Wednesday, October 5, 2016

On Small Town White Rage

 [content note: violence, misogyny, racism]


(I literally just screamed this out loud)
Is there any ego more fragile than that of a white male bigot with unexamined privilege?

Via The Washington Post:
"When Frank Linkmeyer unveils his Aurora Farmers Fair parade float each year, his creation is never short on shock value.

This year, amid a controversy-filled presidential contest, Linkmeyer didn't disappoint.

He opted for a morbid execution scene showing Hillary Clinton strapped into an electric chair, flanked by the Grim Reaper, a pastor and a familiar-looking executioner: Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump."

So, what's up with so many men feeling comfortable about expressing their violent fantasies about Hillary Clinton? You know, I grew up in a small town similar to the one in this article and the palpable rage many small-town men have (although certainly not limited to small-towns) toward uppity women is something that quite strongly informed my feminist sensibilities.

Whether they're whining about not being able to have racist mascots, being bitter about the fact that the local high school has girls sports now, or acting shocked and condescending when women engage them in debate on social media (but it's a man talking! don't you know he's automatically right?), many such men take it as a fundamental fact of life that they actually are superior, intellectually and physically, to all women and all people of color.

And, that assumption really isn't questioned in their daily lives because they encounter so little pushback on it.  I imagine that, for many men with this mentality, the prospect of our first female President is.... quite a blow to their supremacist ego, in a way that it was when President Obama was elected.

Nonetheless, during the primaries, we saw both the far left and the far right sort of fetishize "ordinary Americans" and "regular people," who were largely coded as white working class people, in contrast to "the establishment," "elites," and "low-information voters" (coded as, primarily, women of color).  When I read accounts like this parade, it's clear that the far (I guess what I think of as the "socialist"/Sanders/Stein) left has offered no workable plan for mobilizing a diverse working class in which racial and gender hostilities are a very real, visceral thing that women and people of color have to contend with

(And the far right.... doesn't even pretend to try. Trump argle bargles his way to, mostly, stoking rage and violent fantasies among his white working class supporters).

A common critique rendered of socialism, of course, is that it centers class with the expectation that members of the working class can/should somehow, magically mobilize together in spite of differing identities and lived experiences. Although, beyond telling us that various other bigotries are a construct of capitalism, it offers us little in the way of why, tangibly, "we" should find it appealing to mobilize with violent misogynistic fantasists other than .... that we're all part of a shitty system.

Is that shared bond enough? 

I don't think so.

When people took issue with the parade guy's float, here's what the dude who made it said:
"'It’s all in fun. Laughter is the best medicine in life and this country needs more laughter — and the people that are offended by it, I’m sorry. Don't come to the parade next time.'"
Some city officials expressed disappointment with the float. But then there's this guy, also part of the small-town America establishment (which is very much also its own bigoted thing):
"But at least one local official — at-large city councilman Patrick Schwing — said Aurora has nothing to apologize for and blamed the controversy on 'a lot of whining and crying.'
He said people 'can't walk down the street' anymore without offending someone. Schwing also dismissed the idea that the float might send the wrong message to children and minorities, before raising his voice and declaring: 'I'm not a racist!'

'Nobody hates blacks, and yet Obama is telling us we hate blacks because we're white, and it's bulls---,' he said.

'I don't see how there's any thing racist involved with the float,' he added. 'I didn't even see the the little black thing at the front that people are bitching about until afterwards. Nobody even noticed it.'"
A lot has been written this election seen about white working class angst.  Working class people have legitimate grievances, indeed, but many working class whites believe that their grievances are race-based. That is, that they are oppressed by being called racist. My intent here is not to claim that all white working class people are racist and sexist (I know many who are not). But, when the far left ignores what they call "identity politics" in favor of only class-based analyses, they doom their own movement and they fail to give white people adequate tools for having deeper, more nuanced understandings of race and white privilege.

These are some of the very real reasons many women and people of color, even working class ones, are hesitant to join a broader working class movement.  I hate to harp on Jill Stein because, irrelevant. But when Jill Stein constantly attacks Hillary Clinton on Twitter as being an establishment shill, she's attacking the person many of us see as one of the few politicians who understands these reasons.

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