Tag Archives: America

The Weaponization of Anti-Racism

I Know Your Are But What Am I

In 2019 everyone is a racist and no one is

✎  WAYNE K. SPEAR | JULY 16, 2019 • Politics

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HE BELIEF THAT human characteristics, abilities, and worth are determined by the colour of skin is useful wherever societies are organized along tribal lines. A nation founded upon genocide and slavery will be a nation with a very bad conscience—unless a justification for these can be invented. If one category of human being can be said to be beneath another, whether as a matter of natural law or of divine will, then the myriad inequities established by organized human effort can be treated as a mere expression of nature.

In other words racial classification systems are the product of human barbarities and not the source of them. A man will sleep better at night if he is able to convince himself that the people he enslaves and murders are not as fully human as he is, incapable as they are of thinking and feeling as he himself does. The English for example already ruled over a great many foreign peoples when the faux science of human racial differences developed. Social Darwinism came to America in the late 1800s, after the institution of slavery and the mass murder of Indigenous peoples. The utility of racial conceptions is reflexive, for these conceptions affirm that whatever the supposed injustices or inequalities, some categories of people are by their nature lords and masters of others.

Because this way of thinking about the world regards human beings in the broadest of terms, as groups, it tends toward systemic outcomes. A mass of unique persons must be treated as individuals, especially where character is concerned, but a group whose human characteristics are thought to be shared by virtue of the colour of their skin may be safely organized and managed en masse. This is done most efficiently by means of a systemic approach, which is to say through law and custom and the general dissemination of ideas and beliefs and habits required to maintain the dominance of one group over another. Once a group of persons has been reduced to a common denominator, it is no matter to erect and maintain a system that manages their supposed characteristics, and indeed such a thing will be deemed fitting and even necessary.

The term for apprehending the human world by way of skin colour and other physical characteristics is racism. Once a society has been thoroughly organized according to the logic of racial conceptions, the machinery runs itself almost beyond the notice of its beneficiaries. In a thousand small and subliminal ways these beneficiaries will absorb the habits and outlook of their ancestors and compatriots. Having read only the books written by their forebears, they will know as a matter of course that their ancestors were noble and benevolent. The material and ideological derivation of their outlook will be hidden from view, like the making of sausage, and for similar reasons. For the doctrines of racial human characteristics and racial supremacy to survive, the illusion must be maintained that no such doctrines exist, or exist only as matter of nature and not of human exploitation.

A generation ago it was understood by scholars and activists that racism is systemic in nature. To grow up in a society organized around racist conceptions of human nature and human society is to have planted within one’s mind racist ideas and habits of thought. The work of anti-racism in a society understood to be systemically racist is the work of exposing and critiquing systems—laws, customs, ideology, workplaces, institutions, and so forth. So long as ideas circulate freely and widely in a society, without being challenged, the tendency will be for individual members of that society to adopt them uncritically and in many cases unconsciously. Racism was considered a social and cultural artefact and not the product of an individual and degenerate mind.

Somewhere along the way the work of confronting the rot of racism took a turn. The understanding that racism is a universal toxin, mediated through social systems, gave way to a vigilance for the individual offender. In all likelihood this turn occurred at a time when the perception of political progress made it possible to imagine oneself, and indeed to present oneself to others, as above and beyond the mental disease of racism. In any case the critique of systemic racism has yielded largely to a conception of racism as the provenance of bad people, that is to say as originating in the diseased minds of offenders. If only one can shame enough of these offenders, and drive them out the public sphere, then perhaps racism can be defeated.

Combatting racism from a systemic point of view is one thing, and combatting it from an individual and moral point of view is another. Under the social conception of racism it is a matter of no controversy that we have all inherited a toxic legacy of racist ideas, actions, and arrangements. Understood as an individual and moral failure, however, the charge of racism will in every case be denied and repudiated in the service of career and reputational survival. Over time the characteristics and criteria of generally-agreed-upon racism narrow. The President is unlikely to be considered a racist by his supporters for anything short of shouting the N-word at passersby (if even that) and doubtless there are few if any Trump voters who would say that they are racist. The term is today a grenade lobbied at one’s enemies, not to inflict injury but to hearten the troops, so Trump and his people retaliate in kind. He says that he hasn’t a racist bone in his body—the racists are the Congresswomen who criticize him.

None of this is to deny or downplay the existence of actual, existing bigots or the responsibility that they bear for the contents of their minds. As the politics of America descends into identitarian, tribal warfare it is easy to imagine anti-racism itself becoming simply another weaponized posture with no force or purpose or value beyond immediate political expedience. Perhaps a decade ago leaders might have brokered a deep and nuanced national conversation about race in America, but the time for this appears to have passed. The President does all within his powers to ensure a divisive tribal fight between his inflamed base and an outgroup of migrants, refugees, liberals, and media. The opposition obliges him. Nothing is gained, no one wins, and nobody is better off. ⌾

The Happiness of Kalashnikov

One pretends to be happy, but never to be wretched

✎  Wayne K. Spear | April 17, 2018 · Fiction

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Y NAME IS KALASHNIKOV, it is true. Some things said of me, in my absence, are true. But also in my presence, some things are true. And yet many things are not true, or are true only in a sense, which is to say only in one sense of the word true. For example: the manner of a fool’s speaking, which is a sense in the form of nonsense, can be said to be true. I am speaking of the fool in Shakespeare, not of the fools one encounters regularly, such as I encounter here. Yes, even now I find that I am surrounded by fools. There is truthful nonsense and non-truthful nonsense, perhaps also sense that is nonsense. There is the untrue which nonetheless is not without truth, not entirely. There are fools, and there are fools.

So much is said in my absence, and I am unable to comment on this, being absent. If I were present, I would comment. Of course I would comment, being present. The absence, the not-being-there, precludes the commenting. The—what is the word for it? Ah, but to use a word is to not name the thing, the absence, and that is the problem, the speaking of it, in the words. One can only speak of the absence wordlessly, in a kind of sleep, the sleep for which I long but which forever (or so it feels) eludes me, until of course it does not. And then what? The unspeakable thing, the wordless thing, the thing we can never describe so long as we can describe.

The things said in my presence are scandalous. Such as: “Kalashnikov is happy.” Yes, they have said this, in words, in my presence. The fools, I mean. Perhaps I am to blame, for it is true that I pretend to be happy. One can only pretend to be happy, and not miserable, obviously. Yes, the thing speaks for itself. For only misery, only pain, only the wretchedness is real. There is no doubting the pain, the reality of the pain, the truth of the pain. But happiness! Well, it is another matter altogether, obviously. The wretchedness is certain, as certain as I, Kalashnikov, am. There is no doubting the pain, the misery, the wretchedness. One pretends to be happy, but never to be wretched, because one has no need of such a thing. And yet they say I am happy, as if they could know. As if I were not dissembling. As if I were not a semblance of a thing rather than the thing itself.

It works as follows. The semblance, I mean. The simulacrum, if that is a word, of happiness. Here is what I do.

First, I show my teeth. I have heard that this is what the happy do. And so everyone gets to see all of my teeth, as well as my gaping mouth, and its hastily masticated contents (for rarely do I chew) at all times.
Second, I repeat the word HAPPY over and over again. Sometimes it is the voice in my head, but from time to time I shout the word HAPPY as loudly as I can. This appears to make a most definite effect. In the bar, in the coffee shop, in the theatre—a good, loud eructation of HAPPY does not go unnoticed. Often, it is rewarded, by recriminations or ejections. Sometimes with joyful banter e.g.: SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU FUCKING CUNT.
Third, I speak loudly. Even when I am not shouting my HAPPY I am loud. The happy ones, the others pretending to be happy, seem to do this, and so I, too, speak loudly. It seems to make the proper effect, which is to say the effect of appearing to be among the happy ones.
Fourth, I carry about with me, at all times and places, a sign saying I AM HAPPY.
Fifth, I cannot recall. I have written it down, I think, in my book. The book where I write all things down, as I am even now writing.
Sixth, I am in continuous motion. Or continual. I confuse these terms, the continuous and the continual, please forgive me. What I mean to say is that I am forever in motion. One might even call it a gyration, if that is a word. If it is not, one may still say it. For once it is said, it is a word.

There appears to be no seventh. I thought I had written seventh in my book, but perhaps not. Perhaps I only imagine it. Or perhaps seventh is merely sixth restated, in which case why bother committing it to memory? If seventh is only sixth restated, as I suspect that it is, then to hell with seventh! Yes, I mean literal hell, the place of eternal burning. There is no need of metaphor here. Let us say no more of this infernal eternal business of the burning seventh, the destroyer, the very Beelzebub of my schemata.

And yet there ought to be a seventh, 7 being a sacred number. Why there is no seventh is a mystery, unless there is a seventh and I am simply unaware of it, which is likely, very likely indeed. So let us say there is an unknown seventh, and perhaps even an unknowable seventh, for aesthetic and schematic purposes. To do otherwise is a scandal and an outrage, an offence against those who pretend to know god, who pretend to believe in god.

I am speaking of the happy times in which we live. The President is happy, the world is happy, and the people are happy. Which people? Well, all of the people, of course! They move and speak, all of the people, as the happy do. I can say no more of it, it is a matter of national security. They have whispered to me in dark corridors of the President’s happiness, but I can say no more of it. They assure me the President is happy, and I have no reason to doubt it, beyond the reasons I have adumbrated, above, or have not adumbrated, which are many. Nor can I say who They are—they, the ones who whisper to me from the happy places. It may be the voice in my head. Yes, it has occurred to me that the whisperings may all be in my head. It has occurred.

Yes, everyone is happy. All of us together, pretending to be happy, are what we appear to be. That is what I meant to say earlier, before the unfortunate derailments, if that is a word. Before the digression, the perambulation, the odyssey, the peripatecian, the excursion, the circumlocution, the fucking around. Did I not say I was forever in motion, the happy one? No, perhaps not. And perhaps in not saying so I failed in my duty, the highest duty of a patriot, to dissemble at being happy, along with all the others, pretending to have the desires (desire!) of one’s heart fulfilled, pretending to believe that all is well, that all will be well, Amen.