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As a white person, I am finding it more difficult to talk to other white people about politics. Each time I leave the discussion, I find myself realizing the majority of these encounters expose one common denominator. That many white people, as Gene Wilder would put in the 1971 movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, live in a world of Pure Imagination. This song by Wilder is the soundtrack of their lives.
We’ll begin with their spin, traveling in the world of their creation. That includes having infinite growth on a finite planet, Capitalism reigning supreme, ignoring our global empire via imperialism, but stressing blue lives matter. Last time I checked blue lives have mattered for centuries which is why they are packing so much military might; it’s as if Robocop isn’t a fictional character anymore.
And as Wilder puts in his song “what we’ll see, will defy explanation.” A poll released last month from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health confirmed 55% of whites surveyed believe there is discrimination against white people in America right now. Yet, in the survey only a small percentage of whites indicated they were personally discriminated against when applying for jobs (19%), being paid equally or considered for promotions (13%), and applying to or while at college (11%).
One man in the survey pontificates on his place in the world via Pure Imagination by stating, “I think that you pretty much, because you’re white, you’re automatically thrown into that group as being a bigot and a racist and that somehow you perceive yourself as being more superior to everybody else, which is ridiculous. I’m just a man that happens to have been born white.”
Indeed, we both happen to have been born white, but that doesn’t mean we should be ignorant to our history. We should understand that people who look like us have enslaved, chained, beat, raped, whipped, hung, tortured, bombed, droned and killed nonwhite men, women, and children for centuries (including present day). This economy that so many white people who look like us worship was built and on the backs of nonwhites.
Just take it from Gene Wilder… “Anything you want to, do it, want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.” It’s Pure Imagination and that brings me to the racist imagination of Lee Atwater, the campaign consultant, for the holiest of all that is holy in whiteness, Saint Ronald Reagan.
Atwater understood that while slavery was over and the civil rights act was passed there were still ways to pin down black people. Take a quote from this 1981 interview of Atwater:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
I’ll take a word of advice from Fox News now I will ditch the political correctness and instead give some “statistical correctness”.
This white discrimination sentiment trumpeted by Fox News and other right wing pundits is only fueling white nationalism and white supremacy in this country. In September, the Army Times surveyed more than 1,000 active-duty troops that indicated white nationalism poses a greater national security threat than Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Black Lives Matter, U.S. Protest Movements, and Civil Disobedience.
The Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2016, and in that study 88 percent of blacks in the U.S. believe this country needs to continue making changes for blacks to have equal rights with whites, and 43 percent of blacks are skeptical these changes will ever occur, and for good reason.
The average black family would need 228 years to build the wealth of a white family today, but even that seems to be optimistic since black wealth continues to decline. It’s declining to the point that if current trends continue Black America’s wealth by 2053 will hit zero.
These are the consequences of our capitalist system. It’s not Pure Imagination, we aren’t dreaming that we live in a world in which eight men own the same wealth as half the world. It’s not Pure Imagination that 1,542 billionaires have a record of a combined wealth of 6 trillion dollars which is the greatest concentration of wealth since the turn of the 20th century.
This reality is putting Black Americans on the front lines of the systemic oppression caused by capitalism. Life expectancy for Black Americans in the U.S. is four years less than that of Whites per the CDC.
This is why I enjoy talking politics much more with nonwhites. They are much more in tune with the world and their surroundings. When they talk about race and how it’s playing out in this country they have “statistical correctness” to back them up. My conversations are more meaningful and I always walk away learning something even though whites in this country especially depict black women as liars, just ask Donna Brazile, Frederica Wilson, and Myeshia Johnson.
In order to get into the the chocolate factory one must have a golden ticket. And with this golden ticket you get to meet Willy Wonka the owner of the chocolate factory. And who do “progressive whites” want to give that golden ticket to? Bernie Sanders, the modern day Willy Wonka. But just understand that if Bernie Sanders ever enters the White House and turns it into a modern day chocolate factory full of Pure Imagination, his world of creation will include looking down on Black Americans as well. Just take this quote from a recent interview he gave to Seth Myers when asked about the Robert Mueller indictments:
“Yes. I mean, I think we’ve got to work in two ways,” Sanders answered. “No. 1, we have got to take on Trump’s attacks against the environment, against women, against Latinos and blacks and people in the gay community, we’ve got to fight back every day on those issues. But equally important, or more important: We have got to focus on bread-and-butter issues that mean so much to ordinary Americans.”
That’s right, modern day Willy Wonka does not view blacks, latinos, and people in the gay community as ordinary Americans. Plus bread-and-butter issues for ordinary Americans (straight whites) might be more important.
When Donna Brazile told Bernie the Democratic National Committee rigged the primary for Hillary Clinton, Bernie’s first response was wondering what were the chances of Hillary winning. While many white neoliberals and some white progressives will applaud this “there’s no ‘I’ in team” response, modern day Willy Wonka proved something else.. that there’s a “me” in American.
Bernie Sanders knew he couldn’t speak out against the Clinton Crime Family. If he did he might lose his committee chairmanships, or even worse, the Democratic Party might run someone against him in his next Senate race.
And if you think Bernie Sanders wants a more peaceful world, o contraire mon frere. The modern day Willy Wonka approves of modern day warfare as well. He will let you view his factory, but it won’t be of chocolate. Instead it will be a 1.5 trillion dollar factory of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II in his home state of Vermont
In the 1980s as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont he allowed anti-war activists to get arrested for blocking the General Electric Plant that was manufacturing Gatling guns to use against socialists in Central America.
He supported Bill Clinton’s war in Kosovo in 1999.
He voted for the authorization for use of military force in 2001 which ignited the war on terror that continues to this day that has caused the deaths of millions of civilians.
While many will say Bernie Sanders would be a better alternative than Donald Trump. I would agree, but Bernie Sanders and the politics he offers isn’t going to cut it anymore. How do we get Medicare for all, free college, and affordable wages without taking a blowtorch to the military budget? And is having a few things like what was just mentioned going to erase the systemic oppression against people of color that has been going on for centuries? I don’t think so.
While you may feel the election of Donald Trump is like taking a shotgun blast to the head, the election of the Bernie Sanders would be like death of a thousand cuts. Either way both political ideologies of these two equal death and that isn’t Pure Imagination.
While many white environmentalists I interact with believe Abrupt Climate Change is here right now (I believe this as well), they believe this is all that matters. I believe this is one of the most important issues of our time if not the most important issue. But if you want to create a healthier planet and rid yourself of this individualistic culture of specialization you better work on treating your fellow species that come from all walks of life with fairness and respect. If we can’t even provide nonwhites with equal lives as whites how are we going to save nonhumans?
We need to work on saving ourselves and the planet hand in hand.
So hold your breathe, count to three, and come with me those of the white ancestry and you will see this is a system still deeply rooted in White Supremacy.
At the end of Pure Imagination, Gene Wilder sings: “There is no, place to go, to compare with your imagination. So go there, to be free, if you truly wish to be.” This is the world many whites have elected to be in. Only 53 percent of whites believe the U.S. still has work to do for blacks to achieve equal rights, while 38 percent of whites say enough changes have been made for Black Americans.
Electing to go into the ignorance is bliss world of Pure Imagination for whites has set them free for a long time. But as Abrupt Climate Change, Wealth Inequality, Resource Extraction, and Fascism ramp up across the world we will all have to deal with the fabrication of your Pure Imagination.