“Positive Thinking” Is a Cover for White Supremacy, Patriarchy, and Capitalism

I found a lot of truth in a blog post I read recently called “Positive Attitude” Bullshit: On the dangers of “radical self-love”.

People whose lives aren’t going well or who experience mental illness are often subjected to “positive thinking” and New-Age-y “manifest abundance” crap. The idea is that if you just think the right kind of thoughts and change yourself with sheer willpower and perhaps by purchasing certain self-help books, suddenly you will get what you want in life.

positive thinking

Life doesn’t actually work that way. Marginalized and neuro-atypical people can’t just think their way out of institutionalized systems of oppression. These systems mean we get shittier jobs, get paid less, are harassed and degraded for existing as ourselves, and have less access to generational wealth and benefits. “Positive thinking” and the idea that simply changing how you think will change how rewarding and comfortable your life is hides how capitalism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy form your life conditions and chances.

It makes the systemic problems and violence of capitalism into into individual flaws. It takes unfair external conditions shaped by the effects of centuries-old oppressions and tells you that your lack of total success in life is actually your personal fault. And there are certain self-appointed people who somehow have discovered the right way to think, and they are happy to sell you products so that you too can discipline your naughty negative thoughts.

New-Age-y positive thinking philosophies, which some corporations have used to indoctrinate their workers, are just another cover for rapacious hyper-capitalism. They are a clever way of keeping people divided and focused on their personal flaws and their personal financial goals and their personal relationship problems.

Instead, what would be truly POSITIVE for most people would be to band together and find ways to end our current economic system, which requires a few winners and a lot of losers to work. It would be POSITIVE if we remembered community, unions, liberation, a multitude of loving relationships, and collaboration instead of competition. Caring people coming together to overthrow our hateful system and creating something new that benefits everyone by design is more my style of positive thinking.

Proof Poor People Deserve to Wallow in Misery Unassisted

Anecdotally, a financially comfortable person told me that once they saw someone they think was poor who was wearing what appeared to be an expensive accessory. Therefore all assistance to the poor is used unwisely and it is morally acceptable for society to allow its most vulnerable members to wallow in humiliating misery.

Top Quotes from “The Rich & the Rest of Us”

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West published a book called The Rich and the Rest of Us. I recently read this book, and here are my favorite quotes. I highly recommend this book as an excellent introduction into poverty issues and America’s class system.

” “There has been something crude and heartless and unfeeling in our haste to succeed and be great,” President Woodrow Wilson declared in 1913 at the beginning of the 20th century…”

“Poverty is 21st-century-style slavery; its eradication should serve as the battle cry of a new civil rights movement.”

“[A] condition of truth is to allow the suffering to speak.”

Newsflash: People on Public Assistance Are Stupid

So indicates the Chicago Tribune and the jerks it interviewed for the article Politicians, health advocates seek transparency, restrictions in food stamp program.

At issue is the worn-out “debate” about whether food stamps recipients should be able to decide for themselves what they want at the grocery store, or whether the government should decide for them.

Suddenly, the government cares that corporations peddling unhealthy food and beverages may receive “government money” in the form of people using food stamps to buy, for example, Pepsi. As though major corporations don’t receive government perks at every turn, and the thought of a poor person enjoying a soda just offends certain officials’ senses of corporate ethics.

As though the “healthy food” that the government would rather poor people use their food stamps on is not also corporate-owned and already government-subsidized just as the “unhealthy food”.

I will never understand why punishing poor people for their poverty is a solution when they likely live in “food deserts”, where real grocery stores, let alone farmer’s markets and the like, are scarce and the junk food sold at bodegas is easier to get and more filling.

Punishing poor people for being poor will not make them healthier, will not cause them to make “better” choices, and will not stop the sale of unhealthy food and beverages. It will simply be another way in which the government and our society infantilize and condescend to the poor without offering any real solutions aimed at the root of their problems. In fact, it seems we believe the poor are to blame for their own poverty, which is why they need the government to tell them what to eat and what not to eat. The assumption that poor people are dumb lies barely covered beneath the surface of these crap arguments.

If these unhealthy food items and beverages must be banned from the poor, why not also everyone else? If the government and “health advocates” are so concerned about the public health effects of unhealthy food, why not ban it from everyone, regardless of income level? That would certainly strike that blow the government is suddenly so eager to strike against the corporations producing these products.

Criminalizing the Poor Is Good Politics

Uh, hello, even Fox News can tell this is a bad idea:

Nearly two dozen states are considering plans this session that would make drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And Wyoming lawmakers advanced such a proposal this week.

Driving the measures is a perception that people on public assistance are misusing the funds and that cutting off their benefits would save money for tight state budgets — even as statistics have largely proved both notions untrue.

…The issue has come up in the Republican presidential campaign, with front-runner Mitt Romney saying it’s an “excellent idea.”

Of course the millionaire thinks it’s okay to invade the privacy of people in desperate situations and treat them like criminals for being poor.

There’s a word for that: classism.

Statistics indicate that people who receive public assistance are no more likely to use drugs than the general population. Budget analysis shows that testing is so expensive, and so few people actually fail the test and get kicked off assistance, that it costs much more than it saves. Additionally, there is a trend of these laws getting ruled unconstitutional in court.

So why would Republicans still support bills that discriminate pointlessly, add cost to state budgets, and will probably get declared unconstitutional?

Because they are counting on the existence of stereotypes about the poor, and that this discrimination will win them short-term political points.

Huzzah!

Some state politicians have tried to add in drug testing for state legislators, who receive even more money from the government than recipients of public assistance. None of these measure have been adopted or seen the same kind of vigorous support as drug testing for the poor. Huh.

When the Tea Party Controls Your School Board

Interesting things happen when local Tea Party affiliates infiltrate your school board:

  • They implement racial and economic segregation in one of the most integrated school systems in America: Wake County School District in North Carolina. (With the financial backing of a wealthy Libertarian.)

You may recall that we have former Tuscon School District Superintendent Tom Horne (supported by his local Tea Party) to thank for this mess.  His legacy is being dutifully carried forward by current Superintendent John Huppenthal, “who threatened to withhold millions of dollars if TUSD didn’t terminate the nationally acclaimed [Mexican-American studies] program immediately.”

Then Tuscon school administrator Lupita Garcia comes out and actually says: “This country is called America, okay? And they study US history. If you were to go back to Mexico… you would study Mexican history.”

  • They remove mention of racial minorities and critique of wealthy whites from history books in Tennessee.

Here is some of their actual curriculum criteria:

“No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Also:

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the [coalition of Tennessee Tea Party’s] lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.

  • And how can we forget that last year, Tea Party affiliates in Texas attempted to edit out the word “slavery” from their textbooks and replace it instead with the term “Atlantic Triangular Trade“.

A Fun Privilege Brouhaha

Perhaps you have already had the good/bad fortune to come upon an article at Forbes.com called If I Were a Poor Black Kid. This article is written by a “middle class” white accountant, consulting firm owner, business technology columnist, and former senior manager at KPMG named Gene Marks. Sounds totally “middle class”. Probably an income of $60k a year, you think?

You can see where this is going. My personal additional annoyance beyond the many more obvious ones is: does he really expect to be reaching poor black kids by publishing a blog post on Forbes.com? Obviously not. He never intended for this “advice” to reach a real world poor black kid. He is writing for wealthy white people, at the expense of poor black kids, in an attempt to unearth a dead horse and beat it some more: i.e. the myth that blacks wouldn’t be so poor if they just worked harder. Note of hilarity: This column was originally titled “If I Was a Poor Black Kid”, but so many people were amused by his poor grammar that someone corrected it.

So read it for yourself if you enjoy bathing in a rich froth of righteous privilege and oblivion as to how the real world works.

OR, read one of these amazing and insightful rebuttals, which attempt to relieve Mr. Marks of his embarrassing ignorance.

If I Were a Rich White Dude by Jeff Yang

Trolling The Internet With ‘If I Were A Poor Black Kid’ by Kashmir Hill

A Muscular Empathy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

If I Were the Middle Class White Guy Gene Marks by Kelly Virella

An Ode to a ‘Poor Black Kid’ I Never Knew: How Forbes Gets Poverty Wrong by Cord Jefferson

If I Were Gene Marks by Carolyn Edgar

If I were a wealthy white suburbanite by DN Lee

If Gene Marks Were a Poor Black Kid Who Went to Ballou In 2003 by Shani Hilton

If I Was A Poor Black Kid, I’d Key Gene Marks’s Car by Peter Vidani

H/t ES

“Patriarchal, Racist & Mean-Spirited” Law Temporarily Blocked in Florida

Florida’s brand new Tea Party-approved law requiring all food stamp and other public assistance applicants to pass a drug test before accessing aid has been temporarily blocked. It seems Federal Judge Mary Scriven was concerned it violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Before signing the law, [Governor Rick] Scott made several references to people on welfare using drugs at a higher rate than the general population. Maria Kayanan, of the ACLU in Florida, called the law “patriarchal, racist and mean-spirited.”

Pre-judicial block, while the law was in operation, over 99% of applicants passed their tests. (6,968 out of 7,000)

This Tea Party-approved measure is estimated to cost the Florida government $178 million a year.

Sounds like a small-government, cut-wasteful-spending, fiscal-conservative type of measure to me. That’s why I’m certain it has nothing to do with poor-bashing, stereotypes, or racism. Just the cold hard facts!

It’s not like we need myths about the good-for-nothingness of the poor to prop up the solid truth of our tots meritocratic capitalist economic system.

Oh, and FYI, Gov. Scott founded the company, Solantic, that has the sole government contract to do this testing.

NY Daily News Adds Insult to Murder

The NY Daily News, a newspaper of ill-repute, recently published an article entitled Gilgo Beach victim was a man wearing women’s clothing, possibly working as prostitute: authorities, written by Matthew Lysiak and Rich Schapiro. Yes, they did. Let’s dissect.

Police released sketches Tuesday of two victims found at a suspected serial killer’s beachside dumping ground – one of them a gap-toothed man who was dressed as a woman and likely turning tricks.

They know this person identified as a man? Amazing detective work. They don’t even know who zie was, so how can they possibly be aware of hir gender identity in 2000, the year they believe zie was killed? Also, “likely turning tricks”??

Gilgo Beach Victim Sketches

Even the police sketch appears to misgender this person.

The composite sketches were made public along with pictures of jewelry worn by two of the victims – the first new details Long Island cops have put forward in months in the puzzling, creepy cases. The bizarre discovery of the cross-dressing Asian man found near Gilgo Beach led cops to theorize he may have been a prostitute – like five of the other 10 victims.

BIZARRE?? Have the writers, Lysiak and Schapiro, never heard of transgendered people before? Are they unaware of the centuries-long history of people dressing differently than the gender assigned them at birth? I wonder if they know gender is socially-constructed. Um, probably not. Is the “bizarreness” factor heightened by the victim’s race, in the minds of these writers? Do they know that calling minorities — whether racial, sexual or otherwise — “bizarre” is incredibly offensive?

Also, I appreciate the automatic yet subtle association of “cross-dressing” (i.e. gender non-conformity) with sex work.

He was estimated to be between the ages of 17-23 and stood about 5-feet-6, authorities said. He had poor dental health, missing both top and bottom molars and one of his top front teeth.

Nice assumptive use of “he”. You know what “poor dental health” often indicates? Poverty. Just saying. No mention of that being a common thread in these murders, though I have a strange suspicion the victims shared a common economic class in addition to a common gender presentation. Huh. Nothing to see here. Moving along…

Investigators believe he was killed between five and 10 years ago.

Yeah, so could we please treat this murder victim with a modicum of respect? Instead of writing a very public article mocking and insulting hir, much, I’m thinking, as the killer(s) probably did?

British Elites Are “Shocked” the Poor Are Rising Up Against Austerity Measures

Everyone’s favorite article explaining the British youth riots: Panic on the Streets of London by Penny Red.

An excerpt:

Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news. In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

Read the whole thing. H/t RH.

Remember Poverty?

City Limits: Remember Poverty

I cannot recommend the latest issue of City Limits Magazine more strongly. This issue is titled “Remember Poverty” and contains several articles that are worth your time. The magazine is based in New York City, so the articles pertain to the specific NYC situation, but the general message is relevant to the whole country.

A short description of the issue from their website:

Fifteen years after federal welfare reform, five years after New York City embarked on a quest to reduce poverty, more Americans are poor than ever before and one in five New Yorkers remains below the poverty line. Yet poverty is absent from political debates and media headlines. Everyone, it seems, is tired of talking about poverty–except poor people. In this 35th anniversary issue, City Limits lets low-income New Yorkers talk about their daily fight for survival and independence. Their stories defy simple explanations of poverty’s causes or consequences. And they reveal that efforts to assist low-income people often serve to complicate their lives, even as they provide crucial support.

In other news, Warren Buffet recently had some interesting things to say in his article “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich” in a recent New York Times:

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice”… [But] while the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks.

…88 of the 400 [Americans reporting the largest income] in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest.

Stereotypes, Myths, & Criminalizing Policies: Regulating the Lives of Poor Women

Read this BOMB post at the Incite! blog by New Orleans-based Women’s Health & Justice Initiative NOW!

Here’s just a taste:

Using the ‘Get Tough’ rhetoric of the War on Drugs; reproductive regulation; and neoliberal austerity measures to attack poor and marginalized women (who rely on government subsidies for financial support) irresponsibly exploits their economic vulnerability by falsely implying their assistance is the cause of the country’s financial woes. Although recipients of public assistance are no more likely to use illegal drugs than the general population, they are often disproportionately targeted by elected officials as social burdens in need of governmental regulation.

…If passed, Senator Vitter’s Drug Free Families Act of 2011 would amend part A of The TANF Program and thereby require all states to drug test all TANF applicants and recipients. The bill will deny assistance to individuals who test positive for illegal drugs and those convicted of drug-related crimes. Not only will this Act further restrict the privacy and agency of women who are daily portrayed as deceitful, deviant, oversexed, and addicts—all because of racialized gender-based misconceptions of what it means to receive public assistance- it will also subject them to various forms of discrimination with regards to housing, employment, education, and their voting rights.

The Slum Is an Integral Part of Urban Society

From Brownsville, Brooklyn by Wendell Pritchett (published 2002):

Much debated among academics and policymakers, the popular perception of many American cities was that they were filled with poor, black and Latino persons mired in a “culture of poverty” that prevented them from joining the mainstream of American life… According to many analysts, the underclass was a self-selected group of the poor responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime, deliquency, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, and other social problems.

Throughout the twentieth century, urban elites attempted to erase physically decayed neighborhoods. They failed because the slum was an integral part of urban society.

The US Forcibly Sterilized 60,000 Americans

Between 1920 and 1970, the United States government forcibly sterilized 60,000 Americans because they were poor and/or people of color. The justification was that there would be future savings for welfare programs.

Elaine Riddick was 14 years old when she was raped. When she gave birth 9 months later, the government labeled her “promiscuous” and “feeble-minded” and had her sterilized.

Elaine Riddick, sterilization victim

Elaine Riddick speaks out.

From WCTV:

When Elaine Riddick gave birth to her son 43 years ago, doctors sterilized her on orders from the State of North Carolina.

“They cut me open like I was a hog,” says Elaine Riddick, a sterilization victim.

Riddick was only 14 at the time, a victim of rape. She didn’t realize until years later, when she was married, that she would never again have children. The state had deemed her too feeble-minded to have them.

“I am not feeble minded, I have never been feeble minded,” Riddick says.

…”The people who were the focus of this movement were the dispossessed of society, the poor, common criminals and in some cases, simply people of color,” says Paul Lombardo, Georgia State University.

It seems like somebody knew what they were doing was probably wrong…

Most of the sterilization laws, including North Carolina’s, were written to give states immunity from lawsuits.

-From CBS

LAND OF THE FREE HOME OF THE BRAVE!!!

Not a Conspiracy

“Some would blame our current problems on an organized conspiracy. I wish it were so simple. Members of a conspiracy can be rooted out and brought to justice. This system, however, is fueled by something far more dangerous than conspiracy. It is driven not by a small band of men but by a concept that has become accepted as gospel: the idea that all economic growth benefits humankind and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits. This belief also had a corollary: that those people who excel at stoking the fires of economic growth should be exalted and rewarded, while those born at the fringes are available for exploitation.”

-John Perkins, in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 2004

“America was founded very early on the basic premise that he who is poor deserves to be poor; he who is rich is entitled to the fruit of his power.”

-John Gerassi, Violence, Revolution, and Structural Change in Latin America, 1969

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