Echoes of the Shirley Sherrod farce continue to carom down the narrow, shared corridors of the ‘left’ PC and extreme-right wingnut world, the sound decaying ever so slowly.
A month on, and another resident has been stirred from a fitful sleep, murmured crankily to himself, then slipped on his gown and stepped outside to remonstrate with the neighbours.
The US International Socialist Organization has been moved to rebuke the NAACP:
NAACP officials [says the ISO] continued to insist that they measure “civil and human rights with one yardstick.” The organization released a statement in which it claimed a “zero-tolerance policy against racial discrimination, whether practiced by Blacks, whites or any other group.”
These attempts to equate as racist acts “practiced by Blacks, whites or any other groups” distort who the historic and contemporary victims of racism in this country are.
This history is the reason why the NAACP denouncing “all racism” is confusing and misleading.
From the International Socialist tendency’s UK branch office, Richard Seymour of Lenin’s Tomb then chimed in: ‘Racism does not cut both ways, and it cannot. By definition.’
In response to a comment, Seymour expanded on his ex-cathedra pronouncement:
It isn’t about whether black and Asian people can be racist toward one another. That’s a far more complex discussion, and I wouldn’t haggle over the examples you give.
The “racism cuts both ways” meme asserts that white people are the victims of racism. There is nowhere where this is actually the case, though it is not impossible that it should happen – it was an aim of Japanese imperialism during WWII to invert white world supremacy, for example.
But the reason they can assert that “racism cuts both ways” is because of the model of race implied by the statement itself. If we understand racism as a hierarchical political-economic structure, not merely a prejudice, then of course it’s simply nonsensical to say it cuts both ways. It’s like saying “misogyny cuts both ways”, or “homophobia cuts both ways”…
[Barring] a dramatic inversion of the global system, white people by definition cannot be the victims of racism.
In the synoptic scripture of identity-politics Marxism (as the saying goes, the adjective doesn’t so much modify as cancel the noun), maybe the prophet’s famous letter on divisions in the working class has been edited to read like this:
Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians.
The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the “poor whites” to the Negroes in the former slave states of the U.S.A..
The Irishman – god bless him! – is as an oppressed person immune to chauvinist appeals. The very idea that the Irishman could, say, “pay the English worker back with interest in his own money” is a priori nonsensical, like saying “exploitation cuts both ways”.
Deplorably, it is the public official and Obama supporter Shirley Sherrod who – in the initial speech that prompted the contrived ‘outrage’ from extreme right elements – shows more fidelity to Marx – despite elements of confusion and simplification – than does Seymour and his fellow pseudo-socialists:
Well, working with him [a ‘white’ farmer] made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t. You know, and they could be black, and they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people — those who don’t have access the way others have.
I want to just share something with you and I think it helps to — you know, when I learned this, I’m like, oh, my goodness. You know, back in the late 17th and 18th century, black — there were black indentured servants and white indentured servants, and they all would work for seven years and get their freedom. And they didn’t see any difference in each other — nobody worried about skin color. They married each other. You know, these were poor whites and poor blacks in the same boat, except they were slaves, but they were both slaves and both had their opportunity to work out on the slavery.
But then they started looking at the injustices that they faced and started then trying — you know, the people with money — you know, they started — the poor whites and poor blacks — they — you know, they married each other. They lived together. They were just like we would be. And they started looking at what was happening to them and decided we need to do something about it — you know, about this. Well, the people with money, the elite, decided, hey, we need to do something here to divide them.
So that’s when they made black people servants for life. That’s when the put laws in place forbidding them to marry each other. That’s when they created the racism that we know of today. They did it to keep us divided. And they — it started working so well, they said, gosh, looks like we’ve come up on something here that can last generations — and here we are. Over 400 years later, and it’s still working. What we have to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us.
The only difference is that the folks with money want to stay in power and whether it’s health care or whatever it is, they’ll do what they need to do to keep that power.
Tags: identity politics, International Socialist Organization, International Socialist Tendency, Marxism, postmodernism, pseudo-Marxism, racism, Richard Seymour, Shirley Sherrod, Socialist Workers Party