To me, the principal point of disagreement (and I think you’d agree with this) is on the question of whether we need identity politics in addition to a class-based politics to combat the manner in which our society systematically manufactures and entrenches inequality and uses systems of corporate cronyism, i.e., corporate welfare, to keep those at the top protected from the anger of those at the bottom and from the consequences of their own misdeeds (by doing things like bailing them out when they screw up).
Now, my view, which differs from yours in this respect, is that identity politics is one of the principal and most effective methods the Establishment uses to keep those at the top protected from the anger of those at the bottom. It is no accident that in this election between the candidate I like to call Corporate Clinton — the representative of the neoliberal establishment supported by big corporations, Wall St. banks, Saudi oil money and mainstream media — and the two outsider populist candidates representing the populist left (Sanders) and the populist right (Trump), Clinton was the big proponent of identity politics, with Sanders being a very reluctant late convert and Trump repeatedly expressing his opposition to such politics (while, of course, at the same time stoking the angry white majority’s own identity-based reaction to such politics). To disguise her vacuous neoliberal economic agenda and history of unrepentant militarism to support Saudi oil interests and the like, at every campaign stop along the way, Corporate Clinton would say the word “woman” and “black” as often as she possibly could in order to pander to people and hope that this would be sufficient to distract them from the interests that stood behind her. The strategy succeeded against Sanders because so much of the core of the Democratic Party consists of the very identity groups she was repeatedly pandering to. It failed against Trump because now she was facing the entire electorate, including the large portion of the electorate that had been angered by the dramatic uptick in minority identity politics in the past decade or so. In other words, the identity-based message the Democratic Party under Obama and Clinton and others like them had been putting out there succeeded in dividing the poor and working-class along racial lines rather than mobilizing them into a true coalition that might have been “stronger together.” All of us (or at least the two of us) know, I think, that had Corporate Clinton won the election, she would quickly have abandoned the interests of the minority poor and working class that got her elected, and we probably would have already been fighting a ground war in Syria to distract us from the pursuit of regressive corporate welfare back home, if her past experience is any guide. (Trump is bad in many other ways, but I like so far that he has shied away from getting us bogged down in international conflicts, though he’s certainly implemented his own share of regressive corporate welfare measures.) Again, I don’t want to go through all the arguments and numbers I went through in detail in this article, but my point is and has been that identity politics actually hurts the very cause it purports to embrace. You think identity politics is necessary as a complement to class-based politics. I think (and the numbers I’d adduced in that other article suggest that) identity politics is absolutely anathema to the formation of a more broad-based coalition in opposition to the neoliberal Democrats and country-club Republicans and their status quo.
(Incidentally, you mentioned Cornel West a few times, and I actually took a class co-taught by him and the Brazilian socialist Roberto Unger when I was in law school (and I’ve also read some of his books), and although I don’t agree with everything he says, his view of racial issues is very different from the kinds of black nationalist-style views of some of the more aggressive idiots out there; he says things that go in multiple directions, and it’s sometimes difficult to pin him down and say that he consistently believes x or y, but one of the things he’s always been a strong proponent of is the necessity of forging trans-racial working-class coalitions, which is probably why he was a Sanders supporter and not a Corporate Clinton supporter like so many short-sighted black “leaders.” This is why he was also disappointed by and opposed to Obama; he saw that Obama had, very soon after taking office, betrayed his campaign promises and supporters and kowtowed to entrenched financial interests.)
You write, “Erasing race makes the sentence, ‘White people considered Black people 3/5 of a human being due to their race,’ impossible to understand.” That is absurd. It is like saying that we need to preserve slavery so that we can still recognize what a “slave” is when we read history books. I am not saying that we need to erase the word “race” from dictionaries or history books, of course. I am saying that we need to get it out of our public vocabulary, where all it does is reify superficial differences and give people an easy hook on which to hang their alleged superiority (in IQ, in degrees of oppression, in achievements, in vibrancy, in whatever …) over others.
You write, “We shouldn’t be so attached to the notion that someone needs to intend to harm another race for it to be bad and have racist consequences.”
Yes, but the countervailing point would be that we shouldn’t assume that the moment there is a racial disparity in the world, that means racism is present. My point has been that the “horrific consequences” of the War on Drugs for the black community that you’ve described is far more about poverty than it is about race. I’d argue that 90% of the problems being experienced right now by blacks in America are due to black poverty, some 5% are due to black culture and another 5% or so are due to actual white racism. If we fix the poverty problem, in other words, the rest will be a comparatively minuscule issue that will quickly take care of itself. Identity politics are an obstacle in that fight against black poverty, and the more aggressive such politics become, the more of an obstacle they will be. The white poor and working class have clearly had enough of being demonized, living in a society increasingly rigged against them and being mindlessly called “privileged” by the minority minions and their coastal elite lackeys, even as these whites are struggling with massive unemployment, dislocation, drug use, rising suicide rates, etc. You can’t keep browbeating people and expect them to keep patiently enduring it. If blacks want to end their plight in this country, the only way to do that (other than hard work and abandoning their degenerate culture of poverty) is to find common cause with poor whites and start fighting the powers-that-be that govern in the interests of big banks, defense contractors, Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Telecom, Big Media, Hollywood and the rest.