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Social Hieroglyphs of ‘Thingness’

Any measure of a human being – in thought or in practice – that subtracts from the essence of a person’s human being is an act of subordination and domination. The thought and practice of this kind of inhumanity has a face-value and a purchase-value. Another way of understanding face-value and purchase-value in the context of intolerance is as a “unified structure of consciousness brought into being by the whole of society“. If the face-value of intolerance is produced socially (colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow etc.), the forms and expressions of its inhumanity lend varying degrees of social validity to the thought and practice of historically specific subordination and domination.

christian terrorist?

Can blacks be racist? The simple answer is yes. Those that would argue that blacks cannot be racist point out that it is a question of domination and subordination, that is, of power and powerlessness. This is correct. It does not follow, however, that blacks cannot be racist.

Any measure of a human being – in thought or in practice – that subtracts from the essence of a person’s human being is an act of subordination and domination. The thought and practice of this kind of inhumanity has a face-value and a purchase-value. Another way of understanding face-value and purchase-value in the context of intolerance is as a “unified structure of consciousness brought into being by the whole of society“. If the face-value of intolerance is produced socially (colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow etc.), the forms and expressions of its inhumanity lend varying degrees of social validity to the thought and practice of historically specific subordination and domination.

A dollar has the face-value of one hundred pennies. When used to purchase a product produced socially it may only be worth ninety-eight cents given certain conditions affecting exchange values. In this case of exchange markets, one dollar can be exchanged for a social product – e.g. a bar of soap- valued at ninety-eight cents. The difference between the face-value of one dollar and the purchase- of  ninety-eight cent is two cents. Racism and intolerance are social products that have, of sorts, a face-value and a purchase-value when exchanged socially between human beings during the course of interactions that structure the sum of social relations. The difference between the face-value and a purchase-value of intolerance is a degree of power.

For example, the historical sedimentation that calculates the impact of the word ‘nigger‘ on a person of color gives the word and the world the face-value of the -n- word. When a person who is a descendant of U.S chattel slavery is called a ‘nigger’ by someone who does not socially inherit this peculiar legacy of subordination and domination, the word is redeemed at its historically full face-value. This same socially produced inhumanity and intolerance exchanged between persons of color who share the legacy of chattel slavery signifies a reduction in the purchase-value – but not the historical sedimentation (face-value) – of the -n- word. The face-value of the -n- word is determined by how it is calibrated to extinguish -that is, to fetishsize – certain human characteristics. The dynamic of extinguishing or negating certain human characteristics can center around humour and or power.

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In any case, measuring a human being in terms that reduces, denigrates or negates parts and aspects of his or her humanity is to equate the person with ‘thingness’ and by extension the powerlessness of a ‘thing’. The difference between a person’s human being when it is equated with the inhuman being of ‘thingness’ is a measure of power masked as a measure of the human being. The question is, who pockets the difference between a person’s human being when it is equated with the inhuman being of ‘thingness’?

Barry,BO - Rocky,BO

Going back to the example above, it can be assumed that the person who is not a descendant of slaves pockets the difference – the power. It can also be assumed that the difference between an Afro-American and a ‘nigger’ is pocketed by persons whose lives are not colored by this difference even when the -n- word is exchanged between and among African-Americans. This second assumption depends on whether or not the use of the -n- word between and among blacks empowers or dis-empowers the word and or the persons using it in a given context. When consciously referring to ‘thingness’, a black person employing the signifier ‘nigger’,  is a person of color speaking to ‘the thing’ as if it is some-‘thing’ ‘other’ than a black person. When consciously referring to ‘thingness’, a white person employing the signifier ‘nigger’, is speaking to a person of color as if blacks are that ‘thing’ to which chattel slavery reduced human beings.

It is usually the case that some form of domination and subordination (colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow etc.) scribes social hieroglyphs of ‘thingness’ that are imbued with historically specific purposes and power. The historically specific purpose and powerlessness with which domination and subordination imbues ‘thingness’ is another way to comprehend the phrase ‘historical sedimentation’ as it is used throughout this blog.

Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.” by Martin Luther King, Jr

Thinking about the question whether or not blacks can be racist is a thought experiment that attempts to decipher a historically specific social hieroglyph – ‘the nigger‘.  This social hieroglyph spans a continuum of social production encompassing the social validity of enslaved Africans as their persons assumed the benefits and recognition of their human being – as if they were some-‘thing’ else before this process began.

Let us ask and think about a different but related question. Who pockets the difference (the power and powerlessness) between a person’s human being and ‘thingness’ when racism and intolerance takes the form of black youths expressing 9/11 anti-Muslim sentiment while attacking a Sikh Indian in Harlem?

To answer this question we have to decipher  a different social hieroglyph. The social hieroglyph that we have to decipher is that of the “Islamic terrorist“. For most people, “Islamic terrorist” is an oxymoron. But for morons, this social hieroglyph is a social cue for scripted acts and speech.

islamic terrorist

Above, ‘thingness’ signifies the social hieroglyph ‘nigger’.  It is ‘otherness’ that signifies the social hieroglyph ‘Islamic terrorist‘.  ‘Thingness’ and ‘otherness’ are related in that the concept -‘other’ – is an abstraction of ‘the thing’ (e.g. nigger)  that human beings are reduced to with face-values and purchase-values that are the differences between power and powerlessness.

To arrive at ‘the other’, you must first reduce the human being to ‘a thing’. Then you must reduce that ‘thing’ to a sketch of an idea that can only survive in our imagination. In other words, ‘the other’ is worth less than ‘the thing’. At least the slave counted as 3/5 of a person and ‘the nigger’ – depending on the state of the justice system – recognized as a legal person. An ‘Islamic terrorist‘ has no rights, no privileges and no protection from that which can extinguish human being. The ‘Islamic terrorist‘ is a total surrender of considerations that human beings are due.

Captain AmericA

The twenty or so black youths that attacked Prabhjot Singh stepped outside of their humanity to become and to act as ‘things’ and instruments of a social imperative to extinguish semblances of ‘the other’ . What makes this attack a peculiar black tragedy is that these black youths were actualizing the same kind of extreme right wing rhetoric that projects images of the first black president of the United States as some-‘thing‘ foreign, illegitimate and ‘other’ than “American“. When Trayvon Martin’s human being was extinguished, President Obama said ‘Trayvon’ could have been his son.  If it were not for the secret service, there are places in this country were President Barack Hussein Obama could be Prabhjot Singh or Satwant Singh Kaleka.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. by Martin Luther King, Jr.

In a ‘unified structure of consciousness brought into being by a society different than our own, ‘the thing’ could be a ‘Christian’ and ‘the other’ a ‘Western infidel’. No matter which society produces the social hieroglyph of ‘thingness’ and ‘otherness’ all of our human being is threaten.

The Stealth Crusade

Inside one Southern university, Christian missionaries are being trained to go undercover in the Muslim world and win converts for Jesus. Their stated goal: to wipe out Islam.

christian terrorist?

Another difference between the  social hieroglyph ‘thing’ and ‘other’ is that with  ‘otherness’, power and powerlessness yield space to active and passive acts of violence. At the point of violence the face-value and purchase-value of ‘otherness’ tear a hole in everybody’s pocket. Shreds of social fabric torn by these acts of violence strangle our species being.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the video clip above, Roland De Souza has higher expectations of the black youths that attacked Prabhjot Singh – because Mr. Singh looked like ‘the other’ – than they have of themselves.

Savarkar, Modi’s mentor: The man who thought Gandhi a sissy


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Curriculum Vitae

Tom L. States PhD Candidate

Fields of Interest: Political Theory, International Relations, Marxist Political Economy

Research Topic: eRacism - Conflicts of Difference

Education History: Williams College, BA Political Science; New York University, MA Politics; York University PhD Candidate

Languages: English, German

Hometown: Greenwood, Mississippi

Words of Wisdom: “IT” is what you are when you are young. Your youth mistakes certainty of the few things that you think you know for knowledge of things that it takes a life time to understand. With time and a few life experiences “IT” becomes the thing you pursue to give your life meaning. Somewhere along the way of having or getting “IT” you ask yourself, ‘Is this “IT”? Panic sets in when you realize that “IT” is your life. Fear and insecurity is that feeling you get when “IT” has not been worth a life time.

Bookshelf

Harvey, David. Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference. New York: Longman, 1996.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press. 1967.

Cancian, Francesca M. Gender Politics: Love and Power in the Private and Public Spheres. Gender and the Life Course. Ed. Alice S. Rossi. New York: Aldine, 1985.

Sand, Shlomo. The Invention of the Jewish People. New York: Verso, 2009.

Lay, Shawn. The Invisible Empire In The West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920's. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Journal

Carothers, Thomas. Think Again: Civil Society. Foreign Policy Date, (Winter: 1999-2000).

Ober, Josiah. The original meaning of "democracy": Capacity to do things, not majority rule. Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics. American Political Science Association meetings, Philadelphia, (2006).