Possession is nine-tenths of racism (column)
How could someone hate a person simply because of dark pigment? Based on our history of racial progress and regress, it’s simple.
Racism mostly is about entitlement, about power, about privilege. And this key point: In our country it’s about a victimhood that never really happened.
Racism is nine-tenths possession. The remaining one-tenth is simple alienation.
Before the Emancipation Proclamation, white America owned black Americans. When slaveholders could no longer do that, they constructed a fear-based, possession-based social franchise that still remains in place in too many jurisdictions.
Fear of people of color remains one of the most compelling political appeals, though it is packaged more smartly.
It was fascinating how vigorously conservative politicians bent themselves to downplay or avoid the race angle in the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Yet, how clear could that angle be? So, what was their aversion?
A lot of politicians, particularly in the South, owe their power to white fear of black (and, increasingly, brown) people. The Southern Strategy of Nixon and Reagan was a winner, is a winner. You ride with a winner.
The winning appeal:Black people are coming after what we have.
They want to subvert our culture. They want to move into our neighborhoods. The courts forced them into our schools. We fled them for our own. This is a fundamental battle. Our very way of life is at stake.
Listen to the words of ownership. When one of “them” rises to power, like Barack Obama, the theme becomes: We must take our country back.
Listen to the rationalization about flying the Confederate Flag. “This is about our heritage.” Yes, it is. Define “our.”
Ask a black American what that flag represents. It’s certainly not equal rights. But, let’s face it: Many people with power — whether economic or social — don’t want equal rights.
What is “truly bizarre,” writes Corey Robin in his book, “The Reactionary Mind,” is “a ruling class resting its claim to power on a sense of victimhood.” That’s exactly what we have. That’s the victimhood that would drive a mousy 21-year-old white man to wear pro-apartheid patches, spout racist slogans and shoot dead nine people in a black church.
Ah, the church. How could anyone who claims to be Christian ever countenance the marginalization of minorities and the promotion of reactionary designs?
Two days after the Charleston shootings, Republican presidential candidates gathered for the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual meeting in Washington. One would have thought that in the wake of Charleston, as the candidates lined up to claim Christ to be central to their personal journeys, the subject of racial conciliation would be front and center. Wrong — not with abortion rights and same-sex marriage to rail against.
Sadly, racial conciliation isn’t good politics on their side of the equation. In the carnage at Mother Emanuel, first they would have to admit that the motive was racism, something communicated, like anthrax. Instead, let’s attribute it to some guy’s mental problems.
These voices dare not make the crime one for which others share culpability.
This is not just about shaggy racist slogans and odious symbols. More serious is governance and politics, the way we divide ourselves and apportion power through race-based redistricting.
In said environment, Republican leaders can shrug when a federal judge says Texas’s voter I.D. law calculatedly undermines the votes of people of color.
Throw in the brown threat of immigration. Oh, yes, brethren. Racial fears remain the coin of influence in how this nation runs — and as it runs from discussing the pathogen that still courses through its veins.
Equality? Don’t kid yourself, kid. Racial equality for many Americans means surrendering a cherished possession: unquestioned superiority decreed at birth.
As Corey Robin writes, “What equality ultimately means is a rotation in the seat of power.” Pretty scary.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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