Question concerning race and class

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Thu Jul 2 12:54:17 PDT 1998


While I agree that limiting racism to a moral issue is not a very effective way of addresing the problem (I made that statement in my reply to the list) - I am not quite sure if I follow you argument about dislexia. That English writing system is more difficult to master to a ceratin type of individuals is a fact not discrimination. It would become discrimination if it were used to deny a ceratin class of people righths that everyone else has, for example education, health insurance or employment.

I do not think that we need to overtun our entire writing system to acommodate dislexic persons to a productive life. A friend of mine was diagnosed with dislexia, he is not vey good with words, but he is very good with crafts and now works as a jeweler making twice as much as many people with PhDs. So clearly, he is not discriminated against because of his disability.

That, of course, does not mean that people are not cracking jokes about him behind his back, but I do not think this guy cares about such attitudes. I think iw would be really nice if people refrained from such behavior, but if I had a choice between changing people's attitudes and re-writing laws to provide for equal employment opportunity for dislexic persons, I would not think twice which option to choose.

Ditto for 'race.' No doubt Black kids need to work harder and require additional programs to overcome the disadvantages of poverty. No doubt it is not pleasant to be called names. But I do not think we need to overturn the enetire system to 'end racism' in the sense that an average Black person has equal opportunity (to be exploited at work) to an average White person. By contrast, puting the owners of labor on equal footing with the owners of capital would require a major change in the existing system.

So the bottom line is that we should focus on the alleviation of economic inequalities rather than healing emotional scars created by adverse attitudes. I think Americans became too preoccupied with psychology, feelings, emotions, victim mentality etc. to the point of losing the material and economic reality from sight. That might be good for shrinks but I think it makes a collective action very difficult. People will always hold some prejudices, I was considered a notorious dweeb in school and subject to constant harassment - believe me, not a pleasant thing that undoubtedly left some emotional scars. But that does not mean that I should spent the rest of my life fighting to end the 'discrimination' of dweebs. It is the issue of priorities.


At 10:19 AM 7/2/98 -0800, you wrote:
>Hello everyone,
>Nice to hear your voice Wojtek. A good query, I appreciate the
>opportunity to try to express my understanding to you.
>Wojtek's queries on ending Racism
>> When it comes to
>the proposition "End racism," however, I am at utter loss.
>> What the f**k are we supposed to do (individually or collectively) to
>> achieve that end?
>X’s reply
>So am I as a matter of fact. So are the various lefts in the United
>States. So are most blacks. That is why we do not, at the present time,
>have "A Left" in this country. And that is why I proclaimed in a very
>brief post a week or so ago that the BRC *might* just be the trigger to
>the reinvigoration of a leftist movement.
>The (academic) woods are full of people (some white, some black) who
>various individualist routes to fighting racism, which I have never
>much interest in. There is also no particular point in blaming
>individuals, even aggressively racist individuals. And one does not,
>incidentally, "end racism" (though that is acceptable as an agitational
>slogan), for racism is not a thing or a set of ideas but an ideology, an
>ideology continually recreated by and making sense of (that, after all,
>the purpose of ideologies) the material conditions of U.S. life. One
>tries to work out ways to organize to destroy those conditions.
>I thought the reply from X above was a good summary of how an individual
>might approach the question of ending racism. It is approximately how I
>understand things in my personal daily life. To me this is a moral
>description of the process with the flavor of humbleness that one ought
>to bring to individual understanding. In another case Michael
>Eisenscher says something similar, but asserts much more overtly that
>the answer is a moral answer. That I don’t agree with. Reliance upon
>moral systems is an old method of describing how the brain comes to
>"understandings" of everyday life. Of course practically speaking
>individuals do not have the resources to "rationally" figure everything
>out, so moral systems short cut the rational process to make instant
>judgements. Moral systems then often arise out of a relatively
>uninformed knowledge to quickly make decisions of "good" and "bad",
>right and wrong. Wojtek wrote recently about cognitive lenses, and to
>me moral systems fit the example of cognitive lenses if I take Wojtek’s
>meaning correctly.
>Going beyond the individual level to institutional structures, one of
>the central issues of class divisions, and a primary way of asserting
>racists divisions is language. I’ll give an example from discrimination
>against the disabled which shows how deeply difficult the issues are,
>and are well beyond a simple moral calculus. Western writing systems,
>the alphabet, causes learning disorders. For instance 20% (by some
>estimates) of the U.S. population experiences dyslexia with respect to
>reading and writing. Whatever the level of the disability in the U.S.
>the Japanese writing system is reported to have very little dyslexia
>barrier to it. The numbers of dyslexics in Japan are very low, and
>possibly there are none aside from persons who have had brain traumas
>due to injury, or stroke. To seriously dismantle the discrimination
>that dyslexics face in the alphabetic writing system is a vast and
>difficult scientific project which requires virtually global methods to
>resolve in my opinion. English culture dyslexia is an outrageous
>example of bigotry blaming some disabled people for the sins of the
>systemic barriers itself. If I might assert a moral stance right here.
>To me ending racism goes beyond the personal accountability of the moral
>position, to the structural nature of the mass movements that we need to
>end racism. Primarily the main prop of racism is cognitive divisions
>amongst working people. The most obvious examples of cognitive
>variations are languages (but as X says above even aggressively racist
>individuals live themselves in a moral regime within their brains which
>does not change quickly any more than adults who must accommodate to
>English as a second language learn overnight or lose their accents). We
>need a mass working class movement willing to take on the racist
>attitudes toward the mainly mixed "race" (like myself in the sense I’m
>mixed race) Hispanic peoples because of language differences. I see
>this as mainly concerned with forcing the Anglo language culture upon
>those lower working class Hispanic people to impede their social
>progress as much as possible. I focus upon language oppression because
>much of racism seems to me to arise from the cognitive barriers which
>are thrown up by elites, and the privileges of their central "cognitive
>lenses" as a means to restrict and hobble workers, so that they can’t
>have material equality or justice.
>In addition language and cultural differences seem to me to show how
>gaining national power can hinder rather than advance the fight against
>racism. Wherever a "particular" single unified group with some sort of
>cognitive unity achieves power as a nation, and they seek to use that
>power to enhance their national chauvinism of their cognitive history as
>privilege against another distinct cognitive regime, they show how
>little real good nationalism is to the working class. In other words
>national projects which seek to advance one cognitive regime over
>another are the primary sources of racism. We need extra national forces
>to stop such schemes.
>Sometimes some Marxist use the term ideology in a way like I’m using
>cognitive regime here. Ideology is the "logical" structure of
>understanding within to use Wojtek’s phrase the "cognitive lens",
>whereas the cognitive regime is more like the labor process to arrive at
>human understanding.
>By the way another finely written bit of history from Louis Proyect.
>Thanks for the contribution to the on-going understanding of Tibet we
>ought to be engaging in.
>Doyle Saylor

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