24 April 2013

The blood of White people

Andrew O'Hehir has an good screed in Salon, How Boston exposes America’s dark post-9/11 bargain, which says that the events around the Boston bombing indict pretty much every sector of the Republic as having failed in the wake of 9/11: the press, the government, the commentariat, the polity, the whole thing. Not anything anyone who's reading me doesn't know, but still: a good screed. So check it out.

I want to focus on how, near the end, this jumped out at me:

In America after 9/11, we made a deal with the devil, or with Dick Cheney, which is much the same thing.

The supposed tradeoff for that sacrifice was that we would be protected, at least for a while, from the political violence and terrorism and low-level warfare that is nearly an everyday occurrence in many parts of the world. According to the Afghan government, for example, a NATO air attack on April 6 killed 17 civilians in Kunar province, 12 of them children. We’ve heard almost nothing about that on this side of the world, partly because the United States military has not yet admitted that it even happened. But it’s not entirely fair to suggest that Americans think one kid killed by a bomb in Boston is worth more than 12 kids killed in Afghanistan. It’s more that we live in a profoundly asymmetrical world, and the dead child in Boston is surprising in a way any number of dead children in Afghanistan, horrifyingly enough, are not. He lived in a protected zone, after all, a place that was supposed to be sealed off from history, isolated from the blood and turmoil of the world. But of course that was a lie.

Well of course it was a lie. Again, not anything anyone who's reading me doesn't know.

But while I understand why O'Hehir is saying that Americans don't really think our children's lives are more important than other children's lives, we sure act like it. And that reminded me of a blog post from Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous that I've been meaning to blog about, Hey, White Liberals: A Word On The Boston Bombings, The Suffering Of White Children, And The Erosion of Empathy.

Your constant prioritization of the lives of white people over the lives of people of color is taking a serious toll on my psyche and those of many in my community. And by that I don't mean what you might expect. Most of us already know that racism and its BFF white privilege have detrimental effects on people of color. Racial oppression leads to any number of unhealthy conditions, including high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, diabetes and even asthma. But what I’m talking about is something different. Something I’m going to call DSWP: desensitization to the suffering of white people.

O'Hehir is nosing around the foothills of that mountain whose slopes McKenzie is climbing — because after all, when he says “Americans” he's mostly talking about a mediasphere of White people — and I have to admit that there are moments where I feel like I'm drifting toward the altitude where McKenzie finds herself with the DSWP. White people beating their breasts about their misfortunes is starting to feel very, very unseemly to me ... and I am a White person.

This means that this is an even worse moment for the Republic than O'Hehir says, does it not?

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