Friday, July 27, 2018

Ann Hathaway is Right. But She Cleverly Ignores Class To Protect Her Privilege

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Before this week, the only Anne Hathaway I had any knowledge of was William Shakespeare’s wife.  Apparently there is an American actor with the same name who has been all over the mass media after commenting on the murder and assault on three young black women, (three sisters) by a white man in Oakland California. They were attacked as they exited a Bay Area Rapid Transit train at the MacArthur station in Oakland Ca.

Nia Wilson, 18 years old, brutality murdered by John Cowell
One of the women, Nia Wilson died and her sister Letifah was seriously injured. The third was unharmed and the killer has been apprehended. I went to the memorial and protest at the MacArthur BART station earlier this week.

Here’s what Ms Hathaway had to say on Instagram

“The murder of Nia Wilson- may she rest in the power and peace she was denied here- is unspeakable AND MUST NOT be met with silence.  She is not a hash tag; she was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man.

White people- including me, including you- must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS.  White people DO NOT have equivalence for this fear of violence.
Given those givens, we must ask our (white)selves- how “decent” are we really?  Not in our intent, but in our actions?  In our lack of action?
Peace and prayers and JUSTICE for Nia and the Wilson family xx”

Needless to say, Ms Hathaway has taken a lot of flack and abuse from the usual racists, fascists and white nationalists on the Internet and that must be condemned.  But there are other white folks who are critical of her for the right reasons, for her hypocrisy addressing all white people as one bloc, “we must ask our (white)selves” she says. Ms Hathaway is speaking to her multi- millionaire friends as well as some unemployed former coal miner in West Virginia, we are all just, ”white people”. As is always the case, the class issue is absent.  Ms. Hathaway can raise an important issue and be correct in what she says, but she very cleverly leaves out the class question because she is not only white, she has extreme class privilege. She wouldn’t ever be in a position to defend someone in the situation those working class black girls found themselves in because she wouldn’t be caught dead in a BART train.

However, we don’t always choose the messenger and where Hathaway is correct we have to say so. Any decent white person should second the statement that, “ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS.  White people DO NOT have equivalence for this fear of violence”.

You don’t have to be a guilty white liberal to accept this basic fact and speak out on it, validate it when black folks point it out rather than making excuses or getting defensive. They’re not attacking you as an individual, they’re describing a social condition that specifically affects them, has done for centuries and in the most brutal violent manner. Validating this reality builds unity between working class blacks and working class whites; this strengthens us all.  It’s akin to how women fear rape in society and men don’t. Of course, not all blacks suffer the same, nor do all whites, nor do all women. Social class and the money, connections and privilege that goes with it matters.

Hathaway and former boyfriend relaxing in the Mediterranean 2007
Being lectured on the need to take this social disease of racism, a divide and rule tactic propagated by the white racist ruling class in this country, “into the marrow of our privileged bones” does not sit well when it comes from a person of extreme social privilege like Hathaway. Ann Hathaway is a multi-millionaire celebrity who is married to another individual from her social class and previously had a wonderful time traveling the world, staying in Trump tower and yachts with an Italian playboy, real estate developer and con man who ended up serving time for his fraudulent and parasitic existence.  Hathaway got slightly burned by that experience although a good time was had by all for a while, poor girl, she was only in her 20’s---- “It was totally love at first sight,” she later admitted in an interview. “He is sooo good-looking.… He looks like a god.”  Vanity Fair.  In this world, not spent on public transit I might add, Hathaway met billionaires, developers, people connected to the Clintons and their foundation and so on.

So while Hathaway is right to point out the truth about racism in society and what black folks have to deal with every minute of every day in one way or another, she empowers the right wing white racists by conveniently dragging all whites in to her privileged mix, white workers are included with her and the class she moves around in except we don’t move around in it. The millions of white poor, the desperate, the conditions that have caused the life expectancy of this group to decline, Hathaway does not in any way mix with this group. She never will find herself talking to this group and using the pronoun “our” about social conditions because she has nothing in common with the vast majority of white people in this country especially West Virginia and other Southern states with the highest death rates per 100,000 in the nation.

It is a conscious thing to ignore the class issue. It’s fine to talk about racial identity, religious identity, gender, but not class as Hathaway avoids any controversy that way, she does not offend her class brothers and sisters and it will do no real harm to her status and earning capacity because it will be assumed by all that she’s really referring to the white working class and her comments will not help unite the working class but divide it.

White workers have to brush her disgusting liberalism aside and defend the statement she makes about what black folks have to deal with in a racist society although she doesn’t really condemn society. You won’t hear people like her, or Shaun King, the blogger and entrepreneur quote Malcolm X saying that “You can’t have capitalism without racism”  because capitalism is good to them in many ways; not so good these days to the white worker.  Despite her gender oppression within it and Kings racial (color) oppression within it, they both want to advance their class position within the framework of capitalism.  When white workers raise the issue of class and how it is obscured we are often called “class reductionists” a disparaging term which is the accusation that by raising class we are ignoring the special oppression many other minorities in capitalist society face. This is a straw man in a lot of these instances. Hathaway would not want to be accused of fomenting “class war” or even recognizing it exists, she might not get another $10 million movie deal.

The reason rich celebrities are speaking out on these crucial, issues and dominating the podium at events like the women’s marches is because the working class has no organization and leadership that is leading the charge. Scarlet Johansson, Oprah, Madonna, George Clooney, rich liberals like these figures will attempt to capture any movement that arises.  The leaders of the 14 million member trade union movement could transform this situation, could bring out millions with union banners and with demands that affect working class men and woman from all backgrounds but the leadership of organized labor are terrified at the thought of  mobilizing their members, and spend more time and effort ensuring this potentially powerful social force stays with the bounds of acceptable legal behavior, acceptable to the ruling class and their allies in the Democratic Party.

Rather than directing anger at white millionaire celebrities speaking for us and normally against us, white workers must ensure that their voice is heard, that their condemnation of racism is loud and clear and in events such as the killing in Oakland, we turn up in support of the victims; we listen to them and we validate what is very real for them. At the protest I was at last Monday there should have been leaders of the local union movement there speaking forcefully, calling on the need to fight racism on the job and in our communities and society at large. And not simply the head figures but leaders of small local unions that represent the community’s many public sector workers.

It is nauseating indeed to watch celebrities like Oprah, one of the world’s richest women and others, at the head of a movement like the recent women’s marches and hear Ms Hathaway talk about “our” whiteness as if she has anything in common with the plight of the white working class and white poor. This does not negate the fact that people of color and especially black folks experience a very different society and different fears for those of us with white skin.

But we can’t change the class content of the leadership of our movement and stop the rich liberal bourgeois types hijacking it by sitting at home, by refusing to join some of the more oppressed and most victimized sections of the working class when they are forced to openly protest the violence specifically directed against them, more often than not by state security forces and the judicial system. We cannot be silent.

Anne Hathaway is absolutely correct to point to the, “…..truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS.” and that there is no “equivalence for this fear and violence”  for white people in this society.

If we don’t care for super privileged celebrities like Ann Hathaway and the other Hollywood liberals speaking for us, then we must speak out. Ann Hathaway doesn’t speak for me and I don’t want her speaking for me. But I agree completely with her public recognition about the fears black folks have in our society and that these fears are completely justified.

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