Monday, February 8, 2010

Jim Crow 2.0: Tom Tancredo, Tea Party Opening Speaker Calls for Return to Poll Taxes and Literacy Tests

I am watching the PBS special on African American military service as I post this. I will have something more substantive to say later on, but I wanted Tancredo's speech to stand with little comment. Well, I reserve the right to modify that statement one bit: Do they know what they say? Do they hate us that much? Or is this a type of coincidental White Nationalism where their bigotry is accidental and coincidental.

Funny, in watching "For Love of Liberty," I can't help but smile because we loved a country that did not love us back. Doubly funny, Black Americans were serving this country and have far deeper and greater justice claims to citizenship than Tancredo's ancestors, the castoff dregs of Europe who arrived here long after we had been here at least a century or more. Oh the glorious delusions afforded by the whiteness of memory, it must be grand to have such a privilege.

Black Americas, Native Americans, and those few White folk who can trace their lineage back to the Mayflower or Jamestown are the original Americans. In a grand irony, those unwashed masses who came through Ellis island think that this is "their" country and we Black folk are just guests.

If measured by blood, labor, and time on the ground, this is more our country than theirs. I wonder if THEY understand that fact. I also wonder how many Black folk understand and embrace this truth?


The Good Reverend Doctor said...


gordon gartrelle said...

As you know, Chauncey, I've never agreed with your take on ancestry and nationality.

I share your disdain for those who use the myth of the noble (European) immigrant to reinforce white supremacist narratives, but arguing about which group can more rightfully claim (stolen) land is a sketchy endeavor, isn't it?

One minute you're critiquing the specious racialist claims about nationality, blood citizenship, & patriotism; the next, you're using that very language to carve out your position.

You talk about the descendants of Euros and Africans as if they bear the sins of their ancestors. Here you refer to the European immigrants as "dregs" presumably to slight the quality of the current "stock" of their offspring. And remember how I've condemned your tendency to malign current Africans because "their ancestors sold us into slavery."

This seems to be a blind spot for you. What gives?

chaunceydevega said...

Not a blind spot. It is one of the areas where I see clearest and where I am as deft and dangerous as a caged Bostonian/North Carolinian black puma.

I am being Lockean--we mixed our labor with the land, thus our primary and first claims on citizenship. It is also why I shake my head in disgust at how America cast us as the perennial anti-citizen.

They were dregs. The castoffs of Europe, brigands, the surplus peoples--an unwashed herd. European immigrants had to come to America to become white, and to remake themselves as they forgot their pasts as serfs, exploited labor, and the fodder for warfare between their social betters. Ellison and Baldwin said it better, but I digress.

That is the irony with white racial resentment, especially from white ethnics--they want to assert a right to citizenship that trumps those of Black Americans, and they are hostile to people of people generally. Funny, given that they are the newest arrivals (but don't tell them that).

Don't get me started on the Africans and the "ethnicization" of blackness...

Gordon, you have so much love to give--that is the problem with the radical humanism amongst black folks. We turn the other cheek just to get hit in it.

Bill the Lizard said...

Very interesting discussion, Chauncey! But I must agree with Gordon.

Locke does say that "All wealth is the product of labor." and that "Every man has a property in his own person".

But doesn't he also say that the great rule "that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, is such a fundamental truth for the regulating human society, that, I think, by that alone one might without difficulty determine all the cases and doubts in social morality".

Thus, while I think you're right to point out the stupid and bigoted claims by open or closeted white nationalists, I don't necessarily see strength in your argument that only Black Americans, Native Americans and "those few White folk who can trance their lineage back to the Mayflower or Jamestown" are the original Americans.

My ancestral "dregs" might have been castoffs from continental Europe, but according to Locke's own belief in human tolerance, that doesn't make them any less American, as they are entitled to the exact same wealth through labor and property of person. ;)

chaunceydevega said...

Random point one, black slaves were the property that whites were entitled to, as we were written out the social contract and our labor belonged to our masters.

Random point two: Locke was a white supremacist who helped write the slave codes for Virginia (I believe). He was apparently a celebrity of sorts as an expert on the regulation of slaves and the suppression of insurrections (Locke gained this fame for his handling of Barbados).

BTW like most believers in the consensus liberal tradition I just ignore those parts of the social relationship between theory and practice that are inconvenient for my argument.

Most importantly, I now have two people allying against me! I will have to redouble my efforts and will never surrender.


Bill the Lizard said...

I'll concede your points regarding Locke's character, as many of his writings and theories are very hypocritical when compared to his actions regarding slavery in America.

For example, his part in the Constitution of Carolina. In general, he might not of had a doctrine that justified slavery, but he certainly didn't help himself or act in a manner that stood by his supposed beliefs. In fact, his contradictions regarding race are so palpable that it's really easy to eviscerate him on it.

But, having said that, you were the one who brought him up as justification for your original position of "If measured by blood, labor, and time on the ground, this is more our country than theirs".

:D :D

Thun said...

Hmmm ... claiming a sense of superiority (or maybe simple chauvinism) based upon a claim that your people are the poor, long-suffering but proudly laborious salt of the earth ... Nah, NO KIND OF IRONIC SLIPPERY SLOPE THERE. None at all.

I often wonder how a blog with so many thoughtful, nuanced, literate, and insightful posts also manages to contain such transparently spiteful, juvenile diatribes.

I'm black, btw. This desperate need to cloak our ancestors in the finery of kings to slight the straw man wop or heeb and their own ridiculous ethno-mythology is a little ass-backwards, imho.

chaunceydevega said...


Thanks for the complements! I practice selective listening and reading. But, more seriously, it is interesting that you do not address my central thesis. What of the white reactionaries, and white ethnic reactionaries in particular who place themselves as capital "A" Americans and are ignorant of their own history?

I say punch a bully in their nose. They want this to be "their" country, okay, if that is their play I will in the spirit of poker or spades raise/trump them...using their own logic.

We may have a difference of personal approaches in that regard, but please share why is that so worrisome? Sometimes we can be delicate, but sometimes we need to get in close and dirty box.



Scruffy Scirocco said...

Chauncy, I don't understand your thesis that having your ancestors here longer than another guy gives you some sense of being "more" American than he. How do rate me? I mean, I'm part cherokee indian, an ancestor of mine fought in the Battle of Orange against the British in 1775, yet my Mother came to this country in 1959. And she wasn't a cast-off dreg, she was college educated and came here to get a better job than in her native land. Or I suppose my kids have got even less rights to be called "Americans", because their mother came here in 1991 (Also college educated, but not from Europe).

No, my friend, you're off for a coupel of reasons. First is that I suspect I've been an American longer than you have, we'll have to compare birthdays to see, but the fact is that you nad I have been Americans all our lives, and that's all that really counts.

The second is that your position smacks of a nationalism rooted in the soil, which is a very anachronistic and European way of looking at things. Shame on you for buying into that mindset. America is the only country in the world which is not a PLACE. America is an IDEA. It's a system and set of values that hold dear the ideal of freedom, liberty and equiality for ALL. Yeah, we haven't always lived up to that ideal, but there's only been one perfect person in the world in history, and they nailed him to a cross.

And as for Tancredo's proposal, why should it bother you? I think you would pass a literacy test with flying colors, and there's something to be said for the idea that those who pay the bills to have a bigger say on how the money gets spent. I actually cringe at the idea of some of the trailer trash whites I've seen, or ignorant white high school graduates who have never held a real job having a vote that counts the same as mine.

Mack Lyons said...

And as for Tancredo's proposal, why should it bother you? I think you would pass a literacy test with flying colors, and there's something to be said for the idea that those who pay the bills to have a bigger say on how the money gets spent. I actually cringe at the idea of some of the trailer trash whites I've seen, or ignorant white high school graduates who have never held a real job having a vote that counts the same as mine.

Historically speaking, literacy tests were used to disenfranchise blacks who wished to exercise their voting rights. Not the one to call you a naive person who completely misses the point that chaunceydevega was making, but that's what the portrait on the wall is saying.

For reference, here is a copy of a circa 1950s Alabama voter registration form. Please read the annotations -- this is key.

Hopefully after you have gone over this a bit, you will come to see the lengths at which whites -- including the Ellis Island-descended whites whom deem themselves innocent and beyond reproach concerning this issue -- have gone just to keep blacks disenfranchised and "In their place", so to speak.

commoning_woman said...

@Chaunceydevega ::

I agree with gordon gartrelle. You're totally reproducing the same logic and the same language as these oppressive peoples.

What do you have to say about immigrants coming into the country today? What would you say to Latino or Asian immigrants, given their complicated histories with this particular country and the rest of the Americas?

And why uphold Locke's logic, when it is not just logic that's good in general but was applied to evil ends, but is inherently a logic of raiding, enslavement, and exploitation? There are better, more interesting and intelligent and humane thinkers to turn to out there, and you validate everything that's sick about this society's roots when you take on the language of its architects.

commoning_woman said...

Wow. So many people in this conversation are perpetuating some of the very ideas that were used to justify the violent systems that were imposed on this world in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries onward.

@ Scruffy ::

White trailer trash, eh? So basically, poor folks or folks with little to no access to education shouldn't vote? And I suppose ppl who are middle class and upper class will be sure to vote for local policies and representatives that will really serve the interests of the poor (like getting them access to education)? I somehow doubt that.

Aside from your classist disdain for poor people, I take issue with your general belief in the myth of meritocracy that has been used so much against poor people, immigrants, people of color, single mothers, etc in this country. You need to read more of the history of this capitalist system, and grow an analysis of how power is structured in our society.

And when you say ::

"America is the only country in the world which is not a PLACE. America is an IDEA. It's a system and set of values that hold dear the ideal of freedom, liberty and equiality for ALL. Yeah, we haven't always lived up to that ideal,"

first off :: America IS a place. You need to check your American exceptionalism and also recognize that the Americas are a place, and were a place long before Europeans and Africans came here. And it was a place with numerous peoples and cultures and social movements and revolutions and wars and peace treaties and experiments in totalitarianism and experiments in radical direct democracy and a place with a HISTORY that begins thousands and thousands of years before 1492. When you say America is not a place, you erase that reality.

And it's not that "we" (who's "we"? the colonial elite? the slaveholders? the commoners who averted their gaze from the auction block? the Native Americans who made alliances with colonial powers, the ones who resisted those powers? the immigrants?) have not always lived up to this so-called American ideal.

The colonies weren't established to foster a new and free society. They were established first and foremost by rising merchant capitalist classes in Europe who wanted more resources and more land and who wanted to get rid of the troublemakers in their own communities and use them for their labor. They weren't trying to establish some democratic world, they were trying to establish a world of prisons, plantations, and workhouses. They uprooted the forests of Ireland and enslaved thousands of Irish, they enslaved thousands of English, and more and more Africans. They enclosed and privatized the common lands of Europe. They oversaw the torture and execution of hundreds of thousands of dissidents (people who were against the slave trade, against the enclosures, against the theft of the ruling classes), including the women who were killed as witches. They oversaw the deliberate enslavement and finally decimation of millions of native Americans. The list goes on. I recommend reading "From Peasants to Frenchman," "The Many-Headed Hydra," "1491" and "Caliban and the Witch" to get started understanding this history of capitalism and the state as insitutionalized raiding for which the white supremacist ideology was created to ensure no more rebellions of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans joined together (in the beginning of this process, there were many, including in Barbados).