental care for years, are one paycheck away from being on the street, and are working 40 or more hours per week at jobs they hate that they are “privileged,” and that they should examine their “privilege,” is the ideal way to induce them to altruistically “struggle” in their copious free time for the “liberation” of the “oppressed” in order that the “oppressed” might reach the same “privileged” status that they themselves are so fortunate to enjoy.

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary scheduled for June 2016

* * *

Racial inequality and economic inequality are very real problems in the United States. What’s the best way to address them? What’s the best way to talk to people, the best way to motivate people to right wrongs? One way, the inclusive way, is to approach such problems from an economic standpoint, to talk  about rich and poor, to talk about how poor people of all colors get screwed, and what can be done about it. A concrete example of that would address racial imbalance in higher education by demanding that the top 10% or 20% of every high school graduating class in a state be automatically admitted to the state’s university system. An even better, even more inclusive,  demand would be that all who want to attend be automatically granted admission, and that higher education be free for all.

There’s no economic reason not to make such a demand. This is the richest country in the world, but a large majority of people face frightening artificial scarcity, and making such a demand necessarily entails talking about artificial scarcity, the reasons for it, and what can be done about it — a very good thing in itself.  Such an approach has the potential to unite people of all colors. And it has the potential to improve the lives of people of all colors — which is self-evident. (For an explanation of artificial scarcity in the U.S.,  see Why The Work Week Should Be Much Shorter, Parts I, II, III, and IV.) This is the inclusive approach.

Then there’s the divisive approach. It’s commonly called political correctness. It addresses inequalities in racial terms, demanding improvements for members of one race only, while ignoring economic class. Crucially, it implicitly accepts the artificial scarcity in our country, it implicitly accepts that there’s not, and will not be, enough of anything good to go around. The very strong implication of this approach is that improvements for members of one race come at the expense of another.

When translated into government programs, the politically correct approach does divide people. It does drive working class whites into the arms of their right-wing “protectors.” “Affirmative action” is a good example. (The term now means something drastically different from its meaning when JFK first used it in an executive order in 1961; then it meant that government contractors “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” Now it means that some individuals are given preference because of race.) The underlying assumption, which virtually no one talks about, is that there’s not enough to go around. Affirmative action implicitly and strongly endorses this flat-out-wrong assumption.

It’d be far better to demand that good jobs and education be available to all who want them, and that if there are temporary blocks to this, that preference be given purely on the basis of economic need. That’s a persuasive argument, an argument that would gain wide support, and, if adopted as policy, would disproportionately benefit black and brown kids, who are disproportionately poor. The divisive PC approach, “Your kid can’t get into college because there’s a black or brown kid who’ll get preference because he’s black or brown” will, on the contrary, stimulate wide opposition and set up competition based on race.

The end result of racially based policies?  Poor and working class people of different colors fighting over crumbs, hordes of poor and working class whites flocking to right-wing demagogues–and the rich and their corporations still firmly in the saddle. Divide and conquer.

So, make your arguments and approaches economic, not racial, in nature and you might get somewhere. If you make them racial in nature, you’ll end up with poor people of different colors fighting over crumbs.

Another aspect of the problem is guilt-tripping politically correct language. Such language largely comes from academia and more especially, one suspects, from multiculturalists and postmodernists in Ivy League women’s studies, cultural studies, and sociology departments. Take for example the terms “white privilege” and “white skin privilege.” I just did a search for the origin of “white privilege” and discovered that “white privilege” only started being widely used by, first, academics and then leftists after the term was popularized in the 1980s by a Wellesley professor of women’s studies, and subsequently taken up by other academics. (I haven’t done similar searches for any of the other standard PC terms, but I suspect that most if not all have a similar origin.)

What’s wrong with the term “white privilege”? (Black and brown people do, of course, get screwed worse than white people in the USA.) Well, “privilege” is  exactly the same term that almost everyone uses to describe the rich. And, guess what, if you describe one group (whites) with exactly the same term that you describe another (the rich), it makes sense that the group so described/attacked will, at least subconsciously, conclude that they have more in common with the others being so attacked than with those doing the attacking (PC leftists).

The term also implies that white people, as such, no matter what their economic circumstances, cannot be oppressed — how can you oppress someone who’s “privileged”?–again driving a wedge between people of different colors. There’s a crucial difference between accurately describing white working class and poor people as “less oppressed” than black and brown working class people, and inaccurately calling them “privileged.” The accurate description, which posits that all economically deprived people are oppressed,  stimulates thought and discussion among all people; the inaccurate one is a grotesque insult that provokes anger among poor and working class whites. It’s profoundly divisive.

There are other problems with PC terminology. First and foremost, it’s awkward, artificial, manipulative, and often wordy and imprecise; it lends itself to ridicule. So, everyday people don’t use it. I’ve lived in a poor, 75%-brown/black neighborhood for nearly a quarter of a century, I’ve known some of my neighbors for nearly two decades, and I can’t recall ever hearing any of them use any of the standard PC terms.

So, why did politically correct phrasemakers come up with these terms in the first place? Their apparent purpose was to manipulate everyday people into a state of “higher” political consciousness through endless repetition of PC terms and phrases. After decades of use, though, it’s very evident that that project has been an abysmal failure.

Given that, why do a small minority of people continue to use these awkward, artificial terms? Some, especially “progressive” politicians and academics, seem to use them out of conventionality–their colleagues use these terms, and they want to fit in–and also out of the fear of ostracism and retaliation (in employment, for instance) within their spheres.

For those who aren’t using PC jargon purely out of conventionality and fear, it serves the same purposes all in-group jargon serves: it makes those who use it feel good about themselves, how enlightened and special they are, and it allows them to recognize each other. That most ordinary people don’t use PC terms and find them ridiculous or off-putting is entirely beside the point. The point, among those who use these terms out of fear, is self-preservation; among those who use them out of choice, the point is to feel superior and to use the terms as indicators of in-group status.

So, please drop the PC terminology. If you want people to listen to you, don’t use alienating jargon. Talk to people in plain language, the language they themselves use.

And if you want to improve their lives (and your own) economically, make your demands purely in economic, not racial, terms.

Yeah. Prii9ilege. That’s what I keep hearing from PC types. If it’s “privilege,” it’sIn the same sense as someone who’s in prison being pissed on by his guards is “privileged” in comparison to another prisoner who’s being shit on by his guards. That’s “privilege.”

I’d bet money that none of the PC assholes on Alternet,The Guardian, etc. who use that term  have ever done a day of manual labor in their entire lives. I’d bet money that they’ve never been down against it — never been  out on the streets without the bucks to pay for a room, having to get a job–any job–just to pay the rent . . . not being able to pay for basic medical care  . . . Yeah. They call all of us who are white  in those circumstances “privileged.”

Let ’em do some concrete or hot-roof work for months on end and then call themselves “privileged.”

How dare they pass judgment on us? How dare they frame the terms of debate so that it assumes their “privilege” is the same as those of us who have been shat on our entire lives?? How dare they put it in racial terms? How dare they pretend that  economic issues are racial issues?

The ultra-PC writers who condescend to and attack the white working class should just go screw themselves

They’re worse than useless.

If we’re ever going to get anywhere, get out of this artificial hellhole called the U.S. economy, we need to talk about economic justice, not race guilt-tripping.

by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

Know-nothingism has become fashionable on the religious right. Many right-wing fundamentalists insist that assertions contained in an ancient mish-mash of a book are every bit as valid as carefully arrived-at, repeatedly tested scientific theories and conclusions.

In a striking bit of irony, some go even further and (unconsciously) mimic academic postmodernists, insisting that all “opinions” (including scientific conclusions) are equal. Thus willful ignorance among the least educated mirrors willful ignorance among the most educated.

Given all this, it’s good to remind ourselves of why facts matter, and why science is superior to religious faith.

Failure to take facts into account has real-world consequences. To cite a trivial example, if you believe you’re invulnerable because you believe you are, test your hypothesis by stepping in front of a truck. To cite a sadder, all-too-real example, science has established that the similarities between human beings vastly outweigh the differences, and that there’s no basis for assertions that any race is superior to any other. So, are the opinions of racists just as valid as  the scientific conclusion that the differences between racial groups are trivial?

To cite still another example of why facts matter, in the Middle Ages in Europe, with science at a standstill, many believed that disease and bad weather were caused by witchcraft. End result? Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of “witches” were brutally murdered for “causing” storms and disease.

There are innumerable other examples demonstrating why facts matter. And, yes, you can’t absolutely prove anything, but probabilities are so high in so many cases that it’s reasonable to act as if the probablity is 100%.

So, facts do matter. But why does science trump religion?

1. The scientific method is the only reliable way to arrive at the most probably correct explanation of almost anything. Scientists reach conclusions by formulating hypotheses, checking those hypotheses against observed phenomena, devising experiments to test the hypotheses, checking them for internal consistency, and checking to see if the hypotheses can generate accurate predictions. Then doing all this over and over again, with different scientists repeatedly testing the hypotheses (“theories” if they consistently pass all these tests over a prolonged period of time) through experiment, observation, and analysis.

This is a bit different than pointing to a hoary book written by iron-age slaveholders and asserting, “This is a fact! It says so here!”

2. Science is self-correcting. Religion isn’t. Science continually tests and refines hypotheses and theories to arrive at more accurate explanations. Religion doesn’t.

A good example of this is provided by scientific exploration of racial differences between humans. In the 19th century, some scientists asserted that whites were superior to other races. By the middle of the 20th century, other scientists had definitively debunked those assertions through observation, experiment, and analysis. (Yes, there are still a few racist scientists, but their assertions are knocked down almost as soon as they make them, and the vast majority of scientists now accept, in line with scientific research, that assertions of racial superiority or inferiority are baseless.)

The overt racism of the Book of Mormon slightly predates the racist assertions of some 19th-century scientists, with the Book of Mormon itself referring to caucasians as “white and exceedingly fair and delightsome” (2 Nephi 5:20-21); and as late as 1935, Mormon Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith asserted that “because of [Cain’s] wickedness he became the father of an inferior race.” (The Way to Perfection, p. 101)

Finally, in 1978, in response to widespread social condemnation (and undoubtedly a desire to increase the number of potential converts), then-prophet Spencer W. Kimball announced a new “revelation” that the church should abandon its racial restrictions on the priesthood (but not the “revealed” racist passage in 2 Nephi, nor the racist statements of previous “prophets”). That’s a bit different than the way science handled the matter, eh?

3. Science improves daily life. Religion doesn’t. One clear example of this is in the field of medicine. Scientists discovered the microbial nature of disease. That discovery led to use of antiseptics and the later development of antibiotics, which have saved the lives of untold millions.

In contrast, religion has led to no developments that improve daily life. (And please don’t start talking about the power of prayer and the peace it brings–we’re speaking here of demonstrable physical improvement.)

4. Science leads. Religion lags. A good example of this is our understanding of the universe beyond the Earth. Early scientists (Copernicus, Galileo, et al.) led the way to accurate description of the physical universe.

At the same time, the church was insisting that the sun revolves around the Earth, and hauling scientists who dared to state the opposite before the Inquisition.

Another example is the scientific versus religious attitude toward women. Science has established that while there are obvious and not-so-obvious differences between men and women, their intellectual abilities are almost identical (with a few end-of-the-bell-curve differences in a few specific areas).

In contrast, religion has insisted on the inferiority and consequent subordination of women from antiquity. To cite but two of a great many Bible verses denigrating women, “How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4) and “These [redeemed] are they which were not defiled with women.” (Revelation 14:4)

Today, some religions have acknowledged reality and accept the equality of men and women. Others have dug in their heels and still insist upon female subordination, though most are now wary of openly stating that women are inferior. And it’s safe to say that the more conservative the religion–that is, the more literally its members take their scriptures–the more likely they are to insist upon the inferiority and subjugation of women.

5. Finally, as Neil deGrasse Tyson famously remarked, science opens doors and religion closes them. Science not only leads to improvement in daily life, but to broader intellectual horizons; it encourages people to think for themselves, to question everything; it leads to one question after another.

Religion insists that all the answers are contained in ancient holy books, and that it’s wrong, dangerous to question those answers–that you have an intellect, but you shouldn’t use it.

It’s hard to conceive of anything more stultifying.