November 13, 2016

Anti-intellectualism cracks its knuckles and steps out of the shadows

Recently, a local online news source reported that California colleges affirmed their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Along with this, the local JC offered a 2 1/2 hour session this Monday as a "safe space" for students, faculty, staff, and others to gather and discuss their concerns.

This is exactly the role a community college should play. Colleges are places for expanding horizons, learning new things, and discussing different opinions. I think it's great that DVC is offering this. I hope students and others of all backgrounds attend and listen at least.

Then I read the comments on the article above. And on the facebook post of the article.

Most were mean-spirited attacks on the idea of a "safe space."

Liberals, please, quell your fears! You will likely still be able to receive welfare. You will likely still be able to live in your parent’s basements.
Oh goody! A communtiy college cry-in!
OK, now everyone just remember the upside here. These snowflakes, will never be able to hold a job. So the rest of us will be able to get and keep one regardless of their whining.
Bed-wetters and save space kids the election's over if you don't know what the hell happened take a civics class and learn something about how things work in our government if you're confused. ......
I embrace diversity. I frequent Taco Bell and Panda Express.
Ok cupcakes. Dont forget your safety pins
And on and on it went. This is in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the bluest regions of the country. I can't imagine the commentary in deeply red areas. Those who tried to defend the colleges were, of course, attacked for being libtards.

What I saw most among these comments, besides the frequent references to special snowflakes and bedwetting, was an undeniable undercurrent of anti-intellectualism. Aggressive anti-intellectualism. A sense that if you go to college, you're weak and worthless.

This is Trump's America. Where ignorance and whiteness are to be celebrated, and knowledge and diversity are to be ridiculed. Where a white thug with a mohawk and camo pants feels like a success by insulting college kids. I know these white thugs won't show up at the discussion, either to share their feelings or to cause trouble. They're just punks posting shit online. And it's their right to do so.

But this is not the direction America should go. If we don't fight against this surge of white power and anti-intellectualism now, we're going to slip deeper into a dark future.

November 12, 2016

Yes, I realize you are not Archie Bunker. You're still racist.

People who voted for Trump are screaming "I'm not a racist" all over the Internet. Liberal whites are saying, "Trump voters aren't racist, but Trump says racist things."

I'm saying that yes, you are racist, Trump voter.

Our popular understanding of racism is a white hood and a burning cross lighting up a dark lawn. Or a white guy with a buzz-cut shouting spittle and venom at young black students getting off a school bus. Or a white kid fire-bombing a black church.

Our popular understanding of racism is Archie Bunker, a caricature spewing derogatory epithets so profoundly ridiculous that it becomes comedy.

Trump is Archie Bunker. Trump voters are not.

But Archie Bunker racism is not the racism I'm talking about. Racism is insidious and subtle. It is the undertow that drags us out to sea with a silent stealth until we can't make it back to shore no matter how hard we swim. It's the soft-foam mattress that feels so comfortable but is slowly killing us with cancerous chemicals. Racism is inside, and it's impossible for the racist to see or sense.

Trump supporters, I've noticed, use phrases like "I love people of all races."

I want them to stop saying that. I want them to say instead, "People of all races are equal to me. Children of all races are equal to my children."

Because racism isn't about your failure to love. Racism is about your failure to accept someone as an equal.

White Americans, especially Trump Americans, do not understand that they are members of a white culture. They consider themselves simply "Americans" or just normal people. Black people have culture. Native Americans have culture. Hispanics have culture. Asians have culture. But not me; I'm just a normal person, a normal American. I have American culture.

They think of America like they think of Disney World--there's Disney World, and within there's Epcot where all the other cultures can be viewed, interacted with, enjoyed, and learned from. They are neatly contained, well presented, and well behaved. But they're kept in their place. No need for them to be integrated into the rest of the park, which has always been perfectly fine.

This is how racism manifests in America. As long as other cultures are securely contained, well behaved, and not interfering with "my way of life," then we white people love them. We love all of them.

But that's not equality. That's exclusion. We allow other races into white culture if they act, sound, and dress white. And that's what Trump voters are really saying. "We exclude you unless you act, sound, and look like us. Because we are America, and you are something less." This is racism. Classism. Sexism. Religious discrimination. At its core it is exclusionary.

November 10, 2016

Build a bridge, or build a wall? Public works projects in the age of regression

On the second dawn of the Age of Regression, I am still struggling with a friend's suggestion that now is the time for me to "build bridges to the people who voted for Trump."

They feel forgotten. Left behind. Unheard. Their election of Trump was not, he said, a vote for misogyny or racism or trickle-down. It was a scream of frustration with the Establishment.

But it's impossible to build a bridge to someone who is busy building a wall. Their vote for Trump wasn't just a scream of frustration that needs to be heard by lefty liberals like me. Their vote for Trump was a vote for regression. It was a vote against diversity. A vote against globalization. A vote against women's empowerment.

As a straight white cis male from an educated middle-class background, I have all the advantages in the USA. All the advantages. This is true no matter where I live. Apart from those places no one of any background wants to walk at night, I can travel anywhere without fear of discrimination, without fear of being profiled by police, without fear of being raped, without fear of being assaulted for my gender identity or sexual orientation. I could probably find some kind of work anywhere, at least enough to get by.

In theory, I should be eager to reach out to these downtrodden rural Americans, to hear their story, to extend an olive branch and really understand why they hurt so much that they could elect a narcissistic con man who is no more qualified to be President than I am.

But I won't. The people who voted for Trump spent the last eight years fighting progress tooth and nail. They never wanted a black President, and when they got one they rejected him. They rejected his ideas and his attempts at collaboration and his compromises. They rejected diversification then, and the election of Trump is their crowning victory in this fight they've waged for eight years.

I read a great opinion piece on America's problem with women today in the New York Times. Then I read the first comment, which essentially said that liberals like me have it all wrong. The comment included this:

American (sic) are for the most part practical common sense people. We welcome the idea of a multi-cultural melting pot, and we welcome the best ideas other cultures have to offer.
Sounds great, and it's entirely true. Up to a point.

Middle America, the salt of the Earth, the practical common sense people who work their land and don't want government interference... these people, they do welcome diversity. But they welcome it like they welcome it in their television and movies.

Diversity is welcome as long as it's a secondary character in the white male narrative.

Diversity is welcome as a witty sidekick, or as a friend there always ready to lend a hand.

Diversity is welcome as a vehicle for allegory, a way for the white main character to learn something.

Diversity is welcome as a provider of ideas and cultural curiosity.

But diversity is not welcome as an equal. Not in middle America. Not where practical common sense Trump voters work the land and decry government interference.

I can already feel the hashtags swelling up: #NotAllTrumpVoters, #NotAllWhites, #NotAllMen.

But you'll get no sympathy from me. If you voted for Trump, you didn't just scream in frustration about an economic malaise covering rural America. You didn't just protest against a societal trend of liberals forcing you to change your ways of life. You were never really that concerned about emails or charitable foundations.

You voted for regression. You voted for suppression of women. You voted for suppression of minorities. You voted to persecute people based on their chosen faith. You voted to cut yourselves off from a changing world. Maybe fifty years ago that could work. But the internet exists, and walls can't hold out ideas or culture. Your only path forward is to open your mind and learn to live as equals with other people. Your privilege is being eroded by time, just as mountains flatten over eons.

Build a bridge? That's not worth my time because you don't want a bridge. You want a wall. I'm just trying to decide if I should spend the next four years trying to tear down your wall, or helping you build it higher and thicker from this side.