Thursday, November 08, 2012

Election Aftermath: Scared Whites and Will Legitimate Extremism Shut Down the GOP Body?

about the economy
Two thoughts in the aftermath of the election that I keep coming back to:

1) A lot of straight White people are "scared" of the "increasing division" in our country.   I read this from the encounters I've had and accounts I've heard from other friends of people with high amounts of privilege finally coming to the realization that the area of their dominance is dawning.  There is still substantial White power and influence in culture, of course, but the fact that people with Brown and Black skin, women, and gay and lesbian people substantially influenced the election to keep our first Black president in power undoubtedly has shaken the notion that White people can band together and get whatever they want.  The unassailable ability of White supremacy to put Black people in their place has sustained a palpable hit, and White people are reacting.  I suspect many of them were assured that either their fellow Whites and White skinned people were sufficiently racist (we're not) or that the numbers of the White voting block was powerful enough to counter the Black and Hispanic voting blocks.    

Certainly it must be scary to realize that others who have been oppressed are now asserting their rights and ascending to positions of authority and gaining cultural power.  My initial thought is that I need those people to think through their fear and express it productively, and ideally transform it into an embrace of a new kind of society and for those of us agitating for further change to consider that while some hate is hate, some stems from fear and we should recognize the difference.  It will also help if people like Bill O'Reilly would quit perpetuating the idea that people of other races are trying to steal from White people through the government.

2)  Today listening to Diane Rehm talk to several Republican coalition representatives today on re-thinking their issues, and they refused to engage (what I see as) the core issues for them. They talk in marketing terms (i.e., "brand") and blame those who let slip what they really think (i.e, Akin and Mourdock). Most of them at least said those two were inexcusable  but one characterized them as just not speaking well on the subject (no, they are not just inelegant).  "Branding" is so far the most circulated discourse I hear on the radio from Republicans.  Yet one cannot reach out to people who do not feel welcome or included, and when you happen to have representatives of your party express explicitly what your policies and ideology promote.  In other words, if you support restricting a woman's autonomy to make her own ethical, moral, and religious decisions about her body, then don't be surprised when you have people in your organization that conceptualize distinctions of "legitimate" and "God willed" rape.  Rachel Maddow covers the consequences of such male-dominated, extreme absolutism.

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I had to quit listening when a registered Republican emailed the show and said he could not vote GOP until they unhooked the political from the theological.  Instead of a thoughtful response to loyal constituent, the two respondents talked about completely unrelated topics. I wonder who in the GOP has the fortitude to grapple with the extremist position many GOP people take and how deeply in bed they are with religious fundamentalists?  Can the GOP realize that White power is diminishing, male dominance is waning, and the hegemony of heterosexuality is being questioned and respond to the changing cultural climate?  Can they understand that absolutism, even or especially financial absolutism, like dedication to Norquist's tax pledge is a problem to achieving reasonable conservative goals and likely harms their goals more than serves them?  Can the GOP be conservative yet inclusive and pro-citizenry over pro-business? I do not expect that they will quit being conservative, but I wonder if there is not a place for a more moderate, Eisenhower-like conservatism?  Can one be conservative and still believe in equal treatment of all people?

Conversations with conservatives suggests to me that this may indeed be possible to some degree, although one of the obstacles to this rests in White people resisting their fear and their racism.  Too many White people think that bringing up racial inequality is somehow counter-productive to equality.  They seem to want an equal world yet don't want to pay the cost of centuries of White supremacy.  That cost, at minimum, is talking about White supremacy, which makes White people very uncomfortable and afraid fast.  Yet, it's a necessary part.  People of all racial identities who are middle and upper class need to realize the huge barriers for working class and lower socio-economic class individuals to achieving financial solvency and independence.  Those interested in less government should be willing to negotiate rational compromises with those of us who favor more government in ways that doesn't stake out a ridiculous "no government" position or that demonizes working class people (and usually Black and Hispanic people) as loafers and moochers.

In short, how things proceed depend on many factors, but one of the most important to me is for straight White people to examine their fear, to stop relying on century old stereotypes, and to unabashed confront how inequitable our nation really is rather than deny it and run from it.

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