Posted on March 17, 2020

There’s Nothing Moderate About Hate

Lenore Jean Daniels, Black Commentator, March 12, 2020

“With the exception of Native Americans, African Americans are the people who are most behind socially and economically in the United States and our needs are not moderate . . .” — Rev. Jesse Jackson

In the “small town” where I live, waving in the wind are a few lawn flags that read: Trump 2020: No More Bullshit.

No doubt, there are “neighbors” in this town between Milwaukee to the north and Chicago to the South who are, to put it mildly, concerned about their safety. As I pass the little houses, I imagine the hand gun tucked away for when the wrong person appears at the front or back door. Maybe in some hours, there is a rifle. Or two. Maybe something more powerful and automatic in nature. {snip}


Living in Wisconsin off and on for the last 20 years has been an education, one that has been, at times, painful and stressful, but a valuable education nonetheless. So when white liberals condemn the “Left” for failing to acknowledge that “rural” and “small town” isn’t racist but just economically “distressed (partly because of its own complicity the with neoliberal, free-market project),” as Marc Edelman suggests, for example, I see the purchase of more Trump 2020 lawn flags because sanctioned in this drop-the-racism-will-you argument is justification to hold onto the ignorance that makes it difficult at best to see kinship (political, cultural, economical, social) with people who expect black and Latinx to remain second class citizens.

As long as blacks and Latinx talk in general about the “weather” or sports or go along with the conversation, nodding, agreeing, smiling, all is well. Race had better not come up in conversation or you, the black or Latinx, will be thought of as racist!

Try to explain how racism is structural, systemic, represented in the absence, for example, of even one black at the register of this large store. Just look around. But you are likely to witness anger and a story about how parents raised your fellow shopper or neighbor not to see color. Why do you bring up differences we whites don’t see!

There’s something wrong, if not racist, about discussing my experiences as an African American woman. Let’s just stick with the facts: Chicago is a dangerous place to live, isn’t it? And we know why, don’t we?

To live among whites in rural and small town America is to be complicit with the lies whites tell in order to justify the cruelty inherent in their deliberate ignorance about white violence. To justify hate.

If Americans would read, and read a little Faulkner, they would see that economically poor whites, tenant farmers, working for plantation owners, resented the way African Americans dressed on Sundays after having sewed together worn drapes or rags from the mistresses to clothe themselves and their families. It was too much to see African American men or women (as Faulkner shows in Absalom, Absalom!) respond at the plantation’s front door to a tenant farmer by requesting that the latter go around to the back door! Resentment of black politicians, black newspaper editors, black homeowners, and business owners is what ticked off economically poor whites to join their wealthier brethren in donning white robes and hoods and burning down those homes and black businesses, chasing blacks out of town. In due time, legislation that catered to white fear of freed-blacks, catered to the myth of black rapists, catered to the narrative of thief of jobs and an invasion of neighborhoods, towns, returned African Americans to spaces where signs reading, whites only, required silence and invisibility.

Not too many Americans expressed outrage at the systemic oppression economically and socially and politically experienced by African Americans for decades. In fact, blacks in America still experience systemic oppression that isn’t an either racism or classism – but both. Let’s not forget the particular experience of being at the bottom of the race/class hierarchy if you are a black woman. It’s not that I don’t understand “distressed” whites in “rural” and “small town” America. I understand what’s happened economically—since the days when the wealthiest white men, politicians, drew up a Constitution. Jefferson, Washington, Madison and others were not thinking about economically poor whites no more than they thought about the black slaves serving them their lunch and dinner at these conventions and document signings. Not much thought went into the rights of white women either. Like enslaved blacks, white women were property.

Nixon signed off on the War on Drugs campaign as one way to take down “uppity” blacks who thought themselves empowered and emboldened by the Civil Rights legislation and our white allies marching in the streets and protesting on college campuses. But with the War – that is, the War on Drugs – white liberals went back home while blacks went to prison, charged with possession of drugs (never mind white Hollywood’s cocaine spree or hippies’ open display of drug use.)


We are looking at the rise of fascism again in America. Along with Italy’s fascist state and the rise of fascism in Germany, there was American fascism and the configuration of capitalism and ideology, writes the late activist and thinker Cedric Robinson. So, too, African Americans were already constructing “anti-fascists” movements even while fascism “was in accord with the interests of at least some major factions of American capital.”


Yet, no coddling of xenophobia and bigotry, fascism and misogyny will undo the entrenched fear of black Americans, particularly among economically poor whites. Capitalism twisted the minds of Americans into thinking themselves racially superior. Even if they have no health insurance or employment, they are still white. And they have Trump.

And they are armed.

There’s nothing moderate about hate!