Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Beware the insidious propaganda of White Supremacy

I recently came across a tale being distributed by a family member that speaks to the subtle, insidious white supremacy I was raised with. The kind that focuses on the symptoms in order to distract from the underlying, systemic issues that caused it. The kind that sends a child off to college “knowing” that awareness of race itself is the modern manifestation of racism.
The white supremacy that sends a child off to college “knowing” that awareness of race itself is racism.
The tale comes from an organization that promotes bicycling as a way for minority youths to escape poverty. It’s a noble goal giving the youths a hobby that connects them with mentors, teaches them discipline and physical fitness, and helps them make contacts in the wider community. All sources indicate that the organization is excelling both as a successful cycling team and as a way to improve outcomes for its members.

So why am I mentioning a successful youth outreach organization in an editorial about white supremacist propaganda? Because as much as this program does for the youths whose lives it touches, it merely treats the symptoms. By equating the positive outcomes for these specific minority youths to the potential positive outcomes for the black community, it says this: buckle down! Just try harder and you can do it too! It says this while downplaying the barriers the black community faces.

Yes, I did just jump from youth raised in poverty to black youth raised in poverty. That was the first issue with the tale. The tale was posted and told of taking five of their youth, who live in subsidized housing, to experience the Confederate monuments. It was accompanied by a photo of five black teen boys and ended with their names, four of which suggested the teen was black. After the trip the youths discussed their experience and wrote their feeling from the trip. The whole recounting and presentation of the tale created an appeal to authority about the impact of Confederate monuments on the racial environment because the authors were black teens presenting their own feelings from the day. This appeal to authority is made explicit by the use, in triplicate, of the all-caps word “their”.

The dangerous propaganda comes in when the teens describe that these statues have nothing to do with the problems they deal with daily. Problems like violence, bad food choices, and failing schools. Don’t misunderstand me, these are real problems that they have to deal with. And of course monuments do not directly cause low income neighborhoods to be cut off from jobs, but they do serve as a visible manifestation of the institutional lack of respect for poor, black lives.
It was white supremacy that extended loans to white buyers while withholding the same from black buyers.
Decades of white supremacy have funded schools based on property value and devalued property that is primarily black owned. It was white supremacy that extended loans and sold real estate to white buyers while withholding the same from black purchasers, sometimes explicitly for the purpose of keeping property values high. These forces are not visible to students suffering in underfunded schools, and so it’s easy to take them to see Confederate monuments and have them write about the irrelevance of that monument to their daily problems.

What makes this framing so sinister is that these issues are real and need to be confronted too, both the acute symptom and the root cause. When bringing out victims of white supremacy to write about their experience of the symptoms in the face of a discussion of making progress on the causes, this is a bad faith presentation to shut down the conversation. If society is celebrating and honoring white supremacy then, as a people, black people will not be able to compete on an equal level.
White Supremacy dangles current hardships to distract from efforts to address systemic hardships.
Such framing is also used when attempting to keep the focus of mitigation efforts on the symptoms. When the conversation turns to how to address problems like poor schools or a lack of mentorship, then white supremacy brings out success stories like these youth outreach programs to dismiss the prevalence of the issue. Because these specific black people were able to overcome hurdles most white people don’t face, it must not be a real problem, white supremacists say.

So beware the insidious propaganda of White Supremacy. It dangles the existence of extreme current hardships to distract from efforts to address systemic hardships. It dangles the success of an exceptional few to distract from the widespread hardships faced by many minority members of our great nation. And all the while it reaps the benefits of the lie of “equality”.

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