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March 21, 2009

The American Adventure

This is from the high school history textbook The American Adventure:

During Reconstruction many people tried hard to help the black people of the South. Then, for years, most white Americans paid little attention to the blacks. Little by little, however, there grew a new concern for them.

This is from The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy by Glenn Kessler:

...the Bush administration paid too little attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...

Yes, as with black people in the South in the late 19th century, so too with Palestinians during the Bush administration: their only possible problem was that white Americans weren't paying enough attention to them. Their failure to make more of themselves is truly inexplicable.

The American Adventure is quoted in Lies My Teacher Told Me. Note that Kessler's book is actually attributing this sentiment to "Europeans"—not surprisingly, since European foreign policy elites play exactly the same role regarding Israel-Palestine that mealymouthed history textbooks play in American schools.

PREVIOUSLY: "Man, the police were after them like Israelis after Palestinians" vs. "We are not blacks."

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at March 21, 2009 04:34 PM

Like Cowboys and Indians, I dare say.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 21, 2009 04:57 PM

Many years ago when I was 10 or 11 or so I asked a teacher what "white trash" meant, never having heard it before. She told me it was an ugly term, which meant whites who have the behavior and morals of blacks.

I'm pretty sure she meant it was ugly because it indicated an ugly view of both poor whites and blacks, but I realize when you look at the previous sentence it can be interpreted otherwise.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at March 21, 2009 06:35 PM

Good analogy, Mike.

I remember once reading a Wikipedia article arguing that "white trash" was what your teacher argued it was, Jonathan V., a term that denigrated poor white folk by comparing them to the dastardly negroes, and I took exception to it at the time; I still think the prejudice against "white trash" operates independently of the prejudice against blacks, and in a different (if not disjoint) collection of people. What do you think?

Posted by: StO at March 21, 2009 07:51 PM

I must move in the wrong circles, because I never realized many whites used "white trash" to mean that. (Dorothy Allison, who thought of herself as white trash without being aware of that connotation, wrote that she stopped using the term after a black friend became upset by it.)

But yes, yes, such invidious comparisons are awful and must never be indulged. Such as the passage in Alice Walker's The Color Purple which has always stuck with me: Celie tells her lover Shug Avery about being raped and beaten by her father (or the man she thought was her father), and Shug says, "I thought only white folks did freakish things like that."

Posted by: Duncan at March 21, 2009 09:19 PM

I think the brown and black folk in America and the rest of the world want as little "attention" paid to them by America as possible. It seems "attention" by America is only bad for their health and well., their ability to actually stay alive.

Posted by: hv at March 22, 2009 12:48 AM

I'm surprised Mr. Kessler (or whoever he attributes this sentiment) feels the Bush administration didn't pay enough attention. Personally, I think it was quite adequate: providing money, weapons, ammunition. Also vetoing relevant UNSC resolutions, this one, for example, July 13, 2006:

(CNN) -- The United States on Thursday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding Israel halt its attacks in Gaza.
The proposal also demanded that Palestinian militants release the Israeli soldier abducted June 25 in a raid in Israel and stop launching rockets at Israel from Gaza. In addition, it called on Israel to release Palestinian government officials and lawmakers it took into custody after the soldier's abduction.
Ten nations on the council voted in favor of the resolution, and four abstained.
John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that "in light of the fluid events on the ground," the United States believed the Qatar-sponsored resolution was untimely and out of date, and would have helped inflame passions in the Middle East.

Surely if they weren't paying attention they wouldn't had bothered to veto it?

Posted by: abb1 at March 22, 2009 10:18 AM

I guess that "not paying attention" is the equivalent to "denying their humanity." But, of course, there is always attention to keeping class divisions firmly in place. Lynching, for example, is paying attention, but not paying attention to someone's humanity. I'm sure that all of us would find it easier to kill or mistreat those who aren't fully human.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at March 22, 2009 11:45 AM

The similarity is so universal it likely lines up more along income/class but its still enough to largely dismiss the difference because both require(d) the complicity of the group for such organized murder, degrading detention, segregation etc. to continue.

As for African-Americans and Palestinians, my own personal view is that there is at the very least, as Chomsky might say, a difference in the doctrinal stories: We know blacks were killed by unofficial lynching mobs and that Palestinians are killed by an official military. So I see a similarity in that they're both oppressed people, but the war-story-lines differ.

I think Noam Chomsky made a lot of sense when he compared Palestinians not to African-Americans but the native tribes upon settlement/colonization: "if you went to a Native American reservation in the United States, I'm sure many would like to see the destruction of the United States. If you went to Mexico and took a poll, I'm sure they don't recognize the right of the United States to exist sitting on half of Mexico, land conquered in war."

Posted by: pettyquoter at March 22, 2009 12:33 PM

StO: White Trash??? After having lived on the rail road tracks (in the middle, not the "good" side, not the "bad" side) while possibly drinkng a lot, I came to the conclusion that ALL of U look trashy. Some got more money than others and dress better, and in fact ALL got more money than me. The difference IS I'm SATISFIED with a railroad track and a jug of Night Train, whereas the HOMEGUARD camped out on BOTH "good" and "bad" sides of the tracks, not so much. I suppose my poor attitude developed from YEARS of carnaval life where I became so jaded as to believe everybody IS a sucker, including me. Then I moved out west and met a bunch of Indians. BUT YOU asked what I thought.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 22, 2009 01:19 PM

Nah, a rich guy who looks trashy is merely eccentric.

A 'white trash' person is a member of the underclass. And they are to be despised because - on account of them being white - there is no apparent reason for them to belong to the underclass; something's seriously wrong with them, clearly.

Posted by: abb1 at March 22, 2009 04:00 PM

abb1: EVEN THE CLEANEST CLASSYEST AMERICAN, stole it ALL off the Indian, one way or another. That's trashy.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 22, 2009 05:30 PM

Stealing isn't trashy, especially if you steal a lot.

Posted by: abb1 at March 22, 2009 06:14 PM

You see this meme often with regards to Afghanistan: our crime wasn't arming a band of criminal warlords who destroyed the country, it was "losing interest" after the Soviets left, and "taking our eye off the ball" by invading Iraq instead of putting all our energies into properly occupying Afghanistan. The Afghan people can expect to get a lot more of our "attention" in years to come, and what good will it do them?

If you're a poor person anywhere in the world, the worst thing that can happen to you is for the United States government to take a sudden and direct interest in your well-being. Just ask the oppressed women of Afghanistan, who we "liberated" by killing their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers.

Posted by: SteveB at March 22, 2009 07:02 PM