White Liberals Self-Soothing: A Sprinkle of Myrdal, Dash of Marshall Plan & Trump Trashing Empire
I was taken aback by Paul Krugman’s rather thoughtless choice of Gunnar Myrdal’s American Dilemma as a balance to America’s shinier moments, in order to draw a line to Trump and “failed empire.”
In, Fall of The American Empire, New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman writes:
“… but when the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote his 1944 book about our “Negro problem,” he called it “An American Dilemma,” because he viewed us as a nation whose civilization had a “flavor of enlightenment” and whose citizens were aware at some level that our treatment of blacks was at odds with our principles.”
This needs examination.
Where to begin…
How about the Great Recession? Black unemployment was double that of whites’. How about the nearly complete loss of Black Americans’ wealth to the Great Recession? Poverty the likes of which one sees only in the third world?
Myrdal’s “book” was no mere tome. It was a study, commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation and Myrdal was chosen to conduct it. Myrdal worked with Ralph Bunche, a scholar and activist, to research and then produce what would become “An American Dilemma.” Bunche’s contributions to the study were very significant, at more than 3,000 pages of work.
What about police brutality since the 2014 Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri? The subsequent discovery by DOJ of St. Louis County’s scheme to boost its tax revenue through the arrest, exhorbitant fining, and jailing of its poorest Black citizens?
Fast forward to 2015 and reporting on third-world level poverty in Baltimore following the killing of Freddie Gray by rough police van ride? How about the fact that of the dozens of killings of innocent Blacks in the last ten years, less than a handful of officers were prosecuted, never mind found guilty and jailed.
What about Black men who were jailed for decades, on death row, and released into society with nothing more than bus fare?
Black teens taken from the street and held for years in solitary?
How about the environmental racism that was the poisoning of the water supply in Detroit?
Where is Black America’s Marshall Plan? Where is Black America’s relief from both white liberal and conservative burden?
Krugman’s use of iffy language to the effect that we meant well even though we didn’t quite come through is as unacceptable as Hillary Clinton telling a Black radio audience “maybe I should talk to white people…” the day after two Black men were killed by police in September 2016.
How about Clinton telling a newly freed, wrongfully incarcerated man that she couldn’t get behind eliminating the death penalty?
In the proper context, Krugman’s foggy musings on a benign empire that never was, are surreal:
“The Pax Americana was a sort of empire; certainly America was for a long time very much first among equals. But it was by historical standards a remarkably benign empire, held together by soft power and respect rather than force.”
That empire, built on the backs of indigenous Americans and Africans, was not benign – not by any stretch of the haziest of imaginations – nor was it held by soft power or respect. No sir! It was and still is held by the iron hand of the police and carceral states.
What other free countries spend billions to snoop on their citizens, jailing them while feeding them meals barely fit for a child? What other nations, free or not, would separate brown mothers and fathers from their children, put the kids in tents with minders who are forbidden to give them the one thing a child needs: comfort?
We shouldn’t need to go to Nazi Germany to learn about the centuries long policy of systematic separation of enslaved Africans from their children at very early ages.
The Intercept reports that five members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus protested and shouted at Trump as he left a meeting, holding signs that read, “Families Belong Together.” The No. 2 Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer, found the tactics “not appropriate.”
We continue to be a nation with mismatched ideals and behaviors. We want lofty ideals but elect officials to carry out regressive policies. We want to race to the top, but expect the runners to go barefoot. In Alabama, hookworm still exists because the poor are expected to do their own sanitation. Decades old books are used in many schools across states. How lofty is that? We need to look in the mirror when it isn’t fogged up by romanticized memories. Trump didn’t get here for no reason.
This use of Blackness for the purpose of propaganda works on people who don’t want to face the truth, disgusts those who mean well and those who know, by virtue of their own lived lives, that this is not America.
Our side is supposed to be the better side, more enlightened, aware, and completely averse to using Blackness for the purposes of propaganda and self-soothing in the age of Trump. Our side is supposed to understand the inherent wrong in the politics of racial divide and conquer. It’s supposed to be the other side’s thing, right?
Coming to terms with a less than perfect past will take the next generation a long time to fix what neoliberalism has broken. This is how white Liberals self-soothe in these Trumpian times; A sprinkle of Gunnar Myrdal, some Marshall Plan greatness, mixed in with loud, chest thumping cries about Trump trashing our poor lost empire. The combination of racism and greed isn’t a left-right thing. This is us. Without truth, reconciliation, and reparations, a house built on lies will not unite.
I’ve been awake these last ten years. Et tu, Professor?
This blog is supported by readers like you. It is my work.
Please become a subscriber with as little as a $1-5 monthly PayPal or Patreon subscription.