I happened across a Facebook comment (via a link on Think Progress) a day or two ago. It was written by Michelle Alexander, Associate Professor of Law at Ohio State University and author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” She wrote:
If Trayvon Martin had been born white he would be alive today. That has been established beyond all reasonable doubt. If he had been white, he never would have been stalked by Zimmerman, there would have been no fight, no funeral, no trial, no verdict. It is the Zimmerman mindset that must be found guilty – far more than the man himself. It is a mindset that views black men and boys as nothing but a threat, good for nothing, up to no good no matter who they are or what they are doing. It is the Zimmerman mindset that has birthed a penal system unprecedented in world history, and relegated millions to a permanent undercaste. Trayvon, you will not be forgotten. We will honor you – and the millions your memory represents – by building a movement that makes America what it must become. RIP
I added the bold highlight and underline to indicate the single point made by Ms Alexander with which I disagree, at least in part. It is, of course, absolutely true that what she refers to as “The Zimmerman mindset” — the concept that any young black male in a hoodie is automatically a criminal — has “birthed a penal system” which has “relegated millions to a permanent undercaste.” I can’t imagine any sort of cogent argument that could counter the concept. I disagree, however, that such is “unprecedented in world history.”
Lest we forget, the USA has a long history of racial hatred, one that changes/evolves in various ways over the decades, but one which remains as omnipresent as ever. Only the focal points have changed; maturity of view remains elusive at best. Nor can we ignore other histories of nations which carried racial hatred to the extreme, countries in which their “penal system . . . relegated millions to a permanent undercaste” . . . a system which in one instance “relegated millions” of the “permanent undercaste” to concentration camps, and eventually to gas chambers and crematoria . . . a system which undoubtedly began with a type of “Zimmerman mindset” prior to evolving to its endpoint, the “Himmler mindset,” aka “The Final Solution.”
The United States is rapidly sinking into an authoritarian mire, one which appears to have alarming similarities to regimes familiar in recent history, a system which seems designed to punish all but the rich and powerful . . . who, in turn, gather in reward after reward after reward. Some call it the GOP, others identify it more with the exceedingly radical far right wing authoritarian entity, the Tea Party. No matter the current name, however, extreme right wing authoritarian governing philosophy is classically called Fascism. In the words of one who absolutely knew and understood:
Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power. . . . [and] . . . The Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the State. It is opposed to classical liberalism [which] denies the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual.
So wrote Benito Mussolini early in the last century. It’s probably a stretch to use Mussolini’s description(s) as a means of explaining the “Zimmerman Mindset,” although the heinous racial/religious hatreds and the mass murders undertaken by European Fascist regimes in the 1930’s and 40’s certainly gives pause to those who see or sense a similar political evolution taking place on these shores.
I’m reminded, once again, of words from the 1961 movie, Judgment at Nuremberg, from screenwriter Abby Mann’s Academy Award-winning screenplay, words spoken by American tribunal judge Dan Haywood.
There are those in our own country . . . who today speak of the protection of country, of survival. A decision must be made in the life of every nation, at the very moment when . . . it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient . . .
The answer to that is: survival as what?
A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult. Before the people of the world — let it now be noted . . . that this is what we stand for: justice, truth . . . and the value of a single human being.
Perhaps we once did indeed “stand for justice, truth . . . and the value of a single human being.” But do we still? The conservative majority on the Supreme Court has, in just the last few years, ruled that corporations are, in effect, people in the Constitutional sense; it also recently overturned a major section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, thus enabling certain states to officially enact the means to, in effect, revisit the old Jim Crow era and introduce new and creative measures designed only to prevent minorities from voting, a process well under way. The right wing-controlled House of Representatives has, to date, attempted to overturn and get rid of the American Healthcare Act, aka “Obamacare,” some 39 times at last count; in conservative-controlled states all around the country, legislation allowing interference in women’s health care and reproductive freedom progresses at breakneck speed; and last but not least, the House of Representatives appears to be doing everything possible to deny immigration and citizenship opportunities to some 12 million people, mostly of Hispanic heritage, who have come here to seek that (generally legendary) “better life” for themselves and their families.
The “Zimmerman mindset” appears to be driving a substantial portion of the nation’s body politic; one can only wonder . . . and perhaps fear . . . the possibility that one day in the near future the corrosive far right wing just may wind up with majority positions not only on the Supreme Court and in the House of Representatives, but also in the Senate, perhaps control the White House as well. Add to that right wing control of at least half the states, and . . . what then? Will we follow the authoritarian path to the point where we no longer stand for “justice, truth . . . and the value of a single human being” ?? Will the new authoritarian majority reassert “the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual” ?? And whereto from there?? Ultimately to a system that has, indeed, “relegated millions to a permanent undercaste” ??
Or worse ??