Race-based class discrimination at a Pride event isn’t an abnormality, it’s the latest expression of a culture war defined by demonizing the working class.
Where the cultural left understands class, it’s as an identity category to only sometimes position alongside other identifiers like race, gender, and the like.
But unlike these other groupings, class can be (and is) easily dropped. It’s the one of these which isn’t like the others, and the category most readily associated with people the left hates acknowledging — the working class.
Class is quantifiable. It’s directly related to material limitations on opportunity and economic power. It’s regional. It’s multiracial, and includes people of different sexualities and sexes together in more or less the same lot as each other as workers, if not also as citizens of the same town. Self-identity has little to do with it, and isn’t enough to transgress it.
The left’s more favored categories — gender and race — are both sites of decades-long theorizing about what they even mean and who is to be included in them. Membership is more or less elective, from some mixed race people having a recognized claim to whatever people of color they count among their ancestry, and gender being a simple matter of proclaiming your preferred identity.
To the American left, identity trumps actual experience. The proclamation of gender for instance positions one as oppressed by (if not also more oppressed than) someone whose experience of life in that gender already includes actual violence or discrimination on the basis of sex. Likewise, ideology trumps actual identity. Just tune in and witness the backlash anytime a heterodox thinker like a black senator or a gay Republican offers their perspective. Identity is the facade — the name we give these politics — but ideology is what is being described.
And ideology is what is constantly policed to determine inclusion.
The Pride event in Seattle making the news last week for its decision to charge white attendees a “reparation fee” while non-white people are welcome to attend its art and “healing” spaces for free isn’t really organized around identity. It’s organized around an ideology about racial identities (where all white people are oppressors and all non-whites are oppressed), and an ideology of contempt for the poor (the people who can’t afford to show off how antiracist they are).
The Chicago Dyke March — with its promotional flier depicting a burning cop car and the burning flags of the USA and Israel — isn’t about lesbian identity. It’s about an extremist ideological struggle against two countries and the concept of policing. The cultural right and the cultural left here share the same goal: never allow gay people to just be Americans. Paint them instead as fringe ideologues with a radical agenda — whichever side succeeded is unclear anymore.
Interpersonal and organizational disputes around pronoun checks, Zionism, policing sexual attraction, and other microaggressions aren’t really about making a safer space for any identity groups — they’re about ideological conformity, and about identifying and outing dissenters.
Whatever class analysis and bare materialism once guided the left is now driven by a paranoid masquerade of identity where anyone could be unmasked as being an oppressor, and where the criteria for this label includes more and more minor qualms each year.
Class, in its plainness and ready appearance, lacks the drama and intrigue of these political interrogations. But more importantly here, class is the antagonist to the contemporary American left.
The only people who will be excluded by the Pride event in Seattle aren’t bigots (why would they even care?), they’re poor white people who don’t have $10–50 to prove they’re antiracists for the night. That’s not an unintentional result. That’s the point. The reparation tax creates an environment where middle class liberals are presented as antiracist allies, and poor folks are excluded presumably for being racists since no one cares about class. Liberalism blames rednecks for everything. Here they’re just making a policy about it that sounds woke and reaffirms what they already believe.
The people completely baffled by the Chicago Dyke March’s intersectional intifada are the majority of Americans, working class people who know what de-policed areas look like because they don’t come from middle class suburbs, and who are wary of dictating Middle Eastern politics from the other side of the world because they’ve lost friends or family in a war or two already.
Every litmus test for inclusion in leftist “solidarity” effectively excludes everyone from outside the academic and middle class bubble that forms the heart of liberal culture. Ask anyone who’s gone to one socialist meeting and then never come back. I guarantee it was the middle class gender studies major shouting about privilege and demanding compensation for explaining what they’re so angry about that turned them off. I know because this is my story. It’s the story of so many men I meet and talk to about real issues like the economic devastation of our region.
The left doesn’t care about the dignity of workers, regional exploitation of labor and resources, lack of opportunity, or the interconnection between poverty, addiction, mental illness, and economic policy. The left vociferously rejects anyone who brings up these concerns.
The working class, we are constantly told in the media and in retorts to attempts at interjecting class politics back into the left, is the ultimate monster, the height of white and male privilege, and a reductive artifact of some theory long ago discarded. The working class thrives on hatred alone, we are assured, and votes for no other reasons than sheer spite, a desire to deny rights to others, and whatever -ism or -phobia the media perceives things through at the time.
The working class is too dumb, we are assured by well-read liberal elites, to vote in their own best interests or to even understand them. The abandoned factories, chronic unemployment, discarded syringes, and bullets ricocheting off a bankrupted and de-policed downtown are a fantasy of our racist and sexist perversions, not reality, not issues ever worth addressing.
No intersectional theory is coming to alleviate the marginalization of the working class. No intersectional theory is interested in taking seriously the class experience of those working people it does claim on the basis of some other identity.
When I said in the title that Pride isn’t for the working class, what I mean is that gay and liberal culture since at least the 2000s is defined by an antagonistic relationship between homosexuality and the working class.
To liberals, the working class is the opposition’s voting bloc. To the LGBT community, the working class is inextricable from the politics of coming out — working class people are the homophobes that run you out of religion and out of town. The working class is one-dimensional, an empty-headed vessel of white and male rage, religious stupidity, poor money management, and bigoted fear towards everyone else.
There’s a clear line of contempt for working people that runs between the stereotyped homophobes of Margaret Cho’s early stand-up routine and Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” video. It’s the same line that connects to Clinton’s “deplorable” label and countless articles about how racist white men elected Trump on the basis of their hatred for women and immigrants alone.
Liberal culture and the LGBT subculture within it are built on rejection of working class communities. To belong to either culture is to reject any ties to your working class roots. It’s to reduce every class-based grievance to an expression of racism, and to physically cut off any family members who disagree with or challenge this reduction of their political consciousness at all.
Redneck at one point meant union man. It was associated with miners and poor white farmers, especially in the South and in Appalachia. For whatever reason, the connection seems rarely made these days that those rednecks are the same rednecks being demonized today, even when the aesthetic of redneck union men is appropriated by leftists who would just as easily join in with hating on those inspiring them.
Rednecks are the folks in towns where all the jobs got sent away. Where cities have to beg for Big Tech and Big Data to set up a new campus and hopefully employ at least a handful of lucky locals deemed skilled and refined enough to mop the floors with whatever’s left of their dignity.
The American left loves to imagine itself as distinct from neoliberal technocracy, but functionally their politics disenfranchise the same populations marginalized by the ascendancy of these new industries.
When the LGBT community in Seattle is organizing events that require all white people (without any degree of nuance there at all) to pay “reparations” in order to attend, this isn’t a mistake or an abnormal decision by a fringe group of people. This is the natural product of class rejection fomented by liberal culture and liberal identitarian subcultures for decades.
When liberals decry the bumbling idiots who are too dumb to understand critical race theory…
When we’re too stupid to intuit when and how to check-in on pronouns…
When middle class college activists shout about privilege and demand reparations for deigning to educate us moronic redneck neanderthals…
When rightly identifying NAFTA and economic development strategies that have successfully looted entire regions of this country is lambasted as white supremacy and class reductionism…
When wearing clothes associated with blue collar work gets us fetishized as “straight-acting,” scoffed at, or assumed to be in the closet…
When the punchline of the joke is our town, our religion, our family, and how liberal elites have always looked down on people like us…
We get it. You hate the working class. You are the class reductionists. You are the bigots who see us as nothing more than an undifferentiated mass of racist white men with no legitimate grievance or value to your society at all.
There is no reconciliation here possible unless those you allow in reject their working class roots to pursue an endless re-education into bourgeois tribalism, or, the American left itself jettisons liberal culture for an unabashed class analysis. (Forgive me for not holding my breath on that one).
Until then, Pride isn’t for the working class. Intersectionality isn’t for the working class. The American left isn’t even for the working class.
We’re left to choose: try and buy our way into inclusion among the others liberals pity and condescend to, or, stand for ourselves in a world that looks at us and only sees the pinnacle of human evil.
Then again, what do I really know?
I’m just a cousin-humping, Bible-thumping, dumbass with nothing worth saying about anything much at all….