Translated from Gegenstandpunkt: Politische Vierteljahreszeitschrift 3-2020, Gegenstandpunkt Verlag, Munich

George Floyd, for example
On the racism of a freedom-based, egalitarian state power

Apparently, you can’t reveal it often enough. It doesn’t matter that the man has almost a full term behind him. Seasoned journalists still see the final verdict about Donald Trump as being that he is above all a man with no sense of decency. Three and a half years of America first!, his implementation of impressive visions and revisions of American world politics, of the ‘homeland,’ and of the most powerful office in the world — everything he does on and around the job is perceived solely as evidence of a defective moral sensibility. Of course, the serious press does at least give its devastating style criticism the appearance of a political criticism. It goes so far as to say Trump lacks the moral tools to unify the nation when that is what it so badly needs. His martial rhetoric and racist allusions fuel the division playing out on America’s streets instead of bridging it. Sure, what else can anti-racism protests and their opponents’ indignation mean but that what both sides really want is to stop arguing and enjoy being at one?

But this accusation is quite illuminating. Not in terms of the division among Americans itself, which is only of interest insofar as it exists, yet again. But that is precisely why the accusation provides a great deal of insight into the ability of democratic journalists to think in abstract terms. Year after year, they manage to see every dispute of national importance among the freest, most self-responsible citizens on earth as evidence of always the same desire for a leadership they can stand united behind. So it’s not a particularly difficult achievement in abstract thinking after all; one only has to reproduce the abstraction that democratic politicians are constantly handing out anyway, especially in an election year. Accordingly, the current protests, which have led to one or the other old equestrian statue being broken, appear to be yet another sign that people are solely longing for a new leadership personality to erect a statue for. All they want is a leader who will draw them such a glowing picture of their country, and so personify it himself, that all quarrels fade away. So that is something fascists and monarchists do not have a monopoly on: judging and condemning those in power in terms of whether they fulfill the not-very-cozy ideal of unifying leaders and those led.

The accusation is wrong, as well. It is simply not true that Trump’s reaction to the latest, largest-ever anti-racism protests in the U.S. is indicative of a moral deficit, let alone one that disqualifies him for his office. Certainly, fans of a truly harmonious national community do not like to see Trump portraying well-meaning protesters as an anti-American mob who only want to wreak havoc. Those who favor an enlightened and inclusive brand of patriotism also wince when Trump turns the Independence Day eulogies of the heroes of American history into a vilification of said mob. It’s even worse when he threatens to use the finest military in the world against them, gives a taste of it at a photo shoot with the Bible, and then lays it on with little green men in Portland, Chicago, and beyond. But how does anyone get the idea that that makes him short on morals? His determination to keep America’s wonderful system and its super-fantastic police forces — minus a few totally unimportant bad apples — exactly the way people are protesting against dispels all doubt: his moral compass is perfectly calibrated. So perfectly in fact that he demonstrates off-the-cuff, quite instinctively, without even once saying nigger!, how American racism works, a racism shared by the American authorities and a significant section of the American people.

For the starting point and impetus of the established racist morality that can turn into private or police brutality is neither a biological racial theory nor a moral inability to recognize the value of black lives. It is the very political morality that Trump celebrates with such honest emotion: love for the American system, for the free and equal competitive society it holds, and for the people who live and love this system as their ‘way of life.’

I. A great system and its domestic enemy: criminal characters

This love has never done without glorifying its object. Which doesn’t mean that good Americans are not aware that their pursuit of happiness takes place in the form of a do-or-die struggle between competitors. They also know that the home of the free and equal is home to a social hierarchy whose upper and lower ends are fairly extreme. Why deny this when it is an established fact that America with its market economy is a land of opportunity? It can’t be a class society, since members of all classes (which are known and occasionally designated as such there too) are equally free to make use of their abilities, and also rise from one class to the other in principle. Even if it is quite striking how often Americans fall back on Hollywood for their stories of advancement, the fantasies are apparently based on true events sometimes. But in any case, it is not the results of competition, the real living conditions at the top or bottom, that make this competitive society so nice — and if not always so nice, then at least ultimately above criticism. Its beauty is not diminished by the different and conflicting means and purposes that the various competitors have either. What counts are the virtues of competition, which are called for on all rungs of the social hierarchy and thus free each rung of this hierarchy from criticism. These virtues being a willingness to work hard, ambition, perseverance, cunning, the right instincts, and above all, good old American self-reliance. In short, good Americans old and young sing the praises of their capitalist, competitive class society, in a most unobjective way, as one big moral performance.

But there is one thing they don’t do: whitewash the hardships involved. They know their ‘way of life’ to be a very demanding moral test. The hardships involved in pursuing happiness in the market economy do not speak against it, but rather for those who prove themselves in it. This especially applies to those who are successful, as their success already proves their virtuousness. When they take the liberty of overstepping the law in the interests of succeeding in business or achieving personal happiness, it may be annoying but they are often forgiven. When such lenience is scandalized, the excitement quickly wears off. In America, social envy only reflects badly on those who aren’t able to refine it into dreams of advancement of their own, or at least hide it. After all, the successful ones with an imperfect sense of decency have managed to accomplish exactly what all free happiness hunters are after. And one must also admit that quite a lot and quite a few people depend on the successful ones’ happiness. Admiration for a Donald Trump is only the most recent testament to this moral excess in the home of free competition.

Of course, the community of competitors also reckons with people coming off badly in the free and equal struggle to live. It is not a disgrace to suffer this fate, but it does not entitle anyone to anything. Those who think they can make demands on something like a state-administered mutually supportive society, or who actually criticize their situation in an accusatory way, show themselves to be losers. Otherwise they would be putting their injured pride into a dogged effort to join up with the winners a bit instead of trying to take away their success. Such bad losers exclude themselves from the community of self-responsible competitors, slipping down a notch in the moral hierarchy of American class society. That is where to find the many unsuccessful people who don’t manage to handle their poverty in conformity with the law. They thereby reveal themselves as criminals — as ‘bad hombres,’ nasty characters, unfit for the system, and dangerous to successful and decent folks. When you combine the one with the other — social criticism with a bit of unlawful unrest — you have hit moral rock bottom of free society once and for all, and are gnawing at its foundations. The only language that such bad losers understand is punitive force.

That is not just the derailed view of righteous citizens, but characterizes the way the American justice system itself works as well. Its elementary racist logic is only obscured by the fact that it does not — at least not officially — sort and punish by race. But one is impressed by how extensively and consistently the justice branch of the “great stable of liberty”[*] takes poverty and crime as indicative of unfit characters, i.e., criminal natures, and treats people accordingly. Just as the hardships of free-market competition are not sugarcoated or played down in any way, neither is the force that is required for the free pursuit of happiness to function properly. Force tends to be glorified in fact, and esteemed as an indispensable tool in the campaign arsenal not only of every sheriff, but also of all politicians right up to the president. America has accordingly been waging a war for over half a century against two impersonal domestic enemies: crime and drugs.[1] The war mission is carried out very personally, on the other hand. In keeping with the country’s established moral hierarchy, it hits those bad characters who don’t live so much on Wall Street or at the various universities but in the well-known neighborhoods. There, criminals make their way with exactly the same virtues of competition but with illegal techniques for pursuing happiness, thereby showing themselves and their neighbors to be bad boys. The way the ‘home of the free’ practices its love for the best system in the world, i.e., fights this war on the disarray of the immoral poor, it ends up with a length of sentences and a prison population that need not fear comparison with what foreign ‘tyrannies’ are accused of. Such conditions are all right for the simple reason that the need for them is proven year after year by the fact that they exist. According to the logic of punishment, i.e., that a crime reveals bad character, the punishment is not over and done with when someone is released from prison, and does not even have to begin with imprisonment; a criminal can’t get rid of his official and moral status as a criminal so easily. In most individual states, convicted criminals are deprived of a number of civil rights, which makes it virtually impossible for them to live according to the official guidelines.[2] There is occasionally talk of a vicious circle, which moves the very soft-hearted to express polite, ineffective concerns about whether fighting crime this way is really working — the height of compassion. As far as the responsible politicians themselves are concerned, there is no sign of a ‘division’ between the parties on this issue at least; they tend to try and outdo each other in cracking down.

II. A great people and its colored antithesis

The permanent American war on crime is, on the one hand, a multicultural affair. The poor members of all ethnic groups meet up not only on the lower rungs of the social and moral hierarchy, but also at different levels of punishment by the judicial system. On the other hand, what the Black Lives Matter movement is protesting is an unmistakable fact: all equal rights and official color-blindness aside, black Americans are regarded and treated as a suspicious collective by the state as well as a considerable portion of the American population. The war on crime hits blacks especially; in fact it is aimed at them. Their skin color identifies them as members of a dangerous community, so that mainly they themselves live dangerously.[3] That is naturally not the official standpoint of the American state; it is even officially taboo. But it is executed by the agents of the state according to the police inside joke, There is no racial profiling … but it works!, and it is shared by a significant portion of society. The so very humanitarian distinction between competitive characters who are good or bad, decent or criminal, does not apply to blacks. In their case, it holds what does not hold for the white majority population: their breaches of law do not show up bad apples but a rotten lineage, a collective unfitness for the system, and a collective danger to the good guys.[4]


The demonstrators lodge their protest against this state of affairs in the certainty that they are opposing a use of power and a spirit that go against the nation’s constitutional principles and identity. After all, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, pursuing happiness equally by participating in a competitive free-market society.

They are right in one respect — albeit not in that America has failed to do ‘men’ justice. The ‘men’ the American state promises to serve in its Constitution are (regardless of the gender issue) an abstract figment; in reality there are only ‘men’ who are being released into a competitive capitalist society. This is a mode of production that, though teeming with antagonisms and hierarchical relations between people, gives these relations of private domination an objectified nature. The power of one over another is not determined by the color of the skin but by the possession of property and money, and by whether someone is earning their money with their own or with others’ work. This is the distinction and hierarchy that is important to the American state, like any successful capitalist democracy, and that is the reason why it prohibits other ways of distinguishing and subordinating people. They are not the ways that have productive force for the capitalist wealth that the state draws its means of power from. The American constitution also finds it important that free competitors of all stripes draw a national identity and self-love from their objectified competitive and class relations — and that this can be done they have long proved with their 250-year-old ‘grand experiment in democracy.’ They have done so with precisely the morality of competition described above: America is the land of hard-working competition fiends, who live in harmony as long as they uphold freedom, i.e., as long as they keep to their respective self-responsibility in their respective places. To this officially American, ‘liberal’ standpoint, there is nothing wrong in celebrating the regime of capital as an ‘open society,’ as the only humane form of rule; in short, as the freedom allowing people to show what they’re made of.


The special racist treatment that blacks are confronted with is the reverse side of a sense of oneself and of what is right that is firmly established in the white majority population. Although this sense contradicts the principles and morality of competition mentioned above, it is not at all meant as an objection to them. On the contrary, the collective of ‘real’ Americans cultivate the sense of not only forming the largest collective in the land of the free and equal, but also being the true actors in this uniquely humane order. They see the regime of freedom as not only offering the best possible living conditions, but also being their own achievement — and above all, reflecting their own distinctiveness as a kind of people. Obviously, it does not matter whether they possess the economic and political instruments of power to actually control these living conditions in any way, since all they can control is their own will to be part of the action. What is instead crucial for their delusion of being the prime movers in society is their certainty that the moral idealizations of free-market competition are their special attributes, which others can at best also learn. They are sure of being the true competitive people, that is, the consummate, equally created ‘men’ the nation’s constitution is actually talking about — and whose forebears once gave this constitution to themselves. The poorest among them have nothing to gain from this status, but they do get an immaterial reward: the imaginary prerogative to judge whether the other sub-collectives of the population, the ‘racial minorities,’ are even ripe for the freedom of competition, whether they can claim the state’s protection or should instead fear it. Even though this prerogative is in reality exercised only by the real masters of the state and economy, they feel entitled to it too as members of the same master race.

American history is a veritable treasure trove of examples showing how this sense of oneself and of what is right typically excludes others when put into practice.[5] Blacks are an outstanding case of it, long after the abolition of slavery. For their emancipation does not alter the fact that their skin color reveals everything that is important about them: their presence on American soil does not stem from a will to pursue happiness in free competition and thereby contribute to society. So they can’t be expected to have such a will; this simply makes blacks alien. Our system is not theirs, it is not an expression of their desire for freedom.

This distinguishes blacks from the other foreigners who have sailed to America in smaller and larger waves over the centuries and whom the domestic master race has always had an ambivalent relationship with. As competitors — first for land, later for jobs in a burgeoning industry, and even later in the growing ‘service society’ — the latest wave of immigrants have traditionally met with skepticism or rejection from their naturalized class-brothers. What the resourceless dependency of America’s proud native proletarians hasn’t managed to do, their newly immigrated counterparts haven’t managed to do either, namely, sow the slightest doubt that freedom in the market economy is a fine privilege.[6] But those who really have something to say have tended to be more receptive to immigrants. They put them to use initially as manpower for settling and working the conquered continent and thus consolidating the continental conquest; for doing the dirty work of building the infrastructure required for capitalistically developing the conquered land; for satisfying industrial capital’s greed for profitable labor; as cannon fodder for defeating the breakaway South and later for imposing an ever more American world-order; as voters for winning the contest for power… That has by no means answered the question of whether immigrants, who are so useful to America, namely, to its dominant interests, are also proper Americans. The Chinese, Irish and Italian Catholics, Mexicans and many others can tell a thing or two about it. The land of the free insists on its freedom to bestow a calculating kind of treatment on “your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses” it takes in;[7] and a free people already at home there insists on its prior rights.


With blacks, the American state basically has no such calculating relationship, to the chagrin of righteous white nationalists. From its perspective, they may be like foreigners, namely, suspicious aliens, but they cannot be treated as foreigners. They cannot even claim the honor of being citizens of a foreign state, i.e., at least having their homeland elsewhere. They are not ‘foreigners’ but ‘niggers,’ an unfit race whose ‘foreignness’ consists purely in their being unfit for the domestic system, and a danger to it. And this system is not merely ‘our’ system, but the only one that is completely human. Exceptions among blacks confirm the rule. And this is not merely the image that patriots cultivate of blacks, but was of course also for a long time the official principle of how they were treated by the American state power. After their release into free competition, they were forced — in the southern states — into the role of de jure independent farmers, but de facto they were the cheapest workers and therefore at the mercy of their business partners. Politically they were at best treated as second-class citizens, otherwise systematically terrorized by citizens and officials alike. In the course of two ‘great migrations’ they fled to the big cities of the North and West, where the masters of capitalist industry and the war economy could do with them as cheap labor — and were confronted there with a governmental population policy that was unwilling to treat them as wage laborers in need of support. The extraordinary honor of receiving state support for a working class otherwise unable to survive was reserved for whites in a pinch — as was the pleasure of seeing only specimens of the master race in their neighborhoods.[8]

This exclusionary treatment of blacks was in competition with the excellent services they provided for the dominant interests: as workers, soldiers and — where concerns about their political reliability faded — as a sizable potential voter clientele. In addition, Kennedy and the other masters of U.S. imperialism are said to have suffered certain propaganda losses when trying to reconcile their imperialist claim as leader of the free world with the situation of blacks at home. This gave the civil rights movement at the time a certain recognition from above and thus a decisive boost. The happy outcome of the civil rights movement was official equal rights — while 'black power' advanced to public enemy number one.[9] There was no splitting hairs. The militancy and revolutionary rhetoric of the ‘black panthers’; the peaceful marches and patriotic tones of the civil-rights fans; the riots in the metropolises in reaction to the terror by the police and many unofficial representatives of the true white Americans; the crime and drug use that were spreading in the black slums — all stood for the same thing: for a general disregard for America’s great system and way of life. This marked the birth of the War on Crime, whose cast of players was already settled the moment it was proclaimed.


The racism that blacks are subjected to by the police and judiciary today is anything but an unfair generalization of negative experiences with individuals. It is exactly the other way around: hostility to blacks is the way the agents and protectors of law and order follow through with the mission of dealing not ‘only’ with a lot of bad guys but — quite in keeping with the logic of a war on crime — with a domestic enemy that most definitely does not belong to the nation of good, self-responsible Americans. This enemy is put on the wanted list, searched for, and found. What the search hits on is a ready-made, subaltern black community, as if made for the role.[10] Blacks are faced with an offensive from America's armed peacekeepers that is absolutely as effective as the former Jim Crow laws.[11] Private racist terror is banned but continues to take place as an unpleasant accompaniment to the official process of law and order. It is echoed faintly but effectively by the small everyday demonstrations of contempt for blacks and fear of them.

Proud white nationalists at the top and bottom are on the same wavelength here. Those at the bottom, being governed, have no trouble understanding the official race-neutral references to domestic enemies to mean the native aliens — especially since those governing, with the help of the free press, are quite lavish with unambiguous depictions of black drug addicts and felons. The fact that there is still a shred of ambiguity has for years been the basis for a popular American sport and highly successful export of the politically correct type. Some people supervise public discussions of how evil criminals are dealt with to make sure that really only neutral expressions are used. Others resort to the most superfluous of all disclosures — to uncovering and deciphering the obvious ‘code words’ and ‘dog whistles’ that are used to present racist law enforcement in a digestible form, without losing too much in translation, to a people raised to vouch for egalitarian morals. This only goes to show how little there is to encrypt — how small a step it is from constructing a domestic, criminal enemy to fleshing it out with personnel. The truth is: when racist policies are justified and pursued not using racist terminology but invoking the fine system, its values, and the great people it serves, this does not so much conceal racist practice as reveal its true basis in accepted patriotism.


So the end result for blacks is notable. Firstly, this collective is confronted with the hardships that capitalism has in store for those of its free and equal participants without means. Secondly, it faces the contempt that an egalitarian people of competitors holds for such members. Thirdly, these members bear an impossible burden of proof: they are supposed to dispel the suspicion of going around as personified breaches of the law while this is already written all over their faces and no hoodie in the world can hide it. They are supposed to make gestures of submissiveness visible at all times to show especially the police that they acknowledge the prejudice held against them. Anything else is resistance and will be punished — how, that has now been recorded on video again.

III. A new anti-racist protest movement and its resonance

To oppose this, a new anti-racism movement has been taking to the streets for six years under the slogan Black Lives Matter, this year even producing the largest protests in American history. The slogan itself has been causing a lot of irritation and anger for years. Its followers have again and again been indignantly asked to correct it to All Lives Matter in order to make the case for the country’s beautiful egalitarian principles instead of more racist division. The demonstrators resolutely refuse to do so — not only because this demand is often enough meant to deny the very existence of the racism they are opposing. Above all, they consider the insistence on official egalitarian morality to not just be a mockery in view of the situation, but to epitomize the whole problem.


For behind the equal rights and official morality of a color-blind egalitarianism, the protest movement sees a hostility that has lost little of its bite since the days of segregation, but instead been given a new, egalitarian guise. Blacks have been collecting the evidence for more than half a century. The movement cites everything that equal rights and egalitarianism evidently get along fine with: living conditions that are as miserable and segregated as they were in the days of official racial discrimination in the South; mass incarceration and a prison-industrial complex, causing blacks to be sent to prison en masse and spat out as second-class citizens; police and private harassment and murderous violence that they fall victim to in large numbers. To the movement, all this means that blacks are still being treated by the state and the white majority as dangerous aliens in their own country; and that those whites who do not despise them largely look on with passive indifference. There are periodic waves of outrage at cases of racist police violence which are recorded on mobile phones and then go viral, but the community has amassed enough sobering experience with the way these cases go. As a rule, police and private perpetrators are acquitted or only mildly punished, public outrage quickly subsides, turning at best into inconsequential regret — along the lines of: isn’t it terrible what’s happened to them again. Despite all official assurances to the contrary, blacks have never been accepted into the moral circle of the national ‘us.’ And despite all the exceptions that are cited as proof that the never-ending American race problem has been resolved — Didn't a black man even serve two terms in the White House? — the fact is that in America’s melting pot blacks still remain ‘the others,’ ostracized, scorned, and excluded.

The movement’s defiant insistence that the value of black lives must finally count for something is thus an expression of both a drastic situation and disillusionment. When it is an established fact that the authorities and the population are hostile to blacks, it cannot be enough to insist on equal rights and universal values of competition. Their legal equality and official inclusion in the circle of fully-fledged Americans not only fails to involve their being recognized as equally valuable members of society in practice. It is the way the hostility to them is perpetuated. Therefore, no matter how certain the protesters are that they have the nation’s legal and official moral principles on their side, and no matter that they declare ‘true equality’ as their goal, they do not want their protest to be understood merely as yet another entreaty for equal rights or another warmed-over call for egalitarianism. Rather, they want this nation to finally recognize its racism and acknowledge the moral injustice suffered by America’s blacks, instead of denying it all by swearing their ‘basic’ egalitarian innocence and blaming everything that goes against this principle on the notorious ‘bad apples.’ When the movement takes to the streets to this end, it is accordingly aggressive. Its response to indignant protests about the resulting damage done to the property of businesses — ‘in their own neighborhoods! — is that blacks are obviously not accepted as part of this free and equal society; they experience the system for the most part only as hostility to them; so they have no reason to be obedient.


This is not the first time that politically aware blacks have noticed how widespread and institutionally anchored this racist hostility is, how interwoven with the economic, political, and moral ‘way of life’ in the USA. A good fifty years ago, this conviction was the starting point for a ‘black power’ movement that was unwilling to leave it at the non-violent, constitution-abiding ethos of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King and its appeals to the government in Washington to really take its new equal-rights and integration laws seriously and vigorously enforce them. In their eyes, the civil rights movement’s line of action testified to highly honorable motives but also to a hopelessly idealistic ignorance vis-à-vis the hostility and violence of both ruling and ruled white racists. Instead, the ‘black power’ faction aimed for a violent offensive against the established authorities of a country that was obviously not theirs: they called for the power monopolized by the whites to be taken over, “by the ballot or by the bullet.”[12] They reacted to their opponents’ white nationalism with their own black nationalism, which turned the collective hostility toward blacks into a positive racial identity of their own. Though this was modeled after white racism — right down to copying the racist battle slogan ‘White power!’ — it was supposed to be a good racism because it was the victims turning against the bad guys. The activities of this movement consisted in large part in teaching their black ‘brothers and sisters’ that they were not only victims of white racism but members of a proud race and a thwarted nation; that their nation and its success had to come before their own individual calculations; and that any hesitation to stand up against the white power structures amounted to treason. This call for black-nationalist liberation was ultimately the essence of the anti-capitalism that some representatives of this movement also subscribed to. It was effectively the economic counterpart to the political program of conquering social power for a truly self-determined black community.

It is a long way from such a struggle to the Black Lives Matter movement, which started out from the same disenchantment. This movement has converted the disillusioned, militant, black-nationalist offensive into a riotous but defensive position:

It has exchanged the fight against the American authorities for a demand that causes even more irritation than its ‘divisive’ main slogan, to wit: Defund the police! and sometimes even Abolish the Police![13] This refers to the experience of the American police increasingly acting toward the black community inside and outside of their neighborhoods like an occupying force facing an enemy-infiltrated population, armed with military weapons and a license to hunt down anything it deems suspicious. The movement does not combat this with armed struggle but with the demand for disarmament, for a withdrawal from the front. This demand is meant to urge the state to fundamentally change its standpoint — also and especially with regard to the drug use and crime it has declared war on and that blacks themselves complain about in their neighborhoods. The state should stop treating this problem as one that blacks are and start treating it as one that they have: as cases of damaged public health rather than of damaged order; as the identifying feature not of a dangerous criminal community but of poor fellow citizens who are without prospects, i.e., endangered.[14] Such a change of perspective — as the movement points out again and again — has actually occurred once before in the history of the American state, namely, when the American welfare state with its social programs was founded almost a century ago. The famous New Deal was intended to enable the American working class of the time to actually live off its extensive use by American capital, which meant a change in the way the state dealt with the poverty and disorder among the then despised Irish and Italians. And even today, the social-democratic wing of the Democrats, which by American standards is far to the left, advocates a reform of the welfare state along these lines — as the actual solution, or at least an alleviation, of the situation in the black ghettos. By most affirmatively taking it for granted as humanitarian to demand that capitalist poverty be understood only as a cry for support from the capitalist state, Black Lives Matter is therefore certainly not asking for the impossible. What it has against it, however, is not a little. There is not only a broad political consensus in the country that it is imperative to honor the iron American principle that a good American takes care of himself, i.e., copes with his poverty himself. There is also the whole objective level of American capitalism; it simply has no problem with the sub-proletarian existence of a large part of the black population. How poor blacks cope, or fail to cope, with their superfluousness or their marginal employment and all the consequences — the only problem this causes the nation is really the one the order-keepers see and that they handle quite successfully in their way. Actually, the same applies to white class-fellows, whose much-lamented descent from the middle class has become more prominent in the public awareness of problematic issues mainly because the current president cites it for everything he decides to do under the slogan America first! The conclusion the movement draws from this is a slogan that does not cause any irritation for a change: Jobs! No wonder, since this is the solution to all hostilities in the freest country on earth, especially in times of America first!: to make productive, capitalist use of poverty, which makes it stop being poverty. In light of this, it is strangely ironic that the American public found it so cynical of Trump to announce, in the midst of quelling the protests, that the positive trend in national employment figures must be putting a smile on George Floyd’s face when he looks down from heaven. Trump hits the mark at least when it comes to what all good Americans really agree on, including the socially-minded Black Lives Matter protagonists.

The movement has separated its anti-racism from ‘black power’ nationalism as well. But with its new slogan, it has also mentally detached the racism it is opposing from the freedom-based nationalism this racism comes from in the first place. In so doing, it dissolves the political and patriotic substance of the immorality it is denouncing into a moral deficit, into inhumane indifference. To be sure, the moral recognition that the movement is demanding is certainly not meant to be so modest; it is certainly aiming at more than the cheap admission its slogan is asking for literally, namely, that the other side agree with the pretty modest conviction that black lives are not simply irrelevant. But this much is certain: the many unexpected followers who are accompanying the movement on the streets this year and rooting for it morally with great public effect are taking the movement at its word — and thus demonstrating to the movement how affirmative its marching slogan really is, now that it has been shared and passed on millions of times around the world. Which in no way means that the movement hasn’t achieved anything with its slogan. Thousands upon thousands of white Americans are joining it on the streets, even making up the majority of demonstrators in many places. This arouses the not unfounded suspicion among protesting blacks that the gratifying current response — in stark contrast to the same protests five years ago — is due less to an insight into ‘structural anti-black racism’ than to indignation about the singular immorality of the blond sleazebag in the White House. Alongside, millions of white Americans go into moral-psychological navel-gazing, searching for the inner racist they unknowingly harbor inside, and bestowing windfall profits on publishers of anti-racist self-help books. Wherever they can, they pounce on blacks, whether friends or complete strangers, to declare how much they feel for them and how guilty they are due to their ‘white privilege’ — identifying themselves personally with their race, only to blare out how much they regret it. Meanwhile, in the extremely lucrative mass sports segment, the masters of commerce outdo each other in expressing their respect for the community, while picking out all those profitable characters from their humble milieu and sending them onto the field. And there is also a real political effect. Dyed-in-the-wool law-and-order politicians from the Democratic Party, who at best give very ambivalent answers to Defund the police, kneel down at their own photo shoots — conspicuously like statues, without a Bible but with African scarves around their necks — and sign the indictment to pass it on to the bad apple in the White House. They are bringing their party and their candidate into play as his proper replacement — and have already found a half-black vice-presidential candidate with a law-and-order résumé. The movement has arrived in the corridors of democratic politics.

Editors' Note

[*] Taken from Heine, “Jetzt wohin?”

Authors' Notes

[1] It is waging the war on crime and drugs with, among other things, “habitual offender laws (commonly referred to as three-strikes laws) …The three-strikes law significantly increases the prison sentences of persons convicted of a felony who have been previously convicted of two or more violent crimes or serious felonies, and limits the ability of these offenders to receive a punishment other than a life sentence. The expression ‘Three strikes and you are out’ is derived from baseball, where a batter against whom three strikes are recorded strikes out.”(Wikipedia, “Three-strikes law”)

[2] “After being in prison, many Americans are unable to get back on their feet. Not only is their job gone, but often their home as well because many municipalities prohibit offenders from setting foot in social housing developments. For convicts, getting hired as a janitor is often like winning the lottery. But ex-cons do not only need money to survive. They normally have to pay off hundreds or thousands of dollars in debts to the judiciary: fines and fees, which keep growing in number… So for poor Americans, even a minor offense can lead to a kind of life sentence, because they get caught up in a cycle of court orders and fines. Driving licenses are often confiscated when an ex-con is in default. If he still drives because he can’t get to work otherwise, he faces arrest for driving without a license. That means more prison, more fines, more fees. A stay in prison isn't necessarily what starts the spiral” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [FAZ], July 6, 2020). The much lamented temporary retraction of the right to vote that is practiced in many states is more like a well-deserved break.

[3] This becomes most apparent to a morally staunch people when a black professor (one of the good ones!) is taken for a burglar by the police in front of his own house (in a good neighborhood!). There is a civilized discussion of the issue between the two parties at a ‘beer summit’ in 2010 in a pleasant atmosphere with the black president. Happily, it turned out it had been a big misunderstanding.

[4] To be judged as members of an ethnically defined community and to act as such is not in itself any particularity of blacks. American class society presents itself altogether as a hodgepodge of ethnically defined communities with objective and subjective characteristics, judgments of themselves and others based on the moral yardstick of free competition. This is due not only to America’s immigrant history, but also to what modern capitalist competition demands of the old and new immigrants who want to make it their home. (See “The Case of Ferguson: Racism in the USA — where it comes from and why it won’t go away” in GegenStandpunkt 1-15). The following remarks refer to the obvious particularity of blacks when it comes to this social judgment of competitors by the authorities and the majority population — as a collective unfit for free competition and dangerous to decent competitors.

[5] That’s how the nation’s history already started off. The first unfit collective were of course the Indians, who managed to be a population but not have a property system on the continent. Though they lived on American soil and utilized it, they never turned it into a means of making money, so never really appropriated it. So they were lawless ‘savages’ and were more or less systematically driven away and exterminated by the immigrant settlers. For a civilized business life with the products of this now masterless land, masses of black slaves were imported, bred, and traded from the outset. This was a collective of people, managed by free property owners, who proved to be extremely useful for a free agriculture but not as free competitors. Their usefulness for enrichment proved to their masters above all that it was the nature of blacks to be the hard-working property of free men. An instructive secondary role was played in the days of the American colonies by the French Catholics in the North. They were felt by the business-minded and expansionist American settlers to inhibit their thirst for freedom. These characters were definitely capable of owning property and making money so they were at least men. But they were not very good at being free and determining their own fate, since they didn’t put their trust directly in money and God, but allowed for the intermediary of a foreign despot in Rome. So after the British Crown scored a great victory over France on the North American battlefield in the “Seven Years’ War” with its settlers, but in all seriousness placed them on roughly the same level as the savages, the Negro slaves and the slavish French-Canadian Christians by enforcing the various subhumans’ territorial and legal claims against the settlers’ claims to fertile land and human work-animals, the settlers figured they were being degraded to slaves themselves. And when on top of everything more and more taxes were being imposed on them to finance a standing army that curtailed their claims — then it was obviously time for American independence.

[6] When immigrants have explicitly wanted to raise such doubts, the American authorities have not been amused. The danger has long since been averted, but in the golden era of American industrial capitalism, communists and anarchists did cause some trouble in the country’s industrial centers. They rejected property and free wage-labor and criticized money, thereby knowing no freedom and no God. With their ‘un-American activities’ they showed themselves to be not only child eaters, but also incorrigible foreigners. This was not just metaphoric: after a bomb attack in the course of the Haymarket Riot in 1886, an astute journalist summed up the principle of American anti-communism perfectly: There is no such thing as an American anarchist. The American character has in it no element which can under any circumstances be won to uses so mistaken. (Public Opinion, American journal published 1886–1906)

[7] For example, the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) and the National Origins Act (1924) restricted annual immigration into the United States to two percent of the population from the respective country, which primarily meant excluding unwanted Asians (about 100 people per year were allowed to enter from China), Africans, and Southern and Eastern Europeans. This more or less explicitly served the goal of maintaining a majority population of Northern and Western Europeans. Hitler could only take his hat off to American ‘nativism.’ In Mein Kampf, 1925, he wrote, “The American Union categorically refuses the immigration of physically unhealthy elements and simply excludes the immigration of certain races.” The American ban on immigrants of certain provenance declined as the U.S. rose to become an imperialist power in charge of the whole world. This led to a shift in the nation’s dominant self-image domestically, which became final during the Cold War era. America went from being a land of pilgrims — white Protestants in search of self-determined freedom — to a land of hard-working immigrants who were flocking to America from around the world and thereby proving how universal the American pursuit of happiness really is. The mythical founding site of the nation shifted accordingly from Plymouth Rock, where the first Pilgrim Fathers landed on the East Coast in 1621, to Ellis Island, for years the central collection point for immigrants from the Old World. With this, the white Negroes of before — the Irish and Italian Catholics, Eastern and Southern Europeans — were accepted into the white master-race. The definitive shift in this matter is represented by the Irish Catholic commie-basher in the service of the American world order, J. F. Kennedy. With the ‘Immigration and Naturalization Services Act’ (1965), his successor abolished the above-mentioned two-percent rule and replaced it with a cap on immigration from the Eastern Hemisphere of 170,000 per year and from the Western Hemisphere of 120,000 per year. In practice, the reform amounted to a tighter restriction on mass Mexican immigration, which until then had been allowed under a guest-worker program for agriculture. From that moment on, “illegal immigrants” spoken of without any racial reference have become the new enemy, and everyone knows this means Mexicans. On the one hand, the American state basically has a calculating relationship when managing this immigrant collective, always weighing the business needs of agriculture and the service industry against a quite unconcealed worry of being swamped by foreigners. On the other hand, the American state has never had the comings and goings of these immigrants under proper control. However, it is making good progress here — and it is most unfair of Trump to take credit for it just because he keeps going on about the Wall. He simply doesn’t have a good word to say about Obama, whose deportation record is unsurpassed to date. See “Die USA streiten über ihre illegalen Ausländer: Wer ist eigentlich ein richtiger Amerikaner” [“The United States argues about its illegal aliens: Who is actually a true American"] in GegenStandpunkt 4-10 (untranslated).

[8] From 1935 onward, a core element of this support and at the same time the chief means of segregation policy in America’s industrial centers consisted in government promotion of home ownership. The federal government subsidized the purchase of houses by insuring the mortgage loans, making it an extremely profitable business to build housing developments, suburbs, and small towns for the working class of the postwar period, and thus enabling the creation of what is now known as ‘suburbia.’ Until the 1970s, however, there were no subsidies for black housing developments; citing the notoriously high risk of default among this particular clientele contrasts humorously with the necessity of housing subsidies for workers at all. Nor were white developments subsidized if blacks moved there or even nearby. It was argued that their sheer presence lowered the white demand for local houses, and consequently also their value. In this case the state definitely found it too risky to subsidize poor homeowners, and subsidizing integrated developments was an unconscionable violation of white people’s freedom. This housing policy, which is retrospectively scandalized under the heading of ‘red-lining,’ led to the state helping the white working class to the exquisite level of prosperity called “middle class,” which consists in being able to go up to your ears in debt backed by a house of your own. Blacks in urban centers were forced into densely populated ghettos — often living in the public housing projects that hip-hop fans around the world know as “da projects.” There they lodge in miserable conditions as tenants, without being able to build the house-based kind of ‘wealth’ that turns other poor Americans into proud bank customers. This — by the way — is the really great achievement of such state subsidies: the masses of mortgage loans granted on the basis of this government aid became the cornerstone of the world’s deepest financial market and a globally active, now notorious, credit business.

[9] See section III.2 below for more on this movement.

[10] See once again “The Case of Ferguson: Racism in the USA — where it comes from and why it won’t go away” in GegenStandpunkt 1-15, especially section 4, “African-Americans: the somewhat different lower class.”

[11] As to how drastic the bare figures are, here is a report from a conservative German newspaper: “African-Americans make up about 13 percent of the population. According to studies, their share of drug use and drug trafficking is about the same. But the police arrest far more African-Americans for drug offenses … In the more than 7,000 prisons in the United States, well over two million people are incarcerated. In 2015 that was about a quarter of all the world’s prisoners, according to the then President Barack Obama, even though less than four percent of the world's population lives in the United States. Today more blacks sit behind bars than there were slaves in the country in 1850. Every three seconds an American is arrested, which adds up to almost eleven million arrests a year. The risk of arrest is five times greater for a black man than for a white man. Under President George W. Bush the Justice Department already predicted that one in three black males born in 2001 would end up in prison at some point.” (FAZ, July 6, 2020)

[12] “The Ballot or the Bullet,” speech by Malcolm X on April 3, 1964, at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

[13] See for example

[14] In this context, the movement insists on the obvious difference between the perception and the state’s handling of the black drug problem and the ‘opioid crisis’ that currently afflicts mainly the white population.

© GegenStandpunkt 2020