This constellation of events is worth considering. On April 22, the House passed the DC Statehood legislation. On April 21, the video of Stacey Abrams schooling a pompous Republican senator, John Kennedy, about the racist aspects of Georgia's new voting laws, went viral. And on April 20, the white cop who choked George Floyd with his knee was found guilty of the three charges against him.
Included with these events is the new revelation that Stacey Abrams actually did not want the MLB to move its All-Star Game from Georgia and opposed the boycott. (The GOP is struggling to define her as an "economic terrorist.") And also the GOP's backlash at George W. Bush description of his party as "isolationist" and "nativist." (Bush did actually vote for a black woman in 2020, but it was Condoleezza Rice, and she was not in the race.)
Now what meaning can we read in this busy and historical American week?
Tom Cotton said Stacey Abrams “conveniently” started claiming, after MLB moved its All-Star Game, that she hadn’t wanted that. Except...MLB officials confirm she privately urged them not to do it. And she made multiple public anti-boycott statements too: https://t.co/xZl7v33ob1
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) April 23, 2021
The fashion in some quarters of physics is to see or view events (or what the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead called "occasions of experience") as background-independent. This move presents the scientific investigator with a reality that's composed purely of relations. Well and good. But when dealing with animals (rather than particles), and particularly with the human animal, events cannot be separated from their background. The knee that was placed on a black man's neck on May 25, 2020, for example, makes no sense if it is seen in just relational terms. Its meaning is revealed only by its background, which is, historical in the cultural (rather than biological) sense.
So, this week's events. From which background do they emerge? American culture, of course.
For much of this country's history, the class structure of its market system was informed by a racist ideology that made the plain robbery of what can be described as "black labor-power" palatable for millions of whites. This was merely an adaptation on capitalism's part. In 18th century England, the naked robbery was imposed directly on poor English persons. The market system of that time and place coded this group as the savages, as well as the poor in Ireland and Scotland. But when many in these groups fled oppressive England at the first opportunity, they discovered in the New World the color of their skin. Whiteness had a value here because of the way the base of the economy was structured. The advantages of whiteness have been with us for as long as the disadvantages of blackness. (This fact is the subject of Raoul Peck’s new HBO Docuseries Exterminate All the Brutes.)
That's the background. But what if this old racially structured order is finally teetering? The first big announcement of this possibility was Barack Obama's two terms in office. Another was Donald Trump's one term in office and failed white insurrection. Another, the gender and color of the present vice president. Another is MLB's rejection of Georgia's neo-Jim Crow law. Another is the guilty verdicts in the Floyd case. Another is the push for the statehood of what Parliament called "Chocolate City," DC.
Today it’s DC. Next is Puerto Rico. Then Guam. And they’ll just keep going. Trust me, the Democrats will not be satisfied until they have unlimited and unchecked power. It is EVERYTHING that our founders stood against! #NODCStatehood
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) April 22, 2021
But what is really at stake here is not so much the fear of black people than the really felt fear that capitalism will abandon middle- and working-class white skin. What happens if you are demoted in an economy whose class system is known to be merciless? This, I think, is the source of white anxiety.
Abrams is pro-jobs. She is nowhere near a socialist. Her clear issue is the right to vote. And capitalism might simply shift its shape to accommodate those demands, as long as it can continue to impose its social order in one way or another. And this is Bush's understanding of the direction the US heading. He is not a racist. His politics are, through and through, devoted to the market, be it near or far. And this is where black activism in the BLM period meets its weakness. The program of this movement does not challenge capitalism itself and seems to have no desire to. What primarily concerns BLM is the right to participate in a consumer society without getting shot by those who the public pays to protect property.
What might be the future price of the absence of a total critique of the market system? Racist cops are replaced by robot dogs that do not see color.