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Younge writes: "Race does not exist in a vacuum. But in a country that has never considered equality beyond its most abstract iterations and that has practiced slavery far longer than freedom, race is never entirely absent."

 (photo: Reuters/Joshua Lott)
(photo: Reuters/Joshua Lott)


The Unbearable Whiteness of the American Left

By Gary Younge, The Nation

27 April 14

 

From education to gun control, progressive movements need to do a better job empowering the people whose interests they claim to serve.

t a panel titled “Grassroots Organizing” at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin in March, an audience member asked the all-white panel for its definition of “grassroots.” The conference had been called to “give voice to those opposing privatization, school closings, and high-stakes testing.”

As the questioner pointed out, those disproportionately affected by these developments are poor and minority communities. Chicago, for example, a city that is one-third white, has a public school system in which 90 percent of the students are children of color and 87 percent come from low-income families. When the city schools shut down last year, 88 percent of the children affected were black; when Philadelphia did the same, the figure was 81 percent.

You’d think black people might have something to contribute to a discussion about that process and how it might be resisted. Yet on this exclusively white panel at this predominantly white conference, they had no voice.

One panelist said he found the question offensive. “I didn’t know it was a racial thing,” he said.

In the United States, campaigns for social justice are always “a racial thing.” That doesn’t mean they might not be about other “things,” too. Indeed, they invariably are. Race does not exist in a vacuum. But in a country that has never considered equality beyond its most abstract iterations and that has practiced slavery far longer than freedom, race is never entirely absent.

The problem is not exclusive to this issue or this conference. Similar criticisms can be made of the gun control movement, in which black people, who are the most likely to be affected by gun violence, generally have supporting roles as grieving parents but rarely take center stage as advocates for new legislation. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to plow millions into the cause is welcome. But however large a check Bloomberg writes, the poster boy for stop-and-frisk is not going to get much traction in the urban areas where gun violence is most prevalent.

Nor is this a new problem. It’s a longstanding, endemic and entrenched feature of what purports to be the American left and the causes with which it identifies. It is difficult to imagine a progressive American movement that does not have the interests of minorities and the poor at its heart—whom else would it exist for? As Karl Marx noted in Capital: “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.” And yet the physical presence of those groups in the spaces created by the “left” all too often appear as an afterthought, if indeed they appear at all.

“However rebellious children may be, they have their parents’ genes,” wrote Andrew Kopkind in 1968. “American radicals are Americans. They cannot easily cross class lines to organize groups above or below their own station. They are caught in the same status traps as everyone else, even if they react self-consciously.”

This ought to be a civil conversation among friends. Those born white and wealthy should not be slammed for developing a social conscience, becoming activists and trying to make the world a better place. But neither should the nature of their involvement be above critique. When their aim is to fight alongside low-income people and people of color as brothers and sisters, real advances are possible. But when they look down on these people as younger stepbrothers and stepsisters to be brought along for the ride, precious few gains are made.

The point here is not that only minorities or the poor can run organizations that advocate on issues that primarily affect minorities and the poor. That way madness lies. There is nothing inherent in an identity or a circumstance that automatically makes someone a better leader. Michael Manley, John Brown, Joe Slovo—history is not teeming with examples of the wealthy and light providing leadership for the poor and dark, but they do exist. People have to be judged on what they do, not who they are. This is not simply about optics. What an organization looks like is relevant; but what it does is paramount.

The point is that for a healthy and organic relationship to develop between an organization and its base, the organization must be representative of and engaged with those whose needs it purports to serve. In other words, to do good work one should not speak on behalf of the people but empower them to speak for themselves. Once empowered, the people may exert pressure to change the organization’s agenda in unexpected ways—and that’s a good thing.

It’s not as though there aren’t examples out there. The Chicago teachers strike in 2012 was successful, in large part, because the union had done the hard work of building partnerships with black and Latino communities who responded with overwhelming support for its industrial action. From Oakland to New York, the education justice movement is full of people (parents, students, teachers, activists) rooted in their neighborhoods and cities and mobilizing significant numbers to challenge the “reform” agenda. The same is true for those campaigning for gun control. Speaking shortly after Sandy Hook, Carolyn Murray—who lost her son, Justin, in a shooting when she was organizing a gun buyback program in Evanston, Illinois—expressed frustration with what she correctly predicted would be a fleeting interest in the issue. “People tend to get in an uproar for a week or two and then go home,” she said.”Everybody’s busy and working hard. But when it affects your life like this, you have to do something.”

It’s not that these people don’t have a voice. It’s that even when they’re shouting at the top of their lungs, their voices are too rarely heard by those who would much rather speak for them than listen to them.


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+29 # Gooshlem 2014-04-27 12:04
2 questions:
1) HOw do the white liberals & black ones connect?
2) Why doesn't the media pay more attention to people of color (or minorities) when they speak for themselves?
 
 
+25 # Cassandra2012 2014-04-27 13:31
Where are women in all of this? Neither black nor white males seem to give much of a rat's ass about women's issues unless they see it costs them votes.
 
 
-6 # Rick Levy 2014-04-27 19:40
Where are the women in all this? How about extreme feminists who are too busy frothing at the mouth against all males as being part of an imaginary patriarchal rape culture, rather than working together with progressive men against the real oppression by the oligarchic inequality that negatively impacts 99% of Americans regardless of gender or race.
 
 
+10 # tazia@aol.com 2014-04-27 21:40
Quoting Rick Levy:
Where are the women in all this? How about extreme feminists who are too busy frothing at the mouth against all males as being part of an imaginary patriarchal rape culture, rather than working together with progressive men against the real oppression by the oligarchic inequality that negatively impacts 99% of Americans regardless of gender or race.


Really??? "Extreme feminists fothing at the mouth", "progressive men"? Do you even have a clue how ridiculous you sound? Must be the "imaginary patriarchal rape culture" and the "oligarchic inequalty" that has you so concerned. Let me guess, although it's quite obvious, you're not a woman and consequently have no clue what it is like to be a woman. Quit spouting your platitudes and actually go out and find out what women deal with. Untilthen, please don't regale us with your 1960's attitude and platitudes.
 
 
-11 # Rick Levy 2014-04-28 04:12
And YOU have no idea what it's like to be branded a rapist among other epithets just because of your gender. Your scorn at the idea of progressive men shows that you're probably one of the irresponsible accusers.
 
 
+6 # bmiluski 2014-04-28 10:39
Well Rick Levy, considering that over 90% of all violent crimes are commited by men the branding might be close to the target.
 
 
+3 # Rain 2014-04-28 13:54
Rick, stop being so melodramatic about a non-issue. It leaves one with the impression that you cannot be over the age of 14. I have never once heard any female friend ever talk about these extreme feminists, so you can take it easy. You're inappropriate anger for these women, who just want to protect themselves, does raise a red flag though. Do what Tazia suggested and find out what real women have to deal with. I would implore that you start by asking your mom, sister(s), aunts, cousins and female friends. You will see that your fears of being looked at as a "rapist" by the smallest minority in history, will pale compared to the realities of rape.
 
 
+7 # kalpal 2014-04-28 10:56
Yeah, what we need are more RW impotent white males who are ardently devoted to disenfranchisin g women who wrongly imagine they should have rights and be able to make decisions without the guiding hand of males who stand ready to abuse them if they open their frothing mouths.
 
 
+5 # kalpal 2014-04-28 10:58
You remind me of a black man who was running an organization in the late 1960s. When asked what positions women occupied in his organization he said, "Prone."
 
 
+9 # Tigre1 2014-04-27 15:05
I say hello and hang out with my friends, they introduce me to their families and friends, etc.

I moved here after working off and on for years for a better deal for people a little bit different than me, and I seem to have met quite a few very good folks.

And I love working on political campaigns...and because I have many years experience, not as a boss or a manager, but as a worker...now I get accepted and expected to be a leader...

So I just play my role: friend.
 
 
+12 # bigkahuna671 2014-04-27 16:07
#1, they usually don't despite all the efforts of MSNBC. As for #2, who owns most of the media? It's a bunch of old, white, conservative, racist farts (I wanted to use A**holes) like Murdoch. That means the only way you'll hear anything is through MSNBC, Daily Kos, RSN and Huffington Post.
 
 
-41 # Father Santiago 2014-04-27 12:14
#1 The statement "But in a country that has never considered equality beyond its most abstract iterations and that has practiced slavery far longer than freedom, race is never entirely absent" looks to be erroneous. For 87 slavery was tolerated in the USA. For 148 years slavery has not been tolerated.
#2 My observation is that many blacks who would benefit for example in opposing immigration, and do know that immigration hurts them, won't get involved with Whites because they themselves are racists and hate whites or are fearful of Blacks who will chide them for working with Whites ("what you doing with them Crackers?"
#3 I never had slaves, nor did my ancestors, but as a Wonderful White person I have suffered because of slavery.
 
 
+26 # pegasus4508 2014-04-27 15:24
As an actual human, I have NO PROBLEM with immigration. How does it hurt me? IT WON'T. You have no problem with IMMIGRANTS as long as they are European.
As to #1 and 3 yeah right! Obviously you don't have to OWN slaves to have a slave master mentality. How the HELL have you suffered? How important do you think you are? Just 50 years ago, 50 NOT 148 years, black folks could not use the same facilities as whites - guess that is YOUR version of EQUAL!
 
 
+24 # tabonsell 2014-04-27 18:59
The first African slave was brought to this continent in 1619, and slavery existed legally until 1865; that's a lot longer than 87 years. Even though slavery was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment, it continued to exist of various forms – such as arrest of a black man on spurious charges when no crime had been committed and then offering his services to a local industrialist for a fee to the county. The inmate worked for nothing except a jail cell and lousy food.

Oppression then existed for a full century until the civil-rights laws of the 1960s, which many slave-minded people continue to ignore.
 
 
-2 # bmiluski 2014-04-28 10:47
tabonsell...... ...Let's not forget that slavery in Africa has not only existed throughout the continent for many centuries, BUYT CONTINUES IN THE CURRENT AGE. And yet, no one is outraged about that. All we ever hear is about slavery in the US.
Having said that, let's not forget that a black man will be hired ahead of a women of any color. A black man still makes more money for the same job than a woman of any color.
So please, don't ever talk to a woman about inequality no matter your color.
 
 
+3 # kalpal 2014-04-28 11:03
It seems axiomatic that if someone else has slaves then why should we not have them too.

I bet when you did something wrong as a child and were being punished you cried out, "But Billy down the street does it too." And I am sure your parents said, "Well if Billy does it then I guess you deserve our sincere apologies for spanking you for being a disobedient jerk."
 
 
0 # bmiluski 2014-04-28 13:34
My point is that even though we gnash our teeth and rend our clothes about past slavery here in the states, NO ONE hold our black brothers accountable for supplying us with the slaves and the continuation of slavery.
 
 
-20 # fredboy 2014-04-27 12:15
Gave up on the Left a long time ago, just after scuttling any hope for the GOP. Mainly white know-it-alls. Tragic.
 
 
+24 # WestWinds 2014-04-27 13:56
Quoting fredboy:
Gave up on the Left a long time ago, just after scuttling any hope for the GOP. Mainly white know-it-alls. Tragic.



--- I don't get your point here. You have given up on both the Left and the Right to become, what? Something? Nothing? You need to tell us more.
 
 
0 # kalpal 2014-04-28 11:05
I suspect that you gave up on others for failing to be more like you and live up to your lofty principles. After all the world would so much better a place if everyone were more like you, right?
 
 
+26 # btraven 2014-04-27 13:18
Gary makes a good point. And as a very old leftest fighting all of the anti war and civil rights battles I have seen the divide. Generally the active left has been comprised of those better educated since childhood. Some have seen the dark side of discrimination or war but for many it is an intellectual and moral issue rather than an immediate life sustaining fight. The gut wrenching need to change things isn't there. As our country sinks more and more into an authoritarian state where both whites and minorities find they have common suffering from an oppressive system this issue will not disappear. And, my friends, that time is fast approaching when whites find that they are beig kicked around also.
 
 
0 # WestWinds 2014-04-27 13:28
Part One:

I'm a Progressive Liberal and I take exception to the main motive for this article which I find to be, on whole, insipid and vapid. As for myself, I'm only one grain of sand on a very large beach. If the rest of the beach refuses to show up, what am I supposed to do about it? The author of this article offers problem without solution.

If certain groups of people don't take an interest in what's going on, if they insist on a plantation mentality, then how can you blame the white community for not supplying them with everything they need? They don't want to participate, yet this author expects they should gain as if they had or the rest of us should carry them. Practically speaking, this just isn't going to happen for the long term. Sad, but this is the reality check of it all.

See Part Two:
 
 
-11 # WestWinds 2014-04-27 13:35
Part Two:

Once upon a time I was contacted by a Black activist group online. They assumed I was a member of their community because I supported their efforts. I was enthusiastic about an opportunity to link two groups (theirs and mine) for a bigger more successful effort at getting change. When they finally realized I was not Black, they quietly withdrew severing any and all communication, ignoring all encouragements to coalesce efforts.

Okay, maybe they were suspicious that I was an infil-traitor and withdrawing was a protective measure; but they never even explored the possibility that I was genuine in my sentiments. It didn't matter; they wanted no part of me purely because I am White. You see, this door swings both ways.

I live in Florida. I have been short changed $20.00, by a Black girl making change at the window of a Taco Bell, I have been short changed $100.00, by a Black teller at a Wells Fargo Bank. I recently had a Black girl at Burger King give me a coffee that had no cream, no sugar, was stone cold and the dregs from the bottom of a deceased coffee pot (and smiled as I paid for it.) I have had a Black woman intentionally and forcefully beat me to a gas pump when I was attempting to gas my car. I have had Black people cut me off on US98 and flash me the bird. I regularly have Black women cutting me off for parking spaces or race to cut ahead in lines at the grocery store and restaurants.

See Part Three:
 
 
-2 # WestWinds 2014-04-27 13:36
Part Three:

What kind of attitude is being promulgated among the Black community that is manifesting in these types of happenings? I get the distinct feeling they are more interested in one-upmanship and "getting even with Whitey" than solving serious and very real societal problems; low-hanging games before hard work.

Meanwhile, I voted for Barack Obama nationally and Kendrick Meeks of Florida. What's my incentive to continue to reach out when abuse and/or a cold shoulder is all I get in return? The author's POV only takes into account one (utopian) site line and does not account for actual, boots on the ground, attitudes. The problem is just not as simplistic as this author would have us believe.

In Florida, the Democrats could win every time because there are more registered Democrats in Florida than there are Republicans. But the Dems keep losing because the Black community doesn't turn out to vote. What should be done? Go to each Black household and kidnap them to the voting polls? Why aren't the Blacks out objecting to all of the voter suppression that is going on in Florida? And where are the Seminoles on this as well? Voter suppression is a unilateral problem in this state, as well as across our whole country, and needs to be addressed by us all, working together.

See Part Four:
 
 
-2 # btraven 2014-04-27 17:23
from b.traven... WW. Your problem is that you are a Floridian. Anyone with with a little get up and go would get out of that cesspool fast. The heat makes you lazy in body and mind. If you lived up NOrth and had a taste of real suffering in winter it would clear your mind to see that while living in Florida it may be easy to consider yourself "progressive" enough to vote for a privileged black man but it kills your empathy for the plight of the minorities. Man up. WW! Move North and begin to understand the pervasive psychological repression of the non whites living in such a lazy backward state.
 
 
+2 # tazia@aol.com 2014-04-27 21:47
Quoting WestWinds:
Part Three:

What kind of attitude is being promulgated among the Black community that is manifesting in these types of happenings? I get the distinct feeling they are more interested in one-upmanship and "getting even with Whitey" than solving serious and very real societal problems; low-hanging games before hard work.

Meanwhile, I voted for Barack Obama nationally and Kendrick Meeks of Florida. What's my incentive to continue to reach out when abuse and/or a cold shoulder is all I get in return? The author's POV only takes into account one (utopian) site line and does not account for actual, boots on the ground, attitudes. The problem is just not as simplistic as this author would have us believe.

In Florida, the Democrats could win every time because there are more registered Democrats in Florida than there are Republicans. But the Dems keep losing because the Black community doesn't turn out to vote. What should be done? Go to each Black household and kidnap them to the voting polls? Why aren't the Blacks out objecting to all of the voter suppression that is going on in Florida? And where are the Seminoles on this as well? Voter suppression is a unilateral problem in this state, as well as across our whole country, and needs to be addressed by us all, working together.

See Part Four:

You should have stopped after Part 1.
 
 
-5 # bmiluski 2014-04-28 10:51
WestWinds, some of the biggest racists that I've ever met have been black.
 
 
+10 # bigkahuna671 2014-04-27 18:49
WestWinds, I agree with some of what you say but have to remind you that I've had similar things occur with whites making change, serving me in fast food joints, cutting me off at the grocery store and in restaurants...i t's not a color thing, it's a human thing. Some people just have no class or ethics and color isn't a requirement to have either.
 
 
+11 # WestWinds 2014-04-27 13:37
Part Four:

Once upon a time the First Nations people refused to turn out; they insisted on being only involved with their "Red Path". Okay, but we made no progress without them. These days the First Nations people are turning out, showing up and voicing their discontent together with those of us (Daryl Hannah) who are actively seeking change for a better world for us all. In the instant case, we see First Nations people linking arms with White activists over Keystone XL. One manifestation of this is called Cowboys and Indians that recently demonstrated in Washington, DC.

In Nebraska the (White) Tanderup family welcome the Ponca tribe each year for their Ponca Trail of Tears Spiritual Camp of natives and non-natives who are coming together to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Neil Young and Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer came together at the #Reject&Protect efforts in Washington DC showing solidarity for a REALLY BAD IDEA; the Keystone XL pipeline!

I'm thrilled and relieved to finally have First Nations people stepping up to the plate and taking their (rightful) place at the table. We can't do this without them. We need them.

See Part Five:
 
 
+10 # WestWinds 2014-04-27 13:38
Part Five:

And the same holds true for every other ethnic group in this country. We must come together over these issues and represent the needs of our people and each other. This is what a healthy and vibrant democracy does.

On paper, we are a Military Police Surveillance State compliments of the (un)Patriot Act of George W. Bush and the Right-wing, Neo-Con, Neo-Nazi, New World Order people. But as long as we act like a democracy, think like a democracy, and fight together like a democracy, in time we WILL succeed in getting rid of the Right-wing whackos that are currently running this country.

We need to find ways to come together and fight for OUR new world order where justice, equality, liberty and freedom to be ourselves are respected, appreciated and protected as the contributions each group makes.

A welcome, warm quilt in winter is comprised of many smaller panes; missing panes represents an as yet unfinished project.

In order for things to happen, you have to turn out and show up. If the Black or Hispanic communities aren't interested enough to turn out and show up, then what would you like the rest of us to do about it? This article doesn't say. ****

The End!!!
 
 
+16 # pegasus4508 2014-04-27 15:15
You say all that to say WHAT? 5 parts of a rant against blacks and hispanics. How about you move to a more progressive state and THEN tell me about what blacks and whites do together. There is no reason in the world to trust a southern white person if you are southern black. NONE. In spite of your best efforts, you went out of your way to demonize and denigrate all black people based on your personal experiences.

So, how about this for PERSONAL experiences. I have had a shotgun pulled on me by police officers (because I refused to clean the trash off the bus stop), I have been ignored at several pro choice meetings, even after I volunteered to assist. Please don't make me count how many times I have walked into a store with white clerks to be totally and completely ignored (and I leave with my money in my pocket).

My point is if you want to help HELP - if you want to point fingers - you have 4 pointing back at you. YOU are responsible for your behavior.

MY final point, in my community WE WORK together for the greater good. PERIOD. In the schools and the business community. So - Floridian - nothing good coming out of Florida unless you elect another governor. Then you may get more participation.

Right now, all we have in Florida is the RIGHT to shoot black folks dead and the right to deny minorities the vote. Not a lot of TRUST in that equation. Feel free to hold onto your hateful excuses.
 
 
-15 # freeone 2014-04-27 15:18
WestWinds.. You have said in 5 parts better than I could do in 10 or more..... I'd like to read more of your comments...
 
 
0 # tazia@aol.com 2014-04-27 21:50
Quoting WestWinds:
Part Five:

And the same holds true for every other ethnic group in this country. We must come together over these issues and represent the needs of our people and each other. This is what a healthy and vibrant democracy does.

On paper, we are a Military Police Surveillance State compliments of the (un)Patriot Act of George W. Bush and the Right-wing, Neo-Con, Neo-Nazi, New World Order people. But as long as we act like a democracy, think like a democracy, and fight together like a democracy, in time we WILL succeed in getting rid of the Right-wing whackos that are currently running this country.

We need to find ways to come together and fight for OUR new world order where justice, equality, liberty and freedom to be ourselves are respected, appreciated and protected as the contributions each group makes.

A welcome, warm quilt in winter is comprised of many smaller panes; missing panes represents an as yet unfinished project.

In order for things to happen, you have to turn out and show up. If the Black or Hispanic communities aren't interested enough to turn out and show up, then what would you like the rest of us to do about it? This article doesn't say. ****

The End!!!

You really need to find a life. Even Michener didn't go on this long.
 
 
+12 # lorenbliss 2014-04-27 13:53
Mr. Younge is -- if I may lapse into the parlance of my radical youth -- right on. The problem is that we USian whites have been conditioned from birth to think of ourselves as the personification of “American exceptionalism” – that is, of the global master race. Not only that; we've been conditioned so thoroughly and effectively, our USian-supremaci st/white-suprem acist (and therefore incipiently Nazi) attitudes have been planted so deeply in our subconscious minds, they are exceedingly difficult to uproot. Such is the psychological reality of the Fourth Reich. But the effort to transcend that conditioning -- painful as it invariably is -- must nevertheless be made. Otherwise, exactly as KGB studies reportedly said of U.S. revolutionary prospects during the 1960s, racism will always nullify our efforts toward solidarity.
 
 
+10 # Anarchist 23 2014-04-27 13:58
Until we all realize we are in the same boat...waiting for 'critical mass' of consciousness.. .I hope it will arrive before it is too late for the planet and all humanity.
 
 
+1 # pegasus4508 2014-04-27 15:16
HAH! I said out loud to God just yesterday - "HEY GOD! WE ARE LOSING!"
 
 
+3 # Cisco kiddy 2014-04-27 14:05
As others point out in the main stream press, the problem of forging a political coalition bedevils conservatives as well as liberals. Gun control, for instance, has become a liberal cause with widespread public support. Mark Shields of the Washington Post, On the Apr. 25th PBS News Hour, stated that 80 percent of voters, when asked if they supported gun control, supported government efforts to restrict gun ownership. Both Shields and his interlocutor New York Times columnist David Brooks agreed that political intensity of gun rights advocates trumps the public majority on more restrictive gun laws. One risks accusations of heresy from either liberals or conservatives in pointing out that the phrase "gun control" in our country racially divides the interests of blacks and whites, poor and affluent, rural and urban interests. When most people, for example, are asked whether they support a universal right to legal self-defense with a firearm, they are affirmative. And blacks and Spanish speakers support that right more than whites, the poor more than the affluent, rural residents more than urban ones. One gets the feeling that gun control advocates want guns to remain in government control in a government that whites control still, forgetting that under slavery the slaves had no legal right to defend their lives or the lives of other slaves with a firearm save by their owner's permission. The white right and left serve their politics in "gun control," not minorities'.
 
 
+13 # hsfrey 2014-04-27 14:19
I'm offended by this article.

I'm white and support initiatives that help blacks, even though many blacks do not.

So, should I feel guilty and stop trying to fight injustice?

There are plenty of wealthy Blacks - actors, athletes, musicians. Is it MY fault that they don't participate in helping other Blacks?

I don't want to call it "The White Man's Burden", but I will continue to fight injustice, regardless of whoever else chooses to get involved.
 
 
+9 # pegasus4508 2014-04-27 15:19
Whatever makes you THINK that wealthy blacks do NOT help other blacks? Fox news. YOU would be amazed at what blacks are actually doing - both those with and without means. It is called research. EVERY single "star" has a charity. FACT not Fiction. Has a lot to do with peer pressure.
 
 
-5 # dascher 2014-04-27 14:50
I cannot tell whether the article or the comments are more shallow, ignorant, racist, and just plain dumb.

I've rarely seen such drivel posted in RSN and such foolishness in the comments.
 
 
+1 # dbohj5l 2014-04-28 02:51
Perhaps you would care to teach us, O great one ?
 
 
+8 # chuckvw 2014-04-27 15:45
Younge should investigate the actual question:

Why aren't working and poor people participating in the struggle for social and economic justice? Why aren't they fighting for their own interests?

Identity politics has a hand in it by insisting that people who have almost everything in common actually have nothing in common.

Keeping the downtrodden divided is a strategy of the oligarchs tried and true...
 
 
+3 # tazia@aol.com 2014-04-27 21:59
Quoting chuckvw:
Younge should investigate the actual question:

Why aren't working and poor people participating in the struggle for social and economic justice? Why aren't they fighting for their own interests?
Identity politics has a hand in it by insisting that people who have almost everything in common actually have nothing in common.

Keeping the downtrodden divided is a strategy of the oligarchs tried and true...

What do you think the "working and poor people" can do? They are trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. They have no time to worry about "social and economic justice". When is the last time you gave a dollar to someone on a street corner asking for help?
 
 
+5 # kalpal 2014-04-28 11:13
There is a baseless and ignorant assumption among those who don't struggle daily to survive that those who do struggle still have time and resources to struggle against those who intentionally make certain they lack the resources, time and energy to fight against injustice. The poor are not able to carry on the struggle. It is the middle class who always did. That class is being choked out of existence by those who intend to become the feudal overlords of this nation and their minions.
 
 
+6 # lorenbliss 2014-04-27 15:49
It needs be said there are two pseudo-Lefts in the U.S., also a much smaller Real Left:

The fad pseudo-Left is dominantly white and idiotically useful; it helps maintain the Big Lie of USian democracy. Its chief characteristics are the rowdiness, conformity and anti-intellectu ality one finds in fraternity and sorority houses. Its members are pampered college and university students enjoying the political variant of Spring Break self-indulgence . Its exemplar is Jerry Rubin, who climaxed his “radical” activism by a career as a millionaire stock broker.

The bourgeois pseudo-Left is mostly wealthy, dominantly white and idiotically useful. Its defining traits are its indifference to 99 Percent concerns, its “progressive” anti-unionism and its opposition to socialism and Marxism. It endorses “New Capitalism” – capitalism with its evils camouflaged by human-potential ist rhetoric. Its members include New Agers, Ayn Rand feminists (consumeroid consumption as women's liberation), most USian environmentalis ts (“green capitalism”), etc. ad nauseam. Its exemplars include Gloria Steinem and the One Percenter Bill Gates.

The Real Left, small but growing, acknowledges the struggles for equality, economic democracy and environmental protection as part of the historical truth of class war. It recognizes the relevance of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. It strives toward maximum solidarity by embracing maximum diversity. Its exemplars include Kshama Sawant and Angela Davis.
 
 
+5 # davegowdey 2014-04-27 17:42
Part 1

This article itself was racist and largely incorrect. There is no monolithic "American Left." There never has been. The left has many faces. It's only common principle is the belief that human rights trump property rights, and that the purpose of government is to promote policies that advance human rights and promote the public good over private interests. There is no doubt that some of these faces are perceived as detached from reality and esoteric- the affluent urban liberals are easy targets, as is liberal academia. But to point to them as though they are the entirety of the left is so clearly inaccurate as to raise questions about the author's motives.

Successful activism requires public support, and public support requires a public consciousness. That public consciousness has been stunted in the US by decades of right wing propaganda and pernicious policies designed to keep communities fragmented.

The fact is that public consciousness is weakest among those who have have the least and who have the most. Those who have the least are so busy trying to meet the basic needs of life, finding shelter, food, that they lack the time and energy to work for radical change. Most don't even vote. Those who benefit the most from the system have no incentive more than their ethical beliefs to work for change. Revolutions are never made by the abject poor - they are made by those classes whose aspirations are unjustly blocked.
 
 
+3 # davegowdey 2014-04-27 18:02
Race only overlays these facts, it doesn't change them. What it does do is stunt the growth of political consciousness by scapegoating people by race rather than allowing people to see the real sources of the economic and social injustice they experience. In this regard I'd note to pegasus4508, who is doing this, that blacks would still be slaves in the US if it wasn't for whites of good conscience. Hundreds of thousands died to defeat the Confederacy and end slavery - including some of my ancestors. Others fought to overturn Jim Crow laws, and marched for Civil Rights. To paint all whites as racist and the problem is incorrect and racist itself.

The problems we have in this society, including education, violence, lack of opportunity, drug abuse, etc. are common among the same socio-economic classes regardless of race. The same educational issues that the author claims are unique to blacks in Philadelphia and Chicago are in fact the same seen among poor whites in the south, latinos in east LA, etc. America is equal opportunity in its mistreatment of those with little political or economic power. Indeed, they didn't kill MLK when he was just marching for civil rights, they killed him when he decided to turn the movement's attention to economic inequality regardless of race after the Memphis garbage worker's strike.
 
 
+4 # davegowdey 2014-04-27 18:18
Part III

The American Left has to raise public consciousness and political consciousness in the US. It needs to educate people of all colors about the true causes of their problems -which is a rigged politico-econom ic system that directs the vast majority of the economic benefits to the 1%, and the costs and consequences to bottom 80%. That has started.

All around the country there are actions and movements that are starting to fight back - moral Monday in NC, the fight against keystone and uranium mining around the grand canyon, efforts to overturn citizens united, the fights against voter suppression in other states, etc. Many of these have different colored faces, but they benefit all of us. Where we on the left recognize that issues of social and economic injustice are common to us all the better off we will be. Where we get sidetracked into issues like gun control that are symptoms of issues of social and economic injustice rather than causes, we will continue to remain fragmented.
 
 
+8 # Bernard Fudim 2014-04-27 19:28
Black racial inequality did not end with the civil war. Inequality despite the law continued after the slavery became unconstitutional
The film Birth of a Nation in 1915 glorified the Klu Klux Klan. It is still hailed as a great film production for its time by cinema photographers and critics.
Racial inequality was reinforced by the film industry of the 1930s which depicted blacks as happy go lucky servile people polishing the shoes of Hollywood stars in musicals. Even an adult black man would be referred to as Boy and shown as being quite happy and dancing to enhance the tip tossed to him.
In World War II northern conscriptees undergoing basic training in the south were shocked when they saw the difference in the way Blacks had to live in the south, despite the existence of racial prejudice against blacks in the north. The current Black generation is only one generation away from those times of deep seated inequality and ingrained despair. I cannot imagine anyone and especially the educated members of our Supreme Court still thinking that education is not a black and white problem. It must involve a supreme suspension of moral intelligence to reach the conclusion that race is no longer a factor in the American educational system.
 
 
+5 # TomThumb 2014-04-27 20:40
White American leftists have things to offer minorities. Because of 'white privilege' they are more apt to be the beneficiaries of higher education, so they can offer counsel. However, to try to do so, they need to closely examine their values, their past, indeed everything they are. They must realize that the benefits of higher learning that they bring to the table is also the product of a pedagogy of 'white privilege'. They need to make concerted efforts to understand the minorities they seek to help. They also need, not just to teach new minority leaders, but point out where they can go independently to learn.
In the end the massive task of challenging the ruling order must be done by the oppressed, and it is only fitting, if at all possible, that it be led by those oppressed. Tommy Rimes
 
 
-1 # FDRva 2014-04-28 03:04
The 'white-ness' of the current American Left has a great deal to do with the "gay-ness" of the issues promoted.

Chase's Dimon--a first class thief--is OK because the many gays on Wall Street like him.

I think economics is a better gauge of things than the dubious sexual issues promoted by Fox News--and MSNBC.
 
 
+1 # JPC33 2014-04-28 05:31
The United States does not have a valid and functional left. A liberal is not really a leftist, a 'progressive' (whatever that actually means) is not necessarily a leftist. The sixties have been largely misinterpreted. It did not usher in a growth of the left, but rather its demise. What has largely happened since is the advent of various special interest groups who often have no more interest in the underclasses than the Czar did. More often than not members of these movements are the children of the middle to upper middle classes who have decided they are among the oppressed. The Black Civil rights movement was and is the genuine article, certain of the other movements have, in effect, been a kind of fifth column, blocking the way of the truly oppressed.
 
 
0 # JPC33 2014-04-28 05:33
P.S. Excuse my run on sentence! :)
 
 
0 # JPC33 2014-04-28 05:39
Let me attempt to put it another way: Since the sixties the various 'liberation dialogues' have become a sort of high sounding hobby for the well heeled.
 
 
+1 # kalpal 2014-04-28 11:22
Even among blacks, the poor never had the resources, time and energy to struggle against the evil wrought upon them by the establishment. It is always those who lived at an above subsistence income level who come to struggle. As they are being attacked by the wealth aristocracy they shift their energy and resources towards their own survival.

It was frequently Jewish activists who aided the struggle for black civil rights for many years. As soon as a measure of freedom became a reality in the black communities, they attacked the Jews for claiming they too had been victimized. After all there is not enough compassion in this world for all the downtrodden. There is barely enough for one community in the nation.
 
 
-1 # Sangze 2014-04-28 10:56
The USA is hopeless and incurably racist. Nothing can be done about it. It has taken over where South African left off.
 

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