Friday, December 15, 2006

Quote of the day, 12/15/06

"We are indeed a house divided. But the division between race and race, class and class, will not be dissolved by massive infusions of brotherly sentiment. The division is not the result of bad sentiment and therefore will not be healed by rhetoric. Rather the division and the bad sentiments are both reflections of vast and growing inequalities in our socioeconomic system--inequalities of wealth, of status, of education, of access to political power. Talk of brotherhood and of "tolerance" (are we merely to "tolerate" one another?) might once have had a cooling effect, but increasingly it grates on the nerves. It evokes contempt not because the values of brotherhood are wrong--they are more important now than ever--but because it just does not correspond to the reality we see around us. And such talk does nothing to eliminate the inequalities that breed resentment and deep discontent.

...It is institutions--social, political and economic institutions--which are the ultimate molders of collective sentiments. Let these institutions be reconstructed today, and let the ineluctable gradualism of history govern the formation of a new psychology."

--Bayard Rustin, "Time on Two Crosses"


Donna Darko said...

This guy lead the civil rights marches but was disqualified as a black man because he was gay. Things never change.

belledame222 said...

well, i don't know if i'd come to quite that conclusion, depressed as i am tonight.

but yes, more people should know Rustin.

at least he lived to a goodly age, i think, unlike his limelit colleagues...

little light said...

Yeah, I'm a fan of Bayard Rustin, myself:

Donna Darko said...

i mean he was discredited as a leader in the movement because he was gay. sorry about that, BD.

Alon Levy said...

Honestly, I don't know what to think about the passage. On the one hand, I can't disagree with anything Rustin says in it. Moral reforms are pure feel-good; if they weren't, "Just say no to drugs" would do something to reduce drug abuse rates.

On the other, it gives me an eerie feeling that something more pernicious is underlying the sentiments. It's a bit like reading Hayek or Friedman about freedom. Usually they talk in enough generality that I can't find anything wrong with their cries against tyranny and for individual choice. But they use these views on freedom to then advocate utterly destructive economic policies.

There's a gigantic "Do as I say, not as I do" component here, but more and more I think people should just stop talking about principles that sound trivial and start talking concretely.

I totally agree that the only way to effectively combat racism and classism is by changing institutions. In an American context, I take it to mean desegregating school districts, funding education nationally instead of from property taxes, repealing post-1980 anti-union laws, guaranteeing a minimum income to low-income people, and enforcing anti-discrimination laws better. What does it mean to you?