Friday, January 12, 2018

How racist Trump's "shithole" comment reveals the psychology of his racism

As we come to grips with the fact that an overt racist controls the greatest nuclear arsenal on the planet, and is leading the United States into nuclear confrontations with an Asian nation, it would be useful to take a deeper look at the psychology of the racist.

Donald Trump's recent remarks that called Haiti, El Salvador and African states "shithole countries," as compared to Norway, gets more to the root of how his childlike mind really thinks about race than just about anything he has ever said. As an aside, I would say that is just one more sign of his quickly deteriorating mental condition. But more to my main point Joel Kovel's White Racism - A Psychohistory, Columbia University Press, 1984, goes into great detail in its 301 pages about how infantile fantasies of feces underline the psychology of aversive racists like President Donald Trump. We know he is an aversive racist because he hates to be around black people. He would even have black employees removed from the floor before visiting his casinos. Here are a few brief excerpts that speak to the aversive racist's obsession with "shit":
We observe here some of the basic aspects of aversive racism. There is the sense of conflict, both against better knowledge and against moral judgment: "It won't rub off." . . . 'I shouldn't be that way." And there is the sense of something so urgent and immediate and existentially valid that it overrides these scruples and forces the white person away. This something is the fantasy of dirt.

Recall that dirt is at symbolic root anything that can pass out of the body, and that hence should not pass back into the body, nor even touch it. Thus the common theme of the three quotes: contact with black hands contaminates food and makes it unfit to enter the body; contact with a black body will result in the blackness rubbing off on one's own precious body and thereby befouling it.
The nuclear experience of the aversive racist is a sense of disgust about the body of the black person based upon a very primitive fantasy: that it contains an essence-dirt-that smells and may rub off onto the body of the racist. Hence the need for distance and the prohibition against touching.
Although the fantasy of dirt, and its projection onto the black man, attained its full force at a late stage in our history, it was present from the beginning as an element of the white man's reaction to the black. As Jordan comments when he introduces the theme of anal fantasies in his study of early American racial attitudes: "One sort of stress arose from emotional turmoil within individuals, and here it is possible to gain an occasional glimpse into the deepest, least rational meaning [italics his] of human blackness for white men . . . the Negro's appearance, his blackness, seems to have served certain deep-seated unconscious needs of at least some white men. There are sufficient indications of this fact in colonial America to make ignoring it difficult. Sexual intermixture was frequently referred to as 'staining' the white population. . . .""

Gross elements of these aversive fantasies still persist in our culture and wherever racism is found. The idea of "staining" the blood lives on in the "mongelization" fantasies cherished by all racists, and especially in America where, as Jordan points out, the belief emerged that the Negro's blood shared in the general filthiness illustrated by his skin, and that this same "blood" would be directly transmitted through the generations should intermarriage occur. Then there is the coarse racist epithet "boogie," a word applied both to the black human being and to specimens of mucus that, because they come from the body, automatically become a symbol of dirt. The list of dirt fantasies which whites apply to the Nego could be extended indefinitely.

Just as the basic dirt fantasy emerges early in human development, so does its application to black people. This point has been subjected to empirical proof in an outstanding example of social anthropological work by Mary Ellen Goodman. As reported in her book, "a sample of 104 small children, both Negro and Caucasian, revealed the uniform fantasy that a ), Negroes differed from whites in being dirty and that b), this implied a sense of basic inferiority. These beliefs set in during the pre-school years and had become quite well developed by the age of four."

The author writes perceptively of how the sense of inferiority so engendered enters into the minds of the black children to produce the nuclei of a lifelong low self-image; and of how the reverse conviction settles into the personalities of the whites. In this study, we can sense the depth of the irrationality inherent in the problems of race. As Goodman comments, "the fact is that mere intellectual awareness of the physical signs of race is not all of the story. There is another part which is not merely startling but quite shocking to liberal-humanitarian sensibilities. It is shocking to find that four-year-olds, particularly white ones, show unmistakable signs of the onset of racial bigotry."

We have been talking of dirt, which represents a set of peculiar fantasies based upon bodily experience. The central aspect of bodily experience upon which this tissue of daydreams rests is, of course, the act of defecation, and the central symbol of dirt throughout the world is feces, known by that profane word with which the emotion of disgust is expresses: shit. Furthermore, when contrasted with the light color of the body of the Caucasian person, the dark color of feces reinforces, from the infancy of the individual in the culture of the West, the connotation of blackness with badness. And since this dark brown color is derived from blood pigments, since in fact blood is the only internal bodily substance which is dark, the absurd beliefs about "staining" the blood through intermarriage with "inferior" races gain an ironic verification-one which, however, the proponents of these beliefs would be loath to accept.

Thus the root symbol between the idea of dirt and the blackness of certain people is that highly colored, strongly odored, dispensable and despised substance which the human body produces so regularly. How strange that this substance-which, after all, knows the body on the most intimate terms, and which is, aside from the pathogenic bacteria occasionally associated with it (another piece of reality immaterial to the life of fantasy ), certainly innocuous enough-should have received the brunt of such contempt and rage! Almost as peculiar is-the general reluctance to come to realistic grips with those distortions of the world which so clearly derive in part from their symbolic association with feces.
We can see from this presentation that Donald Trump's use of the word "shit" in reference to countries of color was no accident. He didn't just use a bad word, he used a word that reveals the inter infantile associations that drive the current president of the United States whenever the thinks about people that don't look like him.

The association with blood also glimpses why questioning Barack Obama's right to the presidency on account of birth was such a good proxy for questioning this right to the presidency on account of race for Donald Trump and his followers. Here is another short excerpt from Kovel's book:
By and large, connections between feces and the various symbolic organizations with which it is associated remain deeply repressed. The substance itself is abhorred, although the word, shit, is used freely enough; but for the rest the connection is mediated through the more remote, and hence less threatening, symbols of dirt. However, as we have observed in the case of castrative wishes, the deeper meaning becomes more explicit when the social structure within which these fantasies are realized becomes strained. Just as when a Negro became "uppity," he could expect a kind of brutal reprisal that might culminate in a castrative lynching, so when blacks today "move too fast" for the taste of whites one may expect certain raw manifestations of anal fantasies.
Whether he realizes it or not, this is where Donald Trump was coming from when he said:
 "Why do we want all these people from 'shithole countries' coming here?"
These brief excerpts hardly do Kovel's work justice so I hope you will read the book. I also hope these short selections will show that Donald Trump's "shithole countries" comment came from a very dark and very warped place in his infantile brain.

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