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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thugs R' Us



By Sikivu Hutchinson

“Thugs”—that was virtually the first word the world heard out of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s pedigreed mouth during her press conference on the uprising against state violence and the death of 25 year-old Freddie Gray in police custody.  Facing intense backlash, Rawlings-Blake tempered her comments at a black church where, fittingly, disgraced and/or contrite members of the black political elite often go for redemption.   The epithet “Thugs”, as it’s been pointed out numerous times, is a word that has an egregiously racial/black association.  While there are corporate thugs, police thugs, suburban thugs, crown thug oligarchs and imperialist thugs (historian Michael Parenti aptly dubbed George W. Bush the “biggest thug to occupy the White House”) the term is mainly trotted out in the mainstream when black youth are involved; conjuring up titillating neo Birth of a Nation scenes of ghetto chaos, criminality and macho swagger.   “Thugs” was law enforcement’s slur du jour in the aftermath of the Los Angeles uprising following the Rodney King Beating verdict in 1992.  The Baltimore uprising coincided with the twenty third anniversary of civil unrest in L.A.  There has been little improvement in the socioeconomic climate of South Los Angeles where much of the rebellion was focused.  The current jobs’ climate in South L.A. is bleaker than in ‘92 when the region was reeling from the decline of the aerospace industry and the region leads in the number of incarcerated youth.  Similarly, the decline of the shipping and manufacturing industries in Baltimore has gutted black incomes.  Despite being in the majority, African Americans in Baltimore make approximately half the income of whites and the unemployment rates of black males are over three times that of white males. Poor black youth in the city have high rates of exposure to violence, homicide and sexual assault and suffer from all of the mental and emotional health traumas associated with these disparities.

But there was no reference to these institutional factors in the mayor’s comments.  There was no indictment of the thuggery inherent to the apparatus of state violence and racialized wealth inequality that Baltimore’s black political elite have cosigned.  While condemning her constituents lawlessness, there was no recognition of her complicity in or accountability for the abysmal state of socioeconomic and educational underdevelopment that’s festered on her watch.  As one Baltimore resident “sitting on the steps of a boarded-up brick row house” stated acidly, “We ain’t talking about color.” Masters of expediency, bourgie disconnected system-identified black liberals are always comfortable trafficking in the slurs and platitudes of up-by-your-bootstraps reactionaries.  Desperately grasping at the reins of power, Negro politicians have always been adept at regurgitating the ruling class’ language in order to deflect from their own record of neglect, disservice or outright dereliction.

The dire poverty and segregation of Baltimore may be in the national spotlight now but the real question is what will conditions in the city be like for disenfranchised black residents in a decade when the cameras have gone away, the furor has died down, Rawlings-Blake has moved up the political food chain and her “liberal” colleagues, Negro or otherwise, have become more savvy with their demonizing terms of choice.    

Twitter @sikivuhutch

Monday, April 20, 2015

Marco Rubio's Flat Earth Minstrelsy



By Sikivu Hutchinson

Ever since misbegotten Republican retread Alan Keyes burst onto the scene as the anti-Obama in 2008 it seems as if every  presidential race demands at least one hyper-assimilationist alpha male of color who embraces the Christian fascist God, Guns n’ Gays shtick more zealously than his overseers.  In a recent interview with CBS, newly announced GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio “judiciously” conceded that being gay is not a choice but drew the line at supporting legal and constitutional protection for gay couples, claiming that “supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay; it is pro-traditional marriage.”  In the same interview he reiterated his willful ignorance of the science behind climate change.  Both viewpoints represent a repugnant backwards conservatism more in lockstep with the Party’s demographically challenged white fathers than the “fresh” “new” constituency Rubio says he’s trying to appeal to.  Rubio’s nose-thumbing climate change denialism is especially dangerous for the younger generations that he claims to represent.  Failed by segregated high stakes test-happy public schools, Millennials who already struggle to grasp basic science and math don’t need a Gen X flat earther who gets his discredited theories about climate change from the Bible.  And while Rubio demonizes cap and trade policies as “dangerous” to the economy hedge fund billionaires, construction conglomerates and the Koch brothers are among his top ten donors.

Cynically looking to play the ethnicity card, Rubio and his handlers haven’t even bothered to do any market research on his supposedly built-in ethnic constituency.   According to the National Resources Defense Council, nine in ten Latinos believe climate change is destructive and should be substantively addressed by the federal government (indeed, 92% of Latinas believe government intervention should be a priority). Climate change ranks second only to immigration reform as the most important political issue for Latino voters. According to the Latino Decisions group, “86 percent are convinced that we have a moral duty to give our children a clean planet and that our ancestors worked and cared for the Earth, so we must continue their heritage and legacy by fighting climate change and protecting the environment.”

Banking on his bright-eyed bushy tailed persona and Latino heritage, Rubio’s brownface antics are offensive to millions of undocumented, working class people of color who see nothing but nativist anti-immigrant hysteria and capitalist greed oozing from the GOP’s platform.  They are offensive to the scores of queer and trans youth of color who are overrepresented among the  incarcerated, homeless and foster care populations (unlike fellow candidate Rand Paul, Rubio has yet to say a peep about mass incarceration’s impact on Latinos.  The private prison operator GEO Group is one of his top ten donors).  Contrary to Eurocentric images of same-sex marriage, African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be in same-sex families and partnerships than are whites.  Same sex families of color are also more likely to live at or below the poverty line; a stat that underscores the perniciousness of Rubio’s opposition to same sex marriage, climate change, reproductive rights and the Affordable Care Act.  While corporate Dem Hillary Clinton is hardly a panacea for communities of color, a GOP presidency in brownface would plunge gay, lesbian, trans and undocumented families of color even further into poverty.

By 2044 the U.S. will become a “majority minority” nation with whites declining to 45% of the population.  This means that the long term health, ecological and social impact of climate change will wreak the most destruction on poor and working class communities of color—communities already overburdened by policies that allow mega-billionaire businesses like the Koch brothers’ to profiteer and pollute with impunity.  Rubio’s fealty to big business, anti-undocumented immigrant nativism and the homophobic Religious Right solidly aligns him with the very forces that would ensure the 1% remain status quo—only with a new generation of brown (and black)face flat earth minstrels doing their bidding.
 
Twitter @sikivuhutch