♪ Come on do the jerk (come on do the jerk)
Come on do the jerk (come on do the jerk)
Everybody now gather around
Get hip to the new sensation
There’s a brand new dance coming to your town
And sweeping across the nation ♪
— The Miracles
Your quibbling Weekend Politics Thread host hates to call Smokey Robinson and his bandmates liars, but doing the jerk represents nothing new.
“Uvular,” Politicados surely gasp in collective disbelief and dismay bordering on fear of reading the terrible truth, “where could the writers of a preponderance of classic Motown songs have erred?”
*clears throat even though typing*
Glad you asked. The morning when this thread header posted dawned on a United States of America commemorating Juneteenth as a federal holiday for the very time. Which necessitates a discussion of white people. Clearly.
Someone in Galveston, Texas, knew within weeks of then-president Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. This individual possessed confirmed knowledge that enslaved individuals in areas controlled by the federal government could no longer remain chattel. That identity-lost-to-history person lived in white skin.
By the early summer of 1865, every person prone to suffering a sunburn knew of the illegality of keeping other humans in race-based perpetual bondage. Sure, U.S. Army troops did not officially occupy the city and nearby islands of the Gulf of Mexico port until then.1 This technicality counts as no excuse for refusing to share news of their liberation with the Black captives of Galveston. Rather, the sequence of events condemns exactly to the degree someone would attempt to argue it exonerates. All a white person—any white person—needed to do was tell somebody who required less of the sunscreen which had not yet been invented.
Total dick move, white Galvestonians. Perhaps the supreme example of the unjustly powerful acting like assholes for no real gain and zero chance of getting over. As a corollary to the racist2 concept of drapetomania existing as the “mental illness” of wanting to escape slavery, let’s ascribe culusophilia—love of acting like an asshole—to enslavers, overseers and the abettors of slavery.
Everyone talks of the evils of slavery. Too little focus falls on the workaday3 petty cruelty demanded of each willing participant in the system. Total fucking jerks do more to impose oppression than leaders and their deputized enforcers ever could. The mechanism arises across all cultures ad locales, with Australians terming the phenomenon of cutting down those who thrive “tall poppy syndrome.”
Beating Adam Serwer to the punch by a good bit and in contravention of E.O. Wilsonian altruism, Uvular proposed in his first- or second-ever WPT header4 that historians and sociologists would mine rich veins from perceiving cruelty as the organizing principal of most societies. Pre-Juneteenth Galveston exemplifies this theory. As a bonus, centering a base asholishness flips critical race theory around to explicitly criticizing racists.
Hug an abolitionist. Comment below.