Friday, September 08, 2017

Points for a Discussion

Following from the preceding post, Mr. Coates' argument deserves careful consideration beyond the question of "who will save us from this troublesome sin?"

For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.

This interests me for one particular reason:

“The most explosive charge in the Steele document was the claim that Trump hired prostitutes to defile a bed slept in by former President Obama,” Sipher wrote. “The important factor to consider is that Trump did not engage with the prostitutes himself, but instead allegedly sought to denigrate Obama.”

The former CIA station chief said those actions were consistent with Russian efforts to cultivate compromising material, and with Trump’s attitude toward his predecessor.

“If there is anything consistent in what we have learned about President Trump, it seems that his policies are almost exclusively about overturning and eradicating anything related to President Obama’s tenure,” Sipher wrote. “In this sense, he is akin to the ancient Pharaohs, Byzantine and Roman Emperors like Caligula, who sought to obliterate the existence of their predecessors, even destroying and defacing their images. Is it inconceivable that he would get some satisfaction from a private shaming of the former president?”
I don't mean to justify the Steele dossier in any way.  I just want to point to the obvious, to a fact so clear only fools would deny it (by which I mean writers for the Washington Post who wish to be "fair and balanced."  Or NPR reporters shocked, shocked, to find there is racism in this establishment!).  Did Trump pay prostitutes to urinate on a motel bed allegedly once slept in by Obama?  I have no way of knowing; but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he did.  And that's the point.  Mr. Coates is right; Donald Trump is our first white President.  He wasn't elected on the back of economic anxiety or fear of a rising non-white majority; he was elected to repudiate the black man who preceded him.  And he's working hard to undo everything Obama did.

That is truly his political ideology.  It is, as Mr. Coates points out, the ideology of white supremacy.  An ideology that runs deep in American culture.  Mr. Coates has more to say on the "economic argument" regarding whites (never blacks, Latinos, Hispanics, etc.), but two paragraphs will suffice to give you the idea:

When David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, shocked the country in 1990 by almost winning one of Louisiana’s seats in the U.S. Senate, the apologists came out once again. They elided the obvious—that Duke had appealed to the racist instincts of a state whose schools are, at this very moment, still desegregating—and instead decided that something else was afoot. “There is a tremendous amount of anger and frustration among working-class whites, particularly where there is an economic downturn,” a researcher told the Los Angeles Times. “These people feel left out; they feel government is not responsive to them.” By this logic, postwar America—with its booming economy and low unemployment—should have been an egalitarian utopia and not the violently segregated country it actually was.

But this was the past made present. It was not important to the apologists that a large swath of Louisiana’s white population thought it was a good idea to send a white supremacist who once fronted a terrorist organization to the nation’s capital. Nor was it important that blacks in Louisiana had long felt left out. What was important was the fraying of an ancient bargain, and the potential degradation of white workers to the level of “negers.” “A viable left must find a way to differentiate itself strongly from such analysis,” David Roediger, the University of Kansas professor, has written. 
Our national secret de Polichinelle, the secret that is a secret to no one, but that we must keep to keep the truth hidden from ourselves.  Mr. Coates goes on to point out we use this economic argument to discuss our politics:  the problem of class is the root problem of America; if we solve that, a la Bernie Sanders or even Hillary Clinton, then all will be well.

This notion—raceless antiracism—marks the modern left, from the New Democrat Bill Clinton to the socialist Bernie Sanders. Few national liberal politicians have shown any recognition that there is something systemic and particular in the relationship between black people and their country that might require specific policy solutions.

My own analysis, that even specific policy solutions won't solve the problem, that the approach of Dr. King, an approach based in Christianity, is more sanguine, more wise, more likely to produce the change we need, makes me agree and disagree with Mr. Coates.  But certainly the solutions we are being offered by politicians are not radical, even if we are told they are (too radical, usually, because "radical" means "crazy and unworkable" rather than getting to the root of the matter), because the root of the matter is in us; not even in the government we allow to exist.  The root of the problem is in our hearts and minds.  Dr. King made his appeal there, and took what legislation he could get as help along the way.  But he didn't rest after the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act, or any of the other legislation of the "Great Society."  We did, though, and wondered why that wasn't enough, and a few of us, like Mr. Coates, wonder what more government, which works in policies, can do.

I think we have to reach people; and Dr. King's sense of ministry, of mission, of working with God, of being part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, shouldn't be discarded, but should be upheld.  Mr. Coates probably wouldn't agree with me on that; but it could be points for a discussion.

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