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a thoughtful article by Roediger

Indeed in stark contrast to pleasant narratives of progress, white family wealth in the U.S. is nine times that of African American family wealth and black young men are seven times as likely as whites to be incarcerated. The diseases of the poor in the U.S. are the diseases of poor people of color. 75 percent of all active tuberculosis cases afflict them. In Obama’s home state of Illinois, a majority of  HIV-AIDS cases occur among African Americans. Three in ten black and Latino children live in poverty, triple the white child poverty rate.

To think more precisely about the coexistence in the U.S. of such stark and deadly racial inequalities with the historic triumph of an African American presidential candidate requires that we recognize that racism is more than one thing and that we specify what has changed. The view that Obama heralds the end of race-thinking in the U.S. rests on  a particular definition of racism, one that currently very much holds sway in U.S. politics and popular culture. Racism turns, on this view, on bad but disappearing individual attitudes, of the sort that can be measured by whether many or few voters act on those attitudes on election day, or even by the ratings among whites of Oprah Winfrey’s television shows or the sales of products Tiger Woods endorses. Deep structural inequalities may be considered unfortunate, but race is personal.

This personalisation or depoliticisation is precisely what VD has been trying (imho unsuccessfully) to do above with gender -- to obfuscate persistent patterns of privilege and power affecting the material conditions of millions, by resorting repeatedly to the individual or anecdotal.  Neoliberalism has won a major victory here in papering over the structural or general with the individual narrative and what I can only call the Oprah Doctrine:  you create your own reality, everyone gets what they wish for (or work for) hard enough.  OTOH trad Communism and related left thought has shot self in foot repeatedly by the opposite error of judgment, refusing to regard the individual and the exceptional and focussing exclusively and prescriptively on the mass, the demographic, and the group identity -- not to mention the persistent theme that "equality" can be created by brute force and conformity.  (but this I suspect has more than a little to do with the co-optation of left rhetoric as a stalking horse for the age-old human taste for power, control, micromanagement and humiliation of "lesser" folks).

If anything the ambiguity of hapa, mixte, metis persons helps to undermine both dysfunctional worldviews, by reminding us both of the power of demographic categories (how little melanin it takes to be defined as Nieblanke and to be regarded with suspicion as a potential shoplifter in a white store) and of how permeable and ambiguous are these apparently concrete taxonomies of race -- and gender too, the original hotly-defended dichotomy.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 02:48:26 PM EST
i'm half italian, half english, so i resonate with this discussion, which has been fascinating, btw. vintage ET.

props to afew for frontpaging it, and the many pithy, reasoned and highly intelligent comments that have added to it... in wales, the maturity and depth in marshalling your arguments is especially pleasurable to observe. valentin, while i don't agree with some of what you assert, you argue very well, and set up in wales beautifully!

growing up in england in the 50's and 60's with slightly more than the correct amount of melanin in my complexion to pass muster as a genuine fullblooded native, (too olive, sanguine and quick to respond to the all too occasional ray of sun!)....was a trip, into racism. back then immigrants were pretty few and far between compared to now especially. i clearly remember the shock i experienced the first time an obviously west indian ancestry bus conductor spoke to me in a brummy brogue that i would swear on a stack of tao te chings no immigrant could have picked up without being immersed in it from the gitgo.
it was a turning point, i know, because there was a chord that was struck deep inside me that moment, that still sounds.

britain had stopped being 'little england' and was joining the rest of the planet in the genetic shuffle cheaper world travel and rising population numbers was heralding.

it's funny how snapshot, individual incidents carry such symbolic valence, much greater than is suspected at the time, even though one could still be dimly aware how big a turning point it would prove...

shortly after that i became aware of the narrative of british workers being slothful with their tea-break mentality (probably from conservative party propaganda, or giles cartoons...both were in evidence at my very english wumbledown grandparents' house), and about the same time i became aware of a growing number of statuesque, dark skinned brothers working on the dirtier jobs, construction, road repair etc.

they were a revelation, they were very strong looking, and smiled a lot with many more white teeth, and actually made it look like the job wasn't really that taxing.

all this i took in with the eyes of a child, sucking in the data for later processing with an adult mind.

harvesting dots...

meanwhile at school the epithets of 'wog', 'eyetye', etc were coming thick and fast, along with the physical abuse from bullies, the bane of my life, (i seem to have the words 'abuse me' written on my forehead in invisible ink readable only by authoritarians, preferably uniformed).

conditioned early to unthinking obedience, backed up by physical force...

children are so incredibly cruel.

anyway, eventually i realised many brits were in their own hell, that had nothing to do with skin colour, and in fact the immigrants knew how to have fun a lot better than the natives, had better parties, great music (ska was breaking), great food, (indian restaurants were still rarish), and the best blues clubs, like the ramjam, where i saw eric clapton play with john mayall for 50c upstairs from the pub, were very mixed race, with even some inter-racial couples, tho that was still dodgy, as i discovered with my first serious, 3 year love affair, with an adorable french girl, 21 to my 18, who had a halfbreed story of her own.

her dad was a 60 year old aristocrat fallen on hard times, and her mother a guadeloupian dancer the old soldier had fallen in love with when she was dancing at a parisian boite at 16.

they divorced before i met my sweetheart, but i got to meet the dad...

he was rattling around in a moulding chateau, a sweet old codger, 'gateux' she'd fondly call him...such a great word for 'senile', implying too much cake along the years, lol!

and the mother was cooking in a guadeloupian restaurant in paris, throwing rice over her shoulder to placate the spirits if it ever burned, much as some throw salt in our culture...

'our'...where, to whom do i belong?

i recognise identity issues in myself, i try to name them with national characteristics..geographically the halfway point between italy and england lies in france, which maybe explains why french came easier to me than italian, and i always have a special feeling for french women, as they were the first to initiate me into the arts of love, and i bless them still for their tenderness, playful sensuality, and joie de vivre.

not characteristics i experienced often in my nation of origin, born as i was in wetminster!

my mum was neapolitan, actually from salerno, site of the first medical university in europe, i learned later, perhaps trying to understand why healing interested me from quite early on.

she had buckled down to the grim job of living in postwar, milk powder rationed england with will, an herculean work ethic and yet a growing resignation, which ground her down over the 25 years she tried to subscribe to the english way of doing things, especially with regard to parenting. a guide to the levels of her frustration could be found in her frequent, vesuvian eruptions of rage, followed by days of resentment, poor thing had had her family stripped of its assets in italy by the germans and her early teenage years blighted by that tragedy, amongst others.

still she had a good education and a kind heart, under the pain and tension she experienced trying to squeeze such a fiery, passionate nature into the chintz and aspidistra conformity of the british middle class of the time.  the anglo disease, perfectly incarnated in my adman dad's philosophy, or lack of it, stole her soul, as it does daily to millions, and it was not till three months before her death at 67 that she shed its symptoms, returning to the playful, naturally loving humanness she had subsumed under the crust of genteel living and the endless 'comme il faut's that nailed their existence to conformity, keeping up appearances for neighbours they never knew personally...

it is still difficult to reconcile the two halves of my character living in italy, yet always a foreigner, because it's not my mother tongue, because i grew up a stranger in a strange land, and therefore accepting it has been a process i undertook to understand, willy nilly, just as barack and those other cappucino guys, though obviously their challenge is a million times harder than mine was, i do have an inkling at leat from my experience.

not finding all your roots in one convenient place or set of mores, you look a little wider for an identity that embraces both, and since you're out in deeper waters by then and seeing possible benefits, why not go all the way, and seek identity as a human, without any national boundaries to define one, shoot for the moon, so to speak?

all the steps are interesting, after trying on american polynesia for a big chunk, i appreciate europe so much more than when i was raised here, because we've both changed!

thank god and evolution, because i was pretty happy to shake its dust off my feet in my early 20's, sensing the coming thatcher years in my bones as i surveyed the increasing dystopic direction the you-kay was heading in, and hit the road as hard and often as i could.

rambling on...ET is a perfect space to try and understand the de-nationalising (maybe para-nationalising) that is the positive side of globalism, a word i prefer much to 'globalisation', now that i stop and think about it..

sorta like the difference between dominion and domination. nuanced , but there.

viva ET, where cultures collide like waves in a bay, and where we can recognise each others' humanity even when speaking from the inherited and adopted divers matrices of our national emblems and beliefs!

mix it up baby! blur those lines! nations and their ideas are all veggies for the great minestrone of humankind.

now if we could make 'kind' a synonym of 'human'...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 07:33:26 PM EST
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