An even half dozen…
Striking how often the issues of racism and white supremacy have been the focus of my weekly blog posts over the past year. Today’s post makes seven of fifty-five (12.72%).
Cf. archive: “Like a rainbow;” “Gag on political speech” (subhead); “Beauty and protest?” “He took a knee;” “White privilege” (subhead); “Relentless is change“—I note the ‘Relentless is change’ piece did begin to take up the question from today’s title.
To ask, ‘Are you [singular] a racist?’ is a question aimed exclusively at the upper-left quadrant [UL] as designated by our holism mnemonic. Access to subjective space is through self-reporting.
So, are our Life Conditions [LCs], and present political climate, the explanation for the regular appearance of these issues? Or, is this frequency a function of something going on inside of me? Likely some of both.
Earlier this year, in “Relentless is change,” I sidled up to the question raised in this week’s title. I’m writing again on it this week to apply our new holism tool [quadrant mnemonic] with respect to President Trump and his recent ‘go back from where you came’ comments. Make no mistake, Trump’s remarks here are seen by many people as explicitly racist. ‘Go back from where you came’ is a fearful, hateful trope that most oppressed minorities have heard whenever they were making strides toward inclusion and justice. Perhaps even more disheartening this time was the response Trump supporters offered at a MAGA Rally in North Carolina on Wednesday this past week:
Breaking it down…
The sin of racism is native to the ‘intentional’ (upper left quadrant [UL]). By ‘sin of racism’ I mean the subjective, willful, intentional, open ascent to an ideology of racial supremacy [LL]. The original sin of racism is native to the lower right quadrant [LR]. By ‘original sin of racism’ I mean the objective, structural and institutional residue of the ‘sin of racism’ expressed by our forebears. For example, “go back from where you came” resonates powerfully and painfully as it is already resident in the right quadrants of most people; that is, objective memories of individuals as well as in collective consciousness objectively expressed in history and structural residue, e.g., LR, systems, and institutions (systemic white supremacy).
Overt expressions of racism are objective and thus appear in the right hand quadrants of our mnemonic. A person (or group) may openly, objectively express blatant racist speech/behavior and, yet, still deny being racist—‘dog-whistling’ and so forth. The only way we can be certain that any person is indeed a racist is if they voluntarily report their interior reality, e.g., zealously proclaim their willful intention to be openly racist. This assumes the person is fully aware of their drives and does not account for unconscious racial bias. While shocking to many folks, David Duke, Richard Spencer, et al., proudly admit they’re militant white supremacists. In May I wrote:
President Trump and Rep. King are both in the category of those who’d never admit being racist. In what seems like affirmation by a kind of reverse projection—the loud and zealous voices of Duke, Spencer, et al.—do we have a new warrant on calling out our leaders’ speech/actions? Does the enthusiastic reaction to Trump by society’s out, openly racist voices provide a reliable, visible witness to his overt, if unadmitted, racism? Is Trump racist because openly racist folks say so?
So, “Is the POTUS a racist?”
Does it matter if Trump is ‘a racist’ in the intentional, UL quadrant, David Duke is a racist sense? Certainty on that would require an admission. What if we allow “there’s not a racist bone…” in Trump’s body? What if we grant that Trump is just cynically manipulating racial dimensions of politics, is that any less indecent? Even if the benefit of the doubt were given, and the ‘go back from where you came’ trope isn’t really racist in Trump’s usage as his defenders argue; even if, as Lindsey Graham cynically says, the president is using it as a throwback to the “America, love it or leave it” sentiment of the Nixon era.* Does it matter if Trump’s cynical intention is only race-baiting and exploiting white-identity politics to help stoke the energy and emotion of the nationalistic ‘us vs. them‘ dynamic that he’s been developing?
*We recall, war-hawks used the phrase as a mantra during the Vietnam era to ‘other’ political demonstrators and war protesters to stifle dissent.
It’s crucially important we remember the inherent combustibility of this kind of environment. We do well to remember our dark history at Kent State, and the dangers that attend a hyped-up, us vs. them political climate. “Tin solders and Nixon’s coming … four dead in Ohio.”
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?