When it all began is as clear of a question as when it might end. Actual Nazis on violent parade (is there another kind of Nazi parade?) in a public square has brought the question of white supremacy out of the shadows for the time being. Hopefully the moment lasts a while longer to
permit for force the reckoning it begs. Original, unrepented, institutionalized sin remains our bedrock foundation and WE continue to allow ourselves to benefit from it. Every ‘safe’ street and every ‘good’ school in every boring suburb was constructed on advantages denied to black, brown and red people in the name of God and country. We can continue to exist but we cannot continue to exist in this way.
The descendants of slaves will never not hold the moral high ground. All the beatings, whippings, killings, and arbitrary cruelty that was slavery now looks back from every set of eyes through the fence. The perpetuation of white domination without reckoning with the past is illegitimate, predicated on the keeping the book of history a sealed volume. The longer this goes on, the stronger the scent of fear and defensiveness about who we are. By ignoring this history all around us, we perpetuate a crime against those who built this country without ever enjoying its rights and advantages, the shelter they built. We all remain in the storm, but some of us are now flinching at the slight discomfort of the metaphorical version.
All American institutions, and let us note the special case of the South, now sit upon the remnants of the slave power. As we celebrate the past, as citizens do of all nations with buildings and monuments, while not recognizing the contributions and implications of enslaved people, we remain blinded to our own story, our true selves, ignorant of who we are and what brought us to the present moment.
All difficulties of the reckoning – the statues, the street names, the building names, the towns and town squares – none of them compare to the reality upon which they were built. We have tried so desperately to stomp out all traces of this memory that it is remarkable that any exist; yet they still crop up in accidental discoveries – bodies buried, markers uncovered, genealogy traced. The Pavlovian reactions and knee jerk resistance are understandable; it is better if we don’t think about it. But the reaction is also wrong. We need to think about it. We need to know who we actually are. To assume that everything is fine now, equal, fair, is a lie. Pulling down statues should be just the beginning.
Image: From an amazing animation at Slate. Wow – most of the confederate monuments didn’t come until later. I wonder why?
Glenn Greenwald has a nice meta re-cap of his latest encounter with established media re: L’Affair Assange. It’s an instructive reminder of just how inseparable are the ‘who’ that provides your news and the ‘what’ it is supposedly all about:
It’s not news that establishment journalists identify with, are merged into, serve as spokespeople for, the political class: that’s what makes them establishment journalists. But even knowing that, it’s just amazing, to me at least, how so many of these “debates” I’ve done involving one anti-WikiLeaks political figure and one ostensibly “neutral” journalist — on MSNBC with The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capehart and former GOP Congresswoman Susan Molinari, on NPR with The New York Times‘ John Burns and former Clinton State Department official James Rubin, and last night on CNN with Yellin and Townsend — entail no daylight at all between the “journalists” and the political figures. They don’t even bother any longer with the pretense that they’re distinct or play different assigned roles.
And there are identical notches in that belt for climate, environment, high finance, taxes, business generally… the list is its own scandal. Where does it start? This kind of rot is re-inforced from two directions, at least: the top of the food chain at the journalism-government crossover, and at the j-schools themselves. The kids learn how to network and are instructed by the commencement speakers who demonstrate not how to afflict but how to comfort, and thus move up the hierarchy into the anchor/editor’s chair. It’s all a celebration of career success, practically apart from what makes the career. The notion of muckraking doesn’t even come up; instead the news bleeds towards the most vulnerable, i.e., those least equipped to defend themselves, who can be dissected in public without push back or a loss of advertising revenue. Immigrants, the poor, criminals. I should qualify that: low-level criminals. Accordingly, no voices allowed that vary from the corporate line until the playing field is sufficiently skewed that you can be easily disregarded as a radical for advocating things like… high speed rail.
Oh, the horrors. But the Cossacks work for the Czar. Some of this is in exchange for the comfort we get from news that is based on things like the ‘war on Christmas’, black friday and shark attacks in summer. So it’s in part our fault for not rejecting the poolside, corporate, rolling green carpet viewpoint more stridently. The other part is a testament to how difficult it is to rock the boat, especially when things are going so swell.
So resolve and be resolute – without the self-condemnation of cynicism or conspiracy. There’s more room there to be skeptical than you think.