Briahna Joy Gray: Moving Forward Post-Kavanaugh

Briahna  Joy Gray in  conversation with Will Menaker, Amber Frost Chapo Trap House Episode 251: (10/5/18)

Where do we go from here?

WM: Where do we go from here? What’s the way forward?  Is there any constructive protest or dissent that would be at all productive?

Practically speaking, I’m not passed the perjury point.  Making the case (against) Kavanaugh is not solely based on what he did 36 years ago it’s about what he did last week, it’s about him lying under oath and not having the integrity to uphold our laws.  And to drive that point home would I think be helpful going into the midterms.  That would be something they don’t usually do which is to make an argument on principle.  For years Republicans have tried to grab the moral high ground, Trump has offered an opportunity for the Democrats to make some declarative, prescriptive statements that can shift the dialog to illustrating how their party platform is clearly a lot more ethical and has a lot more integrity than the Republican tax cuts and their clear power grabs and their choice to pursue whatever policy goals are going to benefit the upper class.

The class point, needs to be stressed.

And I think that that point, the class point, needs to be stressed as well. I don’t see turning this into an argument about race or partisanship is going to be as effective as pointing out that Trump defended Kavanaugh on the grounds that he went to Yale. He had a perfect life.  This guy was “destined”, he said,’ to be in this position. That’s an argument for the people in power and not the horde of Trump voters who are cheering on this nomination from their working class, everyday lives. If the Democrats are able to draw the contrast between the interests that are being preserved here and the people on the ground who are not being serve from this appointment of from the kinds of decisions he’s going to hand down from the bench.  I think that that again will help to set up a clear contrast going into the midterms.

It’s obvious that the Democrats need to talk more about the working class.

WM: How does one use the term working class in contemporary politics without pissing someone off? Or is that impossible?

BJG: Part of what’s so frustrating is that it’s obvious that the Democrats need to talk more about the working class, but they have decided that working class is a dog whistle. And not on their own, obviously: the Republicans have manipulated it an cast it that way. But instead of pushing back, and making clear that working class is a class category and not a racial category, the continue to play this game where working class is implicitly followed by the word “white”, or talking about black or hispanic in racial terms and not because they have any broader class project and only speaking to our interests only as people who are discriminated against and only speaking to class through the lens of this disparity discourse. Which is fine but it limits the political project significantly, and cordons off the populists into Trump voters and brown people, ignoring the fact that most of America isn’t brown, and you get this obsessive focus on demographic changes and this hopefulness about the growing latino populations that’s kind of craven, frankly, and ignores the interests and needs of those communities which in large part overlaps with “working class whites”.

“Single payer is covertly racist”-a tactic to fight the left.

What were seeing now as one of the tactics to fight the left and its increasingly popular demands for things like single payer health care or free college eduction is this idea that these proposals are,  if not overtly, then covertly racist because they do not address the immediate concerns of black and brown people in this country, or that they are putting the interest of white people first.

An intentional effort to cleave the interest of African Americans and people of color from the interest of every other poor and working class people

AF: It’s a means of rallying what the actual base of the Democratic Party is which is liberal minded, middle class people who desperately want to seem like good people. They see politics as a kind of moral mission, so it’s very easy to make those people insecure, I don’t want to seem like I’m racist, I’m very concerned about sexism, I don’t want to seem like I’m ignoring those projects and, for elite liberals, it’s very easy to manipulate a morally insecure person.

BJG: Yes, absolutely.  This has been my preoccupation for about a year now and I finally got my thoughts down in a piece called Beware of the Race Reductionist in The Intercept.The gist is to drill down on this pattern of characterizing every policy that is quote unquote “universal” that brings benefits to low income whites in addition to low income everybody else, the impulse to characterize is as a capitulation to white interests or throwing people of color under the bus or undermining the interest of people of color. What has happened is that there has been an intentional effort to cleave the interest of african americans and people of color from the interest of every other poor and working class people as though they are 100% distinct from the interests of low income whites. And of course there are interests that don’t effect low income whites: racism is a separate ill that needs to be addressed at times with specific and independent programs.

But the idea that the primary problem with racism, that the way that it manifests itself in a majority-not all but a majority-of cases is through these economic effects. And so you end up going round and round with people and having the same conversations on the internet.

So you will say, of course, Affirmative Action or Black Livers Matter are incredibly important programs, but what is the effect of racism: well, I can’t get housing.  But, if I’m rich, I can get housing.  I personally have no problem getting housing because I’m upper middle class it doesn’t matter that I’m black.

But these things work together and the idea that ameliorating the effects of racism-poor education has to do with low income and not being in an affluent school district that is able to serve your kids, being in a high crime neighborhood. Zaid Jelani in The Intercept did this article where he looked at the average income of the neighborhoods where police shootings occur.  Zero percent of them occur in neighborhoods where the average income is over $200,000 a year. 95% of them happen in the neighborhoods where the average income is less than $95,000 a year.

So the idea that you can take the economic implications outside of what the racial implications are and deal with those problems separately is not only wrongheaded, it’s completely the opposite of the purpose of intersectionality-a buzzword that Hillary Clinton and the like love to talk about-the opposite of what it’s supposed to mean. But, that’s become the project of the Democratic establishment, because it’s much easier for them, and it’s much less consequential for their financial and corporate interests for them to talk about race separately without addressing the underlying economic concerns.

In 2020, you will see a full pronged identity based attack on Bernie Sanders.

And that’s where we are today, and that why what you’re going to see in 2020 if there’s a candidate who isn’t a person of color, like Bernie Sanders, you will see a full pronged identity based attack.  Because the threat of these universal programs to the economic bottom line you’re going to see everybody-especially people of color-making weaponized identity politics based attacks.  If you can’t make a moral argument against universal health care, you can only argue that it’s racist.  If you can’t make a moral argument against free college, you’re going to say it’s racist.  If you can’t make a moral argument against solar panels, you going to argue that it’s racist. And people already have.

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