The Assassination of Walter Scott

In April of 2015, a white cop assassinated a unarmed black man.

Period. End of Story.

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There isn’t any more discussion needed. Any facts you want to hash out, like the fact that Walter Scott was running away, are superfluous.

Terms like “appropriate use of force” and “doing it by the book” don’t need to be thrown around. We don’t need pathetic apologetics like “Being a cop is hard work!” or “This wasn’t about race!”

Even the liberals, for the most part, get it. Just as they kind of got it with Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. The bullshit American media tells the story in an isolated context, without telling the full story or asking the real question.

How do we conceptualize “justice”?

That’s the story here.

When a representative of state power murders a civilian, what are we going to do about it?

There is indeed no such thing as a “justice system” in the United States today. That ought to be obvious to anyone who even takes a cursory glance at the society (and after all, the state institutions simply maintain a society and provide some semblance of logic to it).

We could throw out the numbers about African Americans and Latinos being thrown in prison at significantly higher rates than whites. We could look at the use of the death penalty almost exclusively for black men. We could look at how “laws” are specified to target people of color.

The government has defined “justice” for us here.

“Justice” in the US means letting white people off free and terrorizing and imprisoning people of color.

But, of course, under capitalism, it is not simply a game played on race, but is much broader. The full scope of the American “justice system” is the marginalization and brutalization of the poor (comparatively).

Predominately, in the US (and throughout the global imperialist system), those who are made poor are those who don’t share the white skin of the people in power.

So the next question: do we accept this definition of “justice”?

Do we accept “laws” that are meant to disenfranchise people of color?

Do we accept cops who come into communities and shoot civilians?

Do we allow state oppression to engage in domestic terrorism (or international terrorism, for that matter)?

If we don’t accept these things, then how do we conceptualize “justice”?

And what are we going to do about it?

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Let’s Talk About Race, Baby

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I’m going to break my usual rule and tell a personal story. When I was 13, I was ticketed for smoking a cigarette in Lansing, Illinois. I struck up a cigarette and walked into an alley. Moments later a cop car drove up and I was busted. The cop reminded me that it was a crime for me to smoke (especially five years under the legal age) and wrote me a nice little yellow ticket.

A month later, my mother had to drive me to the courthouse in order to deal with the situation.

For about an hour we sat in a crowded room as the district judge read off sentences for petty crimes. Finally, he came to what he called his “favorite part“: underage smoking. One by one he called off names in reverse alphabetical order. And one by one young men stood in front of him as he ordered them to pay $100 fines.

My name was one of the last he called. I walked to the front and he asked me if I was indeed smoking a cigarette. When I replied in the affirmative, he nodded, said that I looked like a “decent young man” and slapped me with a $50 fine.

This was my first conscious experience with racism.

You see, all the other boys who stood up in front of him were different from me in only one way – they were black. They were young black boys who received no kind words from this white judge. None of them looked like “decent” young men. They were all dressed as nicely as I was. They all walked up with their mothers like I did. They all stood there with their heads down, knowing the trouble they were in. But they received totally different treatment.

I was a misguided boy. They were criminals.

And even this first moment of recognizing racism was a moment of absurd privilege. Not only because I received clemency, but also because I was 13 years old. All of these other boys had experienced racism their entire lives. They were already conscious of race. It took me 13 years to see racism and that, in and of itself, was based on structural privilege.

The reason I’m telling this story is because it’s February again. Black History Month has begun and already the white people in America have shifted from talking about the Superbowl to talking about how black people don’t deserve a month to remember their history.

Why isn’t there a White History Month?

As if this wasn’t the single dumbest question on the planet.

Let’s pretend for a second that this question isn’t the most racist thing you could possibly ask.

I’d like you to think about 5 famous white Americans who lived before World War 2.

I bet that wasn’t too difficult.

Now, I’d like you to take a moment and think about 5 famous African Americans who lived before World War 2.

I bet you’re having a hard time coming up with five.

This is why we need Black History Month.

Black History Month traces its roots back to Carter G. Woodson in order to keep the history of African Americans alive. In order to show that black people have helped weave the fabric of the society from the beginning, despite being relegated to the status of slaves and second-class citizens. The sacrifices and struggles of black people is totally white-washed (pun intended) and glossed over in the classrooms of the United States.

Especially in predominantly white schools.

Now, there are some interesting critiques of Black History Month, but I can assure you that none of them are coming from white people. Why is this? It’s because white people today don’t understand racism. In fact, my experience at the courthouse has been one of my only personal encounters with such obvious racism, which wouldn’t have occurred if I had gotten ticketed in a predominantly white community.

Why isn’t there White History Month?

Because we don’t need a White History Month. All the history you were taught up through high school was white history.

And it was certainly His-story, because not only was it racist, but it was absolutely biased with patriarchy as well.

Let’s run through the standard curriculum of high school history classes. You start in Egypt with “the birth of civilization” and then you switch over to Mesopotamia for a week or two. And then by the end of the first month, you’re smack-dab into European history. Greece, Rome, Byzantium. But wait, what happened to Egypt?

Ah, you see, this is the beauty of it all. “Civilization” only refers to Western civilization.

Subsaharan Africa is never discussed. Central Asia is never discussed (meaning the Mongol Empire is almost totally ignored). East Asia is barely discussed (The Chinese invented paper!). And the pre-Columbian (that is, before Columbus) Americas are barely discussed, except to say that they were brutal and savage, but were also in tune with nature like Pocahontas and stuff.

After the fall of Constantinople (not called “the rise of Istanbul” for some reason) in 1453, the Reformation is briefly covered without mentioning the terribly bloody wars that ravaged the European continent. And then we have the heroic, round-earthed Columbus “discovering” America (actually Hispaniola!) in 1492 and then the birth of America with Jamestown!

No mention of the Ottoman Empire in this period. No mention of South Asia. No mention even of the Europeans and Africans who came to America between Columbus and Jamestown!

We’re left to our own devices to discern that there was history happening in this period, because the textbooks don’t bother covering it.

And neither do the teachers (with a few exceptions).

After Jamestown, we have the “Founding Fathers” (who were all rich, white men who just happened to enslave black people and own women). Then we have a brief discussion on slavery, which is solved with Abraham Lincoln saving all the black folks. Then a glossing over of Reconstruction and Jim Crow. A line or two about how we used Chinese slaves to build the transcontinental railroads. And on to World War 2, which is going to take up a good month and a half.

No mention of the Plains Wars. Nothing on the peonage system that basically kept African Americans enslaved in huge parts of the South. Definitely nothing on the African American struggle for equality during this period, because that doesn’t start until Rosa Parks sits on a bus.

I’m not slandering Rosa Parks here, I’m just pointing out that the history that is taught is so contrived and demarcated so poorly that it’s almost not even worth talking about. And after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., there’s no discussion about the Black Panthers, Angela Davis, or the Nation of Islam.

God forbid we talk about any level of radical movements for equality!

Meanwhile, all the white kids at school are wondering, “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?”

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Just as African Americans are part of the tapestry of the history, culture, and society of America, so is the racism that has attempted to neutralize and destroy the African American struggle for equality. White people don’t see that, because they haven’t experienced it. And they haven’t experienced it, because they haven’t learned about it.

Why isn’t there a White History Month?

Because the history of the United States isn’t centered on the systematic oppression and subjugation of white people.

It wasn’t black slavemasters whipping white slaves for centuries.

It wasn’t black mobs lynching white men less than 100 years ago.

It wasn’t a black judge giving white boys inflated fines for smoking cigarettes.

Black History Month doesn’t “divide us”, racism does.

So why don’t you use this month to learn about it?

The Trouble with Liberals

I’ve always considered liberals to be nothing more than Marxists without analysis.

The difference between your average liberal and your average communist is a reading of Capital or maybe even just The Communist Manifesto. But liberals have always surprised me in their tenacity to stand firm in their philosophy without feeling the need to question some important presuppositions.

I should start off that I don’t think all liberals are stupid or evil or something like that.

For the most part, liberals seem to be well-meaning, tolerant people who think they stand for the right things. But this is exactly what makes liberalism so toxic. It’s a skeleton wrapped in a shiny cloak.

Bill Clinton had a warm smile as he signed NAFTA and gutted the economy of Mexico (and the economy of the United States). Barack Obama played nice with Gaddafi before bombing Libya into oblivion.

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“I’m not going to kill you. lol jk.”

Typically, liberals in the United States are associated with the Democratic Party. It would be unfair of me to go through all the crimes of the members of the Democratic Party to show that it can’t possibly live up to its promises.

Instead, we need to talk about the presuppositions of modern liberalism.

Presupposition #1: Capitalism is cool, or at least necessary.

This has actually become a proud staple of liberal thought ever since Tony Blair and Bill Clinton pushed through their Third Way nonsense. We have to work with multinational corporations and join in the right-wing praises of the bourgeoisie.

Bourgeoisie, however, isn’t the word they’d use, because they don’t talk about social classes!

Except of course, the idealized “Middle Class“. Oh, the Middle Class, the backbone of America. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a single mother raising 4 kids making less than $30,000 a year or the perfect nuclear family making $200,000. You’re somehow part of the Middle Class. You know it all too well. Every politician talks about you.

In all this talk about the Middle Class, we manage to lose out on discussing huge groups of other people. What happens to the rural poor? What about the urban poor? Who’s talking about poverty in America? What about our prison system, which has basically created a class of slaves? There’s no room for these people.

Capitalism requires social classes, and we don’t want to talk about how it functions. We only want to talk about the rich and the richer. Liberals are the ones letting this discourse flourish.

Even your new favorite Pope is criticizing capitalism!

child-povertyPresupposition #2: Liberal Democracy as we have it is working.

The economic/political structures in the United States are oppressive. That’s a hard fact to face when you’re living in a fantasy land where America is the “Land of Opportunity” or whatever.

It’s a hard fact that public schools today are more segregated than they were 40 years ago.

It’s a hard fact that people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are basically living in Third World conditions with 80% unemployment and an average life expectancy of 50. That’s in South Dakota!

It’s a hard fact that the government of the United States destroyed the Mexican economy and now punishes Mexican immigrants for seeking better lives. Obama’s deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president before him!

This is why I’ve always felt that liberals were Marxists without analysis. When I used to waste my time trying to reason with liberals, they would often say things like, “But communism doesn’t work!

Are you serious? Does capitalism work? Does liberal democracy work? For whom is the current liberal democratic capitalist system working?

Of course, it’s working in the interests of the rich. So if you’re rich, congratulations, the system is working for you!

“I’m not rich, but I vote! Surely our liberal democracy is best, because I have the freedom to choose!”

What are your choices? You don’t get to vote on most issues, because the candidates mostly agree on the issues. In describing the two party split in Britain, George Galloway often refers to them as “two cheeks of the same backside“. A fitting analogy if there ever was one.

In reality, Noam Chomsky says it best: “They’re two factions of the same party. We have a one-party state.”

Presupposition #3: Structural Institutions are independent, not derivative.

What do I mean here?

Sexism and Racism are not separate from capitalism, they’re branches on the same tree.

Liberals today seem to think that the way to fight racism or sexism is to vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Liberals today seem to be of the opinion that being “tolerant” is how to you solve racism and sexism.

The poison is drawn up from the roots, but the liberal thinks that plucking a few leaves will solve the problem.

The tree itself must be removed!

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Martin Luther King Jr. knew that capitalism and racism are intimately linked. White liberals act like having a “black friend” or voting for Barack Obama protects them from the charge of racism. Not quite, you privileged fool.

Do we really need to have a discussion about the history of the United States? It certainly wasn’t economic equality that led to slavery.

Today, one only needs to take a look at the map in order to see how districts and suburbs are segregated by color. You can even compare this with rich block and poor blocks in order to see how wealth is distributed by racial divisions.

But of course, capitalism and sexism are also intertwined. Patriarchy is not something that can be challenged within the structures of economic exploitation. Liberals want to focus on “equal work for equal pay”, which is fine, it’s important. But it’s an issue that is derivative of Patriarchy, which needs to be fought tooth and nail.

The trouble with liberals is that they don’t see America as an empire.

The trouble with liberals is that they want to put a bandaid on a bullet wound.

The trouble with liberals is that they see symptoms, but they don’t see the cause.

Richard Dawkins: Racist

Richard Dawkins has recently made some incendiary remarks on Twitter towards Muslims. In classic form, he utilizes skewed standards to attack Muslims on his own terms. Considering that this isn’t the first time (and it’s likely to happen again), I decided that it’s about time that I cut any ties I’ve ever had to this man.

Anyone who’s known me for a few years will certainly be able to remember a time that I prescribed to Dawkins’ atheism. In fact, I still own a copy of “The God Delusion” that I got autographed by him a few years ago. Fortunately, I’ve moved on. Unfortunately, he hasn’t.

So if you aren’t caught up: Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, former professor at the University of Oxford, and atheist extraordinaire. He’s famous for books like “The Selfish Gene”, “The Extended Phenotype” (which is my favorite and is, admittedly, an excellent book), and “The God Delusion”. He’s also a bumbling fool when it comes to anything outside of his discipline.

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Woah.

Dawkins is notable for constantly defending his position on the infallibility of scienceScience, he argues, is the only valid standard to measure the world, as if science was something outside of humans. If you can’t prove something scientifically, then it’s entirely bogus.

This week he got on Twitter and posted this incredibly scientific gem: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

Let that soak in for a second.

He’s basically mocking 23% of the world for not having enough Nobel Prizes. The irony of course being that Dawkins doesn’t seem to understand that Alfred Nobel’s society, based in Sweden, maybe has a bias. Who hands out Nobel Prizes? A bunch of Europeans. To whom do they hand out Nobel Prizes? A bunch of Europeans.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

For someone who prides himself on using the standards of Science, Dawkins isn’t being very “scientific” when he criticizes Muslims in this way. The Nobel Foundation is not some perfect, absolute measure of human worth with regards to thinking. Let’s not forget, these people gave Obama a Peace Prize.

On this argument, however, Dawkins doesn’t even get creativity points. Neil deGrasse Tyson, another one of these atheist scientists who shouldn’t stray from his/her discipline, made this very same argument a few years ago in this idiotic lecture:

(For a break down of deGrasse Tyson’s lecture, check out: Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Myth of Islamic Anti-Science)

Apparently, these scientists aren’t interested in learning anything about history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, area studies, cultural studies, critical theory, development studies, geography, colonialism, philosophy, or anything that relates to actual human beings living out there in the world.

If you think I’m being too harsh, let’s assume that the Nobel Foundation is infallible. Okay, so now, where do most Muslims live? Asia and Africa, right? Do you think that they’re getting a whole lot of grant money work in super high-tech labs with state-of-the-art equipment? Are students there provided with education on par with Europe and North America?

Of course not. Because of historical circumstances (colonialism, wars, genocides, mass migrations), Africa and Asia did not develop on the same trajectory as Europe. Is this because Muslims are backwards and stupid?

The answer, just in case you’re wondering, is: no.

What makes Dawkins’ analysis so pathetic is that he was born in Kenya! He is a direct product of one of the most destructive forces in the world in the past few centuries: English colonialism!

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Whether we want to take about how the Middle East was carved up by a Frenchman and an Englishman or if we’d like to talk about English colonialism in Egypt, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Malaysia…you get the idea…the fact of the matter is this: there’s probably a good reason that the “Muslim world” isn’t producing a whole lot of Nobel Prize-winning scientists.

So I don’t make this accusation lightly: Richard Dawkins, either because of willful ignorance or sheer stupidity, is a bigot and a racist.

Oh, and by the way, Dawkins has never won a Nobel Prize.