RACISM THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
Or, How Alice Got Her Groove On
Today, on NPR, Claudio Sanchez said California was the first State to have a non-white majority. NOT! Guess he never heard of the Aloha State. It's been majority Asian and Pacific Islanders for quite some time. It's the second place I've ever lived that wasn't "Caucasian" majority, in the U.S. The first was Harlem.
Not that there isn't racism in the Big Apple. But New York City is a different kind of a place. Everyone struggles there, to survive, to succeeed, to prosper, to rule the universe. In that sense, all New Yorkers, past, present and future, are brothers and sisters, and conscious of it. And rivals, too. And enemies. And strap-hangers. Yeah. That's a big part of it: All REAL New Yorkers ride the subway, frequently. It's the most democratic institution on the face of the Earth.
There you are, winter, summer, spring and fall, armpit to armpit with the creme de la scum, and the dregs of planetary High Society. Puttin' on the Schvitz in the Dawg Days, shivering in tandem during the annual hibernal big chill. Demos Kratia. The whining, bitching, protesting, complaining vox populae, boombox dei. Right there on yer ah, GG train. Awn that midnite train to BrOOKlyn, baby!
There is no subway in Hawaii. We zoom, or fume, in traffic, on the freeway, like atomized Angelenos. Nobody knows the troubles we've seen. They're too busy yakkin on their cell phones, eating their brekky, putting on makeup or shaving. Lots of times, different folks have no contact until they start punchin' each other out. That's Hawaii, today.
It's worse if you're white. OK, I'm prejudiced. But it's a fact, Jack; the prevailing local mythos makes us haoles out to be responsible for all the sins of the world. And, hey, maybe the Dole Boys, or some other rich, Hawaiian-connected white boys from Plantation Days DO deserve the ass-whuppins. But me, I'm just a hard-workin' kama'aina like you, brah.
What people don't seem to get is that what effectively divides us should also unite us: Class. I have no beef with anybody but racists on the subject of race. I have a real problem with the endless class warfare practiced by the rich against the rest of us. Race is just their means of dividing us, to conquer us.
The piece on NPR today went on to discuss the struggle between older, more established European- American- majority communities in the Bay Area, and newer Asian immigrant communities. What struck me is what the report didn't say: This was a war between the classes, not the races.
The newcomers happened to be from the Orient, and so were their values. But the beef was really about rich people taking over schools from middle-class and working people. The beef was about institutionalizing the privileges that come with money, and creating harder lines between more divided communities, along class differences, into the next generation.
It was significant that the newcomers are members of an elite in their countries of origin; highly stratified countries with little social mobility. In the past, people came to America to get away from such entrenched privilege, and lack of opportunity. Now, we have people coming from all over the world to enhance their privileged status, and to carry their privileges over to America.
The issue of race, or ethnicity, or religion, or "valueing education more" is a red herring. The real issue is, will we remain committed to social and economic democracy, or simply cease being a land of opportunity, for everyone?
Here in Hawaii, that battle is, to some extent, already lost. Some of the children of plantation workers have pulled out of the public education system, beggaring it financially and institutionally, to enhance and improve their own class status. The rest of us are left struggling with over- crowded, under- funded schools. Meanwhile, we haggle about taxes. Should our tax system be used to level the playing field, taking more from the rich, and giving more to the poor? Or will it be used to take more from the rest of us, and give us less?
We're not talking about building swimming pools for the poor with money from the rich. This is about continuing to use our entire system to lift up the people who need a lift, benefitting of our entire society by giving opportunities to talented new, needy people and their ideas, as always in the New World. Or will we fall back on an antiquated and discredited system of propping up people who don't need the help, which could ossify and ultimately drag down our entire society, as in the Old Worlds?
So, will your tax dollars go to benefit everyone, or just the rich? It's your choice. At least, as long as this remains a democracy. Either way, you WILL be taxed. Don't believe Republican lies about "no new taxes." And don't let them bait you on race. It's all a matter of class. When they say "no class warfare," they mean don't fight back. Fight back.
"Immigrants Weigh Splitting from Calif. School System"
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