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Politically Mismatched

Robin Alexander

Posted on April 18, 2018 12:09

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Ever start chatting with a stranger about politics, only to find out he has completely different views than you assumed he would have (silly you), views which are completely different from your own (oy)? Conversing with an ally is one thing; conversing with an adversary is another. So, last Saturday night I was out with co-workers and I happened upon such a chat . . . in an 80s-style discotheque.

I took a break from the very loud disco music. So did he. Somehow the conversation turned to guns. He solidly supported a woman who lives alone owning one. I politely explained that the last thing the world needed was for me to run around saying, “where are my keys, where are my glasses, where is my gun?” We moved on.

Somehow the conversation moved to race (I’m reasonably sure it wasn’t me). I thought I’d hear firsthand about what it’s really like to be a black man in America, from the south side of Chicago no less. I was prepared to be properly progressively outraged.

He apparently thought he would impress me with his accomplishments, chip-less shoulder and identification with the bourgeoisie (military, trade school, five upstanding kids - he had a right to be proud). We were clearly at cross-purposes.

He ranted against Black Lives Matter; he cited black on black crime statistics; he spoke derisively about welfare mothers; he told about being pulled over by cops and not having any problem at all. I may as well have been talking to Sean Hannity (well almost). I interjected about decks being stacked against minorities, unfair criminal justice practices and mass incarceration, yada yada. He was having none of it.

I’ve encountered this before. A successful member of what is considered an oppressed group expresses disdain for that group and strives to prove that he or she is NOT “one of them.” There are several ways to parse this: it’s a question of class and not race after all; no one wants to be perceived as a victim; this approach has worked on white girls before.

When in doubt, ask a question and try to find common ground. After another tirade on welfare moms I interjected, “But what caused the problem?” He cited President Johnson’s welfare initiatives; hand-outs promoted "single mom-ism" and the break-down of the family. (So the Great Society agenda was really a red-neck Texan plot to hurt black America).

Eureka! We could agree on something. The problem is systemic.

It was at this point that we saw my co-workers photographing us. “Are those your friends?” he asked. “Uh, yes.” “Oh then maybe we should kiss.” I couldn’t help it, it just came out: “Noooooooo. That’s just what I need.” The need to worry about future political clashes suddenly ended.

Prologue: Research on the Great Society left my head reeling. Mid-'60s legislation passed criminalized segregation, as well as discrimination in employment, housing and voting practices; abolished national-origin quotas for immigration; waged the War on Poverty through urban re-development, job training, and food stamps; created jobs in Appalachia; expanded Social Security; provided federal aid for public education; and the list goes on. Programs included National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, Job Corps, Head Start, VISTA, Model Cities Program, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Upward Bound, Bilingual Education Act and, oh yeah, Medicare and Medicaid.

Makes Bernie look a little reserved.

Robin Alexander

Posted on April 18, 2018 12:09

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