March 01, 2010
Bait and Switch

Here, via BLCKDGRD, is Walter Benn Michaels, writing in the London Review of Books:

…Race, on the other hand, has been a more successful technology of mystification. In the US, one of the great uses of racism was (and is) to induce poor white people to feel a crucial and entirely specious fellowship with rich white people; one of the great uses of anti-racism is to make poor black people feel a crucial and equally specious fellowship with rich black people.

Furthermore, in the form of the celebration of ‘identity’ and ‘ethnic diversity’, it seeks to create a bond between poor black people and rich white ones. So the African-American woman who cleans my office is supposed to feel not so bad about the fact that I make almost ten times as much money as she does because she can be confident that I’m not racist or sexist and that I respect her culture. And she’s also supposed to feel pride because the dean of our college, who makes much more than ten times what she does, is African-American, like her. And since the chancellor of our university, who makes more than 15 times what she does, is not only African-American but a woman too (the fruits of both anti-racism and anti-sexism!), she can feel doubly good about her.

But, and I acknowledge that this is the thinnest of anecdotal evidence, I somehow doubt she does. If the downside of the politics of anti-discrimination is that it now functions to legitimate the increasing disparities not produced by racism or sexism, the upside is the degree to which it makes visible the fact that the increase in those disparities does indeed have nothing to do with racism or sexism. A social analyst as clear-eyed as a University of Illinois cleaning woman would start from there…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at March 01, 2010 12:05 PM
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Sometimes I hate Google. This picture has always been a favorite of mine, and now it turns out it was staged:

In a recent interview, Louie Liotta, a photographer who acted as Weegee's assistant, recalled that Weegee has been planning this photograph for a while. Liotta, at Weegee's request, picked up one of the regular women customers at Sammy's on the Bowery at about 6:30 p.m. With a sufficient amount of cheap wine for the woman, they proceeded to the opera house. When they arrived, the limousines owned by the members of high society were just beginning to discharge their passengers. Weegee asked Liotta to hold the now intoxicated woman near the curb as he stood about twenty feet away from the front doors of the opera house. With a signal worked out in advance, Weegee gave the sign to Liotta, who releasd the woman, hoping all the while that she could keep her balance long enough for Weegee to expose several plates. The moment had finally arrived: Mrs. George Washington Kavenaugh and Lady Decies were spotted getting out of a limousine. Both women were generous benefactors to numerous cultural institutions in New York and Philadelphia, and Weegee knew that they were known to every newspaper in New York.

http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/weegee09.html

Posted by: PSymbol on March 2, 2010 6:05 PM
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