Race Realism in a Dirty Book

Irish Famine Memorial

A Facebook connection led me to author, Taleeb Starkes, whose Amazon page praises as being a ‘race realist’. Remember that scene in Star Wars where Han Solo says, “I have a bad feeling about this?” right before the trash compactor mashes down on them? ‘Race realist’ had the feel of something bad and rancid.

Sure enough, ‘race realism’ is the kind of science where you make your conclusion first and find evidence second. The conclusion being that you can assign people to ‘races’ and decide at a glance whether they are good people or bad. Since this is already going on, it is convenient to give it scientific blessing.

Taleeb Starkes might not describe himself as a ‘race realist’. But this is the company he keeps. He is a columnist for a website that posts news about Black violent crime. Nationally.

I grew up in a white neighborhood and there was crime. Break-ins, rape, drug-dealing. There was a sense that we were better, it was much worse in the city where those people lived. And once we were convinced, confirmation bias kicked in. Back in those days the Providence Journal would report that a ‘black’ man robbed a convenience store or whatever. See?? More proof!

Stuff happens in our own neighborhood? Well, boys will be boys. And she was asking for it. It’s the double standard, innocent until proved guilty, or guilty until proved innocent.

The history of racism in America, what Condolezza Rice called a ‘birth defect’, is still an open wound.

It may be helpful to take a step back and look at a society where color prejudice was not the issue. Where people who were ethnically no different than 2 pieces of Wonder Bread in a plastic bag kept a vicious war going for centuries.

The passage I remember most vividly from the 1920′s scandalous book, ‘Lady Chatterly’s Lover’, was not the frank sex. It was Chapter 3 where Constance Chatterly decides to take a walk on the wild side and miscegenate with an IRISHMAN!!! She practically had to put on a biohazard suit before shaking hands with such, because the Irish are SO DIFFERENT.

Shmoop.com has a chapter by chapter commentary that is worth reading for both accuracy and LOL snark.

Here’s an unpleasant reminder of how a lot of people thought back in 1928: our narrator thinks about Michaelis as having the “silent, enduring beauty of a carved ivory Negro mask […] that momentary but revealed immobility, an immobility, timelessness which the Buddha aims at, and which Negroes express sometimes without ever aiming at it; something old, old, and acquiescent in the race!” (3.30). Racism aside (for now), Connie is attracted to him because he’s such an outsider. Michaelis has a feeling that he’s about to get lucky.

Okay, as far as the Chatterlys are concerned, Michaelis is not their kind. Clifford, Lady Chatterly’s husband, doesn’t like him…

Michaelis arrived duly, in a very neat car, with a chauffeur and a manservant. He was absolutely Bond Street! But at sight of him something in Clifford’s county soul recoiled. He wasn’t exactly… not
exactly…in fact, he wasn’t at all, well, what his appearance intended to imply. To Clifford this was final and enough. Yet he was very polite to the man; to the amazing success in him. The bitch-goddess, as she is
called, of Success, roamed, snarling and protective, round the half-humble, half-defiant Michaelis’ heels, and intimidated Clifford completely: for he wanted to prostitute himself to the bitch-goddess, Success also, if only she would have him.

Michaelis obviously wasn’t an Englishman, in spite of all the tailors, hatters, barbers, booters of the very best quarter of London. No, no, he obviously wasn’t an Englishman: the wrong sort of flattish, pale face and bearing; and the wrong sort of grievance. He had a grudge and a grievance: that was obvious to any true-born English gentleman, who would scorn to let such a thing appear blatant in his own demeanour.
Poor Michaelis had been much kicked, so that he had a slightly tail-between-the-legs look even now. He had pushed his way by sheer instinct and sheerer effrontery on to the stage and to the front of it,with his plays. He had caught the public. And he had thought the kicking days were over. Alas, they weren’t… They never would be. For he, in a sense, asked to be kicked. He pined to be where he didn’t belong…among the English upper classes. And how they enjoyed the various kicks they got at him! And how he hated them!

Nevertheless he traveled with his manservant and his very neat car,this Dublin mongrel. Thank you Project Gutenberg for putting this text online.

If you put on your high boots and wade through this stuff, it’s a pretty good exposure of racist thinking. I think that D.H.Lawrence must have been running a double satire of both the smug Englishman and the striving Irishman.

The problem is, English bigotry got a lot of Irish people killed.

In 1845 an agricultural disaster hit Ireland, the Great Hunger. Their staple crop was lost to blight. The English, who had the means to aid their neighbors, instead blamed them for this natural disaster. They were so convinced that the Irish were by nature lazy and improvident, that they withheld food for the starving. As Irish society collapsed the British fed them with sermons on self-sufficiency and blocked efforts by other nations to help them. The Irish diaspora brought my family here. The Irish national trauma fueled a guerilla war that raged into the 1970′s.

Yes, there were Irish terrorists. Yes, there were Irish acting out the worst stereotypes. Lawrence’s cruel rant against the Irish had a power to harm in England in 1928. In America in 2014 I just shake my head and laugh. After all, we had our Irish president.

Today we have our Black president. He took office as the American economy teetered on a cliff and pulled us back from disaster. He has had to work with a Congress that preferred shutdown to cooperation. He is the only president whose citizenship was ever questioned. He takes criticism from the Right and from the Left.

The presidency of Barack Obama has seen a rise in incidents of ugly and overt racism. We are also in a time where economic inequality worsens as the middle class struggles for employment and security. The time is ripe for a scapegoat.

Beware of calling on old ghosts. Racism is far from dead, and racist slurs can still harm. We have always aspired to be a society of fairness and equal opportunity, of justice and rights under law. To throw that away because of hard times and a nasty national mood will only leave our children to fight the battle, because people will always strive for respect.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, August 31, 2014

the empress

High summer with a hint of Fall.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, August 30,2014

4 of pentacles

Today’s card is the IV of Pentacles, one of the more easy to read on the face of it. Miserliness, selfishness and building a wall of material wealth against the rest of the world. It’s not a happy card, as the central figure has his feet, hands and head weighed down by golden coins. He sits in a field of grey under a grey sky. Behind him the city, with all its risks and opportunities, is shining with colors and banners, but he sits with his back turned. He wears the crown of inherited privilege, and his robe is as red as blood. Clinging to an unfair advantage forces him to create a world where he is perpetually fighting off threats to his property, and where he perpetually strokes his own sense of superiority over those who have less. He wears a crown, but has no use for his power except to protect the status quo. That is why he is frozen on his throne.

He is a warning against clinging to unearned privilege, and the cost of denial.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, August 29, 2014

Strength

Today’s Tarot is from the Major Arcana, VIII Strength. A woman closed the mouth of a lion, who licks her hand. It’s the power of self-control, fearlessness and trust. Both the woman and the lion illustrate these qualities. This is a card of inner strength, also a card of overcoming patterns of opposition and separateness– at risk on both sides. She is not a lion-tamer with a whip, she is using the power of touch, empathy and love.

More connections and meanings for this lovely card are found here at Tarot, The Royal Road.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, August 28, 2014

7 of swords

Today’s Tarot is the VII of Swords, deception, using the enemy’s own weapons against him. In this case, a class-stratified, masculinist society allows children to be exploited, then blames the human-rights movements of recent decades.

This week the news broke about Rotherham, a town in England that ignored child sexual abuse, torture and exploitation for 16 years. It hardly seem believable. This story cries out for real news reporters to get past the ‘what’ to the ‘how’ and ‘why’ parents and authorities allowed this organized crime to hide in plain sight. Perhaps a clue is ‘organized’. There are parallels to the Catholic Church scandals and other religious and secular groups that sell an alternate version of reality to adults while isolating children. Just a quick read suggests that the perpetrators targeted vulnerable children. The ‘delinquents’ and those whose parents were not able or willing to protect them. Their child protective system clearly failed, as did their law enforcement, and their schools as well.

I first heard this story on NPR, which was parroting the Daily Mail’s conclusion that anti-racism is to blame even though there were two previous reports of child abuse that the town authorities failed to act on.
From the Daily Mail-

The sexual abuse of about 1,400 children at the hands of Asian men went unreported for 16 years because staff feared they would be seen as racist, a report said today.
Children as young as 11 were trafficked, beaten, and raped by large numbers of men between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, the council commissioned review into child protection revealed.
And shockingly, more than a third of the cases were already know to agencies.
But according to the report’s author: ‘several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist’.

The Daily Mail is what you would get if Fox News married the National Enquirer. It’s discouraging to hear NPR mindlessly repeating what the Daily Mail cherry-picked from a complex story that will ultimately show failures on every level. Child abuse? Never happened before those politically correct anti-racists made the authorities too afraid to pursue criminals with brown skins. That’s why British prisons are whiter than a bake sale in Utah. Oh, wait, not.

This is the same country where a Brazilian man was shot multiple times in the head by police because he was seen running to catch a subway train. And an American Fox News commentator responded with admiration, because even though de Menezez was innocent the British cops were man enough to shoot first and ask questions later.

But the Daily Mail wants the public to know that the way to protect the children is MORE RACISM! It’s just a shame that NPR did not apply their BS filter before reporting this story, or even check the source.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, August 27, 2014

9 of wands

Today’s Tarot is the IX of Wands. According to ‘A Feminist Tarot’ by Gearhart and Rennie, this card illustrates the knocks taken from our own comrades in the greater struggle. But today when I look at this I see the struggle itself that is as relentless as the tide. At a cost, the situation has been brought under temporary control. All the wands are in a row.

The Tarot is a rich source of archetypal imagery from Western culture. For many of us it is deeply familiar. The cards make excellent writing prompts, as Jessa Crispin wrote in last Sunday’s New York Times blog. I totally will be that kind of card reader in my post-retirement years, gods willing.

But the cards are only cards. Sometimes I look for symbols of ideas that I don’t find well-represented in the Tarot. Like solidarity among workers.

If I ever design my own deck I will include a barn-raising card. Communal labor in a common purpose. Connections and coalitions. If you don’t find what you need in the old scriptures you can always write new ones. That’s the eternal process.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, August 26, 2014

3 of pentacles

Today’s Tarot is III of Pentacles. Sometimes you have to work to specifications, in systems you didn’t invent. The results can be beautiful if you have good tools and the right skills.

Today in vice-

Science Daily reports that reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is associated with lousy mental health. Reading all 3 books is worse than 1. Jeeze, what will happen when the film comes out?

But medical marijuana is associated with fewer opiate overdose deaths.

Anyway, is it worth sweating it to stay healthy when super-massive black holes are gobbling stars like potato chips? How do we know that we won’t be next?

If we don’t do ourselves in first. A ruptured tank at a New Mexico nuclear waste dump exposed workers and the surrounding area to radiation. How much? Well, someone had the week off so it didn’t get measured.

I’m going to go to work now, where what I build may last only minutes when other factors screw up what looked like good plans. Or a life may be saved. Not in my control, just have to do it the best I can.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, August 25, 2014

page of cups

Today’s Tarot is the Page of Cups. Water is associated with intuition, the unconscious. The Page holds a chalice of water with a fish peeking out. Behind her rolling waves under a grey sky may foretell storm. Is she standing on solid ground, or on a raft?

Perhaps the lack of cues allows the creative mind to entertain possibilities as unlikely as a message from the ocean in your water glass. The Page appears calm, even cheerful. The card is auspicious.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, August 24, 2014

mizpah

There’s a story behind this for sure.

T. Francis Hackett, beloved husband, reaches his carved hand across the memorial to wife Araletta, for the hand of John M. Haggerty, beloved friend. Above them is the Hebrew word, ‘Mizpah’.

And what is ‘Mizpah’? Per Wikipedia, in category, ‘emotional bond’,

Mizpah is Hebrew for “watchtower.” As mentioned in the Bible, it marked an agreement between two men, with God as their witness.

Araletta C. Dingwell survived them both. Was it she who designed this 3-person memorial? She must have been the one who ensured that it was placed there in Riverside Cemetery to mark the resting place of these intertwined lives.

There is a long inscription on the stone–

SOMETIME WE’LL UNDERSTAND
WHY LIFE’S GOLDEN CHAIN IS BROKEN
AND NEVER CAN BE MENDED
TILL CHRIST SHALL CLASP THE CHAIN STILL CLOSER
WHEN WE MEET IN THE SWEET BYE AND BYE
THE BEAUTIFUL ISLE OF SOMEWHERE
NEVER TO PART AGAIN

The phrases, ‘Sweet Bye and Bye’ and ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere’ are Christian hymns, but rather adaptable to other religious concepts.

The phrase, ‘Life’s Golden Chain’ is echoed here-

Love is the golden chain that binds
The happy souls above
And he’s an heir of heaven that finds
His bosom glow with love


Why She Became a Spiritualist: twelve lectures delivered before the Minneapolis association of spiritualists

Abby Ann Judson, 1895

The decades after the Civil War were years of recovery from national trauma. Spiritualism gave some comfort to the countless souls who were bereaved in the War and after, with hope that their loved ones survived in a better place. The displacement of ordinary relationships brings loss, but also freedom to build new connections.

What kind of relationship does this gravestone memorialize? T. Francis Hackett died at age 22, when his wife Araletta was 25. John M. Haggerty would have been only 17 at the time. Did the two men love each other for the brief time they shared on earth? their carved hands reach not to Araletta, but across her name to each other. John Haggerty passed at age 55, leaving Araletta alone at 63, she lived to age 77.

And does it mean anything that she did not take the name of her ‘beloved husband’ on her memorial, or was she following the custom of using her maiden name there? Or was there another husband whose mark on her life was not important enough to carve in stone?

The 3 linked lives did not leave a mark on history, all there is to remember them is a gravestone and a mystery.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, August 23, 2014

Temperance

Today’s card is from the Major Arcana, XIV Temperance. The message is balance and integration of the body and mind, internal and external, person and community. Temperance is a refuge from swinging between extremes.

A recent medical study shows that ‘lifestyle’, by which is meant decent food and some exercise, has a measurable effect on how many days people spend in the hospital.

We know that already anyway. Temperance is a discipline and not always easy, especially in a society that runs more and more on addiction. Workaholics, adrenaline junkies– why do we have these concepts if not for a constant swing from crisis to crisis?

It’s hard for us to find the middle way. Historically, the Temperance Movement of the 19th Century didn’t stop at moderation in alcohol use– they went straight ahead to Prohibition. And we know how that turned out.

Now we have that dumb phrase, ‘zero tolerance’– sounds tough but in most cases is too rigid to implement. There’s plenty of things we shouldn’t tolerate, but ordinary humans are never perfect in anything and it only confuses the issue to pretend that we are.

Coming down off a stressy week, looking for Temperance, think I’ll ride my bike.

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