Wednesday, November 28, 2018

White Degeneracy

What passes for White Supremacy these days, Keith Kahn Harris writes, is actually something quite different. It's really white degeneracy. That degeneracy is painfully obvious in the contrast between Barack Obama and Donald Trump:

Consider the contrast between Barack Obama and Trump. Obama is not a perfect human being, nor was he a perfect US president. But it’s impossible to deny his qualities. He is intelligent, competent, witty, plain-speaking, empathetic and has a loving relationship with his family. Obama is also a man who was not born into wealth and power, and worked hard to make something of his life. Trump is the reverse: incompetent, mendacious, rude and seemingly incapable of non-instrumental relationships. The only way he has made anything of his life is through being born into privilege, with sufficient reserves of family capital to allow him to build a “business” based on little more than bragging.
Aside from his politics, Trump is simply a man who falls short of any moral code you could care to imagine. Politicians are often cynical, cruel or corrupt, but a complete absence of human decency is rare. Even George W Bush can pass sweets to Michelle Obama and paint loving portraits of the soldiers he sent off to die.

This is not traditional White Supremacy:

What I think we are seeing is something rawer, a lust for power, coupled with an unvarnished hatred of non-white others that sees little need to disguise itself. This is a white racism that is predicated on nothing other than a desire to dominate and subjugate. Trump’s brutal expression of his basest urges empowers and licenses a similar abandonment, among his followers, of any pretence that white dominance is unjustifiable. This is not white supremacy as we have understood it. It is a move to demonstrate that whiteness can be as morally degenerate as one wishes it to be and still prevail.

It really is about setting free our basest instincts. And it is fuelled by insecurity:

At the heart of this proud degeneracy is an insecurity. A fear of “white genocide” has become normative on the far right, based on conspiracy theories about the likes of George Soros encouraging mass immigration as an attempt to replace the white race. Trump has come very close to trying to validate this myth. At the now infamous rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, the marchers chanted: “You will not replace us”. This suggests an awareness that white power cannot rest on justifiable foundations. Indeed, outside the old-style far right, the very concept of whiteness and race itself is given limited intellectual justification. All there is left is assertion and hate.

Just as Mr. Hyde was the liberated soul of Stevenson's buttoned down Dr. Jekyll, the people who are now dominant on the world stage represent the worst of humanity. But, Kahn Harris writes, perhaps there is hope:

If white racism and populism now rests on nothing more than naked power and self-assertion, there will be no need to wade through the academic verbiage about “bell curves” and black crime rates before we can tackle the problem. And perhaps the very degeneracy of Trump and the rest will begin to pall after a while. Most people – “white” or otherwise – are simply much better human beings than the leaders of the populist right. Maybe wallowing in the muck of white degeneracy will become such a sordid experience that an eventual realisation that it is better to be an Obama than a Trump will take hold.

We can only hope he's right.

Image: New York Post


The Mound of Sound said...

We live in such interesting times. Donald Trump and his gang of right wing populists would be bad enough on their own but with all the rest of the upheaval underway, regionally and globally, it's hard to divine a future for humankind.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Mound. Kahn Harris might see a light at the end of the tunnel. But I just see darkness. Perhaps I'm just getting too old.