Tuesday Reading List: White Folks Work, Resistance, and Comedy

Brittany Packnett has a must read piece in Vox about the role of White folks in opposition to Trump:

Of course not all white people voted for Donald Trump. But of the white people who voted, six out of 10 did. And chances are, nine out of 10 white people know them. And at the end of the day, 10 out of 10 white people benefit from white supremacy ... Understand: White supremacy is as much about mindless habits of white privilege as it is about active beliefs. It is about impact, not simply intent ... White people must be the primary ones to deal with what white people cause. People of color have enough work to do for ourselves — to protect, free, and find joy for our people.

Packnett provides concrete tips and shares some resources (including the tongue-in-cheek guide to Thanksgiving dinner I posted yesterday). Christopher Keelty's has ideas for other allies, and he lets some of the air out of the safety pin balloon in the process. David Rosenberg made a public set of commitments that are worth reading as well.

Jeffrey Blount is in The Huffington Post explaining why he is not interested in calls for "unity" right now:

I will not join you in your racism.
I will not join you in your homophobia.
I will not join you in your misogyny.
I will not join you in your ethnic intolerance.
I will not join you in your anti-Semitism.
I will not join you in your mass deportation of people.
I cannot all of a sudden give approval to ideals that go against everything that I am and that I have taught my children. I will not change my soul for your unity. I cannot pretend that those who voted for you did so without the “isms” in mind. I will not meet you in the hate-mongering world of Trumpland.
I will, however, join with any who believe in the strength of our nation’s diversity. I will join with those who believe in acts of kindness rather than mountains of hostility, degradation and self-glorification. 

Blount captures a sentiment that I feel, and which I hear repeated from activists of all stripes. The counter-narrative to Blount's approach goes something like "we need to address the issues of the white working class," and there is a surfeit of think pieces about said topic. The conceit that there exists a "White working class," that is a separate political entity from the rest of middle-income Americans who work for a living, is part of the problem. The "working class" - sans the racial modifier - would inevitably include millions of Americans who aren't White, and who did not vote for president-elect Trump. The interests of that group would be far different from the interests of the "White working class." As such, when folks write about understanding, and bridging gaps with, the "White working class," it ignores the fact that the prioritization of their interests is happening because a demagogue purposefully marginalized Americans of color throughout his campaign.

Sharif El-Mekki has a similar message for his students:

It is not the first time that an openly bigoted, misogynist campaigned for or was elected to the presidency. It won’t be the last either. Resistance against active or “passive” bigotry is not on an election cycle. It is rooted in fighting injustice in whatever form ... Our ancestral lineage is one that celebrates and cherishes community regardless of the affront. You are descendants of social justice warriors who have always alarmed white supremacists, and we often had to look for forms of beauty within our worlds despite the affronts and oppression. Find the beauty in your day-to-day work and existence.

Folks who call for "unity" right now are missing a huge part of the picture, and that other side is calling for "resistance."

Finally, Megan Garber of The Atlantic looks at how entertainment and activism have collided:

[John] Oliver has long been the resident wonk of late-night comedy. So it was fitting that, nearly a week after the election returns came in, he saw all that seriousness and … raised. Oliver, on Sunday, took the familiar political exhortations of his fellow comedians and insisted that they weren’t enough. This is a moment, he argued, that calls not just for sobriety, but for all-out activism. “We’re going to have to actively stand up for one another,” Oliver insisted. “And it can’t just be sounding off on the internet or sharing think pieces or videos like this one that echo around your bubble.” It was an ironic sentiment, coming from Oliver—a public figure who has benefited, perhaps even more than his fellow comedians, from the public’s love of sounding off on the internet/sharing think pieces/embedding videos/etc.

On the one hand, yes, it is somewhat precious that the people whose lifeblood is the unmitigated sharing of internet memes are now calling for real life activism. On the other hand, it baffles me that otherwise intelligent people don't acknowledge that satirists have always been at the forefront of political commentary. There's a reason that all the fools in Shakespeare had the best lines, and Aristophanes understood at least as much about the Athenian elites as Plato did. If late night comedians want to channel their fame into activism, that's great, but they should be held accountable like everyone else.