By Hannah Brandt
Never ending gun violence continues to plague us. It happens in every corner of the world like a cancer. People often say that cancer does not discriminate because people of all backgrounds, lifestyles, and ages die from it. People of all backgrounds and lifestyles and ages suffer from the loss of loved ones to an unfathomable experience. People who eat well and exercise, people who don’t smoke or drink, babies… It is a senseless tragedy in every case when innocent people are taken from us. Like all disease and destruction, however, cancer does discriminate. This is how privilege works. It is active in all parts of life, even death.
The most vulnerable to death by any means are those with the least. Poverty and a lack of social capital are the biggest indicators of untimely death, whether by a lack of healthcare or violence. It does not mean that those of us with more social capital (whiteness) are impervious to these tragedies, but the scale is always tipped in our favor.
When terrorist groups from the Middle East, South Asia or Africa attack Americans or Europeans, on their home soil or ours, it can look as though these terrorists have power. In that moment, over those individuals, they do. And it is terrible. But in the grand scheme of things, they are desperate people who have been terrorized by Western forces for generations. Western militaries continue to terrorize innocent people in these countries as do the militaristic dictatorships Western governments install or support there.
I have seen Black Lives Matter explained in many ways to try to breakthrough to whites who do not understand that the concept is not saying other lives do not matter. I’m not sure there is a way to word it so that people who are determined not to understand it will. My analogy would be that women who are feminists or womanists are often called man haters by men simply for saying that women deserve equality. That is about as backward logic as one can get. As an uncredited truth says, “when you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
Unfortunately, there is a lot of backward thinking taking center stage these days. It has been building for decades really. This idea that the privileged are actually the disadvantaged, being brought down by greedy, lazy immigrants and African Americans who if they just applied themselves would be materially successful. That programs to help the needy and historically oppressed were a hand-out that caused laziness. The notion of “welfare queens” is about as ridiculous an oxymoron as one can imagine. But many Americans internalized that false message as truth. It was given credence in the mainstream media and even many people on the Left, bought into it.
Those of us who grew up as children of the ‘80s were indoctrinated into Reaganomics. Even those of us with liberal parents who did not vote him. I remember vividly the 1984 election. I had just turned seven and my first baby brother had just been born. I watched the primaries and conventions with my parents and made small flags for their candidates of choice: Gary Hart and Walter Mondale. While our primary caregivers are our greatest influence growing up, they are not the only influence. Over time, teachers, other adults, peers, and the media also influence us, consciously and subconsciously.
As one of his biographers said, we are still living in Reagan’s world. Our whole framework still depends on the ideas of trickle-down economics and demonizing the poor and social programs (even while expanding them). It has taken the Great Recession to begin to chip away at this flawed way of thinking. People are starting to see the dangers of hypercapitalism, hypermilitarism, and overpolicing. The Democratic Party has been moving left the last few years as more people experience widening income inequality and other disparities. In other words, as white people are forced to taste a bit of the injustices people of color have been fed for generations and still are more acutely.
Community Alliance has always tried to be a place to expose injustice in all corners of the world, talk openly about them, and organize to change them. Next month, we turn 20 years old! We thank all of our supporters and volunteers and look forward to going down memory lane a little in the September issue. If you have stories you would like to share, please do. Send letters to the editor or articles to email@example.com