Of course racism is deplorable. The violence, incredible suffering and terrible tragedies that result from racism are reprehensible. Of course we must confront racism in all its forms in the strongest possible way. Our hearts go out to all those who have endured the brutality of racism in all its countless manifestations. And we resolve to do as much as we can to stop the hatred.
If we really care about dramatically reducing and eliminating racism, though, we must go further than just condemning it when we see it rear its ugly head. We must work to eliminate the conditions that make racism more likely to flourish.
Holding racists accountable is step one. But we also need to look at root causes. To do so, we need to go beyond simplistic explanations like “Trump’s a racist enabler. Get rid of him & the problem will be solved!”
We need to look deeper. We need to ask ourselves why the visible forms of racism are on the rise at this particular moment in America and confront those responsible for creating the climate for such hatred to thrive. Being against fire only goes so far if you don’t address the conditions that make fires more likely.
Imagine a thousand people in a theater waiting for a speech to begin on an hot and muggy summer evening in Texas. Republicans and democrats are the house managers of the theater and a corporation, which is paying the house managers, owns the the building. The speaker for the evening is running hours late and the heat and humidity inside the theater are unbearable. Republican and democratic house managers turn off the air conditioning and water to save money for their corporate bosses. People are sweating and swearing and some are even collapsing from the high temperature. People are agitated, frustrated and flustered and they start climbing over each other, fighting for the exits. But the exit doors are in poor condition and people have trouble getting out. The stampede for the doors results in a huge pile up and the swinging of fists. People begin fighting amongst one another for all sorts of irrational reasons. Everyone is on edge. The audience members are blaming each other when, in fact, it was the house managers and corporate execs who were responsible for the horrible mess.
And that’s when republican and democratic house managers make an extraordinary announcement over the loudspeakers: “Stop this violence. You are deplorable. This is not who we are. Behave yourselves and treat each other with respect!” That may sound audacious and duplicitous. After all, the house managers bore an enormous amount of responsibility for what was going on. But when you get right down to it, the statement by the house managers blaming the audience members is not much different from the pronouncements and posturing of some political leaders on both sides of the aisle in our nation right now. It takes a lot of nerve to decry racism when you have helped create the environment in which it is likely to thrive.
Racist behavior is deplorable. It should never be excused in any way and must be confronted. Its perpetrators need to be held accountable in the strongest of terms. But what is also deplorable is our own refusal to recognize that the terrible ills of racism and xenophobia increase dramatically when the heat of economic conditions are turned up. (The 2 minute video clip below from a 1947 U.S. War Department anti-fascist film clearly shows why). And what’s worse is that that heat has been turned up very deliberately by both republican and democratic leaders at the behest of their corporate campaign donors.
Again, ask yourself: Why are Americans more ripe for the plucking by hateful ideology right now? People are falling prey more easily to the abomination of racism and fascism in this era because of the enormous and growing wealth inequality, poverty and suffering brought on by neoliberal policies. People who do have jobs are working longer hours for less money despite productivity being way up. And many people have to work more than one job just to ensure the basics for their families. A recent survey by the Atlantic showed that 47% of Americans couldn’t even come up with $400 in the event of an emergency. Economic insecurity is like a pressure cooker. And that pressure cooker brings out the worst in us, making us more susceptible to easy answers from opportunistic divisive hucksters.
Republican & Democratic political leaders may sound different on TV but for 20 years, they’ve BOTH been pursuing policies that have made conditions intolerable for a large number of Americans. And those political leaders on both sides of the aisle have done so at the behest of corporate donors who have essentially bought members of congress out from under their constituents. Great inequality and suffering has resulted from those policies. According to the magazine The Nation, 20 individuals in the U.S. now own as much wealth as the 150 million poorest Americans — half the nation!
The middle class has been hollowed out. The wealthiest few have used those same bought off congressmen to further tilt the playing field in their favor, making them even richer. At the same time, real wages for everyone else have remained flat for decades.
All of this suffering that comes from a rigged game creates economic conditions and a frustration that have a lot of similarities to those in 1930’s Germany. That economic insecurity created the fertile ground that gave rise to fascism. Instead of addressing the true root of people’s suffering, the shell game of fascism preyed on those who were enduring economic hard times and offered them false but easy answers. By championing neoliberal policies, both Democrats and Republicans brought on hard economic times for average Americans and set the stage for a xenophobic con man to work his divisive magic on a desperate populace.
Don’t believe me that we DEMOCRATS are just as responsible for this as republicans? Think about it. We democrats paid attention to Wall Street (our big donors) and paid lip service to Main Street (our voters) for two decades.
We harmed millions of working class families by supporting NAFTA (shipping millions of blue collar jobs overseas while being patted on the head by big corporate donors).
It was under a Democratic administration that the Glass Steagall Act was eliminated, a move which many respected economists agree set the stage for the devastating 2008 financial crisis (thereby causing even more suffering to poor and middle class citizens of all backgrounds).
We democrats in our triangulation helped champion mass incarceration (a move that hit African American families particularly hard).
Many centrist democrats voted for the disastrous war in Iraq which cost thousands of precious lives (and mostly not the lives of the privileged). That war also maimed tens of thousands and cost over a trillion dollars, money that could have been invested in education, affordable housing and infrastructure here at home.
As a result of the tilted playing field we have helped maintain, wealth inequality has reached a staggering level.
Don’t believe that corporations gave rise to all this by buying off political leaders in the Democratic and Republican parties? Well, just look at the these stats. Congressmen doing the bidding of corporations supporting a rigged game have successfully gotten a good chunk of the population to think that there are a bunch of “takers” who are living off the “makers”. But look at the last bullet point on this list. It turns out corporations are the real takers and American citizens are the makers. We’ve been duped by a shell game to turn on each other while the guys running the rigged game smile all the way to the bank. (post continues below graphic).
None of this excuses racism of course. Racism is abhorrent in all its forms wherever it arises. Racism in all its forms must be strongly confronted in every way possible in the strongest terms. But, again, to only decry racism without decrying the conditions that consistently give rise to it is to decry fire without addressing the conditions that make fire more likely.
Citizen care about those conditions. Politicians may even care about those conditions. But corporations do not. They only care about one thing: money (no matter how many gauzy, image-building, people-friendly ads they run on TV). Make no mistake about what we’re dealing with here. We have to be honest: If enacting policies (whose side effects are a dramatic unsustainable wealth inequality and the shipping of millions of American jobs overseas) helps the corporate bottom line, then corporations will pursue those policies (human beings be damned!). Corporations don’t care that they hollow out America, decimate the middle class and makes life positively intolerable for a huge chunk of the population. The don’t care if their policies inadvertently create a situation where 50% of the nation is “economically insecure”. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/my-secret-shame/476415/ . They also don’t care a bit about passing along costs for externalities like pollution onto citizens. Privatize the profits and socialize the losses is one of their favorite credos.
Unfortunately it isn’t hard for corporations to gather willing political leaders to sell such destructive policies to the American people. Thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, corporations can buy whatever political leaders they need on both sides of the aisle to enact such policies. Just like any predator would, corporations have taken full advantage of the politicians they purchase. Things have become so blatantly corrupt that corporate controlled entities like ALEC literally write legislation. Bought off legislators just add their names and introduce it. Yes, it really is that bad.
Many political leaders are bought and paid for by corporations. And they are claiming that the nation is broke when, in fact, wealth is simply concentrated in the hands of a few. We are giving industry the keys to the castle by reducing environmental protections for human beings and the planet (something that is definitely NOT in the nation’s interest). Consumer protections and workplace safety provisions are being removed. Healthcare and the safety net are being cut in order to give HUGE tax breaks to the wealthiest citizens. Meanwhile, the wealthy pay HALF of what they used to in taxes (tax rate on them was 70% in the 1950’s). The fact that any political leader would argue that those wealthy individuals need even more of a break at a time like this is unconscionable.
The tyranny of corporatism is flourishing right now in this country and it’s doing so at the expense of the citizens that the system was meant to serve. The policies of the last two decades have created a level of wealth concentration, wage stagnation and economic insecurity that provides just the right conditions for racism and fascism to flourish.
In addition to standing up to racists and fascists, we must also rise up peacefully and non-violently and hold our political and corporate leaders accountable (more on the specific methods below). It’s time. They have colluded to systematically create an environment where we’re suffering and we’re far more likely to fall into the trap of racism and fascism. The awful neoliberal policies championed by corporate leaders may have helped their bottom line, but the byproduct has been a hollowing out of our great nation. The situation has reached a crisis point. This will not stand. It’s up to us to insist upon a system that serves human needs. If a system does not serve human needs, what’s the point?
The key is unifying. Corporatism has only flourished because we have fallen into the trap of infighting. Once we realize that we have more in common than we have dividing us, we will be able to make decisions from a position of unified strength rather than making demands from a position of divided weakness. Together we are so much greater than the sum of our parts. Corporatism is no match for unified citizenry.
We DO have the power to reverse those policies. After all, for every 1 corporate leader and super wealthy person, there are 99 of us. And one person still equals one vote. Our interests should be represented every time. In fact, with those numbers, we should have to make extra effort to make sure the tiny minority of the super wealthy has a voice and doesn’t get marginalized. That may sound funny, but it’s true. We citizens have HUGE power, but are not using it. Now is our moment to shine.
(Don’t miss the section below entitled “7 notes on SOLUTIONS”).
Check out this 2 minute clip from the award-winning documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story” to see why WE ACTUALLY HAVE MUCH MORE POWER THAN CORPORATIONS AND THE WEALTHY:
Also check out this 2 minute clip of the 1947 US War Council anti-fascist film that’s recently gone viral. This gets at the issue of conditions that give rise to hatred. Without those conditions, the guy running the shell game runs out of suckers.
(Here’s the 17 minute clip of that same film if you’re interested:
7 NOTES ON SOLUTIONS:
a) Here’s 50 second clip of Gandhi (in film) explaining how absurd it is that 100,000 British tried to rule over 300 million Indians. Hmmmm. Sound familiar? The numbers here in America are pretty similar. And what was his solution? Noncooperation. That same solution will work very well for us.
b) Check out this excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”. It’s about the GOOD form of TENSION:
“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”
“The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation.”
Here’s the entire “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”: http://abacus.bates.edu/admin/offices/dos/mlk/letter.html . It’s a treasure and is as timely as ever.
c) JAMILA RAQIB BRILLIANTLY SHOWS HOW WE CAN BEAT THIS WITH NONVIOLENT ACTION in this wonderful TED talk. Here she puts it simply: “Nonviolent struggle works by destroying an opponent. Not physically but by identifying the institutions that an opponent needs to survive and then denying them those sources of power.”
d) THERE ARE 198 WAYS TO BEAT CORPORATE CONTROL OF OUR LEGISLATURE AND BEAT THE TRUMP REGIME WITH PEACEFUL DIRECT ACTION (Gene Clark was Jamila Raqib’s mentor):
e) ICELANDERS POINTED THE WAY FOR US when they rose up peacefully and took their government back:
f) ELIMINATE “PERSONHOOD” LEGAL STATUS FOR CORPORATIONS. The film “The Corporation” has a great section on how corporations won “personhood status”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SuUzmqBewg . Fast-forward to 2:20. This clip is only a couple of minutes and it will blow your mind. The 14th amendment was supposed to give equal rights to African Americans. It said you “can’t deprive a person of life, liberty or property without due process of law”. Corporation lawyers wanted corporations to have more power so they basically said “corporations are people.” Amazingly, between 1890 and 1910 there were 307 cases brought before the court under the 14th amendment. 288 of these brought by corporations and only 19 by African Americans. 600,000 people were killed to get rights for people and then judges applied those rights to capital and property while stripping them from people. It’s time to set this straight.
Fast-forward to 2:20
g) Transforming our thinking from a clearly destructive patriarchal mindset to a feminine one consistent with systems thinking (Trump and his ilk are the last gasp of failed patriarchy). Check out this thought provoking 2 minute clip about a whole new mindset:
h) Developing a new mindset that can help our communities and the planet thrive: The award-winning full length documentary “Planetary” may contain many of the answers we are looking for to try to get our world on the right track. Check out the preview: