FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Racism at Cape Cod

Faithful reader Lynn Chadderdon sends a link to the Sean Gonsalves article posted at “Working for Change” in which the columnist counsels against careless use of the word “racism.” For example, he lives at Cape Cod where there aren’t many black folks, so when local movie theaters fail to schedule black movies, he hears the complaint: “It’s Racism.”

“Well, yeah, this is America,” answers Gonsalves. “The ripple effects left behind in the wake of white supremacy are still with us, even if not overtly. But locales that are mostly white are not going to ‘get black movies’ at the local theater. And it’s not racism. It’s supply and demand. The almighty dollar, to borrow a phrase from the O’Jays famous song ‘For the Love of Money.’ ”

To which we reply one more time: everything follows from where one begins. Gonsalves begins with a concept of racism that can be separated from a concept of supply and demand. That’s how he defines racism in the first place. So, of course. one must choose between racism and economics.

Yet Gonsalves recognizes that his own conceptual map is more influenced by “white” conceptions of racism than by “black” ones. Or to speak more directly to the concepts involved, Gonsalves recognizes that there is a big difference in defining racism as “intent” (the ‘white’ usage) or as “effect” (the ‘black’ usage).

When black folks at Cape Cod diagnose their movie choices as effects of “racism”, Gonsalves says that they are unintentionally communicating a concept of “intent” to their predominately white Cape Cod audience. However, it is not “racist intent” that moves movie managers but “intent to make money.”

But what if black folks at Cape Cod are asking their predominately white audience to “listen up”? That is, what if black folks at Cape Cod in sharing their discontent over racism at the movie theaters are seeking from the community some recognition of the ways that even the so-called “level playing field of supply and demand” is a racist field after all? That there is no way to separate “supply and demand” from racist effects in a racist economy?

What if black folks at Cape Cod are making use of “black usage” in order to raise issues that run much deeper than “white usage” allows? In that case, we would encourage columnist Gonsalves to not lead the retreat into “white usage.” Rather we would encourage attention to the cover story at Black Commentator this week and, “Reject the Language of White Supremacy.”

Once upon a time I taught Northern students. And Northern white students have a way of speaking that is just too precious. For example, some will say: “We live in an all white town, so there is no racism where I live.” You gotta admit that’s cute stuff. Neither beautiful nor true, but quite cute indeed.

On the other hand, I have been driving my spouse to work this week and my favorite morning radio is “Wake Up Call” with Rev. Frank Garrett. This show reminds me that even if one adopts the “black usage” of racism and does not try to revert to cute white language, there is still a limit to the value of the term.

In Rev. Garrett’s analysis of the social and political scene in Texas, I hear no retreat from “black usage” of “racism as effect” yet there is a point where in the judgment of the wise reverend one must find some way to move forward “in spite of.” This is what I take to be the deeper meaning of the recent counsels of Bill Cosby. It’s a way of saying, especially to young people, “look you have to make a way here — you cannot carry your analysis of racism around like a crutch, because it will not help you take your next step.”

In the worlds of “white usage” and “black usage” the Cosby talk is what I call “family talk” — it is a talk that wisdom adopts among families who are undergoing hard times. Yes, says the family, we are living in hard times, but we cannot let that knowledge impair our creative effort. Despite the world, we must proceed to succeed.

There is a great existential courage in the Cosby talk, especially if it remains logically connected to “black usage” in the wider analysis of racism. There is also a sugar-coated delusion in the Cosby talk if it simultaneously links itself logically to “white usage” where racism has no “effects”.

But the problem of succumbing to “white usage” is that it demands nothing more from white America than that they merrily pursue their beloved laws of “supply and demand.” And what that comes down to may be best remembered by all Americans as we review what Frederick Douglass said when he was asked to give his thoughts on the Fourth of July.

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail