Just How Racist Are They?

You might find this piece by Ben Burgis at Arc Digital enlightening or infuriating or both. While I complete agree with his conclusion, encapsulated in the piece’s subheading:

We should think of America’s divisions more in terms of class and ideology, and less in terms of race

the path by which he gets there is pretty remarkable.

Here’s as close as I can get to the meat of the piece:

There are a lot of obvious differences between socialist politics and the liberal vision of most MSNBC hosts. One of the less obvious ones has to do with how to conceive of racial justice and other struggles for equal treatment that have to do with identity — how people identify themselves and how others identify them (and might then treat them on the basis of that identity).

When thinking about these issues, it’s easy to treat “race,” “class,” and “gender” as basically similar conceptual categories. One way this assumption makes its way into our language is with the word “classism” — which suggests that class-based oppression is best understood as a form of prejudice.

Like many socialists, I think this picture is misleading for several reasons. But before getting to those reasons, it’s important to consider what this view gets right. It’s true that injustice takes a variety of forms, some of which are directly and obviously economic, and some of which have to do with identity.

I wanted to comment on a few things. First, if you find the views being articulated by “centrist liberals” infuriating, preferring those in Jacobin, you are so far outside the mainstream of American political thought that a little introspection might be in order.

In one of the first posts I ever wrote at The Glittering Eye I pointed out that people on the far right see people less to the right than they as leftists while people on the far left of the spectrum see ordinary liberals as radical rightwingers. Most people, regardless of political views, think of themselves as moderates. You occupy the center of your own particular universe. Only pragmatists and true moderates, neither of which are in good odor right now, can see both edges of the political spectrum.

The second thing if you’re shocked at the Democratic Party because you don’t see how an old-fashioned liberal (a dead or dying breed) and socialists like you and Bernie Sanders can both be Democrats you might remember that Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat. He just caucuses with them to enhance his own influence. My view is that it’s a scandal and an outrage that the DNC let Bernie Sanders run for the Democratic nomination for president at all.

Finally, I find it simply flabbergasting that people who profess to be liberals or progressives have adopted views of race proclaimed by the very most racist within my lifetime. Maybe I’m weird but I don’t see either Barack Obama or Kamala Harris as black. And claiming you can identify as black produces travesties like blue-eyed blondes of Scandinavian descent claiming to be black.

Read the article and tell me what you think.

7 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    I actually find the Jacobin Left to be more interesting because of the material basis of their, ahem, dialectic. This fuzzy sort of identity politics that elite media thrives in often seems completely abstracted from real world conditions. When Maddow pronounces Clyburn’s essential quality as knowing “what black voters are thinking,” she comes across as not knowing about black people herself. (quick bio check: grew up in Northern California suburb, college Stanford and Oxford) What Clyburn knows is about not making unnecessary enemies:

    “I came out very publicly and very forcibly against sloganeering,” Clyburn said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “John Lewis and I were founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. John and I sat on the House floor and talked about that defund the police slogan, and both of us concluded that it had the possibilities of doing to the Black Lives Matter movement and current movements across the country what Burn, Baby, Burn did to us back in the 1960s,” Clyburn said.

    Burn, Baby, Burn became a street slogan during the Watts civil unrest of 1965 in Los Angeles, at the time the largest and costliest uprising of the civil rights era.

    “We lost that movement over that slogan,” he said.

    He added: “We saw the same thing happening here. We can’t pick up these things just because it makes a good headline. It sometimes destroys headway.”

    * * *

    “Jaime Harrison started to plateau when ‘defund the police’ showed up with a caption on TV, ran across his head,” Clyburn said in a separate Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.

    “That stuff hurt Jaime. And that’s why I spoke out against it a long time ago. I’ve always said that these headlines can kill a political effort.”

    * * *

    “Sometimes I have real problems trying to figure out what progressive means,” he said.


  • Grey Shambler Link

    Hurting my ears.
    Can’t anyone else smell an overcooked grievance issue burning?

  • “Northern California suburbs” could mean practically anything. Oakland used to have a black majority but its black population has plummeted over the last couple of decades to around 22%. San Francisco has 5% or less black population. Contra Costa has less than 10% black population; Alameda County about 10%; Santa Clara County about 2%.

  • Race-schmace

    If you consider the subtext of the piece, I think what sticks in his craw is that so many on the far left are embracing Marxism, just substituting race for class. That squeezes class struggle right out of the picture.

  • steve Link

    I have always agreed that there is too much focus on racism and not enough on poverty and class. Conservatives are not going to (mostly) support programs for poor black people. They might, sometimes, for poor people in general. Plus, I still think we need new terms. There are plenty of people who are racist but not as many who are he old style classic wearing the hood and burning crosses types. There are also a lot fo people who just dont care about race issues. Maybe blacks dont have a fair deal, but they just dont care. That doesnt necessarily make you racist I think.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    just dont care
    Blacks dominate sports, advertising, high paying federal jobs, music, chanting rhymes.
    People who make six figures can donate to raise black children.
    The view from the bottom is less charitable.
    Call poor whites names, keep it up, I’m sure they’ll come around to your point of view .

  • walt moffett Link

    Whenever I read deamns fo safe places and the like, I hear an old gentleman in a planter suit talking about how some need to be protected and insulated because they can’t just can’t cope like his ilk can.

    Wonder if the shift from class to race has something to do with income generation.

    FWIW, agree a shift back to solidarity with the working class and less talk of privilege and zip whitesplaining would help their cause. Who knows they might flip a few seats in 2024.

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