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Some thoughts on Race, Privilege, Class…and the Banks

9:37 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Pyramid of The Capitalist System - flickr

And yes they are all tied together. First off and interview with Peggy McIntosh on race and privilege.  More specifically White Privilege. From the web site Beyond Whiteness.

White Privilege:

1. a. A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities. b. A special advantage or benefit of white persons; with reference to divine dispensations, natural advantages, gifts of fortune, genetic endowments, social relations, etc.
Peggy goes into how white people when they think about or talk about race they are either consciously or subconsciously referring to those who are not white. That there are white people – normal – and non whites – not normal.  She makes a point of saying that this is a system that is as old as the hills. Hundreds perhaps thousands of years old but not to take blame but to own it and from there do what ever has to be done to change it. She also gives some very goo examples of this privilege that we as whites take for granted but do not think about. Like how being white can give you a pass in situations that being non white would get you in trouble.
Along the same lines an essay on Huffington Post by Janell Ross about a book by Nancy DiTomaso – The American Non-Dilemma: Racial Inequality Without Racism.
Taking Gunnar Myrdal’s classic work on America’s racial divide, The American Dilemma, as her departure point, DiTomaso focuses on “the white side of the race line.” To do so, she interviewed a sample of working, middle, and upper-class whites about their life histories, political views, and general outlook on racial inequality in America. While the vast majority of whites profess strong support for civil rights and equal opportunity regardless of race, they continue to pursue their own group-based advantage, especially in the labor market where whites tend to favor other whites in securing jobs protected from market competition. This “opportunity hoarding” leads to substantially improved life outcomes for whites due to their greater access to social resources from family, schools, churches, and other institutions with which they are engaged. – The American Non-Dilemma

“Across all three states where I did my research, I heard over and over again [white] people admitting that they don’t interact very often with nonwhites, not at work, not at home or otherwise,” said DiTomaso about the 246 interviews with working-class and middle-class whites she did over the course of about a decade in Tennessee, Ohio and New Jersey. Her research included detailed job histories and information about the way her study participants obtained jobs over the course of their careers.

“That was true for just about everybody unless they were still in college,” DiTomaso continued. “Others would allude to some college friend or experience. But since then, they had not had much contact with blacks. So how would they pass opportunities and information across race lines?” - Black Unemployment Driven By White America’s Favors For Friends

All just aspects of the White Privilege that Peggy McIntosh speaks of.  Which brings me to the next story. The Weeklies from American Prospect.  A story about the homeless who live at a Ramada Inn outside the suburbs of Denver Co.   People who lost their houses because they got in over the heads as the economy tanked. Concentrating on  one family in particular.  What the author refers to as “Suburban Poverty”.  He goes into detail on the conditions under which they live and how they got to this point.  

A defining characteristic of what it means to be middle-class is now out of reach for a group of people who, less than a decade ago, would not have called themselves anything else. They’ve lost not just incomes and homes. They’ve lost who they were.

One of the aspects of this article that really hit me was was how much the decision to stay at this temporary place was influenced by this family’s sense of white class privilege. That the wife refuses to live in a lower class area – which they could afford – but instead looks to regain their former status and move back to are upper middle class area they came from. Always wanting to get back into that “L Shaped” house they use to have in Bear Valley.

They console themselves with the thought that they were ready to leave Westwood anyway. Bonnie remembers growing up in a nice, middle-class neighborhood, but now she says it’s more like a rundown border town, full of Mexican immigrants. She wants to move to Bear Valley, the neighborhood surrounding Drew’s school, where houses are a bit bigger, lawns are kept neater, and fewer ambulances are called for fights on Saturday nights. 

She and her family often drive by an empty house they like, an L-shaped brick ranch down the street from the family friends they have their mail sent to. In fact, they spend all their free time in Bear Valley; after they pick Drew up from school, they grab dinner at the prepared–food counter of the local grocery store, King Soopers. They go to the King Soopers cheese counter for free tastings on Saturdays. They drive to the neighborhood for big shopping trips at the Wal-Mart or Costco, skipping the stores closer to the hotel.

“I would have sold my house, if I got my stuff straightened out, and moved to Bear Valley,” Bonnie says. “I could’ve probably gotten my stuff straightened out had they worked with me.”

So instead they remain at the Ramada Inn hoping they can get back to their middle class life someday.   All the while blaming Countrywide and the banks for their predicament.

Yes the banks – the last part of the ramble.  Over at Washingtons Blog he gives a good rundown on the history of banking here.

To understand the core problem in America today, we have to look back to the very founding of our country.

The Founding Fathers fought for liberty and justice. But they also fought for a sound economy and freedom from the tyranny of big banks:

“[It was] the poverty caused by the bad influence of the English bankers on the Parliament which has caused in the colonies hatred of the English and . . . the Revolutionary War.”
– Benjamin Franklin

“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”
– John Adams

“All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.”
– John Adams

“If the American people ever allow the banks to control issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied”.
— Thomas Jefferson

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies…The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the Government, to whom it properly belongs.”
– Thomas Jefferson

And the truth about The Federal Reserve.

While many Americans assume that the Federal Reserve is a federal agency, the Fed itself admits that the 12 Federal Reserve banks are private. See this, this, this and this.

Indeed, the money-center banks in New York control the New York Fed, the most powerful Fed bank. Until recently, Jamie Dimon – the head of JP Morgan Chasewas a Director of the New York Fed. Everyone knows that the Fed is riddled with conflicts of interest and corruption.

The long-time Chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee (Charles McFadden) said on June 10, 1932:

Some people think that the Federal Reserve Banks are United States Government institutions. They are private monopolies ….

And congressman Dennis Kucinich said:

The Federal Reserve is no more federal than Federal Express!

He also explains in another blog entry how the thievery in Cyprus of confiscating bank depositor’s money would be applied here and that this concept was worked out long before Cyprus was known to be a problem.

Confiscating the customer deposits in Cyprus banks, it seems, was not a one-off, desperate idea of a few Eurozone “troika” officials scrambling to salvage their balance sheets. A joint paper by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England dated December 10, 2012, shows that these plans have been long in the making; that they originated with the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland (discussed earlier here); and that the result will be to deliver clear title to the banks of depositor funds.   – Guest Post by Ellen Brown

Here we are with a class structure that is still very reminiscent of feudalism.  Where the few privileged at the top call the shots for everyone else and spared the consequences of their actions. How we treat each other and those different from us – all baggage we hold onto from our distant past. Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not. Why a white person in a nice car will get a warning from a cop when a black and/or poor guy in a old Chevy will get a ticket.   Why a kid from the burbs can get a part time job and into college when a Native American one would have a hard time.

You don’ find this structure much in the non-white people here – Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos or Asians. This is an attitude brought over from Europe and whites still hold on to it, albeit passively in most cases.   In fact those on the right feel it’s patriotic to do so and good number of those on the so called left still embrace it.  The so called left wants to have a kinder, less mean and more benevolent version of feudalism.

So they elect benevolent despots. Kinder versions of the Lords of olde. The very idea of replacing this even intimidates them nearly as much as those on the right.

So as Peggy McIntosh  said in that interview, we need to change our view – our attitude – toward our selves as well as others.  That in fact we must begin to see ourselves and our place in society more clearly as what it is in order to change how we interact with others.

White Resentment in a Multiracial Society or How the Inner Libertarian Emerged.

8:41 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen


Suburbia - Flicker Creative Commons

In an interview with Mark Karlin in Truth Out, Tim Wise gives us some insight into where some of the hate, fear and resentment that particular parts of white America has been vocalizing more and more in the last decades comes from. The origins of which are actually older than this country. The interview revolves around Tim’s new book, Dear White America. It begins with how this White Tribal Identity came over with the first settlers from Europe but was put to use so the elites of the time could gloss over the deep class divisions that existed and enable the subjugation of African slaves and natives.

The term white was not, in fact, used in the European context to universalize the various European ethnic and national identities: after all, those national and ethnic groups had been slaughtering each other for generations. They hardly thought of themselves as members of a single team, let alone family. So while white supremacy has its roots in the class, religious and ethno-national systems of Europe, it took America – this place where the old divisions would need to be put aside so as to subjugate indigenous persons and maintain chattel enslavement of Africans in the name of “the white race” – to really bring racism, as we know it to fruition. Whiteness was really something of a trick, developed for the purpose of uniting otherwise disparate Europeans, first, so as to make the subordination of “non-whites” easier, but also (and importantly), to paper over the otherwise deep class cleavages that had long beset those from Europe. If the elite could make the poor Europeans believe they were members of the same “white” team as the rich Europeans, then the prospects for class-based rebellion would be dampened.

He also goes on to explain how the Myth of Self-Made-Man was used to galvanize this with the poor, unlike in feudal Europe where when the poor knew they would never rise above their station. Read the rest of this entry →

A Guide to the White Trash Planet for Urban Liberals

11:38 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Working people

Working People – Flicker

I came across this piece by Joe Bageant from a link at progressive review. It’s old, from 2005. Three years before the shit hit the fan and the government used the 99% to wipe up the mess and flush it down the loo.  He does a very good job of giving the working poor’s situation,  attitude and relation or rather lack of relation to the liberal college educated professionals.  That their views are not quite what the cliches depict.

In any case, my people are not the people in the cubicle next to you at work (though they might well be cleaning it at nights when you are sleeping.) Mine are not people complaining about paying off their college loans or who got the best parking spot at their office campus complex. They are people with different problems entirely. Mostly related to truck payments. Or people like my old tree service boss Danny, who cut off a finger working with a chain saw, wrapped it in a McDonald’s foil wrapper and ran to the hospital to get it sewn back on. Or any of the thousands of people in this town who smash apples into apple sauce or boil them into vinegar at National Fruit Products, performing soul grinding shift work year after year with no opportunity to ever be promoted, or obtaining health care at all. Just the seasonal layoff when all the apples are smashed and the millions of gallons of vinegar bottled. Working class people going nowhere in a town that smells like vinegar.

One of the problems we working class Southerners have is that educated progressive Americans see us as a bunch of obese, heavily armed nose pickers. This problem is compounded by the fact that so many of us are pretty much that. Call it the “Dumb-crackers-lordee-I-reckon” syndrome. But liberals err in thinking this armed and drunken laboring species is an exclusively Southern breed. No matter where you live in this nation you will find us. We are the folks in front of you at the Wal-Mart checkout lugging a case of motor oil while having nicotine fits. But even in such democratic venues as shopping, our encounters are limited because we do not buy designer beer and you do not buy ammo or motor oil by the case.

And if we aren’t in the checkout line then we are probably waiting on you as clerks. With our bright red regulated vests and nametags we do not look poor or desperate. But I can tell you that the smiling, wise old guy in the orange vest in the plumbing department of the local Home Depot, Roy, the one who knows everything there ever was to know about plumbing, is limping around on bad knees with two bone grafted discs from a life as a construction laborer, and at age 67 is working solely so he can have health insurance. Not for insurance from Home Depot mind you, but so his entire paycheck can go to cover the private insurance he must have if he doesn’t want to lose the rundown bungalow he and his wife bought right after the Korean War to medical bills. The one that is now in such a bad neighborhood only the slumlords who dominate our city council ever make an offer, and even then not much. He’s been losing ground for 25 years.  Not that any of the tanned middle class suburban customers here or anywhere else give a good goddam. This is solidly red state neo-con Virginia, where people have a ready explanation for Roy’s condition in life:  As Jimbo the newsstand owner here says, “They are losers who cannot cut it in the greatest society on earth. Darwin was right. Gandhi was wrong. Tough shit!” This is the same guy who once advised me to “Always kick a man when he is down; it gives him incentive to get up.” I sometimes think it was the meanest thing in hell that made America’s little working class towns such as Winchester.

The towns I saw when I took a trip up to NYC from Florida on Amtrak.   It passes through such places though I seriously doubt that anyone who resides there could ever afford the price of a train ticket.  Not even coach.  They are the white working poor.

To be poor and white is a paradox in America. Whites, especially white males, are supposed to have an advantage they exploit mercilessly. Yet most of the poor people in the United States are white (51%) outnumbering blacks two to one and all other minority poverty groups combined. America is permeated with cultural myths about white skin’s association with power, education and opportunity. Capitalist society teaches that we all get what we deserve, so if a white man does not succeed, it can only be due to laziness. But just like black and Latino ghetto dwellers, poor laboring whites live within a dead end social construction that all but guarantees failure. If your high school dropout daddy busted his ass for small bucks and never read a book in his life and your mama was a textile mill worker, chances are you are not going to be recruited by Yale Skull and Bones and grow up to be president of the United States, regardless of our national mythology to that effect. You are going to be pulling an eight-buck-an-hour shift work someplace and praying for enough overtime to make the heating bill. A worker.

The political left once supported these workers, stood on the lines taking its beatings at the plant gates alongside them. Now, comfortably ensconced in the middle class, the American left sees the same working whites as warmongering bigots, happy pawns of the empire. That is writing working folks off too cheaply, and it begs the question of how they came to be that way — if they truly are. To cast them as a source of our deep national political problems is ridiculous.  They are a symptom of the problems, and they may be making it worse because they are easily manipulated, or because they cannot tell an original idea from a beer fart. But they are not the root cause by any means. The left should take its cues from Malcolm X, who understood the need to educate and inform the entire African-American society before tackling the goal of unity. Same goes for white crackers. Nobody said it would be easy.

He is right on the money here.  You see I came from the typical middle class professional family with both parents college educated. Father a high school guidance counselor and mother an RN. But when my father died of a brain hemorrhage and we moved down to Naples Florida, we spent the next 3 years poor as church mice.  I was neither middle class or lower class and fit in nowhere. Regardless of the circumstances of you fall, you a neither accepted by you former economic group or you current one.   So as he points out, don’t think for one minute that the powers that be will stop with the working poor. As he says “You see, it’s like this: When the heartless American system is done reducing us to slobbering beer soaked zombies in the American labor gulag, your sweet ass is next.” And once you are there…once you have become a part of this group…it’s very difficult to get out.

Whatever the case, helping the working poor does not mean writing another scholarly paper about them funded by grant money. That is simply taking care of one’s middle class university educated self. Yet the cause of dick-in-the-dirt poor working white America is spoken for exclusively by educated middle class people who grew up on the green suburban lawns of America. However learned and good intentioned, they are not equipped to grasp the full implications of the new American labor gulag — or the old one for that matter. They cannot understand a career limited to yanking guts out through a chicken’s ass for the rest of one’s life down at the local poultry plant (assuming it does not move offshore). Being born working class carries moral and spiritual implications understood only through experiencing them. It comes back to street cred.

You have to have been there.  The author has some advise for the left professional class and one cannot repeat it enough. These are the people that Wood Guthry was with and sang about.

Before I am asked the more specific question, “What the fuck do you think middle class liberals should do then?” I’m gonna answer it. ORGANIZE! Quit voting for that pack of undead hacks called the Democratic Party and ORGANIZE! Howard Dean is just another millionaire Yale frat boy. ORGANIZE! Quit kidding yourself that the Empire will protect professionals and semi-professionals such as you and ORGANIZE! Spend time on a Pentecostal church pew or in a blue-collar beer joint and ORGANIZE! Join the Elks Club and ORGANIZE! Realize that there is no party whatsoever in the United States that represents anything but corporate interests and ORGANIZE! Start in your own honky wimp-assed white bread neighborhood and ORGANIZE! Knock on doors and ORGANIZE! Move heaven and earth and hearts and minds and ORGANIZE! And if enough people do it, it will scare the living piss out of the political elite and the corporations and they will come to club you down like they did in Miami and Seattle. But at least you will have been among the noble ones when the history is written.

And its also about values.  Not the the ones that the religious fringe keep screaming about. That the media likes to show because it draws viewers like a multi-car pile up.   It about values well all used to have.

But here in this particular heartland, once I step away from the fundamentalist, I am simply not seeing the homophobia so widely proclaimed by the liberal establishment. Hell, we’ve got three gay guys and at least one lesbian who hang out at my local redneck tavern and they all are right in there drinking and teasing and jiving with everyone else. As my hirsute 300-pound friend Pootie says: “Heck, I have a lot in common with lesbians!” (I would concede however, that homosexual marriage, however, was just a bit too much for some of the working class to accept in the 2004 elections. It was the visuals.)

The working class people in my town are angry, but not especially angry at Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, or unseen fetuses. I think working class anger is at a more fundamental level and that it is about this: rank and status as citizens in our society. I think it is about the daily insult working class people suffer from employers, government (national, state and local), and from their more educated fellow Americans, the doctors, lawyers, journalists, academicians, and others who quietly disdain working people and their uncultured ways. And I think working class anger is about some other things too:

It is about the indignities suffered at the hands of managers and bosses — being degraded to a working, faceless production unit in our glorious new global economy.

It is about being ignored by the educated classes and the other similar professional, political and business elites that America does not acknowledge as elites.

It is about one’s priorities being closer to home and more ordinary than those of the powerful people who determine our lives.

It is about suffering the everyday lack of human respect from the government, and every other institutional body except the church.

It is about working at Wal-Mart or Home Depot or Arby’s wearing a nametag on which you do not even rate a last name. You are just Melanie or Bobby, there to kiss the manager’s ass or find another gig.

It is about trying to live your life the only way you know how because you were raised that way. But somehow the rules changed under you.

It is about trying to maintain some semblance of outward dignity to your neighbors, when both you and the neighbors are living payday to payday, though no one admits it.

It is about media fabled things you’ve never seen in your own family: college funds set aside for the kids, stock portfolios, vacation homes…

It is about the unacknowledged stress of both spouses working longer, producing more for a paycheck that has been dwindling in purchasing power since 1973.

Yes, it is about values. It is about the values we have forsaken as a people — such as dignity, education and opportunity for everyone. And it is about the misdirected anger of the working classes toward those they least understand. You. And me.

You might want to go to Joe’s website and read some more of his essays. They are quite good and from an perspective other than the usual academic writings on the subject.