No, seriously. Semi tossed a Nissan into my sister’s car after she came to pick me up at the airport. It’s kind of been a funny week that way.

So, in non-car accident related news, Anna from Portland/Cairo was kind enough to point me to Orac’s take down of the Bush/Crazy piece on Science Blogs. I didn’t notice this at the time, but the incumbency bias is a huge point. Uninformed voters of any mental health status would probably favor the incumbent pretty strongly, right? Orac pokes enough holes in it that it should put this thing to bed. But that’s not the point…it was to quickly post a press release of a non-PhD as a cheap shot. Enjoy the slurring, folks. Just remember, the mentally ill aren’t real people, just tools for you to hit your opponents with. The comments i’ve gotten posting about this have been nothing less than frightening. Open questions about why the mentally ill are “allowed” to vote, “won’t you just let us have our joke” whining, and the most dissembling defenses of bad science this side of a Intelligent Design conference.

Onwards and upwards, right? thefreeslave is back from hiatus, so y’all make sure you’re reading. With a new agenda, he’s looking for ways to be setting the positive agenda and not get stuck in reaction. With this in mind, he looks at the Kramer fiasco and the N word. Part of his argument (go read the whole thing, I’m not gonna summarize) rests on how social violence underlies linguistic violence. Simply, that the slur of degradation derives it’s power from the economic, political, and cultural degradation enforced by other means. The N word means something because White folks have historically made black people live in conditions to match.

I see the point. But this is where i part ways. He asserts that you could call a Jewish person a slur, but “when he rolls out in his Benzo, the sting’s just a little muted.”

I don’t know that it is. As demonstrated by antisemitism, negative stereotypes can include perceptions of the Other as wealthy, and still degrade them to the point of being non-human. The stereotype of “bling” allows White Racism to perceive black wealth while at the same time retaining it’s power over, on the basis that this wealth is some how “unnatural.”

The West has a long history of anthropology of wealth, and that “knowledge” is explicitly racialized. Agricultural wealth is natural, as it comes from cultured, land owning classes. This crops up again with the Romantics, and lies at the heart of Nazi ideology, even at a time when Germany is hyper-industrializing in preparation for war. The actual origin of wealth is less important than the values, culture, and social signifiers that surround a person’s idenity. Wealth is a marker of where one draws one’s source of essence. Is one existentially a farmer, born of farmers, with connections to “The Land” even if you’ve been city dwelling with a white collar job for years?

Past some slurs of “nouveau riche,” Industrial wealth becomes natural because it represents the capitol holding class. Adoption of values and political alignment with previous wealth sources move this transition along, and the robber barons transform from crass opportunists into recognized entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

Yet, at the same time, money lending and trading tends to be seen as unnatural because it’s Jewish. This has different sides to it in Europe and America, but the base observation remains true. Finance remains a rather suspect way of making a living, perceived widely as exploitative to a degree that seems disproportionate to actual economic concern.

“Bling” is now the racialized way of understanding wealth in the black community as unnatural, and slur against black social advancement (even if it’s unrelated to entertainment, etc…) The point isn’t actually about where the money comes from. It has to do with if America thinks a person should have it, what their cultural/ontological essence is and if they think you ought to have money based on that. For instance, queer wealth is unnatural because we’re all lawyers in the lavender mafia and don’t have kids. It’s nothing actually particular about any one queer, or how they might make a living. It’s about the perception of ontology, and if that status/essence includes a right to wealth/status.

America’s a funny place like that, and by funny i mean wrong. The boot on the neck doesn’t happen without the words in the mouth, and the words in the mouth don’t happen…

The self-referential character of racialized discourses and actions makes it difficult to identify a single starting point. And so i think thefreeslave is right that banning the N word isn’t just impossible, it’s additionally unlikely to usher in the Race Apocalypse and the second coming of the Perfectly Beige Jesus. But i guess i see the power of discourse to remove the social privileges of wealth and other advancements by dehumanizing the same. In America today, you can call a Jewish person a terrible name, but the sting is really most assuaged by the wide recognition of Jewishness as White, an ontology that includes the right to power. “All the money in the world” is still sitting in Swiss banks, having not gotten it’s previous owners out of anything…as long as the social discourses of the age regarded that wealth and social placement as unnatural.

This isn’t an anti-progress screed, but a cautionary tale about the power of discourse to reinterpret the facts on the ground such that advantage becomes disadvantage. I don’t think it’s a matter of you just can’t win. Under their rules, you just can’t win. The distinction is important.

-sly

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