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‘If It Weren’t So Ignorant, One Could Mourn This Collapse Of Dignity’

"They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing, and, to do so, they are (1) abandoning their sense of human dignity and (2) risking the appearance of cowardice."

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We thought this was a good time to run a few excerpts from a longer piece by published in The New Yorker in November of last year

This is a serious project. All immigrants to the United States know (and knew) that if they want to become real, authentic Americans they must reduce their fealty to their native country and regard it as secondary, subordinate, in order to emphasize their whiteness. Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. Here, for many people, the definition of “Americanness” is color.

Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil-rights legislation, white people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost. There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening.

In order to limit the possibility of this untenable change, and restore whiteness to its former status as a marker of national identity, a number of white Americans are sacrificing themselves. They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing, and, to do so, they are (1) abandoning their sense of human dignity and (2) risking the appearance of cowardice. Much as they may hate their behavior, and know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy to pray. Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street.

To keep alive the perception of white superiority, these white Americans tuck their heads under cone-shaped hats and American flags and deny themselves the dignity of face-to-face confrontation, training their guns on the unarmed, the innocent, the scared, on subjects who are running away, exposing their unthreatening backs to bullets. Surely, shooting a fleeing man in the back hurts the presumption of white strength? The sad plight of grown white men, crouching beneath their (better) selves, to slaughter the innocent during traffic stops, to push black women’s faces into the dirt, to handcuff black children. Only the frightened would do that. Right?

These sacrifices, made by supposedly tough white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.

It may be hard to feel pity for the men who are making these bizarre sacrifices in the name of white power and supremacy. Personal debasement is not easy for white people (especially for white men), but to retain the conviction of their superiority to others—especially to black people—they are willing to risk contempt, and to be reviled by the mature, the sophisticated, and the strong.

If it weren’t so ignorant and pitiful, one could mourn this collapse of dignity in service to an evil cause.

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2 comments on “‘If It Weren’t So Ignorant, One Could Mourn This Collapse Of Dignity’

  1. Only because the white supremacy beliefs and actions of their President Trump are similar to theirs, and therefore – they are enabled by him as they were in VA this past weekend. You can count on Trump again supporting white supremacy and him being responsible from more deaths. This isn’t the end of it – and it won’t be until there is an end to Trump’s time in office. More importantly perhaps, it isn’t the end of Trump supporting Republicans (including their spineless Congressman) being painted with the same tarry brush of Nazism as Trump has been the past days – the world over. It’s time for Republicans to weigh their self dignity against their Republican Party devotion – and decide not to be a Trump Nazi – unless this is who they really are.

    • Dan Gabella

      Self dignity? None, and this is who they really are. Have been for nearly 50 years now. Oh, you must sprinkle in the religious right that disavows scientific fact as they await the Rapture and, of course, the old guard that wants to take their billions to the grave or create a few more Paris Hilton’s or Donny Jr’s. for that matter.
      Get rid of Bannon and two “Nazis” still remain in the WH and one is Jewish for crying out loud! Get rid of Trump and the country must deal with another form of crazy from IN. And don’t get me started on the likes of Louie Gohmert in congress or that cabinet dream team.
      All in all, it’s going to be at least another year and a half of hell for people with some semblance of rationality.

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