So I was listening to an interview with Jason Stanley, a Yale professor who wrote a book about How Fascism Works and he was talking about the ten pillars of fascism (spoiler alert: we’re batting a thousand on that score).
When he got to the propaganda pillar, he made an interesting point: the disinformation machine that’s been chugging along, spitting out fake news, twisting facts into lie and up-ending reality – started with lies told about Black folks that were woven into our national consciousness hundreds of years ago.
You know the lies I’m talking about -- the lies that say we’re all lazy, shiftless, good-for-nothing lay-abouts, over-sexed, under-educated criminals. Now, I’ll forgive you if you read that description and think: “Isn’t that what Trump says about Mexicans?” Because it’s the same lie from the same playbook told about different people.
But what that got me to thinking was, doesn’t it always start with Black folks? I mean, think of any national crisis – virtually any one you can think of – and I’ll just bet it started in the Black community long before it was recognized as a true crisis (as opposed to just another malady afflicting those ignorant savages in the ghettos).
Teen pregnancy, rampant unemployment, crime in the cities, decaying public schools – these were all phenomena that Black folks were enduring long before they became problems to the larger white population – in other words, long before they started happening to anyone who mattered.
Take those zero tolerance policies that had third graders expelled for bringing an aspirin to school, for example. Those zero tolerance policies had been inflicted on Black folks in schools, on the job, on the streets and in our homes if we were unlucky enough to live in public housing. But they weren’t called zero tolerance policies then, they were just rules meant to keep the animals safely contained in their cages.
Once those same policies were applied to white people – notice the outcry when little Johnny got locked up for a fistfight, or little Jenny got kicked out of school for having Tylenol in her backpack. All of a sudden, these draconian policies were seen as being too harsh, too sweeping in their application, and without compassion. No shit.
Or consider the drug epidemic. Whether it was crack or heroin or pills – as long as the public perception was that it was limited to the colored folks, it was just another one of those tongue-clicking tragedies befalling an already fallen people. But once it became clear that we are truly an addicted nation, popping pills, smoking meth, shooting heroin as fast as we can make it, buy it or steal it; now we’re having an opioid epidemic.
Look at the millions of people locked up because of the War on Drugs. Most of them Black and brown; but now that white folks are getting locked up with mandatory minimum sentences equating to half their lives – now we have an incarceration crises. News flash people: we’ve had an incarceration crisis in this country for the last 30 years since the War on Drugs (which of course started and until fairly recently was limited to the ghetto) was declared on Black people.
Now we have a nation more openly divided than at any time since the Civil War, with one side lobbing bombs about how those on the left are angry mobs of communists and those on the right all wanting to “Lock Them Up!” And the puppeteers pulling the strings on both sides are snorting with laughter at all the fun they’re having, because while they’re making shit up, we’re falling for it and carrying out their plan to perfection.
Ask yourself: who benefits from a deeply divided populace too busy fighting each other to fight their mutual foe? Who benefits from keeping us sick and poor and drug addicted and incarcerated? Who makes money from our misery, and the misery of unending war?
When you can answer that question, you can topple one of the pillars of fascism, and let a little reality into the picture for a change.