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Even Shitty People Can Support Good Things

If in observing this reality, noting that $31,600, before taxes, for 52 weeks of labor represents a raise for a significant number of Black and Latino workers you're inclined to insist we also need to confront racism, you are not the left. While personal bias can sometimes have deadly results, the numbers pale beside the exponentially larger number of deaths that are the result of the deprivations of capitalism. And I have yet to hear any effective method I might use for addressing bias within others that warrants adding it as a goal to the already monumental task of getting even subsistence level needs consistently met. Whether you consider yourself left or not it should be clear that the only potential candidate interested in transforming our political system towards one that considers the needs of the most vulnerable is Bernie Sanders. I want to say something that will be treated as controversial or apologist in certain circles but shouldn't be by anyone with any sense of political economy. In order to get Bernie elected and his platform passed, I'll accept anyone's vote, even neo-nazis. There's a strange construct in the media that attempts to equate individual support with large financial donations, that somehow the nature of the supporter speaks to the willingness of the candidate; if racists vote for him it must be because he appealed to their racism. I remember listening to an interview with a white voter during the run up to the 2008 presidential election. When asked who he was voting for the man answered, "I'm voting for....what's his name? I'm voting for the n*gger." No one suggests that Obama appealed to voters with racial bias by appealing to their racial bias or shifting his platform in relation to their bias. Similarly, racists wouldn't be setting the agenda by voting for Bernie, or co-opting it, they'd be giving up their agenda, even if only temporarily, for his. What is the alternative? If all those transphobes, racists, homophobes, everyone who might fit into someone's basket of deplorables doesn't vote for him, what might they support instead?

It seems that the left is increasingly incapable or unwilling to make its case, instead demanding purity or fealty to idealism. If you're part of the tribe and cross one of the many constantly moving lines you're expelled or cancelled. If you're not part of the tribe and transgress, even if you cause no actual harm, you receive more moral outrage than the above described reality. This is currently playing out in a situation that first appeared to be a conservative white teen belittling a tribal elder, but with more video proves both more complex and less worthy of national attention. What's striking is that we have a "left" so primed to be outraged at a situation before the full story is known that seems to ignore the material effects of the ongoing oppressive system it says it opposes. Even worse we have a "left" that seems incapable of engaging arguments that fall outside of the accepted rubric by appearing in the wrong outlet, expressing opinions unpopular to the changing orthodoxy, or by being delivered by someone of an incorrect identity.  A number of leftist scholars and journalist have been repeatedly attacked for expressing such opinions. Angela Nagle was run off of Twitter and repeatedly called a white nationalist for making The Left Case Against Open Borders in the conservative magazine, American Affairs. Her position, shared by mainstream leftist politicians, that open borders are bad for labor and exploitative of migrants obviously meant that she was anti-immigration, because that was the simplest explanation.

Relatedly, I decided to explore why journalist Jesse Singal is repeatedly portrayed as transphobic. From my admittedly brief search I found a long article he wrote on the complexities and questions parents and teens identifying as trans might face in considering physical transitioning, and many intimations that a cis gendered man shouldn't write on trans issues. The one person to respond to my inquiry struggled to come up with an issue more pressing to the trans community than journalists like Singal. Considering that if Singal stopped writing tomorrow nothing would substantially change for any trans person I find it difficult to believe that there are not more concrete concerns. Honestly, I'm not sure if most of the critics have read either article. It seems that the "left" is increasingly incapable of dealing with complexity and contradiction, ironically, flattening everything into simple binary: in/out, good/bad, future enemy/eternal enemy. The irony of Nagle being portrayed as a white supremacist is that she's most well known for her detailing of the alt-right's use of the internet to grow itself in Kill All Normies. In the documentary based on her book, Trumpland, Briahna Joy Gray, followed byAmber A'Lee Frost say something that encapsulates this problem well.

How do you build empathy for the issues the trans community faces if only trans people can ask questions about those issues? Around what are we building solidarity if everyone outside the community must remain silent? Aside from not doing or saying mean things and feeling guilty what has been the left's mission for white people? What has been the mission for men? For straight people? What mission have we given these identity groups that includes them? What are we asking these identity groups to do that would benefit anyone suffering the effects of any form of systemic oppression? I'm curious what it would be like to have a left grappling with complex questions around extending autonomy and agency as broadly as possible instead of ostracizing anyone who cares enough to formulate those complex questions.

I want to say something else that may be portrayed as controversial but shouldn't be: I don't know if ensuring that everyone has healthcare and a living wage will make anyone less racist, sexist, transphobic or homophobic and to be honest, I truly don't care. It's irrelevant. It's still infinitely better than the alternative where people suffer the effects of racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia as well as economic insecurity and the absence of healthcare. That said, recognizing that people don't become less biased through shame, I can think of no other way that people might address their personal bias than if it's made irrelevant and detrimental to their goals. Noting that the 50 year period of time in which the wealth gap between white and Black Americans tripled has coincided with the left primarily organizing around identity leaves the impression that identity politics offers us goals that are far too limited; unless the intent is to leave the left ineffective and focused on ephemera, in which case the goals are perfect. The "left" excommunicates while the alt-right actively recruits, increasingly using the rhetoric of the left. After 50 years of organizing by identity group to attempt to eradicate bias while systemic inequalities continued to grow exponentially, perhaps it's time for a larger, more inclusive mission. In this moment that mission is at least a Green New Deal, raising the minimum wage, offering tuition free college, and ensuring that everyone has healthcare. It's difficult to see what relevance a person's racism or sexism has to them advocating and voting for this platform. It's also difficult to see how someone's racism or sexism might convince someone without health care not to vote for this platform. It's almost as if bias is made less relevant by a mission that unites more of us, and the alternative, our current orientation towards identity politics makes it worse.


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