Saturday, November 22, 2014

Symbolic Racism 101: 'Where are the Black Leaders!' Exploring Racist Post-Ferguson Talking Points and Memes

A Ferguson, Missouri grand jury has yet to reach a decision about whether to indict the police thug Darren Wilson for his murdering the unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

As I discussed on The Chauncey DeVega Show with my guests Mr. Lou Dubose and Reverend Renita Lamkin, 1) the acquittal of Darren Wilson is a fait accompli because black life is cheap in America and the police have historically operated as a force of the Racial State and 2) the media frame around the subsequent people's protests in response to Wilson's walking free without accountability or negative consequences for executing Brown will not be a sympathetic one.

The mainstream news media's coverage of the first round of citizen activism was relatively sympathetic. With the exception of Right-wing propaganda machines such as Fox News, the mainstream news media covered the anger and rage at the murder of Michael Brown as both reasonable and understandable given the questionable behavior of Darren Wilson and the Ferguson police department.

This observation comes with several qualifiers. The white racial frame still dominated the narrative (for example, that there is something "surprising" about how the police brutalize black and brown Americans). Moreover, the wanton violence and overreaction of a highly armed and unprofessional Ferguson police department was so obvious--white journalists were assaulted, a key element in the mainstream media's sympathetic framing of events--that even the mainstream corporate news media could not massage or deny it out of existence.

Symbolic racism is the "new" or "modern" racism. The ideology of symbolic racism consists of a belief that black Americans are lazy and not hard working, have "bad culture", are disloyal and violate basic "American" values such as self-reliance and the Horatio Alger myth, possess a tendency towards criminality, and talk about racism too much, and in such a way, as to make white people reasonably and understandably resentful.

Symbolic racism was present, but relatively muted, in the mainstream news media's coverage of the initial protests and police riot in Ferguson. When/if Wilson is not charged, symbolic racism will be a naked and obvious force in how the news media covers the citizen's activism of black and brown Americans in Ferguson (and elsewhere) as they respond to the grand jury's misdeed.

Symbolic racists will use several frameworks and memes to slur Michael Brown, his memory, and the African-American community's response to a highly corrupt and dishonest process that will leave Darren Wilson financially enriched and suffering no punishment for his decision to unnecessarily kill another human being.

These frameworks and talking points will consist of the following.

1. America is a nation of laws. The jury has spoken. Why don't black people respect that fact?
2. Black people do not believe in law and order. Look at the crime in their communities. They riot all the time anyway.
3. Where is black leadership?
4. Darren Wilson is the real victim here. How will he rebuild his life?
5. More blacks kill each other than are killed by the cops. What the heck are they complaining about!
6. The riots in Ferguson are the result of a culture that doesn't value hard work, fatherless homes, abortions, and out of wedlock births. Black people need to fix their own problems and not blame white people.

Help me add to this list. What racist talking points have you seen repeatedly deployed online about the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson? What racial frame(s) will the mainstream media deploy when/if Darren Wilson is exonerated?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

She is There: A Conversation With Reverend Renita Lamkin About the Killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, White Privilege, Faith, and Resistance


The imminent decision by a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri about whether to (not) indict Darren Wilson for his choice to kill an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown looms over Ferguson, Missouri.

The grand jury will likely let Wilson go free without consequence for his wicked deeds. The tension in Ferguson--and around the United States--about the grand jury's decision is not an anxiety about the just Sword of Damocles. Rather, among the good, honest, ethical, and moral, the worry is that justice, of course, will not been done because black life is cheap and a white man wearing police blue has a de facto license to kill black and brown people with impunity.

In the first part of our conversation here on The Chauncey DeVega Show about the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri--and how that community is responding to the killing of Michael Brown by the thug police officer Darren Wilson--I was lucky to have the opportunity to talk with Mr. Lou Dubose, editor and reporter from The Washington Spectator.

For part two of The Chauncey DeVega Show's series on Ferguson, I talked with Reverend Renita Lamkin. She is a resident of Ferguson, a social justice activist, on the ground participant in the people's movement for civil rights and respect against the militarized and racist Ferguson police and local government, as well as a Pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Reverend Lamkin has been the subject of much conversation about the events in Ferguson both because of her participation in the people's movement (and subsequent injuries suffered at the hands--and at the end of the gun barrels--of the police) and bold truth-telling in her writings at the Huffington Post, a new piece at CNN, and interviews with a range of domestic and international media outlets.

Renita and I talk about how the mainstream media is distorting and misrepresenting the events in Ferguson, how white privilege is operative even among those white brothers and sisters who have chosen to stand with the black community in Ferguson, how faith and "liberation theology" guides her social justice work, predictions for Ferguson when/if Wilson does not face negative consequences for his actions, and what events and experiences made it possible for Renita Lamkin to pastor a majority black church.

This new episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show can be listened to at the link below or on the official Youtube Channel for chaunceydevega.com.




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Artie Lange's Failure and Richard Pryor's Genius: New Research Details How White People View Blacks as Being "Superhuman"


Artie Lange, comedian, and former co-host on the Howard Stern Show, recently told a joke that involved a slavery fantasy, plantations, whipping, masturbation, and sex with ESPN's Cari Champion, one of their TV personalities who happens to be black and a woman.

Lange was heavily criticized as a result.

His effort at humor through the mocking of how black Americans were targets of systematic rape and torture during centuries of chattel slavery was a failure on all accounts: it revealed no deep truth, pointed no light on matters little discussed, and there was no self-sacrifice or vulnerability on the part of Lange because he failed in this instance to make himself (and his failings) the fulcrum on which the comedic revelation could turn or pivot.

I am an unapologetic fan of Howard Stern. As such, I am a fan of Artie Lange. Unfortunately, his joke about white on black rape during chattel slavery has put that "relationship" in peril.

I know Artie Lange in the sense that he is a fellow traveler of sorts.

Of course, I do not "know" Artie Lange the individual. But, I know him in the sense that I feel and "get" his life story, upbringing, and generational experience growing up in the Northeast, from a working class background that was tenuously clung to by his family, pain about the injury suffered by his father, and making promises to his mother about her future prosperity while hanging out at diners in New Jersey.

Lange, in his own way, also helped me to survive one of the darkest times in my life some years ago. I am known to have depressive moods while I dance with the dark and the morbid, trying to make sense of my life trajectory. As I was tempted to take one step too close to surrendering to those impulses, Lange's autobiography Too Fat to Fish pulled me back.

For that I am indebted to him.

Because I am a fan of Artie Lange, I reached out to him on Twitter. To my surprise he responded. I told him that he should just be contrite, apologize for a joke gone wrong, and that there are many people, like myself, across the color line, who support his career and are concerned about him as a person. All Artie Lange needed to do is to own his mistake and bad behavior; we are human; not all of our art--or in this case--jokes are going to be winners.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Deep State Laughs as the American People Wait For a Robert Tilton-Like Figure to Lay Hands on a Broken System


I am in a holding pattern. If I were on an airplane, it would be circling, waiting for the weather clear or a slot to open up on the tarmac. If I were a World War 2 naval officer, my squadron of PT boats is circling; they are hungry sharks waiting for the prey to provide an opening for the attack.

[And given that an old injury to my rotator cuff is acting up, I would hope that one of my officers is JFK, and that he could slip me a pain pill to wash down with my whiskey.]

We--those who are good, smart, and reasonable citizens, pragmatists and progressives who actually care about the well-being of the American polity across the color line--are stuck between two unpleasant events.

Two weeks ago, the Democrats were shellacked during the midterm elections.

There will be an imminent announcement that Darren Wilson is going to walk free.

Moreover, and this fact is truly grotesque, he has actually been financially enriched by killing Michael Brown execution style in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

As I wrote on Twitter, black life is cheap in America. Yet, killing black people has always been very lucrative. This is one of the central paradoxes of modernity in the West.

On Sunday night, I had the good fortune to speak with journalist and fellow (as well as much wiser) traveler Mr. Paul Rosenberg. He has written for Al-Jazeera, Salon, and Alternet. My conversation with Paul will be featured on an upcoming episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show.

I shared my angst with him about American democracy, and my growing belief that principled non-voting and pursuing a nebulous "third way" should be the primary ways that the American people resist Power in the Age of Austerity, plutocracy, inverted totalitarianism, and the carceral society.

Voting is a type of fetish. This is especially true for many of us who are heirs to the Black Freedom Struggle.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Is This a Video of Ferguson Police Thug Darren Wilson? And Would You Trust Him to Not Shoot You Without Cause?


There is a video circulating online that purports to show Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, arresting a man for the "crime" of "disobeying a police officer".

I offer the following qualifiers.

I am not sure that the police officer in the above video recording is Darren Wilson.

[The Guardian has a story about the video clip and offers corroborating evidence which suggests that the police officer in the video clip is in fact Darren Wilson.]

Moreover, the video clip only shows several seconds of the encounter between the police officer and the man he would arrest.

Black folks in America have to learn survival skills in order to protect our lives in a society structured around maintaining white supremacy and white privilege. These lessons were taught on the slave plantations by both biological and fictive kin, and remain necessities in the post civil rights era as evidence by "the talk" given to black American youth about how to not have police kill you for the "crime" of being black, breathing, and nearby.

This is not an exclusive story of race in America: these are the life skills and sitting at the learning tree moments that all folks who suffer under Power must learn in all societies across time immemorial if they want to survive.

The ability to read cues of body language and speech are necessary abilities for living through an encounter across the color line with those who are empowered by the State--and society more generally--to visit violence and death upon those who are the Other.

As such, in American society black and brown folks know more about Whiteness and White folks than the latter generally know about themselves. When one is fighting from the bottom they generally have a much better and broader perspective about empirical reality than the person who is imposing power from the top.

To my eyes, there is something imposing, mean, and bullying about the police officer in the above video. His swagger is menacing. He walks like a man whose testosterone and testicles are swollen with the petty authority that comes with a gun and a uniform.

Alas, and in total, Wilson is a little man.

Am I crazy and/or delusional? Is this officer's habitus a good fit for the slave plantation or slave patrol, he gleefully singing the song "Run Nigger Run", what is a warning to black slaves and free people that they best obey white authority lest the whip or the lynching tree would be their reward?




Thursday, November 13, 2014

He was There: A Conversation With Journalist Lou Dubose About His Experience Reporting on the Killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri

I have written extensively about the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. However, like most of the cultural critics, analysts, and interested public, I have not had an opportunity to actually go to Ferguson, and to speak with the members of the under siege, bullied, and harassed by the thuggish white police, African-American community that resides there.

For those of us who live outside of Ferguson, our insights into that community are mediated by others. While the broader issue of police brutality may resonate with us because of our personal encounters with racist and classist police power, this is no substitute for a direct experience and "eye on the ground" in Ferguson.

In the next two episodes of The Chauncey DeVega Show, I will try to remedy that social distance.

Lou Dubose, editor of The Washington Spectator, is the first guest in our two part series on the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, and the subsequent police riot against the black citizens of Ferguson.

He is a very accomplished and experienced journalist who has written for The Nation magazine and has also appeared on news programs such as 60 Minutes.

Mr. Dubose has written an excellent series of stories about the events in Ferguson based on his experiences there in the aftermath of the police riot against the town's black and brown community.

In this conversation, Lou and I discuss the racial geography of Ferguson, what he learned from the young people he spoke to about their experiences with police harassment, how the police responded to the media, the inter-class tensions within the black community in response to the protests about Michael Brown's death, and his thoughts about the grand jury investigation into Darren Wilson and the future of Ferguson if the latter is not put on trial for the killing of Michael Brown.

The grand jury in Ferguson will be issuing its decision about Darren Wilson in the very near future.

My conversation with Lou Dubose is timely and essential.

This newest episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show can either be listened to and downloaded from the link below or "watched" on Youtube.


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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Administrative Matters: 'Chauncey DeVega' and 'We Are Respectable Negroes' Now Have a Youtube Channel

In response to the requests of the kind friends and supporters of We Are Respectable Negroes (WARN), as well my other online work, I have finally created a Youtube channel.

The channel is divided up into several categories that cover essential documentaries and other resources related to the topics we discuss here on WARN, a section for the fun "ghetto nerds" materials, a limited sample of my media appearances, and Season 3 of the podcast (with a few of the most popular episodes from Season 1 and 2) now known as The Chauncey DeVega show.

The Youtube channel can be found here.

[And speaking of The Chauncey DeVega Show, tomorrow's episode will feature the first of a two part conversation about the killing of Michael Brown, the protests, and the broader dynamics of Ferguson].

The Youtube channel is a nice repository for videos related to the themes discussed here on WARN and a value added for those folks who want to mine that resource.

Now, can you do a brother a favor?

Please like, subscribe to, and share the channel. One of the challenges of developing social media content is that popularity is confused with value and merit. Chaunceydevega.com averages several thousand page views a day. If the readers and friends of the site also subscribe to the Youtube channel we should be able to get those numbers up pretty quickly.

Likewise, if you do not follow me on Twitter at @chaunceydevegaplease do so. Followers translate into opportunities to grow our project because of perceived value.

If you have any suggestions for videos or other materials that you would like to see on the Youtube channel please leave a comment below.

Likewise, if there are other types/categories of videos that you would like to see added to the Youtube channel for Chauncey DeVega and We Are Respectable Negroes, please make that suggestion too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Paul Heyman's Wisdom: How Professional Wrestling Can Help Us to Understand the 2014 Midterm Elections

The Republican Party is a "babyface" territory. The Democratic Party is a "heel" territory...and that is why they lost.



I am still reflecting on the Democratic Party's thrashing by the Republicans in last week's midterm elections. The postmortem suggests that the historical pattern of a sitting President losing off year elections combined with general voter discontent about "broken" government to give the Tea Party GOP control of Congress. As I wrote here, given the extreme racial animus of the White Right, and its pull over a good segment of the white voting public, Obama's skin color also served as a negative coattail.

The Democratic Party's choice to run away from Obama ceded priceless territory and initiative to the Republicans. The latter broke the government by abandoning the common good in an effort to delegitimate the United States' first black president. The Republicans and their propaganda machine created a narrative that Obama was a failure, and is a toxic presence in the White House; Democratic candidates fell into their trap by pursuing a strategy which validated the lie.

One of my favorite, and most popular (in terms of traffic) essays is "Forget Boxing: The 2012 Presidential Election is More Like Professional Wrestling".

I believe that the analysis offered there is both analytically correct as well as novel in presentation.

In total, the suggestion that professional wrestling is a type of model for understanding, and a powerful lens through which to observe, American politics in the age of the corporatecracy, inverted totalitarianism, and spectacle remains compelling.

But, how does it explain the American 2014 midterm elections and the way that the Republicans destroyed the Democrats?

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Folly of Lawrence Otis Graham: So a Child of the Black 'One Percent' is Called a 'Nigger'...and Guess What Happens?

How much, and for how long, do you protect your child from life's harsh realities?

If you are the parent of a child who is the Other, what if any special obligations do you have to prepare them for the world as it is--as opposed to the world as you would like it to be?

Lawrence Otis Graham, author and public face of the black bourgeois, shared a very sad and honest story about how he failed to properly prepare his child for life in an America where racism and white supremacy remain powerful social forces.

I would think that the boule would be very embarrassed and upset by the following anecdote about how the black rich have discovered that money is not a shield against white racism.

While the observation may be impolitic to some, to me, the following scene is high comedy straight out of Chappelle's Show:
Not many months ago, my children and I sat in the sprawling living room of two black bankers in Rye, N.Y., who had brought together three dozen affluent African American parents and their children for a workshop on how to interact with law enforcement in their mostly white communities. Two police detectives and two criminal-court judges — all African American — provided practical suggestions on how to minimize the likelihood of the adolescents being profiled or mistakenly Tasered or shot by inexperienced security guards or police officers. Some of the parents and most of the kids sat smugly, passing around platters of vegetables and smoked salmon — while it helped to have the lessons reinforced by police officers, we had all heard it many times before.
Lawrence Otis Graham's son is broken by a direct encounter with white racism.

This is just sad and pathetic:
The boarding-school incident this summer was a turning point for us — particularly for my son and his younger siblings. Being called a nigger was, of course, a depressing moment for us all. But it was also a moment that helped bring our surroundings into clearer focus. The fact that it happened just days before the police shooting of Michael Brown increased its resonance for our family. Our teenage son no longer makes eye contact with pedestrians or drivers who pass on the street or sidewalk. He ceased visiting the school library this summer after sundown, and now refuses to visit the neighborhood library, just one block away, unless accompanied. He asks us to bear with him because, as he explains, he knows that the experience is unlikely to happen again, but he doesn’t like the uncertainty. He says he now feels both vulnerable and resentful whenever he is required to walk unaccompanied.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Semi-Open Thread: Have You Read Edward Baptist's Brilliant Observation About Whiteness, Slavery, and America's Original Sin?

I enjoyed chatting with Janice Graham about race, the color line, Ferguson, and the midterm elections on her BlogTalkRadio show Our Common Grounds last evening. Her show is almost two hours long. My segment begins at about the 20 minute mark. If you are curious, it can be listened to here.

Historian Edward Baptist's book The Half Has Never Been Told has received a great deal of deserved praise for its masterful demonstration of how slavery and capitalism were intertwined in America, and how the institution of white on black slave labor and violence were the driving engines behind the growth of the country's global economic empire

Baptist's claims are not unique or new. 

However, the clarity of his writing and ability to use the "voices" of the enslaved to present a rigorous argument about the relationship between white supremacy, black chattel slavery, and America's economic growth expose the White lies of American exceptionalism and innocence--lies that too many white folks still cling to in the present.

One would also be remiss if they did not highlight how Dr. Baptist's position as a historian at an Ivy league institution gives his work on the political economy of slavery a level of visibility and credibility that other researchers--many of them black, independent scholars, or at other types of academic institutions--are not afforded. This does not lessen the importance or veracity of The Half Has Never Been Told. It is a plain statement of fact, one with which Baptist would likely agree.

His interview at Salon.com is a quick read. It is a teaser and in no way a substitute for The Half Has Never Been Told.

At the conclusion of the interview, Baptist offers up a beautiful and direct observation about the relationship between whiteness, white supremacy, and America's original sin of black chattel slavery.

He observes: