Chad Crow, the Super Chill Grandson of Jim Crow
August 30, 2015 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Also known as "Polite White Supremacy."

"No but seriously, Polite White Supremacy is very real.... #PWS puts the responsibility solely on the creators of a systemic problem..., addresses the subtlety and casualness with which oppression is administered..., [and] eradicates the all-too-common confusion between racism and prejudice. It’s important to eradicate this confusion so it can be clear that racism is tied to a power structure and access to resources."
posted by ourt (30 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
America has been playing a centuries-long game of ‘stop hitting yourself’ while holding the arms of Black America.


What a spectacular metaphor. Sad, but wonderfully vivid.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:54 PM on August 30, 2015 [27 favorites]


"Instead of openly celebrating a lynching, pretend you actually believe it was a suicide."

Lynching still going on? How often and where?
posted by Postroad at 1:00 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


". Pretend that unionization had nothing to do with whites fearing competition from the useful, tangible skills of blacks."

???
posted by lalochezia at 1:01 PM on August 30, 2015 [12 favorites]




Lynching still going on? How often and where?

I think that's referring to Sandra Bland, and more recently Kindra Chapman, Joyce Curnell, Ralkina Jones and Raynette Turner, who allegedly committed suicide while in police custody.
posted by Rangi at 1:13 PM on August 30, 2015 [23 favorites]


There's some good stuff in here, and the introduction is really cogent, but it sort of falls down for me after that. As a sermon for the choir, it's alright, but I was really excited to share this on Facebook for my Trump-thumper relatives as I was reading the first few paragraphs; I think it's a little too sloppy and underdeveloped for that, though. Typos aside, there's a lot that gets glossed over, and a lot of examples that are referenced but never explained or built on.

I do think PWS is a great name for an important concept, and it's new to me. Is there more material out there, perhaps more suitable for an outsider or someone at more of a 101-level? Particularly, I think there are a lot of people who need to understand the difference between racism and prejudice, and to understand the white supremacy is still a thing. I know plenty of these people, anyway.
posted by WCWedin at 1:20 PM on August 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


A great recent example of this was the reaction of Bernie Saunders supporters to Black Lives Matter activists.
posted by Nevin at 1:26 PM on August 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


Perhaps Lennon Lacy committed suicide by hanging himself.
Maybe Frederick Jermaine Carter did, too, and Otis Byrd.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:29 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


". Pretend that unionization had nothing to do with whites fearing competition from the useful, tangible skills of blacks."

???


It's worth noting that the UAW was the first successful union in Detroit because they were the first to allow Blacks to join.

Let that sink in for a bit: Prior to the UAW, labor unionists thought they could take on the big 3 automakers while simultaneously excluding a large portion of their coworkers from the movement.
posted by TrialByMedia at 1:35 PM on August 30, 2015 [21 favorites]


There's some good stuff in here, and the introduction is really cogent, but it sort of falls down for me after that.

Yes. The author is clearly right, but it's not going to be clear why they're right if you haven't already basically accepted that they are.
posted by howfar at 2:47 PM on August 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's worth noting that the UAW was the first successful union in Detroit because they were the first to allow Blacks to join.

There are a lot of currents in worker organization movements in the US. Some unions did effectively function to keep Blacks and immigrant out of certain trades. You also see the same thing in the various Socialist and Communist groups in the the US in the late 19th/early 20th C. Some groups were incredibly progressive on race and immigration issues for their day, other groups were really regressive on these same issues.

Sort of the way that the Quakers, who get a lot of credit for being early Abolitionists, first had to shed their slave-owning membership (Quakers were very big in business and that, in the 17th-19th C, meant slavery) and wrestle with questions like -- does opposing slavery mean accepting Blacks as equals and fellows?

Slavery (and genocidal hatred for Native Americans) is probably the single thing that has most poisoned America. It seeps into every impulse and institution, no matter how noble or high-minded, and insinuates inself into every discussion, always urging the basest course of action.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:55 PM on August 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


Another likely lynching -- Lennon Lacy, Bladenboro, NC.
posted by allthinky at 3:03 PM on August 30, 2015



It's worth noting that the UAW was the first successful union in Detroit because they were the first to allow Blacks to join.

Let that sink in for a bit: Prior to the UAW, labor unionists thought they could take on the big 3 automakers while simultaneously excluding a large portion of their coworkers from the movement.
posted by TrialByMedia at 1:35 PM on August 30 [6 favorites +] [!]


Uh, this is objectively untrue.

The national UAW leadership was ostensibly racially progressive (for their time) but the rank-and-file UAW workers and local leaders were unabashedly, virulently racist.

The UAW locals organized anti-black "hate strikes" in 1943 and 1950. The local UAW bowling alley in Detroit was "whites-only" well into the 1950's, even while under tremendous outside pressure to change.

Even after this labor segregation (ostensibly) ended, it was the white UAW workers in their white suburbs who would engage in street terrorism to keep blacks from moving into said white suburbs. It certainly wasn't NYC capitalists and stockholders wearing sheets and burning crosses on lawns.

People need to get beyond the idea that organized labor is some kind of sainted, holy institution that must be protected and valorized at all costs. Organized labor is a tool -- it's capable of good things and bad things. Organized labor gave us the eight hour work day, but it also gave America a means to organize crowds of angry, bitter, unemployed and undereducated white men into a political force that would -- eventually -- become the Reagan revolution.
posted by Avenger at 3:43 PM on August 30, 2015 [24 favorites]


So, yeah, in conclusion I totally don't blame black people from being suspicious of organized labor that is, you know, organized by whites.
posted by Avenger at 3:47 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Polite White Supremacy relies on subtlety such as using the passive voice to describe events involving a white aggressor and a non-white victim. For example, when a police officer shoots someone, the report uses the passive voice instead of the active voice when describing the shooting. Saying things such as “There was an officer-involved shooting” or “Force was used” sidesteps any notion of personal responsibility and makes it automatically appear as though the officer acted defensively. Often times the officer does everything to escalate the situation regardless of what version of the truth he or she writes in their report. There is a difference between saying ‘There was a person who got into a fight’ and ‘he punched someone because they hurt his ego and they punched him back’.

This zombie idea about the passive voice just won't die. Apparently the claim is so seductive that it isn't necessary to actually know anything about the passive voice to advance an argument about how using it shifts our understanding of events.

So writers often claim assertions which clearly aren't in the passive voice are examples of the use of it to sweep responsiblity under the rug; in this passage, the author links to a You Tube video titled "Cop Shoots Man Reaching for Driver's License" as an example of how use of the passive "sidesteps any notion of personal responsibility."

And the same writers ignore the fact that the use of passive voice can clearly signal agency and pinpoint the guilty party in an exchange. Here's an assertion in passive voice that doesn't seem to be trafficking in Polite White Supremacy: Eric Garner was murdered by a racist cop.

If your article is going to focus on "the subtle linguistics of polite white supremacy," these are pretty fundamental errors.
posted by layceepee at 4:00 PM on August 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


People need to get beyond the idea that organized labor is some kind of sainted, holy institution that must be protected and valorized at all costs.

Fair point, although, at risk of furthering a derail, if you compare how racist Organized Labor has been compared to how racist Management has been, well, the former is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the latter.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:17 PM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not a derail at all, because it speaks to the point of the article. Lefty-oriented white folks seem to think that polite white supremacy (the white supremacy of organized labor for example) is somehow "better" than the nasty, bad white supremacy (of management or capitalists, for example).

When in reality, if you're black, they both feel the same -- and the end result of both is the same. To think otherwise is a product of white privilege.
posted by Avenger at 4:27 PM on August 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


but I was really excited to share this on Facebook for my Trump-thumper relatives as I was reading the first few paragraphs

Good luck getting them to read further than this (hell to even finish this):
Racism and prejudice are NOT interchangeable. Racism is the systemic oppression of one group of people who can be categorized within certain phenotypical traits over multiple generations that has been, at one point, sanctioned by a country, the majority and/or ruling class. Racism is committed only by the ruling class and agents of the ruling class because they have the power that comes with racism. Racism, in America, is absolutely the attack dog of the white ruling class. However, sometimes it’s also a slow poison in that it causes its victims to die of exhaustion or grief. Again, racism is a kind of prejudice that comes with power. Racism is the systematic and intentional oppression of group of people from the ruling class and its agents. In America, the ruling class is white people…of all classes.
The "only white people can be racist" line of reasoning doesn't play well in Peoria.
posted by MikeMc at 4:29 PM on August 30, 2015


@ Avenger -

I would even advance the argument that Polite White Supremacy is worse than overt racism, because it rather brutally gaslights the experiences of those it victimizes.
posted by Vigilant at 4:32 PM on August 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's not a derail at all, because it speaks to the point of the article. Lefty-oriented white folks seem to think that polite white supremacy (the white supremacy of organized labor for example) is somehow "better" than the nasty, bad white supremacy (of management or capitalists, for example).

Eh, I think it's perilously close to focusing on one small aspect of the article and then jumping out to another argument altogether (Unions: Are They Bad?) Have Unions and the Working Class done racist things? Sure. Is racism still endemic in those groups? Sure. But focusing on that ignores how racism has been very successfully used as wedge issue to break apart the Working Class for the benefit of the Bosses and their various hangers on. Heck, the "whiting" of immigrant groups like the Irish was allowed partly to prevent them from making common cause with urban Blacks.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:48 PM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Except that racism isn't a "wedge" that capitalists use to divide labor. It's a cudgel that both white workers and white capitalists use together, successfully and repeatedly, to beat down blacks, because white workers and white capitalists are generally both in agreement that no matter what happens on the shop floor, white supremacy must be upheld at all costs.

And yeah, it's focusing on one small part of American life, but it's instructive I think.
posted by Avenger at 4:56 PM on August 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


The "only white people can be racist" line of reasoning doesn't play well in Peoria.

And the foundation for that line of reasoning in the article is a claim that I don't think plays well anywhere: In America, the ruling class is white people…of all classes.

Maybe this is just supposed to be a hyperbolic way of asserting that all white people are the beneficiaries of white supremacy, which is an argument I think you could defend fairly easily. But it seems to go beyond that, to turn the canard that racism is just a form a class oppression on its head, and suggest that, beyond racism, there is no class conflict in America. Which, ironically, is an idea that America's real ruling class has consistently tried to sell to working class whites, often by using racism.
posted by layceepee at 5:13 PM on August 30, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'm not sure it is fair to judge this article on how effectively it communicates to white people on Facebook.
posted by maxsparber at 10:00 PM on August 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Uh, this is objectively untrue.

I expected the rest of your comment to address some of the claims you called untrue, but it didn't seem to. Were UAW not the first successful union, or were they not the first union to allow blacks to join, or are these claims both true but there is no causal relationship? You just argued that the UAW membership was still racist, which I don't think justifies your big claim of "NOT TRUE".
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:39 AM on August 31, 2015


I'm not sure it is fair to judge this article on how effectively it communicates to white people on Facebook.

No, but that's a pretty important role which articles like this one should be expected to play, and the conversation surrounding how the points it raises might best be breached and bandied in white community warrants a good faith effort.
posted by an animate objects at 9:36 AM on August 31, 2015


No, but that's a pretty important role which articles like this one should be expected to play

Is that really true? It's not terribly difficult to read this piece as an article written by a Black author who is writing explicitly for a Black audience, trying to articulate a specific problem for their needs, rather than present the problem as a learning moment for a White audience.

The intended audience is a little hard to identify, since Medium is not a very well-defined platform, but I guess that the author would be happy to be read and discussed by readers of all races, but that doesn't mean that every reader's response is equal (to the author or Medium).
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:19 AM on August 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


No, but that's a pretty important role which articles like this one should be expected to play,

Considering it is an article about one of the forms that racism takes -- that the subject of race must be made comfortable and palatable for white people -- I disagree.
posted by maxsparber at 10:26 AM on August 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


The "only white people can be racist" line of reasoning doesn't play well in Peoria.

The idea that racism is systemic and institutional, as a means of supporting white supremacy, recognizes that people who live within this system are all racist. Racism isn't an inherent trait of someone's personality, and it's not limited to only being reinforced by one race. This is the same concept as misogyny and sexism being recognized as symptoms of patriarchy, rather than simply individual acts or beliefs. There is no real power in prejudice without the reinforcement of a larger power structure. There is also no way to escape being part of that structure as long as it retains power. We are all culpable, no matter which race or gender. However, those who hold that kind of power through privilege have the ability to change it, much moreso than people who are at the bottom of those power structures.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:26 PM on August 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I mean, I think the article is somewhat incomplete when it talks about institutional racism. White supremacy is what is being reinforced through racism, and it's misleading to say only white people can be racist. We all play into the support of white supremacy in many ways, mostly without conscious effort. However, those without power who are prejudiced against white people aren't directly supporting white supremacy and do not have the support of centuries of institutional racism to back them up. They are also victims of the current system.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:43 PM on August 31, 2015


I was at the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday. I knew that there was a Black Lives Matter protest scheduled that day. I saw some jackass walking around the fair wearing a shirt that said "Police Lives Matter".

I ended up in a conversation with my father-in-law (a retired police officer) in which I was trying to explain - unsuccessfully - exactly why the guy's shirt was so damn offensive to me. He didn't get it, and he could not understand the entire Black Lives Matter movement to begin with. He just kept saying "All anyone has to do is comply with the officer and deal with the actions in court. Why is that so hard?" He could not understand why a black teen might be nervous when confronted by a cop. He was sure bad cops would be caught in court, that there would be repercussions for them so long as no one "picked a fight" during a confrontation. He couldn't recognize that generations of people have grown up fearing the police. He couldn't get my point, when I tried to explain that in my reality the cops are good people - my son is raised in a culture where he can always ask a police officer for help if he is lost - but a black child might not grow up in a family where "friendly policeman" is a fact of life, because that is not the reality he/she inhabits and deals with every day. He just could not get it. I couldn't find the words to articulate why his attitude was troublesome to me, because to him, if it wasn't overtly racist, it wasn't wrong, it just was how things are.

So when I saw this article I was very interested in reading it. The "polite white supremacy" is what I was trying to get my father-in-law to recognize. He's blind to it, whether from upbringing or from his job experience, who knows. But... it left me unhappy. It started well but feels so much like an early draft. I had the impression that the author got emotional in the latter half of the piece and kind of let it get away. It's good, and it's a good start, and it made me think a lot more about how different things are when seen from someone NOT in the majority rather than from my perspective as a well-educated middle-class white guy. I really, really wanted to like this more, but it would have been so much better if it had finished as strongly as it started.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2015


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