Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Hi!  It’s me, Trivium, posting for the first time in a long while.  I tried doing the song lyrics analysis thing here last year for a while and it was fun, but I know that mostly why people still come here is for the trenchant, often economical analysis of various topics that matter.

I’ve been wanting to do something on this for a while, since the Black Lives Matter movement exploded a year or two ago, but well, a) it seems like blogs have moved on a bit, and are now a bit 2008, and b) time, time time, which they are attempting to squeeze out of even professors now more than ever.  I am resisting, but one can only resist one’s employer so much and still stay in the good books.  Basically as my professional life has taken off, it’s meant so much less mental energy for blog posts.  Today in fact, I should be organizing a conference and writing the intro to my latest edited volume, but…

So here’s a topic which interests me, the long-term economic historian, so much.  And where I think I have a genuinely useful voice to add to the din, and perhaps help people to get over their own bigotry and prejudices, and get more into actually solving today’s most serious problems.

Ok, so the world has gone a bit crazy over ‘identity politics’ in the last year or so.  This is a natural development of what has been going on in intellectual circles since about 1990, and in some ways, decades before that.  It is the trend where identifiable minorities become the darling hero of progressives.  So basically for progressives the more minority you are, the better.  So if you’re gay, great:  if you’re a gay pirate, better, if you’re a substance-abusing, sadomasochistic, gay pirate, even better~!  I know a professor who got a coveted tenure job writing about these:  no joke.  And in progressive circles, i.e., around liberal arts departments, one can hardly get a job now unless one is a minority, or ‘at least’ a woman:  a recent university of chicago ad said:  we want 3 things from candidates:  a list of publications, a list of teaching qualifications, and a statement of how you have contributed to campus diversity in the past.  Wow.  And yet, they tell you if you ask, that there is no ‘bias’ towards minority or women candidates.  In fact, while women and minority progressives harp on about how they can’t get equal pay etc., in academia, the pendulum has demonstrably turned against white male new hires, at least.  I know the old boy network is still white male, in many cases, but for new hires, you’re up shit’s creek without a paddle if you’re a white dude, who happens still to be the majority of applicants in topics like say, European philosophy.  But if you’re black and do European history or literature, you have 10 job offers in one year, while if you’re white with a much better CV of publications, you have 1 offer in 10 years if you’re lucky.  Now I exaggerate a bit, but I’ve been around and seen a lot, and this is the clear trend in academic hires.

Fine.  My point is that the conservative movement does have a bit of real ammunition, when they argue that things have moved perhaps a bit towards the hysterical regarding ‘the nightmare it is to be black in America today’ as a recent slate article about a movie about black people put it.  It assumes that at every moment, to be black in the US right now is to inhabit a special type of torture.  And I’ve been following the police brutality thing:  I am the very first to admit please note, that there are massive problems with police racism and that US cops in general are way way too aggressive:  (a lot of this has to do with the fact that guns are legal and so they are always facing death:  this might get people more on edge.) (more…)


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Last night I Watched DS9 episode “Far Beyond the Stars,” and was impressed by its grappling with the politics of being a black writer in early 1950s New York.  In the end, Sisko, as Bennie the black science fiction writer, has a breakdown, after seeing a black friend killed by the police for breaking into a car, and then being beaten himself to within an inch of his life, for daring to express outrage at the police brutality.  Later, he is fired from his job for daring to write a science fiction story about a black space captain in the future, and so this all comes together to provoke his mental breakdown, during which he repats:  “I am a human being!”  The implication that his ideas deserve just as much recognition as anyone else’s:  his story was good, so who cares if it is about black men in positions of authority?  Why do whites need to fear this, or suppress the idea?

The episode was filmed in the late 90s, and since that time the arrival of Obama has made the issues feel much less ‘present-day’ poignant, though of course anyone with humanity can still sympathize in the historical context.  While in the late 90s, the notion of a black man in charge was still a futuristic dream, less so than in the 50s of course by  a longshot, but it was still unfulfilled… today, that sort of poignancy can never be as acute, thanks to Obama.  One of the epic healing salves of the entire American and indeed western culture was his election.  And yet it is striking, one of course has to sympathize with the notion of being discriminated against, being fired, being beaten up, having your friends die, simply b/c you are not the same color as the in-group.  In a paroxyism of rage, anger, and helplessness, which was still mitigated against by his stories which dared to dream of a better future, Bennie collapses on the office floor, and is carried out in an ambulance.

It struck me, that since this was filmed in about 1998, the race issue has been more healed than perhaps ever before, but that the economic issues underlying the episode have if anything gotten much worse.   Management and administration has everywhere not only gotten stronger, but implemented a policy of systematically squeezing, downsizing, piling on work, reducing salaries, reducing benefits, making every job part-time and short-duration which used to be stable and full time and long term.

And it struck me, that all of us are Sisko/Bennie.

We are all daily subject to indignities, to discrimination, to hierarchical control, dehumanization, prejudice, and institutionalized brutality.  And it is called your job. (more…)

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