Affirmative Gutting

Four initial thoughts on the efforts of the Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department to end collegiate Affirmative Action practices:

1) I know that liberals spent the last few weeks defending Sessions from getting fired by Donald J. Megalomaniac in order to defend both the ongoing Russian investigation and, probably more centrally, some sense of order and precedence in the White House cabinet. True, perhaps we’ll get further on the Russia investigation with Sessions protecting Mueller, et al, then we would if the AG post became a revolving door. And maybe, after a while, the trade off will be worth it just to see Trump packing his bags and the GOP panicking. But the way that Sessions acts while at the head of the single most powerful policing and legal agency in the world doesn’t give me any hope that any investigation into Trump will stand anyway, let alone that anything of value will come about from it. Furthermore, any chance for any procedural decorum is clearly out the window in Mar-A-Lago & McConnell’s stints. Democrats wasted opportunities to blow through filibusters when Obama was in office thinking they could use the procedure when they become the minority power, and to what end? Perhaps we’d be better off with no Attorney General than to stick with Jeff Klansmans.

2) Remember that Trump, like Bushie before him, is a legacy child. Affirmative Action doesn’t mean shit to people who’ve been born into wealth, into connections, into the racist family business. If Affirmative Action is truly a threat to the Myth of Meritocracy, then why are these legacies and inheritances not? Could it be that the Meritocratic Myth is simply a manifestation of and protectorate of White Supremacy and Capitalism? Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that property and trust funds should not be handed down to children of wealthy people; the kids didn’t earn that. They should go out into the world with a clean slate like the rest of us poor suckers and make their own way. Maybe, in fact, we should begin this process at birth. Since over one-fifth of all children live in poverty in the United States, it’s not fair that Barron Trump got to shit in gold lame diapers while 400,000 innocent children are placed in foster homes. Send him to the streets to earn his keep!

3) In the post Black Wall St era, the best hope for build-up for Black and Latinx wealth has been through AA programs–not just in college acceptance but in hiring. But then those programs began to be gutted under Reagan and both Bushes, particularly under their judges, and Black wealth subsided. The Republican administrations and legislators also worked to kill federal unions, where the Black middle class was rising. The demolition of welfare under Republican and neoliberal Democratic administrations then took the bottom out of poverty. In fact, this notion that somehow Trump is a different breed of Republican is fully repulsive. He and his are merely trying to finish what their heroes got primed. He’s following the business ethos that Reagan and Thatcher pushed to its logical conclusion: Always Be Closing.

4) If anything, this final swig at Affirmative Action demonstrates we need full-on socialism and reparations anyway. Universal preschools and daycare, guaranteed income, an infrastructure that reaches to the working and permanent underclass, abolition of debt and prisons… It’d also be nice if we can stop relying on prestigious college education to be the determiner of worth.


“Food Is a Weapon”

From theologian James Cone’s The Black Church and Marxism: What Do They Have to Say to Each Other? (paper delivered in 1980):

I have been convinced that the black church cannot remain silent regarding socialism, because such silence will be interpreted by our Third World brothers and sisters as support for the capitalistic system which exploits the poor all over this earth.

For example, between 25,000 and 50,000 people die each day from starvation, a cause that is directly related to the persistence of national and international economic orders that foster distorted development. The former secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, well known for his racial slurs, said it bluntly: “Food is a weapon. It is now one of the principal tools of our negotiating kit.”

From a Rolling Stone story covering the Republican National Convention in 76, while Earl Butz was still Secretary of Agriculture (content note for racist/sexist remarks):

Pat [Boone] posed a question: “John and I were just discussing the appeal of the Republican party. It seems to me that the party of Abraham Lincoln could and should attract more black people. Why can’t that be done?” This was a fair question for the secretary, who is also a very capable politician.

“I’ll tell you why you can’t attract coloreds,” the secretary proclaimed as his mischievous smile returned. “Because colored only wants three things. You know what they want?” he asked Pat.

Pat shook his head no; so did I.

“I’ll tell you what coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit. That’s all!”

Pat gulped twice.

Butz resigned a few days after calls were made for his head, but he claimed he did it on his own (that seems unlikely) and that he did nothing wrong.

A few thoughts on reading these:

  • Remember that Pat Boone was himself a nice racist, hired to whitewash the Race Music (as in, Rhythm & Blues and early Rock N Roll that sounded too black) for the innocent White Christian kids across America.
  • Butz clearly outlined his racial animosity, and did so to a reporter and a famous musician. In the open. At a national convention. In the post-Civil Rights era. Don’t think that it isn’t still happening. Paul Ryan may be more careful about his views now, but he’s still racially animositic; in large part because class warfare is his life.
  • Butz was in control of food and production as a kind of supermanager of agrarian companies. What does it mean to black and brown farmers and consumers to have a white racist in charge of food supply and farming justice in the Land of Plenty? Why did it take a directly racist comment to get him fired when he admitted elsewhere that he’d use food as a weapon?
  • Butz was hired by Nixon and stayed under Ford. Until this article spread, no one deemed it fit to question how he operated, only what he said when they were dirty jokes.
  • George W Bush, Reagan and Nixon had a lot of the same characteristics of the Illegitimate President of the United States, but with some charm and/or intelligence and, by degrees only, humility. Many of the safeguards that Trump has taken out or will take out were already proposed or committed by the earlier three. What now is different besides the degree and the speed to which he’s taking it? What sets “p*ssy grabber” apart from Reagan who defunded family planning globally and domestically? I’m convinced that language plays a big part of it. Language and bluster.
  • Like Butz, Trump has no shame. None. Don’t expect Trump to go willingly, either. And since he has no shame and is a blundering racist, sexist, classist idiot, he’s a perfect cover for Republicans who can always say that they were forced to follow Trump, even though they’re informing him and using his bluster as a cover. Expect Medicaid and Food Stamps to be cut, with or without Trump’s blessing. Because food is a weapon.

On Praxis Versus Stasis: #TheNewPacifism

Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.
Galatians 3 (The Message)

I identify as a Christian, as a communist, as anti-violence, and as an anarchist. Which I know confuses the mess out of people (partly why I like to identify as such).

But these are words. Markers. They help to frame, but don’t quite place. What does it mean to be a Christian (and particularly a White, male, straight) Christian in the United States? Both Cornel West and George W Bush are Christians. What does it mean to be a socialist – as one tends to think of Che, Mao and Castro, of violent unions and Soviet propaganda or super-duper unions and guys on Macs talking about revolution in coffee shops? And how does that jibe with they typical understanding of anarchism – whether that be Sex Pistols fans burning stuff down, wearing handkerchief masks and beating down cops in the most popular imagination, or people who really like Ron Paul and Austrian Economics who insist that taxation is coercive theft and government is slavery.

Briefly, I believe in following Jesus Christ as my Lord and his counter-intutive ways of loving my neighbor as myself and seeing the Supreme Creator God in every person and interaction. This definition isn’t necessarily the same type that Billy Graham or Pat Robertson would use, but it fits in within the history of Christianity.

I also come from a tradition that states that Christianity is a central identity – that “once saved, always saved.” I suppose maybe that is true, but I see salvation as being something that is never complete, never full (of course, we mean different things when we speak of “salvation.” But Christians have generally meant different things by these terms throughout Christian histories and traditions): salvation as following Jesus and acting according to his Spirit as mediated in the world. It’s “captivating every thought and principality” and so there is never a point of completion, never a destination. Always a journey. (This idea isn’t unique, of course. Just rather foreign to some sections of fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity.)

Socialism and anarchy appear paradoxical. But, in short, socialism and anarchy combine to be the sharing of resources and wealth and political agency of each person – from what each has to what each needs (socialism) but without centralized power (anarchism). Generally, when people hear these terms, they also imagine a kind of netherworld destination. With these two, it is a place, a no-place, a Utopia. Rainbows and ponies and all that razzle-dazzle (not that there’s anything wrong with rainbows and ponies!) where all problems are forever solved and everyone drinks free milk pumped by brawny hands and sits on down pillows and 4000 count thread sheets sewed by delicate fingers.

feather love

But I can’t subscribe to that. There will be no such future state, because that is not who we are – we are not wired like that and there will always be someone to take advantage and oppress. Rather, I think of anarchy and socialism as trends, as direction, as practice. Not a future destination– but a way of equality and solidarity and mutuality where no one group or person is marginalized or oppressed for another, where all are represented and the underrepresented are finally represented.

It is for this that I cannot separate my Christianity from my praxis, my anarchism from my praxis, my socialism from my praxis – they must be more than words. They must be doings. Faith without deeds is dead, said the Apostle James, brother to Jesus.

Just as integrally, I cannot separate any of these from feminism and womanism and mujerism, from anti-racism and post-colonialism, or from anti-ageism and anti-ableism and all intersectional forms of justice and equality and talking back to the colonizers and oppressors.

It is feminism and anti-racism and anti-ableist agency that teach us how to recognize all people as fully human and respect places, identities, and the things that the privileged and powerful see as abnormal, as oddities, as less-than. These movements also teach us to identify and deconstruct the systems of power and violence that keep people in the margins and that deny access to integral resources and support. White men cannot quite comprehend the oppression and violence that black women face on a daily level through just the lenses of pacifism or anarchy or socialism because none of those strains are neutral. They come about through prisms, and for white men, they come through the perspective of white men. So we must learn to adopt and sync to other views as well; for though we White men can never lose our perspectives, we are foolish to merely retain ours as if it were the ONE TRUE objective perspective. There is no such thing.

Some would-be radicals will say that all of this is extra excess and nonsense. That all you really need is communism or anarchy or Christianity and the rest just naturally fall into place. But each identification has troubling aspects. Each identity must be subjugated to questioning and interrogation for its participation in White, Male, Cis-, Class, and Hetero-Supremacy.

When I teach or tutor or write or become involved in community efforts or parent, I consider that I am not the only shaper, that my experience is not universal; I am not the only person influenced and influencing this world. I can’t teach without desiring to empower my students and trying to meet each of them as not just students, but as equals, as human beings, as complex and wonderful people. I can’t father without believing fully that my daughter is a full and equal human being who is now a little girl and that I want to make the world somewhat better for her while helping her carve out a good path in this hostile world – hostile to women’s bodies and experiences and minds.

That is why I am not satisfied with just anti-violence or just Christianity or just anarchism or just socialism.

And so I listen to the marginalized and oppressed voices and I practice and I meditate and listen some more.

It sounds like something Jesus would do, bear with others. And so I try to act in accord.

Note: This is the third in my series on the #TheNewPacifism synchroblog, all of which are hosted by Political Jesus.