At the risk of pissing off literally everybody, I’d like to make a few proclamations on the state of race in America, 2017.
Of course racism is an operative philosophy of the Trump administration. This exists at the level of aesthetics. There is a collective imagination of rustic hard-working white Americans who have been abandoned by the ruthless globalism of the 21st century, juxtaposed against the imagination of a black America engulfed in perpetual self-inflicted failings. The heroin epidemic in the Midwest is an example of vulnerable white voters who must be defended from their demons. The crack epidemic in the 1980s, and the crime and drug use that exists in black America today, is considered a failure to tug properly at the bootstraps and earn an honest living. These two Americas, bisected by race, exist in the Trump-Republican brand synthesis. This is nothing new, however. It was Bill Clinton who incarcerated an entire generation of black fathers, and of course Republican racialization, from gerrymandering, the fantasy of black ‘welfare queens’ bankrupting the government, the Southern strategy and the war on drugs, is as old and grand as Trump’s leathered speckled hide.
It is a bold-faced lie to claim that institutional racism is not real. There are more black Americans incarcerated because there is more crime, so say the conservatives. But why is there more crime? Are we to abandon black America on our certainty that black Americans are simply less lawful and less productive than white Americans? Of course not. Either institutional factors are driving these demographics of white and black toward different outcomes, or black people are simply inferior and self-destructive. At this juncture, there is a moral choice and a deplorable choice. Blame suffering people for their own suffering, or admit that globalized capital has failed black Americans in deep precision and longevity. Now that white America is fearing chronic unemployment, drug addiction and poverty, the clear answer is to unite together, not to continue expounding on your own suffering while blaming your neighbors for theirs. The global economy is a web that ensnares us all in its fortunes, its privatized gains and socialized losses. There is no time or patience for those who claim that black Americans have failed themselves, and need to have faith in the economy. Who in their right mind has faith in this economy?
What can be done about institutional racism? End the drug war. Socialize medicine. Incarceration and poverty are the twin demons that haunt oppressed life in America. Each feeds the other – the need for money and meaning make desperate people who do not respect the rule of law. If society frays and exposes people to harm, those people will no longer trust in society. But what is society? Right now, it is nothing but economics. All factors in cultural and societal life are driven by economics. This has led to profit incentives for jailing more people, as more prisoners means more free prison labor, and like the military-industrial economy, we need to pile up bodies to grow these repulsive industries. What is growth for prisons and armies? Only the destruction of individual lives. That is the only phenomenon that can grow industries built in sickness. Generating profit by imprisoning people for the drugs they sell and use to try to create better lives outside of the broken social contract is an insanely cruel ‘remedy’ for crime. It is a failed method.
And as for socialized medicine? As long as you can go bankrupt over emergency medical bills, you are never truly free. You are always dangling over a pit of massive debt, suspended only by eternal prayers for good health. This will engender a fearful and repressive society. Socialize medicine.
Now, let’s address the subject of identity politics. Given that institutional racism is real, doesn’t it make sense to go as hard on identity politics as possible?
Yes, and no, depending on what you mean by identity politics. It seems to me that intersectionality redefines and ruins words and terms constantly. In modern discourse, identity politics is used by the left as a shorthand for civil rights. If you’re against identity politics, you’re against blackness, simple as that.
This is obviously foolish! The category of identity politics has included so many cancerous and cynical political projects that organizing on the basis of identity should be seen as inherently broken. Identity evokes identity. The rise of ‘SJWism’ since 2015, from cultural appropriation by sushi chefs to ‘men are trash’ and other group-think and group-dependent ideologies have evoked a clear counter-SJWism from the right, which is known as the alt-right or alt-lite or whatever.
How do you tell poor and frightened white people about their privilege? You don’t. You emphasize universal solidarity, not the Tumblr-Twitter fantasy that white Americans get handouts and are essentially members of an upper-class. That is not the reality. The reality is that we could all be cut loose from the surface of the Earth at any moment, and that constant presence of mortality is felt strongest in marginalized communities, such as black and trans people.
The mission of the left, broadly speaking, is the mission of mercy. Consider the path of life to be flanked on either side by the sword of severity and the soothing hand of mercy. The right, and conservatism, is the path of severity. If you have failed, it is your fault. There is a kernel of truth in this. How are we to live if we do not take responsibility for ourselves? Severity cannot be dismissed, because it is intensely real. But when civilizations fail, and people give their voices to demagogues, the world is running too thin of mercy. The mission of the left is to balance the severity of the world by providing people with social safety nets, outside help to rescue individuals when they cannot succeed, literally the grace of socialized surgery or a college education without debt.
Along the lines of mercy and severity, it is obvious to anyone with an ounce of memory that the proponents of identity politics are not merciful. At all. They represent, at best, a hive of moral busy-bodies obsessed with the most minute and trivial personal subjects that can be made intensely political, and then those same people who rail against incarceration and the misuse of power seek to ban controversial speakers, create kangaroo courts without due process run by administrative hacks, fire people for jokes, and otherwise clamp down upon society and seek to reshape it at the most superficial levels through shaming and group tactics.
I disavow that crap! Forget the phrase ‘identity politics’. It is not useful. It was made by idiots for the usage of idiots. The only writing that should be done on identity politics is a call for its evaporation in discourse, and its replacement with a far stronger message of universal mercy and grace.