Postscript to My “Black Panther” Review: On Race, Class, and the Marked Body

[This was written in response to a helpfully provocative comment on my Facebook page about my review.]

I can appreciate many of your points. There's a lot of the inner Marxist in me also, for I burn with a desire to see the poor unearthed from under the mountain of counter-opportunity, the responsibility for which lies squarely with the protected and comfortable classes.

Surely the most damning of all the ideologizations composing the Left is the one that saw them trade a vital sensitivity to the fundamental quality of class for the First-World problematics of intersectionality. For anyone who has any appreciation for the real contributions of Marxist social theory, it is a breathtaking intellectual collapse. Breathtaking. 

And, yes, there is only one thing that sets the toxicity of racism apart from, say, the toxicity of pro-choice ideology: as you rightly and righteously indicate, it's the sheer stupidity of taking "race" as almost a metaphysical determinant. (The ironies redouble when many who treat it so at the same time don't understand how ineffaceable chromosomal sex is.) I am a child of an American and a Taiwanese. What race am I? How much of the blood of "another" race takes away your club card? Do the profound differences of culture within a race matter? Does it make any sense to speak of a white race? And so on. So, concedo.

And, yes, it is an obscenity, a perverse grotesquerie, for anyone with any kind of comfortable life to tell "trailer trash" that they are infected with white privilege. Talking that way is a sure sign of class privilege, the privilege that counts most.

All granted. And yet, there is a black community, that, as a whole, is hurting, that does endure indignities up and down the line, especially with regard to policing. Now, there's a lot of "white" blood mixed into that community, especially given the mass rape of slaves. All the complications of the intellectual thinness of "race" as a concept are there to be seen. And yet. If you look "black," a whole social order (surely a class order serving to maintain the privilege of the protected and the comfortable) routinely fails to acknowledge your human dignity. We cannot ignore that. Are "white trash" Trump voters also dehumanized by the denizens of the city and suburbs of the comfortable? Yes. But not to see how deep the American race wound goes, is not to see. 

As for the movie Black Panther: I don't recall any point at which the desperate poor white was tagged with "white privilege." Perhaps that was an ambiguity in my presentation. I am very grateful to you for giving me the chance to qualify what I wrote in terms of the more fundamental dynamics of class.

But the incoherences of race notwithstanding, the persons embodied with more melanin are in a far more precarious position in American society, especially if that brown body occupies a lower socioeconomic class (as they disproportionately do). And in our nation, that has everything to do with our original sin of slavery. This lover of America will never forget the suffering of those victims.