Patriotism is for Black People – Donald Trump and the Selectivity of White Rage – by Tim Wise

Patriotism is for Black People: Colin Kaepernick, Donald Trump and the Selectivity of White Rage

August 30, 2016 – by Tim Wise

US PatriotismSo just in case you were wondering, when a white man bellows that America is no longer great, and in fact is akin to a third world country, and that many other countries are better than we are at all kinds of things — and this is why we should elect him, so he can “make America great again,” because right now, we’re sorta suckin’ wind — that is the height of patriotism. The kind of talk we need! The kind of nationalistic endorsement around which all Americans should be willing to rally.

And when this same man says black people aren’t safe from other black people, and they can’t even walk down the street without getting shot by other black people, and that’s why they specifically should vote for him, so he can make their communities safe, that too is to be understood as a laudable commentary, even an ecumenical “outreach” to African Americans. Because black folks naturally love it when white men tell them how utterly degenerate is their daily existence, having spent exactly zero time in actual black communities so as to know what the hell they’re talking about.      

However — and here’s where things get tricky — if a black man like 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand for the national anthem because he feels the country hasn’t done right by black folks, and especially with regard to the unpunished killing of far too many by law enforcement, that is to be understood as treasonous, as grounds for his dismissal from his team, and as a justification to insist that he take his exit from the nation he apparently “hates.” Because after all, who would condemn conditions in America who didn’t by definition hate it? (And as you ponder that query feel free to ignore the first two paragraphs above, as the maintenance of cognitive dissonance — big words, Trump fans wouldn’t understand — is incredibly valuable at times like this).

In short, white men (well, at least those on the right) can issue all manner of calumny against the United States of America. They can condemn its economics and its immigration policies; they can paint a picture of culturally defective black people as some underclass contagion within it; they can condemn it for not being sufficiently Christian, sufficiently militaristic, or sufficiently harsh on refugees. They can suggest that other countries are better at everything from infrastructure investment to trade negotiations, and still be viewed as fundamentally committed to the well-being of the country—indeed as presidential material, by millions.

But black folks cannot so much as open their mouths in criticism without the wrath of white America descending upon their shoulders. When they criticize — and especially if the criticism is about racism and inequality — they must be painted as hateful and petty. They must be told to leave because “there are millions who would gladly take their place,” and they must be made pariahs, symbolic of the lack of gratitude black people have for the country that has “given them” so much.

Of course, one might note (if one were being historically accurate, insightful or even remotely lucid, and I realize this is optional for white conservatives), that the same country has given white people quite a bit more over the centuries than it has blacks: like hundreds of millions of acres of virtually free land under the Homestead Act, hundreds of billions of dollars in housing equity under the FHA and VA loan programs at a time when blacks were barred from them, and job and educational opportunities for generations that it only recently has provided to African Americans, even in theory. As such, one might argue that if anyone’s complaints about America should raise concerns about ingratitude it is likely ours, not those of black folks. One could say that, you know, if honesty was a thing for which one had much regard.

And if one really wanted to wrap things up with a nice tidy bow, one might note (and I surely will now) that for a rich man like Donald Trump to complain about America — a nation that allowed even the mediocre likes of him to succeed by inheriting a couple hundred million dollars worth of assets from his daddy — is especially precious and ironic. Oh, and of course, when Trump complains, despite his supposed “billions” of dollars, the same people who scream that Kaepernick should shut up because he makes $11 million a year, go silent. Because when black people make more than white people, white people get pissy, but when other white people make more than white people, white people admire them. And so it goes.

Naturally, that so many rail against Kaepernick for criticizing the U.S.A. is hardly shocking. These are the same people who screamed about President Obama for campaigning on a desire to “change” America for the better, because America “doesn’t need to be changed,” dammit. Although “Hope and Change” was a far less pessimistic or critical slogan than “Make America Great Again,” those who embrace the latter were in full dudgeon over the former. Likewise, when Rev. Jeremiah Wright simply told the truth about the history of U.S.A. foreign policy — and he did, every single word — and suggested that perhaps God would not bless America but damn us for our actions, the fact that the Obamas had gone to church at Wright’s house of worship was, in the minds of millions, sufficient grounds for his defeat. Because again, black people are not allowed to condemn the country for its shortcomings.

When Thurgood Marshall, the nation’s first black Supreme Court Justice, threw cold water on the nation’s bicentennial celebration for the Constitution back in 1987 — and this, because, as he explained, he didn’t have 200 years to celebrate, given the deep-seated flaws embedded in the document at its inception, including the protection of chattel slavery — he was pilloried in the press. Marshall explained that the Constitution had been “defective” from the start, and only 200 years of struggle (led often and mostly by black folks, in fact) had begun to make real the promises of the founders. That Marshall’s historiography was exactly correct — inarguable even — mattered not to those who found his position intolerable and un-American.

It has always been thus: patriotism is for black people, meaning that it is they (or perhaps other immigrants of colour) who are expected to show gratitude, to ignore the nation’s flaws, to sign off on America’s greatness without reservation, because anything less is presumptive evidence of disloyalty. And it makes sense, really. After all, when your nation was built by the deliberate oppression of black and brown peoples, the exploitation of their labour, and the theft of indigenous land — and anyone who would deny this is insufficiently educated to be taken seriously — it is especially vital to police their devotion and fealty to the edifice that marginalized them; to punish them for any deviation. Because to allow them the space to criticize, to condemn, and to castigate, is to allow them the space to organize, and to fight, and to transform.

It is to ensure that they may be the ones to make America great. Not again. But for the first time.

And we can’t allow that.

Because to do so would force us to reckon with how much of our previous self-congratulatory back-patting had been unearned. It would force us to gaze upon the steady history of broken promises without sentimentality. And it would force us to make a decision as to where we stand: with our heads turned towards a fictive past or aimed in the direction of a better future.

Sadly, some would prefer to simply wave a flag and pretend that in the act of doing so they had demonstrated their love for the country and the people therein. But in truth, all such persons have ever managed to demonstrate is their own vapid understanding of the principles upon which said country was ostensibly founded.

The National Anthem, like the Pledge of Allegiance, is a symbol of America. But speaking out for justice is the substance of America, and therefore infinitely more valuable.

Tim Wise: On White Privilege (Clip) – YouTube video

The Pathology of Privilege
Racism, White Denial & the Costs of InequalityFor years, acclaimed author and speaker Tim Wise has been electrifying audiences on the college lecture circuit with his deeply personal take on whiteness and white privilege. In this spellbinding lecture, the author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son offers a unique, inside-out view of race and racism in America. Expertly overcoming the defensiveness that often surrounds these issues, Wise provides a non-confrontational explanation of white privilege and the damage it does not only to people of color, but to white people as well. This is an invaluable classroom resource: an ideal introduction to the social construction of racial identities, and a critical new tool for exploring the often invoked – but seldom explained – concept of white privilege.
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  • Clyde Duncan  On September 4, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    In medieval courts, the jester had special license to speak unpalatable truths. The silly hat, garish costume and jingling bells somehow liberated him to deliver unwelcome news.

    When Donald Trump launched his primary campaign last year, Republican elites underestimated him as a reality TV star – a showman good for entertainment, not high office. His acid tongue, however, enthralled the party’s base. He said the unsayable about immigrants, race, trade and the state of America, and he won the nomination.

    Now Trump is turning to a new audience. On Saturday [03 Sep 2016] he is due to visit a church in Detroit, grant an interview to its pastor and address the congregation, his first campaign speech to a black crowd.

    An ambitious courtship, to say the least. For many African Americans, the Republican candidate is a sinister clown, the man who tried to prove Barack Obama was Kenyan; who flirted with white supremacists; who refused to speak to black organisations such as the NAACP; and who, upon spotting a black man at a rally, said: “There! Look at my African American.”

    But the jester brings to Detroit a question, a blunt, uncomfortable challenge that compels attention and demands an answer. “What do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump? You’re living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed, what the hell do you have to lose?”

    Set aside that he pitched this to black people two weeks ago while addressing a white audience and that this vision of Gotham was factually incorrect – black youth unemployment is 17.6% – and cartoonish.

    It was, many feel, overdue recognition that eight years after the election of America’s first black president, millions of African Americans are struggling.

    “Nothing to lose? It’s true,” said Katrina Langford, 46, book shopping with two sons in Leimert Park, the centre of African American arts and culture in Los Angeles. She cited dire rates of incarceration, illness and poverty. Her boys clutched books about Louis Armstrong and Keith Black, a neurosurgeon, but the scene up the street was less inspirational: a shabby park with homeless people dozing under the California sun.

    Settling in for a trim 2,200 miles away in a Detroit barber shop on Gratiot Avenue, Leonard Logan, 45, saw things the same way. “What do you have to lose? And that’s true, that’s true. What do we have to lose?”

    Umi, a cigar shop owner in Bedstuy, a black area of Brooklyn, shared that bleak verdict. “In terms of the black community, it never comes to us, it don’t trickle down this far.” It barely mattered if Donald Trump or Donald Duck sat in the Oval Office, he said. “They just had a black man in the president’s box and he didn’t trickle down nothing.”

    Interviews this week with a cross-section of African Americans across the USA – east coast and west coast, rust belt and the deep south, lawyers, barbers, students, mothers and veterans – painted a heterodox picture of black America in the Obama twilight.

    Some are thriving, others floundering; some are hopeful about the future, others despairing; some consider Trump’s question offensive, others deem it pertinent. All, however, felt it worth answering.

    Responses ranged from having nothing to lose to having a lot – a hell of a lot – to lose.

    Concerns included policing, economic opportunity, judicial representation, voting laws and reproductive rights.

    The multifarious voices largely united on only one issue: Donald Trump, the jester, must not become king.

    The Guardian UK – Black Americans on “What they have to lose?” … if Trump becomes President

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 4, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Commentary:
    When this is over, you will have nothing that you want

    by Garrison Keillor

    The cap does not look good on you, it’s a duffer’s cap, and when you come to the microphone, you look like the warm-up guy, the guy who announces the license plate number of the car left in the parking lot, doors locked, lights on, motor running. The brim shadows your face, which gives a sinister look, as if you’d come to town to announce the closing of the pulp factory. Your eyes look dead and your scowl does not suggest American greatness so much as American indigestion. Your hair is the wrong colour: People don’t want a president to be that shade of blond. You know that now.

    Why doesn’t someone in your entourage dare to say these things? So sad! The fans in the arenas are wild about you, and Sean Hannity is as loyal as they come, but Rudy and Christie and Newt are reassuring in that stilted way of hospital visitors.

    And The New York Times treats you like the village idiot. This is painful for a Queens boy trying to win respect in Manhattan where the Times is the Supreme Liberal Jewish Anglican Arbiter of Who Has The Smarts and What Goes Where.

    When you came to Manhattan 40 years ago, you discovered that in entertainment, the press, politics, finance, everywhere you went, you ran into Jews, and they are not like you: Jews didn’t go in for big yachts and a fleet of aircraft — they showed off by way of philanthropy or by raising brilliant offspring.

    They sympathized with the civil rights movement. In Queens, blacks were a threat to property values — they belonged in the Bronx, not down the street. To the Times, Queens is Cleveland. Bush league. You are Queens. The casinos were totally Queens, the gold faucets in your triplex, the bragging, the insults, but you wanted to be liked by Those People. You wanted Mike Bloomberg to invite you to dinner at his townhouse. You wanted the Times to run a three-part story about you, that you meditate and are a passionate kayaker and collect 14th-century Islamic mosaics. You wish you were that person but you didn’t have the time.

    Running for president is your last bid for the respect of Manhattan. If you were to win the election, they couldn’t ridicule you anymore. They could be horrified, but there is nothing ridiculous about being Leader of the Free World. You have B-52 bombers at your command. When you go places, a battalion of security guys comb the environs. You attract really, really good speechwriters who give you Churchillian cadences and toss in quotes from Emerson and Aeschylus and Ecclesiastes.

    Labour Day and it is not going well. You had a very bad month. You tossed out those wisecracks on Twitter and the Earth shook and your ratings among white suburban women with French cookware declined. The teleprompter is not your friend. You are in the old tradition of locker room ranting and big honkers in the steam room, sitting naked, talking man-talk, griping about the goons and ginks and lousy workmanship and the uppity broads and the great lays and how you vanquished your enemies at the bank. Profanity is your natural language and vulgar words so as not to offend the Christers but the fans can still hear it and that’s something they love about you. You are their guy. You are losing and so are they, but they love you for it.

    So what do you do this winter? Hang around one of your mansions? Hit some golf balls? Hire a ghostwriter to do a new autobiography?

    What the fans don’t know is that it’s not much fun being a billionaire. You own a lot of big houses and you wander around in them, followed by a waiter, a bartender, a masseuse, three housekeepers, and a concierge, and they probably gossip about you behind your back. Just like nine-tenths of your campaign staff. You’re losing and they know it and they’re telling mean stories about you to everybody and his brother.

    Meanwhile, you keep plugging away. It’s the hardest work you’ve ever done. You walk out in the white cap and you rant for an hour about stuff that means nothing and the fans scream and wave their signs and you wish you could level with them for once and say one true thing: I love you to death and when this is over I will have nothing that I want.

    Garrison Keillor is an author and radio personality.
    Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 26, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Analysis: Trump Is White America’s ‘Great White Hope’

    It is no coincidence that Donald Trump’s rise coincided with the end of Barack Obama’s term.

    Yael Sternhell – HAARETZ

    Whatever the outcome of the 2016 U.S.A. election, it will be remembered as a referendum among America’s white majority on the country’s future in the 21st century.

    Whites today constitute about 61 percent of the United States population, and are expected to lose their majority within one generation. That is an earthshaking change, practically inconceivable, for a country where the balance of power in society has always been based primarily on skin colour.

    A majority of whites are voting Trump, constituting more than 90 percent of the bloc that supports him. Among whites without higher education, Trump has a big advantage, which goes a long way toward explaining why the race has remained neck-and-neck throughout.

    Trump phenomenon cannot be understood except against the background of the internal conflicts within the white community.

    Despite the decline of their demographic power, whites in America still have a tremendous economic edge over every minority, with the exception of Asian-Americans.

    The median wealth of a white household in America is $144,000, versus about $11,000 for a black household. Trump voters are not poor, by any criterion. The median annual income of a Trump voter, based on a calculation by polls guru Nate Silver, is $72,000 a year, while the poverty line in the U.S.A. is $22,000 a year.

    Whites still receive preferential treatment in hiring, and suffer much less from the arm of the law compared with minorities. They still hold the vast majority of positions of power in the economy, in politics, in academe and in the judicial system, while minorities continue to suffer from under-representation.

    Yet these objective statistics do not cancel out the fact that many in the white community feel their lives have descended into a crisis from which they cannot extract themselves. It is true that their standard of living is higher, on average, than that of minorities; but it is lower than the standard of living their parents enjoyed, living as they did during America’s Golden Age, when the salary from one factory job or a small business could support a family in dignity.

    Some live in rural areas, outside American mainstream life, and others suffer from the repercussions of mass manufacturing closing down in recent decades, and the loss of jobs that destroyed employment security for uneducated men.

    Signs of White Despair

    Other criteria also attest to genuine distress. Mortality rates among American whites have been rising since the late 1990s, while the rates throughout the West, as well as among American minorities, has been declining. In rural America, areas where Trump enjoys strong support, a trend of addiction to painkillers has spread in recent years, joined by spreading use of heroin.

    Added to the abject difficulties are feelings of frustration, which are harder to quantify, over what some groups feel as a loss of traditional privileges. It is no coincidence that Donald Trump’s rise coincided with the end of Barack Obama’s term.

    Together with the strengthening of the Hispanic community, which now constitutes 17 percent of the U.S. population and whose electoral clout is mounting, there is a realistic basis for the feeling that America is losing its character as a country of the white majority.

    For whites supporting the Democratic party, most of whom live in the cities and graduated college, the changes America is undergoing express the ideal of an equal society, one that takes in immigrants and is blessed with cultural variety.

    But for people living outside the cosmopolitan areas and adhere to the traditional American way of life, it is a nightmare come true. Donald Trump’s promises to block Hispanic and Muslim immigration and to return America to its “heyday” fell on receptive ears.

    The split within the white majority, between town and country; and between people with different levels of education, is also reflected in the reluctance to support the candidacy of a woman as U.S.A. president. Barack Obama enjoyed much greater support from the white working class than Hillary Clinton does.

    How can we explain that whites who feel threatened by the rise of minorities would vote for a black man, but not a white woman?

    Beyond the instinctive opposition many feel to the idea of a woman as head of state, there are apparently two explanations:

    The first is that during Obama’s two terms in office, American politics grew even more extreme, and today the alienation between the social classes and the two main political parties is even greater than when Obama was running for president.

    The second explanation has to do with the structural changes the American economy has been undergoing, also with regard to gender. Traditional male jobs are disappearing while work that had been considered traditionally female continue to provide jobs. The heavy demand for workers in care-giving and administration enables women to continue working in a rapidly changing employment environment. Although women still earn, on average, 80 cents for each dollar that a man earns, the changing trend is palpable, and portends a future in which women have opportunities in the jobs market while men lag behind.

    So even if the Hispanic vote determines the outcome in states like Florida or Nevada, the story of this election is in the deep processes within the white community, whose position of power is cracking for the first time in 400 years, and which is dividing economically and culturally.

    Trump’s skill at exploiting the tensions and frustrations within that community is responsible, to a great degree, for the tremendous success he achieved despite his total absence of political experience and his serial scandals, which would have buried any other candidate. The rift exposed during these elections will continue to shape American politics in election campaigns to come.

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