Some days my head is just way too full of shit.
This got me thinking about some of the things rattling around in there. So now my random association machine is going at full throttle.
First: There are so many things wrong with a study like this.
Primarily, it was obviously not designed by someone who had ever truly been poor. Anyone who managed by some miracle to escape poverty into even the lower rungs of the middle class, especially if they’d been a scholarship kid, knows that there is so much more than income that drives intelligence and development. Any exposure to wealth by anyone who’d been poor is like a walk in the mirror universe.
There is an unspoken ease that you feel in the presence of someone who hasn’t really known hunger (I’m sure that feeling is similar between someone who has known the occasional stretch of empty cupboards, like myself, and someone who was truly been HUNGRY) there is an unknown specter that hangs over the food secure, that only in my adult life was I able to identify.
Granted, it is not possible to get the full scope of such a grand experiment in a short article, nor is it possible to explore every nuance of poverty, especially viewed through the lens of those who “have.” Regardless of any of that being someone who spent some significant amount of time, as a child and as the head of a household, on the upper rungs of the poverty ladder I already see some clear omissions.
It is relevant that this comes up now though, especially when the discussion of eugenics (Race and I.Q. most notably) is back in vogue. We are seeing poverty in stalker contrasts now as it relates to privilege and denial of privilege.
Being poor is becoming a caste in the U.S..
Here comes the brain dump:
So a few of the things one needs to take into account that come along with even a small boost in income are as follows:
- Exposure to culture. Poor kids get (some) sports, middle class kids get sports and piano, slightly richer kids get different sports, cello and museums and history, richer still get to see and experience them all. Yes, it is a broad oversimplification, but if experience is the best teacher, learning about Africa or Europe and going there are very different experiences. Studying Jazz, Classical or any genre of any art and EXPERIENCING them are also very different things. Now there are plenty of parents I know who have very limited means who found a way to give their kids exposure to all of he above and I give them all due credit, but being of means makes these things not just optional but in many cases obligatory.
- Exposure to lead (and other toxins). On the other hand, poverty, is literally toxic. Environmental factors are a huge determinant and can be a severe detriment if the environment is toxic. Poor people have lead exposure levels that are still much higher then they should be. Other environmental factors from pollution in both rural and urban environments have been shown to affect fetal development and IQ and in some studies are shown to be more significant than genetics. A study of Indian children draws some wider conclusions making the multi-factor argument better than I can.
- The culture of achievement. This is a tough one because you can easily come off as a bigot but the aspirations, and examples you are surrounded by have a huge influence on your motivation. Now this is regardless of race or location and is primarily one of the reasons for the current rural backlash as people who had always had a familial association with hands on trades like farming felt the same wave of doubt and dislocation as people in urban areas felt when manufacturing jobs fled. The burgeoning Black middle class had barely had a chance to take root when the rug was pulled out from under them, it didn’t go well. White rural America is coming to the same realization, it won’t go well. Basically, if you see agility in your life going forward, you are much more likely to prepare to be agile, if you see your father’s, father’s lifestyle disappearing and that lifestyle isn’t just a living but an identity, there is much more at stake.
- Food Insecurity/Exhaustion. Some parents, or parent, just work too much to get any face time with their kids. The combination of poor nutrition and exhaustion is for many people the very definition of poverty. Poverty is a syndrome, with moving parts that often swap and change over time and a host of symptoms that need multiple inoculations and will likely take years even decades to just get under control. In my mind its obvious that there is not one single factor, one single cure or one single method or ideology that can be employed to help.
Studying poverty and all its aspects is important, that goes without saying, but one single study studying a few aspects of poverty will barely put a dent into our understanding. Poor people know more about poverty than anyone, they experience it and the anxiety that comes with it and live with that reality. Poverty changes your chemistry, rewires your brain and focuses your attention on survival in ways that aren’t apparent to anyone who never lived it. I have a few suggestions for things that would help as do many experts but without buy in from the people expected to benefit from them our every effort will ultimately fail.
That word more than most these days is equally vilified and employed.
Sometimes the word is unspoken a la racists and other assorted bigots.
Its spoken as an aside when describing women, assumed when “traditional values” are evoked.
All is a word that is mostly assumed whenever someone accuses someone else based on their membership in some group.
Sometimes “most” will suffice.
In my life as racial ambassador, confident, guy who goes where others dare, member of the family, incognito brother, I’ve experienced a lot of insider access to casual racism. In shops, firehouses and among friends and family, I’ve been the guy who isn’t like the others…assuming most of “us” are a certain way… the guy with which they let their guard down.
As that guy, I’ve heard people say things that they’d never feel comfortable speaking in public, for a second they forget that I’m one of “them” and let the truth fly.
Satirical as the above might be, there is more than a kernel of truth to it. Many whites, when they feel safe or are alone don’t give away newspapers, but they do give away a sense of their reality. Any “woke” white person who has been in a place where working-class white gather knows this as well, painfully.
When I read the story of a Kansas City man who spat on and called a little kid a Nigger, I wasn’t surprised. I also wasn’t surprised by his admission of being a “first responder” as I know for a fact that, in places where those who serve don’t look anything like the served there is plenty of room for harboring racial resentment at the very least, and regularly, racial hostility. And in the places where they do (I’ve been to Overland Park, and it is VERY white) the harboring is more like hosting.
The incident is a tip of the iceberg one for me. It marks a swing in the pendulum back to the 70’s and 80’s when whites felt much more emboldened to make judgments on blacks loudly and publicly. It marks the return to an open hostility that has been stirred up by the racial progress of the last 15 years, where the fact that we had our first President of color was only the tip pinnacle of a cultural sea-change. A change that took place in the culture that started (again) sometime around Disco and continued through Gangsta, driven first by curiosity and rebellion and then by marketing.
It is also a terrifying emergence of a new paradigm.
We never addressed our institutional race problem, we tried to introduce a measure of fairness here and there, but our affirmative actions never went far enough. In our police stations, firehouses, military, and rescue forces there are still deep pockets of racial hostility. We never went far enough to get minorities to take seriously the professions that pillar many white communities, rural and urban. We never propped up black and brown boys and girls who wanted to be cops and firefighters as well as carpenters and mechanics. Though seeing this made that reality unsavory to many of us:
The truth is that vocational education failed to reach many of us. Even if we did break through the stigma, what greeted us when we tried to gain entry into the professions was a cultural gatekeeper that made the process all but impossible.
So this guy, who may or may not be what he claims to be, was able to by his assumed membership in an indeed revered and protected class, avoid arrest and escape prosecution. They used to hang us for looking the wrong way at whites, (night sticks and tasers are now the preferred methods) this guy assaults a black boy, degrades him and in 2018 barely gets a slap on the wrist because he claims to be “hero.”
This whole culture glorifies the warrior myth. I hear people who dodged the draft or avoided service extolling the virtues of the Army, Air Force, Marines and the flow through professions of Fireman, EMT, and Police. Some without the virtue of first-hand experience and others who benefitted from the inherited whiteness of them. The associations are clear, first responder, military = white.
So the question is, does this guy get off on the denigration of his fellow heroes by claiming he is immune from being arrested for assaulting a preschooler or is he evoking the long tradition of racial safe spaces in our firehouses, ambulance companies, and police stations?
It will be interesting what response, if any, comes from the first responder community.
Sometimes its hard to tell what our president is thinking. Sometimes I think he’s not thinking at all but reacting.
Yeah, I know, its been said before.
That’s why I haven’t been commenting much on Trump lately. There are far more people (both more qualified and less than I) making statements about and trying to guess what the president is thinking, probably more than at any other time since he’s been a public figure.
Just since November of 2016, the conversation has shifted from trying to do the math as to how he won in the first place to what he’ll do to where he was coming from to is he mentally fit to hold office. So many of these questions have obvious answers. He won by appealing to the baser instincts of a group of Americans who not only feel left behind but even if they voted for him, as many did, were swayed by the constant barrage of dog whistle idiocy that was the media during the Obama administration. They feel left behind by a country that always told them they were golden, chosen people, so when that promise was uncovered as a lie they rebelled. As with most popular rebellions, the scapegoat firewall lay between them and the people who truly fucked them over.
Never before in my lifetime have I seen the Country in such a state of reactionary fervor. If I’ve learned anything it is that you should never think things can’t get any worse, or any weirder. Sometimes being prepared for the worst is the best you can hope for. Not that you should abandon all hope or lose all sense of optimism, but keeping those things in the vacuum of the naive belief that “people are generally good” is downright suicidal.
I often try to look at recent history and try to draw a flowchart in my head to link all the things I’ve seen since the end of the Vietnam era ( I was born the year the conflict reached its Apex of 500,000 US troops) and remember middle-class. I mostly remember the palpable sense of dread that came with slowly admitting defeat in an unwinnable battle. I was born the year of nationwide unrest over the treatment of African-Americans (we were called negro, Colored or just Nigger at the time, in equal measure) and the year before the death of Martin Luther King.
I remember watching as the post-civil rights era played out, how legal segregation turned into redlining and blockbusting and I remember how the wash of irony felt as I sat in a real estate class 40 years later and heard my teacher discuss the practices as if they were ancient history (they weren’t, and aren’t). A few years before that I watched my Mom “steered” into a property in a mostly black part of town and in a double whammy also watched her sold a subprime mortgage with a huge balloon payment that would have kept her in permanent share-cropper status for the rest of her life. I watched as friends who had genius level IQ’s , but had little or no support at home, were shuffled into “alternative education” and taken out of the system of merit they would have all but taken over.
I watched the systematic dismantling of families, the ignorance of the problems faced by people who were just out of reach of the middle-class dream, not quite poverty-stricken, but barely able to make the rent, the car payment, and the heat, and often one or more of the above would suffer. (oh and food, let us not forget food)
I also remember being terror-stricken by television, the resurgence and resurgence, and further resurgences of “hate groups,” militias and various other largely white organizations whose members instinctively knew that their days as the majority were numbered. Who ignored the unequal application of benefits to them and cherry-picked statistics to bolster their own “superiority” (there is nothing funnier and scarier than listening to someone uneducated and unwilling to be, call me a monkey) even when they had an 8th-grade education and hardly a tooth to speak of.
I saw the 50-year slide into identity politics. WHITE identity politics. And now I shake my head when I hear someone like Richard Spenser, Alex Jones or any of their loosely affiliated internet sleeper cell operatives promote the narrative that Blacks, “the Left” and the “the gays” are the ones who started this whore identity politics shit. As a writer, I look out into the world, and it makes no narrative sense, as a truth-teller the story is flawed in a way that disqualifies it even as magical realism. There is nothing real about it.
As I look over all the historical links in my lifetime, I see definite patterns. Some overlap and others diverge, but a few, though taking up different sections of the page, clearly resemble each other.
Taking the experiences of poor White Americans and Poor Black Americans in snapshots of events, drug addiction, poverty, enslavement (Blacks by government mandate through slavery and its aftermath and whites by government mandate through union busting and land grants to wealthy corporations) they trace similar paths. The positive elements also converge, reverence for the elderly, a sense of community, developments in art and culture, resistance to undue authority…
But somehow, some way, the two rarely meet.
They don’t meet because one group, although downtrodden, believed that they were better by virtue of “whiteness”. That belief carried down through the years and was the current on the river to Trumpville.
This is not fake news.
Thinking for a second about some of the self-described leaders of these folks and their motivations there has to be something other than the endgame that gets them off. Even if they could eliminate or disassociate themselves from the rest of us there are still going to be sociopathic tendencies, violent individuals, and disagreements within their midsts.
I often wonder how an ethnostate of any sort would look. Having no skin in the game and no need to wish for such a thing I think I’m a bit freer than most to imagine a more realistic version of this utopia.
It would be like any other society, divided along some imaginary, or real but either way subtly enforced means, messy and stratified and pretty much just as fucked up as the one we have now. Either it would have classlessness imposed by a tyrant, or be capitalistic and leave some people behind. Either way, there is no escape from the same bullshit we face daily, it would just be whiter, or blacker. There is no way, through merely segregating “Europeans” or “Africans” to magically make everything better. The same power struggles, the same marital disagreements, the same arguments about government and what it should and can do will still exist.
Just because y’all look the same, does not make you the same.
Have you ever seen people who agree, are of the same background or the same political beliefs all in the same room together and NOT arguing? In most cases, intra-group disagreements are more violent than those between groups. Without the political or racial “other” to swerve the distraction bus towards, those conflicts would explode.
I guess perfect is the enemy of the good after all.
I have no doubt everything this man says is true.
From Sexuality to Race, power and money and the art of music, some of the most incisive comments I’ve heard about any of these things come as a conversation from an observer.
Born outside the corridors of power Quincy Jones “Q” as he’s been known has an insight into all of the above that takes no in-between-the-lines interpretation to unpack.
This is what online journalism does so well, what Rolling Stone used to do but gave up to chase false rape accusations and hand the alt-right a new narrative.
Read this, it will change the way you see music, sexuality, America and life.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have just done more for the legalization of weed than almost 50 years of lobbying by NORML. In the recent memo reversing an Obama era stance virtually leaving states alone to decide whether to legalize marijuana use, Sessions has inadvertently set up a showdown between the federal government and a quickly growing industry of growers, material supporters in non-legal states (shares of a few companies that produce fertilizer dropping more than a few points is a portent) and weed specific financial startups, not to mention users both medicinal and recreational. Those users are not the lazy dirty hippies who have so been the caricature of note.
Many users, surprisingly to statisticians, not just of the medicinal variety, cut a swath across the political spectrum and cross the great rural/urban divide. In other words, this odd little issue might have the possibility of being one of a few “rights” issues that cuts across party lines.
Politico suggests that this action may lead us down the path of legalization as a country though I’m not so sure it’s as simple as that. Yes this is the first time in a long time that Liberals as well as Conservatives are on board with “states rights” but just as those of us on the left are not a unified force on any issue, I fear that religious conservatives my still have enough pressure left in their tank to delay if not derail serious talk about legalization at least until 2018.
My feelings are mixed, honestly. Unlike many people I do believe Pot to be addictive, maybe not chemically but at least behaviorally. But by the same token alcohol abuse runs rampant through every demographic. What has always made marijuana different in my mind is the social stigma attached and the racial dog whistle that always seemed to accompany discussion of legalization.
Put it this way, when alcohol prohibition was enacted it became clear that people were going to drink regardless and organized crime, perpetrated largely by Italian Americans ran rampant. The same can be said for the drug war on urban America, people of color mainly were the recipients of both the benefits and the punishment for the weed trade.
While alcohol prohibition lasted 13 years, Marijuana prohibition, has lasted effectively over 80. Prohibition began with the influx of Mexican immigrants into the country in the 1930’s and the attached stigma spread throughout communities of color through exaggerated stories of sexual aggression in minority groups.
Basically, if you are “colored” pot makes you chase white women and when white women smoke pot they cant help but be attracted to over sexed dark-skinned men. I shit you not.
What’s different this go round is the power behind the trade. No longer is it enterprising young Black and Brown men benefiting from “selling drugs” weed has been legitimized by “start-ups” and made acceptable by “dispensaries.” And though the occasional colored weed ambassador makes his rounds, marijuana sales will largely be taken over by white dudes in suits (or at the very least colorful button-ups).
It’s continued application to a population whose power hadn’t increased like that of Italian Americans is telling to say the least. That component, the one that lessens the burden on petty drug offenders serving time, which largely affects communities of color and the poor, is heartening to me. The idea that someone reviving public assistance would not be moved off because of a test shows THC in their blood, or that the whole idea of testing for “drugs” (a clear code word for pot) would be another bone to throw at people who already believe all recipients of public assistance to be lazy.
Is there the potential for abuse, yes. Does that potentiality and actuality already exist in legal alcohol, abso-fucking-lutely.
Regardless of my own reservations it will be interesting to see how much common ground civil libertarians and economic libertarians can find in this issue. It will also be interesting to see how the issue will play out in November. We shall see.
Black gun owners.
The entire conversation is worth watching but the part about African Americans and guns is interesting to say the least.
Watch the part of the conversation Conversation with Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders concerning Black gun owners here.
- with apologies to Carl Sandburg
It’s becoming more and more apparent that we are losing our democracy of voices and opinions. Just as we seemed on the verge of becoming the ideal that we’d believed ourselves to be as Americans, that model was obliterated. At this point it doesn’t matter who shot first, or why, but the decreasing number of us in the no mans land between the constructions of “the left” and “the right” regardless of how we lean, is troubling for democracy, and for the very survival of our country.
Tyranny doesn’t only come from the right.
I make no bones about how I lean; I make no apologies for my liberal cultural background and my progressive politics. I also do not wear that label as a bulwark against letting opposing ideas sink in, mixing with my own and changing me. This approach is my definition of what being Liberal means, being open to ideas, allowing them to mesh with my experience and trying to understand what lessons shape others. It’s a word that’s been twisted to mean inflexible and turned into an epithet, so much so that I go back and forth on whether I should call myself one anymore.
My definition of self is mine and mine alone. I know what the word means to me and also know that some of the other words I call myself are only shorthand for the complexities that I keep in those boxes. Like anything, I think we get so wrapped up in the labels and the shorthand that we forget what the words mean.
It’s not always easy to hear through our filters, its never comfortable to be challenged, especially when that challenge comes from someone who you’ve already built a persona around. But those problems are often the most powerful. Coming to grips with the fact that someone who comes from an entirely different background or had a very different experience in their life than you’ve had in yours yet you are still able to connect in a meaningful way is one of the most gratifying experiences you can have.
That is part of the reason it makes me so angry to see people put up walls, especially those who label themselves with monikers that define them as just the opposite. I spoke here about the Yale nonsense that happened a few years ago, and there have been numerous other newsworthy incidents, mainly on college campuses, that reflect an unwillingness to be self-reflective in the face of opposing viewpoints. The Milo incident at Berkeley or the Charles Murray incident at Middlebury college in Vermont are two big ones that spring to mind. While I find Yiannopoulous a repugnant, showboating, self-promoting buffoon, I also found it ironic that the protestors, who became violently agitated over this clown, didn’t understand the legacy they were trampling on at that institution. Murray is also a cultural accelerant, but a more thoughtful and one who has been maligned in a way that makes me sad for the state of academic and cultural discourse.
When I look across the Millennial landscape and see the hairs-on-end sensitivity, the jumping at shadows and accusations, real or imagined, of triggered talk by folks who just haven’t caught up yet, it terrifies me to think that they will be the ones making some of the harder decisions about what speech will be allowed and what will be censored by shout down.
I’m so incredibly sick and tired of people being so offended by what they think they hear that they’ve become the monsters they, without a shred of irony, finger-point to daily. Sick of the fucking crybaby, triggered nonsense, sick of the proliferation of safe spaces as places NOT to be confronted on your bullshit instead of real and genuine refuges from psyche destroying trauma. Let me make this clear; there is shit in this world that is so horrible, so psychically damaging, so mind-fuckingly severe, that it requires years of intense therapy to get over. Let me also make this clear, about 10% or which happens here in the United States, and about 5% is genuinely worth isolation from.
At this point a clear distinction has to be made, we all experience trauma, and unless we talk about it respectfully we never really know how difficult another’s existence is. BUT what is also true is that we’ve created a culture that condenses each of our experiences into little nuggets that cling like leeches to the identities we create for ourselves. In no way do I discount anyone’s stories of abuse, be they sexual, psychological or emotional, but when we are so deeply wrapped up in our traumas that we can’t see what someone else has gone through, see our universal personhood, we put another nail in the coffin of this grand experiment.
When we don’t dispense with our hegemonies of our experiences over other’s, when we refuse to listen, to hear what others bring to the table however flawed it might be, we lose a bit of that connectivity to each other. When we start pulling outward into the human instead of backward into an identity, into white, male, female, cis, gay, trans, straight and queer, we remember our sameness isn’t opposed to our uniqueness. When we stop the ridiculously insane push to be right all the time and be wrong at least some of the time, we gain it back.
We’ve all gotten too sensitive in all the wrong ways, instead of being sympathetic to how others may feel (which requires asking them exactly how they think and why) we hold way too tightly to our identity constructs.
I’m calling out so-called Liberals an Progressives on this as well as gender rights activists, queer theorists, and feminists, mainly because I feel allied or am a part of those loose identifications. I’ve called out the prevailing myth of white supremacy as a historical fact, women’s struggles as history and the benefits that come with being of a privileged class. My bonafides are there.
Yes, I find it amazingly ironic and annoying when ego-driven when people like Ann Coulter decry Liberal Fascism, when members of the alt-right claim their free speech is being violated, and when self-promoting attention whores like Milo Yiannopoulous and Mike Chernovich point out the hypocrisy of the left.
It’s annoying and ironic, but also, sadly, right.
It all comes down to money, doesn’t it?
Money coupled with power. Power over people via “ideas” that have more in common with emotional revulsion than logic. This is what we are now.
Steve Bannon was at the left hand of the seat of power; he was the co-pilot of the administration, arguably the primary architect of the Trump victory. You’d have to be utterly blind, delusional, Stockholm Syndrome-addled or just uncaring not to see this. The nearly transparent lie that there was no collusion on the part of Bannon’s appeals to race resentment and the violence that often erupted at Trump rallies doesn’t need calling out, it is there, in plain sight, for all to see.
Nor does the connections to the Alt-Right, real Nazis, and other assorted white supremacists, they too, are plain. Through the denials (what common criminal ever said, “Yeah, I did it, that was me” when being cornered by the cops?) the obstrufications and every logical event to the contrary, Bannon, Breitbart and its network of ideologues and hangers-on continue to play a role in the conversation or at least continue to keep the discussion about them, bolstering the profiles of both the wave riders and the hard idealogues.
There is no such thing as bad press.
So why are we still playing this game?
Why are we still under the delusion that we are living under anything but a proto-fascist state, a state that combines the worst elements of our cold war and second world war enemies. We now represent the things we have purportedly fought against for most of the 20th century. It’s no longer about left and right ideologies because both would be crushed under the weight of the oligarchy. When there isn’t freedom for anyone, ideology is moot.
It is a cold hard fact that for all of the history of the United States we have been awash in white supremacy. Its taken many forms as the idea of whiteness have been adopted by various Europeans and those of European descent. It isn’t unique to this nation, but the brand of white superiority and supremacy is. We are unique in the fact that we’ve inhabited a Janus-like guise, out of one face we say we are pluralistic and generous, the huddled masses are welcome to come and add their uniqueness to our own and to our collective culture, on the other we are xenophobic, racist and fearful of difference although demonstrably, once we know each other personally those elements diminish.
We also claim to value our collective contributions to our society. We claim to not see race or sex and that the value we place on our fair values is absolute. Even on our political left, there is this illusion, the corridors of power in our entertainment are littered with the desiccated bodies of the women who know better. Liberal Hollywood is awash in its form of hypocrisy. Weinstein, Cosby, and Baldwin, either get a pass or use their considerable power as men to create false personas that defy their goodness while hiding their toxic badness.
At the risk of sounding SWJish, White Male Superiority in general. Yes, even Cosby.
Masculinity is at least a convening force in all this. I’ve spoken before about how this mirror universe came to pass, how the power structure that was had been challenged by an educated, non-white man, and then an educated (albeit universally unlikeable) white woman and the resulting pushback gave us a starring role in the Truman shitshow we live in now. How the years of ingrained, assumed norms of power and who was inherently qualified to wield it, unraveled while Rural White Male America slept soundly in their beds, secure in the fact that their hegemony wouldn’t be undone by a one-term Nigger president.
See how that happened?
We didn’t elect a white knight, we chose the anti-Nigger, the crass boldness embodiment of everything we would have lynched Obama for, and some things lesser, that we tried to. Trump’s money, his conspicuous consumptive nature on full display in House Horrific gold inlay pimp my penthouse bling, his pussy grabbing dullard braggadocio, his obviously ignorant grasp of policy and its implications, all of it punishable by death for any nonwhite who isn’t signed to Bad Boy or in the NBA. Trump is gangsta personified.
Must be the money…
Edited on 10/12/17 because the first time around I just don’t give a f***!
Edited 9/8/17 because brought to you by the letter “M.”
Edited (yet again) on 8/10/2018 for a few misplaced (s)s and slightly augmented wording.
Can we re-purpose a reactionary frame?
Can we take something not quite patently offensive, but triggering and reshape it to mean something that can unite rather than divide? Can a community of people, who already feel burdened with the explainer role, manage again to unify under something they mainly feel is a bastardization and outright insult to the movement they identify with?
If we’ve learned anything from the election of Donald Trump, we should take away this, using the language of the oppressed to claim oppression works, but can the opposite work as well.
When I’d seen the statement “All Lives Matter” in response to BLM, I cringed. I knew it was a reactionary, angry, reflexive response to a needed if not fully appreciated movement. It angered me that people who know better should have understood that killing an unarmed member of any community should be denounced, that people who should know that there is a disparity between the way young Black men are seen and treated in our society, and the way young white men are treated. That Black Lives Matter, of course, wasn’t a statement of exclusivity but one of defense. That the implication that ONLY Black Lives Matter was NOT part of this declaration, nor was the implication that Black Lives Matter MORE, but it was merely that Black Lives Matter AS WELL.
There is much to be said about how we got here, much hand wringing to be done about how history had drawn a clear line to this moment and how forces, both seen and unseen have forced these confrontations.
For context, I suggest reading some of the books on slavery or civil rights or some of the more inclusive books on American history A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a good place to start.
I’m not getting into context here, it’s too obvious to me and would distract from my point. Plus, I believe we should all be more responsible for exposing ourselves to the context of the history of the country of which we so effulgently pronounce our love.
One of the things I have learned about messaging is that sometimes to do it effectively; you have to give up some deeply held preconceptions. You have to resort to some to the tricks of the oppressor, if you will, and one-up them by playing their game. There are limits to this, of course, but within those limits is where progress can be potentially made.
Appropriation is a hot-button term. It evoked Native headdresses or kente cloth; it evokes everything from girls in yoga pants to Rachel Dolezal.
It doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. Appropriation is, in some cases, the same thing as acceptance, it is the brother or sister or transgendered, polyamorous, biracial neighbor of cultural assimilation. McDonald’s appropriated images of Black families in print ads to appeal to the people it was trying to sell burgers to, advertising, in general, appropriates members of audiences it wants to reach, and this is often called “inclusion.”
My feelings are half and half. Half of me welcomes the representation because it brings visibility and half of me knows the motivation is to sell a product. In many cases, even this gives a certain amount of arrival cred but still begs the motivation question. Yet, for whatever reason, it’s better to be seen in a positive light than a negative one, though it can be argued that this isn’t all that positive:
but is was certainly better than this:
Appropriation can be a gateway to conversation and understanding, or it can be a gross misuse of a symbolic cultural totem. I think its time for us to use the poseur of appropriation on the All Lives Matter crowd.
It makes sense that reactionary forces would seize on an approximation of a statement that virtually says the same thing. In this era of lack of imagination, lack of the ability to see things in shades of grey, and lack of connection across lines of partisanship, we have been unable to ask each other, “so what exactly do you mean by that?’ instead of reflexively attacking each other over our perception of that meaning.
So let’s start out by saying that all lives do matter. Black, White, Mexican, Gay, Straight, tall and short, cis, queer, nongender specific, Cops who occupy all of the other identities as well and are both sheltered and wrongly maligned, we can even go as radically far as to say that plants, animals….all life is important. The human variety is where we’ll focus for the moment though, let’s just say that all human experience is valuable.
Now we can get into a little trouble here in our appropriation as we often do when trying to be inclusive, how far is too far? So if the whole point of this is a marketing strategy (and make no mistake, the most efficient way to convey this message is through that means), who is the intended audience?
Assuming the target audience is the former Obama voting Trump devotee, a person who, right or wrong, thinks he is now in the minority, who assumes that being white has somehow become a liability, despite all evidence to the contrary, and now feels he must pull back into an enclave of reactionary juxtaposition. We aren’t going for the 1% White Lives Matter crowd, they are lost and never wanted to be a part of this new America anyway. Calling out the hypocritical other and also the people who genuinely don’t understand why All Lives Matter is such a divisive statement by appropriating the tag is a tact worth pursuing.
Re-branding as All Lives Matter, re-purposing with inclusion in mind of the people of all races that have been discounted and ignored, bringing in law enforcement of all races to have a dialog about how people are not treated equally and to what degree. Actually TALKING to each other about these vital issues under a moniker that doesn’t seem to exclude.
Maybe All Lives Matter can be a vital starting point to challenge the notion that they do conceptually and working on how they can actually.
Taking advantage of the short memories of Americans to change things in the long-term may be sneaky, but it can also be useful. From a marketing standpoint, it would be as brilliant a coup as turning a brand that had been wrongly associated with Nazi Germany into a brand that appeals to the Spanish-speaking among us.
In the world of spin, anything is possible.