American Racism 101

Yesterday the racist-in-chief deployed 400 National Guard troops to protect Washington D.C. area monuments to white supremacy, statues of men who led a violent insurrection against the United States. Most of these “beautiful monuments” were erected decades after the end of the Civil War, honoring the leaders of the heroic fight to save a cherished and genteel way of life based on race-based human bondage. Many were put up as memorials to the “Lost Cause” by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, during decades of unpunished terrorism against blacks. These monuments to the Confederacy were put up to underscore the brutal fact that no mere Constitutional Amendments, after the deadliest war in U.S. history, were going to change the glorious ways of the former Confederacy.

A friend sent me this excellent video recently. It sets out, in 17 fast-paced minutes, the history of some of the highlights of American racism at law. It is smart and well-presented. It does not dwell on, or even really mention, the massive, deadly violence against minorities that accompanied much of this racism at law. I highly recommend it as a primer on racial inequality.

Here is just one striking fact presented. The GI bill helped lift countless veterans out of poverty in post World War Two America. My father and literally tens of thousands of other WWII veterans in New York State and New Jersey, took advantage of the GI Bill to get (in addition to college degrees) subsidized mortgages to buy homes, an investment that turned out to be the bulk of their family’s wealth. 67,000 such GI bill mortgages were granted to veterans in those two states in the post WWII years, fewer than 100 went to non-white veterans [1]. Trump’s father wasn’t the only one profiting handsomely from openly racist housing policies in those years .

As the argument over how racist is too racist rages on the streets of our nation, in Congress, many white people are examining their assumptions for the first time. White Privilege, for example, is much harder for whites to see than for everyone else. This is the best evocation I’ve ever seen of the benefit conferred by “white” skin, even if you are poor and homeless. As I wrote to the author “you go, girl!”

Let’s be clear. Racism, although deep in the heart of some of America’s wealthiest and most powerful psychopaths (Charles Koch, for example) is used primarily to keep poor people divided. This goes back to our earliest days, when Virginia, before 1700, passed laws to divide poor whites– indentured servants, many of whom made common cause with rebellious slaves and wary local natives– and their natural allies. Whites were given superior rights. They got to keep their clothes on while being whipped, got monetary compensation when they were released from bondage (if they survived it) and so forth. Poor whites hating poor blacks has a long history in this country and the “superiority” of poor whites has always been upheld by law and encouraged by custom.

As for the long-accepted deadly violence against “non-whites,” (and in particular “blacks”), “whites” are just starting to learn about some of the most shameful and atrocious racist pogroms in our history. Have you ever heard of the Red Summer of 1919? I just learned about it yesterday, and surprisingly, it had nothing to do with J. Edgar Hoover’s crippling terror of Communism (which was also on the rise back then). The Red Summer of 1919 refers to the many unpunished outbreaks of murderous violence against blacks that season.

After the senseless slaughter of World War I, the War to Make the World Safe for Democracy, there were outbreaks of deadly white on black violence across the country (just as the deadly pandemic of 1918-19 was coming to an end, incidentally), murderous pogroms in more than three dozen cities and towns across the USA. White people just went nuts and somebody had to pay. In the years that followed, Ku Klux Klan membership soared (reaching 2.4 million paid memberships in 1924), harsh anti-immigration laws were passed, monuments to the heroes of the former Confederacy were placed on pedestals in prominent places.

History is boring shit, I know. What do long ago outbreaks of deadly mass insanity have to do with anything we are experiencing today? I don’t know, probably nothing… We’ll be back at the malls soon, America will be great again, everything will eventually be fine. No worries!

Unless you’re not “white”, I guess.

[1] here are some notes on the rest of the video (with some additional editorial flourishes from me):

1970  70% of blacks had decent paying blue collar jobs, 1987 28% (as union membership was under attack, of course).  Massive unemployment —-> spike in drug addiction (as in white rural opiate areas now).   The “War on Drugs…” our new Prohibition (since the first was so successful) cracks down on “lawless” blacks.    “First black president” Clinton cuts public housing budget by billions while increasing prison budget by even more.   1980  41,000 locked up for drug crimes, today 500,000 (mostly for possession alone).   Why do cops need grenade launchers?   No-knock warrants? Total prison population 1980:  350,000.  2005: 2,300,000.   Higher percentage of imprisoned blacks in USA than in South Africa at the height of apartheid.    Prison record = no job prospects after prison, ban from public housing and other programs.Georgia drug law allowing life imprisonment for second drug offense, used on 1% of white defendants, 16% of black ones —  98% of life imprisonments under this law were for black drug users.  Nothing racist about that!Average black household has 1/10 the wealth of the average white household.   Criminalize the problem of unemployment, as under the old Black Codes when black “vagrancy” “idleness” and “mischief” were punishable by forced labor, et, voila: President Trump! 

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