Farewell to the left

Note: This post has been edited for clarity and to refine certain points.

First, I wish to express support for the Standing Rock protest against the construction of an oil pipeline that places American Indian cultural sites and water at risk. Second, I have little doubt that the following has occurred as I have witnessed similar behaviors in other contexts:

Concerns have been raised by protestors on social media, who claim that people are arriving at the Standing Rock demonstration for the “cultural experience” and treating it like Burning Man festival.

Protestor Alicia Smith wrote on Facebook: “On my way back from the camps. Need to get something off my chest that I witnessed and found very disturbing in my brief time there that I believe many others have started to speak up about as well.

“White people are colonizing the camps. I mean that seriously. Plymouth rock seriously. They are coming in, taking food, clothing and occupying space without any desire to participate in camp maintenance and without respect of tribal protocols.

“These people are treating it like it is Burning Man or The Rainbow Gathering and I even witnessed several wandering in and out of camps comparing it to those festivals.”

Ms Smith observed that many protestors appeared to be living off the native American community, and were taking advantage of donations sent in for the cause. Another Twitter user said they had witnessed a protestor turn down tap water to spend donations on ‘fluoride free’ water.[1]

Yes, some white people are assholes. What I find implausible is the implication by omission that only white people are assholes. There is no mention in the article of any misbehavior by members of any race other than whites.[2]

This is part of a pattern. Here is a report arising from Black Lives Matter protests in the San Francisco Bay Area:

With each new demonstration against the killings of unarmed black men by white police in Missouri and New York, questions — and in many cases, objections — proliferate about the role of white voices in a movement that centers on African Americans’ grievances.

The issue arose out of protests in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco where, night after night, there were more whites than blacks. Some black leaders say they are spending their energy organizing for action away from the streets. Others believe some African Americans are afraid to participate in protests in which small fringe mobs turn violent — putting black people in danger of the very thing they’re protesting, attacks by police.

“There are people who would like to participate, but they feel co-opted and don’t want to be aligned with the vandalism and with people throwing things at the police,” said Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, a black community leader who has participated in numerous social movements over the years. “It’s a small number that causes the trouble at the protests, but we just don’t know how to overcome that. The same issue co-opted the Occupy movement.”

Carson said he welcomes white voices and participation. Many African American activists say the same — but they also say blacks’ voices need to be in the forefront.[3]

Again, while the Black grievance about whites speaking for others is legitimate,[4] whites are the only assholes mentioned and, as at Standing Rock, they are depicted as taking over. Now, here is Hillary Clinton, the left’s preferred neoconservative and neoliberal war criminal who lost the U.S. presidential election this month:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of [Donald] Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” [Clinton] said to applause and laughter. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”[5]

Which, given the hegemony of the two major parties, is really to say, if you found neoliberalism, neoconservatism, war criminality, or anything else about Clinton so morally repugnant that you could not vote for her, whether that meant not voting at all, voting for a third party candidate, or even voting for Trump, there’s a real good chance you are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it,”[6] or all of the above, especially, of course, if you are white. And just so we’re absolutely crystal clear on this point:

In a presentation made in front of fellow students, [Bahar] Mustafa said: “Furthermore, there have been charges made against me that I am racist and sexist to white men.

“I want to explain why this is false. I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men, because racism and sexism describes structures of privilege based on race and gender.

“And therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist because we do not stand to benefit from such a system.

“In order for our actions to be deemed racist or sexist, the current system would have to be one that enables only people of colour and women to benefit economically and socially on such a large scale and to the systematic exclusion of white people and men, who for the past 400 years would have to have been subjected to block colonisation.

“We do not live in such a system, we do not know of such a history, reverse racism and reverse sexism are not real.”[7]

There you have it: Only whites, according to Bahar Mustafa, can be racist.[8] Having been unable to find gainful employment for fifteen years, I’m really not feeling at all that I benefit economically or socially from the present system. But it seems only whites can be assholes.

I’ve been seeing a lot of this attitude regurgitated on my social media feeds since the election. The “left,” which I now treat uniformly as the “left” because it appears united in outrage to Donald Trump’s election, so much so that it is willing to spends millions of dollars on a recount that is unlikely to change anything but that will absolutely reinforce an image of Russia as the enemy in yet another cold war,[9] appears absolutely unwilling to confront its own treatment of working class whites, even as lots of folks are trying desperately to explain it to them.[10] And at least one of them, Thomas Frank, has been explaining it in great detail for years.[11] But it seems the left would rather just treat whites as assholes.

And the left would rather treat whites exclusively as assholes even as to do so blatantly supports a paleoconservative (“alt right”) narrative that whites are uniquely under an even genocidal attack and that they must live in segregated communities to save their race.[12]

I have long considered myself to be a member of the radical left. But I didn’t sign up for this kind of stupidity. I didn’t sign up to be hated on account of my gender and race. And I didn’t sign up to have my human rights[13] ignored.

  1. [1]Roisin O’Connor, “Standing Rock: North Dakota access pipeline demonstrators say white people are ‘treating protest like Burning Man,'” Independent, November 28, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/standing-rockth-dakota-access-pipeline-burning-man-festival-a7443266.html
  2. [2]Roisin O’Connor, “Standing Rock: North Dakota access pipeline demonstrators say white people are ‘treating protest like Burning Man,'” Independent, November 28, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/standing-rockth-dakota-access-pipeline-burning-man-festival-a7443266.html
  3. [3]Kevin Fagan and Vivian Ho, “White voices dominate Bay Area protests of racial inequality,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 13, 2014, http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/White-voices-dominate-Bay-Area-protests-of-racial-5953977.php
  4. [4]Linda Martín Alcott, “The Problem of Speaking for Others,” in Who Can Speak? Authority and Critical Identity, Judith Roof and Robyn Wiegman, eds. (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 1995), 97-119.
  5. [5]Amy Chozick, quoted in Tim Duy, “On Krugman And The Working Class,” Economist’s View, November 27, 2016, http://economistsview.typepad.com/timduy/2016/11/on-krugman-and-the-working-class.html
  6. [6]Hillary Clinton, quoted in Amy Chozick, quoted in Tim Duy, “On Krugman And The Working Class,” Economist’s View, November 27, 2016, http://economistsview.typepad.com/timduy/2016/11/on-krugman-and-the-working-class.html
  7. [7]James Rush, “Goldsmiths Students’ Union diversity officer explains she cannot be racist or sexist because she is an ethnic minority woman,” Independent, May 12, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/goldsmiths-students-union-diversity-officer-says-she-cannot-be-racist-or-sexist-to-white-men-because-she-is-an-ethnic-minority-woman-10244520.html
  8. [8]James Rush, “Goldsmiths Students’ Union diversity officer explains she cannot be racist or sexist because she is an ethnic minority woman,” Independent, May 12, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/goldsmiths-students-union-diversity-officer-says-she-cannot-be-racist-or-sexist-to-white-men-because-she-is-an-ethnic-minority-woman-10244520.html
  9. [9]Brent Griffiths, “Clinton campaign to join Wisconsin recount,” Politico, November 26, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/clinton-campaign-wisconsin-recount-231847; Zach Montellaro, “Jill Stein files for recount in Wisconsin,” Politico, November 25, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/jill-stein-recount-effort-231829; Eugene Scott, “Clinton campaign: We are taking part in the recount,” CNN, November 26, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/26/politics/clinton-campaign-recount/index.html; Joe Uchill, “Left’s new argument: Hillary didn’t lose,” Hill, November 23, 2016, http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/307388-lefts-new-argument-hillary-didnt-lose;
  10. [10]Juan Cole, “Why the White Working Class Rebelled: Neoliberalism Is Killing Them (Literally),” Truthdig, November 9, 2016, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/why_the_white_working_class_rebelled_neoliberalism_is_killing_20161109; David Dayen, “The ‘Deplorables Got the Last Laugh,” New Republic, November 9, 2016, https://newrepublic.com/article/138615/deplorables-got-last-laugh; Cathleen Decker, “For reeling Democrats, now what?” Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-clinton-democrats-20161109-story.html; Tim Duy, “On Krugman And The Working Class,” Economist’s View, November 27, 2016, http://economistsview.typepad.com/timduy/2016/11/on-krugman-and-the-working-class.html; Jonathan Easley, “Seething liberals vow revolution in Democratic Party,” Hill, November 12, 2016, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/305617-seething-liberals-vow-revolution-in-democratic-party; Kevin Gosztola, “The Hubris of Democratic Elites, Clinton Campaign Gave Us President Trump,” Common Dreams, November 9, 2016, http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/11/09/hubris-democratic-elites-clinton-campaign-gave-us-president-trump; Rob Hoffman, “How the Left Created Trump,” Politico, November 20, 2016, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/11/how-the-left-created-donald-trump-214472; German Lopez, “Most Ohio and Pennsylvania counties that flipped from Obama to Trump are wracked by heroin,” Vox, November 22, 2016, http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/22/13698476/trump-opioid-heroin-epidemic; George Monbiot, “The Deep History Behind Trump’s Rise,” November 15, 2016, http://www.monbiot.com/2016/11/15/the-deep-history-behind-trumps-rise/; Brad Reed, “Michael Moore’s tough words for liberals: ‘You weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans,’” Raw Story, November 9, 2016, http://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/michael-moores-tough-words-for-liberals-you-werent-paying-attention-to-your-fellow-americans/; Robert Scheer, “Revenge of the ‘Deplorables,’” Truthdig, November 9, 2016, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/revenge_of_the_deplorables_20161109; Joan C. Williams, What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class,” Harvard Business Review, November 10, 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/11/what-so-many-people-dont-get-about-the-u-s-working-class;
  11. [11]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005); Thomas Frank, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right (New York: Metropolitan, 2012); Thomas Frank, “Pity the Plutocrats,” New York Times, October 4, 2012, http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/pity-the-plutocrats/; Thomas Frank, “Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there,” Guardian, November 9, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/09/donald-trump-white-house-hillary-clinton-liberals
  12. [12]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  13. [13]Specifically, “the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts,” as guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, December 16, 1966, United Nations, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm

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benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

4 thoughts on “Farewell to the left”

  1. @benfell We have whites in our extended family, so I, a black man, can verify that I have observed this “only whites can be racists” bullshit myself, usually spouted by someone performing a racist act. I’m a centrist, but in my experience, the left does the same detestable things the right does (right down to the mobs that silence other opinions and threats of violence), while claiming moral superiority.

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