The American White Progressive: Dinosaur or Myth?

Here in Atlanta, the political scene that could be honestly described as the Left, is almost completely black.

Because this is the Deep South of the United States of America, because this is Georgia a large number of overt right-wingers can always easily be spotted. But there is also a large group in what has become known as the ‘center’ in America, those that definitely don’t hold what have traditionally been true left-wing positions but also can’t honestly be classified as right-wing. In Atlanta, and across the US, this center group is increasingly white. And consequently, the American Left is increasingly non-white, being composed more and more of blacks and Hispanics and other non-white immigrants.

The Marxist tradition of the sixties and seventies found among many whites in America seems to have been forever eclipsed by the ideological and doctrinal assault of the Reagan 80s leaving the New Left of the Clinton 90s which was never really Left (but center) to begin with. A study done a year and a half ago by the Bay Area Voting Research Center (BAVRC) concluded that being liberal now means being African-American.

There is, however, an interesting phenomenon to be observed on the internet in regards to political affiliations and allegiances. Many whites firmly at the center or sometimes center-right, self value themselves as part of the American Left. I have noticed that on this board as well as popular stations of ‘center’ opinion such as CommonDreams, Alternet, DemocraticUnderground, DailyKos and Buzzflash. My theory is that the internet, disproportionately white, creates a false dichotomy between the online right-wing and the left-wing. With the portions of the general population excluded, disproportionately, from online political discourse, the mental classifications are redrawn in respect to who is at the conversation table.

Right became Center. Center became Left.

I was reminded again of this phenomenon this past weekend as I attended the National Conference on Media Reform (NCMR) in Memphis, Tennessee. Bill Moyers, someone with whom I agree on many if not most things, was speaking. The crowd of 3500 was visibly getting into what he was saying. I didn’t disagree with much that he said but found it pretty run of the mill stuff. Nothing to stand up about. Later that weekend Deepa Fernandes, of WBAI New York (Pacifica Radio), was standing at the same podium as was Moyers. She was espousing a political line decidedly further to the left than was Moyers’ line. And the same crowd that only hours before crackled like an electric fence seemed more like a fish far too long out of the water. Lifeless. I was standing up clapping vigorously at her remarks. And unlike the Moyers speech where if one could have had an aerial view you could have probably easily counted the few sitting down as Moyers spoke while I easily counted the few standing along with me in excitement over Fernandes’ media and political critique. And that was only the most recent manifestation of a political and sociological dynamic I see everyday in my political work here in Atlanta.

The white progressive and leftist seems to be going extinct in spite of or maybe because they think their numbers are increasing. This does not bode well for the future of America’s Left which needs progressives and leftists of all traditions and ethnicities uniting if we are to have the requisite numbers to affect sustained and substantive change. Unfortunately due to the divided internet effect, false perspectives and thus false expectations are created and most whites find themselves politically offended and estranged from non-whites when they do happen to meet whether online or off the internet.

What is to be done?

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