This is the first post in (the first annual?) Short Week at freddiedeboer.substack.com. Since people constantly complain that my stuff is too long, this week all posts will be 500 words or less. We will return to our usual longwinded ways next week.
Do I think about it? Not as often as I thought about the inevitability of this state of affairs at the time. What I remember from that period is being told, over and over again, that difficult questions about purpose, strategy, and messaging were forbidden, that to demand minimal political coherence was somehow to disrespect Black rage. A common claim was that you can’t expect activists to have message discipline, which is bizarre - if you can’t ask that of activists, who can you ask it of? I think what people really meant was “you can’t ask Black people to have message discipline.” Which is pretty racist! And now here we are. It turns out that when you insist that respecting people’s rage means refusing to ask the most elementary questions about where it’s all going, they get… nothing. That is an unusual form of respect.
At this point I’m fairly convinced that Mr. Stancil here is some sort of conceptual art project or CIA op. Stancil is a white man, and he is in this very tweet attempting to steer the Democratic party. That’s not a problem; that is what politics is. White men get to participate in that process because everyone gets to; that is what democracy is. What Stancil thinks, but knows enough not to say, is that what he wants is what Black people want. He can’t say that because it isn’t true, as decades of polling figures and voting attest to the fact that the average Black American is far to his right. Which makes him just like the rest of us - just another person with a point of view about how the Democrats and left-of-center should behave, what they should want and how to get it. But like many white liberals he has weaponized “centering” Black people, fixating on optics and instrumentalizing their pain and anger for his own political and professional ends. That, too, is pretty racist.
We live in a country with a white majority and where white people have a dominant grasp on power. To change the latter you have to get real about the former. If your first instinct is to say that this isn’t fair then you’re not tough enough to change the world. The only political respect I know of lies in respecting people’s political goals so much that you demand ruthless discipline in their efforts to achieve them, even when that hurts their feelings. To get tangible progress we’ll have to grapple with the fact that all of those DEI statements and BLM signs were never a mark of respect but of a collective white liberal condescension of such depth and intensity I can hardly believe it. The goal is not to get white people to treat Black people like they’re made of glass. The goal is to get Black people money and power and then they don’t need to care how white people treat them.
The deadline for the book review contest for subscribers has come and gone. Everyone who submitted an entry should receive a confirmation email from me by end of day tomorrow (Tuesday 10/26); if you submitted an entry and don’t get an email from me please email me to double check. I hope to announce winners by Thanksgiving.
Sometime in my teens, Mom and I were about to cross the street. The crosswalk light was a go, and I stepped into the street with all the confidence of invincible, unencumbered youth.
Mom grabbed my arm before I took a second step. “Hang on.” She double-checked that no cars were coming, then let go of me and started to cross.
“Why’d you stop me? We had the right of way!”
She just smiled (with a little too much syrup) and said, “Well then, you’d get to have ‘I had the right of way’ on your tombstone.”
Most interpersonal interactions in life (and especially in politics) are a choice between feeling righteous (but leaving empty-handed) and swallowing your pride (while actually moving the ball down the field). Objectively, the choice is clear. But that dopamine hit from righteous fury sure is addictive.
I see that there are others saying this as well, but you should ignore the people whining about your writing being too long. It's great that you spend paragraphs and paragraphs really thoroughly digging into the implications of something, without having to worry about the unspoken barriers that constrain someone working for the NYT or Vox or whatever. Just because the complainers have had their attention spans blasted by Twitter doesn't mean they should bring others down with them.