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Romney and the “Culture” of White Supremacy

August 3, 2012

This article by Glen Ford is re-posted from Black Agenda Report.

White supremacy is Mitt Romney’s religion, although I’d be willing to bet he has not uttered the epithet “nigger” since reaching adulthood. For Romney and his ilk, it is axiomatic that God’s blessings are manifest in the world through the distribution of wealth. Had God not favored Europeans, He would never have allowed them to expropriate the vast bulk of the Earth’s bounty. They have prospered because their ways are righteous – or, in more modern, secular terms, they possess a superior “culture.”

For the Mormon American multimillionaire, human destiny and divine will are revealed in macroeconomic data. ”As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” Romney told a room full of other wealthy – and, therefore, blessed – people at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. The actual breakdown is $31,500 vs. $1,500, but I assume the fool misspoke. Romney recognized in those stark 20 to 1 ratios “the power of at least culture and a few other things,” including “the hand of providence.”

Palestinian poverty flows, not from Israeli military conquest, but from the conquered people’s cultural – and, presumably, moral – inferiority, and God’s consequent disapproval. Israeli suppression of Palestinian political, economic and, yes, cultural life, is irrelevant. Two cultures have clashed in Palestine, and one has been found to be 20 times as productive as the other. Enough said.

White South Africa regarded its wealth as prima facie evidence of cultural superiority. The fact that the land, minerals and labor on which that wealth was built belonged to Black people simply proved that Blacks lacked a “culture” adequate to manage those resources. Moreover, White Power was in the best interest of Black South Africans who, the apartheid regime was proud to proclaim, had a higher per capita income than Blacks elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, white cultural superiority could be beneficial to nearby Blacks, under controlled conditions that did not pollute the precious European cultural environment.

In 1973, Edward Botha, information officer for the South African embassy in Washington, assured Americans that his country’s Blacks were content with their situation. “Black people in South Africa own more automobiles than the Russian people do,” said Botha – a material accomplishment that Mitt Romney would surely associate with profound cultural and moral progress. But sadly, the poor Russians, possessing so few cars, retained little culture to speak of.

White U.S. southerners also insisted, during slavery and Jim Crow, that “their” Negroes were the best off in the worldbecause of their exposure to white folks’ religion and way of life. Left to their own devices, however, Black folks’ innate cultural inferiority – depravity! – would do them in. Blacks’ freedom of movement and expression must be contained, for their own good.

White liberals also believed in the Culture Demon. In the 1950s and early 60s, it was considered politically correct to describe African Americans as “culturally deprived” – meaning, Blacks are disadvantaged by lack of exposure to white culture. Power has nothing to do with it.

The 20 to 1 disparity between Israeli and Palestinian per capita income matches the wealth gap between American Blacks and whites (app. $5,000 vs. $100,000 for median Black and white households). The fact that such numbers do not provoke general shock and calls for reparations is proof enough that most whites view the disparity as more a natural phenomenon than evidence of cumulative injustice. Daniel Patrick Moynihan spoke for white folks of the past, present and future when he posited, in 1965, that a Black “culture of poverty” is what keeps Black people poor – not pervasive white racism.

With President Obama’s election, a clear white consensus favors “race neutral” government policies – which, in practice, reject Black grievances based on past discrimination and disadvantage, and set an extremely high bar for complaints of current bias. Such dismissal of essential – and irrefutable – contemporary and historical data can only be rooted in a general white belief that African American culture is what holds Blacks back. Barack Obama either shares this white attitude, or pretends he does for political gain. His singling out of “irresponsible” Black fathers and hectoring of Black parents for feeding their kids Popeye’s chicken for breakfast was a shout-out to white folks that he shared their assessment of Black “culture.” His rejection of targeted economic policies that address deep disparities based on the historical and ongoing realities of race and racism (“A rising tide lifts all boats,” says Obama) puts him in the same “race neutral” camp as Romney and the rest of the GOP – and most of the Democrats, as well. And, of course, Obama also fights for the same empire that sees its roots in the natural (or divinely ordained) rise of “western civilization” – a euphemism for white people – to dominate every nook and cranny of the world, by force.

In truth, white supremacy is foundational to Euro- American culture, which celebrates five hundred years of relentless pillaging, extermination, mass enslavement and racist subjugation of the vast majority of humanity as the march of civilization and progress. It is the culture of a pirate’s bazaar, strewn with stolen goods and bloody booty, guts and bones. Israel is there, too, with a sword between its rotten teeth. Romney is singing “America,” and Obama is composing another lie.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex permalink
    August 3, 2012 5:56 pm

    His singling out of “irresponsible” Black fathers and hectoring of Black parents for feeding their kids Popeye’s chicken for breakfast was a shout-out to white folks that he shared their assessment of Black “culture.”

    While this article posits many important concerns, this sentence sticks out to me. When did telling a parent not to feed a child fried chicken for breakfast become an assessment of black culture? Is that just a thing that only black parents do? I don’t care what your skin color is, your child should never eat fried chicken for breakfast. That’s just fostering unhealthy eating habits. People say “you can eat what you want to eat!” and “personal freedoms!” and so on, but if your child is eating fried chicken for breakfast, I’m sure the other meals aren’t any better for them, and you are subjecting your child to some potentially very serious dietary problems later on in life. If nothing else, they won’t know how to properly feed themselves a well-rounded diet. That’s not exercising personal freedoms, that imposing your ignorance on your child.

    And you speak of irresponsible Black fathers. Maybe they really are irresponsible, but not strictly because of the color of their skin! You would find it fascinating what living in generational poverty will do to people. Don’t pay attention to the color of their skin. As I understand it, from a book titled “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” that I read this past year, the roles of men in a generational poverty household are a fighter among men and a lover with a woman; they don’t know how to do much else. The father of a child doesn’t often stick around, and more rare is when he is a “good father” as society understands it. The way the poor structure their lives, the way they tend to eat, the way they work to make ends meet, all comes from not having enough money. This is a very different, though probably related, problem. While black people tend to suffer very disproportionately in terms of where they fall on the poverty scale, I’m still not sure Obama’s statement was critiquing black culture and pandering to white culture. Instead, he may have simply been attempting to address problems related to poverty.

    Perhaps one of the larger underlying problems here isn’t “racial neutrality” but rather a resistance to address the strengthening class structure. Though considering this article, this resistance may or may not be partially racially motivated.

  2. August 3, 2012 6:02 pm

    Alex, you make an interesting point about what the author of this article is arguing. Even if Obama personally wasn’t intending to pander to white supremacists, such a statement does in my opinion. The issue of poverty is a serious one, but I would caution against using Ruby Payne’s work, as it tends to perpetuate the same kind of white supremacist analysis that many hate groups advocate, despite her “good intentions.”

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