01.22.17 The false dichotomy between economic and social justice (+ thumbs up for transgender rights)
This is a follow-up to my recent post about the self-flaggelating lie the left is absorbing and touting, that all those poor white men have a legitimate reason for choosing Trump. There is nothing wrong, of course, with Democrats’ working harder for economic justice and doing a better job of communicating this goal. But the real problem with the argument, as it has been presented in the media, is the either-or choice it embodies. For no apparent reason, the New York Times among other false-equivalence purveyors is saying that in order to help the poor, the left needs to stop giving a shit about people of color, women, gays, immigrants, and (yes) trangender people. They call this drive for social justice “identity politics.” The Racist Right already turned “political correctness” into a dirty term, when all it means is compassion and respect. So now we’re told (and self-haters on the left are believing) that caring about identity is wrong and self-defeating.
This is utter and dangerous bullshit. There is absolutely no reason why economic and social justice cannot go hand in hand. As I wrote in my last post, if angry white men choose to eschew economic advancement in their obsession to make sure no African Americans or immigrants qualify, fuck ’em.
How far this ethos has already penetrated the left was on display the other evening over dinner with friends, as we were preparing for the Women’s March.* A couple of people declared that the Democrats and the media have been paying far too much attention to transgender rights, “given how few of these people there actually are.” Let them wait their turn, they said.
So, instead of fighting for justice for all, we are to rank everyone by how much they deserve it and jettison those whose cost to us is greater than their ROI (return on investment). How reminiscent this is of the early suffragettes, who banned black women from participating. How much this reminds me of the African Americans in my integrated neighborhood growing up, who fought to stop any affordable housing from being built nearby (I’ve got mine — they don’t deserve any). So easy for cis-gender people to downplay the horrific injustice delivered daily to our transgender brothers and sisters.
I’m also reminded of an incident last year, when I hosted a community meeting between mostly white neighbors and a mostly black prisoner-reform program that was seeking to rent a storefront near us. Though I supported the concerns of my neighbors (the planning for opening the program office had utterly neglected security), I wrote afterwards about the racial tensions inherent in the meeting. One neighbor then publicly attacked me for being “politically correct.” This white Anglo woman is married to a Mexican and has probably never voted for a Republican in her life. But she had fully taken aboard the racist ethos and vocabulary of the right.
I don’t want to march, unless it is arm-in-arm with my transsexual friends and neighbors. I don’t want to organize unless it is with African Americans, women, gays and lesbians, and immigrants. I don’t want to fight for economic justice, unless it is for everyone.
Democrats and other lefties would be fools to allow the right to set another yet another trap for us and to march right in. We must shout from treetops: there is no dichotomy and we will not allow bigots to define vocabulary and set agendas. The left has failed over and over again for nearly 50 years through cowardice, incompetence, and inarticulateness. That era must end.
*To my friends who were there (and, whom I assume will read this): please know I love you and acknowledge our mutual agreement on almost everything. But you also know me well enough to know I couldn’t give this a pass (I didn’t at the dinner table either). I hope you know that this is not an attack on you, but rather a missive to persuade you).
©2017 Keith Berner