Monday, December 8, 2014

More on Institutionalized Racism in U.S. (and Michael Brown and Eric Garner): Chris Hedges, Geoffrey Stone, Ta-Nehisi Coates

More commentary hot off the internet presses that strikes me as very important this morning:

Totalitarian systems accrue to themselves omnipotent power by first targeting and demonizing a defenseless minority. Poor African-Americans, like Muslims, have been stigmatized by elites and the mass media. The state, promising to combat the “lawlessness” of the demonized minority, demands that authorities be emancipated from the constraints of the law. Arguments like this one were used to justify the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror.” But once any segment of the population is stripped of equality before the law, as poor people of color and Muslims have been, once police are permitted under the law to become omnipotent, brutal and systematically oppressive tactics are invariably employed against the wider society. The corporate state has no intention of carrying out legal reforms to curb the omnipotence of its organs of internal security. They were made omnipotent on purpose.

One fact that might lend some credence to the theory that racism has something to do with the tenor of the attacks on President Obama is that only one other president in our history has been the target of similar (though more subdued) personal attacks. 
In his day, this president was castigated by the press and his political opponents as a "liar," a "despot," a "usurper," a "thief," a "monster," a "perjurer," an "ignoramus," a "swindler," a "tyrant," a "fiend," a "coward," a "buffoon," a "butcher," a "pirate," a "devil," and a "king." He was charged with being "cunning," "thickheaded," "heartless," "filthy," and "fanatical." He was accused of behaving "like a thief in the night," of being "the miserable tool of traitors and rebels," and of being "adrift on a current of racial fanaticism." He was labeled by his enemies "Abraham Africanus the First." 
But, of course, race had nothing to do with it then, either.

Specifically, Barack Obama is the president of the United States of America. More specifically, Barack Obama is the president of a congenitally racist country, erected upon the plunder of life, liberty, labor, and land. This plunder has not been exclusive to black people. But black people, the community to which both Michael Brown and Barack Obama belong, have the distinct fortune of having survived in significant numbers. For a creedal country like America, this poses a problem—in nearly every major American city one can find a population of people whose very existence, whose very history, whose very traditions, are an assault upon this country's nationalist instincts. Black people are the chastener of their own country. Their experience says to America, "You wear the mask."

We have it at our core that a certain group of people, who are marked by ancestry, who are marked by melanin, must represent a bottom for us. And, you can see that in the era of enslavement. You can see that literally being written, as I’ve shown in the piece, into the laws. You can see that when we decide to end this period of enslavement. And yet, we still can't get away from having a two-tiered society.

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