A stimulating, exacerbating, provocative article on the element of racism and authoritarianism in Trump’s candidacy and the Republican Party. There’s much to say, as the hundreds of comments attests. Here’s one little twig to add to the kindling.
The author quotes at length from James Baldwin, who demonstrates in this passage why I call him the master of diagrammatic thinking. “There are no white people.” Well, in one sense he’s right, in another, the statement is ridiculous. Like Baldwin, the author of the article divides America’s citizens into “whites” and “blacks.” “Whiteness” doesn’t really exist, except as a foil, a construct that allows “white people” to create the attribute of “blackness” and use it to disfigure other people.
Yes, there are no “white” people. There are Jews, Irish, French, Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Swedes and many others, each with their own histories, cultures, languages; and for each of these groups, there are sub-groups which evidence their own fine distinctions. And there are no “black” people, either. But there are Jamaicans, Congolese, Ethiopians, Kenyans, Sudanese, Bermudians, Guineans and a wide variety of African-Americans whose inherited cultures have been affected by their interaction with various American regions. And we haven’t yet spoken of the multiple Hispanic groups that increasingly grace America’s demographic picture. Like “black” and “white” groups, there are sub-groups here, too, with the concomitant nuances in culture, history and language.
Everything is so much easier to keep track of if there are only “black” people and “white” people. In the world of diagrammatic thinking, “white” and “black” each have only one set of values; the actual world is more complex and nuanced. In the world of diagrammatic thinking, “black” and “white” are terms that can only be used to oppress and erase, or to privilege and elevate. “White” “black” are terms which can be weapons to hurt political or cultural enemies, or they are terms which link disparate groups by pointing to commonalities. In the actual world they can be false dichotomies that divide, obscure and blur the real connections and distinctions among us all. —Rabbi Kerry Baker