December 15 2016 Dispatch #10 Day 37 Post-Ascendency of White Supremacy & Misogyny
Maria Popovich – check out www.Brainpickings.org – drew attention to Toni Morrison and the importance of language in her December 10th post. Toni Morrison in her 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature Acceptance Speech declared “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
Resisting normalization of fascism, cultivating revolution, insisting on justice and equity, finding our comrades who also insist on justice and equity, fighting the cruelty of America’s obeisance to capitalism…all these ACTIONS depend upon language and how words are used.
Now, a shout out for the Ascendency of Rhetoric!! How many time have you heard activists, outspoken women, grassroots organizations, disruptive protesters chastised for their “rhetoric”? As if there is something inherently bad about rhetoric. Yeah, well, perhaps for those abusing power who don’t want unrest.
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, wherein a writer or speaker strives to inform, persuade or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. Its best known definition comes from Aristotle, who considers it a counterpart of both logic and politics, and calls it “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion. Rhetoric typically provides heuristics for understanding, discovering, and developing arguments for particular situations, such as Aristotle’s three persuasive audience appeals, logos, pathos, and ethos. From Ancient Greece to the late 19th century, rhetoric was a central part of Western education, filling the need to train public speakers and writers to move audiences to action with arguments. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetoric
“You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way … people look at reality, then you can change it.” James A. Baldwin
Responding to extremism and divisiveness of this election, political leaders, the community leaders, religious leaders, pundits and public figures are calling for words of reconciliation and understanding, language to find common ground. Calling out the naked appeal to White Supremacy and Misogyny by the Trump campaign is thus seen as antagonizing and demonizing Trump supporters. By creating an equivalence between demonizing people and calling out what happened during the election, these leaders help normalize the ascendency of American Fascism. Love, compassion, and “finding common ground” will NEVER EVER defeat the vicious death-grip of White Supremacy, Misogyny, Islamophobia, and hate.
Language from Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, is instructive:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
White People!! We have the moral duty to become people of good will who are armed with DEEP understanding. We must educate ourselves deeply about 1) why it matters that White Supremacy instead of racism is the oppression, 2) how White Supremacy is STRUCTURAL and not about whether we are personally white supremacists. Our obligation and work involves educating/persuading every white person we know that the structure of White Supremacy must be completely dismantled. Rhetoric will come in handy in this endeavor!
Here are a few readings with thanks to Washington Peace Center Activist Alert www.washingtonpeacecenter.org compilation distributed on November 11th.
Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class Ian Haney López 2014
Become acutely aware of how news, media, and journalists are framing issues, and obfuscating reality in our unapologetically post-truth moment. For example this http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/15/us/politics/democrats-joe-biden-hillary-clinton.html headlined Democrats at Crossroads: Win Back Working-Class Whites, or Let Them Go? VP Biden laments that blue collar whites are written off as racists and other Democratic leaders call for winning back whites of modest means. As we know, Hillary decisively beat Trump among whites with incomes below $30,000 and also won among whites with incomes below $50,000. The flawed analysis based on false narrative ignores the dog whistle Republican tactics and will be unlikely to yield election strategies that grapple with equity, justice, and diversity.
We remain woefully, indeed wretchedly, ignorant of our country’s history, a country built on the genocide of indigenous people, the enslavement of black people, and the Ayn Rand values that promote unrestrained capitalism and degradation of the common good. As we now witness the ascendency of fascism, the costs of ignorance and amnesia are evident.
In Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation (2016) author Nicholas Guyatt documents how the country’s founders were the original and most ardent supporters of racial separation and were deeply bigoted about race. Jefferson proposed that emancipation of slaves should be accompanied by the deportation of blacks because of deep-rooted prejudice, innate racial differences, and the probable extermination of the one of the other race that integration would case. Segregation was a founding principle of America, not a Southern reaction to emancipation. Lincoln initially called for separation of the races to avoid the problems of an integrated society. Guyatt shows that racial separation (with regard to both Blacks and Indians) resulted from the failure of whites to consider even the possibility of integration and coexistence; at the close of the Civil War, four million freed slaves found themselves among a white population that had spent decades imagining that they would live somewhere else. See book review http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/12/22/our-ruinous-betrayal-of-indians-and-black-americans/
In closing, a shout out to the DC area marching bands who are rejecting the inauguration of fascism http://www.theroot.com/articles/news/2016/12/dc-area-marching-bands-did-not-apply-to-march-at-trumps-inaugural-parade/ and thereby acting on Thurgood Marshall’s admonition: “We must dissent from a nation that has buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership.”