Wednesday, October 1, 2014

'Dear White Racists' is One of the Best Explanations of White Privilege You Will Likely Ever Read

I occasionally share some of the work I post here on We Are Respectable Negroes at sites such as the Daily Kos when I feel that the topic is appropriate and suitable for that audience.

As such, my last essay "Dear White Folks, Please Stop Being So 'Surprised' When White Cops Shoot Unarmed Black People" has gotten quite a bit of attention from the readers of the Daily Kos. 

During the last few years, several of my pieces here on WARN, Alternet, and Salon have gone viral. 

Some of them have been shared tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of times on Facebook and other social media sites.

However, none of my online work has ever received 750 comments (as of the time of this post). The reactions to "Dear White Folks, Please Stop Being So 'Surprised' When White Cops Shoot Unarmed Black People" over at the Daily Kos include the typical white liberal racist dogma...and of course, there are a few trolls conducting a clinic in aversive and cyber racism.

But, among those 750 comments are some real gems of insightful and sharp thinking about the nature of "colorblind" white racism and its relationship to white racial innocence in the post civil rights era. 

One of those comments--written in the form of an open letter--may be one of the smartest, direct, funny, and authentic discussions of white privilege that I have ever read. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Political Racial Theater: What Did You Think of PBS's 'After Ferguson' Town Hall Special?

What are your thoughts about the PBS special, "After Ferguson", which aired last Friday night?

I have never seen a man kick himself in his own behind. However, during the After Ferguson town hall meeting I did see a black shuck and buck banjo playing conservative perform public analingus on a white man from the Right-wing publication the American Spectator.

The latter is a relatively common act in post civil rights era America; by comparison, to see the former would be a truly compelling and interesting event.

PBS's special on Ferguson was well-intentioned.

Unfortunately, After Ferguson suffered from serious problems of framing, semantics, and substance.

To point. There is no "after Ferguson" because Darren Wilson, the cowardly thug cop who killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who had surrender to him, has not yet been arrested, tried, and convicted for murder.

There is no After Ferguson because the structural issues of white supremacy and institutional racism that have made the black residents of that community into "custodial", second-class citizens in their own country, have not been addressed.

And ultimately, there is no After Ferguson because white on black and brown police violence within a broader context of societal/institutional white supremacy has yet to be properly corrected in post civil rights era America.

As part of the cultural trope and genre known as the "national conversation" on race, After Ferguson channels a narrative wherein there is some "crisis" about racism, the moment is treated like some type of surprise or outlier, and white supremacy is transformed by the mass media into something mysterious and unconquerable.

White supremacy in America is not a ghost, chimera, or "unknown unknown". Rather, it is one of the most documented sociological facts in American life and culture.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dear White Folks, Please Stop Being So 'Surprised' and 'Shocked' When White Cops Shoot Unarmed Black People

Several weeks ago, Levar Jones, a black motorist, was shot by a white South Carolina state trooper named Sean M. Groubert while complying with the latter's request that he present his drivers license for inspection. This unwarranted and unnecessary use of violence by Groubert was recorded on video. He was fired from The South Carolina State Police and subsequently arrested.
In the United States, the black body is so imperiled and used to being the object of white racial terrorism and violence that Levar Jones, an innocent man, apologized to Sean Groubert after being shot.

If there was not a dashboard camera, Groubert would have concocted one of the typical lies told by police officers--the "criminal" was reaching for a gun; he lunged at me in a "threatening" manner"; it was a "clean" shot because I was in "reasonable fear" of my safety--and been given a commendation and left free to walk the streets where he (or she) would continue to harass and murder other innocent members of the public.

The news media has responded to the video recording of Sean Groubert shooting Levar Jones with surprise. Headlines read that the recording is "shocking" or "unbelievable". The largely white commentariat on TV and elsewhere seem genuinely dismayed at Groubert's actions.

I would suggest there is nothing shocking, amazing, or surprising about Sean Groubert's shooting of Levar Jones in South Carolina. Perhaps, this is a function of my blues sensibility and the common sense life skills that I as a black man have had to develop in order to navigate the color line in the United States?

However well-intentioned and sincere the concern and surprise by the (white) American public towards the events in Ferguson may be, they are still colored by white privilege.

Black and brown Americans have been complaining about, organizing in response to, and publicly discussing police brutality and extra-judicial violence against their communities for hundreds of years. Those concerns have largely been ignored by the white public.

The white racial frame deems that those life experiences must be invalidated as somehow exaggerations, lies, or a function of the "natural" irrationality of those who are not white--as compared to the natural "reason" and capacity for "critical thinking", "objectivity" and "rigor" which supposedly comes with being white and male.

It is also important to highlight the raw truth: many members of the white public are invested in white on black and brown police brutality and violence because of both their implicit, as well as overt biases against people of color.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Continuity of Hate: From the White Robes of the KKK, to the Nazi Swastika, and Now the 'I am Darren Wilson' Wristband

In the aftermath of Darren Wilson's shooting of Michael Brown several weeks ago, an almost all white police department engaged in a riot against the black citizens of Ferguson, Missouri.

During those days of civil disturbance, police were recorded using racial slurs, threatening innocent people with violence and death, violating the Constitutional rights of journalists and others who attempted to monitor their street brigandry and hooliganism, and in all, treated the black community of Ferguson as though they were terrorists and insurgents—with the police conducting a mission of counterinsurgency and mayhem.

The Ferguson police are not ashamed of their horrible behavior.

Darren Wilson has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his successful bounty and head-hunting campaign against an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.

Anti-black homicidal ideation and racism drive Wilson’s supporters; they yearn to participate in a 21st century lynching party by proxy.

Ultimately, Darren Wilson is a protected man, receiving paychecks while the prosecutor and his home police department orchestrate a cover-up of his cowardly killing of Michael Brown.

It would seem that despite overwhelming evidence that Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown in an execution and vigilante style murder, that the latter, young Mr. Michael Brown, will receive no justice by the local authorities.

The police in Ferguson are emboldened by these events.

In fact, as reported by MSNBC and other media outlets, they are apparently so encouraged by a culture which enables, protects, and encourages white supremacist violence by the police and other white identified street vigilantes against people of color in the United States, that some members of the Ferguson police department have begun wearing wristbands which say “I am Darren Wilson”.

The symbolic politics of the “I am Darren Wilson” wristband makes clear what the black residents of Ferguson—and other communities in the United States—have known for decades and centuries. The police do not “serve and protect” black and brown communities, specifically, and the working classes and poor, more generally.

As descendants of the slave patrollers of the American slaveocracy, police are on the front lines of maintaining the hierarchies of race, white privilege, and white supremacy in the United States. 

The “I am Darren Wilson” wristband evokes the demons of white racial terrorism against black Americans.

The wristband naturally leads to an existential question: what does it mean for a police officer (or one of their supporters) to say that “I am Darren Wilson”?

Darren Wilson repeatedly shot an unarmed black teenager who had surrendered to him.

It follows that:

“I am Darren Wilson” means that you idolize a killer.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that you support the killing of unarmed black people.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that you support white supremacy.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that you are a racial paranoiac so drunk on authoritarianism and racial animus that you can rationalize, in the face of the preponderance of the available evidence, the execution of an unarmed person for the crime of being black, breathing, and walking down the street.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that your ethics are so twisted and distorted by the white racial frame and white supremacy that you sympathize and empathize more with the white cop who killed an unarmed black teenager than you do with the person who was shot dead and left in the street for hours like garbage.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that your moral framework has been corrupted and ruined by white privilege and white racism.

The “I am Darren Wilson” wristband is not a minor accouterment or detail that is coincidental to a given police officer’s uniform: it is a major statement of power, politics, attitudes, and values.

It is in the Ether: Have You Read Chris Hedges' New Comments on 'Inverted Totalitarianism'?

We have talked about Sheldon Wolin's concept of "inverted totalitarianism" several times here on WARN.

It is an immensely important and insightful framework for understanding American politics in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. When Wolin's book "Democracy Incorporated" is read in tandem with Kevin Phillip's "American Theocracy" a painful clarity is achieved about the present and future health of American civic life.

If one wants to be made truly ill, add Richard Perlstein's book on Ronald Reagan to the mix as a culminating assignment. Wolin, Phillips, and Perlstein constitute a trifecta of harsh truths about American politics in an age of spectacle, austerity, and "irreality". In total, they are political Ipecac.

During a recent panel discussion in New York, political essayist and author Chris Hedges made the following observations about inverted totalitarianism and its relationship to the rightward shift in American politics:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Guns and Blood Money: The United States Has Attacked ISIL in Syria. Is It Immoral to Invest in the Companies That Will Make Money From the War?

The United States and its allies have initiated their formal and public bombing campaign against the forces of ISIL in Syria. The iron mongers will be filling their coffers with money paid for by the exchange of blood for profit. They are even bringing their most expensive and shiny new toys to the fight--the F-22 is the most sophisticated fighter aircraft ever made, and it is having its coming out party not against China or some of other "peer" or "near peer" threat, but rather against a group of land pirates. 

You can't get more sales unless you show the goods or perhaps even give a free taste; the iron mongers are akin to crack dealers.

To paraphrase the always wise and insightful character Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "my cousin is an arms merchant. He owns a small moon. Instead, I am a people person. Where has that gotten me?"

In an earlier post, we discussed the question of war profiteering and the morality of investing in the companies that make the weapons to be used in the American campaign against ISIL in Syria and Iraq. 

The near term is now the present: the cash registers are now ringing and the stock is going up for the companies that manufacture and maintain the weapon systems being used, right now, in Iraq and Syria.

As such, I would like to return to that question.

Fortune recently detailed how war remains good for business, and offered up the following details:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Weekend Semi-Open Thread: As Asked by Charles Cobb at the Washington Post. How Did Black People Fail in Stopping the Problems in Ferguson Before Michael Brown was Killed?

Last night, I saw Kevin Smith's new movie Tusk. It is a monumental achievement in the man-animal hybrid genre. Tusk is the Manimal of the early part of the 21st century--in the future it will be remembered as a landmark film and cultural document, one akin to Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Am I kidding? Am I being serious? You will have to see Tusk and decide for yourself.

As is our habit here on WARN let us proceed to our weekend semi-open thread.

Charles Cobb is a veteran of the Black Freedom Struggle. He was on the front lines of the insurgency against Jim and Jane Crow and its regime of racial terrorism.

Cobb is also the author of This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement. He has both the practical credibility that comes from risking his life in the fight against American white supremacy during the civil rights movement, and the research/academic credentials to locate his own individual experiences within a broader historical and theoretical context.

Writing for the Washington Post online, he recently dropped what fans of professional wrestling call a "pipe bomb".

A pipe bomb is when a person tells the truth instead of limiting themselves to the official public script and/or narrative.

The public discourse on the police riot in Ferguson that occurred in response to the execution of Michael Brown by the cowardly thug cop who will not be indicted, and in response nothing will happen Darren Wilson has--with the exception of the Right-wing hate machine--largely been framed around police brutality, white racism, and black victimhood.

Because of the clear and obvious questions of morality and injustice at play, the dominant media frame has (and in my opinion quite correctly) placed the responsibility for the police riot and momentary spasmatic citizen's revolt, on the local and state authorities in Ferguson, Missouri.

While acknowledging the fact of white police thuggery and racism, Cobb's essay"Black people had the power to fix the problems in Ferguson before the Brown shooting. They failed." asks raw questions about black folks' responsibility in perpetuating the conditions of their own disenfranchisement.

Cobb writes:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Politics and Philosophy of Superheroes: A Conversation with Mark White About His New Book 'The Virtues of Captain America'

Politics and popular culture are intertwined with one another. Popular culture is a space where a society's political values are reflected, taught, reinforced--and sometimes challenged. Politics is popular culture through how political agents are represented by various types of popular culture, and how politic institutions and actors often try to censor, control, and use popular culture to advance their own goals.

In this new episode of the podcast series here on We Are Respectable Negroes, I had a great time talking about the politics of popular culture as they relate to the classic American comic book character Captain America with Professor Mark D. White. He is the author of the new book The Virtues of Captain America. Mark has also edited and contributed to numerous books on the politics and philosophy of superheroes that include such franchises and characters as Watchmen, Batman, Superman, The Avengers, and Iron Man

Given the recent release of the awesome film Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier on blu-ray and DVD, and how the United States is now in a war against ISIL, the basic questions of civic virtue, responsibility, and the way that superheroes are a mirror for examining America's core values both at home and abroad, makes my conversation with Professor White very timely.

Mark White is a fun and engaging conversation partner. In this, the ninth episode, of the second season of WARN's podcast series, we talk about what comic books and superheroes can tell us about philosophy and politics, work through what makes someone "heroic", the ways that the general public often misunderstands and misreads the Captain America character, as well as how American exceptionalism, race, and identity relate to superhero and other types of comic books and graphic novels. 

Dr. White also offers some practical advice for journeymen students and scholars.

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00:00 Introductions, Going to Chicago Comic Con, offering thanks to the friends and fans of WARN and Chauncey DeVega.
04:49 Why does popular culture matter? How do you use popular culture to help students understand philosophy and politics?
09:09 Deciding to enter academia. How did you start thinking and writing about comic books and other types of popular culture in a serious way? 
12:30 What comics did you grow up reading? How did you get back into the hobby?
15:23 Translating one's expertise in philosophy to a more "popular voice". 
20:52 The Matrix, popular culture, and how regular folks are "doing" philosophy and ethics on a day-to-day basis in their own lives.
23:10 How do we define a superhero? Who decides? What does this definition tell us about a given moment in history, culture, and social life?
29:00 The psyches of superheroes. Is Batman mentally ill? On Superman and responsibility.
32:05 Heroes versus Anti-Heroes. Moral judgement, heroism, and the hard choices that superheroes have to make.
36:00 The many problems with the movie Superman: Man of Steel.
38:00 Superheroes and September 11th.
41:54 Why study and write about Captain America? What can Captain America teach us about politics and ethics today?
46:22 The challenge of writing the Captain American character. How Captain American is very easy for the public to misunderstand and misappropriate. The symbolism of Captain America, race, and American identity.
50:23 Captain America's cosmopolitan patriotism.
54:24 The rules of writing Captain America and other Marvel characters.
61:07 In your opinion, what are the best/favorite Captain America story-lines?
64:55 Random geek moment--writing crossword puzzles for the local newspaper as a child. A new word: cruciverbalism.
68:00 Learning to network and make contacts in academia and other endeavors.
70:14 It is easy to fail if you don't try.
73:20 Where to find The Virtues of Captain America, contact info, upcoming work.
75:14 Chauncey DeVega's closing comments on the rise of superhero films in recent years, the importance of Blade and Unbreakable, his chosen superpower, anti-heroes, trying to kill Santa Claus as a child, and pitching the character "Mediocre Man".

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Type of Racists are They? 62 Percent of White St. Louis Residents Believe that Darren Wilson was Right to Kill Michael Brown

As reported by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, new public opinion research by the Remington Research Group has revealed that 62 percent of white St. Louis county residents believe that the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot multiple times while surrendering with his hands in the air, by a white police officer named Darren Wilson, was justified.

The support by white St. Louis county residents for the killing of Michael Brown is not just a simple matter of a difference in public opinion regarding how individuals locate matters of public concern within their own cognitive schema.

Instead, their attitudes are formed in relation to a given social and historical context. Consequently, the political attitudes of Darren Wilson's white supporters reflect a society that is organized around a racial hierarchy which privileges Whiteness.

Remington’s poll is part of a larger constellation of data on white racial attitudes in response to the Ferguson incident, specifically, and the realities of white on black racism in the post civil rights era, more generally.

In August, a poll by Pew Research found that:
...the public overall is divided over whether Brown’s shooting raises important issues about race or whether the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves: 44% think the case does raise important issues about race that require discussion, while 40% say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
By about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
These results echo earlier polls that reveal how whites and people of color are starkly divided in their opinions about the permanence and power of racism in determining life chances.

As a point of comparison, at the height of the civil rights movement, a moment when Jim and Jane Crow segregation and racial terrorism were still a de facto state of affairs in much of the United States, white folks reported to Gallup and other pollsters that black people had equal opportunities in America.

White America's willful denial and delusions about the twin realities of white supremacy and white privilege are a recurring feature of American cultural and political life.

Monday, September 15, 2014

He Does Not Have a Magical Belt or Switch: Adrian Peterson is Not Pooty Tang

I had a nice birthday weekend as my march towards decrepitude continues forward. I watched and enjoyed the great new movie The Drop. I was titillated by the Star Wars burlesque show: I did not know that I could be so attracted to Han Solo or that Obi-wan Kenobi was in fact a petite woman with very enticing small breasts. However, my mid high tier dining experience at Maggiano's was very disappointing. They have really fallen off and are now banished from my culinary go to list.

Perhaps, Maggiano's has embraced the horrible cost cutting practices that are detailed in this report about Olive Garden?

I am a people watcher and listener. If "do you remember when?" and chatting about the weather are the most banal of conversation topics, between both friends and strangers, respectively, then talk about sports between men who are strangers is at least in the same tier of emptiness.

During the last few days I have overheard several conversations on the bus, at parks, in the casino, at the bar, etc. about the recent misdeeds and bad behavior of NFL football players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

Ray Rice savagely sucker punched his then fiance and now wife Janay Palmer. She was knocked unconscious. Rice then proceeded to drag her out of an elevator like a bag of manure or hay. Rice has been permanently suspended from the NFL. I have heard too many men defend him from the consequences of his deeds. To their eyes, what Rice did "wasn't right" or "cool"--this phrasing is important because it is far less than a full condemnation--but he should not be banned from football because that is not "fair".

I do not have the sports gene. I enjoy a good football game. I love the theater and athleticism of professional wrestling. But, my manhood and masculinity are not validated by an over-identification with what strangers are doing on a field or in a ring. I doubt that I am alone in this regard.

Of course, the few defenders of Rice were the loudest at the local tap, demanding attention from others. Other men nodded in agreement or muttered almost mute disagreement. The boisterous fool alpha male won out. We are just naked apes; naked apes love to congregate at the local bar on Sundays during football season.