Posts Tagged ‘Reparations’


My favorite athlete, Charles Barkley, nailed it. Yes, black, brown, and red people get screwed, often far worse than white people, but poor people regardless of race get screwed the worst.

Thank god Sir Charles recognizes this and has the guts to say it. Identity politics — fueled by industrial strength white guilt among those who didn’t grow up poor — points down a blind alley, an alley that pits all of us against each other based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Charles Barkley got it exactly right: it’s the 99% vs. the 1%. “Solutions” that accept the status quo and artificial scarcity (e.g., “reparations” based on race, while fundamental economic inequities go unchallenged), pit working people of different races and genders against each other, to the benefit of the 1%.

Think about past identity-politics disasters: busing (rather than equalizing school funding), and “affirmative action,” which did next to nothing to redress inequities, but played into the artificial-scarcity myth and the hands of the 1% — setting peoples of different races against each other, for decades, clawing each other over crumbs.

All of the social welfare measures that are universally popular (social security and medicare) are universal — everyone benefits from them. Why on earth don’t you, and everyone else, see that? Why not insist on benefits that will equalize economic well-being for everyone? Medicare for all, free higher education for those who want it, universal basic income regardless of race? Why not, in the “richest country on earth”?

Insisting on race and gender based “solutions,” without challenging fundamental economic disparities, in a manner that will benefit all, guarantees that the 1%’s divide-and-conquer tactics will continue to block real change and will continue to screw us — all of us.

Please don’t play into their hands.

We’re about to elect Joe Biden, objectively a horrible choice (Jeffrey Dahmer, if we could resurrect him. would be better — “Dahmer: Waste Not Want Not”). Biden will undoubtedly do whatever he can to forestall major change — change that would benefit the vast majority of people.

But he might get pressured into it. It’d be in line with his entire career-trajectory, where he bends with the wind; but he’s not an idiot.

That said, I fear that the corporate Democrats will make the same horrible (perhaps deliberate) mistake they did back in the ’70s, with busing: How the hell did they think people wouldn’t be pissed about that? Their kids going over an hour on a bus one way to go to a shitty school, where they’d likely be bullied? (Of course this happened with black kids the other way round, but to a better school.) Rather than demand what was obviously needed — equal funding per student regardless of district or school — they tried to put it all in terms of race, to take everything out of the hide of the white working class, rather than out of the hide of the rich, and portray the busing atrocity as racists.

If you want to set racially diverse people against each other, this is it: divide and conquer, set it up as as an artificial-scarcity economy, and set it up in racial rather than economic terms.

The “take it out of the hide of the white working class” mindset stems directly from the father of neo-liberalism, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who came up with it: as regards schooling, portray those who didn’t want their kids busing an hour to shitty schools as “racists.” In no way push for equal funding for schools: just posit it in terms of artificial scarcity, where “privileged” whites are fucking over black kids.

Never mind that all kids are being fucked over under the present economic arrangement.

It worked. A lot of white working class people hate black folks as a result (don’t deny it), and consider them a threat. A lot of them voted for Trump.

Now, I hear a jargon term, lot of crap that doesn’t inform and will alienate white working class folks: “white privilege” — as if being a month from losing your home, losing your job, not having health insurance, and not even having $500 to pay for an emergency is “privilege.”

This is simply grotesque. White upper-middle-class guilt. (And, hey, fuck y’all, you PC assholes!)

What’s coming up next, on the part of the economic elite, is an attempt to install “reparations” — god knows how they’d be calculated or how they’d be taken out of us (guaranteed — Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, white working class, out of our hides).

If you really want to look at “reparations,” paying back for people who’ve been fucked over, the inexorable conclusion is that we all deserve “reparations.” We all created the wealth monopolized by the top 1%. (Tell me that my illiterate granddad, who died from silicosis after working in a foundry for 40 years, was “white privileged,” and I’ll tell you how far up your ass to stick it.)

“Reparations” don’t go nearly far enough. Hundreds of generations created our collective wealth.

We deserve to share it equally.





Front cover of "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotationsby Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

A couple of weeks ago an acquaintance (who I’ve know for roughly 20 years) was very excited about the article on reparations (for African-Americans) in The Atlantic. He called me to talk about it (of course he hadn’t read it–I hadn’t either), and I said something to the effect of “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” I added that it’s a given that black people have been, and still are being, screwed over mercilessly in this country, but that I thought reparations demands were a really dumb idea, unless they were very specifically targeted against institutions that have exploited black people (e.g., banks’ and their “red-lining” practices).

He didn’t want to hear my reasons for saying that.

Those reasons are 1) blanket “reparation” demands–with “reparations” presumably financed by the government–divide working people along racial lines; 2) political goals and demands should be along economic lines, the 1% versus the rest of us (which unites people); 3) “reparations” demands are not demands for fundamental change–they implicitly accept the current corporate-capitalist political and economic set-up; 4) they reinforce the scarcity mentality that’s a huge stumbling block in the path of real social change–they reinforce the idea that there’s not enough to go around, and that the only way to reimburse some victims is to take from other victims. (And please, let’s not start playing the “who’s more oppressed?” game. If you want to divide and depress people, that’s a great way to do it.); and 5) there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of blanket “reparations” becoming reality any time soon–the primary effect of such demands is to drive the white working class into the arms of the Republicans.

To put this another way, if you want to get rid of corporate capitalism, don’t play into the hands of the corporate capitalists. If you’re going to make reformist economic demands, make demands that unite low and middle income people (increased minimum wage, increased taxes on the 1%, etc.), not divide them along racial lines.

My acquaintance didn’t want to hear any of that, and wouldn’t even let me articulate it–he kept interrupting me, and started playing the “who’s more oppressed?” game, among other things belittling the experience of my illiterate immigrant grandfather who worked for 40 years in a foundry before dying a horrible death of silicosis. When I took strong exception to that, he asked me, “Are you a racist?” At that point, I went ballistic.

Here’s why:

1) The “question” “Are you a racist?” is dishonest. It’s a trap, not an honest question. The person asking it is not seeking information, they’re not interested in your answer. They’re setting you up. If you say “yes,” they win. If you say “no,”  they’ll “enlighten” you by reciting standard PC talking points about how all white people are “privileged” and “racist.”

2) “Are you a racist?” is an accusation, not a question. There’s no way to win when someone asks you that, if you fall into the trap of answering “yes” or “no.” But there are two ways of handling that “question.” The first, as Jim Goad recently pointed out, consists of asking the person implying racism on your part to define racism. As Goad notes, that almost always “flummoxes” them.

The second way to handle that question is to in turn ask the world’s most offensive question: “Do you have sex with your mother?” (Just askin’, you know? What’s the harm in asking a simple question?) Goad’s way of dealing with the racism “question” is probably better, but this is probably more gratifying.

3) Asking someone “Are you a racist?” is condescending. The accuser invariably assumes that you are a racist,  that you need to be tricked into hearing the accuser’s prepared pearls of wisdom, and that you’re dumb enough to fall for it.

4) The PC use of  “racism” trivializes the term. The painfully earnest PC types who label every white person a “racist,” simply because they’re white, use exactly the same term to describe those who say disgusting things about and commit violence against people of other races. There’s a major difference between what you project is in someone’s head simply because of their race (white) and violent physical assault. So, please, stop trivializing the terms “racism” and  “racist.” Reserve them for those who say and do hurtful things based on race.

And don’t ever ask anyone that stupid, insulting question again. Stop using verbal traps. Be honest. Openly say what you mean–not hide behind “questions” that are accusations–and only ask questions if you want information, not as transparent attempts to set people up.