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February 21, 2006

Feminists Need to Actively Fight Racism

E.J. Dionne Jr. has a thoughtful editorial today in the WaPo concerning the Democrats failure to commit themselves to redistributing wealth in such a way to lift up the very poorest Americans.  While this criticism is nothing new, what is bold and likely to raise some eyebrows is that Dionne emphasizes the dire condition that young men of color face in this country.  He writes:

While policymakers have spent much energy on the problems facing single mothers, they have done little about the disadvantages facing young men.

Why do I call this a bold move on Dionne’s part?  Well, he could invite invective from feminists.  (Rest assured, I am not going to be one of those feminists  hurling such invective).  A cursory reading of this piece might appear to echo the sentiments of many anti-feminist Conservatives (e.g. Christina Hoff Sommers) who worry over how poorly our young men are faring in classrooms designed to teach little girls, but inattentive to the boisterous, rangy nature of little boys

But, clearly this is not his aim. I don’t take him to be heaping more crap on feminists in the style that many Democrats have in vain attempts to win back the middle. Rather, he is reminding us of at the pervasive and crippling poverty that exists here in America and that we could not turn away from in the aftermath of Katrina.  He is also reminding us how profoundly racism still impacts the life chances of a young man of color in the United States.

The decline of manufacturing employment means the economy is producing fewer well-paying jobs for the less-skilled.  These disconnected young men tend to go to the poorest schools, grow up amid concentrated poverty and in families that often lack fathers, and face persistent employment discrimination.  Face it: The one expensive social program we have for this group is incarceration.

I was grateful to see this piece if for no other reason than to remind feminists like me that sexism does not operate independently from racism.  Feminists cannot afford to neglect the situations in which men of color find themselves; we (if we are white) cannot afford to ignore how we directly benefit from the racism working against these men lifting themselves out of poverty.  The trick is actively taking on these issues without allowing anti-feminists to point to us and say: “see, you feminists always think that you are the victims. Men suffer too, and perhaps more profoundly.”

Cross-Posted at MMF.

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Mythologist Joseph Campbell used to say, if you want to know where the REAL power is in any society during any time period, find its tallest building. Clearly our churches and temples and our political capitols -- now utterly dwarfed by corporate and financial skyscrapers -- are no longer seats of real power. We have to stop fighting our battles on the turf of politics and religion. We've got to cut across all the liberal/conservative divides, secular/religious divides (and yes, frankly even the tired race/gender/sexual orientation lines) and fight on pure economic grounds: i don't mean class warfare, i mean INCOME WARFARE. (Why not class warfare? Because almost everyone in America thinks -- rightly or wrongly, mostly wrongly-- that they're in the middle class. )

dems need to pick an annual income number: say $100,000 a year (it might be $150,000 or even $300,000, or less...or more...let's have a debate)and say "if you make $X00,000 a year or less, we're for you. and if you make more than $X00,000, we dems WILL NOT HURT you legislatively, but we won't help you, either. you're doing OK on your own."

this income warfare strategy bypasses all the religious/political/identity crap and gives a clear focus to every policy objective: domestioc, foreign, whatever. what is in the income interest of my constituency? nobody has to think, gee, am i a conservative or a liberal on X-issue and what "positions" should i as a politician take to appeal to those who self-identify that way.

everybody knows how much they make. of course...then the dems would have to really live up to that strategy.

aye, there's the rub...

Thanks for pointing to this- and for pointing out the link between racism and sexism.
There is a wicked economic twist to this: with the flight of manufacturing jobs, and the influx of cheap labor, young black men are really in the grinder. One particularly bitter aspect of this is that a "way out", economically, is a classic free market, entrepeneurial solution: drug sales. Even there, even when it "works", it's a bitter pill: your consumer is white; your connection is latino. Where else is the "middleman" at the bottom rung?
Compared to the much freer mobility of the latino subculture (which can travel through rural America with relative impunity, illegal or no) young blacks suffer de facto house arrest in the urban centers, everywhere but the South... Does anybody wonder why military service "looks good" to perceptive, intelligent young men? ^..^

Not many years ago, when Jean Marie LePen's anti-immigration (read: bigoted) National Front Party stood to gain in the French elections, I was brought up short by a woman-on-the-street interview. The woman interviewed, an NF voter, justified the party's anti-muslim stance because of the Islamic world's treatment of women. Racism as a tonic for sexism.

Sure, Anti-Islamic rants would be racism if ISLAM WAS A RACE you moron. Islam is religion. Judaism is a religion. Despite what Hitler said, Judaism is not a race.

And as for racism, you aren't talking about races. You're talking about poor people. I'm sorry to burst your ivory bubble lady but white people can be just as impoverished as black people. I come from a family with plenty of poor white people, poor black people, and poor Indians (we're multicultural which would scare most rich white leftwing nuts shitless because we don't exactly share arts and crafts. We spend most of our time swearing at each other and drinking.) and I find your main thesis insulting.

As for feminists, I find Christina Hoff Sommers intelligent and funny, which would definitely keep her out of most feminist encounter groups. Thank G-d.

1984--

I've heard that a lot as well, always from women who are inclined to be bigoted anyway. They don't seem to have any good answers when you point out that the policies they advocate hurt Muslim women.

Um, I'm well aware that Islam is not a race, white trash guy. But the National Front Party is a racist party, and their anti-immigration stance is racist, not primarily religionist. If you'll read my post carefully next time, you'll see that I never said that Islam was a race, but that the woman mentioned was covering her racist stance by calling the other race's religion a sexist one. Got it? Dumbass.

Gordo, I've never heard that from anyone. It did bring me up short to hear it at all.

Tim Leider--

"As for feminists, I find Christina Hoff Sommers intelligent and funny, which would definitely keep her out of most feminist encounter groups. "

Oh, shoot, you've found us out. Feminists are stupid and humorless. Darn, I thought no one would find us out. And, you know about our encounter groups too. I feel so exposed.

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