May 24th 2017 Dispatch #24
Day 199 Post-Ascendency of White Supremacy & Misogyny (PAWSM)
Day 124 Post-Installation of White-Supremacist-Misogynist-Pussy-Grabbing-Self-Aggrandizing-Demagogic-Bully-Illegitimate-PeeOTUS & his White-Nationalist-Fascistic-Christian-Supremacist-Quislings
The Rise of Fascism in early 21st Century America depends/thrives on three long-standing structural and intertwined oppressions: #1 White Supremacy; #2 Misogyny/War on Women; and #3 War on the Poor & Working Class. In prior dispatches I have argued that Misogyny is the foundational oppression, paving the way for fear and hatred of the other.
The bottomless barbarity and craven cruelty of the Illegitimate-PeeeeOTUS regime’s proposed FY2018 budget requires attention to the #3 War on the Poor that ironically grew out of 55 years of conservative Republican efforts to overthrow the War on Poverty created under President Johnson in 1964.
It has been 50 years since Lyndon Johnson first declared that the nation could, “for the first time in our history,” conquer and win a war on poverty, pledging a “total commitment by this President, and this Congress, and this nation, to pursue victory over the most ancient of mankind’s enemies.” In the years that followed, lawmakers weaved a social safety net that still endures to this day, providing educational opportunities for low income Americans, retirement and health care security to the low income and elderly, and food assistance to the hungry.
Through the 1930s and 40s, most national politicians embraced welfare policies, since the federal programs of the New Deal — the 1935 Social Security Act and other initiatives — excluded the black population and were largely seen as acceptable by the white majority. But following World War II and the rise of the Civil Rights movement, welfare programs opened to African Americans, triggering a counterattack from conservatives in both political parties who sought to portray these programs as wasteful, unnecessary, and encouraging government dependence.
Beginning in 1964 and stretching through today, conservative leaders systematically undermined the programs that shaped Johnson’s War on Poverty, frequently deploying racist and sexist arguments to take away public assistance from the poorest Americans. Their rhetoric didn’t directly undo these social programs, but it chipped away at their foundation and altered Americans’ perceptions about the proper role of government.
The American War on the Poor, courtesy of institutionalized White Supremacy, also created the toxic belief among poor/working class white people that their difficult economic situations were due to unfair advantages given to black (and more recently brown) people by an overreaching federal government. The enduring power of White Supremacy to cultivate and feed on fear, bigotry, and hate is proven by the reality that many more white people are hurt by the War on the Poor than are black and brown people combined.
The idea that the unworthy are cadging off the federal government – at a cost to the right-thinking taxpayers (who, of course, never, ever cheat) – goes deep in our national psyche. Ronald Reagan’s frequent evocation of the “welfare queen” driving around in a Cadillac and the “strapping young bucks” said to be dining on T-bone steaks purchased with food stamps touched a racist nerve that is more prevalent in this country than we care to admit.
Through this rhetoric, Reagan helped build the Republican Party’s base in the South – with consequences that have lasted to this day. Newt Gingrich, it may be recalled, made a big issue of food stamps in his race for the 2012 Republican nomination, calling Obama the “food-stamp president.” But despite Gingrich implying that lazy blacks were the personification of food-stamp recipients, only 22 percent of those who receive food stamps are black (33 percent are white). Of the roughly 47 million Americans on food stamps, nearly half are children www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-republicans-war-on-the-poor-20131024
No route to vanquishing fascism exists without women leading the way. We must insist that honoring women’s fundamental human right to control their bodies is essential to fighting for social justice and equity. Misogyny aka War on Women disables and deadens the communities of women who can dismantle these toxic oppressions
Audre Lorde Calls Us to Understand:
“In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change…..Institutionalized rejection of differences is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate.”
And She Calls Us to Act:
“Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged… We have been taught to either ignore our differences or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community, there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression… Survival is learning to take our difference and make them strengths.”
Unity, Popular Education, Compassion, and Strength pose the greatest threats to fascism. Dr. King was assassinated within five months of announcing the formation of The Poor People’s Campaign in late December 1967. Why had he become so dangerous? Consider these remarks by Dr. King:
“I think it is necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights…[W]hen we see that there must be a radical redistribution of economic and political power, then we see that for the last twelve years we have been in a reform movement…That after Selma and the Voting Rights Bill, we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution…In short, we have moved into an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society.” https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/poor-peoples-campaign-1968/
King aligned with the struggle of the poor and black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee in March and April 1968. He suggested their struggle for dignity was a dramatization of the issues taken up by the Poor People’s Campaign—a fight by capable, hard workers against dehumanization, discrimination and poverty wages in the richest country in the world. https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/truth-commission-learn-more/
“This is a highly signiﬁcant event,’’ King told delegates at an early planning meeting, describing the campaign as ‘‘the beginning of a new co-operation, understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity.’’ http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_poor_peoples_campaign/
Fred Hampton was assassinated by the Chicago police in 1969 for successfully pursuing similar strategies of organizing across class and race.
The charismatic chair of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party accomplished a great deal before he was cut down at the age of 21. Hampton headed the Chicago chapter of the Panthers, where he formed a multiracial “rainbow coalition” of organizations, including Students for a Democratic Society, the Blackstone Rangers street gang, and a Puerto Rican organization known as the National Young Lords. He also started a community service program that included a free breakfast program for children and a free medical clinic, and held political education classes. And under his leadership, the Chicago Black Panthers monitored the police and looked out for instances of police brutality. Most of all, Fred Hampton brokered a truce among Chicago’s major street gangs.
Black women have long shown courageous and creative leadership in resisting the War on the Poor and fighting for economic justice and equity. Indeed, Marion Wright (now Marion Wright Edelman founder of Children’s Defense Fund) suggested the Poor People’s Campaign to Dr. King in 1967.
Right NOW, women of color are already organizing and leading movement work that exemplifies the spirit of the Poor People’s Campaign. Sheila Bapat describes this in YES! Magazine Summer 2016 Issue Gender Justice:
20,000 Domestic Workers Are About to Get Fair Wages. How’d They Do That? Left out by traditional unions, women-led domestic workers are winning fights for minimum wage and overtime across the country. http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/gender-justice/20000-domestic-workers-are-about-to-get-fair-wages-howd-they-do-that-20160616
Over the last decade, domestic workers have been building a powerful, inclusive movement—the domestic workers’ movement—through organizing outside of traditional unions. These nannies and caregivers have appealed directly to the public and policymakers and have successfully lobbied for local, state, and federal legislation to improve their working conditions.
Worker centers are often founded and led by women of color who are low-wage workers or children of low-wage workers. Unlike unions, worker centers are often funded through private philanthropic foundations, food or business cooperatives connected to the centers, and membership benefits like dental insurance for which worker-members can pay. Worker centers do not seek collective bargaining agreements with employers. Instead, they engage in a range of activities to empower workers, including know-your-rights trainings.
The domestic workers’ movement is intentionally investing in the empowerment of women of color, a departure from the historical U.S. labor movement. Major New Deal legislation, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, which set a minimum wage, and the National Labor Relations Act, which protected collective bargaining activity, excluded domestic workers—a legacy of slavery. Southern legislators agreed to support these 1930s laws only if they excluded domestic workers, most of whom, in the South, were Black.
This devaluation of women of color in the labor movement stands in stark contrast to the domestic workers’ movement. Worker centers focus significantly on race, gender, class, and the intersections of the three at a level that labor unions have not. “Unlike unions, worker centers are explicit about race and the need to focus on gender dynamics,” says Janice Fine, an associate professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University.
Tomorrow belongs to those of us who conceive of it as belonging to everyone; who lend the best of ourselves to it, and with joy. www.azquotes.com/author/9041-Audre_Lorde