Wednesday, March 19, 2008

class war or race war?

Check this idea out, that part of what Barack Obama was saying yesterday is:
There is some hope: black and white can unite around fleecing Wall Street and rich people, thus expanding government programs that can help all kinds of poor and middle class people, and thus understood, both groups can unite around the Obama candidacy. In other words, we need class war not race war.
This, from a guy by the name of "Mr. Roach" who posts here, who left a comment on another site summing up his take on what Barack Obama said yesterday about his 20-year relationship with a black pastor who has said very bad things about whites and the United States of America.

Perhaps that's true, as far as it goes. Somebody's gotta pay for all the let-the-good-times-roll of the proposed HOPE Obama wants to hand out. Might as well be those who still have the money for it.

But I didn't really hear so much of the black and white united bit. . . . Yes, I heard a lot about how we've had race trouble (from the very beginning of our "imperfect" union), and how we need to deal with it and change it, and how it's affected us all. But I noticed that - although Obama did talk about occasional injustice to white people, it's the blacks who have "black anger." Justified anger, don't you know.

Whites? They have "resentments."

Obama does in fact have an assignment for both black and white 'communities'. The black communities are to 'embrace the burdens of their past without becoming its victim', seeing a connection between justice for all and justice to 'them', and "taking responsibility for our own lives." White communities are to recognize that the past really did hurt the blacks and it's not just in their imagination, so blacks might need a little extra help, especially in the areas of the "fairness" of the criminal justice system and a good education. But that's no problem, because one person's dreams don't have to be at the expense of another person's dreams (no more zero-sum game theory for him!), and "investing" in black, brown and white children will ultimately help ALL of America.

I don't even want to get into the implications of those assignment descriptions. Let me just point out one thing. Did you notice that Obama continues to assume separate communities? Where's that coming from? Where do you see "white communities" talking about the benefits white people ought to be getting? Why is it ok for black communities to do what would be absolutely excoriated in a white context?

At this level, should we not be talking about "citizens"?

Oh. right. That would imply NON-citizens. . . . and we certainly don't want to talk about THAT.

Mr. Roach may be right that Obama is trying to shift the grounds of conflict, but this isn't about changing race war to a class war. This is about aggregating race war with class war, and a dose of nationalism just waiting in the wings to join in!

If you go to the Trinity United Church of Christ website - don't "skip" the intro - its logo is superimposed over the continent of Africa. Click on "About Us" and you'll see the references to being "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian", but also talk of being (and I quote): "an African people, and remain[ing] "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization." The church espouses a "nonnegotiable commitment to Africa." There is nothing mentioned about a commitment to America. . . . Oh - and there's a Black Value System, which the church ascribes to, which is very interesting reading, especially if you play around with substituting "white" for "black." Wright may have "retired" - NOTE: there's no mention of THAT on their website - but what he espoused and built remains very much in place.

Just TRY to imagine your local evangelical megachurch being "unashamedly white and unapologetically Christian" with a "nonnegotiable commitment" to, say, Ireland. Or the E.U. Or some other 'unabashedly' "white" nation, if such a place even exists.

I dunno. I'm just tired of the whole thing.


Lee Anne said...

Doesn't he also seem to exclude a large portion of the population by focusing on black and white vs. Wall Street and the rich? I'm from Texas, where Mexicans will soon be the majority. In places like Dallas and Houston, one of the most complicated conflicts I have noticed seems to be between Mexicans and blacks. No wonder he sort of lost Texas. Even he is going to assign people roles in a class war by "identity," then what does he expect everyone who is not black or white to do? After a while, all this assigning begins to sound impossibly ridiculous (if it hadn't already).

As far as class, can Obama speak to that if we're using the same logic I heard on CNN from a guest/Obama supporter who said that white people could not judge what is and is not racist? Could just be the working class chip on my shoulder...

Still, I think it's a hard job to tackle issues of race in this country no matter who you are or how you identify. The rhetoric gets so tied up in who can say what and what can be said that nothing really gets said at all.

prophet said...

Interesting ideas, there, Lee Anne. I did note the lack of 'any other race' - besides the "black/white" divide - in Obama's speech. (He does though in a gratuitous "brown" e.g., telling the "white community" how much their investment in black, white, and brown children's education is going to pay off. . . .)

Beyond a Hispanic/Black tension, others have noted also a Black/Feminist tension - all of which comes to light when we start talking about our identity in these kinds of terms. And we haven't even mentioned other potential groups, whether based on race, sexual preference, 'special needs', interests, etc.

The one think I can say that I appreciate about the turn this campaign has taken, is that it does appear now to have un-gagged so-called "white" people, who (like you pointed out) were being silenced because of the difficulty of "who can say what" or - your other point - the question of how to talk about a racism they supposedly know nothing about.

I don't know the answer as to how we can live together - in some sort of community - maintaining distinctions, and yet not strictly separating because of our unique differences. I find it offensive to be grouped strictly according to my skin colour, for example, whether that's being done by a person with the same colour skin as me, or by someone with a different colour.