Class Warfare Blog

May 16, 2018

Manufacturing Sub-humans

Filed under: Culture,Race — Steve Ruis @ 12:17 pm
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In a recent post, Ian Welsh stated the following:

“So, Palestinians protested moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, and Israel shot and killed somewhere between 52 and 60 of them, and injured hundreds more. The rule of international law (yes, I know, a dead letter) is that force must be proportional to threat.

“This is disproportionate.

“The simple fact is that too many Israelis now think of Palestinians as sub-human: animals to be killed if they are inconvenient.”

It struck me that this is what white Americans are doing to black Americans. With the rollback of Jim Crow laws (and they weren’t just in the South), we have criminalized ordinary black behaviors far above white behaviors. We have made black males into archetypes of “dangerous people.” It is a regular occurrence now that white people call the police on black people for doing ordinary things in their neighborhoods (waiting for a business meeting in a Starbucks, moving into a rental unit, showing properties as a real estate agent, shopping, walking on a sidewalk, etc.).

Is it any surprise that the police in this country, those who are most intimately engaged with law breakers, are most susceptible to this propaganda? We have seen way too often how police shoot unarmed black men, black women, and black children for playing with toy guns in a park or holding a toy gun in a toy store (while talking on the phone, a clearly criminal behavior), or driving with a failed brake light. Non-black citizens can stalk black men, engage them in a fight and then when losing the fight, pull out a gun and kill the black man … and get away with it.

I do not see any way out of this problem for black people. It will take concerted effort on the part of white people to correct it (since we created it, we need to uncreate it). We need to stigmatize those who call the police on citizens moving ordinarily in society while black. We need to prosecute, not just fire, police officers who use excessive violence on black people. We need to train police officers better, including on what will happen to them if they use excessive violence in the context of their duties.

And, we need to apologize for this unwarranted attack upon ordinary black citizens. If we were to start now, maybe in a few decades we might be heard, but only if we back up our words with actions.

 

 

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May 2, 2018

Why Capitalism Creates Racism

This is a “must read” post on the Naked Capitalism site.

Why Capitalism Creates Racism

Here are some excerpts:

“In the current era, when NAFTA was passed, Mexico was flooded with American industrial corn. Its lower cost destroyed the peasant economy in Mexico by rendering locally grown corn ‘uncompetitive.’ This cut the peasants whose livelihoods depended on selling their corn out of the cash economy. Millions of suddenly ‘freed’ peasants went to work in maquiladoras or fled North in search of work as undocumented workers. Without racial or national animosity, NAFTA created a new sub-class of industrial labor.”

“In the context of labor coerced through manufactured circumstances (work for us or starve) and control of government by the industries doing the employing, the idea of market wages is nonsense. And therein lies the point. The ‘free-market’ way to entice labor is to pay the wage that people are willing to work for— without coercion. The ‘capital accumulation’ theory behind NAFTA— that sacrifice is required to accumulate the capital that makes capitalism function, (1) begs the question: function for whom and (2) was also used to justify slavery.”

“By the time NAFTA was fully implemented the powers-that-be behind its central policies busied themselves creating explanations of Mexican immigration to the U.S. In their telling, NAFTA had nothing to do with the millions of Mexicans leaving Mexico for the U.S. or for the rapidly declining fortunes of American workers who suddenly faced competition for their paychecks from people willing to work for whatever they could get. ‘Criminals’ and ‘freeloaders’ were coming for American jobs went the carefully-crafted storyline.”

“Of current relevance: (1) different classes of workers were created and placed in competition with one another to benefit a tiny ruling elite, (2) the interests of this elite were / are centered around pecuniary and political gain, (3) after implementation racialized explanations were put forward in lieu of the original economic explanations used to sell these programs and (4) these explanations followed the creation of the racialized ‘facts’ they were conceived to explain. The temporal sequence is important— mass immigration from Mexico and the destruction of the American working class were well-underway before racialized explanations were put forward to explain it.”

“The argument was made at the time, and is still made today, that ‘everyone’ benefits from massively disrupting the lives of millions of people with trade agreements. Theoretical proof is put forward in terms of dollars / pesos of GDP gained. Left out is that the Mexican peasant economy wasn’t monetized and therefore its loss wasn’t counted. Even on its own terms NAFTA was a loser. And imposing these outcomes from above makes them profoundly anti-democratic. In other words, even if the outcomes were as promised, the decisions were made by its largest beneficiaries, not those whose lives were disrupted.”

March 2, 2018

A Review of Ugly Delicious

Filed under: Culture,Education,Race — Steve Ruis @ 11:04 am
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I just finished watching a Netflix serial documentary Ugly Delicious with David Chang and a bunch of other chefs and food writers … and comedians (?). The term ugly delicious is what David Chang uses for home cooked food that everyone loves which doesn’t show up on restaurant menus. Mr. Chang is a celebrity mega-chef but an ordinary guy, in the sense of he doesn’t put on airs. (Chefs used to be ordinary guys/gals but now that we have made some of them celebrities, some have gotten a bit … aloof, shall we say.)

I had read a review of Ugly Delicious in the NY Times that was a bit sniffy, objecting to Mr. Chang’s use of the F-word for one, which I found ordinary and refreshing. (The Times reviewers seem to all come from the Pecksniff Academy.)

The show is not just about food, but food as a element of culture, how food is interwoven with culture, privilege, and racism. For example, in Japan fried chicken and watermelon is a big seller in restaurants. In the U.S. you would not find that combination on a menu unless it was a black-owned and back-operated restaurant, and then maybe not then, too. Mr. Chang is seen educating himself (and us) about the racism involved in fried chicken (in the U.S. and nowhere else).

Another theme is that American appreciation of Asian foods is stuck on a stultified menu that almost cannot be changed: fried rice, eggroll, and General Tso’s Chicken, etc. … and if it is Asian food it needs to be cheap. When tourists go the China and get authentic Chinese food, they are often disappointed as it is nothing like what is served here. One element of what has created this situation is indeed racism, but one aspect of this wasn’t touched upon. It seems to be the case that a person’s taste in foods seems to be set by the time they are about six years old. If children are fed hot peppers, in that time, they will like hot foods later, for example. I now live in the Midwest and I hear people complain about a dish being “too spicy” because it included Fresno chilies. Fresno chilies! For the Midwesterners reading this, Fresno green chilies are right next to Bell peppers in heat, there is almost none. But children raised on bland food would find them too spicy to eat as adults. The lesson here is if you want to have your children grow up to appreciate a full range of food tastes, don’t shackle them while they are young. If they have a narrow diet while young, they will have a narrow diet when older, same is true for a wider diet. (I had a mixed upbringing, having a wide variety of dishes served to me, but regarding vegetables, we ate a lot of green beans and corn and not much else. So, I like vegetables, as long as they were green beans and corn. I have since learned to like other veggies, but Brussels sprouts eluded me for almost 70 years and cauliflower almost as long. (It doesn’t help that Midwesterners boil all vegetables until mushy and if not, they are creamed or fried. My mother was from Iowa, even though I was born in California.)

Of course, there are extremes for every palette. Mr. Chang relates a story of when he first tried “Hot Chicken” and bragged a little about liking “very hot” food before being served. I will not spoil the story by relating it here, but let me just say Mr. Chang had an out-of-body experience.

This is not a series just about food. It is about people and how food can bring us together as one big family. Very touching, very well told stories, and fascinating, at least to this old fart.

Highly recommended—worth watching—Ugly Delicious.

Addendum I wonder what the budget was for this series as they shot footage all over the world. If Netflix can keep up the pace, I will keep subscribing.

November 9, 2017

We Are Waking …

Check this out “Why have we built a paradise for offshore billionaires?” by Thomas Frank of The Guardian. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Mr. Frank says, for example, “In reality, though, it was never about us and our economy at all. Today it is obvious that all of this had only one rationale: to raise up a class of supermen above us. It had nothing to do with jobs or growth. Or freedom either. The only person’s freedom to be enhanced by these tax havens was the billionaire’s freedom. It was all to make his life even better, not ours.

He is not quite there, though, as you can see from this “I don’t want to go too far here. I know that what the billionaires and the celebrities have done is perfectly legal. They merely took advantage of the system. It’s the system itself, and the way it was deliberately constructed to achieve these awful ends, that should be the target of our fury.

Mr. Frank, with all respect, it is not some disembodied “system” we need to contend with. You must realize that the elites created the system. We do not need to take the system down. we need to take the elites down.

At least the mainstream media are starting to see reality.

October 12, 2017

Pass It On

Filed under: Culture,Race — Steve Ruis @ 12:38 pm
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October 2, 2017

Mass Shooting in Nevada—He Is White

I woke this morning to yet another American exceptionalism display. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada is in turmoil because of another mass shooting. My first thought was “He was white.” So I scanned the report and no mention of race was made, so … he was white. I have never heard of a woman doing such a thing, so the “he” was easy to presume.

I assumed he was white, because, well, if a Black or Hispanic person were to have done such a thing, first that would have been mentioned at the top of every article. Plus, can you imagine the repercussions? Suspects looking anything at all like a photo of a suspect would be been shot or lynched on sight. It is a rare Black or Hispanic man who doesn’t know that he will be killed and probably his whole family, too, were he to act out like that.

In this country, a Black man making a symbolic gesture by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, which wasn’t even noticed until he had done it a couple of times, causes a huge verbal backlash (including the POTUS calling his mother a bitch on national TV), him losing his multi-million dollar a year job, and becoming nationally notorious. If he had actually shot someone, he would have been executed by now.

When white men have a grievance they want to air, well, they go to a gun store.

‘Merica, ‘merica, we’re number one; we’re number one! … in mass shootings … by white men.

September 14, 2017

Racism is as American as Baseball

Filed under: Culture,Race,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 10:53 am
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Some baseball fans unfurled a banner with the above printed on it at last night’s Red Sox baseball game. Of course they were ejected … for telling the truth. (Actually there is a team policy forbidding “signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark,” but I was feeling snarky writing this.)

Actually I believe this statement is true but baseball may show us the way forward. Baseball had a racist past. Early on, people of color played but soon enough, Backs and Hispanics were banned from the professional game. (There were still plenty of “colored” baseball players, but they usually were relegated to playing on and against teams made up of just Black and Brown players in front of Black and Brown audiences.)

In 1942, as almost everyone knows, the “color barrier” in white, major league baseball was broken by Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Robinson, the player, took the abuse on the field while Rickey, the schemer behind the effort, took the abuse from other baseball executives and from fans in his mail.

Many brave actions were taken by players supporting members of their own team and many despicable actions were taken by players not supporting members of their own team but eventually everything was sorted out. I saw my first major league professional game in 1958 and by then there were quite a number of Black and Brown players. What I did not know was that even my team, the S.F. Giants, had a self-segregated clubhouse. The Blacks kept to themselves, the Hispanic players kept to themselves, and the whites kept to themselves, mostly.

Fast forward to now and you see major league teams in which Black, Brown, and White players mingle, enjoy each other’s company off of the field, support one another when they have family issues, etc. It isn’t a perfect world, but it is far, far better than where it began.

Sports teams, in general, have embraced Rodney King’s plea of “Can’t we all just get along?”

The U.S. is not the last bastion of racism. Racism is a live and well elsewhere around the world. But racism is a smear on a facade of a country claiming to be a better place, an exceptional place. It is time we address our racist past and our racist present and make ourselves an exception, rather than a manifestation of the rule.

August 3, 2017

Why Are Americans So Afraid?

I was reading an article over at AlterNet with the title above. The subtitle is “Facts Take a Backseat to Deeply Ingrained Fears.” That article takes a fact-based approach in that they point out that violence has been and continues to be on a decline (for a very long time, even including world wars). That is per capita violence, not necessarily total violence as the population is still growing rapidly. That article’s author concludes that the fear people possess is a belief rather than a conclusion from the facts. A bit of discussion of fear mongering and they were done. I am using the same title, but they were asking the question; I will try to answer it, in part.

They didn’t quite go one step farther and they really need to. Why is America so afraid? That is the emphasis they missed. What might be the basis of American fear? We have experienced far less terrorism than much of the rest of the world, yet we seem to be more afraid, for example. The connection that they missed is that the U.S. is also one of the most religious countries in existence. If you compare our church going rates to, say, Great Britain or France, we are way out in front. It may be the case that not even a majority of Britons believe in a god.

And what is the foundational basis of the form of religion we currently espouse? Fear and belief. And what has been happening in the world of religion in the U.S.? Currently there has been a major increase in market share of the “nones,” those who respond to polls, like the Pew Poll on Religion in America, that their religion is “none.” The Nones have doubled as a percentage of the population in the Pew poll for instance. Atheism is spoken about and written about widely. Conservative religion in this country, in response I believe, has upped the drumbeat. The standard message has always been “we are a sinful nation” and “we need to repent our evil ways or God will punish us.” “If we only were to accept Jesus as our Lord, we would be ‘saved’ from eternal torment when we died.” That sounds like a fear-based campaign if I have ever heard one.

And as churches close or they see large reductions in their numbers of parishioners, the pressure gets increased on the standard message. We are more sinful that we were in the past! We are in even more need of belief! The world is descending into a miasma of degradation! Church going rates are decried as being at all-time lows when, in fact, the church-going rates a little over one hundred years ago were a small fraction of what they are now. They mean a “recent low” but that doesn’t have the impact of “all-time low.” Often this message isn’t all that overt, but it is there. And it provides a base for the feeling of fear from the purveyors of violence. There are secular fear mongers, too (Republicans), but I won’t mention their names (Republicans).

This is not accidental. The cadre of very rich people who are trying to subvert democracy in this country, like fear. They also prefer fear that is not based in fact because real fears have real causes that must be addressed. False fears can be “solved” by the same magic that created them in the first place. You may wonder how long we can be kept in a state of fear. To me, the answer is clear: centuries. If you look at how long many in the South have feared the reprisal of Blacks for how they have been treated by the white community, you will see a history of fear management. During the slave period, whites were ever fearful of slave revolts and any hint of such a revolt produced a vicious backlash. After emancipation, vagrancy laws and sundown laws were used to keep Black Americans in a state of near slavery. Jim Crow laws kept Blacks and Whites from interacting and developing any real relationships. It also kept Blacks weak in that in this country money = power and if you don’t have any money, you don’t have any power. The term “poor Black” became almost an oxymoron in the postbellum South.

The latest manifestation of the fear campaign is to make sure that white Americans saw Black Americans, primarily males, as criminals. By jiggering the laws, a large percentage of the Black male population ended up behind bars. Even when they got out, they were ex-cons and had trouble getting jobs and, well, money = power. This stereotyping campaign has been so effective that many police officers are so afraid of Blacks that they shoot 11-year olds with cap guns and even shoot White women because they don’t take the time to really look at the situation. The laws have told them that if they feel fear, they can shoot. And we have made damn sure they feel fear, a lot of fear.

Feeling fear without reason is the tool of the cadre of very rich folks who are trying to capture our democracy. Trying, hell, they basically have captured our democracy. When was the last time Congress passed a bill that the American people supported? Polls showing 60%, 70%, even 80% public support for legislation which then fails to pass. For example, we cannot seem to deny convicted felons, or people with restraining orders, or the mentally deficient the right to bear arms! That would contribute to people feeling safer and where’s the upside in that? People are so in favor of reasonable gun laws that a majority of NRA members support some of them. But … nah, they really don’t want you to feel safer. People want government-supported health care? Too bad, that would contribute to an overall sense of well-being and safety, so, nope, can’t be done.

The politicians are running the show, but it is religion, American religion, that has provided the base for their fear mongering actions, and, interestingly the religious still support them. The minor fact the Evangelical Christians supported Donald Trump in droves tells you all you need to know. And if you think I am exaggerating read the book Democracy in Chains.

The money = power equation works quite simply. By accumulating a large fraction of this nation’s wealth, the people in this category can have a small cadre with enough wealth to exert more power than the rest of the country can. If you wonder why unions have become powerless. If you wonder why wages have been suppressed for so long, start thinking about money = power. It works both ways. Since we do not have it, we have no power. Since they have it, they have the power, enough power to get their money declared a form of “free speech” by the fucking Supreme Court. Now their expenditures to keep democracy in chains is protected by the Constitution!

May 15, 2017

We Don’ Need No Protection Cause Racism Ain’t No More

According to The Nation magazine:

“On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. A month after that decision, North Carolina – where 40 counties were previously subject to that requirement – passed the country’s most sweeping voting restrictions.

“The state required strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cut a week of early voting and eliminated same-day voter registration, out of precinct voting and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds. On July 29, 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated these restrictions, which it said targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision” in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment.”

If I remember rightly, the Supreme Court argued that singling out those states for “special treatment” under the Voting Rights Act (basically requiring any changes to voting laws to be screened for approval by the Justice Department) wasn’t needed any more because, well those states had reformed and were no longer what they were. Besides there’s racism everywhere.

So, here we are just under four years later addressing racist voting regulations which “targeted African Americans ‘with almost surgical precision’ in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment”  in one of those very states. I am sure glad their ain’ no racists no more in No’th Carolina.

Three cheers for the Supreme Court … uh, no?

July 9, 2016

Why Are We Spending Billions to Get the “Bad Teachers” Out but Nothing to get the “Bad Cops” Out?

Filed under: Culture,History,Morality,Politics,Race,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 12:15 pm
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There is a false narrative, aka a lie, doing the rounds in our culture: our schools are failing because of “bad teachers.” As a consequence billions of dollars have been spent by our federal and state governments to create systems and testing instruments to identify the “bad teachers” so we can get them out.

I suspect that many, if not most, cops are decent people who have no more prejudices than average citizens, but there are more than a few who are racists and they are killing Black folks for trivial reasons (a common one is having a taillight out on your car, but then there is holding a toy gun in a toy store, playing with a toy gun in a public park (a child!), talking “sass” to an officer, driving while Black, and many more).

So, where are the billions in federal incentive money to get police departments to adopt uniform standards? Where are the testing services lining up claiming they can identify the bad apples so we can “get ’em out?” Where are the community policing choice programs? Where are the charter police departments?

Teachers aren’t shooting people, why are we so focused on them?

(Psst . . . follow the money.)

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