An Open Letter to Journalists, Activists and Academics

Dear colleagues in the academy, dear former colleagues in the media and to my friends in activism, we need to talk.

What We Just Saw

On May 25th, four police officers in Minneapolis murdered George Floyd. One of them, Derek Chauvin, acted as executioner, pressing Mr. Floyd’s neck with his knee for nearly 6 minutes as Floyd begged, called for his mother and repeatedly insisted that he was dying. After these six minutes, Mr. Floyd went limp. Chauvin, following President Trump’s advice to “not be too nice” to suspects in custody, continued applying pressure with his knee for another three minutes as bystanders begged him to desist. The next day, the Minneapolis Police Department lied about these events, implying that Mr. Floyd had died while resisting. It was revealed that Chauvin had 18 previous ethics complaints, many about excessive use of force against African Americans. None of which prevented his selection as a field training officer. On May 29th there was a surreal attempt to blame Mr. Floyd’s death on heart disease. Protests erupted everywhere from Washington D.C. to Boise, Idaho.

On May 31, the editor of my first book posted a video of rioters rampaging through the streets of Reno, Nevada. I woke my mother up in the middle of the night in order to confirm southern Oregon wasn’t on fire and then called my sister in Portland, Oregon. There were some military vehicles in town and the courthouse might have been blocked off and set ablaze with people still inside, but luckily – luckily? – the COVID19 plague meant that my sister and her fiance were tucked safely away and out of harm’s way.

On June 1st and 2nd police officers crashed their cruisers through crowds of protesters. A platoon of officers in body armor “lit up” people standing on their porches as it marched through a Minnesota suburb. Two Buffalo, New York policemen were being crushed beneath an SUV on live TV.

I contacted friends and more distant relatives. One had been recording on his phone when he got gassed in Sacramento. He uploaded the footage to Facebook and I was able to make out several officers of the peace who appeared to be – for lack of a better term – beating the shit out of whoever was in melee range. A friend, who works for the City of Sparks as a utility locator, revealed that around this time he had been asked to “barricade the police station before we get hit again.” The editor of my other book checked in to confirm that no one had been immolated in the Portland courthouse fire after all – small comforts.

On June 2nd, President Trump, “inspecting his underground bunker” while riots and fires raged outside, took to Twitter to speak of the “ominous weapons” and “fearsome dogs” ready to maim anyone approaching the White House. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas had tweeted a suggestion that the active duty US military be sent into American cities and used in “no quarter” operations against US citizens. “No quarter” military operations are war crimes. President Trump re-tweeted Senator Cotton’s remarks in an apparent expression of approval.

A few hours later President Trump delivered a speech outside the White House. He called himself “your president of law and order” and promised to do something I can only describe as invading cities and states. He then moved to “pay respects” to Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, which had been damaged in riots the previous night. As he finished the speech, explosions could be heard in the background where “federal agents” assaulted, without warning, an orderly crowd of people doing exactly what the first amendment says they are entitled to do. Among the people so assaulted were the clergy of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, evicted from their own facility.

Standing in front of the Church, President Trump retrieved a bible from his wife’s handbag and handled it with obvious confusion before saying “greatest country in the world. And we’re going to keep it safe.” A reporter asked if it was Trump’s bible and he replied “it’s a bible.” The president of law and order then returned to the White House, breaking curfew in the process. Military helicopters hovered extremely low over public streets and we discovered that the attorney general possesses a militia. The tinpot dictator vibe could not have been stronger.

Retired generals, to an extent never seen in American history, reminded active duty military personnel that they swore to protect the constitution above the commander in chief, strongly implying they’d be forced to make that distinction. The National Geographic Society helpfully explained that it is technically better to refer to rubber bullets as “less lethal munitions” rather than “non-lethal munitions.” Freshly taken pictures of protesters missing teeth and eyeballs accompanied this. An elderly man was assaulted by police and then ignored as he bled from the ear and went into seizures on the pavement. I could go on but the lawlessness and brutality would just get repetitive.

I don’t think I’m alone if I say the whole thing felt like some morbid cross between Wrestlemania, Idi Amin and that Chinese lady who killed kittens with her high heels. It was vulgarity and ugliness so naked and unashamed it overwhelmed any sort of normal emotion. It was like watching democracy die not at the hands of the Nazis or Soviets but in a very special episode of the Darwin Awards.

How in the long and tortured history of US race relations did we get here?

All Lives “Matter”

The first time I saw the “All Lives Matter” slogan I didn’t think at all about the “Black Lives Matter” slogan it was obviously intended to rebut. Instead I rolled my eyes and laughed because the idea that all lives matter is as misleading and stupid as declaring “all things are good” or that “everyone’s a great kisser.” As someone who, between the ages of 18 and 25 was almost always desperately poor, in close contact with drug dealers and child abusers and the sorts of folks who use a shotgun for their murder suicides, as a former resident of the world’s largest trailer park and someone who made dumpster diving a major economic focus, let me spell it out real clear.

All lives do not matter.

This idea that I mattered, that my neighbors mattered, that the world would have cared much at all if we died, this is idealistic nonsense of the lowest rank. It is a perfidious little nothing meant to cover a deep and rotting landfill of human refuse with positive thinking vapidity. It is cruel. It is pointless. It is a lie and it is a huge part of the reason circus-master-in-chief Donald Trump could turn gleeful lawlessness, the promise of racial horror and bone-deep vulgarity into a 2016 electoral victory.

There’s this idea in education called “situated cognition” that works as a jumping off point. It’s kind of a squishy concept and you need not take it too seriously except in one respect. Situated cognition correctly demonstrates that we humans cannot be understood outside our social contexts. Our social systems are made of individuals, yes, but young individuals are made recognizably human by the influence of social systems. Without that influence, as the long and sad history of feral children has shown, we cannot speak and in many ways we can’t even think.

These social systems need maintenance, re-invention and protection. They need individuals to follow traffic laws, to eat chickens instead of spotted owls and to serve in courts of law because if the individuals fail to do so, the system collapses. And since we are not recognizably human unless we partake in a social system, every single instinct in our bodies yearns to fill a role.

You can see this “will to a role” with any group of children. Send them to play with a puzzle or make drawings in the sand. It is not the child who struggles with the puzzle or makes an ugly sand drawing that cries, it is the child who sits to the side, unable to participate. They cry because they have no role in the project. Because they have no role they feel useless and feeling useless really, really sucks.

If and when these children become useful adults the “will to a role” forms the core of their identity. Ask Bill Gates what he is and he will refer to a role – businessman, philanthropist, husband. Ask Oprah Winfrey who she is and she will also refer to a role – entertainer, journalist, media tycoon. Bill Gates’ and Oprah Winfrey’s identities are their roles and it is precisely because they contribute so substantially to the maintenance, re-invention and protection of their social systems we can honestly say that their lives matter.

I mention this because a large and increasing number of children did not grow to become useful adults. Sometimes this is their own fault but most often not. Fault and blame are, quite frankly, beside the point. The important thing is that they, just like the children unable to participate in the puzzles or draw in the sand, feel useless. They, older and more sophisticated than those children, look at the social system and feel how little their actions matter. They, with the nauseous clarity of someone trying to hold back vomit, are intensely aware that they’ve become parasites. They are not always poor, many of them are not. But they are members of dying industries, stranded in cultures that no longer serve any purpose, aware that their good actions don’t matter and that their bad actions can be ignored.  Vulgar lies like “all lives matter” aside, they could die without inconveniencing anyone. They are commonly downwardly mobile, blue collar or quasi employed, Caucasian racial thinkers who like Donald Trump.[1]

And this leads to a very difficult series of questions for said downwardly mobile whites. The most obvious of these questions is whether or not to kill oneself. Involuntary parasites, not always poor but always superfluous, do not usually wish to leech off of their friends, families and social groups. However, most understand that if they were to die, it would be a relief for their friends and families. It is for this reason an acid shame bubbles just beneath the surface in many of them.

However, not many people are self-sacrificing enough to kill themselves, I’m certainly not, and that brings us to the second difficult question. If a person is both an involuntary parasite and unwilling to commit suicide, how can he or she justify his or her life? The best of these people fight and rage and claw until their fingers bleed. They escape or they die trying and, I am happy to report, there are a lot of people who fit this description. The worst of these people look for solace – for that tiny shred of self-respect, that slightest excuse to continue living – in ideas of heritage or essence. In the context of downwardly mobile white Americans, the worst of these involuntary parasites begin to take pride in their racial identity.

Why the Academy and the Press Make Trumpism Worse

As someone who escaped from involuntary parasitism, used to work in the media and is now waist deep in academia, please believe me when I say I’m speaking from a place of friendship. Guys, we are a big part of the problem.

A former professor of mine recently expressed his confusion at how a poor person of any race could support Donald Trump when the man clearly does not care about their material well being. A close friend from an upper middle class family cannot begin to grasp how so many people came to forgive Donald Trump’s shocking ignorance and limitless vulgarity. Here in South Korea, I work with people from China, Vietnam, Australia, South Africa and Mexico and I’ve never met a single one who understands the Obama birther conspiracies.

A lot of this is simple segregation. My former professor has pretty clearly not spent much time in trailer parks. My friend admits he’d never really gotten out of the suburbs and quaint villages near Oxford. My coworkers, when they visit the US, stick to the nice parts. People like this, educated, liberal, segregated, are the ones leading the cultural discourse. This is a problem.

I cannot count the number of academic papers and magazine think pieces I’ve read explaining the dangers of white supremacy. Forests worth of trees have been pulped so that we might investigate every single theoretical implication of white supremacy in poetry, kindergartens and the operations of fast food restaurants. Some of this research is good, some of the think pieces are excellent and I’m not saying we should get rid of any of it. And yet, the question of how and why a person becomes a white nationalist, a white supremacist or a Trump supporter just flies under the radar. The only serious attempt I’ve seen by a major intellectual to explain why a normal person becomes a racial nationalist was published 69 years ago.[2] Given current circumstances, that seems awfully negligent.

We’re blind because academics and members of the press are segregated as fuck. I don’t mean racially segregated. Go to any of the newsrooms I’ve worked in and you will find people of every race, gender and sexual preference. In my newspaper and magazine jobs, most of my bosses have been women. There was always an effort to hire African Americans. Homosexuals were sought out and recruited and, without exception, each of these people was college educated, upper or middle class and a fan of Bernie Sanders. In other words, diverse in the packaging and basically homogeneous between the ears.

The academy is worse. At the 2019 World Education Research Association meeting in Tokyo, keynote speakers endlessly and accurately pointed out that we had Australian aborigines, tribal people from Zambia and people with non-bianary gender identification presenting their research. Whenever a speaker was white, she would apologize. Whenever a speaker was a man, he would apologize. Then, ostentatious celebrations of diversity concluded, a show of hands confirmed that every single one of the 400-ish people in the auditorium supported a left wing political party.[3] With no exceptions I found, they were all middle class or rich. With few exceptions, they’d been born that way.

The news media, theoretically, is not supposed to be partisan. Education researchers have no reason at all to form a partisan body and yet you’ll find more viewpoint diversity at an NRA rally. We, so radically segregated in intellectual bubbles, cannot understand the appeal of racial supremacy thinking.[4] I’m not even sure most of us are capable of conceiving the question. Certainly when I’ve mentioned it in the course of my presentations and reports, they acted as if I’d just conjured butterflies from the ether – “ooh, amazing, we’ve never seen this before.” It is for this reason we academics and media people have been useless or worse in the face of rising white nationalism.

It is understandable to prefer segregation within the safety of one’s own caste or bubble. I promise that you do not want to live in a trailer park, tour the ghetto or watch the meth addicts decompose in the backwoods. No sane person would choose to partake in the bubbling desperation and soul crushing meaninglessness of these communities. I get it, but there is a cost.

Very few outsiders have any idea what goes into making the racist core of Trumpism or any other type of identity politics. Unless we discover a sense of duty, the courage to leave our bubbles and a genuine desire to see democracy survive, the thought leaders in media and academia will continue to inflame rather than ameliorate the rise of white nationalism.

Precisely because my fellow academics and journalists have grown too comfortable and just a touch cowardly, they can’t grasp that Trump’s utter indifference to the economic fortunes of downwardly mobile whites is a selling point. It’s a relief for the simple reason that being ignored doesn’t destroy dignity quite as quickly as the insincerity and condescension on offer from many rich liberals. There’s a reason the snarling callers on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program always talk about “elite liberals” and it’s because nothing emasculates, pulverizes and kills the soul like becoming a pity object. Nothing makes a human being into a pity object faster than a showily compassionate do-gooder.

The safely segregated suburbanites, academics and members of the press fail to grasp that vulgarity and lies are not sins but rather virtues for an involuntary parasite. When President Trump recommends we fight the COVID19 pandemic by injecting ourselves with kitchen cleaning products, they naively take his words at face value, blind to the fact it is not the “medical advice” that matters. It is watching doctors, academics and the hated intellectuals forced to prostrate before a drooling idiot and, in some small way, sharing in the parasite’s humiliation. The more the idiot drools, the deeper the vulgarity, the greater the satisfaction of watching elites and liberals grovel. And by the way, politicizing the sciences was a really dumb thing to do, academics, because the involuntary parasites are correct to suspect it now.

The vulgarity and cruelty are bad for American society as a whole but, to be frank, they are nothing compared to what the Obama birther conspiracies truly signify. I have spoken to a lot of birthers and I promise, the location of Barack Obama’s birth is almost entirely beside the point. They support birther conspiracies to delegitimize immigrant families in particular and, to a much lesser extent, people of African descent.

I say “lesser extent” because the core of Trumpism is not hatred for African Americans. Trump had no problem with Omarosa Newman and was (is?) evidently a fan and friendly acquaintance of Kanye West. His long involvement with boxing, music production and sports promotion has turned up considerably less racist activity that you’d expect. During his campaign he said almost nothing about African Americans but would not shut up about immigrants and foreigners. Barack Obama – he of the Kenyan father and exotic names – became the perfect target for Trumpian conspiracy theories for this reason. Good old fashioned hatred for black people is a part, but it’s not that big a part, at least with the white nationalists I know.

Much more so than hatred for black people, birtherism is an attempt to kindle that last, dimming excuse for self-respect that downwardly mobile whites sometimes find in white pride. The core of Trump and Trumpism is giving those involuntary white parasites a reason to not commit suicide in spite of their uselessness. Immigrants, people who by definition act meaningfully whenever they enter a new culture, embody all the activity and human agency the involuntary parasites fail to achieve and, in this contrast, destroy the involuntary parasite’s self regard. That is why Barack Obama had to be made a foreigner. That is why the border wall had to be erected.

How Trump is a Tumor and Race is the Cancer

Donald Trump is racial consciousness. I cannot emphasize this enough. Donald John Trump’s entire political career is built on race. His policies are race. His appeal is race. He is the consequence of our efforts to overcome the “post racial” dream of Barack Obama and the attempted colorblindness of both Bushes and Bill Clinton.

Every important thing Trump has done or said as president has passed through his followers’ racial lens. He became president because he helped downwardly mobile white people return to white racial consciousness after the relative slumber of the Bush and Obama years. As George Will wrote and the “racism is small dick energy” meme implies, Trump is a weak person’s idea of a strong person. This makes sense when you consider the utter impotence of involuntary parasites and their desperate fantasies of power, of mattering, of escaping the hell of uselessness. Arbitrary and unskilled expressions of brute force thus seem the ideal weapons to wield against the immigrants, the elites, the people whose actions matter. Trump’s presidency has been one long “uncomfortable conversation about race” precisely because, to an involuntary parasite, membership in a master race is an excellent means of revenge against happy people and also a great excuse to not kill yourself. Since we aren’t providing these people many other excuses to avoid suicide, things are bound to get vengeful.

Make America Great Again has almost nothing to do with economic growth or military prestige and everything to do with the dream of restoring “real America.” “Real America” is white America because, to the involuntary parasites and downwardly mobile whites, radiating their racial essence has replaced meaningful action as the means of self-respect. If real America is white, for the involuntary parasite or white nationalist, this removes the horrible suffering of being useless. No longer must they struggle to do American things like support free speech, expand trade or spread democracy. They can merely be the embodiment of America and, as a consequence, not have to kill themselves.

This passive embodiment is, of course, disastrous for a free society. Race is unchangeable and involuntary and if it comes to define human identity, reconciliation or even coexistence almost never makes sense. I need to emphasize how much more dangerous racial consciousness is than lesser vices like greed or cruelty. If I am fighting someone because I want to steal her land, we can stop fighting whenever it becomes clear I won’t win, when she bribes me or when we team up to abuse someone else. If I am fighting someone because I love violence, that person and I can stop fighting when he convinces me of the value of peace, or when I convince him to join my warrior cult. My greed or cruelty almost never requires the extermination of my enemy. But if we are fighting because I am white and my opponent is brown, there are no possible means of negotiation, no alternatives to a fight to the death because I can never stop being white and my enemy can never stop being brown. The only way out is to decide something else matters more than our respective skin colors.

Even if we leave the pogroms to the side, passive embodiment is still a disaster. If we allow the involuntary parasites to denigrate and destroy action-based identity, to passively radiate whiteness (or any other majority ethnicity), we’re left with a society where nobody is particularly good at doing stuff.[5]If we allow the white nationalists to replace manifest virtue with Hannah Arendt’s “exalted inner qualities,” there will be nothing to separate us from the Khmer Rouge or Apartheid South Africa.

None of this is meant to imply that race, just because it’s a form of nonsense, doesn’t have the power to hurt people in real life. Race, as we know it, was invented in the 16th century to explain why Amerindians died of Eurasian diseases, whites died of tropical diseases and west Africans didn’t usually die of either. Race took its modern form during the racism craze driven by the scientists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has been used to exclude and crush African Americans that entire time.[6]

However, it is still a construct. A monstrous golem, a bloodthirsty Frankenstein of horrific power but, for all that, it is still a machine. Like all machines, it can be disassembled.  I recommend we do this because racial consciousness, racial thinking, racial pride; this stuff is evil.

Reasons Trumpism Didn’t Lead to a Race War

For all the things these last few weeks have been, they have not been a race war. It sounds weird, but one of the biggest reliefs I felt came from the video of rioting my editor shared. I was not happy to see my hometown being wrecked, of course, but I was overjoyed by the fact that the people starting fires and vandalizing buildings were about an even mix of whites, Hispanics and blacks. When I saw that my first thought was “thank God. At least we don’t have to kill each other.”

Wildly misleading reporting in both the mainstream media and on Fox News notwithstanding,[7] it also became clear that we were not dealing with waves of white people killing black people, but police of all ethnicities being unforgivably repressive and violent to a decidedly rainbow coalition of mostly peaceful protesters. Black people were a disproportionate share of the victims of police violence, but the police are pretty close to racially representative. Protesters and rioters as well seemed to represent American racial groups pretty evenly. Considering the tortured history of US race relations, that was surprisingly wholesome.

But why? Why was Mitt Romney marching with Black Lives Matter? Why did the quasi homeless white youth in downtown Reno join with people literally flying a Mexican flag and a number of black looters to trash city hall? Why is Rush Limbaugh trying to help Charlamagne tha God?

On the scarier side, why didn’t we see white communities hanging black men from trees and firebombing black churches like during the civil rights movement? Why didn’t we see the residents of Koreatown shooting black rioters in the streets, as in the Rodney King controversy? Why weren’t black businesses and communities targeted by the KKK as in the 1921 Tulsa Massacre?

I strongly suspect the melting pot saved us. By that I do not mean multiculturalism, I mean people of different backgrounds literally melting into each other’s families, institutions and businesses. Nearly 20 percent of American married couples are bi-racial. My friends at the World Education Research Association presented many papers on this “problem,” ruing the “sexual colonization of colored bodies”[8] by neo-imperialists. However, once we get beyond that neo-segregationist nonsense, we can see how vehemently opposed these “colonies” automatically make one in five American couples to having a race war. Spread that out to include cousins, aunts and uncles and a majority of Americans, should they participate in a race war, would have to kill family members. Regardless of how awkward Thanksgiving dinner sometimes gets, very few people actually want to kill their family members!

While there is much in academia about cultural appropriation and minorities “losing vital connections to their past,” the fact almost everyone works with someone of a different race and the fact that every business sells to people of different races makes race wars economically impractical. Dr. Dre loses incredible sums of money going to war with eminem and Century 21 department stores might not survive if they had to fight FUBU. Businesses, consumers and producers melting together makes a race war unimaginably expensive. White rappers and black anime fans and hispanics at rodeos – this is all really positive for American society.

The US military services are an even more extreme example. The world’s most powerful fighting force is 43% minority and, thanks to excellent training and good morale, those soldiers are tightly bound to each other. A race war would go against almost everything they’ve been trained to value. It would require them to not only kill countrymen, but kill the people they’ve spent years working and training with. Even more basically, I’ve been asking my friends in the military, some of whom are very conservative, and they all said the US armed forces would reject an order to “dominate” US cities for the simple reason that nobody wants to wage war on mom.[9]

Even prisons, a huge and cancerous background element in race-relations, seem to have been helpful in at least one respect. According to a number of sources, but former mobster Larry Lawton in particular, prison gangs work pretty hard to avoid race wars. In a typical prison, Lawton said, there will be a boss for the aryans, a boss for the hispanic gangsters and a boss for the black gangsters. Since all the bosses profit from the free flow of drugs, the sale of prison bitches and the smooth running of gambling activities, they often work together to solve problems. If a member of one racial gang cheats on an agreement with either of the other two groups, his boss will meet with the representative of the affected gang and negotiate the type and length of beating to be administered to the cheat. Since looter populations and prison populations would seem to share many members, it is perhaps not surprising that a rainbow coalition tore up downtown Reno.

The elephant in the room, here, is that biracial married couples,[10] military personnel, business people and even criminals almost always have the ability to take meaningful action. They are not generally members of the involuntary parasite classes and they are not the core, racially conscious white people who choose Donald Trump and similar racist demagogues over vanilla politicians like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

While the melting pot just saved us, I’m not sure how many times it will be able to do so in the future. The crisis of involuntary parasitism is not getting better and, while it is most dangerous in the dominant ethnic group, it is not confined to white people.[11] Rough economies and plagues do nothing but turn up the temperature. Whether you want to help downwardly mobile people or want to see them crushed, you must pay attention to them. I say this because they are the most dangerous demographic in America – the only one with both the population heft and perverse incentives necessary to elect an aspiring dictator like Donald Trump.

Reasons For Hope

Thankfully, there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful. First, there are a lot of downwardly mobile whites I’ve been talking to who, having experienced nationwide protests, riots and a credible threat of invasion from their own president, are considerably less enthusiastic about the revolution than they were a few weeks ago. The proliferation of cellphone cameras has had a similar effect. It’s hard to excuse the video evidence of what happened to Mr. Floyd, the treatment of the people in Lafayette Park or elderly men bleeding onto the pavement.

Secondly, there was a big web of confusion around “white privilege” that I feel is unraveling. I have a criminal record of literally nothing and yet I have been stopped and searched on several occasions for reasons like “you don’t look like you should be in this neighborhood.” I’ve been threatened with drug sniffing dogs. I had a female officer rub her tazer between my butt cheeks while gently whispering into my ear that “I could fuck you up any time I want.” Friends from similar backgrounds to my own described spending 45 minutes at gunpoint – that turned out to be a “misunderstanding” – and several reported getting “roughed up.” Everyone I spoke to described a pointlessly humiliating and degrading pattern of interactions with the police.

I’m not sharing these stories because I want sympathy or to engage in a victim contest. I suspect these stories would be worse and more frequent if any of us had been black. Even if they would not be worse or more frequent in and of themselves, there’s historical baggage me and my fellow white trash don’t have. If a cop mistreats me, or even kills me, that’s messed up but whatever. All lives do not matter, I’m a childless man and it’s not a huge deal if I die. I don’t signify much beyond my own little existence. However, if a cop mistreats or shoots a black person, that seems to connect to a bunch of horror stories mom, dad and grandpa lived through. It connects to a history and narrative I just don’t have.[12]

I’m sharing these experiences because perhaps black and and at least some white people share a larger platform of common ground that, family history aside, might constitute more opportunities for cooperation than many of our social justice friends seem to think. Perhaps, if we stop assuming all white people are coddled suburbanites and that all black people are victims of abuse, it will make it easier to establish dialog and fill in the differences that do legitimately exist.

I think this missed opportunity for shared experiences is a big part of the reason I, and a lot of downwardly mobile white people, hate the white privilege concept so much. It has much to do with a disconnect between the middle class experience of whiteness and the involuntary parasites’ experience of whiteness that I’ve stumbled across these last few weeks.

For example, the first time I was told about my white privilege, I was working three jobs, was dressed in clothes I’d fished out of a dumpster and was carefully planning my routes to and from work to avoid the police. The person reminding me of my privilege was a well-dressed, quasi employed white girl from an upper middle-class family. I found this aggravating because it seemed hypocritical but, more than that, middle class, quasi employed white girls are almost always the ones talking about this stuff. I’m not trying to say middle class, quasi employed white girls should stop talking, but I am saying people of that description are the demographic group least likely to be homeless, least like to be killed in crimes, least likely to be targeted for violence, least likely to be denied medical care and the most likely to make it to a ripe old age in pretty much every sense. They should, perhaps, not declare themselves final authorities on the experiences of the lower classes and or of men simply because they felt super empowered in their women’s studies classes. As former President Obama pointed out and these women often fail to grasp, it’s hard to see white privilege from West Virginia.

However, I now also think that I misinterpreted that comfortable white girl and the many comfortable white girls who followed in her footsteps. I think this because I talked to a lot of middle class white guilt people during the current crisis and damn, those dudes and especially those dudettes get away with murder. One friend described how the police gently reprimanded him and sent him home after catching him piss drunk in the commission of a crime. Several explained that they’d never been stopped by the police at all. More than one woman described the effectiveness of heavy breathing and getting misty around the eyes.

It became clear pretty quickly these folks ascribed their lenient treatment exclusively to being white and had assumed people like me had similar experiences. Equally erroneous, I had thought my experiences with K9 units and butt tasers applied to the comfortable white girls. Of course, I’m not sure how these people expressing white guilt helps anything, and it still looks masturbatory from my point of view, but at least I know where it’s coming from now.

This is just one of about a million reasons academics and members of the press should stop referring to things racial groups “do” or “get.” White people, on average, are treated better by the police than black people. This is true and I think most involuntary white parasites, deep down, know this as well. However, there are approximately 197 million white people in the US. They do not have a homogenous experience, not even close. People in the segregated press and the ultra-segregated academy who write things like “a guide to X for white people” are, for lack of a better word, full of crap. Mostly they are full of crap with good intentions but they are still almost all middle or upper class folks with identical political views and should not be trusted to “speak for a race.” No one should be trusted to speak for a “race.”

And because racial categories are an extremely stereotyped method for describing human experience, reality manifests a lot more hope for common causes than any of the racial theories currently en vogue in education research. For example, many, many American police departments are effectively for-profit enterprises. Commonly city governments, in order to offer “tax free” space for businesses and residents, use the police to raise funds. This is why there are arrest and ticketing quotas. It is why you should try really hard not to drive at the end of the month and it is a huge part of the reason so many people, particularly struggling people, see the police as a predatory organization. I would bet that, should members of the press and academy swing by the trailer parks and decaying rural villages, they’d be surprised how much support they find for ending for-profit law enforcement. I think they’d be shocked how many involuntary parasites are willing to join with members of the black community to hold officers accountable for their abuses. I think there’s a pretty big appetite for reforming the ultra corrupt police unions and I think almost everyone would be in favor of more community oversight.

Black Lives Matter is another reason for hope. After the killing of Michael Brown in 2014 I was initially very much behind the protesters. I felt like Michael Brown’s death resembled a lot of the abuse and impunity I’d seen and I was excited to participate because it looked like there would finally be a chance to reform a police system I deeply distrusted. And then the protests began to fall under the umbrella of Black Lives Matter. I’m not black. I assumed the racial branding of Black Lives Matter meant I wasn’t welcome and, as such, I gave up. I don’t understand the mechanisms at all, but the protests have made it clear that I was wrong in 2014. Somehow, in spite of the name,[13] Black Lives Matter seems to be for everyone. The fact that it seems like many black people see Black Lives Matter as a means to power and thus self-respect rather than some groveling justice thing, seems like a very positive development as well.

Finally, one of the single biggest reasons for hope is the fact that lower class white identity is probably in decline. There are too many Mexican girlfriends and black bosses to really commit long term to Trumpian racial consciousness or to abolish the “colonization of colored bodies.” America is full of disintegrating communities and these communities often eject their human refuse at great velocity, launching hopeless lives and broken relationships far and wide and into new contexts, onto new soil where, if there is not more opportunity, there is at least different suffering. Working class white people, alone among all Americans, have decreasing life expectancies. They have basically stopped reproducing. Even NASCAR hates them.

If you want to see them destroyed, just wait and they’ll eventually die off. If you’re not committed to revenge, there’s a good chance we in the press and academy can assist these people as they throw off their heritage and embrace an ever expanding, ever more inclusive and ever less meaningful concept of “white.” And no, my friends, not all cultures are equally precious. Some of them suck and you should stop encouraging people to remain in them. Speaking of which …

Inspirational Lies Destroy People

We human beings are not all smart. Please stop implying we’re all destined for NASA. Please start implying that “smart” is a thing we build and not a thing we inherit.

Not all of our cultures are beautiful and many of our cultures would be better off fading away. Please stop encouraging us to embrace our roots. Please start encouraging escape and evolution. I doubt you actually want anybody to embody a race but I promise, you really do not want downwardly mobile whites to focus on their racial identities.

Please stop telling us to take pride in our heritages. Racial heritage is an accident. Please stop encouraging us to embrace accidents or to connect culture heroes and historical villains to racial groups. Please start encouraging us to borrow ideas from people who think and live differently than we do. “Our literature” is a concept that needs to die and there is nothing imperialist at all in white people studying Toussaint L’Ouverture or Asians learning about Gezo of Dahomey.[14]

Please stop lying to use about equality. We are not equal. Some of us are vital to the survival of the social group and some of us are liabilities. Please stop implying we’ll be treated the same and start implying that we’ll have to fight and work our asses off if we want to matter.

Please stop telling us that we’re “free,” whatever that is supposed to mean. We are constrained by laws and norms and roles just as much as any people in the past. Please stop implying we “can do anything we dream.” We cannot.

Please desist with the inalienable rights stuff. We are not entitled to “rights,” as President Trump’s broadside attack on free speech recently showed. Please stop implying the universe owes us the right to anything and start implying that we get rights, provisionally, through exertion and luck.

Please quit telling us we’re wonderful just for existing. We are not special or precious or wonderful “just for being yourself.” We are what we do. Please help us do things better and leave the expressions of essence alone.

I’m not just making these requests because your inspirational lies hurt people. I’ve observed compassionate people long enough to know almost all of us want to hurt somebody. I’m asking because, whether or not this is a legacy of privilege, a lot of downwardly mobile white people believed your lies. They came to expect things they would never get because they believed you. Partly because of this they became bitterly disappointed at a world that, for all its beauty, is not and never will be equal, concerned with rights, “free” or amenable with all cultures. Many were disappointed enough to elect Donald Trump and embrace white identity.   


[1] Fivethirtyeight.com ran a story “How Black Americans View Their Racial Identity.” It was revealed that 30% of white Americans are proud to be white. While this is a lower level of racial pride than Americans as a whole, proud whites are very strongly connected to Trump support. It’s fair to call these people the core of Trumpism. Also, white people are the only ones numerous enough to make their racial pride toxic to the community at large. Minorities are also racist, obviously, but there’s only so much damage they can do with their racism.

[2] The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt.

[3] In my entire voting career, I voted once for a Republican city councilwoman whose work with the parks and recreation services I admired. I briefly toyed with the idea of voting for John McCain in 2008 before swooning for Obama. Everything else has been a vote for Democrats. I am hard right by education research standards.

[4] Or racial supremacy full stop. My current research project is Japanese racial supremacy ideologies during the early 20th century.

[5] See the hollowed out husks clinging to power in Trump’s cabinet. The purging of talent and virtue in the Trump administration is a feature, not a bug. People who radiate essences cannot help but feel threatened by people who possess virtues, competencies and accomplishments.

[6] And Poles, and Jews, and the ethnic minorities of Cambodia, and race traitors in the Japanese Empire, and the Tutsis, and the natives of Liberia, and the Muslims in Myanmar, and the Christians in Lebanon, etc.

[7] There was hardly an article or broadcast that did not mention Chauvin’s whiteness and Mr. Floyd’s blackness while ignoring the fact one of the murder accomplices was Asian and that the guy holding Floyd down was black. It ignored and continues to ignore that white cops are no more likely to shoot black civilians than black cops, Hispanic cops or Asian cops. It ignored and continues to ignore the fact that interracial killings are vanishingly rare.

What the hell? Was this a desire to stoke a race war? Was it a desire to stick it to the man? Was it a desire to drive up ratings? Was it a bunch of reporters believing the post-colonial stuff they learned in their ideologically homogeneous sociology classes over the evidence of their senses? Fox, a different flavor of awful, could not have leaned any harder into the “scary black man” trope in its coverage of the riots in spite of the fact that most rioters were not black.

[8]  Judging by the questions they ask me on how to score with white chicks and the pornography they accidentally leave open on their mobile devices, I’m relatively certain my Korean students are also interested in colonizing white/black/brown bodies. Perhaps it’s only Koreans and Americans interested in such colonies, but I kind of doubt it.

[9] The long list of retired military brass  condemning President Trump and reminding soldiers that they have a greater duty to protect the constitution than to follow the commander in chief’s orders probably helped, too.

[10] The civil rights movement ensured a great deal of new rights and protections for African Americans. However, it did almost nothing for relative earnings, relative educational attainment, relative incarceration rates etc. The one big, hopeful exception to this in both countries is mixed race couples. African Americans married to white people are not only richer and more powerful than the average African American, they are richer and more powerful than the average member of an all white marriage. I strongly suspect the ultimate solution to black-white racial struggle is to literally screw each other until the distinction goes away.

[11] And I suspect it’s a big part of the fear and frustration members of the African American community are expressing. I’ve watched numerous interviews where African Americans are talking about how they feel the need to prove their humanity, to prove they aren’t automatically fuck ups. This sounds very “fear of being a parasite” to me.

[12] I’m thinking particularly of Dave Chappelle’s 8:46 performance and Ryan Clark’s emotional breakdown on ESPN. The stuff they experienced was, frankly, not that shocking to me or out of line with what I’ve seen. However, the historical stuff Chappelle and Clark connected those experiences with was totally different and much more powerful for that reason.

[13] And, to my friends in the academy, your dire warnings about white people polluting and watering down minority efforts for justice played a part in this as well. Yours is a defensible position, and there is a case that oppressed populations are better off solving their own problems. However, it is hypocritical to make these arguments and then criticize members of the majority population for failing to join in.

[14] There’s also nothing treasonous in minorities reading Milton or studying Washington.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: