Blindspots surround Batman massacre: How the story gets told

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Or put another way:  Black people often make the observation that crazy mass murderers are almost always white (and often from that nutbag righting section of  uber-frustrated "angry white men").

But that observation (borne out by statistics) rarely makes it into the exhaustive round-the-clock massacre coverage. Why is that?

The following appeared on the "We are Respectable Negroes" blog.

What James Holmes and the Colorado Movie Massacre Tell Us About White (Male) Privilege

The Colorado "Batman Movie" Shooting Massacre will generate many narratives among the public and media. This tragedy will be one more opportunity to reflect on the United States' gun laws. The relationship between popular culture and violence will be a hot topic as well. Others will focus on questions surrounding access to mental healthcare, and what if anything could have been done to prevent James Holmes from committing his murder rampage during the debut of The Dark Knight Rises.

 

However, there are several conversations that will likely not occur. It is unlikely that the aftermath of the Colorado shooting rampage will be a moment when we as a country reflect upon the relationship between masculinity and violence. There most certainly will not be a "beer summit" about how accused shooter James Holmes is one more entry in a long list of mass killers who are white, male, and young.

When viewed through the white racial frame, there is nothing in his deeds on last Friday night that reflects upon the behavior of white people, generally, or white men in particular. From this perspective, his dressing up as The Joker, and killing more than a dozen people, and wounding many more, are the actions of one sick person.

As folks have worked through many times before in the common "what if?" game of race in America, if James Holmes were black or brown this would be one more signal to the existence of a "pathological culture" among said group. If James Holmes were Muslim American the Colorado shooting would be a clear act of "terrorism," and an example of the Islamic bogeyman next door who has occupied the dreams and nightmares of the "heartland" since September 11th.

These narratives would be accepted as common sense; few qualifiers or critical interventions would be offered by the mass media, the pundit classes, or the general public.

Consider the following list for a moment: with a few exceptions, most of those men who have committed mass shootings in the United States have been white.

 

  • July 12, 1976: Edward Charles Allaway, a custodian in the library of California State University, Fullerton, fatally shot seven fellow employees and wounded two others.
  • Aug. 20, 1986: Pat Sherrill, 44, a postal worker who was about to be fired, shoots 14 people at a post office in Edmond, Okla. He then kills himself.
  • July 18, 1984: James Oliver Huberty, an out-of-work security guard, kills 21 people in a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif. A police sharpshooter kills Huberty.
  • Aug. 1, 1966: Charles Whitman opened fire from the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin, killing 16 people and wounding 31.
  • Oct. 16, 1991: A deadly shooting rampage took place in Killeen, Texas, as George Hennard opened fire at a Luby's Cafeteria, killing 23 people before taking his own life. 20 others were wounded in the attack.
  • April 20, 1999: Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the school's library.
  • March 10, 2009: Michael McLendon, 28, killed 10 people – including his mother, four other relatives, and the wife and child of a local sheriff's deputy – across two rural Alabama counties. He then killed himself.

The freedom to kill, maim, commit wanton acts of violence, and to be anti-social (as well as pathological) without having your actions reflect on your own racial group, is one of the ultimate, if not in fact most potent, examples of White Privilege in post civil rights era America. Instead of a national conversation where we reflect on what has gone wrong with young white men in our society--a group which apparently possesses a high propensity for committing acts of mass violence--James Holmes will be framed as an outlier.

That is a mighty comfort to have--all of one's deficiencies are ignored as those of an individual; all of one's abilities and gifts are taken as positive attributes and credits to one's race.

As comedian Louis CK has joked, it sure as hell is good to be white and male in America! If given a choice to re-up every year, who the hell wouldn't sign up to be white again?

 

In America, folks often ask, "what the hell is wrong with black people?" In the aftermath of the Colorado Movie Massacre, Columbine, and many other incidents, we need to ask, "what the hell is wrong with young white men?

Sadly, that question will not be asked on a national stage. White privilege is blinding. In the case of James Holmes, it also mutes a much needed national conversation about the ties between (white) masculinity and violence.

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  • Guest - Radical Eyes

    I think this article and the accompanying poster, which I first saw on Facebook, and which is one of a number of similar posters now circulating, raise a key point, sharply. There is clearly a huge racialization of the way that violent acts, and those who perpetrate them, are represented within dominant media and poltical discourse in this society. No question about that.

    That said, I want to ask a few questions:

    Is our goal a society where the dominant media and discourse treats (white) killers like James Holmes more like they do Black (or Arab, or Muslim, or...) murder suspects? That is, dismising them as "killers," dispossessing them of humanity, and disposing of their lives quickly? As well as using them as an occasion to produce and disseminate negative stereotypes about member of their "racial group"?

    Or, rather, is our goal a society where non-white "criminals" will be extended something like the same kind of sympathy and individualized attention that Holmes appears to be getting (from many quarters)? (An sympathetic individualization that--it must be said, can, I think, co-exist with an absolute detestation and repudiation of the violent acts that the person in question may have perpetrated.)

    Thoughts? To me this goes to the heart of the question of how we deal with what is sometimes called "white privilege"? Is it to be revoked or to be negated through extension to all? Is the proper approach after an attack like this to ask, as the above author does, "What the hell is wrong with young white men?" Or to ask rather, "Why can't non-white men get this kind of decent and individualized treatment if and when they stand accused or convicted of violent acts?

    Of course, all of this discussion should be framed also in relationship to the question: What can and should be done to bring about a society where such horrifying acts of mass murder no longer can occur at all?...

  • Guest - Otto

    A lot of issues can be raised over this event. Just the worship of violence and seeing it glamarised in movies. This guy tried to make a fictional evil character come to life as a real person. Why does our society promote such evil acts and vigilanteism until someone tried to make it reality.
    Then there are the drone strikes that kill people in a similar manor in the Middle-east and yet no one cares that innocent women and children of a different race, country and culture suffer this same horror, but our news just doesn't chose to cover it.
    I'm sure we could find more issues on this subject. One day I watch a kid on a TV commercial winning that his dad won't upgrade his cable TV, that night I look at a picture of a Palistinian kid about the same age, living in a bombed out house that probably has no electricity. --White privilage--Yes that is an issue.

  • Guest - Maju

    Privilege is something that A MINORITY unduly has. Whites (if that category has any meaning) are the vast majority of US society, so I'd like to question the notion of "white privilege" and instead suggest that very marked and persistent discrimination against ethnic minorities exists instead.

    Unless the concept of "white privilege" is defined in a global context, i.e. beyond the borders of the USA, where the so-called whites may be a minority (what in the USA call "Asians" are the majority instead - but these are several unrelated ethnographic categories like Indian and Chinese).

    Otherwise it seems true that nutjobs who commit massacres are in 99% of cases white males (there was that Korean guy years ago). Also they are all pushed by the sociological demand of "being something". Theirs is a suicide show after failure: "if I can't 'be something' socioeconomically, then I'll be at least a famous criminal", they seem to think (sometimes quite explicitly).

    They are led in any case by a selfish hyper-competitive drive in the context of a <a href="/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Society_of_the_Spectacle" rel="nofollow">Society of Spectacle</a>.

    Probably people from most minorities (or most white commoners as well, or women in general) are not so strongly pressured to "be something": they actually expect "to lose" (at least to some degree) since the beginning no matter what the ideology says.

    "Asians" (East and South Asians) are surely exceptional in all this picture because their cultures and families do pressure them a lot (often enough at least) to "be something", so the case of the Korean mass murderer of Virginia Tech fits also with that profile. However in Japan they rather tend to kill themselves, instead of others (and here other cultural factors are at work).

  • Guest - andrewraygormana

    Right wing troll seems to have made his way over here.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    <blockquote>Is the proper approach after an attack like this to ask, as the above author does, “What the hell is wrong with young white men?” Or to ask rather, “Why can’t non-white men get this kind of decent and individualized treatment if and when they stand accused or convicted of violent acts?</blockquote>

    Although the emphasis is different, both questions are really the same: why the racist double standards in our supposedly post-racial society? And the answer is as simple and complex as racism itself. In our current context, I think an emphasis on "What the hell is wrong with young white men?" is a strategically necessary, counter-hegemonic framing.

    For a liberated society though, let me suggest an altogether different approach: instead of giving this ghoul and others like him the publicity that is their <em>raison d'etre</em>, there should be a concerted effort to not promote these individuals in any way. Remember the victims, absolutely, but strongly suspect these kinds of massacres wouldn't happen if the killers knew beforehand that they were unlikely to receive any significant publicity. Under the "if it bleeds it leads" profit paradigm of the bourgeois media, this is an impossible goal.

    Not sure what Maju is trying to get at. Maybe he can rephrase?

  • Guest - Maju

    Let's see if I can rephrase for you Red Fly: the USA is an extremely competitive society in which the concepts "loser" and "winner", with all they imply, are part of the very basics of the education since quite early in childhood. This kind of pressure to be "a winner", "someone", is stronger on the shoulders of (some) white boys, specially those with a middle class background.

    Most people just grow up over it but then you have the random psychologically unstable guy, like this trigger happy freak, who confronts failure with a suicidal show, expecting to "succeed" in criminality - something that for sure gets a lot of space in the media.

    This mass murderer, like so many others not motivated politically, had only one thing in mind: to become famous. And that's to compensate for "failing" elsewhere in life (according to projected expectations - parents, teachers, superego in general).

    Also getting rid of any remnant expectations of "success" is surely a relief for the ones like this guy who did not even get himself killed - at least not yet. He's showing the middle finger to all those whom he considers responsible of the pressure on him and his socio-economical failure: society in general.

    This crime specially yells "Hollywood!" in all the details and that's why I emphasized Debord's Society of Spectacle.

    That's how I see it in any case. But I do not think that blaming "white guys" in general is correct, the same that blaming all men for rape is not right either, etc. The immense majority of white guys simply don't do that, not even gun-toting ones.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    It should also be added that as women have moved into the job world there has been a greater occurrence of such incidents on the feminine side of the aisle. "Going postal" is a phrase made after Jennifer San Marco. Let's not forget Amy Bishop either. Rants like this piece are part of why so many white male workers find Rush Limbaugh appealing.

  • Guest - ish

    <i>Rants like this piece are part of why so many white male workers find Rush Limbaugh appealing.</i>

    Wait a second. White racism has a material, structural basis in this society. Do you really believe African-American anti-racists making observations about white privilege, like the author of this piece, are the <i>cause</i> of white working class adherence to reactionary, bigoted spokespeople like Limbaugh? That strikes me as a remarkably defensive and deeply problematic analysis.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    I didn't say the only reason, and I do speak specifically about working class people who are very removed from the position this fellow was in as a gradduate student. Rush Limbaugh and Al Sharpton grew together in parallel and there are many white male working class people whose only exposure through the media to real issues is to either be told that they are privilieged or else to turn on FOX News. That is a very bad choice to give to people and it always has reactionary effects.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    @Maju

    <blockquote>the USA is an extremely competitive society in which the concepts “loser” and “winner”, with all they imply, are part of the very basics of the education since quite early in childhood. This kind of pressure to be “a winner”, “someone”, is stronger on the shoulders of (some) white boys, specially those with a middle class background.</blockquote>

    This suggests that people of color and working class people feel less pressure to "succeed" in the U.S. What is this based on?

    If anything I think people of color and working class people feel more pressure to succeed, the former so as to be "a credit to their race" (a white supremacist myth that has become a real material force), the latter so as to confirm the bourgeois myth of upward mobility through "hard work."

    <blockquote>Most people just grow up over it but then you have the random psychologically unstable guy, like this trigger happy freak, who confronts failure with a suicidal show, expecting to “succeed” in criminality – something that for sure gets a lot of space in the media.</blockquote>

    Every time something like this happens there's always this penchant towards stigmatizing mental illness. Of course 99.9+% of people with mental illness don't commit atrocities like this. So we need to careful here.

    <blockquote>This mass murderer, like so many others not motivated politically, had only one thing in mind: to become famous. And that’s to compensate for “failing” elsewhere in life (according to projected expectations – parents, teachers, superego in general).

    Also getting rid of any remnant expectations of “success” is surely a relief for the ones like this guy who did not even get himself killed – at least not yet. He’s showing the middle finger to all those whom he considers responsible of the pressure on him and his socio-economical failure: society in general. </blockquote>

    I absolutely agree, as my previous post indicates, that the primary motivation was probably fame. But I see here also a lot of speculative, dime-store psychologizing about this person's feelings of failure vis-a-vis bourgeois society's expectations. And maybe this is true. But I don't think we know enough at this point justify this interpretation.

    One of the lines in the <em>The Dark Knight</em> (a thoroughly reactionary film, btw) is "some people just want to see the world burn." Nihilism and the desire for fame may or may not be motivated by failure to live up to bourgeois society's expectations.

    Also, let's be clear, the failure of many, many people (even people of middle-class origins!) to succeed socio-economically is indeed due to "society," specifically bourgeois society. Surely we don't want ape rulers by reducing this all to personal problems.


    <blockquote>That’s how I see it in any case. But I do not think that blaming “white guys” in general is correct, the same that blaming all men for rape is not right either, etc. The immense majority of white guys simply don’t do that, not even gun-toting ones.</blockquote>

    You missed the point. The article is not about blaming white guys in general. It's about questioning the racist double standards in the treatment of white guys who commit crimes like these.

  • Guest - ish

    Patrick, the problem is not that white workers are "told" that they are privileged, the problem is that they "are" privileged. Revolutionaries must combat the backward racist, sexist and homophobic notions of people who like Limbaugh, not capitulate to them. I don't see a way around that. If white workers are uncomfortable with the idea that this is a fundamentally racist society should that lack of understanding be coddled?

  • Guest - Maju

    @Red Fly: I think it's obvious that if your dad is a middle class professional with a high salary and certain perks, you are expected to be at least at that same level (more or less), while if your dad (and/or mum) belongs to a lower tier, the expectations laid upon you are proportional. This makes some sense because it is well known that class is largely inherited and that social mobility is at the best limited (even if you don't think that rationally, you know intuitively). No matter that all parents and other caring adults want "the best" for their children, there are reasonable expectations, which are largely determined by inherited class.

    And most African Americans and Hispanics are low class in the USA, probably because implicit apartheid, while whites are much more distributed (and then there are some minorities like Jews or nowadays also some Asian groups who tend to be over-represented in the upper echelons - because of efficient ethnic networking, mostly, I understand).

    "Of course 99.9+% of people with mental illness don't commit atrocities like this."

    Of course. But also of course we cannot consider that someone who does this just for show is "sane", right?

    A sane person in the situation of this guy would have done almost anything else. Even suicide is much more reasonable than going on pointless criminal rampage like that.

    "You missed the point. The article is not about blaming white guys in general. It's about questioning the racist double standards in the treatment of white guys who commit crimes like these".

    But is there such a double standard? Weren't the Oklahoma bomber or Breivik in Norway treated as fascist terrorists? Maybe not (or not enough) but, if so, we should focus in these cases with ideological motivations rather than on the Denver one, where all motivations seem very subjective, psychologically subtle maybe but not political.

    Maybe if this guy would belong to a Muslim sociological context would have done the same "in the name of Allah" instead of "in the name of the Joker" but at least on first look "the Joker" seems quite nonpolitical: a freaky farce.

    I don't think that you are suggesting that the ideological brainwashing power of Hollywood is such that we should consider "in the name of the Joker" as a political statement, do you? It could be an interesting cafe debate but I don't think it's your point, is it?

    Otherwise the use of the concept of "terrorism" seems to be (in the mainstream media and by political actors) only if there is political motivation and usually also more or less stable organization. It is an emotionally charged term that I only use if the political violence is directed against civilians, not politicians, businesspeople or armed forces, but the media actually uses it to describe armed political action of any kind that does not emanate from the state (armed revolt or armed guerrilla) but always (AFAIK) with political content.

    So I don't think this massacre can compare because no obvious political content exists.

  • Guest - Maju

    @Ish: I don't think that the word "privilege" is correct. "Discrimination" against minorities is instead. The 70% white citizens are not a minority that can be "privileged": they are the standard (if any).

    The only point of using the word "privilege" in this context is to attempt to make white people feel guilty - what I think is of no use.

  • Guest - Radical Eyes

    Ish: I appreciate your perspective.

    But if I may be permitted to put the matter sharply: What is gained by framing the issue of the national oppression and super-exploitaiton of Black people as "privilege" bestowed on all whites, including white working-class, unemployed, and poor people?

    Or, to bring us back to the immediate issue of how we frame and tell the story of accused "criminals": Is sympathy and understanding a scarce resource? One that "white" people get "too much" of, and that should be rolled back in order to give "more" of this (scarce) resource to those who have been too long denied it? (We might ask similar questions of other things, like "the relative freedom from police stop and frisk" tactics? Is this best understood as a "white privilege"? And what does it suggest and encourage to frame it as such?)

    I am not arguing against making anti-racist and anti-white supremacist ideological and political work a high priority. Not at all. But I am am trying to get us to think more critically about the "white privilege" framing that seems quite common if not dominant in many circles on the Left these days. Including many "white" circles. I'm willing to listen here. Not just grinding an axe.

  • Guest - Chains Morengel

    White or black, asian or greek, look at it like this, the man was deranged and wanted to go down being famous most likely, Race does not matter, your all being blind and ignorant, the only way racism can stop is if fucks like all of you can look past your own skin color and fucked up mental walls of racial demeanor that was implanted into you at a young age. grow up, when it comes to combat theres no gender no race no emotions no religions no nothing. Its a cruel and fucked up world and noone when you die will really give a fuck about your color, the will give a fuck if you where a good human being or not.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    Maju,

    <blockquote>I think it’s obvious that if your dad is a middle class professional with a high salary and certain perks, you are expected to be at least at that same level (more or less), while if your dad (and/or mum) belongs to a lower tier, the expectations laid upon you are proportional.</blockquote>

    I don't agree with this. And I certainly don't think it's obvious.

    <blockquote>This makes some sense because it is well known that class is largely inherited and that social mobility is at the best limited (even if you don’t think that rationally, you know intuitively). No matter that all parents and other caring adults want “the best” for their children, there are reasonable expectations, which are largely determined by inherited class.</blockquote>

    Well known among whom? In this country, the U.S., many, many people are unaware that social classes even exist, beyond the (deliberately inculcated) nebulous notion of "the middle class" and the super rich. Everyone not super rich is usually assumed to be "middle class." Occasionally you'll hear something about "the poor" and when they are mentioned it's almost always within a negative context.

    Things are different in Europe, where class politics have long been a part of mainstream politics.

    Due to incessant propaganda many working class people in the U.S. believe that all it takes is hard work to succeed here and so they also often have wildly unrealistic expectations about their own lives and the lives of their children ("don't tax the rich because I'm gonna be rich someday!" is a common attitude here.)

    <blockquote>And most African Americans and Hispanics are low class in the USA, probably because implicit apartheid, while whites are much more distributed (and then there are some minorities like Jews or nowadays also some Asian groups who tend to be over-represented in the upper echelons – because of efficient ethnic networking, mostly, I understand).</blockquote>

    Just FYI, I know you didn't intend this, but the way the first part of your sentence reads to a native-born U.S. audience is that African Americans and Hispanics are lesser people ("low class.") A better way to put it would be "And most African Americans and Hispanics come from a lower social class in the USA."

    I point this out not to be pedantic or to criticize your understanding of the English language (which is very great, btw), but to alert you to a nuance that could get you into trouble with people who don't realize that English is not your native language.

    <blockquote>But is there such a double standard? Weren’t the Oklahoma bomber or Breivik in Norway treated as fascist terrorists? Maybe not (or not enough) but, if so, we should focus in these cases with ideological motivations rather than on the Denver one, where all motivations seem very subjective, psychologically subtle maybe but not political.</blockquote>

    From what I could tell they were mostly treated as lone wolf nuts who just happened to be on the political right. McVey was never treated as a Christian terrorist, or as a white nationalist terrorist, even though these aspects of him were mentioned in a secondary way.

    Compare that to the way Muslims are treated when one of them commits an act of violence and the collective blame assigned to them. Same thing with African American and Latino people (especially young men.)

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    &gt; And I'm only a "suspect" for now.

    This line from the picture at the top has an reactionary overtone to it. It's like someone is daring the media to stop using the term "suspect" when discussing the case and go over to pronouncing the defendant guilty in the press before a trial has been completed. There is nothing at all "progressive" about such tones.

    The notion of "innocent until proven guilty" has been violated many times in many cases of the past, and the current indicators are that higher authorities would like to further undermine that rule. If the media in this case has so far stuck to using the term "suspect" for describing someone who is only just now going to trial then that in itself should be associated with professional journalism. You can list long pages of other cases where such professionalism has not been followed in the media, but then just do that. Don't attack them on a point where the appropriate terminology is used.

    Mocking the idea that an arrestee should be described as a "suspect" comes across as if one is implying that there would be something "progressive" about having more cases where some white boys are handled in the manner of the Scottsboro Boys. Not only is there nothing progressive about this, but it actually fits in very well with the long-term trends that are already taking shape under capitalism. Such talk gives a Left cover for Guiliani and others like him. This is exactly the way that a phoney debate between Rush Limbaugh &amp; Al Sharpton is used to drown out real issues.

  • Guest - ish

    I feel like the most salient point here is being missed, and bears repeating:

    <blockquote>The freedom to kill, maim, commit wanton acts of violence, and to be anti-social (as well as pathological) without having your actions reflect on your own racial group, is one of the ultimate, if not in fact most potent, examples of White Privilege in post civil rights era America. Instead of a national conversation where we reflect on what has gone wrong with young white men in our society–a group which apparently possesses a high propensity for committing acts of mass violence–James Holmes will be framed as an outlier.</blockquote>

    White privilege is not something to feel "guilty" about. Guilt is for liberals. It's an aspect of American society to <i>understand</i>, because understanding helps us struggle against it. The writer is making an observation about society to counteract the various narratives that guns or aberrant behavior are the issue in the popular discussion. I think his argument is useful for revolutionaries.

    Contrast this to the "national discussion" of Trayvon Martin's murder, where so much of popular discussion among white people was disturbingly whether the <i>victim</i> of that crime somehow actually deserved his fate.

  • Guest - Maju

    @Red Fly:

    I mean something quite intuitive, almost unconscious. You may rationally believe that there are no classes or almost... but you know that Mr. N has a swimming pool and you do not, you know that Mr. and Mrs. Z have a much larger home than you do or that they get much better salaries or rents, even if you do not know exactly how much or why.

    Even in "the land of opportunity" people is not that blind, no matter what they rationalize about it. Your common "middle class" (well-off working class) parent does not expect their son or daughter, even if bright and hard-working, to be a Rockefeller nor a Senator... they can dream awake sometimes but when they go realistic they must and do accept that the scope of possibilities is what it is. Even if "miracles" do happen it's one or two among 350 million and most people know that even by just their own vital experience.

    They may not have class consciousness in a rational clear-sighted manner but they do know which are the realistic possibilities considering their (or others') background. And that background includes personal variability, inherited class and (related) inherited ethnicity.

    "Just FYI, I know you didn't intend this, but the way the first part of your sentence reads to a native-born U.S. audience is that African Americans and Hispanics are lesser people ("low class.")"

    Obviously I did not mean that.

    However I must say that visible minorities are often marginalized everywhere in a caste-like way rather than just on pure class grounds. And the intense black/white (or generally racialist) divide enshrined by Jim Crow, which really shocked me when I was living in the USA back in the 1980s (I hoped it was something from the past but found out that the apartheid mentality was still alive and kicking, even if apartheid was not anymore formally) does not help to overcome this caste-ization of the African-American minority.

    "From what I could tell they were mostly treated as lone wolf nuts who just happened to be on the political right".

    It may well be. I have certainly found that it was the case with Breivik even if he insisted once and again to be part of a far-right conspiracy: would he be a leftist or islamist, the attitude would have been totally different. But I do not think that it's his race what make him different but the fact that they're fascists, who are a key part of the system (the fall-back police state).

    Whatever the case the issue must be reformulated not as a race issue but as differential attitude towards opposition "terrorism" and fascist one. If they would have to persecute Christian-fascist terrorism they would have to shake the foundations of their own institutions and, barring the occasional arrest of a trouble-maker maverick, they have no interest in doing that.

    Instead opposition "terrorism" is a great pretext to make foreign or internal interventions, set up exception laws, dismantle rights, destroy whole countries...

  • Guest - natalie

    wtf seriously he should be dead he killed innocent people and some are still alive suffering and hes a ''SUSPECT'' for now reall?!!!

  • Guest - Ghan Buri Ghan

    "Privilege is something that A MINORITY unduly has. Whites (if that category has any meaning) are the vast majority of US society, so I’d like to question the notion of 'white privilege'"

    "working class people who are very removed from the position this fellow was in as a gradduate student....there are many white male working class people whose only exposure....is to either be told that they are privilieged or else to turn on FOX News. That is a very bad choice to give to people and it always has reactionary effects."

    These sort of sentiments encourage and excuse chauvinistic and reactionary attitudes among working-class whites. Also last time I checked, non-Hispanic whites were only 49% of the US population, (including Persians, Arabs, and other middle-eastern people, who, demographically speaking, are also considered white) so demographically speaking they are only the largest minority

  • Guest - Maju

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States#Race_and_ethnicity

    <b>White or European-Americans 72.4%
    Not Hispanic White (...) 63.7%</b>

    Just for the record (always self-declared per US census 2010):

    Hispanic or Latino: 16.3% (White: 8.7%, Other: 6%, Mixed: 1%, Black 0.4%, Native American 0.2%, Asian 0.1%)
    Black or African-American 12.6% (non-Hispanic: 12.2%)
    Asian: 4.8% (non-Hispanic: 4.7%)
    Native American or equivalent: 0.9% (non-Hispanic: 0.7%)
    Native Hawaiian or equivalent: 0.2%
    Other: 6.9% (non-Hispanic: 0.2%)
    Mixed: 2.9% (non-Hispanic: 1.9%)

    Regionally:

    Hispanics are concentrated in the SW (California-to-Texas) where there are more than 30% in most states (usually of Mexican origin), and also Florida (Cubans), New York area (Puerto Ricans and Dominicans), Chicago area and the NW.

    African-Americans are concentrated in the Southeast (aka The South, including Maryland, Delaware, D.C.) and urban areas all around. They are majority in Washington D.C. and ample pockets of the "Cotton Belt", as well as in some urban areas like Chicago, Detroit.

    Asian-Americans are concentrated in the Pacific Ocean states, notably Hawaii, and also urban areas all around.

    "These sort of sentiments encourage and excuse chauvinistic and reactionary attitudes among working-class whites".

    When you say to someone that "you are privileged", you are implying that he/she has something undeserved. This is very difficult to argue for whites in general in the US context, where they are the majority and therefore the standard of reference.

    As I said, this would be different in the global context probably because, of course, Whites (people of European ancestry specially) have in general got some privileges from persistent colonial exploitation. Although that is very relative and while it may be true in ample parts of Western Europe, probably Bulgarians or Albanians, for example, did not notice their "privilege" at all. Instead Japanese, who are not white by all accounts, did and do benefit (and they were even considered "honorary whites" in Apartheid South Africa).

    On the other hand people of mixed ancestry or culturally assimilated in many colonies became also privileged, maybe not as much as the top white tier, but certainly often enjoying standards of life that would be the envy of the vast majority of working class whites. This is still happening of course, and even more now that all legal and formal barriers have been brought down (although some prejudices and certainly a socio-cultural legacy of segregation remain).

    So IMO using the term "privilege" for such ample sectors indiscriminately is wrong and unduly aggressive. Not justified at all.

  • Guest - Maju

    PD- I think that 49% figure is an estimate for 2050 or something, assuming a growth of Hispanics as recently. African-Americans are demographically stagnate, Hispanics (and to lesser extent Asians) are the growing groups.

    ...

    Unrelatedly, someone (who looks a right-wing troll, am I correct?) said:

    "Wake me up when blacks aren’t murdering at over five times the rate of whites".

    Wake me up when many of those "crimes" are not framed up to get people in prison to work as slaves for the big corporations. A lot of people, largely Blacks or from other minorities are being sent to prison "just because" - just because the corporations who manage the penal system need more workforce.

    http://www.alternet.org/rights/155061/getting_paid_93_cents_a_day_in_america_corporations_bring_back_the_19th_century/

    http://forwhatwearetheywillbe.blogspot.com.es/2012/02/slavery-after-slavery-after-slavery.html

    ...

    I will however use this case to discuss again the misuse of the word "privilege". Someone could argue that because whites are (mostly) not imprisoned/enslaved arbitrarily this is "white privilege". However it should be obvious that not being imprisoned/enslaved arbitrarily is a fundamental human right and that enjoying human rights is no privilege whatsoever.

    It is a clear case of discrimination, abuse, fascism, racism, apartheid, slavery... or many other terms that could be use but not of "lack of a privilege" because human rights are not privileges.

  • Guest - Gary

    What is "Native Hawaiian or equivalent"? In Hawai'i something like 23% of the population either self-identifies as Hawaiian (there are very few "full blood" Hawaiians, only some 2000 of whom can now speak the language, unfortunately) or is Fijian, Samoan, Tahitian, or other Polynesian. To make someone who is one-eighth Hawaiian, blond and blue-eyed (there are many) and chooses to self-identify as Hawaiian with a recent immigrant from Tonga isn't very helpful in terms of social analysis.

    .

  • This is a large topic, that I would hate to try to compress into just a few paragraphs.

    But overall, I believe there is value in sketching a contrast between mainstream liberal views on racism and communist views on the oppression of African American people.

    To put it simply:

    1) Liberals believe that the main source and locus of racism is in the minds of white people. That it is mainly a mental/ideological matter, and that the main form that racist oppression takes is the actions taken by white people on various levels based on their misunderstandings (their prejudiced stereotypes, their self identification as white, their racist assumptions about inferiority or incompetence or "social pathology" surrounding Black people etc.)

    2) Related to that, the assumption is that the main form of mistreatment African American people face is inequality based on racist ideas. So that they are deprived of things that white people get. And so the mistreatment of African American people is essentially a "zero sum game" where white people receive privilege (with accompanying material benefits) while Black people receive accumulated mistreatment (bombarded with hostile ideas, confronted by inequality, confined to poverty.)

    From a communist points of view, the problem here is not what this view contains, but what it leaves out.

    In other words, there <em>are</em> of course racist ideas in the minds of white people. There <em>is</em> ongoing discrimination which is carried out by someone (or some group of people) actings as the instruments of that discrimination (hiring department, admissions to schools, judges in juvenile court, disciplinary deans in high schools, real estate agents steering people to particular communities, cops on the beat, casting directors for films, military officers, prison guards, etc.)

    And there are obviously economic and social differences in how white people (as a group) fare in this society -- compared to how black people (as a group) emerge -- Measurements of high school graduation, or higher unemployment, or access to college funds, or accumulated family wealth, or almost any measure of stablity, wealth and access. And (as is known) racist views and the devaluing of African American lives are often imposed even when the instrument is not necessarily white (school administrators in Black highschools, Black cops and prison guards, etc.)

    The very argument that Black people are systematically discriminated against is often controversial in society (and denied by conservative and racist forces).

    But the controversy between a LIBERAL understanding of racism and a COMMUNIST understanding of oppression (of oppressed nationalities and racial groups) has to do with the understanding of <em>system</em> and <em>structure</em>.

    Overall, the root cause of national oppression (and its continued existence in American society, and the fact that repeated struggles <em>against</em> that oppression have been betrayed) is the nature of the capitalist system. I.e. the argument is not whether discrimination is <em>systematic</em>, but whether it is oppression that is <em>systemic</em> (i.e. rooted in a particular system).

    And the oppression of African American people is (from our point of view) deeply systemic: I.e. it is impossible to imagine the U.S. capitalist system (or understand this capitalist system) without deeply appreciated how it has been rooted in and grown upon centuries of superexploited labor by African American people (and how the system itself was shaped by its <em>social</em> needs to enforce and justify that oppression).

    It has been a deep problem of U.S. society (for its ruling classes) that the rapid expansion of the society (from colonies to continental power, from agricultural to industrial powerhouse), and the relative mobility of labor, meant that the capitalists (and rural landowners) have often had a great deal of trouble keeping and exploiting a stable lower working class. The crude example is that white servants could run away to the frontier and become land-owning farmers by participating in the genocide against Indians and the stealing of their territories.

    Marx often writes (in his later 1800s essays on the United States) about the fact that the U.S. did not develop a "hereditary working class" -- meaning: the U.S. alwyas had an industrial working class (of course), but it was a bit of an escalator, with impoverished immigrants entering at the bottom, and others at the upper tiers seeking to become farmers, or small business owners.

    In short, the ruling classes discovered that it was in their interests to keep significant sections of the people in a caste-like state -- creating a color line that defined millions of people who were excluded from upward mobility (and violently contained as slaves, or then sharecroppers, or workers in the lowest tier). A parallel process in the last century has created a castelike lower-tier in the working class filled with undocumented immigrant workers (who because of permanent illegality are, similarly, confined to the lower tiers of the working class.)

    These conditions and history existed because it enabled a dynamic and expanding U.S. to maintain conditions of extreme exploitation for millions of people -- trapped in the bottom of the class structure. And this need for plantation and capitalist exploitation produced (by preventing integration and ethnic assimilation) the emergence of distinctive nationalities (among African Americans, and other oppressed people) -- even while the "ethnic differences" among European immigrants were absorbed into a single slowly expanding "white" nationality.

    The point is that the oppression of African American people is rooted deeply in the class structure of society -- and in the structures that allow centuries of relentless exploitation, and in structures (the lash, the paddyrollers, jim crow, the klan, the White Citizens councils, modern police departments) enforce the confinement of African American people (confinement to neighborhoods, confinement to underpaid jobs, confinement to chain gangs and prisons, etc.)

    There are (obviously) racist ideas among white people, and there are relative privileges that come with being white (in a society where being Black is demonized). And there certainly are ways that the oppression of Black people has been enforced (over and over again) by "self-acting" white people (i.e. this is not merely or only imposed by authorities or by official agents of capitalism).

    But the difference between a liberal and a communist view does involve a different appreciation about the <em>systemic</em> nature of national oppression, the role of ongoing, enforced super-exploitation (as the main "benefit" of the oppression of whole peoples).

    The racist oppression of Black people is <em>rooted</em> in historically developed structural features of American <em>capitalism</em>, and it has served the stability and profitability of that capitalism for centuries. It is adapted to new arrivals (i.e. the methods of police, prison, racial profiling etc. are adapted and extended from one nationality to another -- including as mexican and central american immigrants arrive in areas that were historically only "black and white.")

    This means that seeing the role of the system is crucial (when fighting the oppression of Black people and when fighting those who carry out that oppression).

    Those who see this mainly as a problem of fighting white people as such, and of prying some ubiquitous blanket of "white privilege" away from white people -- are misunderstanding the nature of the liberation struggle. And it is often coupled with a habit of denying that poor and workingclass white people are often quite oppressed, and have a larger interest in achieving socialism (and that in many cases their <em>relative</em> privilege, as men or as white people, are small compared to the bitterness of their oppression overall.)

    There remains a very stubborn and unsolved problem of winning large numbers of working class white people to progressive struggle. It has proven to be hard (far harder than some mechanical Marxisms assumed). But it is a task we face (if we actually want to win). A theory that writes off white people (as such, uniformly) as permanently poisoned by their position -- that mainly sees them as part of the problem, or as beneficiaries of American capitalism is mistaken (and has political implications that would be truly toxic and disastrous if adopted).

    It is far better to expose and oppose the <em>oppression</em> of Black people, and rally many different kinds of people to that cause. "Unite the many, oppose the few." And to bring out that this is not mainly some "interethnic" conflict between white and Black -- but the fact that the oppression of African American people is a key dynamic of a system that also generates massive oppression for millions of other people in many other ways (internationally and domestically).

    Socialism is in the overall interest of the vast majority of people on earth, and even in the interest of most people in the U.S. "Among the people" there are all kinds of "relative privilege" (men over women, U.S. inhabitants over people at the poorer end of the empire, educated over uneducated, white over Black and brown, straight over the demonized sexualities, and so on). But the existence of such relative privilege does not mean that the system somehow (overall) is in the interests of those who can be seen to have <em>relative</em> privilege. (Everyone in the U.S. benefits from the relative stability of living in the heart of a global empire -- but that hardly means that everyone in the U.S. has an interest in capitalism, and an interest in opposing socialism).

    White people play complex roles at different times (and are best considered in a way that "breaks it down" and considers that diversity of roles and interests). Sometimes some white people have been active participants in the suppression of Black liberation (lynchmobs, opposition to Blacks in the suburbs, there are a million examples etc.) At other times, some white people have welcomed and participated in change -- standing up for the liberation of African american people, taking risks, opposing reactionaries, etc.

  • Guest - Maju

    "What is “Native Hawaiian or equivalent”?"

    I shortened a couple of categories and you just needed to follow the link to find out the fine print, Gary. In this case "or equivalent" corresponds to "or other Pacific islanders" (Samoans and other Polynesians, I guess). It's a single US census category at least as listed in Wikipedia.

    Similarly "Native American or equivalent" was originally "American Indian or Alaskan Native". "Mixed" was originally "two or more races", etc.