Friday, March 6, 2015

Uncomfortable 'Truths': Have You Read the DOJ Report on the 'Legal' Killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson?

There has been justifiable outrage at the (not surprising) finding by the Department of Justice that the Ferguson police department and courts are profoundly and consistently racist in their treatment of black people.

However, the Department of Justice's determination--released on the same day as the Ferguson report--that there will be no civil rights charges against Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, and furthermore that said killing was "legally justifiable", has gone with little comment.

As reported by CNN:
The Justice Department formally closed its investigation of Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson, declining to bring criminal charges for the killing of Michael Brown.
In a report released Wednesday, prosecutors said that "Wilson's actions do not constitute prosecutable violations" of federal civil rights law. 
"There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson's stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety," the Justice Department report said.
The Right-wing media has chosen to obsess over the latter as a vindication of their racist law and order kill black people fantasies while remaining relatively mute over the findings about Ferguson's institutional and day-to-day white supremacist practices. The "progressive" media, online and elsewhere, has chosen to emphasize the Department of Justice's findings about racist police practices and to not comment on the findings that legally exonerate Darren Wilson.

Cognitive bias and partisanship combine to filter information and to set one's priorities on what issues they see as noteworthy and demanding concern and engagement.

Practical political concerns and gamesmanship also influence how opinion leaders choose to discuss those issues that validate their own standing priors and beliefs.

But, practical politics and dynamics of public opinion about a given matter do not, if ever, intersect with the higher principle of and commitment to truth-telling--even if said realities make us uncomfortable.

I have written numerous essays about the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson. I have also done TV and other interviews about Ferguson and the broader issue of police thuggery in the United States.

Critical moments of self-reflection are invaluable. They are especially so, when new information may complicate one's earlier conclusions about a given matter.

In reading about the Department of Justice's findings that Darren Wilson did not "violate" the civil rights of Michael Brown, I stand by my earlier comments about that wholly preventable and tragic incident.

I also offer the following questions and caveats.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Conversation with Journalist Paul Rosenberg About Politics and Hope in the Age of Austerity and Neoliberalism

Journalist and political analyst Paul Rosenberg is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show.

Paul is a contributing writer to news outlets and websites such as Salon.com, Alternet, and Al Jazeera. He is also the senior editor of Random Length News. Mr. Rosenberg also runs the website Merge Left.

Paul is a sharp and amazingly insightful observer of American (and global) politics. He is also very patient as he sits down with Chauncey DeVega under the learning tree.

In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Paul and Chauncey discuss how to keep hope alive in an era of broken politics, neoliberalism, and austerity. Paul also explains to Chauncey how "principled non-voting" is not an effective strategy and actually works in the interest of the plutocrats and the 1 percent.

Paul and Chauncey also talk about how blogging and social media have changed journalism, why Obama is so malleable and weak in the face of Republican racism and obstructionism, and why the Democrats lost the midterm elections and are impotent in the fact of the GOP's "drown the government baby in the bathtub" thuggery and irresponsible politics.

Chauncey DeVega also offers some reflections and thoughts on the passing of the one and only Mr. Leonard Nimoy.

This episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show with Paul Rosenberg can be listened to below or "watched" on the official Youtube channel for chaunceydevega.com

The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be followed on Itunes and listened to via Stitcher on your smart phone or other related technology.


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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

And Who is Surprised? The Department of Justice Details How the Ferguson Police Department is a Racist Cesspool

White supremacy is a global social, political, economic, philosophical, and psychological system (and disposition) that is dedicated to redistributing resources to, and protecting the dominant power position of, White people as a group.

White supremacy works in many ways. One of its primary methods of operation is to assault the mental well-being, sanity, and health of non-whites.

To that end, white supremacy calls into doubt the lived experiences of black and brown people, devalues their truth claims, and distorts empirical reality.

The White Gaze and white racist paranoiac thinking also allows white folks to twist the photographic and visual record to suit their own unreasonable conclusions. For example, Rodney King was somehow a threat to the officers that were savagely beating him or Eric Garner and Tamir Rice somehow provoked their own killings by police as the former pleaded for his life with "I can't breathe" and the latter played in a park.

Likewise, the Ferguson police ran amok and rioted against the black community of Ferguson, but to the eyes of too many white Americans--especially on the Right--those thug cops were either "provoked" or "acting with restraint".

Collectively, white racial logic exacts a high toll on the health of people of color.

As black folks have long joked, the lived experiences and facts known to be true by black and brown folk, are never truly ever taken to be true and real unless a white person validates them. Shorter version: it ain't true unless a white person says it is.

The Department of Justice's report on the Ferguson police department's racism is one such example of said folk wisdom in practice.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Addicted to White Victimology: Artie Lange Doubles Down on His Chattel Slavery Fantasies of Raping ESPN's Cari Champion

Several months ago, former member of The Howard Stern Show, comedian Artie Lange, enjoyed several days of public infamy (and scorn) for joking about being a white Southern slave master who rapes ESPN sports personality Cari Champion, and then ejaculates as she runs away to freedom.

I feel a deep connection to Artie Lange. As I wrote then, I feel a personal connection to Artie Lange. Without exaggeration or hyperbole, in many ways Lange's first book (actually repeated listens to the audio book while sitting in a car outside of a sad and sorry mall somewhere in Michigan) saved me from surrendering to some of my worst impulses during that summer of darkness.

Artie has a generosity of spirit and transparency about his pain that is the reservoir--like many of the great comics--for his humor and wit. Artie is an addict. His honesty about that pain can also be a source of inspiration for others who can and should learn from Artie's travails. His life is a caution to others; I worry that he cannot save himself.

I reached out to Artie on Twitter. To my surprise we shared a brief correspondence.
He said that "he got it" about why his failed joke about raping Cari Champion, and the crime against humanity that was the Maafa, could be offensive to people on both sides of the colorline.
I also shared with Artie how I felt that his willful evasion of responsibility regarding his noxious and racist comments are rooted in the same character defect that allows an addict to live a life of denial by placing responsibility for his or her mistakes on to others.

Last week, Artie was a guest on the The Joe Rogan Experience. Instead of being contrite and apologetic for his racist and ugly comments of several months ago, Lange doubled down on them.

"Minorities Should Stop 'Stealing...White People's Superheroes'": I Guess Michelle Rodriguez Never Heard of Dwayne McDuffie or Milestone Comics


Something on a Monday for the "ghetto nerd" set...

Sigh.

Michelle Rodriguez is a functional actress.

She is not an expert on comic books and popular culture--as far as I know.

However, one of the joys of popular culture is that taste cannot be easily reconciled or arbitrated. By definition, "popular culture" means those "art forms" that do not require special training, education, background, or resources to enjoy.

This does not mean that a given person's perspectives or opinions on or about popular culture stand outside of the political and social moment in which they are located.

For example, as reported by CNN, Michelle Rodriguez suggested on Saturday of last week that:
"I think that people should stop being lazy and that people should make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology." 
Within 24 hours of being posted on Saturday the video had been viewed nearly 2 million times. 
The comments come after Rodriguez was caught on camera Friday saying that minorities should stop "stealing...white people's superheroes." Rodriguez, who identifies as Puerto Rican and Dominican, was walking to her car when TMZ asked her about rumors that she might be cast in the traditionally male role of superhero Green Lantern, last played by Ryan Reynolds.
She dismissed the rumor as "the dumbest thing I've ever heard." She followed it up with, "It's so stupid, it's like, 'Stop stealing all the white people's superheroes' ... make up your own. You know what I'm saying?" 
Apparently, not everyone felt what she was saying, prompting her to post a Facebook video captioned "About that whole superhero thing."
Passion and enthusiasm are not a substitute for critical reflection or inquiry. Moreover, while Rodriguez's spirit of self-reliance and do it yourself empowerment for those who are the Other in Hollywood, and the comic book business specifically, is admirable. Yet, said Horatio Alger spirit of entrepreneurial independence exists within the world as it is, not necessarily the world that many of us would like to believe exists.

"Minorities" have been doing their own thing and inventing their/our superhero characters for many years.

Michelle Rodriguez must not know about the legacy of Milestone Comics.

Michelle Rodriguez most certainly must not know about the legendary comic book writer who happened to be black, Mr. Dwayne McDuffie.

Internalized racism and ignorance are very dangerous things because they perpetuate and legitimate structural inequality and white supremacy in the United States and the West, and also lead common folks like Michelle Rodriguez--who happen to be in Hollywood movies--to make mouth utterances such as the following:
"Instead of trying to turn a girl character into a guy or instead of trying to turn a white character into a black character or a Latin character, I think that people should stop being lazy and that people should make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology."
McDuffie and the other black and brown and female comic book creators, TV and Hollywood writers, and others who are trying to, and if are very lucky, have successfully broken into the "superhero game", are not lazy.

The Horatio Alger myth when mixed with some enthusiastic pleadings for economic independence in a Hollywood industry that is grounded in channeling the white racial frame and where white men are grossly over-represented (white men are about 20 percent of the U.S. population and 95 or so percent of Hollywood's show runners, writers, producers, and executives) is a tragic sort of naivete.

It is also amazingly intoxicating for the model minority types such as Michelle Rodriguez who have succeeded--however marginally--in that business.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A 'Ronda Rousey Whoops That Behind in 14 Seconds' Semi-Open Weekend Thread: Uncle Clarence Thomas vs. Civil Rights; Ta-Nehisi Coates vs. Shelby Steele; MC Hammer vs. Black Respectability Politics


As is our habit, please do treat this as a semi-open weekend thread.

There is a reason I do not bet on professional sports. There are simply too many variables to control for. The outcome is wholly out of a given gambler's hands.

To point. The baddest and toughest woman on the planet Ronda Rousey, destroyed her opponent Cat Zingano in 14 seconds during Saturday night's UFC 184 pay-per-view event.

Zingano rolled the dice and lost. She chose to throw caution to the wind in her opening gambit. I respect that decision. Did she have any other viable options?

After the bout, Zingano sounded like a man who prematurely ejaculates with his new paramour after only 14 seconds of coitus, declaring "I want to do it again!"

I doubt that Zingano, like most men in that position, will be given a second go round at yee old rodeo.

Ronda Rousey is so dominant that she will likely have to take a page out of my idol Muhammad Ali's book: stretch out the fight to make all parties involved look good, please Vegas, and get paid more money in the long run.

By contrast, Mike Tyson could destroy opponents in less than a minute without consequences. Why? The men's boxing bench of that era had more depth. Mike Tyson could always be fed some entertaining prey. Now, in these early years of woman's MMA, Rousey does not have such a luxury.

I would suggest that she must--and should be privately implored--to make her opponents look more competitive and respectable in the ring. In the end, one should always do what is good for business...both personal and for their sport.

I love a good rivalry.

Spy vs. Spy is a great comic.

Godzilla versus Mothra has never failed to impress and please me.

Interestingly, Godzilla versus King Kong had a very bad "kabuki" finish where there were two different endings to that iconic match-up depending on if one saw the American or Japanese version of the movie.

Ali versus Frazier is wondrous and painful--on so so many levels.

For those of us compelled to the Black Freedom Struggle and the colorline, the last few weeks brought us several interesting bouts. They vary in quality; they all entertain in their own way.

Ta-Nehisi Coates "debated" Shelby Steele about the topic of "reparations" on ABC's "This Week". Steele looked like a damn fool, one who was thoroughly outclassed.

MC Hammer faced off against "black respectability politics" in a very odd (to my eyes) conversation with senior scholar and first ballot "smart folks Hall of Fame member" Dr. Orlando Patterson.

There, MC Hammer, and hip-hop more broadly, detour what could have been a good conversation about Patterson's new collection at the online magazine Salon.

Clarence Thomas, the greatest Uncle Tom of all time and legendary self-hating negro who is the inspiration for the character "Stephen" in Tarantino's movie Django Unchained, has been waging a one person war against the Black Freedom Struggle and the Civil Rights Movement's legacy since his tenure began on the United States Supreme Court.

Juan Williams plays the role of cornerman in the sickening essay "America's Most Influential Thinker on Race" that was featured by The Wall Street Journal.

The pile of mouth rotting ahistorical, intellectually dishonest, white racist, political feces that Williams rubs all over his body for the pleasure and approval of Clarence Thomas (and their white supremacist boosters) must be read and seen first hand to be believed. My own accounting of said horror could not do it justice.

Do you have any information, either of public or personal import, that you would like to share? Discoveries? Interesting news items? What is your favorite rivalry, fight, or conflict either real or imagined?

My favorite modern historical counter-factual is what would would have happened if the United States and the Allies rearmed the Germans immediately after World War 2 and took on the Russians as Patton and Churchill had desired.

What is yours?

Friday, February 27, 2015

'Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations': A Black Man's Goodbye to Leonard Nimoy


I mourn thee Mr. Nimoy.

Once again, we measure our own time in this life relative to those who we respect and idolize and how the latter inevitably leave us in our and their mortality.

Star Trek means a great deal to me. I love and continue to love Star Wars. The Trilogy is my childhood love that I grew to appreciate more as an adult. Star Trek is a childhood crush that developed into a more mature love. Both will be with me forever.

Trek has also guided me through those moments where childhood innocence was lost. I quoted Mr. Spock and his plain statement of fact and loyalty to Captain Kirk when I gave the eulogy at my "brother's" funeral. I watched the original Star Wars Trilogy in a marathon session the night before my father's funeral. I was in my early twenties for my first major loss; I was in my thirties for my second major loss. Trek and Star Wars were appropriate comforts for both moments in my life.

Leonard Nimoy, the "mulatto", "half-breed", human-Vulcan second in command on classic Trek is one of the greatest and most iconic TV (and film) characters of all time. It was perfect that Leonard Nimoy a Jewish-American brother would play Mr. Spock a half-human half-Vulcan character on Star Trek.


In all, Mr. Spock and Leonard Nimoy are Titans of global popular culture.

For those of us born on the other side of the colorline--in the chocolate part of town--Spock's wisdom and the Vulcan way affirmed something we always knew about our contributions to America's "mulatto" culture. Black American culture is American culture. We have given many gifts to America--most of them unacknowledged and not returned in kind. Moreover, America's diversity is her greatest strength. Our forward thinking white brothers and sisters know this to be true. Other enlightened people of color know this to be true. Our gay and lesbian and transgendered brothers and sisters know this to be true as well.

When the appropriate moment avails itself, I instinctively greet people with Mr. Spock's iconic hand gesture, pinky and fourth finger together, index and middle finger together, both separated in a "V", and the thumb also extended. We say "live long and prosper" while making this gesture.

There is a deeper meaning that those outside of Star Trek fandom may not be aware of.

Spock's gesture is an embodiment of the Vulcan belief in logic and what is known as IDIC--"infinite diversity in infinite combinations".

Spock elaborated on the philosophy of IDIC in more detail during the classic Trek episode "Is There in Truth, No Beauty?"
The triangle and the circle... ...different shapes, materials, textures...represent any two diverse things which come together to create here...truth or beauty.
In its own way, this is a motto that has united all of us who fight and struggle for a humane and cosmopolitan world. I would also like to believe that Brother Dr. King is connected to Brother Leonard Nimoy through that common vein of belief and energy.

I never had the good fortune to meet Leonard Nimoy at a convention or other gathering. I wish that I had done so. He is a friend that I never met, but felt that I knew, as Mr. Spock and IDIC were shining beacons and guides for those of us who walk the colorline while trying to make sense of it.

IDIC is also a guidepost for those folks who because of some arbitrary and random ascriptive trait identity trait feel like perpetual outsiders as the Other in a world and society that can often be so very cruel to them and us.

Unfortunately, those who are intolerant, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, white supremacist, homophobic or xenophobic have not surrendered to the logic of IDIC. They are lost souls.

Goodbye Mr. Leonard Nimoy, you have been and always shall be my and our friend. You are irreplaceable.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Conversation with the Band 'William Pilgrim and The All Grows Up' About Politics, Truth-Telling, and Popular Music

The American roots, rock, and soul band William Pilgrim and The All Grows Up is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show.

Contemporary popular music is often vacuous and empty. But, there are a few rare voices who are trying to speak truth to power while also making entertaining and provocative music. William Pilgrim and The All Grows Up is one such band. 

In this conversation, I sat down with Ish and PM Romero of William Pilgrim and The All Grows Up and had a great to and fro about politics, popular culture, the role of the artist as truth-teller, navigating the business that is popular music, and their experience working on issues such as global warming and the homelessness crisis in the United States. Ish and Romero also share some wonderful and inspirational life advice that we can all learn from.

This was an easy and fun conversation. It was also a nice complement to the other conversations we have had here on The Chauncey DeVega Show about music and politics over the last few months. 

Chauncey DeVega also shares his thoughts on the 2015 Oscars, Patricia Arquette's white feminist fail, and John Legend's well-intentioned recycling of a distorted "truth" about African-American incarceration and chattel slavery.

This episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show with William Pilgrim and The All Grows Up can be listened to below or "watched" on the official Youtube channel for chaunceydevega.com

The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be followed on Itunes and listened to via Stitcher on your smart phone or other related technology.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why do Patricia Arquette's 'White Feminism' Comments at the Oscars Matter?

After receiving the award for Best Supporting Actress at the 2015 Oscars, Patricia Arquette clarified the unstated and undefined "we" that loomed over her acceptance speech.

Backstage, she explained to journalists how:
“So the truth is, even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are applied that really do affect women. And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”
The undefined "we" is a dangerous and problematic speech act. Of course, it is evidence of lazy-thinking. Thus, the unmarked "we" is obnoxious and empty based on that fact alone.

The unmarked and unqualified "we" is pernicious, because like the universal "I", it operates to normalize the privileged and the in-group while excluding the Other. Thus, erasure in language reflects a desire for the disappearance and the erasing of people(s) whose identities complicate and disrupt the "natural order of things" and the lies produced by the White Gaze.

In the case of Patricia Arquette, the unmarked "we" consists of white heterosexual women, a group she transforms into universal victims and whose selfless suffering and generosity in the service of others' freedom and equality must be acknowledged and remediated.

After writing my first essay about Arquette's "foot in mouth crude celebrity moment of she or he who wants to pontificate on political matters about which they have minimal to no substantive training or understanding about" moment, I asked myself the following questions.

Why do Patricia Arquette's racist comments at the Oscars matter? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

At the 2015 Oscars, Patricia Arquette Unintentionally Exposed White Feminism's Racist Blind Spot

Film is magical. As human beings, we are captivated by movies because of a particular quirk of our physiology wherein images moving at a certain speed create the illusion of motion on a screen. 

Movies are also an insight into our collective subconscious. Consequently, film channels a given society’s struggles and anxieties about power and questions of identity.

Celebrations of film such as the Oscars are exercises in narcissism and self-congratulatory behavior for those people who are fortunate (or not, depending on one’s point of view) to work in Hollywood. The Oscars are also an exercise in spectacle as well as wish fulfillment for the viewing audience.

If film is a type of political text, then the celebration of “popular” film at events such as the Oscars, provides an insight into American (and global) politics.

There, the acceptance speech can be transformed into a moment of political advocacy. The host's opening monologue is an opportunity to comment on timely matters of public concern or controversy. He or she who receives an award for their work may choose to speak about a matter of public policy during their acceptance speech.

In that moment, a truth can slip out, one that exists despite and contrary to their best intentions.

Patricia Arquette provided one such example during the 2015 Oscars where after receiving an award for Best Supporting Actress she proclaimed:

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights… It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”

The unmarked “we” is a powerful and dangerous turn of speech. It deflects responsibility. It exists outside of history. It dances around questions of causality and ownership. It is an empty vessel and marker. It is lazy thinking that legitimates inequality and injustice.

Arquette’s language is an appeal to a reasonable, principled, and long overdue outcome that all people of conscience should agree with. However, it is in the facts and details of history (and the present) where the problems with Patricia Arquette’s statement are revealed.

As much as some folks would like—both because of hopeful humanistic dreaming and out of cowardice for hoping to evade the fact of their unearned privileges and advantages—we cannot escape history’s gravity in the present.

As Neil Patrick Harris’s opening monologue alluded to, the Oscars, and Hollywood writ large, are examples of white privilege and the white racial frame as lived practice and political ideology.