Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Rolison didn't know What "Shoots Him" Means. Really?

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

This is a tweet that baseball player Ryan Rolison sent out the night of Barack Obama's re-election. He was 15 and was making it clear on social media that it would be not only a good idea but good for the country if someone would shoot the president of the United States. Rolison is a draft pick for the Colorado Rockies baseball team.

Rolison says of the comment now that it was a "stupid tweet", it was "immature" He says he had no "idea what I was talking about." It was immature of me to post something like that. He says that it wasn't him and that "people" though he doesn't say which people, "know" that's not him.

Well that was him. And I cannot accept that he didn't know what "shoot him"means. Hell, this is America, every two year old knows what "shoot him" means.

We had a union member at work make some joke once about if he found out he had cancer he'd come in and take out his boss. He was arrested at his home in front of his family and never got his job back. He was forbidden to come near the workplace.

Rolinson's remark may have been immature and stupid as he says.  But what he doesn't address is his reason for saying it. His reason why he hates the president of the United States so much that he calls for his assassination. I have no love for Trump but I would know better than to call for his assassination. Not because it would break my heart but because we cannot change society through such methods. They do not raise working class consciousness they lower it.

Jeff Bridich, the Colorado Rockies manager dodges the issue too. Rolinson "...didn’t really know what he was talking about...". Rolinson went to a fancy college prep school in Jackson Tennessee and it appears the school graduated an idiot. Is that what I am to believe?  Birdich makes a bit of a feeble  attempt at social analysis which is sort of in the right direction but he too avoids the important issue of motive, what was it about this president that caused Rolinson to want to have him shot? Instead Birdich blames social media itself, apparently Twitter causes people to make violent and possible racist or sexist statements: "I mean look, not even adults make good decisions on Twitter." Birdich says,  "I mean, you can go to the highest power in the land, and how controversial and how things can get out of hand so quickly."

Good old Trump comes to the rescue again and even Trump isn't a racist, misogynist or a person that champions violence if we listen to the media he's just "controversial."

Here's a bit of advice for these folks. Every black person in the country knows why Rolison said that and a fair few whites.

The capitalist mass media will not probe too far, not so much to protect Rolinson because I'd bet my bottom dollar Obama being a black man is at the root of it. But because it doesn't want the issue of institutional racism, to be front and center. This is a great nation, blessed by god remember. Racial or any other unnatural social malady cannot be ingrained here. Protests against racism, police brutality, and its more extreme forms by black folks and others have forced the ruling class to go after individual racist acts in an effort to prevent their racial divide and rule tactic form getting out of hand which can be too costly. But what is avoided at all costs is a public discussion about how racism and all forms of social division are an integral part of class society which is what the capitalist system is, and that consciousness and ideas in the last analysis have a material base. Racism is purely a personal problem we are supposed to believe.

When I was a young man, I became attracted to the ideas of Enoch Powell for a brief moment in time. The mood in the country, or certainly in my area was anti-immigrant, and Powell was a very cultured educated politician. He talked more of us losing our Englishness or culture and that immigrants are the cause of our woes rather than using outright racist terminology. The educated British upper class can be very polite racists. Powell's ideas made sense to me for a while. The target of course were mainly people of color, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Previously it might have been Irish or Jews and today Eastern Europeans are a favorite target but always people of color. It's easier when the victim looks very different from you.

My parents weren't racist people, not that they didn't have their prejudices, and I had not been raised to act or think that way. But I accept that for a period I began to adopt racist ideas. It's the same as nationalism, even Trump's protectionism, it is the view that you are better than someone else because you were born in a certain place or look a certain way.  All colonizers have to divide the colonized and they do it through race, religion, color, whatever works. For a moment I was influenced by the world around me and moved to the right. Fortunately, it did not last long and other influences prevailed. I was never active in any nationalistic or racist groups or protests and soon abandoned what were divisive anti-working class ideas. The main thing is, it was not simply because I was stupid or immature.

What was the culture and environment in which Rolinson grew up? He went to a fancy prep school in what was America's Apartheid South. He went to the University of Mississippi which was only integrated (if you can call it that) in 1962 when massive riots broke out in response to the enrollment of James Meredith, a US military veteran. So much for respecting the military. Meredith had to be escorted to school and I've seen movies of people like Meredith and I recall a young black girl in a similar situation, being escorted by Federal Marshalls as white people cursed and spat on them. People were killed that night and those who have never heard it can listen to Bob Dylan's song Oxford Town that is about that event.

US capitalism rose to power after a genocidal war against the indigenous population and through the importing of slave and indentured labor and colonial plunder; the history of class society is quite violent. To colonize, exploit, occupy a people's land they have to be demonized to a base that the ruling class can rest on. Here is what Andrew Johnson had to say about black folks:

Blacks possessed, less “capacity for government than any other race of people. No independent government of any form has ever been successful in their hands. On the contrary, where ever they have been left to their own devices they have shown a constant tendency to relapse in to barbarism.”
Andrew Johnson 1867 annual message to the Congress. Eric Foner, Reconstruction p 180
Instead of all the excuses, that Rolison was immature and didn't know what he was doing which avoids the reality of it, the historical and social cause of it has to be brought out. It has to be de-personalised.  Rolinson is a product of that racist history and culture of the South. Only recently are statues of racist heroes that lost the Civil War being removed and until recently black folks have had to walk past them and their racist emblem hanging on public buildings. What a humiliation and who would not understand anger at that. In what war (The civil war was America's most violent with the highest body count) does the victor fly the flag of the defeated on public buildings for over a century. Total disrespect to black people and white workers actually as we wouldn't have democratic rights and unions had the Southern racists prevailed.

What was the culture in Rolisons family like? Did they have a history of fighting the racist culture in the South?  All these things would explain why he made the statement he did. And yes,  I could be wrong, he hated Obama so much as a 15 year-old because, er, Obama increased the drone assassinations and killing of civilians in the former colonial countries, or perhaps he felt his life was threatened by Obama's economic policies. But in actuality, Rolison is a victim of society too. We're all affected by it in different ways.

Racism and patriarchy, two very powerful ways to resist opposition to ruling class power are endemic to class society. As I quote many times because it is a most profound statement, "You can't have capitalism without racism" said Malcolm X. So the idea that we live in an actual system, and that this system has not existed for all eternity but other social systems preceded it, is an idea that is not popular. Racism is an individual thing just like our ideas. "I have my own mind", we hear all the time. But your mind is not your own. Consciousness has a material base and we cannot be separated from society.

Rolisons comments have a long history before they arose in his head.  When I left England, Northern Irish Catholics were terrorists not Muslims. Racism is alive and well in the US as a social problem. Black folks experience it in housing education, job opportunity and of course incarceration rates. Can a white person experience racial hatred from an individual? Of course, but we don't feel the weight of it from society.

Most white people seeing other whites spit at a black man trying to go to school are put off by it,  racism is not natural to humans. But the dominant ideology that it is an individual problem not a social one places the blame on the individual and the individual gets defensive. I didn't do this, I didn't do that. This is not the point unless those in power want it to be and they do.

I saw a woman talking about racism on a Facebook post, a white woman. She was clearly an anti-racist but all she talked about was that it is bad and it is a learned concept and we have to unlearn it. I agree with that, but she never once raised who teaches it and what social forces propagate it and why. That's why people that talk about it in that way are not excluded from the mass media, they are no threat. Capitalism is good, society is good America is good, the individual is to blame.

The only time the mass media talks about social systems is when they refer to Stalinism and the monstrous regime in the Soviet Union as communism. Other than that we're all just here.

The basic problem said Colonel Samuel Thomas, the Mississippi Freedman's Bureau Director  in 1865 was that white public opinion could not, “conceive of the negro having any rights at all” 

Oliver Howard the Union general who was head of the Freedman's Bureau wrote of the Southern whites: 
“Men, who are honorable in their dealings with their white neighbors, will cheat a negro without feeling a twinge of their honor; to kill a negro they do not deem murder; to debauch a negro woman they do not think fornication; to take property away from a negro they do not deem robbery….They still have the ingrained feeling that the black people at large belong to the whites at large.”
Both Quotes from Foner, Reconstruction

There's a long history of getting people to accept racist ideas in this country. As Lerone Bennett pointed out in The Shaping of Black America, "...the available evidence, slight though it is, suggests that there were widening bonds of solidarity between the first generation of blacks and whites.  And the same evidence indicates that it proved very difficult indeed to teach white people to worship their skin.”
We cannot change the present unless we can understand the past and the class forces at work. We cannot change anything if we do not recognize that there are classes in society and that workers as a class have the power to change society. But we cannot do it if we are not united as a class and racism is an enemy of working class unity as is sexism and religious sectarianism. The picture we see of  Obama, Bush and Clinton laughing together on the Internet shows how these people treasure class solidarity, they hate each other but class loyalty comes first.

Rolison would do some good if he would share his real reasons for saying what he said and condemned his past views (lets assume they are past views) and the continued presence of racism in society and the South in particular.  It's fine to accept that he was immature and stupid in holding these views, we can all learn with a few ideologically driven exceptions. 

But then he might not get the job then would he.

I have to go now. I just read Dennis Rodman might join Trump and Kim at negotiating the table in Singapore. Maybe Fukayama was right; this is the end of civilization.

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