The real conspiracies are worse than the wild conspiracy theories

To me, the difficult thing about writing is choosing what to write about. There’s just so much happening all the time. Do I write about the country’s racist history or policies or population? Do I write about our own Black history? Do I just write about the most recent time I got pulled over? What issue do I want to draw focus to in the moment? There’s a responsibility in that question that is clouded over by an ever-changing media landscape, peoples’ personal habits and now more than ever, conspiracy theories.

As a member of the media, a person with an audience and just as a person, the abundance of conspiracy theories in the public square is terrifying. It points to how few of us have to acknowledge the shared reality and I worry that it’s just going to get worse.

The thing that’s always bothered me about conspiracy theories is that generally, they are obviously and flatly false. For instance, I think a lot of people buy into the idea that there is a group of mysterious people who control all of the wealth and politicians and pull all of these strings from behind a secret curtain somewhere just out of sight.

I hate this idea so much for so many reasons. I hate it because believing it dismisses our own agency as a citizenry. I hate it because it’s an argument from ignorance. I especially hate it because the opposite is true and the truth is actually in our faces all the time.

Do the wealthy control everything? Absolutely. But are they hiding it? Fuck, no! They brag about that shit! It’s not a secret. They’re constantly shouting it from the rooftops, all of which they own.

Here’s how not-a-secret it is: 101 years ago Bertie Charles Forbes created Forbes magazine. Currently Bertie’s grandson, billionaire Steve Forbes, is the editor-in-chief. If you were to flip through the magazine you would quickly see that it is the voice of the wealthy publicly celebrating themselves as masters over all they see and imagine including the rest of us. And they’re so fucking ostentatiously proud of it they name the shit after themselves.

And, yes, I mean ostentatious.

If I were to tell you that the wealthy actually celebrate surging wealth inequality as a happy sign that life is becoming much more convenient, you might say, “Well, they probably think it and maybe they say some monstrous shit like that behind closed doors, maybe, but that’s not really something you can prove.”

And if that were to be your response, I would gladly direct you to a recent Forbes article, unironically titled, Surging Wealth Inequality is a Happy Sign that Life is Becoming Much More Convenient.

It’s the furthest thing from a conspiracy, though it is somehow believed to be.

That being said, things are different if you’re Black.

Very different.

That Forbes article begins with, “Two hundred years ago the American people were quite a bit more equal in terms of wealth…”

Just like my enslaved ancestors at the time, I know I wouldn’t have been considered any kind of equal two-hundred years ago. Or considered American. Or people. And that information, that the opening line conveniently leaves out is the shadow of a very tall tree with very real conspiracies for every branch, like nooses.

There are intimate conspiracies between individuals like the recent police frame job in Florida. There are more widely-spread conspiracies involving multiple institutions like red lining. There are even full-on, 40-year-long conspiracies of Nazi-style human experimentation perpetuated by the United States Government like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

Like I said, it’s a very tall tree.

I’m not saying there aren’t conspiracies based things aside from race. There definitely are. What I am saying is that there is a reality we can choose and a reality that is forced upon us and not understanding the difference can mean falling victim to both.

But understanding the difference can mean undoing both and making an objectively better world for everyone.


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If we don’t universally shun the hatred, little will change

It wasn’t until 1847 that anyone even suggested surgeons wash their hands. The idea was openly mocked by the medical community for the next 30 years and the doctor who suggested it was eventually killed by bacteria.

I think about that a lot. Fighting against an enemy that seems invisible to most, but the evidence of its destruction is everywhere you look…

From the moment that the very first enslaved African escaped bondage, there have been systems put in place to keep Black people wherever white people would prefer. The enslaved African escapes, so slave patrols are created.

Slavery ends, slave patrols become the Ku Klux Klan.

This type of reactionary attempt to re-marginalize Black people is a constant throughout American history. The white power movement was a reaction to the Black Power movement. No one bothered to interrupt us with “all lives matter” until we began explaining how Black Lives Matter.

Hate was attached to us when we were fully at the margins and no matter how far any of us have come since, this country has never put forth an honest effort to separate us from that hate. But the thing about hate that this country never seems to remember is that it ruins everything. It causes collapse. As a personal foundation, hate will ruin your health, and as a systemic foundation it can cause the entire system to collapse.

At the time of this writing there is a law in Florida that keeps former felons from voting. This law was originally written to specifically keep Black people from voting, but things changed. Now the majority of former felons in Florida are white. That hate wasn’t going exactly where it was intended anymore, so they’ve had to make adjustments along the way to keep focus on the intended target.

The electoral college was created out of racism as a means to help out slave owners. That’s the system that gave George W. Bush the presidency even though he lost the popular vote by 500,000. The next republican to become president is the one we have now and he lost the popular vote by 3,000,000. That’s six times as many votes as Bush. If that pattern holds it’ll be 18,000,000 next time.

Those are just two obvious, historical examples. I’m not even getting into the more subtle or personal ways in which hate is attached to us, but it is clear that as we move into the mainstream, this historically attached hate comes right along for the ride.

We point to the bad actors, like the president, and blame him. We point to the Richard Spencers and Gavin McInneses and blame them, but we never address the fact that hate itself is just culturally acceptable in this country.

We talk all the time about how much the president stokes hatred, but we don’t try to get rid of the actual hatred. No, I’m not talking about some kinda hippy-dippy, personal and emotional cleanse. And I’m not talking about making any kind of speech illegal, though I do have some thoughts about that.

I am just saying that there are things that are culturally acceptable and things that are not. For example, in absolutely no way is it culturally unacceptable to pick your nose in public. If you arrive at work tomorrow with your finger jammed into one of your nostrils, at first some may laugh, thinking you are deliberately being funny. Keep it up throughout the day and you will find yourself alienated and visiting HR for a mental health check.

Now imagine you acted like this after being told not pick your nose at work.

Have you ever been in a room full of people when someone coughs without covering their mouth? That person hears about it. Somebody says something every time. The cougher is often reminded that there are other people in the room and that they should not let something so toxic come out of their mouth, at the very least for the sake of everyone else. Sometimes the cougher is even told to leave and that they shouldn’t be around people until they become less toxic…

Unacceptable behavior is often deemed that way because of its effect on others and it doesn’t have to be legislated to be understood. But it does have to be recognized.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the same videos as you. And, yes, it’s nice to see all the Apartment Pattys getting theirs. But for me, it’s just not that much of a relief when all of the hate speech, all of the political assassination attempts, all of the internments of children, all of the church murders, all of the Nazis, klansmen, proud boys and fascists all come out of the same, affectionately titled Grand Old Party that is currently in charge of the entire government. And they are in charge of the government in a democracy even though they represent the minority of citizens.

Their hate and their methods are as old as abolition and they’ll either have their way or they won’t. We’ll either figure out how to separate the hate from a people or we will push those people back to the margins. One of those options I am hopeful for. The other the country has always found easier.

Always.


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Image by T. Chick McClure via Unsplash

Voting is important but there is a reason many do not…or cannot

Stop saying, “If you’re not going to vote, you can’t complain later!”

Please, register and go out and vote. Please. I mean, not if you’re a republican. Stay right the fuck home if you’re a republican, but otherwise, yes, please go vote. We might not get another chance after this.

Really.

So, please, go vote, but we’re all gonna need you to stop saying, “If you’re not going to vote, you can’t complain later!”

Seriously, there is an endless list of reasons why you should stop saying that, but I’ll just touch on a few.

First, saying that implies the results of an election are just trivial outcomes that one might only complain about. The results from an election are only trivial if you are part of a group whose rights have never been separately legislated by an outside group.

It also implies that voting is the only necessary political action. Again, that’s only true if you are part of a group whose rights have never been separately legislated by an outside group.

It also implies that voting is fundamentally a trustworthy system, ignoring the enormous problems inherent within it. For instance there are more and more places in this country where politicians pick their voters, instead of the other way around.

Saying that also displays an attitude that is just absolutely antithetical to the idea of voting in the first place. The point of voting is not to have your individual voice heard. It is to have our collective voices heard. No matter what boxes you check in the voting booth, you’re hoping for a group victory. You want your side to win. You’re rooting for your own team. Like it or not, intended or not, you’re voting for everyone else’s benefit or downfall as much as your own.

Also, trying to convince someone to take part in a system means that you are vouching for that system. But that system is broken and there are people breaking it more and more every day.

Look at Georgia. The white man in Georgia running for governor is also the guy in charge of the election and he just saw to it that 107,000 people were removed from the voter polls. This is after he purged 53,000 voters just the week before, affecting a disproportionately high number of Black voters. Surprise.

Here’s another Georgia surprise. There’s a lot happening in Georgia because the democratic candidate is Stacey Abrams, who could be the first Black woman governor of any state ever.

But Georgia isn’t the only place this is happening. There’s the poll taxes in New Hampshire. There’s the rejecting of Black peoples’ mail-in ballots in Florida (again, surprise). There’s the online voter registration rejection in Texas (I mean…). There’s the Native American voter suppression in North Dakota (…). And this is all without getting into the fact that more than 6,000,000 Americans aren’t allowed to vote at all. It’s not new, but it’s on the rise and this was entirely predictable when they gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

You ever notice how the intended audience for a lie used to be larger? Like, most people know the president is lying. He’s not very convincing and he’s not trying to be convincing…to you. You’ve seen the footage of his rallies. Those are the people he’s trying to convince and it totally works. He’s shown how few people you actually need to aim lies at to remain viable and other politicians have followed suit. It fools people not only with the lies themselves, but also with the idea that they are the only ones who matter.

Voter suppression works similarly. Only let one kind of person vote and you’ll convince them that their vote is the only one that matters anyway.

We can’t let that happen, but in order to stop it we’ve got to try harder than usual.

My father always said, “If you’re in a position to accuse someone of not pulling their own weight, then you’re in a position to pull a little bit more yourself.”

So, yes, please go vote. I really do think it’s absolutely necessary. Just stop saying, “If you’re not going to vote, you can’t complain later!”

There are plenty of groups out there trying to fix the system that absolutely need and would totally love your help.

Pull a little bit more.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Photo by Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay