Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Adolph Reed Jr. on anti-racism and social justice

Adolph Reed Jr., Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, “the smartest person of any race, class, or gender writing on race, class, and gender” (Katha Pollitt, Mother Jones

on race and anti-racism

from The Real Divide | The Progressive:

...race is especially useless as a basis on which to craft a politics that can effectively pursue social justice.

...Exposing racism apparently makes those who do it feel good about themselves. Doing so is cathartic, though safely so, in the same way that proclaiming one’s patriotism is in other circles.

...Many liberals gravitate to the language of racism not simply because it makes them feel righteous but also because it doesn’t carry any political warrant beyond exhorting people not to be racist. In fact, it often is exactly the opposite of a call to action. Such formulations as “racism is our national disease” or similar pieties imply that racism is a natural condition. Further, it implies that most whites inevitably and immutably oppose blacks and therefore can’t be expected to align with them around common political goals.
from The limits of anti-racism:
Apostles of antiracism frequently can’t hear this sort of statement, because in their exceedingly simplistic version of the nexus of race and injustice there can be only the Manichean dichotomy of those who admit racism’s existence and those who deny it. There can be only Todd Gitlin (the sociologist and former SDS leader who has become, both fairly and as caricature, the symbol of a “class-first” line) and their own heroic, truth-telling selves, and whoever is not the latter must be the former. Thus the logic of straining to assign guilt by association substitutes for argument.
My position is—and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said this bluntly, yet to no avail, in response to those in blissful thrall of the comforting Manicheanism—that of course racism persists, in all the disparate, often unrelated kinds of social relations and “attitudes” that are characteristically lumped together under that rubric, but from the standpoint of trying to figure out how to combat even what most of us would agree is racial inequality and injustice, that acknowledgement and $2.25 will get me a ride on the subway. It doesn’t lend itself to any particular action except more taxonomic argument about what counts as racism.
from pdf here:
Proponents of an antiracist politics commonly express anxiety that Obama’s election could issue in premature proclamation of the transcendence of racial inequality, injustice, or conflict. It is and will be possible to find as many expressions of that view as one might wish, just as it will be possible to find a more or less explicitly racist “birther” tendency. The greater likelihood, and in my view the great danger, is that we will find ourselves left with no critical politics other than a desiccated identitarian leftism capable only of counting, parsing, hand-wringing, administering, and making up “Just So” stories about dispossession and exploitation recast in the arid language of disparity and diversity. This is a politics that emanates, by the way, from the professional-managerial class that remains generally insulated from the ravages of the ongoing economic crisis, the endless wars, and the other costs of predatory neoliberalism.

on identitarian Ivy League POC and Obamaism

At Obama: WTF? A Facebook Roundtable of the Left « Corey Robin, Adolph Reed says of Obama, "I’d refrained from saying that he, as well as his various running dogs, haunt me as illustrations of the modal type of Ivy League POC students I’ve been teaching for the last 30 years. That same mastery of performance of a cultivated, yet at the same time empty and pro forma, intellectuality, conviction that one’s career advancement literally embodies the victory of the civil rights movement, and that awe that Bromwich notes of the rich and powerful."

The last reference is to David Bromwich, who has written many criticisms of Obama.

from Where Obamaism Seems to be Going | The Progressive:
Lesser evilists assert as indisputable fact that Gore, or even Kerry, wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Perhaps Gore wouldn't have, but I can't say that's a sure thing. (And who was his running mate, by the way?) Moreover, we don't know what other military adventurism that he—like Clinton—would have undertaken to make clear that he wouldn't be seen as a wimpy Democrat.