Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Malcolm X's Assassination Day

Since yesterday was the anniversary of Malcolm X's assassination, I thought I'd discuss white privilege and Islam.White privilege means being able to write the history. We view W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington as being somehow diametrical opposites, when it is neither logically necessary nor factually correct to think that a black movement could only ask for internal reform of the community or external alteration of treatment. We also view Martin Luther King, Jr. as a pacifist reformist and Malcolm X as an extremist black nationalist, yet MLK Jr. demanded radical change (an end to the war in Vietnam, a fundamental change in our class structure) and Malcolm X's career close to the end of his life was very much about the unity of mankind. Even if the voices of others are thrown into the overwhelmingly white myth, they end up seeming so much like token diversity day admissions that they almost backfire; and worse, they seem to imply that the old days had so many black leaders, but now there aren't any, so the problems nowadays must be the black community's fault.White privilege means being viewed as an individual. If Bill O'Reilly spouts racist garbage in daily maniacal diatribes, white liberals are able to distance themselves by saying "But that's not all white people". But if a black man commits a crime or if an Asian succeeds, every white person from California to New York looks for an inherently racialized explanation.White privilege means being able to smugly talk about "progress". Malcolm X said, "Don’t put a dagger in my chest 12 inches, pull it out six inches and tell me that you have made progress." Worse, pulling out that dagger incompletely is likely to cause the wound to violently fester. A white person can confidently say "We've made a lot of progress to confront racism", but for a black person who will continue to never get the same jobs for the same pay and will always be viewed as somehow inherently pathological, progress means little to nothing.White privilege means being able to listen to "Fuck the Police" with the windows rolled down close to a police officer in a nice car and not be pulled over for it, as I have done.White privilege means being able to pretend that one is rational and unemotional when one is discussing matters of race, when in fact one is being callous and idiotic. It means that Bill Cosby's overtly racist rant is given credence and Tim Wise's responses are ignored or viewed as "playing the race card" or being too emotional.It even means that one gets to be looked at as a superstar in debate and sports while getting ripped on pot, Captain Morgan and shrooms (as I am intimately aware of), while an aspiring black student will always be suspected of running drugs. (To give this some context: "White kids are 27 percent more likely than blacks to receive anti-drug information from parents, and 24 percent more likely to receive similar information in school, yet they just can't seem to put down their needles and pipes." "There are more white high school students who have used crystal methamphetamine (the most addictive drug on the streets) than there are black students who smoke cigarettes." [Tim Wise].)If anyone is interested, I can post surprising and staggering statistics at just how much all of us white folks benefit from black oppression in very real economic terms.I'd also like to discuss Islam briefly. Even progressives, like my Mom, seem to think that every Muslim country is a woman-hating fundamentalist hellhole. Yet the majority of practitioners of Islam are in Africa and Indonesia, which, while not being perfect, are nothing like the Middle East. The Muslims I have met have overwhelmingly been loving, moderate, reasonable people, and the worst Muslims I know of aren't even as maniacal as some of the bizarre Christian groups out there. It may be true, as Edward Said seems to imply, that anti-Arab racism is the last acceptable racism and anti-Muslim sentiment is the last acceptable religious discrimination.


Post a Comment

<< Home