Trump successfully leveraged white fragility to become the Pied Piper of bigots, leading the members of the Republican Party, who are so inclined, away from the clutches of the establishment and into a brighter future, where white supremacy is secure and the dream of American exceptionalism hasn’t been tarnished by the reality of American imperialism. Since scrutiny of the policies put in place by Republican politicians reveals their ineffectiveness at relieving the burden on white working-class and poor Americans, as well as their ineffectiveness at eliminating the “minority threat,” rank-and-file Republicans were easily convinced that their party has failed them. Indeed, it has. The GOP has been playing a shell game with its base, attempting to distract their base with the shiny toy that is white supremacy. Now, it is no longer effective—and not for reasons that are likely to be beneficial to the rest of us.[Read more at Bitch Magazine.]
As the country becomes more and more divided, at least according to polls, it seems as if there’s no real voice of reason in politics or the media to cut through the fog of partisan arguing, culture warring and political posturing. I find myself unable to really trust what I read in the news without knowing the author’s political leanings. I don’t want to hear from someone who is entrenched on either the left or the right. I want to hear news entrenched in objectivity and realism, and it just seems like those qualities are so lacking in every form of mainstream media. Of course, the Tea Partiers feel that every news outlet except Fox News is snowing them, dogged liberals feel like they can only trust MSNBC, and CNN is just a red-headed stepchild — neither hot nor cold, but still clinging to lukewarm sensationalism and faux-partisanship instead of taking up the oar and being the news network that is actually about facts and old-fashioned journalism. Independent media is an option, but ideological rigidity exists there, too, although it more often lines up with my ideals. I’ve taken to getting my news from The Daily Show, which is not actually news but is often a hell of a lot more informative than the current “news” offerings.
Due in no small part to this divided, subjective news reporting, the Tea Party continues to fight on and aggressive ignorance continues to reign supreme amongst their ranks. The recent gathering on the National Mall hosted by Glenn Beck to “reclaim the civil rights movement” purported to be non-political, but apparently some Tea Partiers didn’t get that message:
On the edges of the Mall, vendors sold “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, popular with tea party activists. Other activists distributed fliers urging voters “dump Obama.” The pamphlet included a picture of the president with a Hitler-style mustache.
Beck stated that the U.S. “has wandered in darkness”, which he is, ostensibly, prepared to lead us out of. If he truly wanted to lead the U.S. out of darkness he would encourage his followers to study a diverse selection of books and documentaries explaining how government works, what the civil rights movement was actually about, what MLK Jr.’s beliefs really were, and really anything that would impart basic knowledge about the difference between, say, socialism and fascism. Rather than reading his books, he could point them to some books that would enable them to identify the three branches of government, find out what the Civil War was actually fought over, explain what Nazism really was, introduce them to science, and teach them not to be afraid of the scientific method. Because it’s obvious that the majority of Tea Partiers, besides their leaders and the well-educated financial backers of the movement, are woefully undereducated when it comes to basic civics, social studies, U.S. and world history, and of course science. This is not to insult their collective intelligence, because being ignorant and being unintelligent are two different things. However, when you take a political position based solely on second hand information given to you by a talk show host who financially counts on you remaining ignorant, you’re not acting intelligent.
Not only are many Tea Partiers ignorant, they are aggressively, angrily ignorant. They don’t know the truth, and if you try to tell them the truth without donning some kind of anti-Obama t-shirt, they don’t want to hear it. In fact, a lot of non-Tea Party affiliated Americans are also in that boat. Newsweek recently listed “Dumb Things Americans Believe“, which sadly includes statistics like 1 in 5 Americans believing Obama is a Muslim, only 39 percent of Americans believing the theory of evolution and that in 1999 20 percent of Americans still believed the Sun revolves around the Earth. (Let’s hope that 11 years later those folks have taken an astronomy course or watched The Universe.) In the comments section, which of course on these big sites is usually full of the dregs of the web, someone angrily said they didn’t believe in evolution because the Bible is “proven to be the most historically accurate book ever”. Others, harnessing the full might of their poor grammar and spelling skills, took various anti-science or anti-Obama positions, stating that Newsweek was doing Obama’s bidding regarding the Muslim issue and various other statistics. Clearly it’s not simply politics and general civics and social studies facts that folks are angrily ignorant of.
I’m not really certain what the resolution to this problem would be. You can’t force adults to learn on their own and you can’t force them to retake high school or junior high classes. The news media clearly has no intent to become the beacon of objective knowledge that it should be any time soon, it’s bad for ratings. And even if they did, it’s unclear if the strong confirmation bias so much of the public displays would allow room for ideas that are contrary to their preconceived notions. It’s depressing to watch the country drowning in the vast sea of ignorance that has formed in the ever-widening chasm between red and blue. Unfortunately, I don’t see anyone with enough influence on the horizon preparing to throw the population a rope of rationality any time soon.
Why I continue to follow links relating to the Tea Party and whatever problematic tripe they’re spewing on that particular day, I don’t know. I only have a certain amount of anxiety medication allotted each month and I can’t afford to waste it. When I saw that the NAACP called the Tea Party a bunch of racists — oh wait, excuse me, when their delegates “passed a resolution to condemn extremist elements within the Tea Party, calling on Tea Party leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches“, my first thought was “here we go”. Because whenever a person of color — usually a black person, let’s get real — brings up race and the Tea Party, Tea Party members go straight to their first line of defense: deny vehemently that they’re racist, and then call the black person reverse racist and ungrateful. Oh, and “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ABRAHAM LINCOLN? He freed the slaves, you know. Or did you like being slaves? I guess you did, because you don’t love freedom like we do.”
Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton could probably see this coming ten miles away so they disassociated themselves real quick, as did Benjamin Jealous (really bad name to have in this case, dude, sorry), president of the NAACP. But it was too late. Something awful had to spew forth from a Tea Partier’s fingers onto their keyboard; that’s just how it works. This time, it took the form of a letter written by Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams, and it of course involves Abraham Lincoln. I’ll let you read it here, in its entirety:
Dear Mr. Lincoln
We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!
In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the ‘tea party movement’.
The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.
And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!
The racist tea parties also demand that the government “stop the out of control spending.” Again, they directly target coloreds. That means we Coloreds would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.
Perhaps the most the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?
Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.
Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew NAACP Head Colored Person”
So the “National Tea Party Federation“, a group that apparently represents the Tea Partiers, (but I thought this group did that? And this one?) responded to Williams’ letter by kicking his Tea Party Express group out of their sandbox. What impact this has on Williams, I don’t know, since the Tea Party doesn’t appear to be centralized. As far as I know, he can go on writing hateful, racist letters in the voice of a plantation slave under the Tea Party banner until the end of time. That’s the beauty of decentralization, right? States’ rights and all.
How does this screw-up by their self-appointed leaders help the “Yep, I’m a Racist” ground troops who are trying so hard to convince us they’re not racist that they willingly call themselves racist? Well, if anyone believed them in the first place it’d make them look pretty bad. But no one does believe them, because they’re so obviously lying to themselves and to the public, and they probably don’t even think about it. Because as I’ve always said, when a white person has to tell you they’re not racist, they’re probably really fucking racist.
And finally, to bring it home, what can white feminists learn from this? If a white feminist has to tell me they’re my ally, they’re probably not really my ally. In fact they probably just did me some harm. Not to harsh your mellow after chewing on that meaty bit of obvious racism, just to bring you back to earth. Because you’re always walking that fine line when you have white privilege. You have to work to be anti-racist. It’s not always as easy to point out the racism in things. Sometimes you have to look hard, and sometimes you have to look inward.
But I’m sure I didn’t need to remind you lovely folks of that.[This piece originally appeared on Feministe.]
For whatever the reason, a lot of white people seem to feel that since we elected a black man as our President, everything is A-OK on the race front. It appears that to them, the main goal of the civil rights movement was not to gain equal rights for people of color, or change hearts and minds, but to install a person of color in the highest office of the land. Anything else is gravy. So no one thinks twice about the level of rancor directed at our prized Black President or the fact that he gets 400% more death threats than Bush did, to the tune of 30 per day. Never mind that we have an almost entirely white movement calling for his head and hurling racial slurs at him and any other politician of color. None of that has anything to do with race, right? Because we’re past that! It’s just people, baby! White folks desperately want to believe this and for the most part they have blinded themselves to the actual truth.
So it’s unsurprising to me that people would act irrationally when confronted with an article about the danger of Obama becoming the “angry black man” stereotype in response to the oil spill crisis. Although, as the link says, most of the commenters on the article did not identify their race, I feel it’s safe to assume that the majority of the dissent comes from white people. I say that based on the comments themselves. For example:
“Why is CNN so race obsessed? Black in America part 27! Nobody cares about this stupid crap until they bring it up. The tiny slither of Americans that are racist against blacks are so small and insignificant it just isn’t worth mentioning.”
Somehow I doubt that any person of color would say “nobody cares” about race. The gall it takes to state that there’s only a tiny “slither” [sic] of Americans who are racist against black people could only have come from a white person. Contrary to what white people like the above commenter would like to believe, racism, both institutionalized and personal, is alive and well in the U.S. No need to retire those Klan robes just yet.
The level of ignorance regarding the significance of racial issues post-Obama is astonishing and somewhat frightening. What it reflects is white folks’ eagerness to not have to deal with the whole race thing anymore, without actually unpacking their privilege and doing the necessary internal reflection. Most white people have never wanted to work on their racism. They understand racism only as a personal thing, not a deeply entrenched part of our society. So now that we’ve made it to what white people consider the mountain top, it’s become offensive to call a white person racist because racism is over. Every time something happens that reminds us that racism ISN’T over, such as the Arizona immigration bill being passed or AZ outlawing ethnic studies classes, white people get defensive and angry at people of color who speak out against it for “playing the race card”. Sometimes, as a person of color, just EXISTING qualifies as playing the race card.
I become the Angry Black Woman when I think about how Obama has been treated by the white public. It’s hard for me to listen to criticism of him because so little of the criticism has substance other than just the underlying “he’s not in his place” sentiment. I’m not saying he’s perfect. But he does not deserve the level of vitriol expressed by so many towards him. Just like every other black person that succeeds in a white man’s world, he has to work twice as hard at the same job Bush half-assed for 8 years, and he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves. That makes me very angry. Maybe it’s because I identify with him; maybe it’s because I recognize injustice when I see it.
It’s hard to have a rational conversation about the pros and cons of Obama’s policy decisions in the midst of all the racist red herrings being tossed about by the likes of Glenn Beck and the Teabaggers. Mainly because most white people won’t accept the idea that he is being treated poorly because he is black. Being a black man and making it to the Presidency apparently means that racism no longer applies. I’ve spoken with people who are simply shocked that anyone would think that the hostile environment towards Obama is based on his race. When you look at what’s he’s done so far as President, he’s done nothing so egregious as to warrant an entire movement based on how he’s screwed up the country. But there they are, with signs that read “African Lion… Lyin’ African” next to a picture of a lion and a picture of Obama. Completely non racist, right?
So, I am an Angry Black Woman. I have to be angry to survive. I have to be angry to prevent myself from just giving up on social justice work period. I have to be angry to avoid the death spiral of depression that beckons to me every time I see a racist sign at one of those Teabagger rallies, or a man at an Obama rally with a semi-automatic weapon strapped to his back, or Bill Mahr on TV saying he wants a real black president — basically a thug with a gun.
Obama doesn’t have to be the Angry Black Man to rile white America. Just being a black man is enough.
Since Sarah Palin redefined the word “feminist” to include women who actively work against women’s rights, female Republican candidates in the upcoming primaries have been rallying behind the cause and riding the wave of faux-feminist populism to hopeful victories. In California in particular, two conservative women who have reached that apex of self-determination afforded by wealth are proving that white women can be rich, anti-woman Republicans too.
Carly Fiorina is running for the Republican nomination for one of California’s two Senate seats, currently held by Democrat Barbara Boxer. A self-made multimillionaire and former CEO of HP, she’s earned the right to play the big money game with the men running against her. Endorsed by Sarah Palin in her oddly admirable but entirely misguided quest to elevate conservative women candidates, Fiorina is now the favorite in the Republican primary. If she wins, she will run against Boxer, who has nowhere near the amount of money Fiorina has.
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman is the former CEO of eBay, and also came into her wealth through business. Her main opponent in the primary is state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who also gained his wealth through high tech business. Both Poizner and Whitman have spent masses of their personal fortunes battling it out — $80 million for Whitman, $23 million for Poizner.
These women are part of a new wave of conservative feminism, which apparently views women’s advancement in the workplace and politics to be the most important tenet of actual feminism. Basically, these conservative feminist leaders have decided that the advancement of women to the upper echelons of business — something they have already achieved — is what feminism should really be about. Behind the complicated, self-invalidating beliefs pairing the “right to life” with an exhortation to protect women and children and their token glorification of the homemaker is just the basic white feminist desire to finally reach that level of equality with men in regards to power and most importantly, privilege. Once the smoke clears, wealthy conservative feminist candidates will likely discontinue the rhetoric exalting homemaking as one of the most important things a woman can do. By opposing ideas like subsidized child care, access to birth control, and legal abortion, these women will actually make things worse for any homemaker not privileged by race and wealth.
Sarah Palin has cited Margaret Thatcher as a conservative feminist hero, even though Thatcher made it clear she did not desire to be called such, stating “I owe nothing to feminism”. This illustrates an important point: feminist does not mean “strong woman”. Conservative feminists conflate the two entirely, which is why they feel they can get away with calling themselves feminists while holding beliefs and supporting causes antithetical to feminism. By labeling every female Republican primary candidate “feminist” when they mean “strong woman” they seek to redefine the word so that they can appropriate it for their own benefit.
Being that the apparent leaders of the burgeoning conservative feminist “movement” are extremely privileged, it’s hard to believe they will advocate for anyone but those at their own level of privilege. If you take a look at those calling themselves conservative feminists, the vast majority of them are white. Their complete lack of focus on issues concerning women of color combined with the lack of representation of women of color in their movement belies their populist claims of “sisterhood”. As with families, in this movement your sister tends to look a lot like you. In that sense, conservative feminism hearkens back to the days when more liberal feminists sought to marginalize women of color, lesbian women, and poor women. This is not surprising, as conservatism tends to look backward rather than forward.
The conservative feminist movement desires to reap the rewards of the strides made by actual feminists without actually having to agree or support the whole of feminist ideology. By taking feminism and removing the tenets that are disagreeable to them, which happen to be the most important tenets, their message basically amounts to a sophisticated exhortation of “girl power”. But this girl power is solely available to those it benefits the most — wealthy, white, cisgendered women. Poor women, working class women, women of color, trans women, and other traditionally marginalized groups cannot see themselves in this movement because it is not designed for them. Real inclusive feminism sees the struggles of all women to be important, internal or external, as evidenced by the oft-quoted feminist refrain that “the personal is political”. This conservative feminism wants nothing to do with the personal unless it’s used as bait to reel in less privileged conservative women who will ultimately not be served by the movement at all.
Feminists who believe in actual social justice for all women, who work towards advancing related causes, must be vocal about the appropriation of the term “feminist”. As Kate Harding pointed out, “words mean things”. Working for, not against, women’s basic rights, including the right to choose, is a central tenet of feminism. Conservative “feminists” seek a redefinition that excludes that which is most important about the movement they are co-opting. We need to force them to come up with their own word.