How To Beat Tribalism? Be Even MORE “Tribal”

Humans are tribal by nature; it’s a survival instinct. Since reproduction is one of our key “primal directives”, our genome has built into it behaviors that give our personal DNA every chance to create a next version of “us”. After our own precious ass, our family’s ass comes next in the pecking order. Then our extended family. Or, for some people, their friend circle. The block they live on. Their neighborhood. The school district they live in. The PTAs at their kids’ schools. The social issues that matter to them. Their city. The football or basketball or soccer or baseball team they love — and every other fan of that team. If you think about it, we form tribes with anything and everything we can — because we’re social creatures and this is what social creatures do.

White supremacists are no more tribal than anyone else. They just seem that way because they put all their emphasis on being in a limited number of tribes rather than as many as possible. “Jews will not replace us” — the rallying cry and tribal grievance of the Charlottesville Fascists Club — represents a particularly odd bit of tribalism. The whole “replacement culture” thing is bizarre because it assumes that those with the grievance are “replaceable” to begin with. Replaceable how exactly? In their jobs? In their marriages? In their lives? Being replaceable by “others” to whom you are supposedly “superior” is a strange way to think of yourself and your tribe. If your tribe excelled at something then that fact would make your tribe irreplaceable. Why don’t these “white supremacists” excel at anything other than having grievances? Why do THEY think THEY are replaceable?

In a competitive job market — in a competitive, capitalistic system — one MUST compete in order to stay in the game. Every group arriving here (aside from white people) have accepted that fact and worked their asses off to achieve some degree of success (and they’ve had to do that in the face of relentless white resistance). In that sense, EVERYONE is “replaceable” if they don’t continue to contribute to the group’s effort or hold up their end of the social bargain. Ah, but that’s where white privilege asserts itself. White people have gotten it into their heads that, since white men got together and wrote the Constitution – and framed it entirely to their advantage (as the “men” who were created equal”) – that this is set in concrete. That’s the whole point of “originalism” — to falsely assert that the flawed thinking of a group of (French) enlightened racists and misogynists is America’s bottom line. The country can only be exactly how the framers framed it.

Bullshit. The men who imagined this democratic republic made it changeable. They understood that this bold idea would need plenty of room around it to expand. They seemed to grasp, on some level, the incompleteness of their ideation — that “all men” was a bigger tribe than just white men. Congress approved of “E pluribus unum” as America’s motto (they put it on our Great Seal) in 1782. Out of many, one.

Out of many tribes, ONE TRIBE.

White supremacists can’t abide that. They think their TRIBE is replaceable. That, right there, is the problem.

I’m not sure there is a solution to white supremacy. Centuries of thinking one way about themselves versus everyone else has convinced white Europeans that their whiteness makes them superior. No, white people, it does not. White people are a minority of people on earth. If not for the greater lethality of the pathogens that evolved inside white Europeans over a thousand or so years (versus the pathogens evolving inside other human groups scattered across the globe), perhaps even their guns and steel would have faltered when they went exploring. A big piece of white people even thinking they’re “superior” comes from the relative ease with which white Europeans seized the Americas. The European colonizers told themselves their Christian faith — their god Yahweh — made them superior. Again, NO! Smallpox, measles and influenza — introduced into the Americas by European explorers — wiped out 90% OF NATIVE AMERICANS. If not for fleas — which carried the bubonic plague from China to Europe, bubonic plague might not have wiped out half of Europe in the fourteenth century. If not for Europeans and THEIR bugs, Europeans would have faced far more resistance when they landed on these shores.

How do we defeat tribalism? We don’t deny it; we can’t. It’s just too hard-wired into us. Why do you think there are soccer riots? Instead, we go at it, full bore. We make everyone “hyper-tribal” but not in that they see their exclusivity as a tribe. Rather, like two people who love the same song, they forget all their other potential differences and begin with that thing they have in common. Building from there (something as simple as a song), I bet those two people will surprise themselves with all their commonalities. Yes — there are differences. But, now there’s context for the differences.

Those two people might come to blows all the same; they just don’t like each other. But once you start talking together about how and why a song touches you, you will unlock pieces of your soul (such as it is) to that other person.

It’s a lot harder to feel tribally defensive toward someone whose soul you understand.

White Perspective Is A Bully’s Perspective

We get it — the idea of power sharing horrifies you; it always has. That’s why you’ve worked ceaselessly — regardless of whether you went by the label “Dixiecrat” or “Southern Democrat” or “Republican” — to prevent anyone NOT white from participating in American democracy — a thing you yourselves abhor. The problem with democracy — from an autocratic point of view — is that you can’t trust voters to vote for you and your ideas; they probably get that you’re a power mad fraud. Democracy is a marketplace of ideas. As we all know, crony capitalists don’t want a free market for you, they want a free market for THEM. Hell, conservatives (the political wing of crony capitalists) now openly admit that they MUST cheat in order to win elections which is WHY Republicans suppress Democratic voters but Democrats NEVER even think of suppressing Republican voters. Democrats don’t have to do that — because their ideas sell just fine in the marketplace.

The right wing money understood a while ago that the more America diversified, the quicker their hegemony would end. The more Black people voted — the quicker white hegemony would end. It’s not as if Black voters are insanely liberal as a group. They’re not. To begin with, they’re not monolithic. No group is — including white people. But there’s a difference. Because they’ve been the ones holding all the political power and wealth in America, white group-think has far greater real world (realpolitik) weight than anyone else’s. We do not now stand on a level playing field. We never have and every time we treat it like it is, we’re grossly mis-representing reality.

White perspective (born of white culture) always assumes it’s superiority over everyone else. For instance, white perspective tells itself it “discovered” America. That assumes that prior to white, Christian Europeans arriving on these shores that the America was a virgin land, filled with darkness, ignorance and savagery — all waiting to be saved by them. No, actually, it wasn’t. As historian Charles C. Mann points out in his excellent “1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus”, “… the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand.” Native Americans founded, lived and thrived in actual cities in North America while Paris and London festered in the mud, struggling to rise above their humble beginnings.

Historian Jared Diamond brilliantly summed up European “superiority” as “Guns, Germs & Steel” (the title of his excellent history of how the white man’s germs, mostly, reduced North America’s native population so completely that defeating the survivors militarily was remarkably easy. That wasn’t the Europeans plan — not at first; in time they’d realize how effective blankets infected with smallpox can be in controlling Indian population size. It is what happened however.

For what it’s worth, the Indians did pass syphilis — one of their native infections — to the white man.

The first thing every schoolyard bully does is reduce whoever he’s bullying to something less than a human. Bullies can’t bully their equals (they’re all afraid they’d lose) and they certainly can’t bully their superiors. That leaves people the bully feels superior to. And off they go! Bullies see everyone not them as one kind of cockroach or another. Once you’ve stopped seeing other people as people? Bullying them is easy. Who cares if you “hurt their feelings” — to the bully, the bullied’s feelings are there TO be hurt. That’s why bullies bully — hurting other people gets them hot.

Another thing that happens when you reduce other people to “less-than-people” status. You negate their history. White people denied the value of Native American history before they introduced Christianity to them. Who cared what savages thought? Who cared where savages came from or why they had the traditions they had. Cockroaches don’t have “traditions”. White Americans have also negated Black history. That’s why some white Americans think they should be free to “opt out” of Black History Month.

Negating a peoples’ history also negates their wealth. White America’s greatest crime against Black America is slavery of course. But, slavery, remember, is first and foremost STOLEN LABOR. That’s the point. You can’t amass wealth if you can’t acquire it to begin with. And you can’t acquire wealth if you never get paid for your labor — the thing you have to sell.

In the American south, slave owners justified slavery by saying they couldn’t profitably engage in growing rice, sugar or cotton if they had to pay the labor needed to PICK those crops a living wage. Or any wage whatsoever. The costs of buying, housing, clothing and feeding slaves was understood as the “costs of doing business”. In fact, slavery was NEVER a good economic model for those businesses. But then, white people will believe anything if it involves denigrating Black people.

We all know what the Trump insurrectionists were thinking. They told us. We know what they wanted — and still want. Being the ultimate bully, Donald Trump can’t conceive of losing. But, Trump’s bullying has an extra dimension to it: treason. This is no secret to Trump’s republican co-bullies. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously told a roomful of Republican leaders a month BEFORE they nominated Trump to be their POTUS candidate “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” The reason the entire Republican Party has gone along with this insanity is because they’re all guilty of treason.

White people need to step back for a bit. If they don’t do it of their own accord, their stepping back will be done for them and probably not nicely. No one likes being bullied. Especially not bullies.

Ironically, when it comes to being bullied? Bullies hate being bullied more than anyone.

Dear Racists — It’s Not Up To YOU Whether Or Not You’re Racist

Does anything say “Donald Trump is a racist” more than Donald Trump proclaiming he’s “the least racist person ever”? Doesn’t it just make you want to shout “Oh, shut the hell up, you bloody, goddamned racist!”?

It’s the first sign that someone’s a racist — that they insist they’re not racist. That they can’t even spell “racism”.

They’re inability to spell isn’t the question. They’re inability to see how deeply, profoundly racist they are is. By the same token, it’s not up to other racists to say whether or not a racist is racist. They’re too racist to judge. And anyway, they think racism’s okay. Their judgment’s crap to begin with.

None of us can say whether or not we personally are racist. We’re too close to the subject matter to judge accurately. Other people have far better perspective on us. If they say we’re racist – maybe they see or know something we don’t.

While racism isn’t built into our genome, it is built into our culture. We pick it up as kids the same way we do other viruses and things we should never bring home. Of course, it’s likely racism is something we learned at home.

The trick is to own our own racism — especially the quiet racism we’d rather not talk about — and then work hard as we can every single day to mitigate that racism’s impact on us — and the world. Being a good person is way harder than being a bad person after all. Being rotten means you get to indulge every impulse, say every horrible thing that pops into your head. You get to hurt people with no consequence and never accept responsibility for anything you’re absolutely responsible for.

White people need to own the privilege that advantages us even if we don’t seek that advantage. Leveling the playing field won’t come without costs to some people. That sucks. It really does. But the larger picture will benefit everyone — including those who the leveling leveled.

Beauty is absolutely in the eye of the beholder. So is racism.