28 January 2010

A&M ruins yet another one of my days

As some of you know, my partner writes for the Maroon Weekly, the "alternative" counterpart to the Battalion, if by alternative you mean it's filled with more fluff. I picked up this morning's copy, read Ryan's article (awesome, by the way, but I can't find it on the website), and moved on to the predictably insensitive Pro and Con section. Maroon Weekly has a resident nutty conservative, Tony Listi, who, to put it lightly, is a goddamned moron. The Maroon Weekly's website just got a face-lift and it seems like their archives are pretty much gone. The only crazy there is that he thinks we should privatize education and that violence is a-okay. Those are fairly mild. But don't worry, he came through this week. He wrote an article titled "Racism is Not an Obstacle to Success." Sadly, it's not on the website. Also, it's labeled "Pro." I can only guess that means pro-racism
Racism doesn't hold anyone back in America, and President Obama is proof of this truth.
A promising first line, no? Because an upper-middle class black man, who grew up with money, got a first-class education, and is particularly intelligent, succeeded, so can all those other black people! If you're black and not Oprah or Obama, well that's your own damn fault.

We've heard this before. Obama has ushered in a "post-racial" society, right? Never mind that ignorant whites continue to link him to terrorism, burn his effigy in a noose, say on national television that his articulate speeches make them forget he's black, and write in the Washington Times that miscegenation explains why Obama doesn't have the "blood impulse" necessary to understand and govern the United States. We don't live in a post-racial anything; that is bullshit, and the reaction to Obama is frankly proof enough of that. But don't worry, Amanda has "a buttload of statistics" to prove that "post-racial" is a conservative fantasy/tactic and Jesse reminds us that living in those statistics is beyond frustrating. I find it difficult to believe that Tony is actually ignorant of all of these things. Racism smacks you in the face, even when you're white and an asshole, pretty regularly in Texas. It sounds more likely to me that he's just being disingenuous, and thinks that the racism he witnesses is just "little things" and not important.
I'm not saying that racism doesn't exist, and I'm not saying that blacks and hispanics [strange that he doesn't mention Asians or Middle Easterners] are prospering as much as whites. But the fact that inequalities exist and that racism hasn't been completely extinguished doesn't mean that racism is the cause of these inequalities or that it's a major problem requiring government action.
Tony is not following his conclusions through. If inequalities exist, systemic ones, and POC are not prospering as well as whites, and it's not the fault of racism, who's fault is it? The only possible answer to that is that it's the POC's own fault. But Tony doesn't say that, because he seems to be under the impression that he doesn't already sound like a racist, so he's trying to avoid doing that. But it gets better.
If anything, we've come full circle now where white skin is often a disadvantage when it comes to certain opportunities. Unfortunately, American society, especially at universities, is very race-conscious. People everywhere bend over backward to "help" minorities with handouts. [...] By making the people believe that the mere interaction of people of different ethnicities is beneficial to everyone, "diversity" has become the new leftist fad and buzz word to rationalize the destruction of merit and moral values. [Emphasis mine]
Oh, poor white people! Their own "handouts"--more financial and social stability, being the default human, going to better schools, not worrying as much about health insurance, etc.--are being undermined by those uppity minorities, thinking they should get a leg up after being beat down by systemic racism. Ugh, and the university is race conscious. Gross.

If I'm being too sarcastic, it's because Tony's arguments are infuriating and also barely arguments. It's a negative quality to be race-conscious? Even after you admit that racism still exists? And could he be more transparent in calling affirmative action in universities "handouts," that old racist buzzword which really means welfare, which really means lazy blacks and Mexicans taking my hard-earned tax dollars and doing drugs with it? And what "moral values" does increasing diversity destroy? Is segregation a moral value now?

And this is still the beginning of the article. Tony next decides that he is a position to diagnose the entire black community:
The problem in the black community and beyond is that many of these Americans are just unwilling or unable to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them. Those who are unwilling are victims of cultural pathologies of poor parenting, poor work ethic, poor study habits, poor self-control, poor social habits, poor sexual mores, etc. Material poverty is always the result of a more intangible, spiritual poverty that government cannot remedy. [Emphasis mine.]
Christ. So black people are bad parents, lazy, incapable of self discipline, and sexually impure. I'm sure he just forgot violent and drug users, because besides those two he's hit almost every racist stereotype about black people circulating today. And it's not the result of material poverty, or systemic racism, but "spiritual poverty." Whatever the fuck that means. Whether Tony is suggesting that blacks aren't religious enough or human enough, he is absolutely taking all the blame off the cultural, legal, and social structures that shape our society. If POC's are too poor to be home with their children, they're bad parents. If they don't buy into the purity myth, they're whores and morally corrupt. If they don't want to try super-duper hard to succeed in an education system that shafts them from the very beginning and assumes they'll fail, they're lazy and have poor study habits. None of this is anyone else's fault, because god forbid Tony actually feels any guilt about the success he's achieved on the backs of minorities and the poor.
Only families, churches, charities, and local communities can address these kinds of problems that require a personal, intimate touch.
Tony is bending over backwards to try and offer a solution that isn't shorthand for "get off your asses and succeed, black people!" but he's ignoring material reality to do so. Families, churches, charities, and communities are simply not big enough to combat systemic racism and classism. They are already strained under the burden of treating social ills. A single parent who is the overworked and underpaid caretaker of one or more children does not have the luxury of being what Tony considers a "good parent." But federal laws instituting a minimum wage that is actually a living wage, forcing companies to offer childcare and longer paid maternity and paternity leave, and giving that family healthcare options that are realistic and functional would go a long way to improving the material conditions of that family. With those and other government reforms, that single parent might actually have time to read her children a story before bedtime, help them with their homework, and attend parent/teacher conferences. Expecting churches and communities to improve conditions as much as those few examples alone is ridiculous and whimsical, at best.

Tony seems to think that "socialist policies" and community action are mutually exclusive:
Socialist policies and the economic downturns that they cause also hurt those at the bottom the most. The minimum wage causes greater unemployment for the least skilled workers, many of whom are minorities [Not surprisingly, Tony does not address why this might be]. Heavy taxes and regulation hamper entrepreneurship and undercut small businesses [...] Funding for local churches and other charities that show real compassion and provide real assistance to those in need dries up under these collectivist economic policies.
This last claim is mystifying to me. In what universe does increasing the minimum wage mean less funding for charities? (Federal funding for churches is fucking unconstitutional; I don't care what charitable work they're doing.) In what universe do the Democrats, the supporters of these "socialist" policies, block increased funding to charities more than Republicans, those lovers of the capitalist free market? Tony is living in a fantasy world, one in which conservatives love charities and the federal funding of them, and one in which "socialist" and charity are somehow oppositional terms.

The cherry on the fucking cake of this article is the inset:
Authors: Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Novel Prize winner Toni Morrison, and Maya Angelou. and [sic] hundreds of current and past professional athletes.
There's also a picture of Oprah above this inset. The terrible editing of this makes it a little difficult to decipher, but the message is pretty clear: I googled black authors and found a bunch, so racism doesn't hinder anyone! Also, we let blacks play professional football! So there!

Not only have you failed at logic, Tony, you've failed at humanity. You can harp about how you really just want to solve the problem of racism (which you don't think is that big of a deal in the first place) with "love" and "charitable giving," but you've already called the whole black community a string of not-loving descriptors and blamed their inequality on their own characteristics and spiritual failings, so you're not fooling anybody. You're a racist asshole. Also, you made me super cranky today, so fuck you.


CrisisMaven said...

I have just added a Reference List to my economics blog with economic data series, history, bibliographies etc. for students & researchers.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't your blog called From Georgetown to A&M?

Anonymous said...

"Not only have you failed at logic, Tony, you've failed at humanity."

Well said! I spent 4 years in classes with Tony, and I've always wanted to do what you did in this post.

Courtney said...

Alliteration, my friend. Almost all Southwestern students consider Austin more home than Georgetown.

Anonymous said...

I think what he's trying to say when he say's:

"But the fact that inequalities exist and that racism hasn't been completely extinguished doesn't mean that racism is the cause of these inequalities..."

He means that because they are poor to begin with that they are more likely to wind up poor... I'm fairly certain that he's not of the opinion that Blacks/Hispanics are inferior to Whites. In which case the argument would be:

If racism isn't the reason for it but instead its socio-economic, then the state shouldn't make blanket policies based on race.

Then again... knowing him he probably wouldn't make them based on economic status either which would make him "classist" not "racists", but whatever...

Most of the rest of your article I agree with however.

Courtney said...

That is possible. There are two reasons I'm not as generous as you. The first is that Tony Listi has a terrible track record when it comes to writing terrible, bigoted things in the Maroon Weekly. The second is that list of racial stereotypes he diagnoses the black community (not the poor community, which includes many, many whites and other minorities, but the *black* community) with in the middle of the article. No joke, the only two he missed were a tendency to violence and drug use, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit to hear him confirm that, yes, those are also problems black people have.

And even if I felt the need to be generous in interpreting his argument, IF he was arguing that poverty is the cause of racial inequalities, it would not only be important for him to address why such a large percentage of racial minorities and women end up in poverty--it's damn sure not a coincidence--but he would still fail at humanity by suggesting that poor people got themselves in that position via "spiritual poverty" and that the government shouldn't do shit to help them. He's absolutely still arguing that whatever causes economic abjection in our society is incurable through government intervention--that argument only makes sense if we can't culturally remember women's suffrage and the civil rights movement. Whether or not he classist or racist (I personally think he's probably both) is sort of beside the point.

pointing out hypocrits said...

I attended A&M for my undergraduate degree and completely acknowledge that at times many people seem to have come straight out of 1861; However, the opening to your blog is just as judgemental and wrong as the rude comments made by the bigoted people in the papers and on campus. I was part of the liberal movement at A&M (and yes there is one) and part of the Enviromental Issues Committee. If you are unhappy with something, instead of constantly whining and being rude, try changing things. After all, "Be the change you wish to see in the world" not just a jerk. Do not assume that ags are all racist ignorant fools, some of us are not. Please refrain from painting an entire populous with one brush based on the actions of some. You are simply doing the very thing you loathe in others...becoming a judgemental ignorant ass.

Courtney said...

A little of my answer to that is: pfft. I'm not assuming that A&M is *entirely* made of a special kind of asshole. But lots of it is. And the Battalion and the Maroon Weekly are an almost daily proof of that.

I'm surprised that THIS particular post drew this kind of ire from you, because I'm specifically talking about one guy: Tony Listi. And he is clearly a racist douche.

I'm well aware that there is a liberal minority on campus. I'm also well aware of the fact that they are largely disparaged and unwelcome by the majority of A&M students. Maybe if I was a) not a graduate student with too much other shit to do and b) going to be at A&M for (hopefully) no more than two years, I would attempt to help change that culture of bigotry. But I can't battle everything at once, and frankly doing my schoolwork and blogging my rants to help keep my blood pressure down is more effective than me trying to undo years of the worst of Texas socialization on this campus.

Candied Yams said...

If something like the Black History Month issue of the Maroon Weekly doesn't make you pissed off and sad for the Aggie community, I don't know what will. You definitely don't need someone's permission to rant about that. It's like reading the Grand Wizard's wet dream.

People think of racism as fifty years ago, but it was only ten years ago that one of the Core members wore, "If I knew niggers would be this much trouble, I'd have picked my own cotton" to the bonfire.

And while 'pointing out hypocrits(sic)' is right that these are individuals making the trouble, it's the quiet, not-so-rude people who know better that let them get away with fostering this "ignorant and proud" culture. If you were anything like that culture, Courtney, I'd tell you to shut up. But you're not even close.

You're right and you know it. So, don't worry about being rude. If these down home kids can't take a few snarky comments, I'm sure Texas has some method of revoking their "tough and belligerent" cards.

It's funny how so many of them will play the gritty, calloused, tell-it-as-they-see-it role until someone else is right when they are being so wrong. Then they get super sensitive and whine at you for calling them names.

And, when it comes down to that, I'd rather live in a place with rude people that have a conscience and care about others than rude people that would bring back the noose if it became an official Aggie tradition.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with everyone that A&M is messed up quite often. I also agree with "hypocrits" that instead of simply criticism action is more necessary. You claim you do not have time to do something constructive because of your blog, this seems like a misallocation of your priorities. I know it gets difficult in College Station, but join the rest of us frustrated friends in action, not passive aggressive complaints.
We feel your pain, we've been there (or are there).
Won't you join us in attempt to make it better, instead of stewing the pot of rancore and hate?

Courtney said...

So I wrote like four paragraphs in response, and then decided a new post might be in order. So, in response to those who think I'm a hypocrite.