Saturday, July 14, 2018

Summer of Rage by Rebecca Traister

Whose anger is considered righteous, and whose is condemned as uncivil and dangerous?

Look at how the Democratic Party leadership freaked out when California representative Maxine Waters told supporters that if they saw "anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere." Waters wasn't urging violence; she was appealing for assembly and protest of the cruel separation of migrant families. And she has a long history of respecting the fury of the powerless.

Back in 1992, when looting and fires followed the acquittal of four white cops in the beating of black motorist Rodney King, Waters was in her first term as a congresswoman representing parts of South Central Los Angeles: "I accept the responsibility of asking people not to endanger their lives;' she said. "I am not asking people not to be angry:' She labeled the events not as a riot but an "insurrection;' recognizing that the unleashed wrath of the oppressed is a form of political rebellion, one not so distant from the cherished revolution of 1776.

Yet in 2018, leaders of Waters' own party-Senator Chuck Schumer and the House's Nancy Pelosi-saw fit to censure her publicly and didn't bother to defend her when the president, in a tweet, falsely accused Waters of advocating "harm to [his] supporters" and grimly admonished: "Be careful what you wish for Max!"

To publicly rebuke a black woman's endorsement of protest and not the white male president's implicit call to violence against her is to play to the exact same impulses that Trump does: racist and sexist anxiety about noncompliant women and people of color. (And yes, some upholders of minority power are themselves women-women working in service of a brutal white patriarch.) Even left-wing hero Bernie Sanders opined about the Trumpites' "right to go into a restaurant and have dinner:' To hear Sanders-who in 2016 was extravagantly extolled for channeling the anger of the electorate (unlike one Hillary Clinton)-trying to douse another form of righteous rage was pretty rich.

But of course, the fury the press and political Establishment in 2016 deemed so important, so American, was that of white men: mad because the economy wasn't working for them as it once did, but also mad because of a fantasized sense of devaluation in a country that had elected one black president and was considering a woman for the job.

The hand-wringing over white men is what has kept newspapers printing endless stories about the unwavering devotion of Trump's base while ignoring the grassroots rage spreading through the majority: the young, often female, and often women-of-color candidates who've been streaming into American politics for the past year and a half, winning in special elections and Democratic primaries from Virginia to Nebraska to the Bronx.

reprinted from the Intelligencer, New York magazine, July 9, 2018

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