Friday, September 13, 2013

On the Anniversary of 9/11, or Why I Fear the Tea Party

My dear old friend Brad, a writer for many years, has finally entered the blogosphere.  And he's definitely speaking my language:

The Tea Party movement is guilty of helping to foster a resurgence of xenophobia and bigotry in this country which has mostly lain dormant for all of my lifetime.

That’s not to say the last half century has been a time of uninterrupted social harmony in the U.S. Far from it. As a white boy I heard, and often repeated, “off-color” jokes. But that kind of soft bigotry thankfully faded as I grew up, until it was pretty much relegated to the fringes of society. It didn’t go away; I fear that may be too much to hope for. It just stopped being acceptable to flaunt backward-ass thinking in the mainstream. As a result, white people like me learned a different, in my opinion better, way of viewing the world.

Then 9/11 happened. Since then I’ve noticed that the bigots I know and am related to have stopped whispering their n****r or f*g jokes. They’ve stopped prefacing them with a disingenuous apology or an explanation of how they, personally, have nothing against the human beings their punch lines denigrate. In other words, these mainstream, passive bigots once more feel comfortable expressing the xenophobia they probably never stopped feeling.

More here.

He cross-posted this on facebook, and here's my comment from that venue--the Brian who I reference, a mutual old friend of mine and Brad's, had commented earlier that sexism has also reared its ugly head in recent days, too.

Okay, good post, Brad. Here's my take.

None of this stuff ever really went away, just as you suggest. People shut up for a while, to be sure, and are definitely starting to run their stupid mouths more today than, say, twenty years ago. But I think another dynamic has been in play for some decades now. The rhetoric and thinking on the right wing about racism, and yes, Brian, sexism, too, has undergone a dramatic reconfiguration in the face of the massive liberation movements of the 60s and 70s.

For starters, the conservatives fairly quickly came up with their own definitions of racism and sexism, definitions that condemned the most obvious and egregious manifestations of identity based oppression, but left intact the ability to oppress for reasons that are not so obviously racist or sexist. Thus, we see conservatives insisting they are not racist because they have no problem having a beer with a black guy. But conservatives feel perfectly free to blame poverty stricken blacks for their own plight, concocting culturally based explanations, bad fathers, promiscuous mothers, welfare dependency, etc., that are, in fact, essentially racist, but take on a faux veneer of sociology to provide cover--remember that awful book in the 90s, The Bell Curve, bogusly using statistical information to "prove" that blacks have inferior intellects? Indeed, this approach has been so thoroughly internalized by conservatives that most of them don't even realize they're doing it, and will squeal like pigs at the slaughter if you tell them they're being racist. It's been a very successful strategy. They've even got Bill Cosby doing some of their demagoguery for them, it's so damned confusing.

So lynching, for instance, is condemned by everybody, but welfare queen rhetoric, to conservatives, isn't racist at all. Needless to say, this favored conservative definition of racism, and sexism, too, TOTALLY disregards any institutional manifestations of identity based oppression. It simply doesn't exist to conservatives. If there are more black men in prisons than whites, to them it's because blacks simply commit more crimes, not because the criminal justice system takes square aim at black people in order to oppress them. If women make less money than men for the same work, it's because women take time out of their careers to have babies, not because of the good old boys' club. And so on.

That the mainstream news media take these bogus conservative ideas seriously and as an equivalent to more honest thinking about these issues leaves Americans in the middle utterly confused. Meanwhile, we have guys like Rush Limbaugh pushing the envelope on this delicate rhetorical and intellectual dance for years and years. "I'm not racist; I'm just telling it like it is!" The mainstream has only recently stopped giving his ilk the benefit of the doubt, but it remains to be seen how long that will last.

In short, the identity movements never really finished the job, even though these movements were effectively over by the time Reagan was elected. It only appeared that they had won some lasting victories. But the resentments of white men festered unseen--it is interesting to note how such resentments melded so seamlessly with Southern white culture, which is based entirely on resentment. All it took was a massive terrorist attack to bring it out into the open, and this was compounded by electing a black man to the Oval Office.

That is, resentful conservative white men are, as you said, Brad, running scared. Deep down, they're terrified that their time has ended. So they're showing their true selves in what appears to be a blind panic.
'Nuff said.