Surviving Trump: Marc Lamont Hill Wants You to Resist

April 27, 2017 | 1 book mentioned 43 12 min read

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As the Trump administration hobbles and flails in the vague direction of Day 100 – 96 down, just 1,364 to go as of this writing – it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day incompetence and surreal ineptitude of The Donald and his Legion of Doom: e.g. Sean Spicer on Hitler; e.g. Jeff Sessions on Hawaii, e.g. the taxpayer tab for all those weekend jaunts to Mar-a-Lago; e.g. Trump’s historically low approval ratings; e.g. Trump’s oratory prowess and display of patriotism during the recent Easter Egg Roll.

But focusing on things like our Commander-in-Chief reviewing policy briefs in the Oval Office with Kid Rock and Ted “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” Nugent, would be to lose sight of what Donald Trump’s presidency has really been: a full-scale assault on America’s most threatened populations. From his bumbling attempt to strip 24 millions Americans of their health insurance to rescinding protections for transgender students to proposing a budget that cuts vital services for lower-income Americans to refusing to monitor troubled police agencies, President Trump has demonstrated a disregard – if not outright animosity – for our most vulnerable communities.

However, that disregard and animosity is certainly nothing new or unique to the Trump Administration. In his latest book, Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond, Marc Lamont Hill describes a growing group of citizens “made vulnerable, exploitable, and disposable” in contemporary America. In telling the stories of those regarded by the powerful and privileged as “Nobody” – people like the citizens of Flint, Mich., black men and women like Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin, like Sandra Bland and Walter Scott – Hill places our current moment in historical context while offering an examination of race, class, and capitalism in 21st-century America.

Hill — a distinguished professor of African American studies at Morehouse College, host of BET News and VH1 Live, and a political contributor for CNN — spoke with The Millions by phone about police brutality, American Empire in decline, the importance of black bookstores, and the power of everyday people to change the world.

The Millions: Nobody was published while Barack Obama was president. The paperback comes out with a very different man in the Oval Office. Obviously, Donald Trump isn’t good for the vulnerable people you’re writing about in Nobody—but how exactly does he alter your thinking? Does he change the way we need to approach fighting the oppression of people “marked as poor, black, brown, immigrant, queer, or trans”?

Marc Lamont Hill: I’m not sure that he does. I think that’s what’s interesting. What I get at in the book is that we can’t reduce the condition of our nation or the plight of the vulnerable to a set of dispositions, a set of attitudes, or a small group of people with a particular point of view. There’s a deeper structural problem here. There’s a deeper institutional challenge that we face…I don’t ever think that a particular kind of tide turn or election outcome will alter the fundamental structural challenges that we face. If anything, it just reminds me that we have serious work to do, no matter who’s in office.

I do think, though, that Donald Trump represents a different moment. Part of the problem is that we’ve cried wolf so many times when a Republican runs for office. We say ‘Oh, this is the worst thing that’s ever happened in the history of America, and if we elect so-and-so the sky’s going to fall.’

TM: Meanwhile, Mitt Romney sounds wonderful right about now.

MLH: Exactly. And then you get a Donald Trump. And it’s like, oh wait, maybe the sky actually is falling this time. Even Republicans are saying, ‘Hey, this is not what we’re used to, what we imagined.’

The Donald Trump moment represents something different in that it may feel more urgent, and some of the battles that we fought in the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s are now forced to be re-fought and some of the legal victories that we achieved are now going to have to be relitigated.  The Donald Trump moment may represent a greater urgency and a kind of re-tracking of previous moments…Despite the darkness of the moment, we can still change. The thing that gives me hope is the fact that since August 9, 2014, we have seen a sustained and protracted movement of activists, of students, of clergy, who are changing the game. We’re watching social media become different in terms of its usage. We’re watching digital technology. We’re watching all of this stuff become something else. It’s an extraordinary moment with extraordinary possibilities. They say only in the darkness can you see the stars. The Trump moment is darker, but to me that just spotlights what’s possible even more.

TM: There are a lot of people who think the deaths of Michael Brown of Eric Garner are part of a recent trend, a spike in police violence. But the truth is that the killing of black men and women by police is nothing new. What’s different—and you point this out in the book—is that now people have cellphones and they can take video and upload it to the Internet. I’m interested in your take on technology’s changing role as a tool in the struggle against oppression.

MLH: The fact that the technology exists in some ways underscores a deeper problem, which is around the ability of black people to narrate their own experience with credibility. Black witness doesn’t matter. The fact that black folks have been saying ‘Hey, we’re getting killed,’ forever doesn’t matter. We talk about police brutality, police terrorism. Every experience you’ve seen on these videos are experiences that are articulated by black people. And people say, ‘Oh, you’re exaggerating.’ I mean Rodney King. People in South Central L.A. weren’t shocked by that. They were just shocked that the police didn’t see the camera.

While some people are really excited about this moment, and there is reason to be, it’s also a reminder that black witness in and of it itself means nothing. That it’s only with the augmentation of the cellphone, smartphone technology, digital video streaming, that people believe us. And essentially, they’re not believing us; they’re believing their own eyes.

The problem is that when you live in a nation-state that is undergirded by white supremacy, by anti-black racism, and by really irrational narratives about black people, the video still proves insufficient. How many times did we watch Walter Scott run away?

He gets shot in the back and it didn’t matter. We watched Sandra Bland gets harassed, it didn’t matter. We saw Eric Garner with his hands up, it didn’t matter. So, this technology is helpful in a certain way. It certainly helped, it was a mobilizing tool and an organizing tool, and it certainly gives us a better chance at quote-unquote justice than we would have without it. But I never want to overstate or fetishize technology because that suggests that the system is functional in the interest of justice, and all we needed was just a little more proof and we’d be in there, and that’s just not the case.

TM: In a previous interview in this series, Pankaj Mishra talked about the unfilled promise of neoliberal capitalism and democracy and how it fuels both terrorism and populist rage. In Nobody you talk about the role of neoliberal capitalism—that valuing of unrestrained profit for the few over the public good, which obviously leads to more citizens that are vulnerable and disposable. What are the historical processes that led us to this point where we’re devaluing everything except increased profits at all costs?

MLH: We’ve always valued democratic citizenship, and democracy is almost an obsession of America. What’s contested is what democracy looks like, how it’s constituted, and how we arrived there. And over the last few decades—not just here, but in Britain and other places around the world—the liberalization of the market, that is to say the unfettering of market forces, has led us to not just worship the market and to believe in the capacity of the market to yield all positive outcomes, but it’s also led us to equate unfettered capitalism with full-fledged democracy. And therefore, citizenship becomes consumership. And so, over the decades…you find an increased sense that to be a citizen is to be a consumer. The more access you have to goods and consumption, the more rich and full your citizenship is, the more fully realized your democratic project is.

The problem is as people don’t have access to capital, as they don’t have access to individual success and prosperity—which becomes the measure of progress; it’s no longer a collective vision, it’s no longer a valuing of the welfare state or a collective investment in the good of everyone, but rather individual success and merit—what you begin to see is the collapse of people’s faith in the system when they’re not accessing those notions of prosperity. If I look up 20 years later and I can’t work at the assembly line in Flint anymore and I can’t get a living-wage job anymore, I’m now thinking something’s wrong. I’m now thinking something’s wrong with the country. I’m thinking the country’s moving in the wrong direction. And it’s very easy under those regimes and under those moments to not blame the system itself because it’s easier to imagine the end of the world itself than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

You then blame all the people who weren’t there before, all the forces that weren’t there before, all the leadership structures that weren’t there before. You blame the black president, you blame the Mexicans, you blame the Arabs for taking the jobs.  You don’t question the actual mechanisms of capital. You don’t question the oligarchies. You don’t question the one percent because you still aspire to be the one percent, even if it’s against all empirical evidence to the contrary…

If you normalize the idea that individual prosperity is the measure of who we’re supposed to be as citizens and that collective consumership is the marker of an effective democracy, then you end up in a space where 99 percent of us—certainly 90 percent of us—are going to be profoundly frustrated at all times with the condition of our democracy.

But again, you’re not looking at the machinery of capital, you’re looking at all these other factors, which are really symptoms and not the problem itself, not the illness itself. And that’s how you end up with a Trump in office: because you’ve got a bunch of poor, disenfranchised people who decide to choose a billionaire to lead them out of the economic disaster—when Trump’s economic power and value itself hinges upon the accumulation of mass amounts of wealth at the expense of most people; when his market logic demands a small group of people having a whole bunch of stuff, when efficiencies demand that the job that was once in Flint is now in East Asia, that the job that was in Ferguson, Missouri, is now in the Far East. When that happens, you’re signing up for more of the same problem, but it makes you feel better. It’s like when your eye itches and you keep scratching it. It’s like this isn’t working, but nothing else is, so let me just keep scratching it, because this is supposed to be working. And that’s what’s happening right now.

TM: In the book, you say the perfect complement to the current neoliberal economic moment is a turning away from community—people are more isolated, they’re more fragmented; you don’t have to leave your house, everything is online and everything is delivered. How does that shift exacerbate the war on the vulnerable and how can community help the fightback?

MLH: We are always at our best when we’re organized. We’re always at our best when we’re connected and we’re working together and building together. The problem is the forces of neoliberalism…at the discursive and cultural level, they value the individual so much more—we live in the age of the selfie. Everyone’s the star of his own show. Everybody’s the big attraction of their timeline. Everyone’s going live. Everyone’s doing all the stuff that pulls people away, because we’re only thinking about the self. But then the material conditions of community are also dismantled. So, the community bookstore can’t exist anymore.

The public experience we previously imagined—and however flawed and romanticized it was, overly nostalgic it was—there once was a café, there once was a salon, there once was a Masonic Lodge, there once was even a street corner—where we would stand on 125th Street or 52nd Street in Philly or wherever—and we would talk and we would engage and we would build with one another.

I spent my childhood in black book stores engaging ideas. The problem is there’s no black bookstore anymore, because Amazon comes, and Amazon comes because it’s cheaper, it’s more efficient. Big-box retailers break down the mom-and-pop stores. They break down the local places. Even the local corner store that would exist, you know? And we’d hang out in front and talk shit, right? But there’s no corner store anymore because there’s a Target up the street where I can get a flat-screen TV and a pack of steaks and my prescription filled all at the same place. The way community is engaged is now much more routinized, it’s much more mechanical, it’s much more technocratic where these big-box retailers all are online. And so much of the physical interaction and connection that we had has now been replaced into the digital sphere.

I’m not saying the digital sphere can’t yield its own kind of rewards. But we’re still figuring that out. We’re figuring out what it means to form community in a hashtag group. We’re figuring out what it means to organize digitally. We’re figuring out what it means to have even a reading group on Facebook. A book club on Facebook. All of it is different now because of technology, but the market exigencies may push that to happen. So, we’re dealing on multiple levels with the way that neoliberalism kind of shifts and shapes our realities.

TM: Given that so much of Nobody is about police violence against black people, you probably spend a lot of time talking about race and probably a lot of that time — like this interview — is spent talking to white people. Do you find that fatiguing, or are you hopeful about the willingness or ability of white people to examine their privilege and work towards dismantling white supremacy?

MLH: Hopeful might be overstating it. I’m not pessimistic, though. I believe ultimately in the power of everyday people to change the world. I don’t mean that as just some kind of liberal cliché. I legitimately believe in the people and I legitimately believe that with the right organizing, the right political education, we can do anything. Getting white people to abandon whiteness is—that might be quixotic, you know? I mean, it’s incredibly difficult to get anyone in power to yield their power and privilege and control. I mean, getting men to dismantle patriarchy. Getting straight people to dismantle homophobia. It takes more than a notion.

I think that’s the challenge—that it’s counterintuitive for people to do that. So, what do we do to get them there? We need some level of interest conversion. We need to convince people that ultimately, the center can’t hold; that ultimately, capitalism will dismantle or will break down; that ultimately, the environment will suffer. Ultimately the jobs will leave. That ultimately, none of us can succeed like this. That white supremacy can’t hold itself. That ultimately, these white people who are looking for— who are using white skin privilege as a kind of property and as a kind of capital ultimately are going to be disenfranchised, like the white worker who votes for Trump. We have to convince them through political organization, through political education, through activism, through teaching, and through a kind of revolutionary patience that it is possible to change all of this and to make a world that’s better for everybody, but that they have to think long term and not short term.

I believe that it’s all possible. It’s just a hell of a job. So, I’m not optimistic. I don’t believe that it’s just going to happen, but I am full with hope. That’s probably the best way to put it. I’m not optimistic about it, but I am full of hope. That’s all we have.

TM: If we look the state of America—with Trump’s racist travel bans, the ICE raids, Jeff Sessions, the budget Trump put out, the gutting of the EPA, the spike in hate crimes, the rise of the Alt Right, it’s hard to see a happy ending. Where do you think we’re headed? Is there a tipping point that we’re traveling toward—

MLH: Well, you could argue that America is an empire in decline.

TM: For sure.

MLH: Where that ends, is up to us. I believe we can dictate where we go. We’re headed in a very dangerous direction, but the ship can be rerouted. It always can be rerouted. Where we’re going right now is a dark morgue, but I think, again, we need a sense of history. If we think that we were moving in the right direction and then November 8, 2016 happens, then we’re fundamentally wrongheaded about that. That makes us think that if we could have just elected a Hillary Clinton, if we could have just put in a Bernie Sanders, the world would be totally different. And that’s simply not true.

We need a bigger view of the world, a bigger analysis, a thicker analysis. If we do that, we can turn these things around. But to your question, yes, right now, at this moment, given where were headed economically, socially, culturally, politically, morally, we are moving in the wrong direction and it’s not going to end anywhere good for any of us. This is indisputably an empire in decline, but it doesn’t mean that end has to be as dire as it would be if we don’t do the work.

TM: What do Americans need to do to survive Donald Trump?

MLH: We need to resist. We need to resist. At all times, in all ways, Americans must resist. We must resist the idea that we respect the office. We don’t have to. We have to respect his humanity. But we have to say this office, as it stands, is not worthy of respect and it’s an imperial throne, and we have to resist it. We have to resist through the electoral process. We can’t wait until the next presidential cycle to resist. We have to resist at the local level and the national level. We have to build coalitions that resist. Politicians don’t have feelings; they have interests. And we have to make it so their interests converge with ours, so that it’s safe for members of Congress to vote down a bill, that we make it safe for them to filibuster, that we make it safe for them to make Donald Trump’s life a living hell. Not at a personal level, but at the political level. And not winning will automatically be a personal hell for him.

We have to resist on the streets. As our Syrian or Somali or Sudanese brothers and sisters get turned away, we have to fight to bring them back in. As we’ve seen the assault on civil liberties, we have to push back. We have to fight at every turn. We have to resist through our classroom teaching. We have to resist to the books we write. We have to resist through everything from what we name our children to who we hang out with to the kind of art we make. We have to resist at all times.

My Palestinian brothers and sisters have a word called sumud—and sumud is steadfastness. We have to be steadfast. You know, steadfast means that resistance doesn’t happen just at a march or a rally. It’s not just a momentary blip on the screen. It’s a lifelong commitment to resisting. If we can remain steadfast, then I think we win.

Can’t get enough Surviving Trump? Check out previous installments in the series, featuring Lewis Lapham, Masha Gessen, and Pankaj Mishra.

is the web editor at The Millions.

43 comments:

  1. Liberal policies, that Hill espouses, are the very policies that have kept blacks down. Liberals constantly tell blacks that they can’t do anything because of whites, and for the last 50 years they’ve believed it.

  2. By golly Kirk, you’ve cracked it! Why has no one thought of this? Slavery wasn’t the problem, Jimmy Carter was! You, sir, are an absolute genius. Between this and your “waterboarding works” steaming hot take, I cannot get enough of your boundless intellect. Please, tell me your opinion on…..health care? Income inequality? Bill O’Reilly? I would honestly love to know.

  3. Let’s see – Slavery WAS the problem…150 years ago, but how long can you use it as an excuse? Just as many military officials have claimed that waterboarding does work as not. Obamacare was going to be insolvent very soon so something has to change. Income equality has always been a problem, but I don’t think wealth distribution works. If Bill O’Reilly did what he is accused of, he deserved what he got. However, there is a concerted effort to bring down any effective conservative in the media.

  4. Anon, How does stating an opinion different from your’s make me a “problem.” I guess you were in support of not letting Milo Y. and Ann Coulter speak at Berkeley.
    The Left is always champions of free speech unless it’s speech they don’t agree with. Go hide away in your Safe Space.

  5. Kirk, you have no empathy. You’re filled – for whatever reason – with more hate then you know what to do with. That’s why you’re the problem. Stop being the problem. Start feeling compassion for your fellow human beings.

  6. Kirk

    “Let’s see – Slavery WAS the problem…150 years ago, but how long can you use it as an excuse?”

    150 years isn’t much time in the life of a culture… that’s roughly two lifespans, no? How do we expect people to transition from being branded, auctioned off, whipped, separated from family and legally killed on a whim, like livestock… to acting just fine, in a couple of human life-spans? The last living American slave died in 1971, Kirk… that’s as long ago as The Carol Burnett Show…. let that sink in.

    “Liberal policies, that Hill espouses, are the very policies that have kept blacks down.”

    The Poor are “kept down” by ALL of the policies. Blacks are canaries in the economic coal mine of North America, but all of the Lower Orders are stripped of wealth/ opportunity as a matter of course. You’re exploited as well, Kirk… I doubt very seriously that you belong to any 1%. The trick is to make some Serfs feel more privileged than others, despising the marginally worse-off while identifying (irrationally) with The Owners. It’s a good trick; it seems to be working quite well.

  7. Kirk, no one is saying you can’t speak. We are using our free speech to call you an idiot. Having zero understanding of slavery’s legacy is not an “opinion”, it’s either a woeful lack of intelligence or willful ignorance. For your sake I hope you’re just an idiot, and not something more sinister. If the former is indeed true, I suggest reading a book. I’m sure the commentariat would be more than willing to recommend a few titles. You’d be amazed how much you can learn once you admit you don’t have all the answers.

  8. How many more failed socialist utopias do we need to prove to people like MLH that socialism doesn’t work? If you really care about lifting up the poor and disenfranchised, as against striking romantic ‘Revolutionary’ poses, better to follow the only path that has ever worked. That is, focus on justice and consistent application of the rule of law.

    And by all means vote Democrat if you must, but don’t not vote and then complain when you get Trump.

  9. Just to play devil’s advocate here,Toad, and to stand up for the guy getting bullied, slavery’s legacy absolutely is an opinion. Like, as in by definition. Just exactly how much the institution of slavery, which ended long before any of us were born, effects anything, if at all, is absolutely an opinion. That slavery was legal is a fact. What the legacy of that no longer extant institution is? That’s an opinion.
    Telling the difference between a fact and opinion is a seemingly basic thing that supposedly intelligent people are having a harder and harder time with. Hundreds of years ago a lot of bad things happened. To a lot of people. Is there a legacy to the Holcaust? To the Irish famine? To the Soviet Union? I suppose.
    As for books, they’re opinions too, and highly debatable. Michelle Alexander’s has been popular with some leftists, but many more traditional liberals (many of them black) have chided her for the implication that the world of the 2010s is even remotely comparable to the world of the Jim Crow south.
    The problem is never “people like you.” That lumps people into groups instead of treating them as individuals. No one is evil or wrong simply because they’re a member of a group. Liberal policies have been criticized by Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell. Are they “stupid” black people? They’re the problem and “that’s the long and short of it”? Come on, stop demonizing opinions that don’t jibe with modern leftist nonsense. Stop equating conservative with racist. Or Trump voter with moron. That can only lead to more stereotyping and bigotry.

  10. Sean H

    ” Just exactly how much the institution of slavery, which ended long before any of us were born, effects anything, if at all, is absolutely an opinion.”

    The legality of treating certain human beings as livestock was modified, somewhat, in 1863, Sean, but the worldview that held the practise as *moral* lingers on in many quarters, for example, and was a factor in the judicial inertia that meant that America’s anti-miscegenation laws weren’t repealed, on a national level, until 1967. So your premise is somewhat flawed; it’s not as though a switch was flicked at the end of the Civil War and all the bad stuff just stopped.

    The Georgia Supreme court held, in 1869 (after the war’s, and slavery’s, end, please note), that “…moral or social equality between the different races…does not in fact exist, and never can. The God of nature made it otherwise, and no human law can produce it, and no human tribunal can enforce it. There are gradations and classes throughout the universe. From the tallest archangel in Heaven, down to the meanest reptile on earth, moral and social inequalities exist, and must continue to exist throughout all eternity.”

    1869 may seem like an eternity ago, but “In 1958-SEP, a Gallup poll revealed that only 4% of American adults favored allowing interracial couples to marry”. Note that the figure doesn’t indicate that only 4% thought it was an okay idea; only 4% thought it should be *legal*. When the “Loving v. Virginia” case ended that state of affairs (no pun intended) in 1967, “the vast majority (72%) of American adults were still opposed to legalizing interracial marriage”. So, in 1967, during America’s groovy “Age of Aquarius”… 72% of Americans polled were against Blacks and Whites intermarrying. That 72% is a sort of mandate, no?

    The opinion that Blacks are whining about abuse/ discomfort/alienation and the inner rage (and social dysfunction) that these corrosive conditions can create is merely another example of an echo of the cultural super-toxin that America can’t quite come to grips with. In other words: the attitude that Blacks must have something intrinsically wrong with them (us, I mean), to be so poorly adapted to “American Life” “after all this time”, is another lingering artifact of Slave Culture.

    What about the huge numbers of White meth addicts? Are they meth addicts because of corrosive social conditions, or because there’s something inherently wrong with White DNA?

    “Hundreds of years ago a lot of bad things happened. To a lot of people. Is there a legacy to the Holcaust? To the Irish famine? To the Soviet Union? I suppose.”

    A) There’s clearly a legacy to the Holocaust: Gaza, for one. You don’t think there’s a cultural psychosis manifesting itself there? And let’s consider the very different circumstances of the several centuries of the North American Slave Trade Holocaust versus the less-than-twenty years of the Central European Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s.

    B) The Irish famine lasted from 1842 to 1852, essentially. Anti-Irish sentiments lingered, in the US, into the first quarter of the 20th century, but dissolved, basically, after several generations of intermarriage/ assimilation (see above about Black/ White intermarriage). Anti-Irish discrimination/demonization lasted much longer in the UK and manifested itself most graphically in Belfast, yes? Lots of the English polled would no doubt *still* stick the blame for Irish woes squarely on the Irish: would you consider that just? Is there something defective about Irish DNA? Were they doing something wrong? How many Americans were exasperated with “Irish pathology” in Belfast in the 1960s and 1970s…?

    C) Re: the post- soviet Union Russia: lots of social problems; lots of violence, corruption, et al… and the population wasn’t even mostly cotton-picking Slaves (although the words “Slave” and “Slav” display etymological overlaps) for several centuries… they were merely Serfs! Is there something intrinsically faulty with Russian DNA…?

    The point being that you’ve countered your own (devil advocating) argument by evoking that list of cultural traumas: you’ve shown that cultural traumas are real, but they are also different, and manifest themselves differently.

    After several centuries of brutally, bloodily and self-righteously treating Human Beings like livestock (and benefiting profoundly, materially, from the exploitation), the host nation will pay a price. Not with “reparations” (impossible to calculate and apportion) but with proportional violence, misery, guilt, ignorance and confusion. Sad but true. Let’s be both frank and scientific here and look at the Empirical evidence: did “We” really think we would get off easy…?

  11. Sean, I’ve done little lumping here. My thesis statement is that Kirk is an idiot, based on things he has said. Like him, you instantly reduce things to left vs. right, and are guilty of the exact things you accuse other of – “modern leftist nonsense” is primo lumping, right dude? Set politics aside for once in your life. Slavery’s legacy does not depend on what party you vote for. If you can’t see a through-line from slavery to Jim Crow to the War on Drugs to Clinton’s crime bill – with the background of this country’s centuries-old, bi-partisan effort to demonize and destroy the poor – you are either stupid or dishonest. Sorry if you feel “bullied” by honesty, but we will never solve our country’s numerous problems without it. And to be clear this extends across both sides of the aisle. Civil rights failures, the corporatization of American politics, income inequality – these are problems with bi-partisan causes, and no easy solution. Instead of addressing them, though, we’re stuck on things like “Ugh, quit bringing up slavery, that was, like, so long ago.”

  12. Sorry, haven’t read all the comments but slavery 150 years ago is the blink of an eye. Then there was kkk continuing the terror and Jim crow south, civil rights fight, which is still ongoing, the incarceration and execution of mostly black men. Open your eyes. I don’t believe kirk is being bullied, some part of me thinks he is being purposely blind in order to start this thread of comments.

  13. An excellent interview. I intend to read this book. I also recommend Evicted (can’t remember author name), Blood on the Water by Heather Ann Thompson, and Jill Leovy’s book on crime in south central L.A. Enlighten yourself to the best of your ability.
    Every person has the right to a living wage! These companies paying minimum wage while garnering huge profits and bonuses are antiethical to human decency.

  14. Toad, Curious how liberals are so “tolerant” of those they disagree with. And, yes, I have read a good number of books and other documents about slavery/civil rights/race issues. I must say, I have a great deal of compassion for all oppressed peoples. I am a high school US History teacher, but I am also a realist, and therefore, a conservative. Liberalism drives me crazy and sometimes I can’t help speaking out when I can. Not that I think it will do any good for those who are liberal zombies, but it’s the principle.
    And Toad, WE will never solve our problems if people like you (liberal) are in charge. Look at the failures of all the large cities that are run by liberals. Nothing fails like liberalism.

  15. Terrifying. A history teacher with a poor grasp of time is bad enough, worse is a president with zero grasp of history at all but a brilliant and heinous grasp of capitalism (tax returns STILL not disclosed).

  16. “Slightly terrifying” is what happens to most kids who go to college and are inundated with liberal BS for 4 or 5 years. In case your’e wondering, I do not preach conservatism to my students. I tell both sides of the issue everytime, and am very aware of how I treat controversial subjects. I, for example, did not teach my students a song celebrating Trump when he was elected, and I do not teach the tenets of the Koran (not US History anyway). Liberals did both of these things.

    Heather, how do I have ‘a poor grasp of time?’ Also, I didn’t see liberals trying to get Lois Lerner to disclose her emails, and you all didn’t care about getting to the bottom of Hillary’s emails and Benghazi fiasco. Trump’s taxes are nothing compared to these.

  17. Kirk,

    You may also be interested to know that, speaking as a professor at a large state school, there is no coordinated liberal conspiracy to indoctrinate students into the joys of communism and the 95 Theses of Clinton apologia. What I have seen actually happen, though, over and over, is kids come in from small rural areas where they’ve had very little exposure to people of different skin color or faith or gender identities, etc., and reliably become more tolerant and empathetic towards people not like themselves. This is the bulk of the “liberal BS” they’re being subjected to, and it’s great.

  18. As I read this, despite the sound basis MLH starts from, I find the conclusions drawn and courses advocated to be the same liberal “Black Lives Matter” BS that’s fueling this divide.

    Marc Lamont Hill describes a growing group of citizens “made vulnerable, exploitable, and disposable” in contemporary America.
    –True enough, but then he goes on to make it all a “poor black me” whine–as if blacks are the only group being exploited in America.

    ” We need to resist. We need to resist. At all times, in all ways, Americans must resist. We must resist the idea that we respect the office. We don’t have to.”
    –How does MLH reconcile this divisive conclusion with the observation,” We are always at our best when we’re organized. We’re always at our best when we’re connected and we’re working together and building together “?

  19. Wendy,

    I doubt MLH would say blacks are the only group being exploited in America. But I’m curious why the existence of white poverty or other forms of exploitation would, in your view, negate the unique American black experience. Is your thesis that because coal miners exist BLM’s aims are invalid?

    On the second point, I think you need to think a little harder about the “we” he’s referring to (hint, it doesn’t not probably include proud Trump voters).

  20. Wendy,

    You actually think BLM is a root cause of some kind of American cultural divide, and not a symptom. Fascinating. I’m honestly intrigued by the conservative cognitive response to stuff like this, which as far as I can tell runs something like this: 1) have a preconceived idea of what the world or America is like–in this case, that it’s basically equally fair to all people, 2) be confronted by something like BLM or other progressive /PC social response, 3) be annoyed by its claims or strident tone since they rub your preconceived idea of the world or America the wrong way, 4) cast these responses as the *actual* problem and not a symptom or reaction.

    Does this seems accurate?

  21. “True enough, but then he goes on to make it all a “poor black me” whine–as if blacks are the only group being exploited in America.”

    This is fascinating. Whereas Kirk wants black people to shut up because there isn’t a problem, Wendy wants black people to shut up because the problem is so huge and blacks have selfishly co-opted it. Which is it?

  22. SH

    I’ve become more and more interested in the nature of political ideologies over the past year. It’s fascinating to me that people of notable intelligence, education, and power can, in their spare time, traffic in absurd conspiracy theories, intellectual dishonesty, and partisan nonsense. For example, Trump/Russia conspiracies from the left; Pizzagate on the right. On the conservative side, I believe the ideology comes from a steadfast, almost sacred belief in the American Dream – the notion that any one anywhere in America can rise Alger-style from absolutely nothing to absolutely everything, with no help from government or bloodline or anything else. All you need is a free market and a good work ethic. There are plenty examples of this Dream coming true, which serves as proof that the Dream works (and you can’t prove a negative – you can’t prove it doesn’t work – right?)

    So when a group like BLM comes along and posits the American Dream should be available to everyone, this rankles conservatives. The American Dream IS available to everyone, so if someone is unable to attain it, it is THEIR fault. They’re lazy, or criminals, or whiners, or “thuggish” to quote the NYT’s newest dog whistler.

    So I think you’ve nailed it. Really this goes back to the great American experiment called capitalism. As children we’re indoctrinated with the idea of American exceptionalism, all made possible by capitalism, so why not latch onto that as your political core? And don’t you WANT to believe that anyway? That everyone is capable of greatness? Kirk claims conservatism = realism, but at heart conservatism = (rigid) optimism.

  23. Swog, Tod!

    I think you guys are ascribing too much individual agency, behind the choices being made, by Conservatives and Liberals alike, in the Mandatory Marketplace of Ideas.

    I think quite a few of the people who are reliable parrots of various flavors of one or another of the Party Lines are passive receptacles of the Pre-Formed Opinions being hammered into their heads by Popular Culture. One’s Beliefs are a function of One’s Demographic, largely… give or take 10 or 15% for the adolescent rebellion factor of kids who reject their Hippie or Corporate or White Power parents. Because most people are so busy worrying about Jobs/ Health/Kardashians that they just don’t have the time to sit down in a quiet room and tease out the implications of the slogans they reiterate.

    That’s what fascinated *me* about 2016: people were claiming HRC was qualified to rule the world for 8 years merely because she said she was; people believed Trump would “drain the swamp” merely because he said he would and people believed Bernie represented a new era in politics, whether or not he might win, because that’s what Bernie told his target demo to think. When did people become so nearly-uniformly passive in the (Janus) face of Authority?

    Politics = Mass Psychology. People whose hackles rise at anything Black/ White/ Jewish/ Female/ Male/ Gay/ Foreign/ Intellectual (et al) are reacting on a visceral level. Where is the conditioning coming from? (rhetorical question)

  24. Toad!

    “It’s fascinating to me that people of notable intelligence, education, and power can, in their spare time, traffic in absurd conspiracy theories, intellectual dishonesty, and partisan nonsense. For example, Trump/Russia conspiracies from the left; Pizzagate on the right.”

    Well, in the absence of strong evidence either way, why is the theory (which I don’t believe, btw) of a Trump/Putin axis “absurd”? It’s either true or false, but neither sensible nor absurd as a theory. I think it’s an analytical error to treat theories like *cultural artifacts* and judge them aesthetically. The theory that Bill Cosby was drugging and raping dozens of women, over the years, would have seemed absurd in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s… now it’s just grotesquely (apparently) true.

    And: re: Pizzagate: beyond the absurd name, nothing is absurd about the theory that pedophilia happens at social levels higher than the Ozarks; the eerily untouchable Jimmy Savile and (rather less successful) Marc Dutroux should teach us that.

  25. Well, just quickly, sometimes “absurd conspiracy theories” turn out to be true, right? I mean, if you’ve read something like Joan Didion’s book Miami, about the CIA’s connections to the Bay of Pigs, it is very clear that there are often shadowy and nefarious forces at work behind historical events. I’m not talking JFK claptrap or that the moon landing was filmed in a basement in Montana, but Trump/Russia was mentioned and that’s a very undecided area, no?
    I had a close friend in finance who a while back (long before Trump got into politics) mentioned that Trump owes a bunch of money to Russian banks, like close to a billion $ or more, and it is widely known in financial circles that the US banks wouldn’t lend to him anymore after all his bankruptcies so he went to the Russians. Trump’s true net worth (before becoming president) was pretty close to zero; all his assets were offset by the Russian debt. It wouldn’t surprise me either if the Russians had something on him, a tape of him doing something really bad (not just sexual weirdness), probably also involving that Jeffrey Epstein guy who, ironically, Trump tried to smear the Clinton family with. Is it all that “conspiracy theory” to think he’s doing Putin’s bidding? It would explain his horrific national security cabinet picks (all big security risks) and Tillerson. And it wouldn’t shock me at all if Putin uses the Trump presidency as his chance to invade Ukraine and/or the Baltics.

  26. Toad,

    I’ve long thought that despite their self-conception as tough pragmatists, conservatives are the real pie-in-the-sky idealists. Most of their policy positions (such as they are) are wishful. Take abortion, for example–the pro-life position is largely fanciful and rooted in a conception of what should happen in a perfect world, i.e. every baby is healthy, important, wanted, and capable of being cared for. The pro-choice position is, in fact, much more realistic, i.e. babies are not that important, especially unborn ones, and especially unwanted unborn ones.

    But this wishfulness tracks through most of their positions, from climate change to race relations, and especially to their most cherished financial beliefs. If you cut taxes on the wealthy, they will reinvest in the economy and that wealth will be enjoyed by the less wealthy. On its face, this is a nice idea. Like most of their ideas, it becomes sinister when it is disproven time and again and survives as an unslayable zombie belief, owing its continued existence to infantile self-regard, denial, and general callousness.

  27. Steven,

    Though I often enjoy and feel edified by your political posting, I do think you have an unfortunate tendency to paint people as credulous morons and political belief systems as black or white. Or just black. To wit, I live in an extremely liberal area and no one I knew, myself included, thought HRC was even close to an ideal presidential nominee. But she was clearly way more qualified (btw, her qualifications included serving in the Senate and as Sec of State, not just her saying she was qualified) than the alternative, in terms of practical experience and disposition, and I trusted her to engage in actual diplomacy with other nations, not to try to dismantle the ACA, to nominate a non-insane SC justice or two, etc. I understand that you believe she and Bill (and all presidents) are mass murderers, and that the whole system is rigged and stinks, points of view I’m somewhat though not entirely sympathetic with. Nevertheless elections have consequences, as do policy positions, and when incompetent venal idiots are running the show, our lives get measurably worse.

    I’ll even give Trump voters the benefit of the doubt and say I don’t think most of them thought he hung the moon, or that the Apprentice was even good TV. They just hated Hillary and wanted someone different in the White House.

  28. Also, comparing Trump/Russia to Pizzagate is bizarre. We already know that Trump’s campaign had a great deal of contact with the Russians, that he has undisclosed business dealings there, that he sang Putin’s praises, that his campaign manager ran the elections of oligarchs for a decade, etc. How is this remotely comparable to a rumor ginned up by a white supremacist website, popularized for keks on 4chan, and disseminated by Alex Jones?

    Waving away the absurdity of the rumor by saying there’s nothing absurd about the idea that powerful people engaging in pedophilia is intellectually dishonest. The actual rumor itself was absurd. Going back to my last post, I sense in your political comments the everpresent urge to equate both sides of the aisle, to see progressives as an unwitting mirror image of the right. But it just ain’t so–one of our political parties is basically insane and the other is not. Which is not to say it’s good, or admirable, or ideal, or anything else. But it ain’t soda crackers, shit-eating bonkers.

  29. Swog, I encourage you to check out Louise Mensch for some Putin absurdity. The campaign connection is one thing, and needs to be investigated; “Putin killed Andrew Breitbart” and “there’s video of Trump getting peed on by hookers” is every bit as ludicrous as Pizzagate, sorry.

    Re: working both sides of the aisle, guilty as charged, I suppose. But with every day of the Trumo admin it’s more clear to me that he is the logical conclusion of the last 3+ decades of US politics. And the party distinction is not as meaningful and clean as you suggest – Trump was far more left than Clinton on trade, for example; Obama was “at war” with/bombing more countries and for longer than GWB; Bill Clinton’s crime bill is Jeff Sessions-esque; on and on. I cannot get behind the GOP’s hypocrisy, cruelty, and ignorance; but nor am I going to get excited about the Dems righteous platform of….not being Trump. Both parties have failed us; to different degrees, certainly, but the end result is the same.

  30. Toad,

    I hadn’t heard of those rumors. They sound stupid. The difference is that Louise Mensch is a fringe left-wing journo peddling fringe theories. The right is all fringe, all fringe theories.

    I’m not suggesting the party distinction is always meaningful and clean, nor do I think the democratic party have been marvelous stewards of our collective future. But I do think throwing your hands up and saying it’s all the same is a cop-out, not to mention demonstrably false on many, many levels. I doubt, for instance, you would feel this way if you were one of millions of people with a preexisting condition who will lose their health coverage if Ryancare pt Deux somehow gets through Congress. I doubt you would feel that way if you were a woman watching Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote against Roe v Wade. These are real differences, and I think it does a disservice to people in the trenches with real stuff at stake to take the “They’re all the same” position, however similar they may be at times.

  31. Swog!

    ” I do think you have an unfortunate tendency to paint people as credulous morons and political belief systems as black or white.”

    Nah, not morons. Just effectively brainwashed. Time and time again, the brainwashing causes people to expect great (or decent) things from these figureheads when they elect them to higher office… and then to somehow miss or ignore the evidence when these figureheads are caught, yet again, red handed, committing terrible crimes that should not only disqualify them from *any* job higher than janitor but land them in federal prison. If the terrible state of current reality is not a persuasive argument to that effect, Swog, I don’t know what will sway you on that. With all due respect, your projected sense of what’s plausible or even just likely, regarding such crimes, is more to do with your comfort zone, I think, than any indications from History itself.

  32. Swog, I understand your point, and as I said there are different degrees to the failures of our political system…but your belief that the only party screwing over the people is the GOP. is, well, naive at best. If you were a mother on welfare when Clinton “ended [it] as we know it,” would you say “well, better than the Repubs doing it?” If you were handed a draconian penalty for a drug offense under Clinton’s crime bill? If you were a homeowner whose house was foreclosed upon while Obama let bankers keep their bonuses? If you were a Yemeni civilian whose family was killed by an Obama bomb? We can play your game all day, unfortunately.

    My point in all this is to say that the roots of our country’s problems go much deeper than red vs. blue. The solution is not to simply swap out one plutocrat politician for another, like we’ve been doing for decades – but in the current hyperpartisan environment, I’m sure we’re going to keep doing it over and over again and wondering why nothing seems to get any better.

    Re: Mensch, I mean, the NY Times gave her a column a couple months ago. That’s much more frightening than a bunch of Pepes cooking up absurdity on random 4chan boards.

  33. Toad,

    I don’t believe it’s only the GOP screwing people over, apologies if that’s how I’ve come off. I mean, if HRC was any further in Goldman Sachs’ pocket she would have fallen out their pants leg.

    But yeah, I do think the GOP screws people over worse than democrats, absolutely. I think the GOP believes in actively dismantling government and any of the basic protections it affords people. They are extremist neoliberal kooks to almost a man, who believe in the magic of the free market and prayer. I think democrats sincerely believe government should exist and do things, and as many examples as you can find of democrats hurting people or advocating bad policies, this remains a significant and important difference.

    In short, if you liken our current political situation to having cancer, democrats are some form of possibly ineffective chemotherapy with a sprinkiing of laetrile, and the GOP is a rasher of bacon and carton of Marlboro Reds.

  34. SH

    No need to apologize to me, of all people. Seems like we aren’t too far apart here – I mean, yeah, I tend to vote D as they tend to be lesser of two evils…but that’s a pretty fucked way of voting…the question is what can be done. Hard to be optimistic on this front…unless I run for Prez myself….

  35. We are, after all Americans (apologies to any who are not). I guess the best thing we can do is find a way to get along in a very polarized time. I believe we all want America to be the best it can be, but we have very different ways of how to get there. I don’t mind joining hands and singing Kum-bay-yah if I thought it would do any good.

  36. Again comments exhaust me, i would rather concentrate on the article. But I must say this: the current administration has NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE DOING. Read, read, read, read, read.. And if you can’t read, watch John Oliver (lol). Kirk, I sense an olive branch, or at least the recognition that we all want to live without adulation of any one leader, and to hold all leaders accountable. There are not two different schools of thought (republican and democrats), rather there are thousands of opinions and versions of what makes us human. Just be good and decent! Eeeyah, are we capable of that?? I fear we are not.

  37. I know there are friends I could vent this too, but Trump? Come on! He is not just repulsive in voice and gesture, but his lack of knowledge (history) is staggering.

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