If you’re like many progressives, you look at the impending doom of DACA, the threats to build the infamous wall, the inhumanity of stealing a billion dollars from Hurricane Harvey survivors to give to the wealthy in the name of the wall, the declaration of antifa as a terrorist organization, the ignoring of neo-Nazis and the Klan by the DOJ, the disproportionate flooding of poor neighborhoods of Houston (read that black), the racist-supporting statements by the Ol’ Pussy Grabber after Charlottesville… you know, the list goes on and on, but if you are a progressive, you look at all the racism that is growing like weeds out of the fertile cesspit of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s dog whistling rhetoric, you might thing, How in the hell do we still have racists in America in this day and age? Why haven’t they all atrophied and died of shame, yet? I thought demographics and age were working against these people!
Well, if that’s you, sister, then I am with you. I had a social media exchange with a friend a couple of years ago or so who assured me that her 16 year old son’s age group was not racist and that racism would be passing with our generation. Or at least be greatly diminished. That was before the industrial grade manure spreader arrived on the scene and began watering the tree of racism with the blood of immigrants and Muslims.
Roots of Racism
All these things has inspired me to take a good close look at the racism inherent in the system of the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid. You can scroll back through the posts if you really wanna — you really wanna because a snarky, sarcasticky, profaney look at this ugly side of America is the only way to look at it.
The root of racism and white supremacy is in a principle of abnormal psychology. The behaviors of people with mental health disorders are done by all of us — every one has felt sad and hopeless, excited and unfocused and unable to sit still, obsessed, ruminated, and brooded on something to the point of distraction, thought they’ve seen something that wasn’t there — but the diagnosable do these things to such a degree that they interfere with the functions of everyday living or put other people off or violate social norms to the degree that most people in society agree that they are just plane wrong. White supremacy, Nazism, the Klan are not any different.
We all have fear of a group of people at some point in our lives. It doesn’t have to be defined by race, but by some group membership. I think that if white people could tell the truth about it, most all of us would admit that at one time or another we’ve been afraid of black people and feared that a specific black person was a criminal.
Minorities and ethnic groups are the dumping ground of the white psyche: we project our shadow selves, the qualities that we dislike about ourselves into these groups. Thus, we have the stereotypes: blacks are lazy lascivious criminals, Hispanics are lazy criminals (they don’t the lascivious part, unlucky them), Asians are brainy and nerdy, Muslims are terrorists). In reality, all of these qualities are spread across all members of a race, minority, ethnic group, or culture, but because white people are the majority in some countries, we get to project them onto our non-white minority populations in those countries.
You know, this wouldn’t be any different than any other group in the history of human kind, except we in the liberal democracy west screwed up this festival of hatred and genocide by declaring that all people are created equal before god. This is not exclusively an American idea or a white idea, but we here in America put it in our legal founding documents, and people are dumb enough to think that we were actually trying to live that way. All we really wanted to do was bludgeon other countries with the ideas to make them do our bidding.
Okay, it is in the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights. Thanks Eleanor Roosevelt!
Social Identity Theory
Human beings evolved to be expert categorizers. It is a shortcut to survival on the savannas. You see something, and if you can accurately categorizes it as dangerous or safe, then you’re much more likely to react in a way that helps you survive and reproduce and raise your young to the age of reproduction. This tendency to categorize extends to people: are they from my group or another?
Let’s face it, the most obvious characteristic of a person is their skin color. It’s funny that many of my students who came up in mono-racial societies name a plethora of other attributes when I pose this as a question: hair style, clothing, and other things. My students who came up in multi-racial multi-ethnic societies understand it immediately; they’re just reluctant to say so.
All this is a long round-about introduction to Henri Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory and Muzafer Sherif’s Realistic Conflict Theory. Social Identity Theory grew out of Realistic Conflict Theory, and both purport to explain the same phenomena: intergroup conflict and relations. Both are important for understanding white supremacy.
Social Identity Theory posits that people socially categorize anyone and everyone they meet, especially strangers, using what ever clues are at their disposal. These clues allow us to use stereotypes to interpret those people and situations around us. It is a human tendency, but one that can go badly wrong. White people by and large react to young black men as gang banging rapist murdering criminals… and by young I mean any black man not dead of old age yet. It’s like it is inbred or something.
There is a recent study that suggests people can accurately gauge social class by facial characteristics because poverty etches itself into the faces of the young and is difficult to disguise.
Once we’ve socially categorize people, we set about socially identifying ourselves. We look at our defining characteristics and match ourselves up with those in our society. It’s weird because I came up in an incredibly racist area with an uncle who swore he would never return to his church if he knew a black person even so much stepped a foot into the building even if it were only to ask for directions or get a drink of water because they were dying or seek refuge from a natural disaster! Luckily, I grew up watching All In The Family and was inoculated against such mishegas. For everything else the show did, it made it clear that racism was bad. I was especially lucky because I am autistic and grew up looking for rules to follow, and I found that one before I found my uncle’s.
After we’ve identified with like people, we place all people not like ourselves into groups and those groups are collectively referred to as out-groups. We, of course, belong to an in-group. This explains why everyone thinks an innie bellybutton is superior to an outie. Scientific fact.
Nothing wrong with any of this, but if the self-esteem of the in-group is threatened or declines, then we begin to build ourselves up by trash talking the out-groups kinda like sports team fans do, only there are some teams — sorry Cleveland Browns — who can’t really trash talk anyone. And, again, nothing wrong with this, until it takes the turn into abnormality and begins to violate social norms and interfere with daily life. Like that fellow who shot at the black protester trying to protect the old man from being speared by a Confederate flag pole in Charlottesville while the police just stood around admiring all the protesters riding they unicorns, holding hands, eating they heart-shaped cupcakes crossing the rainbow bridge to nirvana singing Kumbaya. Or whatever they was hallucinating because anyone else woulda protected the counter protesters from those thugs.
Realistic Conflict Theory
This is where Realistic Conflict Theory comes in. Sherif posited that when resources are scarce, then competition for them will turn into conflict. I have it on good authority that the United States is the richest country in the history of human kind. We throw away more resources every day than the poorest people in the world consume in a day. How can we actually have competition over scarce resources? Yes, I am that naive.
That would be true if we were in fact just the United States of America, but, down here in reality, we are in fact, the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid. We have people, like conservative Christian voters, who don’t believe that we have all the resources we need. We have people like conservative Christian voters who believe that the blacks and browns and immigrants who are black and brown and the Muslims who are black and brown — do you see a trend here? — have been given a place ahead of them in some mythical line leading to the promised land. They believe that they have played by the rules and been good little boys and girls and even empathized with all the blacks and browns as the horrible liberal hordes of PC police have demanded only to see those horrible liberal hordes of PC police skip those exact same blacks, browns, immigrants, and Muslims ahead of them in the mythical line to the mythical promised land, which must be just across the rainbow bridge and I’m sure they can smell the heart-shaped cupcakes and see the tips of the unicorn horns and hear the masses singing Kumbaya as they ride across the bridge holding hands with their BFF’s.
In these people’s minds, you see, the resources are scarce. We’ve had two solid generations of national debt demagoguery to convince them that the nation is going down the financial tubes unless we tighten our national belt and quit handing the farm to the undeserving lazy blacks and browns.
Now everything comes into sharper focus, don’t it. We see how these puzzle pieces start to fit together. But, we need one more ingredient.
Most people would think that if you were being put upon unfairly, you’d seek to find the culprit and give them the old what for… and in a democracy that would be done with votes. But, people are in the habit of having upward aspirations, so they are afraid to punch up, even with votes, so they do the next best thing, and punch down. Given that the blacks and browns tend to be poorer than whites, po’ white folk tends to punch at them! After all white culture has been saddled with the belief that wealth is a sign of god’s love and a reward for hard work. Again, we are indeed the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid since the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s life demonstrates that inheriting wealth allows wealth to be perpetuated as long as you don’t fuck it up too badly.
And, so not all white people are white supremacists, they all harbor racist tendencies and sympathies and suspicions of other races especially the blacks. The only way racism and white supremacy can be overcome is by white people is by understanding these dynamics and consciously resisting their effects.