My place is the air-conditioned type

I was reading an old review of Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How To Be An Anti-Racist”, and find that I really need to read the damned book. I have no excuse for not having done so. Regardless, I am struck by some of the review’s citations of the book, such as Kendi’s departure from some of the conventional wisdom of anti-racism up to now, such as the notion that Black people cannot be racist because they do not have systemic power. He questions that notion based on examples of the power wielded by Black elected officials, for example.

Having worked for Black elected officials in the past, and Blacks with relative organizational power in the private sector, I understand his point about the relative power of individuals in the system. Elected officials have power, or our estimation of it, in the political and bureaucratic system. They have the impetus to have work done, to change circumstances, just like any other elected official.

The question of relative power within a system is largely individual, rather than collective, and so I would still question whether Blacks collectively possess the power to be racist. I believe racism is a systemic mechanism that fuels the survival of a capitalistic and supremacist-oriented status quo. In that system, Black people and people of color have no collective power, but white people do. In that system, individual Black people and people of color may have systemic power, as do white people. I feel those contexts are not equivalent, but if you are a person subordinated in the system, it may be an irrelevant point.

The review also noted that Kendi is a fan of results-oriented judgement about racist intent – if an act, or policy, or effort yields a result that brings disparate impact to Blacks and people of color, then it is a racist act, policy, or effort. If it brings equitable results, then it is an anti-racist element. That’s very simple, but the results are typically far more complicated and may bring disparate impact to the dominant culture (at least in their estimation).

So, my question in considering the results-oriented model of discerning racist vs. anti-racist action would be…that’s a win-lose scenario. At least in the short run, actions that favor one side of the equation would seem to necessarily disfavor the other side. That’s a zero-sum operation, and I’m not clear that we are capable of much else at this point. If political districts are reshaped, without gerrymandering, that would change the demographic makeup of the voting blocs involved. In our political reality, most GOP-leaning concerns would deem that favorable to the Democrats, and unfavorable to them. Neither side will concede that redistricting without gerrymandering would be a win-win for voters and democracy in general, so it’s merely a partisan argument rather than a governance argument.

This kind of knot is difficult to resolve, because we’re just not there yet. I don’t quite know what it would take for us to get there, save a catastrophe that serves to level the playing field, with no resistance from humans. COVID has come the closest to such an equalizer, but there is still massive resistance. Even in the face of rising infection rates, significant numbers of people still refuse to be vaccinated, or wear face coverings to avoid infecting others. The level of mistrust of the science, and the governmental response, is stunning. The instances of purposeful misinformation has transformed normally reasonable people into paranoid conspiracy theorists who confuse freedom with selfishness and patriotism with nationalism.

Remembering the insurrection of January 6th, I remain beyond disheartened by the egregious display of self-centered and malicious intention that was front and center. I continue to shiver at the stark realization that we dodged a cannon-sized projectile on that day, and that our nation was closer to losing its experimental democracy than ever before. Had the insurgents been only slightly more skilled, even better armed, and confronted by even less government resistance we’d be in a world of hurt right now. People arriving at the U.S. Capitol with fistfuls of zip-ties and bear spray had nothing else on their minds than taking over the government. I’m not sure enough people really understand that.

January 6th was a day of Americans behaving badly, but it followed four years of Americans behaving badly. Four years of sanctioned and openly hurled hate speech, four years of lies and clandestine governmental operations, four years of helter-skelter and chaotic governance. In all fairness, however, all of that was going on far prior to the four years of the previous Presidential administration. In many ways, I am grateful that it all became so visible and obvious during the past four years.

We’ve now seen the seamy underbelly of the land of the free and the home of the brave, but in all honesty, it’s always been there. It’s ramped up a bit because of instant media and communications, and because of better weaponry. But it’s the same mentality and the same thinking that resulted in the construction of this racist and intolerant house in which we reside. It’s the water we swim in, it’s the air we breathe. It’s who we are.

Can we change this, can we overcome the narcissitic and selfish perspective that we have at this point? I am sure it’s possible, but highly improbable until we can agree on how we got here. We aren’t going to get any closer to a solution until we cease to approach everything from a partisan standpoint. By partisan I don’t mean solely political, but I do mean solely polarized in terms of perspective and outlook, and the poles seem to be those of dominant culture and non-dominant culture. The demographics fall neatly into categories of class, wealth, and ability. It’s been that way for a very long time, and we don’t seem to be any closer to eradicating that caste system than at the start of this American experiment.

This is going to get worse before it gets better. The battle lines aren’t fully drawn, but we’re at war. We’re fighting ourselves, and the arena is fully engaged at this point. It’s very easy to distract the fighters from the goal, especially when fatigue has set in. We are definitely tired, but not so tired that we are willing to call a cease-fire and negotiate a win-win settlement. It’s all or nothing, and for all practical purposes, we have…nothing.

Because we don’t trust one another, everything is an argument, everything is a battle, and everything comes to no good end. Some of us refuse to be vaccinated against a killer virus at the level of a pandemic, because we don’t believe the science. Or we do believe the science, but we don’t like who’s wielding it. Or we don’t care. Or it’s just too much trouble to make the effort. We’ll fight to be “free” to refuse conformity.

It would not surprise me if some of the disinformation has the intentional goal of reducing the population. That’s a particularly Libertarian outlook, that world population must be reduced in order for comfortablity and survival of the human species. There are simply too many of us on the planet, so if we reduce the population there’s more for those who remain. Sort of like expendable casualties, I suppose. However that is intended, it doesn’t leave me feeling warm and fuzzy by any means, so…um…no.

Assuming people are not expendable, we’ve got to find some way of determining how everyone survives. Actually, we’ve got to figure out more than survival for the masses, we need to figure out how people actually live. Survival can be an interminable experience of having the bare minimum to continue bodily functions, and that may be miserable at best. Life is more than simply keeping a body in a minimal status. An existence without joy, without happiness, without a sense of well being and without choices is much less than life. We can do better. We can do SO much better.

Many people are expressing disapproval for the space aspirations of more than a couple of billionaires. Two of them have ventured into short flights beyond the planet’s orbital range, and a large outcry about the superfluous nature of their expenditures has been heard. I wish there was more money contributed to the cause of world hunger, and health care, but this is where we are. Who is to say that space exploration won’t bring us to ending world hunger and poverty and providing health care? Who is to say that space exploration isn’t actually flight into the imagination and departure into dreaming a new new world? Who’s to say that isn’t exactly what we need? Maybe not, but maybe so.

My bigger issue with billionaires funding space exploration isn’t so much with their choice of how to expend their bounty, but with how they came to have such incredible wealth in the first place. I don’t blame them – I don’t expect anyone to reject money coming toward them legally. But there’s something drastically wrong with a system that catapults a small number of people to an infinite level of income, while billions more remain in the dregs of the pay scale. But again, this is where we are, this is who we are, and that’s reality at the present time.

I’m sitting here reflecting on my own first-world problems – getting my vehicle air conditioning repaired, resolving the oil leak. I am fortunate to have the option to have the option of repair. I am fortunate to have a vehicle that needs repair. Even without those particular repairs, the vehicle will still get me from one place to another, only in slightly less comfort than before. So I don’t want to lose track of the gratitude. I don’t ever want to lose track of that, because without that I’m just another selfish and self-centered butt head that can’t see how fortunate I am to have choices, and can’t muster up compassion for anyone else that doesn’t have the same choices. That’s not a good place to be, and I know this. I have been there, and don’t want to ever feel that empty again.

Today is hot again. I have no intention of traveling anywhere…I have food to eat and liquids to drink and the air conditioner in the apartment is working just fine. I am grateful for that as well. I do, however, need to clean out some part of my truck so repair staff can even get inside it (yes, I remain a self-defined and generally hapless slob). I’ll do that, and then either late tonight or very early tomorrow morning, I will deliver the land barge to the repair facility and then wait for pronouncement of sentence. Either I’ll have a fully repaired vehicle with air conditioning and oil that remains inside the vehicle and not on the ground beneath it, or not. We’ll just have to wait and see, but one way or another, the drama will be over tomorrow at some point and I’ll know what solution looks like in this case.

If I am smart, I’ll start cleaning things up in the truck now, in small increments. I’m not quite that bright, so I’m sure I’ll procrastinate until it’s nuclear fusion level hot and then kvetch and moan about the heat. It’s how I roll. I accept that, but still hope for change. My dog is far more reasonable – she only frets to go out there when it becomes absolutely necessary for her anatomic functions, and then she’s ready to come back immediately, knowing she’ll get a dog treat and then retire to a comfortable bed (mine or hers) where it’s cold enough to hang meat. Smart beast, with a brain the size of a plum, but far more sensible than I.

Perhaps this should be my new vehicle. Air conditioning would not be an issue.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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