Sunday, August 28, 2016

Amidst discussion of White, Male Privileges Social Class has been relegated to 'The too -hard Basket'

Dr Tristan Ewins

Dear Readers:  For this week I thought the following letters were interesting in light of Trump's appeal to parts of the white American working class and underclass.   The discussion is also interesting on account of the modern Left's neglect of class after having fully embraced Identity Politics.  Both were sent to 'The Age' at the date indicated.  Once more, neither were published. 
Parts of been slightly extended on account that I no longer have to limit either to 200 words for publication in the Age.  Upon submission both were 200 words or less.

Duncan Fine (16/8) portrays Senator David Leyonhjelm's case against Fairfax on account of the Racial Discrimination Act as ludicrous.  Indeed white men do enjoy certain kinds of privileges which need to be understood and recognised in context to provide a fair go for women and minorities.  And Leyonhjelm is not being serious apart from trying to 'test the boundaries'.  But on the other hand surely vilification on the basis of gender or race should always be taken seriously. There are contexts, here, where emotional and social harm can be visited upon those usually considered to be privileged. Further, where once we heard of the dominance of ‘rich white men’, these days the element of class is conveniently ignored.  Economic stratification and the class system under capitalism are ‘conveniently relegated to the too hard basket’. In the United States  working class white men have become increasingly propagandized by the forces of social reaction.  And to a significant degree this has occurred under the watch of a Democratic Party – which until Bernie Sanders’ Presidential campaign had overwhelmingly failed to address their class interests. Indeed many seem to have no issue with terms like ‘poor white trash’.  Human liberation requires reciprocal human solidarity ; and this is not exhausted by the categories of race and gender.

In his article (21/8) Paul McGeough laments the cynical attempts of some to form a kind of ‘white racial consciousness’ ;  and the danger that such a project will be exploited to promote an agenda of racism, or even white supremacism.  But does ‘consciousness of whiteness’ have to take such a form?   What if instead we were talking of a kind of ‘critical consciousness’ that recognised the injustice of past privileges of ‘whiteness’ ; but which also recognised the double standards and dehumanization that goes with middle and ruling class putdowns of ‘poor white trash’ and the like?  As well as recognising pre-existing forms of class exploitation and oppression. Where past privileges are fading, and where white working class and under class people experience various kinds of disadvantage, contempt, and even vilification, perhaps it is time to develop new kinds of solidarity –between working class people entirely regardless of ‘race’.  But also recognising the specific injustices faced by economically disadvantaged ‘white’ communities. Unlike class relations ‘whiteness’ cannot (and of course should not) be ‘abolished’.  So for human liberation disadvantaged working class and under-class ‘white’ communities need to join in solidarity with other oppressed communities in a common struggle for mutual recognition, respect, inclusion, and liberation.

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