Sociologist, Hip Hop educator, strategist, media analyst, realist, writer, Capricorn, Black & proud..lover of life,music & people.Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Racialization of a Nation
Prior to the 2012 election, I posted a blog titled 2012: A Year of Reckoning, Awakening, or Both? — Examining White Supremacy, Corporate Fascism and the Generational Shift Defining the Political Landscape (1).
Because it is still relevant in today’s political climate, I am reposting excerpts here with some added contemporary context.
Self inflicted wounds may be the most difficult to heal, psychologically at least. Since its inception, the United States has lived with a self inflicted wound that has defined every aspect of this society, most importantly, the distribution and control of all economic and political resources. The racialization of this nation (or the color line as W.E.B. DuBois called it) continues to plague this country (and the globe more broadly) and the election of the first biracial president did nothing to change that reality.
But what elections won’t address, time eventually will in one way or another. As students of history, we are able to examine the effects of time and see that while it may be hard to see and feel change in the here and now, change does happen nevertheless. Historical factors are changing right before our eyes — namely the decline of the U.S. empire and shifting demographics. The results will define this country’s trajectory for the foreseeable future and could foster a progressive movement of the likes we have not seen in a generation. But backlash has thwarted progressive movements before, and it will this time again if the power of narrative building and cultural strategies are not properly understood.
After the 2010 election when the Tea Party swept into power, Colorlines.com published an interview w/ hip hop scholar Jeff Chang. The title of the article was It’s Bigger than Politics, the Real Shift is Cultural (2). In this interview, Chang argued that the culture wars were back, and basically a backlash to the election of Obama. He also stated that culture always moves before politics.
Culture impacts and often precedes political change….Or put in another way, political change is the final manifestation of cultural shifts that have already occurred.
Chang argues that the right understands the importance of culture and narrative building much better than progressives in either electoral or movement politics.
Sadly most progressives — whether they work in electoral politics or movement politics — have not yet figured culture into their theory of change. Unlike the right, they have no cultural strategy…..One thing progressives need to do is to understand the importance of expressing our hopes and dreams in narratives. Progressives misunderstand culture. The right is clear about it — Beck, Brietbart, and O’Reilly were long in the creation; they are the products of a four-decade long conservative movement building initiative. We need to build up an infrastructure that includes cultural strategy. We focus on facts and figures, but stories are what move the country. Culture is where ideas are introduced, values are inculcated, and emotions are attached to concrete change. It is where the national imagination gets moved. So we need a cultural strategy.
My work on hip hop and mobilization has brought me to the same conclusion.
I teach a course titled Sociology of Media and Popular Culture: Examining Hip Hop. In it, we discuss the theoretical foundation of media studies and the importance of examining media on three levels: production “the who” (who owns/produces media), content “the what” (what we get/see in media) and context “the how” (refers to the audience interpretation of media/ how audience understands media messages). That third level of analysis explains how one message can be understood very differently depending on the audience’s interpretation of it…which is a function of the (cultural — all encompassing) lens through which they view messages.
For those that think critically, including sociologists, moving beyond the “what” level to examine “who” is in control is critical to understanding how the status quo power structure remains so entrenched. Much of our sociological analyses focus on the producers of our social woes — the corporate elite (1%), imperialists, corporate media, fascist governments, white supremacists, racists, democrats, republicans, Obama, and now Trump….and so on.
Social structure we call it. It can change, but not easily, and definitely not overnight. What we have not developed as well is our third level of analysis…our third eye if you will. And as they say, context is everything. Power brokers (producers) and their power (content) may not change overnight, but how they are perceived and received can change everything. This is where a cultural strategy must come in.
The Emperor Has No Clothes: Hegemony Ends, Fascism Begins
While fewer and fewer control the world’s resources, the world has become more open in other ways, specifically due to technology. Disney was right: It’s a small world after all. || Technology has forever changed the power to control information. Propaganda is still a viable tool via media framing, but with technology, information comes quickly and much more freely via a number of sources. The status quo power structure will have to take more drastic means to maintain its control; hence more infractions on civil liberties, police state tactics, etc.
Power via acceptance of dominant narratives is slowly eroding…people are waking up and losing faith in so-called leadership, especially politicians.
The more people challenge the system, the more police state tactics are employed. People now know better and must be physically controlled where mental control was all that was needed before. People are being beaten more because they are fighting back more.
Instead of building our own back door in compliance with a system never for us, police are forced to guard the front door with heavy artillery (see Carter G. Woodson’s Miseducation of the Negro). While it may not feel like it, this is progress. Military power is still power — a force to reckoned with to be sure…but with military power comes constant warfare — that type of power is always in danger of a coup…or a revolution…or friendly fire..a self inflicted wound that can fester and undermine its own prowess. Hegemonic power, on the other hand, remains emboldened as long as all believe in the system as such. Hegemonic power is not challenged if it is accepted as legitimate and right.
Fear of a Black/Brown/Yellow/Red Planet
Census data shows us that fewer white babies are born today than babies of color. Whether the spike in hate groups and the recent mass shootings linked to white supremacists are manifestations of “white angst” over this reality or not can be debated, but much of the cultural strategy on the right seems to be a direct reaction to the shifting demographics. Nativist movements like the tea party exploit white fear to maintain a system of white supremacy in a country getting browner everyday.
With social media, the left is able to react quicker to many of the short term battles the right has waged. As well, demographic shifts and technology make it more difficult for one narrative to take hold and be the only story people get. This bolds well for short term battles, mostly the social issues. As well, with the new cultural majority (3), the demographic arc bends toward justice, but with ongoing economic uncertainty (with no end in sight), people’s fears can and will be exploited. Those that build the most compelling narrative will seize the nation’s imagination.
Cultural Strategies Matter
The march to fascism that today’s politics embodies is explained by demography and culture…a proxy war if you will. Basically, nativism v. pluralism has become a proxy war for the real war over the central organizing principle for power: white supremacy v. globalism.
Since Obama’s election in 2008, the right has relaunched their cultural strategy to ensure white supremacy remains power’s central organizing principle. We can look to Trump’s electoral win as their latest “success”. Trump’s inner circle of Bannon (self identified Leninist and economic nationalist), Pence (Christian fundamentalist), Priebus (GOP party guy), Paul Ryan (Ayn Rand libertarian) along with Trump (eugenicist/ narcissist/kleptocrat) all together are like the guardians of white supremacy…lol.
THE RIGHT: PRIVATIZE, PRIVATIZE, PRIVATIZE
The right’s cultural strategy involves both short term and long term objectives. The short term strategy consists of taking advantage of the 2010 gains at the local and state levels as well as tapping into white angst via nativist movements like the tea party [Trump rode shorter term strategy (nativism) all the way to the White House with his anti-immigrant, America first cultural strategy. His win is rooted in the narratives spread by right wing propaganda outlets]. In a Vox article (dated January 30, 2017), Daniel Kreiss, states:
For Bannon and Trump’s core group of supporters, the president’s victory was a rejection of multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, and globalization, and the triumph of white, Christian populist nationalism.
But given the generational shift, especially on social issues, the right has also embraced a long term cultural strategy which is best understood by the Koch brothers agenda and Ron’s Paul’s Revolution; namely, libertarianism with buzz words of anti-government, freedom, rugged individualism, free market capitalism, and privatization of all things. This is a long term strategy that keeps resources in the hands of few but promotes universal ideals that can transcend race, gender, sexual orientation, and age (generations). In this long term strategy, the privatization of all publically controlled and resourced entities is promoted (Medicare, Social Security, Education, etc.). Again, privatization offers the right a way to control resources (and bodies) despite demographic changes. Because cities are the demographic and economic force of today’s world, nativism will only work for short term chaos which is why the Koch brothers are putting lots of money into political lobbying and universities, and do not support Trump’s protectionism. Ironically, the Koch brothers libertarianism is losing the right’s internal cultural (strategy) war due to the nativist movement they helped create through the tea party….lol, fitting.
Because the New Cultural Majority is younger and more progressive, the window of opportunity for the right to implement this long term strategy is closing quickly and they realize it. If there seems to be some fervor on the right to roll back civil rights or push through unpopular legislation, it is for a reason. Time is of the essence. But it is equally of the essence for progressives of the LEFT as well.
THE LEFT: ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE
Succinctly stated, the left cannot depend on the weakening of the nation-state and shifting demographics alone to foster progressive social change. Demographic shift or not, white supremacy can and will manifest itself for generations to come via resource distribution and control. The LONG TERM war, the end of racialization of resources and the real healing of the wound that continues to plague this country will only be healed through changing attitudes, context, narrative building and cultural work.
Given today’s political reality, the SHORT TERM strategy must include a focus on local community building and promotion of sustainable cultures. Basically our focus should be on localization — satisfying our basic needs within the bounds of our local environment. But we must develop a coherent LONG TERM cultural strategy as well. Sustaining movements and building collaborative coalitions will be critical to this long term cultural strategy. I am heartened by the youth led organizing of the last few years as well as the protests since Trump’s inauguration, and I believe we will win. But we must stay vigilant and constantly engaged to sustain people power. If we do not and the right is able to successfully privatize education, and subsequently Medicare and social security, game over. Or as I recommend to my students, have an exit strategy in place. You will find me in Ocho Rios.
- Find original article here.
- Find article here.
- The New Cultural Majority represents a generational and demographic shift of this nation to pluralism. In broad terms, it is less religious, more tolerant, less homophobic, and more open to diversity. With a large percentage of the global population, metropolitan cities symbolize this new cultural majority.
For more, visit UTN360.org.