September 13, 2009

Listening to the Victims in a Recession's Racial Dvide

One of the greatest perversities growing out of our recent economic collapse and recession has been this ever growing sense of reverse racism. This idea that blacks voted Obama into office as some sort of savior, to rid the USA of white power and replace it with black power, and open the gates to illegal immigrants by providing them a free ride on the backs of white business and money. One naturally thinks of the republican congressman Joe Wilson's outburst last Thursday during Obama's health care reform speech when Obama stated that no illegal immigrants would be provided coverage under the bills in question.

Well, since this recession that inevitably happened under a black president, many Americans who have held power in this country ever since their distant family stripped (read: raped) the natives of it have felt threatened. What's at stake for white culture is the false dream and comfort of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" given to them (us) by powerful corporations with little to no disregard for human life. Wealth built off the backs of others, just like the olden days...but exported of course.

In a NYTimes op-ed piece writers Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad named The Recession's Racial Divide, illuminate the reality behind the fear that the black community has won a "dictator and, in one image circulated among the anti-tax, anti-health reform “tea parties,” he is depicted as a befeathered African witch doctor with little tusks coming out of his nostrils. When you’re going down, as the white middle class has been doing for several years now, it’s all too easy to imagine that it’s because someone else is climbing up over your back."

At the Moltmann/Emergent conversation I just came back from one of the quotes that has stuck with me was something like, "those guilty of oppression, but want to enter into the truth of life must listen to their victims, because they can tell you who you truly are."

Never mind the fact the loan offices were encouraged by certain lending institutions to persuade black preachers to hold wealth seminars by providing a small donation to churches who did so, never mind that these same employees often referred to subprime loans as "ghetto loans" and minority customers as "mud people." We could talk about how it was the white culture that sold the black culture a false bill of goods, or that black unemployment is 8.2% higher than white unemployment.

Instead hear the words of the oppressed who have fallen on inexcusably hard time:

“There is no middle class anymore,” ... “just a top and a bottom.”

It’s not easy to get people to talk about their subprime experiences. There’s the humiliation of having been “played” by distant, mysterious forces. “I don’t feel very good about myself,” says the teacher in “American Casino.” “I kind of feel like a failure.”

The conclusion is poignant yet lacking:

So despite the right-wing perception of black power grabs, this recession is on track to leave blacks even more economically disadvantaged than they were. Does a black president who is inclined toward bipartisanship dare address this destruction of the black middle class? Probably not. But if Americans of all races don’t get some economic relief soon, the pain will only increase and with it, perversely, the unfounded sense of white racial grievance.
Is all this article is is a call for economic relief? While this is an important and worthwhile conversation what we need is call away from fear politics and a culture obsessed with power, driven by bigotry, and that has no place for real, constructive dialogue. What we need is to confront this unfounded sense of racial grievance and quit scapegoating Obama, the poor, and the "other."

What we very well need is a call to the cross, to suffer and give up our American dreams of power and wealth for American dreams of a society of care and responsibility for one another, a society of real democracy and pluralism, and society founded in the reality that "truth is found in unhindered dialogue (Moltmann)."

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