Monday, December 08, 2014

Re: White Supremacy is Almost Respectable Again (4.00 / 8)

This is what is so morally wrong with conservatives and their movement. They make us worse people. They divide us and fuel our worst human frailties and shortcomings. They weaken us as a nation.

There is not so much a continuity of anti-black feeling in this country (that depends on the aggregate of intra-personal relationships) as a continuity of anti-black institutions capable of propaganda and serious sanctions for those who depart from continuing the divisions in society that ensure that a minority plutocracy can dominate society.

The structure of these institutions are always based on divide and conquer with the following structure: the enemy within, the ally within, the enemy without, the ally without. That structure depends on a manufactured internal conflict and the manipulation of real or imagined external conflicts. In the late 17th century when the categories of "black/Negro", "white", and "Indian" were given social content and expectations, the institution of slavery, the institution of Indian trading, the institution of white indentured servitude, the institution of a conscripted military, royal government, and the frontier or perpetual Indian war acted to keep the same people in power, increase their wealth, and burnish their cultural importance. You can see the shadows of those institutions today after incredible transformation.

Employment contracts are the counterpart of indentured servitude. The failure to raise the minimum wage, the suppression of unions, and the wink-wink-nod-nod system of immigration are the institutions equivalent to the free labor of slavery; indeed, for some immigrants they are no different from slavery. And the theft of resources by the elite is no different.

In retrospect the period from 1945 until 1980 was a peculiar exception to this cynical social architecture. First of all, industrial labor unions used the occasion of the war to gain power for the first time in history by their organized power to shut down war production in strikes and by the wartime organization of the economy that the Roosevelt administration undertook to offset inflation and material shortages. Second, the ideology of Nazism was explicitly racist and anti-Nazism could easily be broadened to anti-racism. Third, the economic policies and the extent of the war damage left the United States as the most prosperous nation after the war. People who had never had savings in their lives came out of the war with sizable enough savings accounts. Running the economy at near full production and rapidly expanding plants and equipment for the war effort left a lot of dual purpose infrastructure that lowered the cost of producing things after the war. Fourth, the corrosive rot of crony capitalism had not set into the military contracting for the war and there were still some modicum of control over boondoggles if only through the reminder, "Don't you know there's a war on?"

What happened with civil rights after World War II was far from spontaneous. It was the success of a strategy that was worked tirelessly by people like Thurgood Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, and others. And the hatred for a time was transferred from blacks to the Japanese. But throughout, the operation of the institutions of American society presumed segregation; just watch the movies from that period. And segregation was an institution whose sole purpose is to signal second-class citizenship an provide a basis for discrimination in the distribution of social benefits, such as the right to life, the opportunity for a job, equal pay for equal work, opportunity for an education. It was also an institution to disadvantage white workers. The South could tolerate the organizing of white-only unions, like craft unions, but brought out the Home Guard when union organizers sought to build desegregated unions. Why? Because the employers were clear that a desegregated union would cut of the cut-rate strategy of hiring blacks as scabs and firing them when the threat of a union was past. They also knew that hiring blacks as scabs would heighten the racial divisions and make it less likely that a desegregated union could appear in the future. Finally, they knew that frustrating organizing consistently would turn off the openness of workers to the appeals to organize. At the same time, the period of increased union interest were also the period of increased organization of white only organizations in which the "betters" were collegial with the "lessers" and in which anger could be whipped up and ritualized. In the post-World War II South, the third KKK arose in a period of renewed organization of textile workers and other industrial occupations, a new push from the Teamsters Union, and increased enlistment in the armed forces by blacks after Truman desegregated the armed forces. Those new institutional arrangements threatened democracy. Conservatives even in the midst of McCarthy's ascendancy were frantic about losing forever the privilege of the do-nothing rich. Young William Buckley's screed about Yale (it always is those secular elite institutions, isn't it) became their thin hope because Eisenhower wasn't acting like one of them. So frantic did they become that Koch daddy organized a society with a guy who claimed Eisenhower was a Communist. In the midst of this stewing came Brown v. Board of Education, which rightly said that segregation was a badge of second-class citizenship and ordered schools to desegregate.

America is a land of the rule of law, right? Look at America 50 years after the court ordered all schools in the country to desegregate. By elevating the legal status of blacks from second class to first class, whites reacted as if their first class citizenship was being taken away from them. Because every single other institution in the country, and not just in the South, was segregated in some way or another or left open to hidden discrimination. By far the most egregious example was housing in non-Southern cities and towns. And white riots were used to enforce it even when laws didn't.

The ideology of white supremacy always was a national ideology. When it was finally suppressed for a brief period from 1965 to 1980, it was suppressed nationally, and it took heavy organizing by Jesse Jackson (that guy whites love to hate) to get minorities on national media and hired by the national press. And he did the same in the late 1960s and early 1970s in a lot of local markets including his home town of Greenville SC. At the same time that a local surgeon was writing weekly letter-to-the editor screeds about Medicare as socialism and the communist menace and states rights; this is the guy who started the county's Republican Party organization that gave us Jim DeMint. Of course, the media today can have both a face that looks like black members of their audience and also spouts the white supremacist line. But those are institutional arrangements of preferences in hiring and media owners being able to intimidate someone who desperately seeks to be successful.

Ronald Reagan started his campaign for President in Philadelphia, Mississippi, symbolically dancing on the graves of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney. And the national Democratic Party establishment though that Reagan was a joke and couldn't be elected--just after he had yanked the Southern Baptist Convention from Jimmy Carter and politicized it. Well not the Gipper literally, but W. A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, Paul Pressler, William Powell, and Paige Patterson. It was arch-segregationist and Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell who first went against the Baptist doctrine of separation of church and state in his "I Love America" rallies beginning in 1976.

In 1979, Dr. Robert Grant and Richard Zone united several anti-gay and anti-pornography organizations into Christian Voice to oppose President Jimmy Carter's influence with the then apolitical and often liberal or moderate Christian community. At that point the religious right allied with the political conservative movement was Paul Weyrich, Terry Dolan, Richard Viguerie, and Howard Phillips (or as Robert Grant called them when he called for Falwell to start a religious right organizations "three Catholics and a Jew"). Grant's calling out cause Falwell and Weyrich to form the Moral Majority in 1979. Although Moral Majority had chapters established all over the United States, it was a Southern-oriented organizations because of Falwell's influence. Falwell essentially leveraged this institution off of his sizable and independent Thomas Road Baptist Church. It amounted to a federation of themed political action committees. The leadership was made up from the Falwell-created Baptist Bible Fellowship. The larges affiliate of Moral Majority was the chapter in Washington state, but there were 20 state chapters at its height. Falwell's ad branding Jimmy Carter as a traitor and no longer a Christian was a significant dog whistle at Carter's support for desegregation. The national media were either complicit or blind to the significance of that ad.

Robert Billings, the executive director of Moral Majority, was the liaison between the group and the Reagan campaign. Per the Wikipedia entry on the Moral Majority.

Reagan appointed Billings to a position the Department of Education. This appointment was particularly significant for the Moral Majority, which had lobbied on education policy issues, especially those regarding private schools.

And that is how the institutions interested in preserving white supremacy as a doctrine injected that back into the political mainstream.

There are some interesting wrinkles about the history of Falwell's segregationist church. It was formed in 1956 with 35 members. And Jerry was "called to be it's pastor" at age 22 having just graduated from Bible Baptist College. Typically, new Baptist churches of that period result from schisms in established Baptist churches; one group then goes out and starts a new church. This is two years after Brown v. Board of Education, a period in which many Southern religious were fabricating theological defenses of segregation. It would be interesting to know what churches the original members left and why. Or maybe the members felt that a established Baptist church with business roots was not sufficiently anti-Community or departing from the Bible or...there are many possibilities.

It took these monasteries of segregationist thought to last long enough to ally with the anti-Vatican II conservative Catholics and their newfound issue of abortion and with the homophobic antipornography icky sex Protestants, Catholics, and Jews appalled by hippiedom.

Note that Howard Phillips was already post-Watergate, having failed at age 32 to shut down the Office of Economic Opportunity and started the Conservative Caucus on the rebound. He later broke with Reagan over hiring of James Baker as Reagan's chief of staff. Another figure who keeps turning up in various institutions and campaigns like a bad penny. If you want "Christian" contempt for the poor, you can't miss with Howard Phillips's newly acquired moralistic evangelicalism. Boston-born. Born Jewish. Harvard trained. Buried in a Catholic cemetery. Phillips is also allied with Pat Buchanan and the US Taxpayers/Constitution Party, which bids to be the philosophical home of the Taxed Enough Already (TEA) Party.

These folks created the institutions that vetted the primary challengers who won office and extended the realm of white supremacy, diplomatically cloaked, back into government. And under the guise of reducing socialism and wasteful spending.

This is not a matter of feelings, it is a matter of power and status. Its time to stop being distracted by the psychologism of "human nature" that is the red herring that was the core defense of segregated schools in Brown v. Board of Education.

White supremacists don't hate black people; they hate black people who aspire to be first class citizens.

And there are little institutional dodges like this one. Cubicle culture has thin walls and you often hear interviews of job applicants. I have heard managers say to applicants, "I wish I could hire you but we have a quota under affirmative action, and I must hire a minority." It was a lie in lots of ways. But it was mostly a brushoff for a candidate the manager had decided not to hire; the manager typically after this statement hired a white guy. This manager also blew off the "diversity training" that the corporation he worked for regularly provided. Because he knew that his bosses up the line would cover for him and punish any whistleblowers. It is institutional. It is a flaunting of status. It's not personal. And yes, it is very middle school.

50 states, 210 media markets, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts
by TarheelDem on Fri Dec 5th, 2014 at 03:50:58 PM EST

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