Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Carol Anderson will not be deterred from calling out bullshit

The hard reality is seldom laid out more bluntly than in this Guardian oped.

Then there is Trump. He has no desire or intention to govern. He wants to rule. Where his word is our command. That’s why he admires the regimes in the Philippines, Russia and Turkey – and despises administrations such as Angela Merkel’s and Justin Trudeau’s. That is why he stages rallies where he is showered with adoration by hand-picked fans and, just as significantly, why he abhors town halls and press conferences. 


That is why he issues pronouncements and executive orders rather than provides any real leadership on developing legislation and policies. That is why he demands loyalty to him – not to the US constitution. That is why he rails against a free press calling the media “fake news” and “garbage journalism” because he can’t control its content. That is why he is contemptuous of science and scientists because it and they will not bend to his ignorance. That is why his first full Cabinet meeting was a scene straight out of Pyongyang and not Washington.

Anderson is an historian, a student of social movements, and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University. Her 2016 book, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide does for U.S. history what the paragraphs above do in relation to the Trump presidency: it cuts through bullshit to deliver what our past looks like from an unvarnished Black perspective. White people respond to black protests against injustices like police killings of unarmed Black men by calling out "black rage." Anderson insists that the driver of our history is "white rage."

Hence her title and central concept:

With so much attention focused on the flames, everyone had ignored the logs, the kindling. In some ways, it is easy to see why. White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. ...

The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people, that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship. It is blackness that refuses to accept subjugation, to give up. ...

And all the while, white rage manages to maintain not only the upper hand, but also, apparently, the moral high ground. ...

White rage maintains itself by systematically distorting and erasing our history.

The truth is that enslaved African Americans plotted and worked -- hard -- with some even fighting in the Union army for their freedom and citizenship. ...

The truth is that when World War I provided the opportunity in the North for blacks to get jobs with unheard-of pay scales and, better yet, the chance for their children to finally have good schools, African Americans fled the oppressive conditions in the South. ...

The truth is that opposition to black advancement is not just a Southern phenomenon. ...

The truth is that when the Brown v. Board of Education decision came down in 1954 and black children finally had a chance at a decent education, white authorities didn't see children striving for quality schools and an opportunity to contribute to society; they saw only a threat and act accordingly, shutting down schools ...

The truth is that the hard-fought victories of the Civil Rights Movement caused a reaction that stripped Brown of its power, severed the jugular of the Voting Rights Act, closed off access to higher education, poured crack cocaine into the inner cities, and locked up more black men proportionally than even apartheid-era South Africa.

The truth is that, despite all this, a black man was elected president of the United States ... Perhaps not surprisingly, voting rights were severely curtailed, the federal government shut down, and more than once the Office of the President was shockingly, openly, and publicly, disrespected by other elected officials. ...

I have no doubt that if Anderson had been writing after the 2016 election, she'd attribute Donald Trump's victory to this same white rage. Even Van Jones, always so careful not to push white folks' buttons, blurted it out on election night: "This was a white lash."

The book explores each of the historical truths she enumerated in this catalogue and the result is solid, essentially incontrovertible, history. We don't all know these facts. If we are ever to do any better, we need to.

And Anderson does not despair of a way forward; she keeps the faith with her forebears who have struggled against the shackles forged by white rage throughout the history she recounts.

The Land of Opportunities did not have to be the Land of Missed Opportunities. We, as a nation, have a choice. ...It is time to defuse the power of white rage. ... Visionaries, activists, judges and politicians before us saw what America could be and fought hard for that kind of nation. ...This is when we choose a different future.

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