By Greg Moses
A friend of the Texas Civil Rights Review writes that the terms honky, cracker, and white devil are “just as racist” as the n-word. Our friend is sick of hearing all these words and says it is time for everyone to move on.
Furthermore, writes our friend, the “power relations” excuse for tolerating the use of honky, cracker, and white devil is invalidated in the experience of poor and blue collar white folks who are just as disempowered as poor and blue collar people of color.
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In response, it is difficult to discourage anyone’s sickness at the use of these terms. If something makes one sick, then there is little else to say. Our friend is expressing a noble sickness that may be found in many worthy places, represented by the work of Alex Jones (InfoWars) and Morris Dees (SPLC).
To such worthwhile activists one doesn’t really want to say anything discouraging. If your sickness keeps you going, I’d rather have your sickness than not. It is after all a sickness that works to toss bigotry out of the system, and what could be unhealthy about such a sickness as that?
And yet, if I am not sickened, I am bothered by assertions that racism is a two way street, that all epithets are equal and that the Nation of Islam, the Shrine of the Black Madonna, or other “Black Separatist Groups” belong on the same map with white supremacist groups such as the Klan and Neo-Nazis.
Is it not possible to make alliance with the “tolerance” movement, yet warn that crucial distinctions cannot be dismissed?
As I argued in the Alex Jones essay, everything follows from where one begins. At the Texas Civil Rights Review we begin with a carefully chosen definition of racism.
For our purposes of analysis the Texas Civil Rights Review defines racism as an exploitative power relationship between two groups of people who are differentiated along racial or ethnic lines.
In situations of apartheid and segregation, racism is most clearly depicted. One group exploits another and you can see which group is doing the exploiting. Apartheid and segregation are clear examples of racism, but they are not the only examples.
Sometimes I hang out at tables where people who come from different racial or ethnic heritages chide each other about being Irish, Italian, German, Jewish, Black. We could even imagine a situation where the jabs escalate into fist fights. Here we have plenty of work to do on tolerance, but is this racism?
In order to analyze whether any racism accompanies this bigotry, one must ask: do we find a relationship of exploitation between the ethnic or racial groups involved?
Notice how I can do quite a bit of work on tolerance without having the racism question come up. And this is where I find our friendly correspondent, along with Alex Jones and Morris Dees. Unless we introduce the consideration of racism in just the way we have offered it, all intolerance will be of equal unworthiness. Honky and the n-word; the National Alliance and the Nation of Islam.
But now we ask if racism is relevant to the context of history as we find it today? If we classify populations along racial and ethnic lines do we find between any resulting groups an exploitative relationship? Or to be more blunt about it, do we find living evidence of white power?
The discussion about what we find can be quite a long one, but in the end we ask, do you bring to your analysis of Civil Rights a premise that there is in fact an exploitative relationship between the Anglo population of the USA and other groups of color or ethnicity?
Nor should we forget in the context of Civil Rights law the significant extension of the problem along gender lines: do we find an exploitative relationship between men and women?
Add to the general logic of the problem classes of people who may be counted as disabled, gay-lesbian-bi-trans, or elderly, and we complete a short list of “isms” where collective relationships of exploitation may be asserted. At the Texas Civil Rights Review, we assert exploitation in all theses cases.
Back to the issue of racism in the USA, we assert that there is an exploitative relationship such that when white folks are considered as a class and compared to Black folks, we see a relationship of ONGOING exploitation.
Does this mean that exploitations can only be classified along racial or ethnic lines? No. If regardless of race or ethnicity you compare classes of poor and working folks to classes that have middle incomes and management jobs, then you also have a relationship of exploitation by all means. And if you compare either of these groups to classes of people who actually own major forms of wealth, then again exploitation is difficult to deny.
Simply as a matter of classification, the poor white subject may be counted among many exploited classes, especially if she is working class, woman, lesbian, disabled, and elderly. But when considered strictly along lines of race, she also participates in a class that has exploitative power. How much benefit she derives from membership in the white collective might make for an interesting discussion.
At this time (because who knows what we will learn tomorrow?) the Texas Civil Rights Review asserts that when all interesting examples have been fruitfully explored for their nuance and contradiction, one problem will remain at the end of the day. We will return to a world of white power or white supremacy. This is the usual meaning of racism here.
If your analysis begins somewhere else, your conclusions will follow your premises. One may do great work for tolerance based upon quite different foundations than the one explained above. Many conclusions that follow from a foundation of strict tolerance will also be found here. But we also assert some differences.
If there is an ongoing exploitative relationship in white supremacy, then there are parties who find themselves in predicaments of self-defense. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense put forth a name that we can understand perfectly. The party’s fate also taught us how it can be considered quite subversive to speak so plain. Talk about intolerance; see how they died. The self-defense posture when named for what it is becomes a lightning rod in a thunderstorm. For this reason, even people who deep down agree that folks are in a self-defense situation will for the sake of prudence deny it out loud and counsel against making it a battle cry.
But as I said up top, when people announce they are sick, there is little to be done but listen. And for some parties in the USA, there is an unshakable sickness that visits them under chronic conditions of white supremacy. One may advise them to seek a variety of treaments, but in many cases make no mistake that their sickness is no symptom of hypochondria.
You won’t find us encouraging the use of terms such as honky, cracker, or white devil here at the Texas Civil Rights Review, but when we hear those terms used (as I once heard ‘white devil’ at the Million Youth March in Harlem) you probably won’t find us astonished. And until the day comes when we can pull down the premise of white supremacy from our analysis, you will not find us arguing that the usage of these words among “Black Separatists” is to be equated with the usage of the n-word (or n-lover!) at a Klan rally.
With respect to ethnic relations between Anglo and Hispanic, we deploy much the same logic here (although out of pure weakness I have a fondness for the term Gringo.) The Texas Supreme Court will celebrate the Fourth of July, then it will return to work on July 6 and decide once again how to place the education of poor and Hispanic children on the calendar of justice in Texas. They will take the date when equity arrives and they will either move
it up or push it back. If you don’t call that segregation or apartheid, what do you say?
And homophobia, too. It will be a great day for Texas politics if the homophobic amendment to the Constitution is defeated at the polls. But until then, please don’t tell me that homophobia is a two-way street.