Comment 122864

By SimonO (registered) | Posted May 03, 2018 at 10:29:13

Thanks for your comments,Eddy. I realize that attempting to open discussion with people whose views are offensive seems difficult and even absurd, and yet I really do believe that these kinds of views are calculated to evoke just the kind of intolerant, gut reaction that mainstream society so often supplies. This kind of racism is a possibly unconscious but no less calculated form of protest, one cleverly designed to expose the forms of intolerance that secretly inform leftist politics, which likes to think of itself as tolerant but actually has significant blind spots in this regard. You mention privilege, but it doesn’t seem to me that the small groups who showed up for the “Patriot Walk” came from particularly advantaged backgrounds, at least judging by the photos that HAF took of them. I am inclined to read these conflicts as fed by unacknowledged issues of class, which get transposed into hyperbolic performances of all the signifiers that might disturb good, tolerant leftists. These strategies are pursued by people who have been left out of the kinds of politics that require the mobilizeation of specific, disadvantaged identities while leaving the larger issue of how the free market system exploits all of us unaddressed. It makes me sad to see this divide-and-conquor strategy reinforced by people on the left, who should be searching for ways to find a common cause that can shift the register in which the resentments and anxieties that beset us can be addressed.

In this regards, I take inspiration from the documentary, Accidental Couretsy, in which a black blues musician, Daryl Davis, explains how he has managed to collect the robes of over two hundred, now ex-KKK members. Davis befriends these former white supremacists one by one, using the history of music to open discussions about the ways white culture has historically appropriated and exploited black cultural forms. Music becomes the common culture that allows otherwise oppositionaly positioned people to find a way beyond the ignorance, fear, isolation and poverty that keeps racism alive. While Davis is an exceptional case, and we can’t and shouldn’t expect oppressed people to risk further victimization by interacting with intolerant bigots on this way, it does raise questions for me about how people who see themselves as allies might try different strategies for surmounting the impasses that our increasingly polarized society is facing.

The current dominant model of activism seems to involve silencing, shaming and casting out whatever folk devils appear, in an attempt to create a “safe space.” This, in turn, I see as a response the the shrinking of spaces of refuge and repair that processes like gentrification and the securitization of public spaces contribute to. It is a vicious circle, and the only way out is to take a step back and try to consider the bigger question of how market logics ultimately turn us into caged beasts who then start tearing at each other out of dispar and panic. What might seem like utopian dreaming to some, I see as an invitation to start heroically imagining, and working towards, a different world.

Comment edited by SimonO on 2018-05-03 10:33:18

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