Curtain Raiser

Black & White & Muddy All Over, Colltalers

Just when two stirring issues, deeply relevant for the U.S. going forward – income distribution and government-sponsored surveillance of common citizens – were getting some traction in the prime real estate of public debate, another one, supposedly from the past, reared its ugly head: racism.
Apparently, America can’t help it getting constantly muddled up and overwhelmed by the racial divide, no matter how many historical steps forward have been accomplished, and how in the Supreme Court’s fictitious land of racial equality, racism has all but being completely conquered.
Far from it, as the court itself and last week’s two shocking public statements have highlighted it so well. So much for a country that has finally elected, and reelected, an African-American as president. Sadly, such toxic discussion is not ready to be coralled within the academia just yet.
The brutal reality is that this is not only fiction but a cruel tale of failed expectations and betrayed ideals, where black and other so-called racial minorities lag behind in major indicators of income, education, and social promotion, or simply languish in record numbers in overcrowded jails.
What’s fast becoming known as the Roberts court, with all the nuanced punch of a racial-profiled stop-and-frisk police harassing of an unarmed black teenager, was the one to fire the opening salvo of the week, with its Schuette v Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action decision.
In it, it went along with Michigan in denying college and university applicants the right to invoke race in their applications, one more state to strike down the Civil Rights-derived legislation that allowed President Obama, for one, to even consider applying to an Ivy League institution.
The Roberts court simply reused the same mold it did last July, when it also took a swipe at yet another piece of the 1960s’ civil movements legacy, the Voting Rights Act, employing the same infuriatingly disingenuous rationale that ‘our country has changed,’ the racial divide is no longer, etc.
All that this process of dismantling the few treads supporting an already tenuous balance of race, and its close cousin, class, has managed to do so far
is to underscore the vulnerability of the Obama administration’s claims that it’s actually lowering the odds staked against racial minorities.
Even considering the constitutional separation of powers, there’s little doubt that the Executive branch has had its own share of flaws dealing with non-discriminatory practices within its own ranks, or going after for-profit academic institutions, with a lot to benefit from the Schuette ruling.
After all, it’s been under the president’s watch that tuition prices and education costs have skyrocketed, just like student debt and university profits, while studies on the demographics of upper education entries show that it continues to be heavily overrepresented by whites over all other races.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor correctly observed, on her dissent, that the decision allows the legacy status (‘daddy went to school here’) or the athletic skills argument (talent to engorge the university’s bottom line) to get more sympathetic ears than those declaring simply that they are black or Hispanic and poor. With the strike of a pen, the court once again set back decades of civil rights laws once approved to set a level playing field.
It was downhill after that. In fact, the past week offered two of the ugliest public displays of outlandish racism in recent memory, and we only won’t go as far as to call them the worst ever because, one, they are not, and secondly, have you been watching international football lately?
Leading the charge of unapologetic supremacists, Nevada cattle rancher Clive Bundy, who if he wasn’t white and relatively well to do, would be rotting in jail, suddenly irrupted into the open with an anti-government diatribe, which he explicitly does not recognize, for daring to attempt to collect grazing fees due to his cows’ two-decade roaming of public land. Conservative pundits and politicos quickly gathered on his support.
Fox News was in the middle of its 200-hour plus daily coverage of this lawbreaker’s 15 minutes, who held court on the open pasture, surrounded by an armed-to-the-teeth militia, when a previous video resurfaced where he dispenses his staggeringly prejudiced views on ‘the Negro.’
By the time he uttered a second reference to slavery, and how African-Americans would be better off if we still had it, his ‘lifetime’ friends in Washington and the media, who’d called him a patriot and praised his straightforwardness, had jumped overboard faster than rats from a shipwreck.
The saddest part, though, goes beyond his hateful rhetoric. It’s the fact that he said bluntly what many in the GOP, the conservative media, right-wing talk show hosts, and even members of the privileged elite have also been saying, but through ‘code’ words and covert expressions.
Otherwise, what is a ‘moocher’ if not someone who ‘doesn’t belong here,’ who’ll never be ‘one of us, and whose stench of unemployment and social exclusion is not suitable to even stay in the same room as the piles of cash the 1% has shipped abroad for the exact same reason.
Talking about the 1%, along came the K.O. punch on the many who still hope the U.S., circa 2014, is not all about race and dwindling opportunities to minorities: the now widely publicized remarks made by LA Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling to his much younger girlfriend.
In a long, boring and otherwise pointless argument that somehow got recorded, he chastises V. Stiviano for taking a picture with a black person, who happened to be Magic Johnson, and ends with a pearl to, hopefully, haunt him to the end of times: ‘Don’t bring ‘them’ to my games…’
No one, in right mind, would be surprised to the extent of racism in the U.S., today and now, except perhaps that fictitious realm of white man in black robes, but ultimately, it’s a good thing that these outrageous statements come to light, even if in themselves they sound petty and infantile.
They go a long way to prove that, to segments of the contemporary American society, there’s a willingness to continue pursuing an unreachable ‘ideal’ of racial purity, akin to ethical cleansing, that not even the deadliest war this country has ever waged seem to have been able to purge.
So, even though we’d prepared an inspired piece during the break, on those two transcendental themes, that of the miserable state of class relations in the U.S., and the nightmarish fears of shadowy intel agencies collecting data on everybody, it was race the topic to take over and run this post.
But it’s fine; we can all hold three conversations at the same time, and we’ll get to those issues of wealth distribution, income inequality, Thomas Piketty and all that, along with Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and whatever we may feel we could add something fresh to its discussion.
For now though, we’re utterly flummoxed, flabbergasted, apoplectic even, about how little progress we seem to have accomplished when it comes to something so basic, so crucially vital but ultimately irrelevant such as the color of everyone’s skin. If you too are feeling this way, you’re not the only one. It may be time to revisit once again why we’re stuck in the moment, and what can we all do to move on to another day. Have a nice one. WC


One thought on “Curtain Raiser

  1. It’s the same in Europe, racism rears it’s ugly head whenever the rich need someone to blame for their inadequacies and to point the finger for their failures.

    Skin colour is the easiest, of course, but we have racism here in Spain against the Gitano population, as well as the Moroccans and Roma.

    Though it’s difficult for any native Andalucian not to have at least some Gitano heritage, and probably some Moorish, a lot of those who see themselves as having escaped the poverty trap begin to deny their own culture and origins, which I find rather sad, as Gitano culture is so rich and distinctive. And you have to go right back to Moorish rule to find probably the most liberal period in Spanish history.

    Back in Britain, though there was, and is, still a hell of a lot of racism, I was quite amazed at the changes that came about in the 1970s with fresh attitudes and a breaking down of social barriers. I have a feeling, like the States, there are some now trying to re-erect them and having some success because of the financial crisis. It’s a time to pit the poor, unemployed and underprivileged against one another.

    Perhaps, it’s my own prejudice coming through, but most racism I saw and heard first hand, came from the very rich and the very poor.

    Unfortunately. I also saw enough black against white racism as I straddled most communities professionally and socially. The middle ground was a great place to be, simply because I think we had more fun.

    In our small pueblo, Angelica and I mostly have Moroccan, Spanish, Roma and Latin American and Gitano friends and neighbours. As we don’t have that much money, we don’t mix much with the English and German ex-patriots who generally do. Apart from the fact most of the middle classes can be very boring with their materialistic obsessions and one-upmanship. Now, there’s a bit of class prejudice for you.

    Being German, Angelica has a few German friends, they’re usually the more creative types. She mixes far more than I do. Me, I’m just a grumpy, old bastard, who more and more prefers to be left alone. Grrrrr!

    Thanks for tackling this subject, Wesley. It makes me think back to my childhood was brought up surrounded by racism even though I’d only seen two black people by the age of ten or so. We lived in the country. How well I remember being both shocked and intrigued by two African immigrants walking along the street when I was only four or five. Nobody had prepared me for it. But, by the time I was a teenager, I was shocked by the racism itself because it seemed so unjust and meaningless.


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