Unreasoning Demands in an Unreasonable World
Over the holidays, we watched Toby Maguire portray Bobby Fischer in Pawn Sacrifice. It’s a good film. None thing that struck me was that, as Fischer became more paranoid and famous, he began making demands that were almost always completely unreasonable and often impossible to meet in order to play chess against the Russians. At one point, one of his team looks at him and accuses him of making these demands so he wouldn’t have to compete — effectively keeping himself from ever resolving the competition without losing any ground.
Fischer’s mania was fueled by obvious mental illness but his fear and rage at the Russians was also a result of the non-stop anti-Communist propaganda being pumped into the mental water everyone was drinking at the time. Is it any wonder the man was effectively forced to see the world in an “Us vs. Them” mural? Were his demands outrageous attempts to avoid having to compete or genuine methods of controlling the ongoing dialogue between himself and a system far larger and more insidious than he could fathom?
As I listen to the demands of recent protests in Chicago, I am reminded of these ridiculous demands as I hear things like “Abolish the police” and “Delete your white privilege” and “Pay black people reparations on the centuries of enslavement.”
In the face of so many ridiculous examples of police being called to assist potentially violent situations or simply to help citizens get through a moment out of their control only to be met with officers so full of fear and prejudice that someone being shot and killed for no genuine reason at all, these demands don’t seem so outrageous. With the almost relentless rhetoric of the White Establishment countered by the Social Justice Warriors, is it really that off kilter to demand the destruction of the very system that keeps these incidents possible and, on top of that, prevents any meaningful prosecution of those responsible? While these calls for abolishing the police force and the wholesale deletion of privilege are completely unfeasible, who can blame black citizens for their rage?
Recently, the hostages from the Iran situation in 1979 received a payout as reparations for their time being held captive:
“I think this process begins to close the door for those individuals who were held captive in Iran to bring about closure,” Kevin Hermening, a former Marine guard at the embassy, told CNN on Thursday. He is now a financial planner in Wisconsin. “I guess the important point to make — the finish line appears in sight,” but he added it may still be a long time before he and his former comrades see a check.
Lawyer Thomas Lankford has been working with the former hostages for 16 years trying to win some type of monetary award for them.
Lankford said the budget bill included a provision authorizing each of the 53 hostages to receive $10,000 for each day they were held captive. In addition, spouses and children would separately receive a one-time payment of $600,000. Thirty-eight of the former hostages are still alive. Approximately 150 people associated with the embassy hostage ordeal will be covered, Lankford said.
“It brings closure to a very horrific time for these folks,” Lankford said.
I read this and wonder first what a slap in the face it may be to see white Americans receive compensation for being held hostage and politically enslaved and second, how much America could feasibly payout to the survivors of slavery fomented by her own people with additional payments to the children of slaves. When seen through the lens of the brutal conditions African slaves endured, $10,000 per day seems low but at least it’s a number, yes?
Those who identified only as African American made up 13.2% of the U.S. population-over 41.7 million people. That’s $417 billion if everyone received just $10,000 total. Christ — even by winnowing it down to folks directly affected by slavery (a slippery slope and extremely difficult to focus with any authentic number) we’re still talking about possibly $200 billion per day for YEARS.
With the complexities of the vast majority of whites in America who had fuckall to do with slavery (and yet benefit in almost every imaginable way for the groundwork laid on the backs of slaves) I wouldn’t hold my breath in hopes of anyone getting a check.
How about “deleting white privilege?”
Well, I’m white and I haven’t the foggiest idea how to delete my privilege. Even those I’d consider genuine allies of POC in Chicago (meaning that they are active in pretty much doing what they’re told to do without offering much in the way of their own opinions unless those opinions parrot those of POC) still have the advantages of being white in a fundamentally racist society. Kevin Coval is one of the most vocal advocates for equality and specifically for young, black men and he’s still not gonna get shot for being pulled over.
Honestly, I can’t even figure out how I would minimize my white male privilege with the exception of scolding other white males to not be so fucking privileged (which has zero to do with minimizing my own white male privilege). If the action is to give up opportunities, this is a non-starter. We may love to claim that we aren’t in competition in this country but if you dress up for a date, take “nice” selfies for your Tinder account, wear a suit to an interview, or write things on Facebook to get more likes, you’re competing. The idea that white people will just take themselves out of the game is like hoping for Neil DeGrasse Tyson to fly in on a fucking unicorn with wings and grant you immortality.
And, I’m sorry — acknowledging it exists does no more for eradicating white privilege than acknowledging that man-made climate change exists or that god exists. What you think matters less than what you do. Listening and believing POC when they talk about how their lives are affected by white privilege makes everyone feel good but does nothing to DELETE IT.
OK. Fuck. “Abolish the police.”
Before the 19th century, there were no police forces that we would recognize as such anywhere in the world. In the Northern United States, there was a system of elected constables and sheriffs, much more responsible to the population in a very direct way than the police are today. In the South, the closest thing to a police force was the slave patrols.
Then, as Northern cities grew and filled with mostly immigrant wage workers who were physically and socially separated from the ruling class, the wealthy elite who ran the various municipal governments hired hundreds and then thousands of armed men to impose order on the new working class neighborhoods.
Like the privilege of whites in a country founded on the power of white male landowners, this is baked into the cake, gang. Regardless of the good intentions of hundreds of thousands of honorable police officers (and, yes, there are “bad apples” and pretty easy ways to identify them…) the creation and fostering of a militarized police “force” has been designed from the very beginning to control the poor and working class. We can no more abolish this machine than we could the religious adherence to Capitalism in this country.
As a quick side note, you only get to make demands when you have the power to do so. The people demanding reparations, the deletion of white privilege and abolition of the police don’t. These demands are self defeating at best.
Where are the real, adult solutions?
Instead of abolishing law enforcement, change the laws.
The above graphic is courtesy of Campaign Zero. If you have the time, you should go through the whole website.
I’d also argue that (and I got this from Chris Rock) if we made the police pay for the bullets they use in deadly force situations and charged $1,000 per bullet, my strong guess is that brutal, idiot assholes like Jason Van Dyke wouldn’t want to spend $16K on stopping a black man with a knife surrounded by cops.
As for the prevalence of white privilege (so thick you can swat it away with your hand) instead of scolding people about their white privilege, how about working to increase everyone else’s privilege? What do white people have that black people do not? Money. Invest your money into POC owned businesses, hire more POC for your white-owned businesses, funnel tax dollars into “inner city” (code for black and brown) schools. This isn’t revolutionary and it isn’t sexy in that “Look at me posting a video of me telling a white guy what a fuckhead he is” sort of common way but spending real American dollars on black- and brown-owned businesses puts that cash in the hands of those without the “white” and manages to start forwarding some of that “privilege.”
Yeah, I know. It’s more fun to shit talk the white male than actually DO anything about him but you have take into consideration that, unless he has been raised with some sense of societal awareness, he doesn’t give two shits what you think of him and his advantage. As the venerable Shawn Harris informs me, it’s not your responsibility to teach us about your pain so why bother? It’s not our responsibility to acknowledge your pain, so don’t waste your time.
As for reparations, no one alive today suffered the direct horror of slavery, no one today actually bought or sold slaves, so this is simply NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. Time to do the work of repairing the broken system rather than holding on to the idea of payout for your pain.
Besides, the black men tortured by John Burge still haven’t received their settlements, so one thing at a time.