On this day, January 13th, 1927, the first woman was seated on the previously all-male New York Stock Exchange. Forty years later, Muriel Siebert “made history” again by becoming the first woman to become a member of the NYSE. These are the types of “fun facts” that are always lauded as acts of advancement for all women or “minorities”, as if the accomplishments of someone in the upper strata of society is supposed to represent the betterment of all women or people who have been marginalized throughout the world.
Here is what they omit in the narrative of these stories of tokenism. Two years after the first woman was seated on the New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street would take the most severe nose dive as the Great Depression wiped away the life savings of tens of millions of Americans. Do you think the teeming masses of women who ended up becoming homeless and mired in the abyss of indigence felt better because a woman happened to be eating foie gras while they were sleeping on grass mattresses?
These types of empty symbolism are used all the time to convince us that we are doing better as a society while the debased—I refuse to call them the elites because there is nothing elite about capital thievery—are gaining all the fortunes of the world by sucking the blood and bloodline of the rest of humanity. And we keep falling for it all the time as we let politicians and media personalities turn us into human props and use our stories to further the lie of this duopoly which is laughably passed off as Democracy and this cancerous capitalism that is indenturing humans to a life of wage slavery. So wedded are we to tokenism that we are willing to take bullets for people we will never meet and incinerate each other defending our political idols. I’m not preaching, I’m the same person who was once cheering on Obama at the 2008 DNC convention in Denver, Colorado.
Our nation has been turned into a giant Ponzi scheme where plutocrats and their minions in media and government are colluding to transfer wealth from the mass majority of us into the pockets of the few. To hide this most insidious scheme, they keep peddling stories of “the first African-American president”, “the first woman CEO”, or “the first transgender legislator”. Excuse my French, but who gives a shit! How many “black” folks earned a “black merit bonus” when Obama got elected? Do you think the wage gap between men and women would’ve closed instantly had Hillary Clinton become “the first woman president”? Did everyone that self-identifies as transgender get their student loans forgiven when Danica Roan got elected to the Virginia House of Delegates?
I know that some will counter and state that there is something to be said of the inspirational aspects of these token narratives. I’ve heard too many people say that Obama’s election gave hope to little “black” kids that they too can become president one day. I promise I’m not trying to be a Teddy Downer here, but please stop telling your kids that lie. Did you know that every president save Martin Van Buren comes from the same bloodline? No this is not “fake news”, this is a verified story that is glossed over by mainstream press. While the hounds in corporate media were chasing the latest sensational headline, it was a 12 year old named BridgeAnne d’Avignon who uncovered the fraudulence that is our “Democracy”.
Unless you happen to be of a specific bloodline and connected to some billionaire plutocrat, your kids—irrespective of their race or ethnicity—have a better shot of being Santa Claus than they do of becoming president. In other words, Obama was to change as Sarah Palin is to Garry Kasparov. As if Obama being related to Bush was not shocking enough, eight years later we were treated to another sham as an election was held between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that was sold as a battle of ideas between two bitter foes. Shocker of all shockers, Hilly and Donald are related too.
We keep focusing so much on personalities and latching on to the tokens who are being elevated to represent change that we are not realizing the corporate noose that is slowly getting tighter around our necks. We are like the second class and third class passengers on the Titanic who are clapping and cheering as the 1% are jumping off a sinking ship and leaping into their life yachts. Instead are using hammers and wrenches to fix the gaping holes in the hull of our nation and plug the leaks that threaten to drown us, we use our means to bludgeon each other and bicker over our political idols. Contrary to Oprah’s golden speech (which I discuss in the Ghion Cast below) our lives matter even if we are not celebrated by a menagerie of Hollywood insiders.
I know I occasionally write in ways that distills complex issues into moments of levity, like when I just compared Palin to Kasparov. I learned a long time ago to find a way to smile through all circumstances. Our life here on earth is but a mist and I do not intend to spend it gazing with sadness into the navel of politics without finding humor in the depravity of our depraved leaders. However, let me convey this message with all seriousness. We are in dark times; our society is being pushed to the brink as the very tokens who were once used to symbolize hope are now using their status and influence to agitate us into strife and conflict. The tokenism I write about has always been about splintering our nation, and the planet as a whole, into encampments. Now symbolism and demagoguery are being used to antagonize us into hostilities.
Identity politics was never meant to advance our interests, it was always meant to ghettoize and to make us see each other as enemies. This is the natural evolution of tribalism; as you divide the masses, you can conquer them by having them fight among each other. We are now in the third phase of tribalism; instead of identity politics, the establishment is pushing the very demagogues who pretend to be speaking for us to get us spun up into a derangement. I’m warning you, irrespective of your skin complexion or your political affiliation, be careful about letting rich and powerful people in media and politics push you into the cul-de-sac of grievance and hatred. Revolutions seem cool until your children’s bodies are the ones stacking up on the streets.
One of these days, we will wake up to this most cunning ploy the status quo has used for centuries to have the bottom 99% of humanity turn on each other. What the gentry have always feared is the next French Revolution; they know that the next recession could very well be collapse that leads to guillotine remedies. The oligarchy are terrified of a mass uprising, this is why they keep spinning stories of natural resources running out even though they are the ones who are creating the scarcity by hoarding the wealth of this world to enrich themselves. The next time Hollywood stars and media personalities take to the podium to warn about mitigating risks to save earth, just keep in mind that they are referring to humanity as the risk and the earth they are trying to save is for themselves by getting rid of human inefficiencies. As they have done to our jobs through outsourcing and our savings through a planned recession, they will be coming for our hearts next—we will be too busy trolling each other to notice until mushrooms bloom about us.
As for Muriel Siebert, who “made history” by being the first woman to become a member of the New York Stock Exchange, she would go on to have a fabulous life of caviar dreams and Chateau Lafite soirees. She passed away a celebrated hero of Wall Street. Meanwhile, the very same Wall Street that she was a member of has been responsible for the impoverishment of billions throughout the world and the pillaging of countless millions of Americans in 2008 to this present day. If you take away nothing else from this article, remember these two things: skin don’t make one kin and you being with her does not mean she is with you. Instead of being fixated on the wealth of the debased, let us focus on our own health and well-being. #SheIsNotWithYou
The poor labor by their hand and languish; the rich succeed by cunning and flourish. The hand grows weary, the cunning should be leery.
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Check out the Ghion Cast below where I used the occasion of Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes to discuss this very issue of tokenism and empty symbolism.
Check out the Ghion Cast below where I discuss how we keep disregarding the treasures in our midst as we keep valuing the counterfeiter diamonds of the rich and powerful.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.