Dear President Trump,
You know the next part of the class analysis we did in the People’s Institute Undoing Racism workshop, don’t you? You know it by heart, your shriveled, calcified little heart, don’t you? You didn’t have to attend a workshop, take a class, or read anything at all (heaven forbid), did you? Nope, you come by it instinctively.
In yesterday’s letter I laid out a number of the structural/institutional determinants of poverty alongside many of the things that poor people are blamed for being that are presumed to cause them to be poor. The next step involves considering how these two ways of understanding the problem, structural vs. individual, bring about the construction of “worthy” and “unworthy” poor people.
You know this part like the back of your hand, don’t you? You know all about those “worthy” poor white people and how they feel left behind by the machine and as though they are getting the rawest of deals. From the get go you saw how seductive it would be to promise to rescue their worthy selves by bringing back coal and manufacturing jobs. You knew they were (and are) desperate to buy the MAGA rhetoric hook, line, and sinker because a “great” America, an America that works for them, is clearly their birthright. You didn’t start this strategy by any means, but you’ve certainly been playing out this part of the equation pretty damn masterfully all along.
You’ve been playing the other side too, haven’t you? Again, you’ve been following in someone else’s evil footsteps, but you’ve brought a flair all your own to the scene with florid descriptions of hoards of death dealing, life- and resource-sucking invaders flooding over the Southern border and sub-humans living in America’s rodent-invested inner cities. You didn’t come out and say directly that the black and brown people living in Baltimore (many in Jared’s buildings) are sub-human, but it’s not hard to connect the dots you set out when you attacked Cummings’ district by saying that no human would want to live in such squalid conditions. In case you’re missing your own dots or want to nestle more cozily into plausible deniability, if no human wants to live in such conditions but some humans do live in such conditions, then ergo, those who are “choosing” to live there are sub-human. And to follow the class analysis begun earlier, such people constitute the “unworthy” poor and conveniently for you, they just happen to be black and brown people.
Which brings us to the next part of this diabolical equation. If you can convince the “worthy” poor (i.e., working, or formerly working, or just not working poor white people) that not only have the elites in Washington done them wrong by allowing their jobs to be shipped overseas, but that their natural enemies and the “real” cause of their economic woes are the lazy, stupid, selfish, resource-hogging “unworthy” poor (i.e., any and all poor people of color), then you can get the former to vote against their self-interest and keep the whole shitty thing propped up. So the key is to keep these two groups apart, to keep them from sharing their stories and comparing notes, to keep them from trusting each other enough to work together collectively on the behalf of all poor people. That last chimera is the capitalist moguls’ worst nightmare since the system needs poor people to run the resources up the chain to feed the insatiable fire-breathing monster.
I need to do some more reading about this, but one of the Undoing Racism facilitators told us Thursday that it was organizing against the Viet Nam War and addressing poverty across racial lines that got Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated. It wasn’t his civil rights work for African Americans per se, it was when he started focusing on even larger systemic issues and how they fit together that he became truly dangerous.
May we be safe as we call out these interlocking, interdependent forms of oppression.
May we stubbornly claim joy.
May we take care of everyone’s health so we can persevere and undo racism.
May we continue to question, and not make peace with, the status quo.