Shitholes and Shinola: A Little Lesson for Donald Trump About History, Immigration, and Economics on MLK Day

Imagine it is 1620. You are in Europe. You are living in a small island country that is the seat of the most powerful empire on the globe. One might even call it the center of the Western world.

Yet, smallpox and typhoid are running rampant in your country. Tens of thousands have succumb to either sweating sickness or bubonic plague. Tens of thousands more will die before the end of the century from communicable illnesses that will one day be curable and practically nonexistent.

By the end of the seventeenth century, though, official records will show that one-fifth of the population of the largest city in your country died from plague between 1563-1665, and in 1665 alone nearly 100,000 people died of plague in the city.

The records will show that thirty percent of children in your country died before they could reach age 15 from plague, dysentery, scarlet fever, flu, whooping cough, pneumonia, and various unidentifiable fevers.

Those children that are not killed by illness are killed in horrible yet very common accidents. Since they are commonly called on to fetch water for their households as soon as they are able to walk and balance a bucket, many fall into wells and drown. Others slip on the mud surrounding the wells or rocks embedded in the shores of rivulets and streams and crack their skulls.

Child labor is legal, so many children working on farms are run over by horses and/or ploughs. Many infants and smaller children are dropped and killed by older children acting as their caretakers. Children working on ships, in shipyards, and in blacksmith shops are burned in accidental fires or poisoned by chemical fumes. Some are even killed on battlefields, where they are enlisted to help soldiers with their artillery.

When these children are injured, and not killed, they are most often treated at home by their mothers, not doctors or professional healers. They are rubbed with mixtures of chicken fat and feces when they suffer burns, or they are given potions like dried dill in honey for coughs. Very rarely are they admitted to the hospital or given manufactured or even just scientifically proven prescriptions.

In your country, blacksmiths most often set broken bones and perform a common surgical procedure for bladder stones called a lithotomy. These bladder stones are caused by the large amount of gravel in the people’s diets. The lithotomies to remove the stones are typically performed with common work tools in the blacksmith shop without any anesthesia.

Adults, when sick or hurt, are subjected to even more harrowing treatments than the children. Rectal purging, bloodletting, and forced vomiting are the most common methods of medical treatment. Surgeries, when performed, are rudimentary, and clean wards in which to convalesce are a rare luxury.

Childbirth is a particularly “tetchy” area of so-called medicine at this time. Up to two percent of women die while giving birth, and many women experience upward from two or three pregnancies because the use of birth control is not widespread, increasing their chances of dying in childbirth. Existent birth control methods are spotty in their effectiveness, and childbearing is essentially a social mandate for married women, so unwanted pregnancies are many and experienced by the majority of women.

Women in labor, if lucky, are only given liquor for the pain. Midwives typically attend births, not doctors, and they have considerable knowledge of how to deliver babies, but no technology available to them to make delivery less painful or safer for mothers or infants. They also have very limited ways of predicting or remedying crises like breech position or shoulder dystocia (when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery).

Some women are poisoned by their attempts to terminate unwanted pregnancies using herbs. Many women force themselves to have violent bowel movements or fits of vomiting in order to lose their babies, and others subject themselves to bloodletting from the foot, which is believed to bring on “blocked” menstruation.

Children born in your country have a 20% chance of dying before their fifth birthday.

Illness and injury in your country are not just products of the profound lack of scientific and medical knowledge. The major cause for the epidemic spread of the Bubonic plague and other communicable diseases is the lack of sanitation.

Big cities in your country have no sewage systems. There is no running water. People must fill tubs with water they gather from wells, natural water sources, or public fountains to cook and bathe, and they must boil the water to sanitize it because there is no filtration system, so they regularly imbibe unfiltered water, and they don’t bathe regularly.

This means the germs that stick to them throughout the day remain on their bodies. They exchange money and other items with dirty hands that help spread diseases faster than rumors that a particularly bold or independent woman is a witch. This keeps the cycle of infection, illness, and death going at amplified volume and speed throughout the century.

There are no toilets in your country. People urinate and vomit in large clay chamber pots that they dump into streets with no drainage (remember). So the excrement remains where it is put and runs off into the rivers, rivulets, and streams when it rains.

Unfortunately, the people do not wash their hands after using chamber pots because germs are not “discovered” until the 1800s, and this is the 1600s. Because there are no public toilets, people urinate and vomit on the streets outside of restaurants, bars, gambling dens, and whorehouses.

People also purposefully dump their chamber pots and trash into the river. Trash that isn’t dumped in the river is tossed onto the streets since there are no organized dumps, and there is no uniform or government-sponsored system of trash collection or incineration. Trash in the streets causes rats to congregate. Rats help to spread diseases with their droppings and by biting people.

The Thames is a major source of water for the people living in the busiest city in your country. Mostly rich people have wells or their own water pumps. The majority of people in this country are poor and/or live in rural areas, so they collect their water from public fountains, streams, rivulets, and rivers. The Thames, though, is a literal cesspool.

A shithole.

All the flowers, rosewater, and vinegar the women in your country use to mask the odors of all the sickness and clean the homes are mere drops in the polluted bucket when it comes to keeping things clean.

Culturally, your country isn’t doing any better than it is doing physically.

Less than 40% of men and 25% of women in the country are literate. Only about one-fifth of the population can sign their names at the end of the 1500s, and this percentage only increases to one-third by the end of the 1600s. There are no free public schools for the general masses to attend, and, more often than not, children not born to nobles or middle class merchants and craftsman end up going to work when they are of age and not school.

“Public” school, in this era, only means that the school is not operated in a private home; it does not indicate that a uniform, government-mandated curriculum is taught, or that education is accessible to the majority of the population. There is no compulsory education for youth, and most schools do not teach science, music, or art.

Rich nobles only make up three percent of the overall population; the majority of the population is poor. Ninety-five percent of the population lives in rural districts where they do one-third of their farming to pay the lords that own the lands, another portion of their farming to support the church, and live off the portion that is left. These so-called peasants are only able to rise in class if they can buy the lands of some lord that has died from old age, plague, or some other disease.

The most desperate peasants live in poorhouses run by churches. Many are displaced when food agriculture slowly gives over to the raising of sheep (to feed the growing cloth industry), and acres of crop fields are turned into pastures. Peasants that relocate to the cities after being displaced have a difficult time finding employment, as there are very few jobs for unskilled laborers.

So, in addition to disease, crime is rampant in the city streets. Thievery, pickpocketing, and prostitution are extremely common, as are homelessness and begging, which are classified as crimes.

The average life expectancy is 42 because the quality of life is so poor.

And speaking of “poor,” poverty is wreaking such social havoc that there are actual poor laws. There are 15,000 parishes in your country, and the parishioners are charged with caring for the poor. The officials calculate how much is needed to do this and then collect the money from the parishioners. The deserving poor – the sick, elderly, and orphans – receive help from this money. The undeserving poor – able-bodied, unemployed men and women – do not receive help from this money, and, if they are found to be vagrant, they are punished for being homeless with public whipping.

And whipping is just one of the cruel and unusual forms of punishment that are common and legal in your country. Criminals that commit murder, treason, or some other serious crime can be tortured by pillory, iron maiden, bastinado, the rack, the jougs, or the gossip’s bridle (look them up).

Banishment doesn’t just occur in Shakespeare plays; it is a real thing to which serious criminals are subjected, and the punishment of returning to your country after being banished is death.

Execution (by hanging or beheading) is legal, exorbitant fines are common, and jail time is sparse and rarely given. Whippings and other forms of corporal punishment are favored because they are less costly than maintaining penitentiaries.

As is typical of just about every western country in this time, single women have practically no legal rights, and children go largely unprotected by the law from abuse and neglect.

The dearth of scientific knowledge of the world allows people in your country to cling to terrible superstitions. Negative occurrences in people’s personal lives are commonly blamed on witches, which makes it possible for random innocent women (because women were more often accused of witchcraft) to be tortured, banished, and executed for imaginary crimes by people that may just be exercising their misogyny, xenophobia, jingoism, or religious bigotry.

Though the Pilgrims that will venture from your country in 1620 to North America are depicted in the grand historical narrative of the US as a sect of poor, persecuted devotees that were simply seeking freedom of religion, the Protestant Reformation out of which they have emerged is not nearly as noble as that (though in truth the Pilgrims themselves are not paragons, but that is another post for another time).

In fact, the Protestant Reformation in your country began with a promiscuous King whose only issue with Catholicism – the religion that had ruled in your country for centuries – is that it does not allow him to divorce one wife and take another.

This King – Henry – only spearheads the Reformation in your country in order to obtain the annulment he seeks (and go on to marry five additional times) and claim the lands and monies held by the Catholic Church in your country.

Through unwarranted, unrelenting “royal” confiscation, Henry empties all of the Catholic Church’s riches into his own coffers and allows the country’s nobility to buy up the Catholic Church’s land for mining and other commercial ventures, which, of course, increase tax revenue for the monarchy without improving life for the peasants.

Henry closes the numerous abbeys and rectories in the country, forcing nuns and priests to enter the workforce with little work experience or social prestige, where they are paid horrible wages and often mistreated by Protestant bosses and coworkers.

The Restoration occurs in the mid-1500s, yet the political prostitution of religion continues into the 1600s.

When your most famous Queen – Elizabeth – takes the throne in 1603, she aligns herself with the Protestants just as her father did before her. She does this mainly for money purposes, which were, again, major motivators for her father.

So many of the big business and land owners in the country are Protestant at this point, after growing their wealth under her father, that the Elizabeth literally cannot afford to allow Catholicism to regain a foothold. It would ruin the monarchy financially if the Vatican swept in to reclaim its lands and co-opted assets from the throne.

So not only does Elizabeth oversee the establishment of the Church of England to force Catholicism out of the country, she stands aside as Parliament passes uniformity laws that force everyone to attend the Church of England and use the same Book of Common Prayer, essentially doing away with freedom of religion.

In the meantime, the Protestants that lead the Church of England (they are now called Anglicans) are not only struggling alongside Elizabeth to suppress underground Catholics that seek to topple the Church; they are using suppressive methods (outlawing their church services, breaking up their protests, jailing their leaders) to silence the fanatical Puritans, who wish to destabilize the Church of England because they believe its rituals are still too decadent and its dealings are still too centered on obtaining money, even after the Reformation.

The Anglicans are so deeply threatened by the Puritans in fact (because their numbers are considerable) that they resort to violence to stop the Puritans. Anglican bishops actually put prices on the heads of the most outspoken and influential Puritan leaders, and they encourage peacekeepers to arrest Puritan protestors and execute outspoken Protestants for heresy.

This persecution of the Puritans occurs from the 1590s until the 1620s, when it reaches such an intensity that the Pilgrims flee this country – yes – it is England – for North America.

And that lands us in the ideal symbolic place for me to make my point about America and its immigration history.

The Pilgrims are revered in this country as its founders. Their genocidal treatment of the Native Americans is treated as a rather insignificant footnote to this main narrative that characterizes the Pilgrims as the brave, strong, and resourceful pioneers of our democracy.

That’s right. Even though revisionist history reveals that Puritan culture was every bit as hegemonic, suppressive, violent, and political as British culture in the seventeenth century, the majority of Americans – and especially the white men in power – still regard the Pilgrims for setting the freedom-seeking, freedom-loving tone of our country’s political ideology.

And whether this is true or not, it is a fact these immigrants from Elizabethan England are the forefathers of our founding fathers, who did actually transform the 13 colonies into this glittering dystopia we call America.

So they are the descendants of a shithole country because Elizabethan England was oozing with filth, emanating with disease, teeming with vagrants, rife with crime, bursting with corruption, and animated by deprivation, division, strife, violence, and oppression in 1620 – the year in which the Puritans departed it.

This is the irony of Donald Trump’s statement in that now notorious DACA meeting that he doesn’t want anymore people from shithole countries like Haiti, Africa (which is not a country, but a continent of 54 countries), and El Salvador entering America, and he would rather see more people arriving here from countries like Norway.

He and others that think like him hail western European countries as better places from which to be descended than the countries of Africa, Asia, and Central or South America, but, when it became the homeland of the Pilgrims back in 1620, England was in the same desperate straits as what we would currently stigmatize as a Third World country.

If the descendants of the England that I described in the opening of this post – an England whose conditions sound very much like those in current day Haiti (though only after suffering from a near-cataclysmic earthquake) – can become the most celebrated citizens of America – can be made into literal monuments – then it stands to reason that the descendants of just about any people – from any country – can also do great things with the opportunities afforded them here in the US.

I can type a list of immigrants of color that have arrived in America with nothing but in their suitcases but dreams and made tremendous contributions to the progress and greatness of this country.

Or I can play into Trump’s bigotry and point out that Alexander Hamilton, though white, was an orphan immigrant from Nevis in the British West Indies – a small Caribbean island covered in slave sugar plantations and rife with political violence with a 90% black population – and he – Hamilton – went on to become the founder of the American financial system, the US Coast Guard, and The New York Times newspaper and the first Secretary of the Treasury.

So Trump is dead-wrong in propagandizing his racist views of immigrants hailing from countries of color as the mere products of so-called intelligent thinking and logical analysis because history shows that immigrants from all over the globe are much more likely to come to America and flourish than they are to flounder.

And anyway Trump is not trying to make America safer by closing its borders to immigrants and refugees of color. He isn’t trying to reduce crime or increase jobs or strengthen the economy or accomplish anything other than his reelection in 2020.

Trump is continuing to gaslight his voter base through the use of divisive propaganda and propagating very ignorant, unfounded concepts of American history and world politics, proving that the many claims that have been made in the news about his lack of preparedness and fitness for the presidency are correct.

It goes without saying, but I will still say it: Trump’s adamant refusal to educate himself about this country is growing increasingly dangerous, as is his willingness to scapegoat minorities, immigrants, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community to secure the support of his apparently dwindling voter base.

Trump may have given his supporters some supremacist political porn to which they enjoyed mentally jacking off with his deplorable characterization of countries and immigrants of color and successful sidetracking of a possible Congressional DACA deal, but the majority of Americans and the leaders and people of those countries are disgusted and want Trump to be held accountable.

South Africa, Ghana, Botswana, Senegal, and Haiti have summoned their US ambassadors to meet with government officials in each country and address Trump’s comments. South Africa has also issued a diplomatic protest to the US. The African Union, which represents 55 member states throughout Africa, has demanded an apology from Trump. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a sizable group of Haitian immigrants and Haitian Americans in Florida protested Trump at the gates of his West Palm Beach resort.

These responses – the outrage of these black people – their black lives – matter to Trump whether or not he knows it because the US does $37 billion of trade with Sub-Saharan African countries; we export $18 billion of goods to these countries and import $19 billion of goods from these countries.

We sell machinery, aircraft, vehicles, oil, and electronics to these African countries with which we have trade deals, but we buy crude, iron, and steel from them – materials we use to not only manufacture the good we sell to them, but to other countries.

Trump’s only accomplishment while in Office has been to slightly improve the economy, and he claims that building on this improvement is a top priority for his administration. But sending profitable trade partners to other countries to get their goods will not help our economic situation in the least, so Trump needs to reevaluate his approach to dealing with countries of color across the globe and making leadership decisions that may revert America back to the shithole it was in 2008, during the Recession.

In addition to learning about the England that we Americans stupidly fetishize, aggrandize, and valorize, Trump may need to learn from that historical iteration of England and how Queen Elizabeth wrongly dealt with immigration during her reign.

If he did just five minutes of research on immigration in Elizabeth’s time, Trump would learn that barring immigrants of color and/or expelling immigrants of color is not a panacea for the economic issues a country is facing.

And please believe that all of this sudden emphasis on immigration in the political discourse has to do almost exclusively with the facts that the economy is relatively stable and growing, the rich want that to continue, and the white majority wants to remain the main benefactor of that growth.

However, they cannot maintain their inequitable hold on what the young people have so charmingly taken to calling the “bag” by throwing out all of the immigrants of color and shoring up our borders from immigrants of color, no matter what they may believe.

The underlying trouble with stabilizing and growing our economy is multifaceted and deep-seated. It hasn’t arisen from highly educated immigrants of color taking jobs from lower educated or unskilled white Americans because these lower educated or unskilled whites cannot do the jobs these highly educated immigrants of color do. It hasn’t arisen from unskilled immigrants of color taking jobs from unskilled white Americans because if white Americans wanted those jobs institutional and cultural racism would secure those jobs for the whites. It hasn’t arisen from all of immigrants of color opening new businesses in America because businesses add to tax revenue and stimulate consumerism, which benefits the economy.

No – America has the lack of innovation in American industry, wrongheaded tax and economic policies that perpetuate the wealth gap, governmental favoritism of special interests, cronyism, needless complication of the regulatory apparatus (the regulations placed on American businesses), stale focus in American business on producing goods rather than providing services, poor public education, exorbitant college tuitions, distortions of the tax code, and the lobby to blame for its current and long-standing economic issues.

And seeing as some of its most brilliant and least brainwashed residents are immigrants of color and their children and grandchildren, inviting more immigrants of color to the country and/or allowing those that are here to remain in the country might be more a help than a hindrance when it comes to fixing what’s wrong with American society in general and the economy in particular.

Queen Elizabeth made the same mistake that Donald Trump is considering back in the 1600s. She issued three expulsion orders against Africans living in England in order to improve employment rates and economic conditions for “native” English citizens. And none of these expulsion orders did anything to drastically improve conditions in England. Only one-half of a percent of the jobs available in London were taken up by Africans at that time, and that didn’t account for the widespread unemployment or poverty that the white population was experiencing.

The expulsion of African immigrants from Elizabethan England didn’t reduce crime, either. Poverty was the cause of all of the thievery, prostitution, vagrancy, debt (which was a crime), larceny, and brawling amidst street gangs (yes, there were street gangs), and since Elizabeth could not end it, she couldn’t end crime.

Hint, hint, hint, hint, hint, hint.

According to statistics compiled in 2017, there are roughly 43 million foreign-born people living in the US. This is only about 13 percent of the total population – almost two percent less than when immigration was at its peak in the US in 1890.

Of the 43 million foreign-born people living in the US right now, 20.7 million are citizens, 11.1 million are unauthorized, the largest segment are from Mexico (11.6 million), and another 11 million are from China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and South Korea.

Only 2.1 million Africans live in America, 1.4 million people from El Salvador live in America, and less than 700,000 Haitians live in America – the people Trump referenced in his rant as coming from shithole countries.

So they are clearly not taking over the country any time soon. The total population of America is 323 million people.

Too, the majority of the foreign-born people living in America today are homeowners, according to the Center for American Progress; fewer than one in five lives in poverty, and only 9.3% of their households receive their entire income from public programs, in comparison with 15% of US-born households.

Thirty-sex percent of US children born of immigrants are college graduates while only 31% of US children born of US-born parents are. This means the majority of immigrants in America are contributing positively to the culture, and as a whole they are contributing significantly to the economic bottom-line.

So Trump really needs to take a seat – preferably beside a tutor – and get to know what’s truly happening in his own country rather than operating off of what he watches on Fox News and reads on Breitbart when he is wheeling and dealing in the Oval and on the Hill.

He may also want to take a look at the article about Norwegian immigration that ran on The Atlantic website just a few days ago, written by Krishnadev Calamur.

In it, Calamur says, “[Norway] discovered oil in the late 1960s, and unlike other resource-rich countries that have succumbed to mismanagement and corruption in the face of sudden wealth, invested heavily in its people and its economy to become one of the world’s wealthiest places . . . Norway has higher life expectancy at birth than the US, lower rates of infant mortality, low unemployment, and access to the European Union’s labor market . . . Norway is the world’s happiest country . . . the place with the most political freedom . . . [the] most press freedom . . . and the most prosperity.”

Calamur also makes the point the US ranks 14th in happiness, 45th in political freedom, 43rd in most free press, and 18th in prosperity – well beneath Norway.

That said, the Norwegians are distinguishing between America’s shittiness and Trump’s shinola and choosing to remain in their homeland, which looks to be the new home of the free.

Calamur makes it abundantly clear in his article that they have no incentive to immigrate to the US even though millions of Norwegians eagerly migrated to the US during the 1800s and 1900s.

So Trump needs to STFU with all his anti-black and anti-Latinx screed before he destroys the incentive that people from other countries have to immigrate to the US and his precious economy, all in one frizzy, bleached blonde swoop.

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Daily Prompt: Relocate

via Daily Prompt: Relocate

“What is supremacism about generally? It’s about a fragile sense of superiority (covering a sense of insecurity) that must be actively promoted to be maintained. It reflects a system that is inflexible, rigid, and socially autistic (awkward social relations). These are signs of a brain misdeveloped, of unresolved early life trauma.”

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D.

A favorite argument for the legitimacy of American white supremacy – that it tossed around by so-called evangelicals, conservatives, and members of the alt-right as thoughtlessly as their rape apologetics or political endorsements – is that white people are morally superior to the minorities that populate the nation, and so they deserve to dominate the culture.

Of course, we “woke” black people claim to know better than this. We claim to be 100% hip to the myth of white moral superiority. We claim to have outgrown the puerile need for white approval and validation.

Yet, we remain mired in a complex web of respectability politics woven by our subconscious desire to be viewed as “good” by whites. Yes, we do. I don’t care how adamantly we deny it.

The only way to explain the inanity of our puritanical attitudes about homosexuality, transsexuality, female sexuality, mental health, drug use, abortion, feminism, atheism – I can go on – is to admit that the majority of us are still indoctrinated enough by white hegemony to care what white people think of us.

Middle and upper class blacks in particular are the figurative mortified parents in the supermarket, admonishing or even whipping our working and lower class “kids” loudly enough so that everyone that is watching can know that we do not approve of their behavior one bit.

We are continually performing a rigid, impractical sort of “goodness” that keeps us psychologically dependent on validation from whites and stuck on the short end of a stick that is carved out of white hegemony and hypocrisy.

Think about it.

There is a critical mass of black Christians that are adamantly homophobic. They block black members of the LGBTQIA+ community from their institutions and circles of influence, and they stigmatize and ridicule them in public discourse and on public stages. They say this is what Biblical doctrine mandates, but that is not true. The Bible says that Christians should try to be like Jesus, and he loved and accepted everyone.

So what are these Christians doing if they’re not trying to separate themselves from the “freaks” in a demonstration that they are “normal” or “moral”? For whom are they demonstrating this so-called “normality” or “morality” if not whites?

Black atheists and agnostics aren’t impressed. Neither are blacks that embrace the black members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Certainly, the black members of the LGBTQIA+ community do not see the acts of hostility and hatred committed against them by members of the black religious community as proof of anything other than the pervasiveness of negative indoctrination, religious hypocrisy, and assimilationist values in that community. Not to mention a sort of social stupidity when it comes to dealing with White America.

Why do I call it that? Well, let’s see . . .

Historically, black evangelicals have held themselves apart from white evangelicals while simultaneously attempting to “one-up” them in terms of theological acuity. As Mary Beth Mathews explains in her “The History of Black Evangelicals and American Politics,” black evangelicals “held on to that ‘old time religion’ even as their white counterparts had not . . . [they] remained spiritually rooted in the Protestant tradition, and they eschewed modern amusements, like motion pictures and dance halls.” They tried to position themselves, rhetorically and gesturally, at the high end of the moral totem pole, most certainly thinking this would increase their cultural or societal standing.

So many black evangelicals in the twentieth century fought to “prove” to America that they were “good enough” to be considered equal to whites, and the most fundamentalist of today’s black evangelicals seem to be engaging in a similar exercise – trying to “out-moralize” their white counterparts. But for what?

Has ostracizing lesbian blacks or gay blacks or bisexual blacks or trans blacks or queer blacks translated into greater social acceptance for the blacks that publicly and adamantly do this?

What actual material – polemical, economic – gains has the black religious right made by ostracizing black members of the LGBTQIA+ community?

Somebody tell me, please.

As far as I can tell, every black person in America is subject to racist mistreatment, and the only social designations that might protect a black person from certain forms of it are “celebrity,” “millionaire,” or “billionaire.”

However, I can also name a dozen famous and/or rich blacks this second – without even straining myself – that have gotten what we term their “nigger wake-up calls” right as they were arriving at the apex of their accomplishments or achievements. So, again, what actual material gains has any discrete strata or segment of the black community made by ostracizing another or isolating itself from another?

Or, better yet, has ostracizing one group of blacks allowed another group of blacks to “get in” any better with whites?

Have the “respectables” gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from the “ratchets”?

Have black men gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from black women?

Have rich blacks gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from working class and poor blacks?

Have cishetero blacks gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from LGBTQIA+ blacks?

No? Then why do we keep doing it?

Because we have been indoctrinated.

We have to face it. We locate our ideas about our intrinsic worth as human beings in the minds and imaginations of whites. Whether we want to admit it or not.

And it is time for us to relocate our ideas about our worth in our own minds and imaginations, finally and for the first time in 398 years (that’s how long ago the first Africans – from Angola – arrived in America to settle in Jamestown, Virginia).

Black America has been just as vocal as everyone else in the nation in lamenting the disaster that is the Trump presidency, but, if there is one upside to it, it is this.

Never before has the falseness of the myth of white moral or intellectual superiority been more obvious or apparent than it is right now.

And this is especially true as it pertains the political sphere of our national culture.

I will not waste time listing all of the absurd and amoral things that Trump, his sycophants, the RNC, alt-right movement, Tea Party, or white religious right have said and done over the past nine months to prove that the “morality” that they pawn off in their rhetoric and propaganda is nothing but a discursive machination – a way of talking up anything they want to happen or do – exaggerating its “goodness” – in order to disguise its unsavory motives and objectives or camouflage its true, detrimental intent.

What I will list, though, is all the things that black people should have learned from witnessing all of these absurd and amoral things play out.

Trusting the people in political power in this country – the majority of which are white and male – to tell you what is happening in our community – because you believe that they are smarter than us, more honest than us, less flawed than us, better educated than us, and hence more capable of leading than us – is something we should not do anymore.

Trusting the people in political power in this country – the majority of which are white and male – to interpret for us what they are doing to us – because we believe that they are more decent than us, more honest than us, more compassionate than us, and hence telling us the truth about themselves – is something we should not anymore.

Hating who the people in political power in this country hate – in which we are included – is not going to make these people love us. It will only allow them to use us, as they have used working class and poor whites to gain power by galvanizing their fear of scarcity and directing it at Democrats, liberals, progressives, minorities, immigrants, foreigners, and, yes, women.

Hating who the people in political power in this country hate – in which we are included – does not make us “good.” It makes us gullible and culpable whenever Trump does something to politically victimize another undeserving segment of American society.

There is no material reward for being the sort of black person that a white person like Trump would regard as “decent” or “safe” or “good” or “moral.”

Just look at what’s happening in DC right now.

Trump is trying to pass a tax law that will only benefit the richest citizens of this country.

He is still trying to figure out a way to gut the ACA.

He has not secured DACA.

He has not prevented state and local politicians from passing laws that inhibit women’s reproductive rights or the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.

He has fought consistently since January to pass laws that are undeniable Islamophobic and propagated Islamophobic ideas about terrorism on his Twitter and in his talking points.

Despite the fact that working class people, poor people, minorities, immigrants, women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Muslims – a swath of Americans that cut across just about every demographic – voted for him in last year’s election.

Right now, Trump is urging the people of Alabama to elect Roy Moore to the US Senate – a man that has had dozens of credible accusations of sexual assault made against him in just the last month.

He is hiding behind the inept defense of a passel of high-paid, high-profile lawyers from credible accusations that he worked with Russia to fix the presidential election.

He is the poster child – yes, child – for the sort of meta-ethical moral relativism that truly pervades and sets the “official” tone in American culture and politics.

He stands for what America stands for, whether America wants to admit it or not.

And that is why we – black Americans – cannot let the mainstream beat us up anymore about our alleged “badness.” Because it is definitely not running through the moral high ground, nor has it ever run through the moral high ground.

This is why we have to relocate a sense of ourselves that is self-defined.

We have to relocate the confidence in our collective worth that we have rooted in mainstream acceptance in acceptance of ourselves and each other.

We have to relocate our psychological and spiritual sources. We have to stop using exclusivity and elitism  – tearing ourselves down – to build ourselves up. We have to start being inclusive and egalitarian.

We have to be open with each other. And loving of each other.

And above everything else, we have to stop believing that white people, and particularly those in power, know all the “right” things to do. Because it’s simply not true.

America is a country built by the ideas and ideals of moneyed white men, dominated by the ideas and ideals of moneyed white men, that still can’t get itself straight.

So what in the world can it credibly tell us about ourselves?

 

I Can’t Take Any Moore: My Two Cents on This Alabama Senatorial Clusterfuck

I have been looking at MSNBC all day (11/14/2017). Not on purpose, mind you.

I turned it on earlier this morning to see what, if anything, had happened overnight to plunge America even deeper into the seeming Trump abyss, and I just never turned it off.

I dozed off on the sofa, woke up and ate my lunch on the sofa, graded some essays on the sofa, answered some emails from the sofa, and let the TV keep talking.

I sat from nine this morning to two this afternoon, subconsciously soaking up all the convoluted talk from back ass-ward Republican officials and pundits about Roy Moore, hearing his fifth accuser bawl out her horrific story in a sickening loop, and tuning in and out as my outrage and exhaustion alternately impelled me.

And this is what I have to say after listening to the umpteenth white male so-called conservative hedge at being asked whether he would rather have a pedophile or Democrat in the US Senate:

These white men attempting to dodge this question are not nearly as artful as they think.

They keep arguing that if the accusations brought to light against Moore are proven to be true, they will retract their support of Moore and his run for the Senate.

Well, Moore is not being prosecuted for any of the crimes or acts of misconduct of which he has been accused. He will not be prosecuted for any of the crimes or acts of misconduct of which he has been accused. So the accusations will never be “proven.”

Alabama has the shortest sexual abuse statutes in the United States, so when Moore’s victims didn’t go to the authorities on Moore directly after he assaulted them, they gave up their opportunities to go the authorities on Moore.

(In Alabama, in child sexual abuse civil cases, the statute of limitations is two years after the alleged victim’s 19th birthday, and in criminal sexual abuse cases, the statute of limitations for felony sexual abuse cases is three years and the statute of limitation for misdemeanor sexual abuse cases is one year.)

And Moore’s supporters know this.

They know the American public can never receive a legal verdict on Moore’s guilt.

They keep saying they will retract their support if Moore is proven guilty so they don’t have to retract their support.

They pretend to be protecting the rule of law and upholding the principle of innocent until proven guilty when they are really acting on political tribalism and sideways racism (Democrat added to the Senate = slightly higher chance that laws will be made in the US that benefit people of color, immigrants of colors, and individuals in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum).

They are immoral, unethical, transparent, and tiresome as fuck.

Now, along with the “wait & seers,” you have the “technically, he isn’t a pedophilers.” They want to pretend that Moore merely “preferred” to date “younger” women.

To them, I grant that Moore isn’t technically a pedophile. By clinical definition, the pedophile engages in sexual behavior with children 13 years and younger, and the youngest any of Moore’s victims on the record has claimed to be at the time of her assault is 14.

That doesn’t absolve Moore of wrongdoing, though.

Because the age of consent in every single state in the US is 16 or older, and the biggest age difference legally allowed between a person that is the age of consent and his or her sexual partner is 10 years (in Utah, not Alabama, where Moore was working and trolling back in the day, while in his late 20s and early 30s).

In Alabama, the age of consent is 16, and the legally allowable age difference is two years, which means the oldest someone that is sleeping with a 16-year-old can be without committing a crime in that state is 18.

People under the age of consent cannot consent to sexual activity, according to the law, so anyone engaging in sexual activity with them is engaging in nonconsensual sexual activity.

And that is sexual assault.

That is sexual abuse; that is molestation; or that is rape. Statutory or violent. It doesn’t matter.

So when these supposed conservatives and Republican evangelicals are talking shit on cable TV or online or anywhere else, saying they are unsure whether Moore is worse for America than his Democratic opponent, and they hinge that argument on the fact that he is technically not a pedophile, they shouldn’t fucking congratulate themselves for winning the “clever” semantical game they’re attempting to play.

They are still aligning themselves with a sexual criminal, no matter what they try to say.

Roy Moore is still a sexual criminal – he is still a sexual predator – not according to opinion, but according to the fucking rule of law that the members of his party are constantly referencing whenever they want to justify their heartless actions, or, better yet, emphasize that their unethical actions are not necessarily illegal.

He is a sexual criminal according to the rule of law that he and his kettle (the name for a group of circling vultures) of withered cronies wrongfully use as a hiding place for their deep-seated amorality.

For anyone that remains undecided on the matter, and is interested in truly weighing the veracity of the allegations that have been made against Moore all you need to do is scrutinize the following facts:

  • According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, only 15.8 to 35 percent of sexual assaults in the US are reported to authorities;
  • According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, survivors cite fear of reprisal and fear of lack of evidence as reasons for not reporting assaults or attacks;
  • According to the Iowa Law Review, “rape claims [are] often dismissed out of hand with little or no investigation”;
  • According to The Chicago Tribune, misconceptions about rape prosecutions have propagated the notion throughout American culture that “rape and sexual harassment can be minimized, marginalized, or even mocked because the clock has wound down on when the crime could or . . . should be reported or prosecuted”;
  • Public figures like Moore (Weinstein, Trump) foster public goodwill with their personae and so-called accomplishments, or they buy public goodwill with their philanthropy, making it difficult for the typical American to conceive of them as criminals;
  • Public figures like Moore (Weinstein, Trump) possess a great deal of power and belong to powerful networks, making it plausible and possible for them to retaliate against women that go on the record accusing them of committing sexual crimes.

If, when you are considering whether the accusations against Moore are true, you acknowledge that none of these accusers can have Moore arrested at this point and very few people credit them with any real credibility – then you should be able to deduce that these women stand to gain nothing material from going public.

They can’t make any real money off of going public with their accusations, and they can’t gain any fame from it – only infamy. Their names get to go down in the same Hall of Undeserved Shame as Anita Hill and Juanita Broaddrick.

The only thing they could logically or realistically be seeking to gain then is the assurance that they tried to help prevent a remorseless criminal from becoming a US Senator.

Their accusations, if they were lies, wouldn’t be worth telling in this current cultural climate, with its new, intensely virulent strain of misogyny.

More likely than not, when all of this is “over,” they will have succeeded in doing little more than inadvertently inviting a bunch of mean-spirited mendacious scrutiny into their private lives.

They will have sacrificed their anonymity and a certain sort of sexist dignity in order to reveal a truth that no one really wants to hear.

Honestly, think about it: When has America ever rewarded a woman for calling out her politically powerful sexual attacker?

(If you’re unsure of the answer to this question, I advise you to ask Anita Hill.)

The answer is never, so how likely are these women to be lying, particularly when the current trend in public debates about women’s safety is to put the onus for the harm they suffer on women and pretend that American culture isn’t laced with a hatred of women that acts like fentanyl when you mix it with heroin.

Just look: The superficial, circular back-and-forth in which the Fed, media, and citizenry are engaging about the matter, without actually doing anything to remove Moore from Alabama’s senatorial ballot, illustrates how little America on the whole respects or appreciates women that take the socially suicidal plunge into becoming sexual whistleblowers.

And one last thing – one last point – for anyone stupid enough to argue – outside of everything else – that being a sexual offender doesn’t automatically mean that a person is unfit to govern.

I want your ass to take a look at the etiology of the typical sexual offender and then tell me that shit with a straight face.

According to science – the other system of laws that Trump and his sycophants like to bend and twist like the wiry hairs of their unsightly toupees into absurd versions of themselves – in addition to having interests and getting aroused by having sexual contact with others against those others’ wills or without those others’ consent, sexual offenders have interests and get aroused by inflicting pain and humiliation onto others, participating in violent and aggressive acts, and watching acts of violence or aggression.

They know that rape, molestation, and other forms of sexual assault are immoral, illegal, and, most of all, harmful to others, but they choose – and it is instrumental that those of us that are not sexual offenders accept this truth – that sexual offenders choose – to rape, molest, and subject their victims to other forms of sexual assault anyway.

Sexual offenders have cognitive distortions and/or pro-offending attitudes that allow them to justify the terrible things they do to others, such as believing a woman that dresses a certain way or that has hurt their feelings “wants” or “deserves” to be assaulted.

They are much more capable than non-offenders of convincing themselves that their deviant and dangerous behaviors are not as injurious or serious as they really are. They are also extremely capable of serially assaulting people because they don’t accurately perceive that they are doing serious harm, or they don’t accurately perceive the degree of harm that they cause when they assault people.

So when we you (because this is all you, Republican Party) push to put sexual offenders in public office, you are assenting that it is acceptable and perhaps even advisable to empower people that deliberately, consistently, and guiltlessly hurt others to inflict their twisted wills on innocent and undeserving men, women, and children.

And, if the evidence of that claim seems too tied into concepts of sexual behavior to encompass non-sexual behavior, then consider that a great number of sexual offenders have what clinicians refer to as a “cluster” of non-sexual personality deficits that also make them unfit to govern, among a laundry list of other social, interpersonal, and intimate things.

Sexual offenders often have ineffective communication skills; they have difficulty getting along with people; they have a profound lack of empathy; and they lack effective or healthy psychological and/or emotional coping skills.

Many cannot manage their emotions. They tend to be highly impulsive and unwilling to think through the consequences of their actions. They are often isolated because they lack social skills, and they struggle with behavioral self-regulation. They experience a lot of problems in intimate relationships, which tends to make them even less empathic and even more emotionally unstable and allow them to experience even more cognitive dissonance.

Moore is a former judge whose record bears substantial and substantive evidence that the personal issues that have impelled him to sexually attack underage women have very probably affected the way that he performs professionally.

His professional track record proves that he was unfit to be a judge and strongly suggests that he would be disastrous as a federal legislator.

Again, for the hair-splitters, these two positions are not two sides of the same coin. If police officers are, say, pennies, then prosecutors are nickels, municipal and state legislators are dimes, federal legislators are quarters, and executives are dollars.

That means state legislators have much more power than judges. Their power is much more proximal to executive and presidential power, which is even more reason why Moore has no business yielding it.

The US Congress is responsible for making laws that apply to every state in the country; Congress has the power to “declare war, coin money, raise an army and navy, regulate commerce, establish rules of immigration and naturalization, and establish the federal courts and their jurisdictions,” according to ushistory.org.

Congress oversees the annual federal budget and investigates any wrongdoings committed by public officials, including the President.

In fact, the US Congress is among one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world.

US Senators specifically confirm presidential appointments and try impeachment officials after the House initiates impeachment procedures and raises articles of impeachment.

They serve six-year rather than two-year terms, and they approve treaties, so, in a way, they are more influential or powerful than members of the House.

So, if Moore is allowed to win a seat in the Senate, he will be afforded six years of opportunities to inject his deviant attitudes, including his old-fashioned Southern deep-fried blatant blend of fifty-leven types of bigotry, into the American political discourse and possibly even the actual governance of the country.

That thought should be repulsive to anyone that claims to want America to be great, whether again or eventually.

America has been and still is inexorably shaped by its leaders. That is why Roy Moore became a viable, front-running candidate for Alabama Senator in the first place. He hitched his wagon to the pants zipper of our predatory, pussy-grabbing 45th President.

You can pretend to be unable to imagine how Moore’s tenure in the Senate would unfold, but you know it would very probably be a legislative version of Trump’s presidency: as I said, a fucking clusterfuck.

Now, I know the chances of any of Moore’s supporters reading this blog are nil. I know that my audience of readers is largely liberal, Democrat, or independent.

But I addressed this post to Moore’s army of marauding assholes for a reason, the least of which is I had substantial amounts of anger and frustration to expel.

I addressed this post to Moore and his unfortunate ilk because I feel I need to make the point that Moore’s political ascension is symbolic of an alarming sexist trend occurring in this country’s political culture.

A very small but very powerful white male cis-hetero contingent of the leadership of the Republican Party has become so terrified of the Party losing its political foothold that they have adopted this pro quid pro ethic by which they will work to place sexual deviants and criminals in office as long as these men prevent Democrats from taking office.

This is extremely dangerous because in the process of snatching up presidencies and Congressional seats they are also destigmatizing – they are normalizing – at least in political ideology and rhetoric – sexual assault and abuse.

We who know what a horrific slippery slope down which this can lead American culture cannot stand by while they do this and simply roll our eyes, suck our teeth, and mumble under our collective breath about how “ridiculous” they are and their endeavor is.

We have to speak truth to power. We have to say – whenever we have a chance of being heard – that they are dead fucking wrong. And we have to fight them in whatever ways we can.

I know that anti-Trump Americans are tired of this refrain, but the midterm elections are coming up next year.

And those of us that care about making this country, shit, safer for women again need to demand that the candidates in next year’s elections explicitly decry this insidious polemical “conservative” vein of misogyny that has crept into our politics, and they back their renouncements with consistent, meaningful action that reverses the damage the Trump White House has done, before we give them our votes.

In an open letter to Sean Hannity in response to the flurry of accusations that has surrounded him, Moore says that his wife Kayla and he have five granddaughters.

He throws that up at Hannity And Hannity’s Twitter followers as if being a grandparent to girls somehow makes it impossible for him an abuser of girls.

What Moore doesn’t say, in unequivocal language, is that he did not have sexual dealings with the women that are accusing him of having assaulted them.

He denies the allegations of two of his victims, Leigh Corfman and Beverly Nelson, and says he “did not date underage girls.” I suspect, however, that Moore is playing a similar semantical game to his supporters when he says he did not “date” underage girls. Because he didn’t date these women when they were underage. He molested them. He harassed them. He stalked them. He assaulted them

I think he knows it, and we know it, and we should do something about it. I think that is our obligation as citizens.

We should make America’s political sphere as unsafe for predators like Moore as he apparently made the Gadsden Mall – what appears to have been his favorite place to go trolling  back in the early eighties – for young unsuspecting girls.

We should build a wall around the federal government that blocks out assholes like Moore.

We should lock them out even if we can’t fucking lock them up.

.

 

 

Connecting Thots: Linking Carolyn Bryant to Kellyanne Conway on that Goddamn Couch to the Need for Black People to Be More Woke in Three Arduous Steps

I’m going to cast my web wide and then pull it in slowly, so bear with me, please.

I want to touch on a lot of things in this post, like Donald Trump in a dressing room full of beauty pageant contestants.

I’ll wend my way to Kellyanne Conway and what my sister would refer to as her “dry-faced ass” eventually.

(Excuse that anti-feminist lapse right there. And the use of the term “thot” in the title. Racist capers make me even more angry when they come from women.)

I.

I grew up with a mother that taught literature. So we had a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology on our bookcase. I never understood why we had it, though, until I went to college and declared my English major. Then, I learned: the classical Greek and Roman mythologies are western literary cornucopias (a symbol derived from Greek and Roman mythology, in fact).

So many of the plotlines and motifs (the hero’s journey, the concept of redemptive suffering, the inescapability of fate, the ideas that human goodness is rewarded and human evil is punished by divine forces) in Western literature derive from classical European mythology that if you played a drinking game in which you took a shot for every modern book you know with a mythological allusion, your ass would go into an alcohol-induced coma inside of fifteen minutes.

So, as a student of Western literature, I am understandably fascinated by the tenacity of classical mythology.

From what I have been taught, ancient Greeks and Romans regarded these stories that read like children’s fiction to most modern people like they were religious doctrine. They believed these stories told the truth about the supernatural beings that created and ruled the Earth and humanity, certain natural phenomena (like comets), the differences in the ancient cultures, and the roots of the alliances and anima between those ancient cultures. In fact, until the rise of philosophy (which encompassed empirical science until the 1800s), historiography, and rationalism in the 5th century, mythology was regarded as fact.

That mythology played this role in ancient Greek or Roman culture isn’t what fascinates me, though (it makes sense that these civilizations would’ve clung to mythology until another way of understanding the universe evolved to a point where they felt they could trust it).

It’s the human attachment to ancient mythology I find so interesting, stretching as it has from antiquity to post-postmodernity.

I tend to think those individuals that continue to study and creatively mine the mythologies of ancient cultures today do so because they recognize and appreciate the way myths reflect certain truths about human nature and interactions in relatively simple stories and not overly technical science and microsociology.

On the other hand, there is a certain type of attachment to a certain type of mythology – a sociological “twin” to this literary tradition – that has the opposite effect on me. It doesn’t fascinate – it infuriates me.

You see it in white supremacists and black-white supremacists that remain invested in certain antebellum myths about black people.

The problem, as I see it, with racists clinging to these myths is that these myths do not contain or signify any actual truth. In fact, these myths displace factual narratives that would reveal, if we looked back at them, the falsity of American racial formations – the fact that they are instruments of social, economic, and political advantageousness, not products of science or authentic American history.

Take the myth that the black man is a born rapist, for example.

The myth that the black man is a born rapist was envisaged by the racist quarter of the white male ruling class during slavery to expunge – at least ideologically – black men’s sexual attractiveness and white women’s sexual attraction to black men.

It is one of a collection of pseudo-scientific fabrications the members of that class mobilized to disguise their own racist phobias and violent behaviors.

The myth allowed antebellum white men to subvert their own proclivities to rape white and black women, pretend all sexual relations between white women and black men were rape, and “punish” any black man that had sex with a white woman by torturing and/or killing him, if they wanted.

To this day, racists continue to propagate this myth to justify certain acts of violence they perpetrate against black men, and adherents of these racists – black and white – excuse away this violence in what is essentially a Pavlovian response – even though the hypotheses that all black men are born with a violent sexual psychopathology – or they all have an uncontrollable uniform sexual response to white women – or they will all enact their vengeful feelings against the white power structure by raping a white women any time they are given the opportunity – are patently untrue.

That’s right. The “math” of this myth has never added up, not back then, and not now. Despite what David Duke has claimed in the media.

The infamous Table 42 from the 2008 National Crime Victimization Survey, compiled and published by the Bureau of Justice Statistic,  and said to “prove” the myth is true, doesn’t validate the claims of white supremacists about black rapists.

Philip Cohen explains in his post, “Here’s How Bad Government Math Spawned a Racist Lie About Sexual Assault,” that

Like many surveys, the NCVS is weighted to produce estimates that are supposed to reflect the general population. In a nutshell, that means, for example, that they treat each of the 158,000 people (over age 12) covered in 2014 as about 1,700 people. So if one person said, “I was raped,” they would say, “1700 people in the US say they were raped.” This is how sampling works. In fact, they tweak it much more than that, to make the numbers add up according to population distributions of variables like age, sex, race, and region – and non-response, so that if a certain group (say Black women) has a low response rate, their responses get goosed even more . . .

According to Cohen

[The] BJS extrapolates an estimate of 117,640 White women who say they were sexually assaulted, or threatened with sexual assault, in 2008 . . . Of those, 16.4% described their assailant as Black . . . That works out to 19,293 White women sexually assaulted or threatened by Black men in one year . . . [however] . . . [i]f each respondent in the survey counts for about 1,700 people, then . . . [the statisticians that compiled the results] . . . in 2008 [actually counted]  . . . 69 White women who were sexually assaulted or threatened, 11 of whom said their assailant was Black [emphasis added].

He even illustrates for his readers how to do the math on the survey’s faulty numbers: (19293/1,700 = 11.34).

Despite the fact that it is a lie, the myth that the black man is a born rapist still exercises a powerful influence over the American imagination (versus its intellect and morality) and thus our social interactions, political discourse, and patterns of interracial violence.

It not only freezes the black man in the deplorable image of the uncontrollable sex offender; it also freezes the white woman in the image of his needful victim.

II.

A few years back, there were this novel and movie adaptation titled No Country for Old Men. This referred, of course, to America.

That title made me think of a line from the Tony Kushner play about the American identity, “Angels in America.”

In the play, the character Roy Kohn, based on the real life Roy Kohn, is dying of AIDS, and reflects that “Americans have no use for sick.”

Kushner/Kohn is right. Americans do have a certain affinity for the useful. Because Americans have an affinity for getting shit done, and you need tools to do the things you want to do more efficiently.

Technological systems are currently our favorite types of tools. We have an affinity for them, too. Computer systems, global positioning systems, telecommunications systems – you name it.

Correlatively, Guardian writer Steven W. Thrasher explains that race “[is] a technology, “utilized for specific reasons.”

That’s probably why we love it so much, too.

Thrash filters down – from the upper reaches of the black artistic community – the concept from writer Ytasha Womack that “[t]he deployment of this technology has created [emphasis added] racism.”

He says that since “[biological] race is a fiction . . . [that] has only existed as we presently conceive it over the past few hundred years,” the technology of race is used to  “peddle” race itself to the masses.

That is – to keep us believing not only that race is real, but that people of different races pose a real threat to us simply because they are a different race.

Womack’s concept of race as technology helps to explain why Americans continue to exploit racist myths even though they have been scientifically debunked.

If we think about racial mythology as a form of technology, we can understand how racists use it – to create a reality in which the “fiction” of biological race has actual effects.

II.

Back in January, upon the release of Timothy Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till, the media had the dubious honor of running one of the most tragic if anticlimactic news stories in American history, at least in this black woman’s opinion.

Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman that testified in court that 14-year-old Emmett Till grabbed her by her waist and told her, “You needn’t be afraid of me, baby I’ve (done something) with white women before,” confessed that she perjured herself on the stand. She lied outright about her encounter with Till, who she said never spoke directly to her at all.

In fact, Donham reportedly told Tyson that all these years later she can’t remember whether Till even whistled at her that fateful August evening back in Mississippi.

An article in Vanity Fair about Tyson and his dealings with Donham paints a distastefully sympathetic portrait of the elderly woman, even seeming to suggest that her testimony did not play as vital a role in gaining acquittals for Till’s killers as has been historically assumed since their trial in 1955.

(I’m calling subtextual bullshit on that, though, because even though the jury was not present in the courtroom for Donham’s testimony, I have no doubt her allegations crept into the defense of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, feeding the rabidity of those 12 white men to deliver an exoneration. This was Mississippi in fucking 1955.)

The reason I say this story about Donham’s “confession” is anticlimactic is simple, and I also think it should be obvious.

Dahleen Glanton of The Chicago Tribune spells it out in one elegant sentence, for those that may not get it on their own: “We [Black America] already knew her story was a lie.”

“So did the judge who presided over the murder trial of her husband and another man in 1955,” Glanton insists, “and so did most of the people who lived in the tiny town of Money in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.”

So, too, I say, do most of the white people that live in America today.

Yet, I have never read or heard a recount of Till’s murder – from what one would term a “white” source – whether it was in the news, academic, or entertainment genre – that did not include some intimation that Till “either whistled at, flirted with, or touched the hand” of Carolyn Bryant.

And innocuous as that detail may seem, we know that it’s not. It is a lie spread to diminish the horror of Emmett Till’s murder. To blur the line between his innocence and his murderers’ culpability.

It’s also a signifier that the rapist myth is still alive and seething in the American imagination.

If not in its original form, then in a transposed form – a form that elides the old concept of the black men as an automatic sexual deviant – and carries on with its correlative – the lie that cishetero white women epitomize cishetero feminity and so are sexually irresistible to black men.

Under this guise, which the myth gained post Civil Rights, the myth has regained a modicum of acceptability because it’s less objectionable to believe the widely accepted “truth” that white women are the “most beautiful” than the (also widely accepted) lie that black men are animals.

So, this is what post-Civil Rights white supremacists and eugenicists of the highest order – the Steve Bannons of the world – pretend to do – believe that white women are sexually irresistible to black men – so they aren’t written-off as crackpots or backward, hillbilly “trash” – the common caricature of the American white racist.

In pedestalizing the Tomi Lahrens, Sarah Palins, and Kellyann Conways of this country, they’re not just legitimizing these women’s gimmick(kk)y politics; they’re also valorizing “conservative” white womanhood.

They’re emphasizing to white America that there are still “respectable” (cishetero, non-feminist) women within their ranks that need and deserve “protecting” from predators like Trump’s fictitious Mexican rapists and Dylann Roof’s fictitious black rapists.

These new age supremacists capitalize on the mobility of the “face-lifted” rapist myth to tap into the multifarious race-based fears that motivate whites to uphold structural racism, as they do by executing or going along with things like gerrymandering, gentrification, school choice, standardized testing, mandatory sentencing, opposition to policies like Affirmative Action, opposition to institutions like HBCUs, the propagation of symbolic racism, and the election of a failed real estate mogul and reality game show host to the Oval Office.

(Symbolic racism is an anti-black post-Civil Rights belief system based on the four themes that racial discrimination is no longer a serious obstacle for black people; black people’s failure to progress is due to their own unwillingness to work hard; black people’s insistence that the government should take further measures to equalize our social status has no legitimate basis; and the measures that the government has already taken to equalize our social status, such as Affirmative Action, are unjustified).

Too, like the old slave owners, the Steve Bannons, David Dukes, and Richard Spencers of today – they use the rapist myth to galvanize poor whites into terrorizing blacks (see again: Dylann Roof) so they can keep their proverbial hands “clean,” so that journalists and politicians can still appear to be reliable while deigning to deal with them, and so their “alt-right” rhetoric can gain even more acceptability outside of their insular cultural sphere.

And their female counterparts? The Kellyann Conways? They do what Carolyn Bryant did back in 1955.

They buy willingly into the lie that they are sexually irresistible – and they do not want black male attention but cannot help but garner it – to enhance their self- esteem, which still takes seasonal, politically expedient beatings from the white hetero patriarchy.

This entire dynamic is just what Thrasher described in his article. It is how the use of race technology in America has morphed with the times so it can continue to do its work.

III.

Finally, I have arrived at my thoughts about Kellyanne Conway’s posture on that couch in the Oval Office – and the semiotics of that image are the crux of this text (even though I will not post it here – yuck) – because I believe they convey a really pivotal point about the continued use of racism in this country.

Kellyanne Conway is a 50-year-old, married mother of four and Counselor to Donald Trump, but you know why she propped herself up on the couch in the Oval Office like a college co-ed “studying” in the dorm room of a classmate on which she’s been secretly harboring a crush since Orientation back in August?

Because she has internalized the myth.

Because she is a laissez-faire racist. She believed that those black men – automatically and universally – found her sexually attractive. They were not evolved enough to have any other response to her. They were wolves in men’s clothing.

Look at the photo again. Look at her tossed-back hair. Look at her uncrossed legs and arched back. Shoulders back and breasts lifted. All of these are nonverbal cues that she is keying into the situation sexually. She is offering herself up to be objectified.

Think about her choice to perch on a couch – on her knees – rather than stand up – a much more logical choice of positioning to take a photo of a group that size – her willingness to pose for the room despite the nature of the event and her participation in it – both ostensibly professional. Its illogic tells on her.

I don’t care what she claimed in the press after the pictures were released. I don’t care about any journalists’ attempts to make the controversy about her disrespect of the Oval Office in order to trivialize it. The Office wasn’t the issue. Her posture was.

By climbing her ass up on that couch in that room full of black men – and posing like a buttered-up biscuit on the side of a three piece chicken dinner – Kellyanne Conway created some good old-fashioned phobic imagery for Trump’s America.

She gave all the kinds of racists in our current landscape – overt, ambivalent, aversive – a “reminder” of why they “need” to stick to their “unpopular” beliefs.

She invoked the myth, though I will concede that she might have done it unconsciously.

Still, she invoked the myth.

She came off as a mythical white vixen/victim – an echo of Carolyn Bryant – a “could” whose possibility fit right into the cookie cutter shape of Bigger Thomas that I swear every American has in their mind, even if they’ve never read a page of Native Son.

And that’s what made me so mad about that picture, personally.

Her lack of culpability in the face of dire consequences for Outgroup America.

The way I see it, the white male racists in power are triggered enough.

They don’t need any more encouragement to think of blacks as a danger that needs to be extinguished, infestation that needs to be exterminated, or disease that needs to be cured.

I mean . . . damn.

We don’t need shit like Kellyanne Conway whipping her boss and his boys up into a righteous frenzy by pulling a – I don’t know – it might even have been a “Basic Instinct” power move – to boost her embattled confidence – on some unwitting college presidents just trying to secure their federal funding.

Because that’s how easy it appears to be to get Trump all upset. He has the emotional temperament of a toddler.

Luckily, he didn’t go off about that incident. But what about next time, if there is a next time?

We can’t have Kellyanne out here willy-nilly, blinded by the wealth of her ridiculous white privileges, tapping heedlessly into the deep-seated fears that dwell in the chambers of the heart of the rapist myth.

None of which is the fear of the actual psychopathology of men of color, ironically enough.

No – white male racists in power don’t fear black men or Latinx men’s insatiability or animalism because they know the lengths to which they have historically gone to psychologically neuter men of color in this country.

No – what really has them shook is the very real ability of men of color to culturally overtake them, as demonstrated at least partly by black men’s preeminence in professional athletics. Footnote Latinx men in professional baseball.

Jon Entine in his book, Taboo: Why Black Athlete Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It, writes

To the degree that it is a purely scientific debate, the evidence of black superiority in athletics is persuasive and decisively confirmed on the playing field. Elite athletes who trace most or all of their ancestry to Africa are by and large better than the competition. The performance gap is widest when little expensive equipment or facilities are required, such as running, the only true intentional sport, and in widely played team sports such as basketball and football. Blacks not only outnumber their nonwhite competitors but, by and large, are the superstars.

Entine’s quote does read a bit reductively, so let me say: Black men are extraordinarily capable beyond their physicality. Yet, I don’t believe the critical mass of white male racists in power are able to conceive that black men can outthink them. Even in 2017.

What they can imagine, though, and have imagined, since the explosion of the plantation system in the late 1600s, is black men rising up in arms, banding together, and overturning the white power structure in our society.

Concurrently, white male racists in power fear getting pushed from their place at the top of the sexual attractiveness totem pole by an overgrowing white female demand for seemingly superior, “exotic” black and brown male bodies.

And they fear that black-white and Latinx-white sexual relationships – as they exponentially increase – will swallow up whites’ recessive trait genotypes.

At the very beginning of this post, I wrote that myths reflect certain truths about human nature, but then I wrote that racial myths are lies. And they are lies, but their persistence exposes some really important truths about the microsociology of this current version of America.

Blackness still functions largely as the electrical current powering the social machinery of this country, not whiteness. The technology of race has this horrifying way of staying on the cutting edge.

Still, this “newest” iteration of whiteness is a response to blackness. As American whiteness is. By its needful nature.

It wouldn’t exist if blackness didn’t. That symbiosis hasn’t changed since slavery.

So, since black and white are symbiotic, black people can steer the direction in which the white male racists in power take this country, if that is, in fact, what we want to do.

We have money and votes they need to remain in power. And we can use them as the leverage they are. We can be strategic in the way we use them. We can demand political ransom for them.

We can perch our asses on the proverbial couch of the US Capitol and let Trump ‘nem know – a lot of what they think about us is bullshit, but our political power is not mythical. It’s real.

We can deploy the technology of race to achieve our own ends. It is at least half our intellectual property, according to our history. The white male racists in power don’t have exclusive design rights.

We can change the configuration any time and way we want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America 101: The Cabinet

All the big-name news sources are talking back-and-forth this week about Trump’s cabinet picks as he prepares to take office in a little more than ten days.

In what has become typical Trump fashion, he has done completely away with the customary practices of all his Presidential predecessors and waited until the absolute last minute to get his nominees for the top posts confirmed by the Senate.

Yet, even as writers and reporters from the majorly credible publications and broadcasts across the country acknowledge that Trump’s cabinet nominees themselves and the timetable for their confirmations are “controversial,” they are starting to take on this tone in their observations that is resigned to the chaos of the President-elect’s nascent leadership.

It’s a big deal, though, that he has chosen the people he has chosen to do the jobs that they will ostensibly do. A President’s cabinet plats a crucial role in his administration.

This is what I learned from my research over the last couple of days.

The cabinet is a Constitutionally established body of officials that advise the President about any subject that relates to the duties of their specific office.

They are the heads of 15 different executive departments–the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs–plus the Attorney General and Vice President.

According to the Brookington Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, DC, “Presidents fill their cabinets with experienced leaders from around the country. These leaders must have some combination of executive experience, policy expertise, partisan credentials, or personal loyalty to the president. They symbolize presidential priorities, represent demographic groups and marshal the support of the clientele of the department they will be leading.”

In 2009, Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu described the importance of the Cabinet on the White House blog, saying, “Every day, the President calls on the Cabinet . . . He . . . values their work in running the federal departments and agencies, ensuring that the government always works on behalf of the American people.”

This is why Cabinet secretaries–along with the Attorney General, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador to the UN, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration–must be confirmed by the Senate.

Nominees for these Cabinet-level positions must be fully vetted, which means they must disclose all financial documents to whichever Senate committee conducts their confirmation hearing so the members of that committee can determine whether they have conflicts of interest that could unduly influence the way they advise the President.

According to ABC News, the confirmation process for Cabinet secretaries goes like this: Nominations, generally made by the President and/or his transition staff, are given to the relevant Senate committee; that committee opts to either hold a confirmation hearing, move the nomination straight to the Senate for a vote, or not do anything with the nomination, which “kills” it; if the committee holds a hearing, they may either vote whether to report the nomination favorably, unfavorably, or without any recommendation or “sit” on the nomination, which seems like another way to “kill” it; nominations that clear a committee–one way or the other–are moved to the Senate floor where a simple majority vote is held; if the nominees winds the majority vote, he or she becomes a member of the Cabinet.

Since the nominees must get voted in by the Senate, this process of getting his first-round nominees confirmed may not go as smoothly for Trump as he may want because the Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate.

Take the Attorney General confirmation. There are 100 seats (two senators for each state); the Republicans have 51 seats; but Jeff Sessions–the Republican Senator from Alabama–is the nominee for Attorney General and may not vote for himself as a show of good faith.

Too, Republicans that take issue with Trump’s nominees can and may “defect” and vote against them, and it would only take one or two of these kinds of votes to block a nominee. In 228 years, according to The Business Insider, nine Cabinet nominations have been outright rejected by the Senate, and eleven have either been withdrawn or the Senate has refused to act on them.

The other potentially “sticky” issue surrounding the confirmation of Trump’s nominees, according to a really interesting and informative article by NPR, is the fact they may not all have the same political philosophies or ideas for their leadership that he does.

In fact, Jessica Taylor for NPR, says, ” . . . [S]ome of the president-elect’s top would-be advisers revealed [during their hearings] . . . major policy breaks with the future president on issues Trump championed and views he expressed on the campaign trail — from Russian hacking, torture, a Muslim ban and registry, mosque surveillance, NATO, the Iran nuclear deal [to] infrastructure, deportations and that border wall.”

If these nominees are confirmed, it could mean that Trump will experience a lot of friction as he attempts to move forward on those more grandiose promises he made to his electorate.

The potential, though, for conflict between Trump and the members of his Cabinet can be construed as a positive for those of us that distrust Trump and are worried that he will be wielding his Presidential power essentially unchecked for the next four years (based on how readily he has broken with dozens of behavioral standards, customs, and norms throughout his campaign and transition into the White House and how willingly and easily the media, his supporters, and Congress have let him off the seeming hook), as long as that conflict stems from the members of his Cabinet pushing Trump to make smarter, more beneficial decisions.

Taylor says basically the same thing: “[The breaks in thinking between Trump and his cabinet nominees demonstrate] the potential constraints the president-elect could run into if he seeks to implement some of the more provocative aspects of what he campaigned on.” But she also acknowledges, “[A] lack of cohesion [at the Presidential level of government] could lead to . . . potential difficulty . . .”

Again, the Brookings Institute gives some insight into how differences in philosophy, belief, and opinion between the President and his Cabinet can be not just prophylactic but problematic.

In writing the institute, James Pfiffner locates the potential for “difficulty,” as Taylor terms it, very specifically in the relationship between Cabinet members and the White House Staff:

[B]y the late 20th century, major policy functions that used to be performed outside the White House were now integrated into the White House [it reads] . . . Additionally, political functions that had previously been performed by the political parties and in Congress were now located in the White House . . . [Yet] cabinet secretaries understandably resent “interference” from White House staffers . . . Once in office, cabinet secretaries are seen as advocates for their policy domain, champions for the workers in their departments, and aggressive seekers of budget resources . . . [Their] duties and inclinations often put them on a collision course with White House staffers, who are trying to rein them in and harness them to presidential priorities. 

In “Cabinet secretaries versus the White House staff,” Pfiffner illustates this principle using an example from the Obama administration:

[W]hen President Obama came to office, he initially intended to delegate legal policy on detainees at Guantanamo to his attorney general and friend, Eric Holder. Holder accepted the position with the understanding that he would make legal decisions independently of the White House, though of course the president would have the final say. In delegating some of the key legal decisions regarding detainee policy to Attorney General Holder, President Obama wanted to be seen as not letting politics interfere with legal principles. Obama told Holder to make legal decisions on the merits of the law rather than on political grounds.

Exercising his delegated authority, Holder decided to try some 9/11 terrorist suspects in criminal court rather than by military tribunals, and he chose New York City as the venue. The decision caused a political uproar, with congressional leaders threatening legislation to mandate military commissions at Guantanamo and not in the continental United States. Holder’s decisions reinforced White House staffers’ suspicion that he was not sufficiently sensitive to the president’s political interests. Ultimately, the White House staff, particularly chief of staff [Rahm] Emanuel, convinced Obama that the political repercussions of Holder’s decisions were more important than Holder’s legal judgments and his independence from the White House.

Because of the White House’s desire to maintain a certain image of political expediency, with the thought it would help get Obama re-elected in 2012, it urged Obama to undermine Holder’s authority during his first term, making it “difficult”–again–for Holder to keep the promises he made when he became Attorney General.

Holder promised the American people he would “end the policy of indefinite detention at Guantanamo by prosecuting some of its most notorious detainees; to investigate torture by the CIA; and to revitalize the department’s most neglected offices, like the long-suffering Civil Rights Division.” Although his agenda fell under the auspices of President Obama’s own agenda–to make the Department of Justice more of an independent agent, exercising first and foremost by the “rule of law”–when Holder’s actions conflicted with Obama’s efforts to make popular (read: right-leaning) decisions about unpopular issues like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, Holder found himself struggling back and forth with the White House to do what he deemed as Constitutional.

The Obama-Holder situation illustrates what Pfiffner identifies as the “challenge” a President faces, when working with his Cabinet, “to maintain a healthy balance between too much centralization (executive decisions being made primarily by the White House) and the opposite problem of lack of coordination of policy making and implementation in [outside] departments and agencies.”

Trump is a very different man than Barack Obama. He comes from the world of business, but he has the sensibilities of an entertainer, and he is odd combination of a One Percent insider and Washington outsider. Still, he doesn’t seem any more willing to be led by his Cabinet than Obama was.

In fact, it will be fascinating–and very probably disturbing–to see how Trump–who has been labeled everything from “sociopathic” to “remarkably narcissistic” to superlatively “opportunistic“–and the members of his Cabinet will operate–jointly and separately.

Trump–for all his delusional Twitter claims–has an extensively documented track record of “playing” poorly with others, even just from his last few weeks in Washington.

But so, too, do many of his Cabinet nominees.