Insurrection and hate from all walks of life

It’s tempting to blame it on stupidity, but that’s not the truth. It wasn’t just the dumbshits in Hawaiian shirts misspelling message board threats from mommy’s basement. Yes, they were there, too, attacking the Capitol Building and trying to overthrow the government, but they weren’t the only ones. There were also teachers, police officers, firefighters, elected officials, a realtor, an occupational therapist, a CEO of a data marketing company, and an Olympian.

Like it or not, the insurrectionists don’t fit neatly into the comfortable, default narrative of the desperately poor and uneducated. Not at all. And if we’re going to keep this from repeating until everything burns, this country is going to have to deal with the fact that these thousands of home-grown terrorists were almost entirely middle-class white men.

This is going to be a very difficult thing for white liberals to accept. They have a habit of removing conservatives’ agency. Liberals treat them like they’re children incapable of thinking for themselves. They do this while ignoring the implications of conservatives’ minority rule and overrepresentation in all of our institutions.

There is already a media narrative of “They just don’t know any better,” not only assuming a universality of intent, but also wrongly focusing on claims of intent over action. Or, “They just believed his lies,” taking their agency again, perpetuating the absurdity that the outgoing president is at all in any way even slightly persuasive

They want to believe that we all have the same priorities, even when conservatives’ every action tells us that we do not. They seem to want to believe that no matter how frequently a type of harm is repeated by a group or individual, it must always be accidental and that it couldn’t ever happen again because intentional harm could not possibly be real.

They enter into debate and compromise with members of the political party exclusively home to all of the hate speech, hate crimes, and hate groups. Pipe bombers, would be kidnappers, mass killers, and now insurrectionist are among the ranks of those with whom they attempt to find common ground. Then, of course it is up to us to find an imaginary peaceful center between ourselves and those who actively want us dead.

No, I am not saying that people don’t make mistakes or follow bad advice. We surely all do. What I am saying is that if someone chooses the single American political party containing the Nazis and the KKK and the insurrectionists and the pipe bombers and mass killers of Jewish and Black people in their places of worship, then they have moved well beyond a place where they can be convinced by a condescending tone or superior attitude.

The awful and ugly reality is that there are those among us, our neighbors, our family members who define themselves according to which people they hate. They did not become this way through thoughtful debate or a careful examination of facts and so they are unreachable by those means. They are this way because the adversarial culture of racism and classism in this country gives them permission, incentive, and a disproportionate amount of political power. Our only hope is that a House, Senate, and Oval Office soon to be run by white liberals will have the wherewithal to redistribute that power.

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Race and returning to school

The headline in the New York Times a couple days ago read: 12,000 More White Children Return to N.Y.C. Schools Than Black Children.

I will admit it’s a slightly misleading headline, but it’s also a very telling one that has real implications when we look at the impact of race in this COVID-19 pandemic.

First, let me get the “misleading” part out of the way. It won’t stop anyone from whining to me that I make everything about race but whatever.

Just shy of 200,000 New York City public school students are eligible to return to school buildings as the system begins to reopen, and the data show that many more white families are choosing a return to campus for in-person learning than are Black families. Basically, 12,000 more white kids are going back to school than Black kids.

That’s all totally on the mark and correct—the NYT article isn’t telling lies here—but I do want to point out that while white kids and Black kids are the focus of many of the headlines about this finding, white kids are not the majority of students going back. Latinx students are the largest share of students returning, at 43% (and they make up 41% of the total student population).

So with that out of the way, why is this topic “racial” to me? It’s because of proportions. Black people are disproportionately affected negatively by most things in U.S. society, and white people are disproportionately rewarded. And it plays out here as well, though it’s more about attitude and sense of privilege/protection.

As New York reopens schools, white students represent 25% of the students switching from remote learning to in-school learning even though they make up only 16% of the public school population (and there’s plenty to say about that 16% number because white people are over 40% of the total NYC population, but we won’t go there right now).

Meanwhile, 18% of the students going back into the buildings are Black, and Black students make up 22% of the total school population. (Asian students, by the way, are a mere 12% of the returnees—the smallest group—and represent 18% of the total school population.)

You can argue about the difference in between Black and white students with regard to how many are coming back and their percentage of the school population not being huge all you want, but it does mean something. I mean, right off the bat, the trends are in opposite directions.

Let’s break it down.

By a factor of nine percentage points, more white families are choosing to send their kids back. The only other group whose level of return exceeds degree of population are the Latinx families, and them only by two percentage points. And the only group less eager than Black people to send their kids into school buildings during a pandemic are the Asian-Americans.

The Asian numbers don’t surprise me. Here in Maine, I noticed that when the pandemic hit, the Asian restaurants seemed to be the ones who closed down the quickest, the fastest to pivot to take-out only, and the most likely to stay take-out only even when restrictions on dining in were relaxed. That’s just my observation—I don’t know anyone who’s run any numbers on that—but it tracks with what I now know about Asian culture around disease. As I’ve learned during the pandemic, people in many Asian nations often routinely wear masks when they are sick so as not to spread their illness—I never understood until this year why I would see Asians wearing masks in stores periodically over the years, but now I do. So when the pandemic hit, Asian people were already more inclined to mask up. If you do it for the flu, of course you’re going to do it for a nastier and deadlier bug.

The reluctance of Black parents to send their kids back is also not surprising to me. Since this pandemic began, Black folks have been far more likely than white people to contract COVID-19 and to die from it. Whether because of racially influenced socioeconomic factors, healthcare disparities, heavier concentration of Black people in “essential” jobs, or whatever else—and race factors in big in all these areas—the ‘Rona is hitting Black people hard. Sorta feels a bit like when white people gave smallpox-infected blankets to Indigenous People as part of that genocidal campaign.

Black people know they are at higher risk, and so they are not eager to send their kiddos back into spaces where people are too tightly packed for too long, plus the fact that children and teens often don’t follow hygiene, distance and health rules all that well—even less well than adults, and that’s saying a lot.

We know that putting our kids back into school settings is a big risk, and if we can avoid that risk, we are more likely to do so.

On the other hand, like we’ve seen with so many other things in this country, white people overall kinda feel immune to COVID. To them, it’s someone else’s problem. They are far more lax about mask-wearing and way more likely to gather in large groups or in small spaces—or both at the same time. And overall, white people don’t seem to care much that other groups, particularly Black people, might be getting hit harder by the virus. Made sicker and killed more. We’re expendable and forgettable.

The bottom line here is that white people feel more comfortable taking the risk. The downside is that nonchalant attitude puts everyone else (and them, too) at more risk and keeps the ‘Rona from going away or even sharply declining. So, as long as white people are being reckless, a lot of us people of color, especially Black people, are trying to be extra vigilant.

So, yeah, these school return numbers are influenced by white privilege and systemic racism. And if you’re tempted to accuse me of making everything about race, the fact is that the focus on whiteness in this country does negatively impact almost every area of life for non-whites.

Even the groups most adjacent to whiteness, like Asian-American people, seem to know they need to keep themselves away from bad white habits during the pandemic. And with that, let me urge you to follow the lead of so many Asian people worldwide: Masks help reduce spread, and we should be wearing them whenever we fear we might be sick with something that we can spread. And when there’s a disease that can be asymptomatic for a week or two and is like four or five times deadlier than the flu as well as more contagious, we should really be wearing masks. All the time when we’re out.

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Education doesn’t magically erase the repugnance or ignorance

We have a problem. It’s an anti-democratic, anti-civil rights, anti-education, pro-racism, pro-fascism, pro-COVID, politically active problem. It’s a big problem and it numbers more than 70 million. The problem is the Republican Party and we have no idea how to solve it.

Did you say education?

If so, stop saying that. The answer to the Republican problem is not education. When you say that you sound elitist, condescending and every bit as ignorant as you claim the other side to be.

What do you mean by education? The pinnacle of education in this country is the Ivy League. Harvard and Princeton cost money and/or connections that most people don’t have. Even if you or your parents managed to navigate your way into these, our grandest institutions, they were created through, bound by and steeped in the very prejudices they’re supposed to resolve. Harvard and Princeton aren’t the answer. Ted Cruz graduated from both of those places, in case you were unsure.

Tucker Carlson went to Trinity. Stephen Miller went to Duke. Sean Hannity went to NYU and UC Santa Barbara. Last week a judge—and supporter of the president—halted voter certification in Pennsylvania in yet another attempt to overturn the election. That judge spent a summer of her post-grad time studying at the University of Strasbourg in France. There is an endless list of very successful politicians, judges, lawyers, physicians, journalists, CEOs, business owners and various other top-tier professionals who have attended the most formative, intellectual and liberal institutions in this country and are yet still somehow racist as hell and dumb as shit. The very best education in the world hasn’t improved these shitty people in the slightest. On the contrary, it’s made them even more dangerous by attaching the reputations of respected institutions to their buffoonish views. 

But even if I’m wrong, even if education somehow equated to compassion and understanding through capitalism, you can still only lead a horse to water. Anyone saying you can make him drink has obviously never had an argument online. Availability of information is not the problem. You can post facts all day long and if the person you’re trying to persuade isn’t interested, all you’re doing is wasting your own education.

Unfortunately, more times than not the answer of “education” is presented as a way to call people stupid and functions as a way to remove their agency. They just don’t realize that they’re voting against their own interests, right? Wrong. You just don’t realize what their interests truly are, and they think you’re stupid, too.

College-educated or not, there is only one group with a majority that has voted for the Republican presidential candidate every single election since 1976. For this group, it doesn’t matter if you see the candidate proposing something as safe as balancing the budget or as deadly as letting COVID-19 run rampant throughout this country forever. The majority will still vote for the Republican candidate because what you are seeing is not their priority. That group is white people and the priority of their majority is white supremacy.

Education is not how you solve that problem. A change in morality is.

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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