Diversity and Inclusiveness Black Issues in Philosophy: A Conversation on Get Out

Black Issues in Philosophy: A Conversation on Get Out

Having recently viewed Jordan Peele’s award-winning Get Out (2017), political theorist Derefe Kimarley Chevannes was prompted to discuss the film with philosopher Lewis Gordon, whose writings include discussions of race in horror films and literature.

DEREFE KIMARLEY CHEVANNES: Lewis, it’s a pleasure to have this discussion with you. As I begin, I want to first consider the title of the film, Get Out. A seemingly trivial affair at first glance but perhaps not. This title is not merely a recommendation; it’s a command. What are the benefits of such a title? Or, better yet, why “Get Out” and not, say, “The Sunken Place”—referring, of course, to the imprisoning of Black consciousness? This allows me to consider the question: To what extent can Blacks permanently “Get Out” of white brutalization? And, lastly, does “Get Out” suggest that black escape, or more charitably, black freedom, is entirely reliant on black action absent white accountability?

LEWIS GORDON: You’re asking a lot, Derefe.  First, it’s a delight to discuss this film with you.  It’s such a philosophically and politically rich film that I could write an entire essay on any single scene.  To your question, however, much is already there in the opening credits and the end.  You should check out Michael Abels’s amazing score.  It’s actually scarier than the movie, though it’s there throughout.  Without the visuals, without what is seen, it is so haunting as one simply listens.  And listening is much of what the film is about, despite what is seen.  Notice the moving images of pine and brush as though on the run as  Abels’s haunting song “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga” (2017) is the initial leitmotif. The title is in Kiswahili.  It means, “Listen to your Ancestors.”  And that’s the point.  The ancestors suffered.  Heed their warning. They eventually whisper, “run!”   Yes, get out.  Much is already stated in the fact that Chris, the protagonist, is a photographer.  He works with his eyes, but his vulnerability is in what he fails to hear, which is in effect to listen.  The theme of listening is crucial here.  As anyone who has seen the film knows, part of what he had to learn was also what not to hear, to close his ears from what obscures his focus, which in effect is his ability to listen.   “The sunken place,” into which he is thrown and immobilized, is the stratification of trauma.  He associates it with his mother’s death from a car accident, of which he was first reminded when the female deer was hit by his girlfriend Rose Armitage’s car en route to her parents’ home.  At their house, which is obviously “the Big House” of slave narratives, he finds his counterpart in the buck on the mantle.  The buck, of course, refers to the old term for enslaved black males, and we already know the villains of the film are on the hunt for bucks, though, as we also see in the character Georgina/Grandma, there is the occasional doe.

The voices of the film are the ancestors, which is why “Get Out” is the appropriate title.  And we should bear in mind those are Andre’s words when he is momentarily released from the grip of white consciousness through the flash of light from the smart phone.   Ancestors come before us.  They offer knowledge.  They offer history.  The choice of Kiswahili as their voice is to point to Africa, though Kiswahili is a creolized language of the East African Kingozi with Arabic and Persian elements.  That there was an Arab and Persian trade in the enslavement of Africans brings to the fore the African American story of creolization from enslavement.  Yet the basilect, the often-suppressed African voice, speaks.  That voice, in a way, gets out.

With regard to your other question, I think the charitable part would be the escape.  Freedom is a perpetual, not completed, journey.  The question of “permanently getting out” offers paradox.  Do you mean get out “as black” or get out of the ensnarement of a world dependent on a particular construction of blackness?   The first would require a different kind of black than those premised on white agency and black passivity.   That black, however, would be something radically different and possibly unrecognizable to anyone locked in the currency of blackness as a negative term.  That would be a redemptive historical development, no?   I’m not sure what you mean by “absent white accountability,” since, as a political matter, no one is left without accountability when it comes to racism.  But if you mean without dependency on whites, the truth of the matter is that white dependency is something cultivated by whites.  If black people depended on whites, we would have been wiped out a long time ago.  Any theoretician of dialectics, from Hegel to Marx to He-Yin Zhen to Sartre to Fanon, would reveal the obvious.  The dependency is the other way around.

My next question alludes to Fanonian discourse. The antagonist, Missy Armitage, the mother of the white girlfriend uses a form of hypnosis to entrap her black victims and sends them into what’s famously known as the “Sunken Place.” As the audience knows well, once there, such a place seems inescapable—though, there are moments of momentary relief.  But it seems to be exactly that, “moments of escape” and not necessarily freedom proper. I wonder, then, about Fanon’s discussion of the zone of nonbeing. What parallels, if any, are there between the Sunken Place and Fanon’s zone of nonbeing? Or perhaps, more controversially, have Black conservatives (or the Black bourgeoisie) fallen into the Sunken Place?

Missy Armitage, Rose’s mother, imposes hypnosis.  The “sunken place” is a great metaphor of the experience of oppression.  It’s what Michael Tillotson, in his book Invisible Jim Crow (2011), calls making us “resistant to resistance.”  Where one is resistant to resistance, one is not what Frantz Fanon calls “actional.”  It means one no longer affects the world.  What one “does” is turned inward.  Inward directed, one’s energy is at first on one’s body but then sinks into oneself.  In my writings on oppression, I call this “implosion.”  Eventually one disappears from the world in a continued suffering as an imprisoned observer on reality.

The zone of nonbeing requires unpacking.  It is at first simply not being. To be is to be there or, basically, somewhere.   Not being entails, then, being nowhere.  We should bear in mind, however, that existence is not identical with being.  To exist, after all, is to stand out.  It is thus the human condition.  Much of what has become known as “western culture” is premised on the notion of being.  To be, however, suppresses existence.  There are times we just want to be.  But we eventually realize that’s not living.  To live, we must move beyond being.   Where being becomes the standard, however, actually living becomes enmeshed in an elusive goal.  Thus, there is the experience of constantly being measured by not only what one is not but also what one could never be.    What is tricky here, however, is the direction in which one is not being.  Where outward, it is actional and existence.   Pushed inward, it is immobilization, being sunken, locked in a form of stasis.  So, paradoxically, the zone of nonbeing is the experience of the transition from human being into thingness.  As a thing, one is an instrument.  One is reduced to a consciousness that can only look but not act.  It is what existentialists call being-in-itself.

With regard to black conservatives and the black bourgeoisie, the first thing to remember is that they are not identical.  Conservatism is a response to crisis in which one turns to the past not as a source from which to learn but a place to which to return.  That is why “tradition” is always a feature of conservatism.  The problem with conservatism is always about which past it is to which one wishes to return.  Many black conservatives don’t see a past beyond the one constructed by white conservatism.  White conservatism has an imagined past of perfect white rule.   One of the reasons conservatives turn to the past is because they see it as a world of order and security.   Thus, implicit in perfect white rule is the notion of a world of order and security only achievable with whites ruling.  The path for black conservatives who subscribe to that is clearly, then, the sunken place.  Another formulation of that place is political nihilism.

Other kinds of people who identify as black conservatives are not interested in a world of white rule.  They are interested in capital accumulation of wealth.   For them, capitalism is the end of history.  Their conservatism is premised on what they could individually acquire since the logic of capitalism is one in which inequalities are radicalized.  For them, the world comes down to haves and have-nots.  Though they retreat to themselves, they are not “sunken” since they are actional.  They’re just not invested in others.   Their goal is getting and having.

There is debate over whether there is properly a black bourgeoisie.  Some, such as E. Franklin Frazier and Frantz Fanon, have argued there is in effect a black “lumpen” bourgeoisie.  This is because most black wealth isn’t linked to material capital.  White capital has materially affected the lives of white people.   We see today that Chinese capital does the same.  There are individually rich black people with their capital having more of a symbolic effect on black people than a material transformation of the conditions under which black people live.   That needn’t be a permanent condition.  It is, however, a real one.

There is, as well, the African American expression “bougie,” which refers to pretending to be of a higher class than what one is.  It generally pertains to what in class analysis would be petit bourgeois.  The problem in black communities is that there are people with working-class incomes pretending to be even that. They end up enmeshed in the web of debt to appear as what they are not.  This phenomenon goes beyond African America, as it is now an issue across the African continent, the Caribbean, and pretty much the entire African diaspora. The sunken place there, then, would be an economic one.

There are other forms of black conservatism such as those in churches, mosques, and synagogues.  An unfortunate feature of much contemporary discourse on conservatism, liberalism, leftism, and notions of the right is that they lack nuance.   An excellent recent analysis of this issue is an article by Greg Thomas, “Afro-Blue Notes: The Death of Afro-Pessimism (2.0)?” (2018).  Thomas shows how a form of conservatism rests beneath certain kinds of avowed leftism.

These analyses ultimately depend on the important question of what Antonio Gramsci would call an organic relationship to a set of interests.  A black bourgeoisie linked to the status quo is conservative.  Those invested in the transformation of a people are otherwise.  Friedrich Engels, we should remember, was a factory owner.  There are black publishers such as Haki R. Madhubuti, co-founder of Third World Press, the largest independent-owned black press in the United States, Kassahun Checole, founder of Africa World Press and Red Sea Press, and Firoze Manji, founder of Daraja Press.  These are viable economic enterprises organically linked to black communities.  I could offer a long list from people in the tech to the food industries.  Those people are formally members of the bourgeoisie but it’s not clear to me that, given their commitments, they identify as such and they are certainly not conservative.

One thing is certain.  People who reject notions of a perfect past face the recourse of building a better future.

As I watched the movie, there’s a scene that stood out as peculiar and interesting at the very least. It is where Rod, the close and wise friend of the protagonist, Chris, who, after suggesting some form of foul play by the white family, visits the cops and tells them the crimes he believes transpired. Their instinctive, if not “reasonable,” response is literally to laugh in his face! All these cops, two males, and one female lead detective, laugh at the hilarity of the position of white occupation of black bodies. Is this a nuanced critique of black disbelief in the face of white colonization? Or, is this only a critique of law enforcement and its trivialization of black brutalization in white generic spaces?

I recall their laughter was specifically at his talking about sexual slavery of black men.  The disbelief there is manifold.  From the police point of view, if one desires black men, money would be a good lure, no?  What is important in the scene is that it is a conversation among people of color.  There are many layers to that scene.  Rod is, after all, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer.  There is also condescension, since the police are also in effect saying, “Leave this to the professionals.”  And the professional assessment is that his story is ridiculous.  There is, however, an allegory here.  After all, black people are constantly presented as ridiculous.  Expressions such as “feeling of discrimination” and “perceived racism” undermine the validity of fact through subjectivizing them.  How is racial discrimination a “feeling” when there is so much data and history out there?  How is it so when antiblack policies are enacted with public avowal of their targets?

We should remember, however, that Rod is a TSA agent.  His job is to monitor migration.  He is a mythic character, a gatekeeper.  He manages transgressions, pathways.  Rod is in effect doing his job when he attempts to rescue blacks from whites illegally migrating into their bodies.   Why “illegal”?  Clearly being kidnapped and having a piece or pieces of another person’s brain placed into one’s own is illegal.  What is “invisible” to the law is the movement of one consciousness into another’s in the movement of those portions of the brain.  This leads us into issues of philosophy of mind, but at this point I’m getting off track from your main point, which is political.

Here is something to consider.  There are two endings of Get Out.  There is the official released cut.  Rod shows up and drives Chris away from the carnage.  Let me say something about names here.  “Rod,” as in a lightening rod, is a conduit.  As I’ve already mentioned, he negotiates passages.  When he shows up and drives Chris away, he is similar to mythic guides such as Aker in ancient Kmt/Egypt or Virgil, who guides Dante’s protagonist in The Inferno out of the depths of hell at dawn into life’s possibilities.  “Chris” means “messiah,” which in turn means to be “anointed.”  Messiah is also savior.  Who does Chris save?

In the original ending, it’s the police who show up.  The scene shifts to black.  Then the closing scene is Rod visiting Chris in prison.  Rod offers to use his detective skills to exonerate Chris, but Chris discourages him.  He simply says, “Rod.  I’m good.  I stopped them.  I stopped them.” As he walks away, accompanied by a white guard down a white hall, “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga” returns as white bars slide shut behind him.

In the released version, Chris saves himself and indirectly those to come.  Perhaps he has also saved those whose parasites no longer have a hypnotist to help them suppress their host.  In the original, now alternative, ending his words, “I stopped them,” makes Chris a messiah.  It also makes Rod someone who knows the truth but is no longer a guide.  In one version he is Akar or Virgil.  In the alternative ending, however, as knowing the truth and seeking order, balance, and justice, he is the African Kmt/Egyptian god Ma’at.

Chris’s words, “I’m good,” signify his having accomplished what he was supposed to do.  This is another feature of myth.  The one who gets others out doesn’t himself get out.  Think of the biblical story of Moshe or Moses.  Such heroes don’t enter the Promised Land.

Lastly, “Get Out” focuses our attention on the capture of black bodies for white predatory ends. Chris, the main character, asks, “Why black people?” and the response given by one white predator is: “black is in fashion!” This black-is-fashionable viewpoint is hardly new. It reminds me of the white fetishization of the African woman, Sarah Baartman, known by Europeans as “Hottentot Venus,” whose big butt entranced the white imagination. Like Chris, and other black victims in the film, black bodies are fetishized, either for their big eyes, big lips, big ass or dare I say, big penis. My question is this: Have we confused the “Black is Beautiful” emancipatory motif with this rank sexualization of black peoples? And, has white liberalism fallen into the trap of this confusion?

I’m not a fan of the formulation “the white imagination.”  Neither “the black imagination.”   Those are abstractions that elide the varieties of ways people are and how they think.   I think you are specifically referring to whites who exoticize black people.   Exoticism is as old as exploitation.   The focus on body parts to which you refer is a key feature of fetishism.  For some of the best discussions of fetishism today, I recommend consulting Rosalind C. Morris and Daniel H. Leonard’s The Returns of Fetishism: Charles de rosses and the Afterlives of an Idea (2017).    I think a more insightful element of the film is that many public claims of hating how black people look and smell may be for show.   If freed from the pressures of a society premised on antiblack hatred, what would white people—and also many black, brown, red, and yellow people—“see” when they actually look at black people.  They may see the beauty of many black people.  They could see our positive qualities.  They may also admit what Jean-Paul Rocchi calls in his forthcoming book Desiring Modes of Being Black (2018): many black people, like variations of all other peoples, are beautiful.  This is also an issue explored by Paul Taylor in his discussion of what he calls “somatic aesthetics” in his book Black Is Beautiful (2016).  I don’t say all black people because that would be exoticism.  Finding every member of a group beautiful would be downright weird.  It would manifest a failure to see each individual in her or his specificity.  That is a feature of racial exoticism, which is a form of racism.

We’ve arrived at a thesis I’m exploring in my forthcoming book Fear of a Black Consciousness.  There is much talk about hatred of “black bodies.”  It’s as though black people no longer exist.  We should bear in mind, however, that one could desire black bodies but hate black people.  In the film, the thought of a white consciousness in a black body turned on, to the point of near salivation, the Coagula cult.  Those antagonists are the white and East Asian people kidnapping black people and marketing the process of coagulation or seizing black bodies with white and, as we see, East Asian consciousness.  The status of East Asian requires analysis here, since it may be that at least the East Asian and whites in the film regard their consciousnesses as the same—a form of Eurasian consciousness.  The political reality of China and Japan is that those countries reveal no interest in being linked to the global south. Theirs may very well be a new kind of white supremacy in the making, if not already made.  It is, after all, very good to be white in East Asia.  (See, e.g., César Ross’s “The Role of Africa in the Foreign Policy of China,” in Geopolitics and Decolonization, 2018)

Returning to the point about desire, we should consider this: What if the fear isn’t of black bodies but instead of black consciousness?   This brings us back to your question about black conservatives.  There are some, after all, who can move through the white world so long as they offer themselves as black bodies with white consciousnesses.  They even become “desirable.”  This question raises a host of other considerations.  Given there being fear of black consciousness, would it be so in a white body?

The problem with black consciousness in a white society is that it is fundamentally political.  Since politics makes no sense without power, fear of black power is what impedes many people’s willingness to look at the humanity black people embody.  My colleague Noël Cazenave addresses this fear of black political advancement in his book Killing African Americans (2018).

It’s clear Get Out raises as many questions as it addresses.  I’m delighted that Jordan Peele received the well-deserved Oscar and many other accolades for his screenplay.  His directing is also spectacular.  I could write an entire essay on the opening credits of the film alone.  Many others have devoted much attention to every detail of the film.  That it is worthy of such attention is a testament to its philosophical value and also its clearly earned place, at its release, as a classic.

 

Derefe Kimarley Chevannes is completing his doctorate in the fields of political theory and public law in the Department of Political Science at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.  Chevannes’s interests center on issues of racial liberation, questions of freedom and unfreedom. His doctoral research focuses particularly on a renewed conception of political speech and how the communicative practices of black subjects contribute to an enriched understanding of the nature of speech, politics, political subjectivity, and political agency.  His writings include his recently published article, “Creolizing Political Speech: Toward Black Existential Articulations,” in The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies 40, no. 1 (2018): 5–15.

Lewis Gordon is editor of Black Issues in Philosophy and Professor of Philosophy at UCONN-Storrs; Honorary President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies; the 2018–2019 Boaventura de Sousa Santos Chair in Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra, Portugal; and chair of the Awards Committee for the Caribbean Philosophical Association.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Well, here’s a suggestion which hopes to bring focus and clarity to such discussions.

    All discussion regarding the relationship between white and black Americans should end. Here’s why. Such vague general wandering dialog has become the primary distraction from specific bold actions which could constructively edit that relationship.

    Here’s an example of a specific bold action…

    1) College should be entirely free for all black Americans. Room, board, books, tuition, everything, a completely free ride.

    2) This plan should continue until such time as black and white Americans have on average the same amount of wealth.

    3) This plan should be paid for entirely by the 1% richest Americans, that is, those who have benefited most from the economic system which has been rigged against black Americans for hundreds of years.

    That’s it. Nothing else. No more speeches. No more articles. No more sermons. No more books. No more history lessons. No more radio shows, TV interviews, all of that on hold until such time as we complete a SPECIFIC BOLD action.

    Martin Luther King fought for the Voting Rights Act. Specific bold action. Like that.

    Or, if we can’t find our way to specific bold action, then let’s just be honest and admit that we’re happy with the status quo. At which point there would also be no need for further discussion.

    Every person over the age of 5 in America already knows that white Americans have been screwing black Americans for hundreds of years. We’re going to do something specific and bold about that, or we’re not. Let’s make up our mind, and get on with whatever we choose. The time for endless blah blah blah blab is over.

    Wait, please, don’t bother to offer a careful nuanced sophisticated complex argument in reply, I’m not interested. You’re for specific bold action of some kind, or you’re not. That’s all I need to know.

    If you are interested, salute the specific bold plan above, or offer your own.

  2. This is how philosophy can become relevant in the modern world, and who better to lead the charge than the American Philosophical Association.

    Use the disciplined processes of reason which you’ve devoted your careers to mastering to identify fundamental real world challenges faced by society.

    Use reason to formulate and test specific bold plans of action which can constructively address these challenges.

    Use your conferences to build a consensus in your community for specific action plans, and then speak with one voice, the expert advice from professional philosophers.

    Use your skill with language to sell such plans to the broader public. Wean yourself of the bias for sophisticated complex pseudo intellectual fancy talk which no one but you is interested in, and learn to translate your insights in to every day language accessible to all.

    It should be the American Philosophical Association which puts some specific bold plan for healing race relations in to the national conversation. What is the point of a professional philosophy education if not to use that advanced training to bring reason to bear on the most important issues of the day?

    Science is relevant and respected in the modern world because it can deliver specific benefits whose value is understood by broad populations.

    What specific benefit can your profession deliver? Answering that question and acting on it is how you become relevant.

  3. Specific bold action plans can be useful even if they are never implemented. Our reaction to such plans can shed additional clarity on what our relationship with a social challenge really is.

    As example, let’s return to the sample action plan outlined above. Please direct your attention to the funding source for this plan, the richest 1% of Americans. Please note that for 99% of Americans providing free college to all black Americans would cost us exactly nothing.

    As to the 1%, please note the following from the Washington Post…

    “The wealthiest 1 percent of American households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth…”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/12/06/the-richest-1-percent-now-owns-more-of-the-countrys-wealth-than-at-any-time-in-the-past-50-years/?utm_term=.f0f510a94f48

    As you can see, the 1% have so much money that placing this burden upon them would not change the way they live at all. They would still be liberated from work, could still fly their private jet to their Maui beach house, stay at 5 star hotels, eat in the very best restaurants etc. They would feel no pain as a result of this plan, their lives would go on as always.

    So, what we see in this sample example of a specific bold action plan is that we could provide free college to all black Americans, and keep doing so until the wealth gap between blacks and whites was erased.

    If that doesn’t work fast enough, we could expand the plan to include additional funding targeted to K-12 schools in the black community, again courtesy of the super rich, those who have most benefited from America’s rigged economic system.

    And now please observe one more thing. Nobody is talking about this.

    We could solve the black/white wealth gap FOR FREE, and nobody is talking about doing so. Only Bernie Sanders came close, but even that ultra liberal socialist firebrand could not conceive of the economic game being rigged in black American’s favor for awhile. And to be fair to Bernie, I can’t recall the NAACP ever bringing up such a plan either.

    What ruthless philosophy can help us do is face the very inconvenient politically incorrect fact that nobody in our society, black or white, is really that interested in erasing the wealth gap. What we’re interested in is TALKING about the wealth gap, and using that talk as a vehicle for expressing various emotions. Blacks want to talk about their pain, whites want to talk about their guilt, we have endless energy for this, it’s on every other show every other day.

    But when it comes to acting, to solving a huge chunk of the black/white wealth gap problem FOR FREE with specific bold action, we suddenly become overwhelmed with boredom. If we engage such ideas at all it’s only to do the “here’s what’s wrong with that dance”, an activity typically totally devoid of any alternative plan.

    So, before anyone posts more wonderful sermons about the relationship between blacks and whites in America let’s be clear about one little thing. We, blacks and whites, don’t really give a shit about any of that. We sincerely think we do. And so we say we do. But the truth is, we aren’t actually that interested.

    Here’s what actually being interested looks like. When our house catches on fire we immediately implement a specific bold action plan. We don’t write a paper about the fire, we act to put it out.

  4. If our goal is racial harmony, then the only valid way to debunk the sample plan presented above is to improve it or replace it with a better plan.

    One possible improvement would be to replace the free college plan with an education voucher which is given to every black child at birth. The money could be spent on any form of education the parents feel is appropriate for their child’s situation. Now we have a plan which addresses the educational needs of the entire black community, instead of being limited to college bound youth.

    If I understand correctly, approximately 600,000 black children are born each year in the United States. So if the voucher was say, $100,000, this plan would cost about 60 billion dollars a year.

    Can we afford this? Let’s return to the Washington post article, where we find this amazing statistic…

    ==========

    “The top 20 percent of households actually own a whopping 90 percent of the stuff in America…”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/12/06/the-richest-1-percent-now-owns-more-of-the-countrys-wealth-than-at-any-time-in-the-past-50-years/?utm_term=.823548853ca0

    ==========

    Or this, from CNN..

    “The richest 1% of families controlled a record-high 38.6% of the country’s wealth in 2016, according to a Federal Reserve report..”

    http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/27/news/economy/inequality-record-top-1-percent-wealth/index.html

    ==========

    So the question may be, are 99% of voters willing to extract 60 billion dollars a year from the 1% who control 38% of the nation’s wealth. Or we could ask instead, are 80% of voters willing to extract 60 billion dollars a year from the 20% who own 90% of the nation’s wealth.

    The point here is, the rich have the money, and we have enough votes to get it. The only thing missing from the equation is…

    We aren’t really that interested.

    Again, I’m unwilling to blame this lack of interest entirely on whites, because I see no blacks trying to sell a specific bold plan along these lines either.

    So here’s your chance to prove me wrong. Show some interest.

  5. “But, but, but…”, the critics will whine, “This plan isn’t fair, it gives a benefit to only one group, based on the color of their skin, it’s RACIST!!! blah blah blah etc etc…”

    Yep, this plan is unfair, it’s racist too. Here’s why.

    Try to imagine being a member of a minority that’s been ruthlessly and relentlessly oppressed for hundreds of years. You need more than money. More than that, you probably need assurance that the bad old days are gone for good. You most likely want to be convinced that you now live in a fair society. That’s reasonable, right?

    Ok, so what’s fair? Let’s start with a white way of defining fair, which might go something like this…

    “We’ve oppressed blacks for centuries and now we’re willing to stop doing that, or at least move in that direction.”

    Ok, that’s surely progress over slavery and Jim Crow. But is it fair?

    Here’s how black people in America might be thinking of fairness…

    “The game has been rigged against us for centuries, so now it should be rigged in our favor for awhile.”

    Is it fair to merely stop stealing from someone, or is fairness better described as a good faith attempt to repair the damage done by the theft, to make things right?

    The primary objective of the plans listed above is to repair the economic divide between blacks and whites, which should be a key factor in enhancing racial harmony.

    But there is an emotional challenge here which also needs to be addressed. If we want black Americans to feel fully welcome in American society we have to do more than just even the playing field and hope that things will sort themselves out over time, a long time.

    Fairness requires us to be unfair, to give extra advantage to those who have been denied equal status since the founding of the nation.

    Not forever, just until blacks and white have, on average, the same share of America’s wealth.

  6. We continue now with the most popular comment series of all time. 🙂

    When I present the ideas above on sites where they can be engaged, a typical response I often hear is that there is exactly no chance the current Congress and Administration would even consider such ideas, which seems true enough. Making this point seems to allow many folks to dismiss such ideas without admitting to themselves that they too don’t actually care if they are ever implemented.

    If such challengers were actually interested in reaching for racial harmony, they would quickly see the following pattern…

    George Bush Sr to Bill Clinton
    Bill Clinton to George Bush Jr.
    George Bush Jr. to Barrack Obama
    Barrack Obama to Donald Trump

    Here we see the political pendulum swinging back and forth between liberal and conservative, Democrats and Republicans, with clock work precision. It doesn’t take much insight to predict where the pendulum will be swinging next, back to the political left.

    What the last election showed is that vast swaths of the population have lost faith in the ability of traditional politicians to accomplish meaningful change.

    The way for Democrats to overcome that hurdle is to resist the urge to offer a thousand different ideas in an attempt to please each and every interest group. When political parties do this the public sees it for what it is, vague pandering, with no assurance any of it will ever happen.

    The way to persuade the public that Democrats are serious is to focus the message on one or two big bold specific ideas. Big and bold are essential properties because there is no way to make fundamental change, or truly engage the voters, with a collection of cowardly little ideas. If a party stakes it’s future on one or two big ideas the public sees that if elected that party will have no choice but to implement those ideas. That is, the message offered during the campaign becomes credible.

    As readers likely know, we are heading rapidly towards a minority majority nation where there will soon be more blacks and browns than whites. If the ideas above were expanded to include American Indians and Latinos, the Democrats would have the opportunity to permanently deny the Republicans access to the majority of voters.

    It’s not complicated. 20% of Americans are hording 90% of America’s wealth. It’s time to spread that wealth around the society more fairly, and we have the votes to do it.

    The only thing standing between us and that dream is that we lack the will to make it happen. We’ve fallen asleep within the status quo, and that’s why 1% of Americans own almost half the country.

  7. To summarize the above, the current under construction plan for racial harmony being explored here is to give each new black child who is born a $100,000 education voucher which can be spent on any combination of K-12, trade school, college etc. Such a plan is estimated to cost about 60 billion dollars a year, paid for by the richest Americans.

    It just dawned on me that such a plan would have some powerful built-in allies. I just needed to follow the money past the black families receiving it. Such a plan would pump 60 billion dollars in to the nation’s education system so we should expect those working in education to be supportive given that, if nothing else, it is they who will be the recipients of these funds.

    If such a plan is aimed at all educational opportunities (and not just college) that should create a base network of support in every community in the nation comprised of 1) black Americans and 2) teachers. If these two groups are united in their support of such a plan then we should probably assume that the Democratic Party will be onboard as well, especially if the plan could be expanded to include other long oppressed minority groups.

    We are moving quickly towards a minority majority nation, so now is the time to firmly lock this coming majority of voters in to the Democratic camp. If that can be accomplished then a plan like the one being explored here could have substantial impact upon many other liberal causes beyond the issues of racial harmony and education.

    Are you tired of Trump and a Republican Congress that can’t even pass it’s own proposals? This is how we make all that go away for a long time.

  8. Ok, I think that’s enough, let’s wrap this up here. I’ll be happy to engage further if anyone shows an interest in doing so. Until then, it seems time to take this typoholic circus on the road.

    If you read this far, thanks for doing so. If you like anything you’ve read above feel free to transport such thoughts to any other realm.

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