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Est. April 5, 2002
Mar 12, 2020 - Issue 809
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There’s Nothing Moderate About Hate

"Why should we be made to vote for
yet another moderate, corporate president
who will be beholden to the 1% and the
economically poor white Americans?"

With the exception of Native Americans, African Americans are
the people who are most behind socially and economically in the
United States and our needs are not moderate…

Rev. Jesse Jackson

In the “small town” where I live, waving in the wind are a few lawn flags that read: Trump 2020: No More Bullshit.

No doubt, there are “neighbors” in this town between Milwaukee to the north and Chicago to the South who are, to put it mildly, concerned about their safety. As I pass the little houses, I imagine the hand gun tucked away for when the wrong person appears at the front or back door. Maybe in some hours, there is a rifle. Or two. Maybe something more powerful and automatic in nature. My credit union, last year, promoted a Latina woman teller to an administrative position, hired several African American tellers, and even an African American manager! I’m still getting used to seeing at least one or two blacks and this manager when I come through the door. Otherwise, it’s business as usual at other local businesses—business after business establishment with white managers and employees.

The same is true of the cultural scene, social services, and senior agencies. There’s a presence of Arab, North African, Turkish, Bangladeshi, and Indian nurses and doctors. And mostly of these professional workers, including those who may be employed at the University of Wisconsin, generally live outside of Kenosha, in areas closer to Chicago or Milwaukee, if not Milwaukee.

Kenosha prefers its small town atmosphere so as not to attract more blacks and Latinx from mainly “Illinois.” Welcoming? I remember my experience 20 years ago after I was recruited to teach at the UW Parkside. I wrote a “MeToo” article in 2017, recalling the first two months before I signed my contract here. I also recall, some time later, being informed about the high incarceration of blacks in Wisconsin. These were activists, left activists in Madison who smiled as they watched me take in the news that I did have a presence in the state - but it was in the state’s prison facilities! In the silence, I “read” what I was to learn about my white liberal allies in the struggle. (“Wisconsin ranks the fifth worse for racial disparities in prison incarceration, according to Columbia University’s Justice Lab report, 2019).

In Kenosha, the “activist” scene is white and mainly women.

Living in Wisconsin off and on for the last 20 years has been an education, one that has been, at times, painful and stressful, but a valuable education nonetheless. So when white liberals condemn the “Left” for failing to acknowledge that “rural” and “small town” isn’t racist but just economically “distressed (partly because of its own complicity the with neoliberal, free-market project),” as Marc Edelman suggests, for example, I see the purchase of more Trump 2020 lawn flags because sanctioned in this drop-the-racism-will-you argument is justification to hold onto the ignorance that makes it difficult at best to see kinship (political, cultural, economical, social) with people who expect black and Latinx to remain second class citizens.

As long as blacks and Latinx talk in general about the “weather” or sports or go along with the conversation, nodding, agreeing, smiling, all is well. Race had better not come up in conversation or you, the black or Latinx, will be thought of as racist!

Try to explain how racism is structural, systemic, represented in the absence, for example, of even one black at the register of this large store. Just look around. But you are likely to witness anger and a story about how parents raised your fellow shopper or neighbor not to see color. Why do you bring up differences we whites don’t see!

There’s something wrong, if not racist, about discussing my experiences as an African American woman. Let’s just stick with the facts: Chicago is a dangerous place to live, isn’t it? And we know why, don’t we?

To live among whites in rural and small town America is to be complicit with the lies whites tell in order to justify the cruelty inherent in their deliberate ignorance about white violence. To justify hate.

If Americans would read, and read a little Faulkner, they would see that economically poor whites, tenant farmers, working for plantation owners, resented the way African Americans dressed on Sundays after having sewed together worn drapes or rags from the mistresses to clothe themselves and their families. It was too much to see African American men or women (as Faulkner shows in Absalom, Absalom!) respond at the plantation’s front door to a tenant farmer by requesting that the latter go around to the back door! Resentment of black politicians, black newspaper editors, black homeowners, and business owners is what ticked off economically poor whites to join their wealthier brethren in donning white robes and hoods and burning down those homes and black businesses, chasing blacks out of town. In due time, legislation that catered to white fear of freed-blacks, catered to the myth of black rapists, catered to the narrative of thief of jobs and an invasion of neighborhoods, towns, returned African Americans to spaces where signs reading, whites only, required silence and invisibility.

Not too many Americans expressed outrage at the systemic oppression economically and socially and politically experienced by African Americans for decades. In fact, blacks in America still experience systemic oppression that isn’t an either racism or classism - but both. Let’s not forget the particular experience of being at the bottom of the race/class hierarchy if you are a black woman. It’s not that I don’t understand “distressed” whites in “rural” and “small town” America. I understand what’s happened economically—since the days when the wealthiest white men, politicians, drew up a Constitution. Jefferson, Washington, Madison and others were not thinking about economically poor whites no more than they thought about the black slaves serving them their lunch and dinner at these conventions and document signings. Not much thought went into the rights of white women either. Like enslaved blacks, white women were property.

Nixon signed off on the War on Drugs campaign as one way to take down “uppity” blacks who thought themselves empowered and emboldened by the Civil Rights legislation and our white allies marching in the streets and protesting on college campuses. But with the War - that is, the War on Drugs - white liberals went back home while blacks went to prison, charged with possession of drugs (never mind white Hollywood’s cocaine spree or hippies’ open display of drug use.)

The War on Poverty was called off - not enough money for war - the war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Besides, the economically poor perceived welfare as a giveaway to lazy Africans Americans, even though more whites were on welfare because more white Americans were economically poor.

Just as now, there are white Americans in need of health care in rural and small town areas, but they refuse to take a dime of the Affordable Care Act—an Obama era program. They don’t want anything from the former President Barack Obama! And Trump, who many voted for, is busy striking as much of the Obama legislation and programs as he can get away with to appease his supporters.

While I see the link that could be the bases for unity among all of the economically poor at the bottom of the 99% category, I’m not sure why catering to people who refuse to learn anything from blacks or Latinx - at this crucial time in American history when Trump must be removed from office - will change the hearts and minds of a people who will always vote against their best interests because they fear racial difference more than anything!

We are looking at the rise of fascism again in America. Along with Italy’s fascist state and the rise of fascism in Germany, there was American fascism and the configuration of capitalism and ideology, writes the late activist and thinker Cedric Robinson. So, too, African Americans were already constructing “anti-fascists” movements even while fascism “was in accord with the interests of at least some major factions of American capital.”

That nod to fascism included newspapers such as the New York Times, Robinson writes, with “regular correspondents” who wrote in “celebration” of Mussolini’s government. So did the liberal New Republic and Saturday Evening Post. The latter serialized an “autobiography” of Mussolini written by the American ambassador to Italy. Fortune magazine, in 1934, celebrated the entire Italian state, and in the process noted, Robinson points out, the similarities between Mussolini, Hoover, and Roosevelt, “on the necessities of centralized planning of the economy.”

Of course the corporate world embraced fascism. J. P. Morgan, Standard Oil, and the Ford Motor company extended their services to the economy in Italy and subsequently, Germany. On the other hand, Blacks from the Diaspora, signed up to fight in Ethiopia against the Italian fascists.

“The racial hostility that had greeted Irish and Italian immigrants when they arrived in the U.S. in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century had, of course, been the unrelieved experience of black Americans from the beginnings of the nation in the colonial era of the mid-seventeenth century,” Robinson explains. Subject to lynching and mob violence, he continues, economically poor Irish and Italians “could under certain circumstances take refuge in a putative racial superiority.” In other words, former white immigrants became white Americans - the only kind of Americans recognized as full Americans!

Blacks in the Diaspora, fighting in Ethiopia, could shift their marginalized struggle in the Americas and in Africa, struggles for social justice and democracy, to a global struggle against white Western dominance.

As cultural critic, bell hooks, writes, poverty is both gendered and racialized. “It is impossible to truly understand class in the United States today without understanding the politics of race and gender.”

Rural and small town residents are fed up with the ones at the top and the ones at the bottom - the other ones Trump has called “rapists” and “low-IQ.” The ones he congratulates for being “fine” people. And fascists.

Yet, no coddling of xenophobia and bigotry, fascism and misogyny will undo the entrenched fear of black Americans, particularly among economically poor whites. Capitalism twisted the minds of Americans into thinking themselves racially superior. Even if they have no health insurance or employment, they are still white. And they have Trump.

And they are armed.

There’s nothing moderate about hate!

No amount of coddling will do anyway. The fear is too great and too deep. UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the US’s Trump are riding on the waves of resentment and animosity from people ho are truly distressed by capitalism, but who focus their energies on being “oppressed” victims of decades of “charity” to black, Latinx, brown people.

I agree with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Why should we wait again? Why should we be made to vote for yet another moderate, corporate president who will be beholden to the 1% and the economically poor white Americans? Why should someone like former VP Joe Biden be rewarded with the Democratic nomination when he’s never taken an interest in African Americans - except as they might vote him beyond the reach of Bernie Sanders’ supporters?

In 2018, 40 million Americans live in poverty. Contrary to Trump’s making America great program, its worse for the working class and the economically poor. A President Biden will cater to the Right. This isn’t the direction black people can afford to follow. Rev. Jackson is right: “A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path. The most progressive social and economic path gives us the best chance to catch up and Senator Bernie Sanders represents the most progressive path. That's why I choose to endorse him today.” Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels.
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