It was William Julius Wilson who argued that affirmative action in the US was designed and applied  to benefit (black) elites rather than the people who had been super-exploited in US history, see “Still separate and unequal” by George M. Frederickson.

Adolph Reed was critical of Wilson, but consanguinely argues that affirmative action is primarily used by black elites (eg. mayors) to support capitalist elites.

Check:

  • Frederickson implies that Wilson’s critique applies more widely: Global elites benefit from affirmative action, rather than impoverished American minorities with historical roots in the US. Does Wilson say this, or does he just focus on middle class v. working class American blacks?
  • Does this critique apply to multiculturalism / diversity management as well? Angela Davis and Zizek have critiqued global capitalist multiculturalism.
  • What have BAR, Manning Marable had to say about this, if anything? 

“The term ‘pluralism’ is acquiring increasing currency in our own time. It is presumably the ideology describing the centrifugal tendencies of a society that threatens to disintegrate into unreconiled groups under the pressure of its own principles. This is then represented as if it were a state of reconiliation in which people lived together in a harmony while in reality society is full of power struggles. As a minor by-product of these lectures I would like to recommend that you adopt an extremely wary attitude towards the concept of pluralism which, like the similar concept of ‘social partners,’ is preached at us on every street corner. To transfigure and ideologize the elements of discontinuity or of social antagonisms in this way is a part of the general ideological trend. In the same way, it is very characteristic of our age that the very factors that threaten to blow up the entire world are represented as the peaceful coexistence of human beings who have become reconciled and have outgrown their conflicts. This is a tendency which barely conceals the fact that mankind is beginning to despair of finding a solution to its disagreements.” (Adorno. History & Freedom: 93)

BAR has published Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (imprisonment) in serial form. Other commentators on this topic: Bruce Western, Angela Davis.
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Strange Fruit: A Nice Kid Savagely, "Legally" Cut Down

Young Treyvon Martin was hunted down and murdered in cold blood because ALECNRA machine-written law, in the context of the undead slave society legal and cultural tradition within the US, identifies all black male activity (including even walking to and from a convenience store to buy a box of Skittles) as a “threat” that legally can be “met with deadly force.”

That’s right. We find that our corporate overlords (including Walmart), via their venal, despicable ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), have been going from state to state, flogging the legalization of hunting neighborhood black children (The Castle Doctrine Act/ Stand Your Ground law. Yes, it is not a coincidence that the legislation titles sound like they were written by a penis. The Little King strategy). Corrupt policy for an apartheid military society.

Look, this is clearly a case where liberals should be in there, taking on the conservative corporate warlords. The ALEC / NRA legislation is nothing more than Klan policy in a Jim Crow country.

“You live in a country where your son can get A’s and B’s in high school, be well liked by his teachers, never get in trouble with the law, and run out to buy a snack during the NBA All Star Game, and never come home…because someone decides he has the right to execute your son…That’s the country you live in, if you are black in America” Lawrence O’Donnell.

The rotten-hearted US, devoid of the union strength required to set a brake on and break a corporate-feudal law that elaborates itself as a greasy film of excuses for abominations against humanity.


Likewise, ‎”Florence, an African-American, was driving with his pregnant wife and four-year-old son in March 2005 when he was pulled over by a New Jersey state trooper. He was arrested on a bench warrant for an unpaid fine. The warrant had been cancelled two years earlier after the fine was paid, but it had never been removed from the police data system. Florence was taken away in handcuffs and spent the next six days at the Burlington County Detention Center, where he was ordered to undress, sprayed with a delousing agent and inspected for contraband and gang tattoos. He spent an additional day at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, where he was stripped and ordered to squat and cough, a maneuver designed to eject anything hidden in the rectum. Brought before a magistrate, he was released without charge.” 
The anti-democratic Supreme Court says, “no problem”.

The militarized NYC police “elite gun unit” has been outed for systematically treating black people, and black people alone “like animals,” as policy. 

“They didn’t care if it was kids in there, they didn’t care if it was women in there, naked women,” the detective said. “. . . They treated them as if they had no rights whatsoever. It was disgusting.” 

“What white American majorities have been collectively attempting to redeem for the past 40 years, is a White Man’s Country. That’s why they have voted Republican in presidential elections since 1968, with Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy. That’s why, in the wake of the Black Freedom Movement of the Sixties, white electorates in every state put in office politicians that methodically constructed an overwhelmingly non-white Prison Gulag that now warehouses 1 out of every 4 incarcerated persons on the planet, half of them African American. That’s the essential truth of Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow, under which Blacks are criminalized as a people in order to return them to the status of a subjugated class. 

The Stand Your Ground-like laws that have been enacted by more than two-dozen states are very public manifestations of unreconstructed white nationalism on the offensive.”


I don’t look at the Right wing blogotwitterosphere. That’s a pastime for others, and not my schtick. But I am somewhat interested in how the Right cannot effectively spin the spate of state terror unleashed on innocent black people these days. I did happen to stumble upon one conservative comment thread trying desperately to damage-control spin the topic of Martin’s murder. The political tack that the conservative tweeter was trying to flog was this: “The Left (which hesheit calls “neoliberals”–either for obfuscation purposes if hesheit is a paid conservative dittohead, or because hesheit is honestly politically clueless) has politicized the Martin murder. Good people will simply see Martin’s murder as an inexplicable act of God, not think, and just sadly FEEL the unaccountable tragedy, and then quietly walk away, nothing to see here folks, get back to your workstations.” 
So you, Little Lord Faunteleroy, declare it’s exploitative, it’s impossible, it’s wrong to both feel and think. To start, I gotta alert you, junior. The Right, though they believe they are the only humans, actually do not have a monopoly on feeling bad at the death of boys. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence, historical and contemporary, that conservatives’ feelings are shockingly absent at the death of black boys; and the Left, the thinking, political Left, is decidedly more human, more feeling in this regard. 
Not only that surprising fact, but also: Someone let the politicization out of the bag a loooong time ago, Twinkles: Hence the NRA, ALEC, their Castle/Stand Your Ground political campaign to militarize American civil society, as well as the similarly elite, antidemocratic use of constitutional law to allow wealth to dominate politics and to give free reign to state terror. That’s all political, Virginia. And it’s politics that results in political corruption, economic pillaging, brutality, state terror…and murder. Are you still telling us to stop feeling and thinking together? I’ve got to wonder what’s wrong with you.
This conservative schtick did not seem to be getting much traction (not much of a conservative yes-men choral response) on-line, leading me again to believe that this tweeter is an unpaid conservative tool. (Or conservatives are just completely busted on selling their brutal polity achievements these days.) [UPDATE: No. This nothing-to-see-here/back-to-your-workstations conservative gambit was reproduced for a mass audience…by The Daily Show (Larry Wilmore & Jon Stewart), in April 2012. It should be noted that The Daily Show positions itself as a “fair & balanced” liberal political commentator. See here and here for analyses of conservative liberalism.]

I do have one thing to say to unpaid conservative internet trolls:

If you are attempting to flog conservative dogma, and you don’t get a piece of Koch’s prodigious black gold accumulated and reserved precisely for such a commercial service (as protected by the antidemocratic SCOTUS), then you need to examine your life, son. There’s a term for someone who does unpaid work for a wealthy, freeloading tyrant who could easily pay for the labor…No wait. A slave wants freedom, but is brutally constrained. Something (self-)objectified, that is dedicated to be used by a boss, that aspires neither to commodification nor freedom, well now that is specifically a tool. A tool, son. We all know what the Limbaughs, Malkins, and Palins are doing: Paying for the estates, the nannies, the Manolo Blahniks, the Mercedes-Benz SUVs, and the Viagra stash, working for a massive, high-rent industry. The question is: What are you doing, Littlest Hobo King? I’ll tell you what. Since you come so cheap, I need a squire. I’ll pay you  a little above your going rate: a strand of licorice and a gumdrop for your lifelong service. …Or maybe you should consider opening up some books, going to some new places, making some new friends, listening to some different voices, do some reflecting about which side of history you do the free work for. …And for the record, you can keep feeling as well as reflect. It’s a little razzle-dazzle we Leftists like to call being human.

And, conservative pros, good luck with your Right-wing pro-feudal state terror spin. All your dogmatic court and legislative coups spew brutality and crisis. You don’t know how to rule worth a damn.

Researcher Fournier likewise finds a pattern of institutionalized racism in Anglo-American (Canadian) courts (forthcoming, Canadian Criminal Law Review 2012). The courts are lenient on men who kill their families in a fit of “passion”, iff the men are white.

On White Male Property owning Citizenship in the US

Civic virtue as a property of propertied white men:

A number of authors argue that the 19th Century concept of US citizenship and civic virtue was grounded in being a white male property-owner — with property-ownership construed broadly to include tool-owning tradesmen, a notion that spilled over into the racial exclusivism practiced by the US craft unions:

Political and legal theorist Aziz Rana’s The Two Faces of American Freedom (2010).

Historian David Montgomery’s Citizen Worke(1995).

Political scientist Rogers Smith‘s Civic Ideals (1999) gives a fairly broad backdrop.

Italian philosopher Domenico Losurdo argues that liberalism is essentially about exclusion: the advancement of slavery, colonialism, genocide, racism and snobbery. Much of his book Liberalism, A Counter-history (2011) is focused on the United States, in both the early republican and antebellum periods. (Here is a New Left Project debate on Losurdo‘s thesis . Here is a review of Liberalism in Counterfire.) Jodi Dean has argued that the exclusion thesis is a red herring; the problem with capitalism is exploitation, not exclusion.

Christopher Tomlins’s Law, Labor, and Ideology in the Early Republic (1993) (It can complement the Orren text, see below.)

Andrew Shankman’s Crucible of American Democracy (2004).

Seth Cotlar’s Tom Paine’s America (2011).

On how long citizenship actually took to get to white males, cross-class, in the US:

Best book about thwarted suffrage in the US (including that of working class white males) is The Right to Vote (2000) by historian Alex Keyssar. (Hear Keyssar speaking about contemporary barriers to suffrage in the US.)

Political scientist Karen Orren’s book Belated Feudalism (1991) is about the persistence in the US of feudal common law, in the form of employment law, well into the 20th century.

Thanks to John Gulick, C. Robin and Anthony Galluzzo.





What’s at Stake in Understanding Conservatism
From a review of Manisha Sinha’s The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina:


Sinha demonstrates that “South Carolina pro-slavery thought was not the expression of Southern Republicanism, but increasingly its very negation. It was not a coincidence that secessionism was strongest in South Carolina, the only state by 1832 where presidential electors and the governor were not popularly elected, where the legislature was crudely malapportioned, and where local offices were limited by the state government. It was also not a coincidence that slaves were a majority of South Carolinians, and slaveholders nearly a majority of South Carolinian whites. And it certainly was not a coincidence that non-slaveholders were noticeably less enthusiastic for nullification, secession in 1851 and secession in 1861.

Leading Carolinians like John Caldwell Calhoun, Senator James Chesnut and the creepy, incestuous James Hammond all sneered at the Declaration of Independence. Sinha quotes one bravado warping Patrick Henry to declare “Give me Slavery or give me death.” Notwithstanding the views of some historians to the contrary, the South Carolinians criticized the North less for its oppression of wage laborers than for the possiblity that those laborers could vote themselves into power. They did not condemn Lincoln as an intolerant Protestant but as a dangerous socialist and feminist. Moreover, they were not slow to raise the Nativist card against the immigrants who were bolstering the North’s population.

Calhoun’s idea of a concurrent majority was not a thoughtful protection of minority rights, but a way to prevent one minority, his own, from ever being outvoted. Once the Confederacy was set up, the Southern elite dispensed with political parties. South Carolina also began to dispense with competitive elections, while its ruthless elite certainly did not act sentimentally (or even decently) towards opinions on slavery.

There have been many frauds and bullies in American political life: the Nixons, the Hoovers, the McCarthys, the Tillmans and the Bilbos. But much of their malignancy was purely personal, and they never threatened the core ideals of the republic. Calhoun was different, very different. Extremely intelligent, he was also utterly principled, and absolutely ruthless in carrying out that one principle. The problem was that the principle, despite all the complications of honor and paternalism, was slavery. More so than anyone else, Calhoun was the greatest enemy of liberty and freedom the United States ever had.


If you still don’t understand what’s at stake, perhaps you might glance at contemporary S. Carolina and US politics, inter alia. History is a child with progeria. 

“It isn’t that Americans view the past as irrelevant; it’s that they regard it as the stuff that dreams are made of, straw spun into gold, camera-ready for the preferred and more profitable markets in prime-time myth.

Why then argue for uses of history other than the ones that sponsor the election campaigns, blow the bubbles in Wall Street, underwrite the nation’s wars? The short answer is William Faulkner’s ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.'” (Lapham, Lewis. 2012. P. 28 in “Ignorance of Things Past,” Harper’s, May.)

US Apartheid and Education

Education in high-inequality America is an excellent case study illustrating the importance of having the capacity to distinguish conservative campaigns, and to understand their logic and social trajectory.


Popular theory holds that feeling affected when you are shown images of suffering will allow people to make ameliorative changes. Yet both images of suffering and human sentiments can be mobilized for a variety of ends that may subvert ameliorative change. (Soc Mov lit: (J Jasper and Poulsen, J Goodwin, F Polletta, V Taylor) ) Take the example of the conservative education reform campaign’s strategic manipulation of antiracist sentiment, including through the conservative education reform campaign’s documentary “Waiting for Superman.” There is a reason that this particular education reform campaign does not, despite its compassionate–even antiracist– articulations, reduce child trauma, education failures, social welfare failures, poverty, and education and welfare outcomes inequality. That reason lies in the logic and trajectory of conservatism.


Eight pieces on the progressive perspective on US apartheid and education reform:

Two progressive views on Guggenheim’s “Waiting for Superman”:

Waiting for Superman is a Propaganda Campaign” (Pallas 2010).

Lois Weiner’s “A Witch Hunt Against Teachers” (2012) reveals the new divide-and-conquer public education destruction strategy: ‎”Instead of teachers as a group being blamed for children’s lack of achievement, only the ‘bad teachers’ are going to be targeted. And who are the ‘bad teachers’ in this new campaign? Those who oppose what’s supposed to be ‘right for kids’: the use of standardized testing, charter schools, privatization — and the destruction of teachers’ unions.

Hollywood will once again enter the fray of school politics, with a new propaganda vehicle, Won’t Back Down, an action film, funded by the same right-wing think tank that produced Waiting for Superman. This time Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal will carry the message that good teachers don’t need or want unions or any of those ‘selfish’ (so un-mother-like!) desires like pensions, good salaries, limited working hours.”

2 selections from the progressive US African-American community, courtesy of Black Agenda Report (BAR):

Progressives and teachers favor Finland’s anti-inequality, pro-teacher model of education excellence, described in “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success” (The Atlantic 2012).

Conservative Moralism’s Empirical Education Reform Failures in the US: 

Teach for America: The Hidden Curriculum of Liberal Do-gooders” (Hartman 2012).

Diane Ravitch, a former high-flying anti-union education reform crusader, saw the data and had a change of heart:
Ravitch: “As I became a scholar and, you know, got into the academic world, I found myself—I don’t know. I fell into a sort of a conservative mindset about a lot of things.

…If you believed that children should study history and geography and real things, you’re conservative in the academic world, because you’re not supposed to believe in a real curriculum. I believe that it’s not conservative; it’s actually very liberal and empowering to have real knowledge… But having been castigated as a conservative for believing in having a traditional curriculum, when I went into the Bush administration, I found myself kind of getting caught up in the choice rhetoric. And so, for about ten years or so, I was advocating for charter schools. They didn’t exist, so I didn’t know how things would turn out.

…Over the years, from the period in which charters started and in which the whole Accountability movement started (And what Accountability ultimately meant, not just in the Bush administration, but in the Clinton, and now in the Obama administration, Accountability means who should be punished. If the scores don’t go up, who should be punished? Teachers. Teachers should be punished. The unions should be demonized.), I began looking at the results. When I looked at No Child Left Behind and saw, you know, we’re not really making any improvements under No Child Left Behind—the test scores have been either stagnant or made tiny improvement. Actually, the gains before No Child Left Behind on national tests were larger than since No Child Left Behind was adopted. I mean, I looked at the evidence, and I thought, all these things that I hoped would work didn’t work.

…This is the great legacy of No Child Left Behind, is that it has left us with a system of institutionalized fraud…(E)very year we get closer to 2014, the bar goes up, and the states are told, ‘If you don’t reach that bar, you’re going to be punished. Schools will be closed. They’ll be turned into charter schools.’ That’s part of the federal mandate, is that schools will be privatized if they can’t meet that impossible goal. So in order to preserve some semblance of public education, the states have been encouraged to lie.

…’The Billionaires Boys Club’ is …a new era of the foundations and their relation to education. We have never in the history of the United States had foundations with the wealth of the Gates Foundation and some of the other billionaire foundations—the Walton (WalMart) Family Foundation, The Broad Foundation. And these three foundations—Gates, Broad and Walton—are committed now to charter schools and to evaluating teachers by test scores. And that’s now the policy of the US Department of Education.

…I’m just trying to say the evidence says No Child Left Behind was a failure, and the evidence says that charter (privatized) schools are going to lead us into a swamp of—well, first of all, they’re not going to be any better, because if you look at national test scores—charter schools were first part of the national tests in 2003—they didn’t do any better than regular public schools. They were tested again in 2005, 2007, 2009. They (privatized schools) have never outperformed regular public schools.”

–Dr. Diane Ravitch,
Research Professor of Education at New York University,
Assistant Secretary of Education and counselor to Education Secretary Lamar Alexander under President George H.W. Bush and appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board under President Clinton.Interviewed on Democracy Now!
March 5, 2010.

Thanks goes out to my colleague, sociologist Chris Powell, for pushing me to articulate what is at stake in the contemporary era, in having an historically-embedded grasp of conservatism–the reactionary drive to shore up surplus accumulating/maldistributing social orders by psuedo-speciating humanity. Recognizing conservatism doesn’t require favoring one axis of oppression over others, a contentious primary concern within the neoliberal-era Left. On the contrary, an expanded literacy in and capacity to distinguish conservatism enables us to be better insectionalists. By grasping the trajectory of conservatism, we can avoid the characteristic Left problem of the neoliberal era–becoming class blind in order to see racism and/or sexism, and in the process betraying our antiracist and feminist aspirations, as in the cases of conservative US education reform, discussed above, and conservative Swedish labor market reformNancy Fraser’s feminist call to distinguish feminist anti-authority from capitalist creative destruction also points to the problems of an incapacity to identify conservatism.

(The previous epoch is more infamous for the reverse problem of class-literate racism and sexism, which was not as uniform–to start, see here, and here–as is today popularly imagined. But this infamy may be an effect of the relative ease of denouncing the foibles of the dead. It may well be that some communities’ more adequate understanding of conservatism could have contributed to better intersectionality in the past as well.)

Here’s a letter from a man with a visceral grasp of what conservatism is about.