May 25, 2017

Doubling down on the wrongness of "class-only" warriors

By "class-only" warriors, I mean the likes of Adolph Reed, who pretty much claims that all issues of race, or nearly all, are ultimately reducible to issues of socioeconomic class. I mean the likes of Reed touter Doug Henwood, who ultimately blocked me on Twitter because of this.

I am building on an old post about Reed, where I take on his claim that New Mexico is one of the whitest states in the nation. It was part of a broader effort of his to largely diss Black Lives Matter.

The meat of that, relevant to this piece, follows.

A few months about, when discussing Black Lives Matter raising police brutality issues across the country, he responded rhetorically, wondering why police brutality was so high in New Mexico when it's one of the whitest states in the country, in his claim.
And, according to the Washington Post data, the states with the highest rates of police homicide per million of population are among the whitest in the country: New Mexico averages 6.71 police killings per million; Alaska 5.3 per million; South Dakota 4.69; Arizona and Wyoming 4.2, and Colorado 3.36. It could be possible that the high rates of police killings in those states are concentrated among their very small black populations—New Mexico 2.5%; Alaska 3.9%; South Dakota 1.9%; Arizona 4.6%, Wyoming 1.7%, and Colorado 4.5%.
No, I don't think that's playing "gotcha." Rather, I think it — and the whole piece — was Reed playing "gotcha" with Black Lives Matter activists. The first four states on the list all have high American Indian populations. New Mexico has a high Hispanic population and Arizona a medium one.

But, that's a sidebar. New Mexico, separating out Hispanics of any race, as the Census calls it, as a separate socio-ethnic group, has long been a majority-minority state. Even without doing that, it's STILL a full one-third non-white. It has about zero in common demographically with Wyoming. I'm using Wikipedia, even if some call it "lazy-ass." (I'm also using my personal knowledge of New Mexico.)

I tie it to this new piece from High Country News about American Indians' problems with police violence, and how a "Native Lives Matter" movement has struggled more than Black Lives Matter to gain traction.

First takeaway? This:
In the West, as in the rest of the nation, Native Americans are the racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement, at a rate three times higher than whites.
And, no, socioeconomic class didn't lead to Indian marginalization. Indian marginalization led to them being poor. Indian marginalization, not poverty, led to them being considered as having few rights.

That's simple. Or, it should be. 

Here's much of the "why":
Several factors contribute to that statistic, including the lack of mental health services (nearly half of the victims had histories of mental illness) and the often-strained relationship between Native Americans and non-native police. Many tribes are under the jurisdiction of nearby non-tribal authorities, leaving cities and counties struggling to come up with the additional policing resources. According to researchers at Claremont Graduate University, 83 percent of the deadly encounters between Native Americans and law enforcement involved non-tribal police.
That's somewhat similar, in urban areas, to most police actually living in suburbs.

American Indians live largely in rural areas, so their deaths at the hands of police get even less media attention than black deaths. Also, the fact that they make up a smaller portion of the population is a factor.

First, wishing that all racial problems ultimately reduced to class ones might be nice. But, if it's not true, it's not true. And, with blacks, as the mudsill movement shows, it's often not true. The resurgence of modern mudsills as part of Trump's backers shows that. Mudsills existed in the old South before it was heavily capitalized or industrialized. Yes, the "cavaliers" had a class, and looked down at "po whites." But that class, if based on economics at all, was based on land, not capital — unless one counts slaves as capital.

Now, per this interview with Reed, it's possible that identity politics CAN have a neoliberal bent. Yeah, and so can mercantilist trade policy. Neither one HAS TO be such, though. Reed also comes very close to making this into a zero-sum game. People who are concerned about racism — and racism against people of individual racism, not a blanket word game like Reed claims — and class issues as well could argue that Reed himself is playing into other hands.

Beyond that, I'm sure Reed as an academic knows that not only women, but LTBGQ people also face economic discrimination. Oh, I could probably dig up some twisted, quasi-Marxist class-based argument.

Or, I could just realize that society still has plenty of bigots.

I should add, per this Existential Comics issue, that it's "interesting," during the time I followed him on Twitter, that Henwood just about never, if at all, mentioned Frantz Fanon. I'm not sure Reed does a lot, either.

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