Domestic War on Terror Is Not the Answer to White Supremacy

“At a time when the American system of government is already being sorely tested by a demagogue and would-be autocrat in the White House, it would be disastrous to grant more power to the Justice Department and the nation’s security services.”

—James Risen, ” To Fight White Supremacist Violence, Let’s Not Repeat the Mistakes of the War on Terror.” The Intercept. August 17, 2019.

Anytime you think the solution to a problem takes the form of “War on X” or “X War”, you probably need to think a little harder about it.

The War on Terror treats a symptom while acting as a catalyst for the underlying disease. Same goes for the “War on Drugs”. The moment marijuana was getting legalized, the criminal elements supplying it went to opiates. Further, one has to wonder how much longer “The Cold War” enabled communism to last by providing a facade the underlying structural problems could hide behind.

Also, this idea of, “At a time when…” is bogus. This kind of testing could happen at any time. If there is some capability you think the next Hitler shouldn’t have as head of government, then you have a good sense of what powers your government shouldn’t have, and you should use that line to have a principled discussion of the powers of state. Should one person be able to start a nuclear war? Should one person be able to start any war, via the War Powers Act? These are conversations that are overdue.

Cracker Country

I met someone recently. And during the course of conversation, we discovered we grew up around the same area. The conversation went along these lines:

  • Stranger: I’m from X.
  • Me: Oh, really? I grew up near there.
  • Stranger: Where are you from?
  • Me: The Y/Z area.
  • Stranger: Don’t take this the wrong way, but we used to call that, “Cracker Country.”
  • Me: *laughs* There’s probably some truth to that when you and I lived there [a long time ago], but it’s probably less true now.

Everyone involved in this conversation was white, whatever that means.

The Y/Z area was a place in the gap between rural and suburban. It used to have large blocks of pastureland for cows. They have since been converted into a suburban landscape. I remember a school dance that featured a “hoe down” as a theme. It was telling choice, walking a fine line between irony and actuality.

It was a town of the middle and lower classes that was white, which is true even today. I have no memories of any black people in my school or in the area. Issues of race were, and in many ways still are, invisible.

I shared this exchange with a family member from that area. They took it “the wrong way.” They found “cracker” offensive. My reaction to the term is closer to this one in the Gawker. It doesn’t bother me at all.

But, why? What is the difference? I don’t live there. I didn’t feel like I belonged when I was there. I left when I came of age and never returned. Maybe it doesn’t bother me because I don’t identify with the place.

But, would it be different if I still lived there? What if I were someone with stereotypical “cracker” interests? What if I attended a Baptist church? Loved fishing, hunting and/or shooting at the range? What if I worked construction or raised cattle for a living?

Conversations on race and class are always complicated. The closer you are to a stereotype, the more you’ll resent that stereotype. The other side of intersectionality is that the lower someone is on an axis such as class, the more they will focus on other axes, including white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, etc. to help increase their social standing.

37 Difficult Questions From My Mixed-Race Son

“Mommy, I have changed my name to “The Sixth Jackson.”

Wait, really? I’m supposed to say, ‘This in my son, ‘The Sixth Jackson.’?’

No. You are supposed to say, “This is the Sixth Jackson.” And then I will show them my moves. And then they will understand.

Damn.”

—Mira Jacob. “37 Difficult Questions From My Mixed-Race Son.” Buzzfeed. June 8, 2015.

New to me. Mentioned as part of Mira Jacob’s just released, “Good Talk,” which is a graphic memoir of conversations that have this quote at their heart:

“I can’t protect you from spending a lifetime caught between the beautiful dream of a diverse nation and the complicated reality of one.”

h/t Longreads.

Ideology & Pride

“But this is pride, according to Niebuhr: the inability to interrogate our own moral stances because we’re too committed to ideology. Pride has everything to do with power, because the ideologies we commit ourselves to belong to the tribes that we count on to protect, defend, and advance us. Perhaps the most radical thing Jesus ever did in his society was to ditch his family and leave Nazareth. The man had no back-up.

To be very clear, the lesson to be drawn from all of this is not that human knowledge (or lack of) shapes how we use power. To a disconcerting extent, it’s just the opposite. How we use power shapes how we choose to know.

To make things worse, Niebuhr says, humans have a capacity for “partial self-transcendence.” That is, we’re able to see how we can make things better, and tempted to think that means we can make them perfect. In other words, humans know just enough to fool them into thinking they’re not dumb. Big mistake. We do just enough of the right thing to convince themselves that they are good. Bigger mistake.”

—Daniel Schulz. “Pride in the Name of Power.” killingthebuddha.com. July 29, 2018.

Seymour Hersh’s “Reporter”

“‘Reporter’ demonstrates that Hersh has derived three simple lessons from that rule:

  1. The powerful prey mercilessly upon the powerless, up to and including mass murder.
  2. The powerful lie constantly about their predations.
  3. The natural instinct of the media is to let the powerful get away with it.”

—Jon Schwarz, “Seymour Hersh’s New Memoir Is a Fascinating, Flabbergasting Masterpiece.” The Intercept. June 2, 2018.

Black 14

“In 1969, 14 black players from the University of Wyoming football team expressed a desire to wear armbands during a game against BYU in protest of the racism of the Mormon Church. Their coach immediately kicked them all off the team. The University administration backed him up as did many others.

Why would a white man be filled with rage when confronted by free-thinking, free-speaking, free-moving black people asserting their humanity?” That’s just one of many questions that director Darius Clark Monroe found himself asking when he first heard about the story. His film Black 14 (as the players came to be known) is made up wholly of archival material and serves as an indictment of a society where those seeking to protest white racism are instead made into its next targets.”