Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chauncey Devega says: Hillary Loves Her Guns and God

As we earlier established, brother Obama is having difficulty reaching out to the common folk, you know, the red-state voter who runs to church, guns and God when things are going a little rough:

Apparently, Hillary has a special gift. You see, she isn't a Yale trained attorney from a monied family. Nah, she is a good ol' girl, cut from the same cloth as her good ol' boy husband Billy Bob. Hillary loves Guns. Hillary loves God. We can't go wrong with guns and God.

How absurd.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chauncey Devega Says: Obama and the White Working Class Sacred Cow Test

As others have correctly observed, it seems that Obama is a smart man who at times isn't a very smart politician. Democrats have always struggled with the easy mark of being effeminate "intellectuals" that are out of touch with "common" American folk. The Reagan revolution, Nixon's Southern strategy, and the rise of Conservative talk radio and television mined this narrative, added some race baiting "law and order talk," and rode this wave for some four decades--Rush Limbaugh's jab at "liberals" where he describes them as "Rolls Royce driving socialists" and as supporters of "welfare queens" immediately comes to mind:

It seems that Obama has now failed the white working class sacred cow test twice in a row.

First, a few weeks back Barack bowls a 37, yes a 37! how in the hell do you do that Obama?

That is little more than 3 pins a frame, and apparently he bowled one strike in the twelve frames, so that means there were quite a few empty frames. As a respectable Negro and long-time kegler, I am personally offended, but I can get over that.

More importantly, if you want to appeal to the white working class you got to bowl well. To Obama I would offer the following advice: visualize the constituency you are trying to win over in Pennsylvania--in this case imagine thousands of Archie Bunkers--bowling is integral to their lifestyles and if you can bowl well, maybe these Archie Bunkers will be generous enough to overlook the fact that you are a black man:

The first President Bush was also a horrible bowler, but then again he was also pretty liberal by Conservative standards:

Second, Obama dares to talk about white working class resentment, religion, and guns (and then promptly backpedals). Uh ooh, Barack was brazen enough to state that poor and working class white people may run to religion and guns out of anger and frustration. Maybe I am one of the effeminate intellectual types, but this sounds like one of those old school religion as the opiate of the masses types of arguments. Obama, didn't anyone tell you that Marxist analysis is so 1960s? You should certainly know better.

Again, here is where you can brush up on your political skills. Americans don't like to talk about race and class. White Americans, and poor whites in particular, don't want to reflect on their material self-interests and the fact that they have consistently supported political movements where racial interests (that is a polite term for white supremacy) trumped class interests. History provides a litany of examples: Populism; the Progressive movement; the rightward turn from Civil Rights and the Great Society; the Reagan Revolution; the New Democrats (i.e. Clinton and their bunch) all knew you can win big by running for the center (or right) on race and by not talking about poor and middle class white folk having lots in common with poor and middle class brown and black folk.

On religion, you committed a similar gaff. Again, a smart politician, especially a black Democrat where the label of "liberal" looms like the sword of Damocles over his head, better not hint or imply that religion, and the Right's co-optation of the white Church and God, is a function of fear, of an anxiety about a changing world, and an effort to run to the church instead of engaging in a deep and critical analysis of State, power, and leadership:

Remember, religion, and good, old fashioned, conservative, fundamentalist religion in particular, makes people strong! As Hillary said:

“Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it’s a constitutional right. Americans who believe in God believe it’s a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it’s a matter of the American dream,” she said. “People embrace faith not because they are materially poor but because they are spiritually rich.”

I am sure some do, but a hell of lot don't. Bro'Bama please be careful and don't commit a 3rd strike in the white working class sacred cow test. You are smart, and frankly in my opinion quite correct, but never underestimate the stupidity of the American people.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: Obama's Momma's Wanderlust and that Old Black Magic

From Time Magazine:

...Shortly before she moved to Hawaii, Stanley saw her first foreign film. Black Orpheus was an award-winning musical retelling of the myth of Orpheus, a tale of doomed love. The movie was considered exotic because it was filmed in Brazil, but it was written and directed by white Frenchmen. The result was sentimental and, to some modern eyes, patronizing. Years later Obama saw the film with his mother and thought about walking out. But looking at her in the theater, he glimpsed her 16-year-old self. "I suddenly realized," he wrote in his memoir, Dreams from My Father, "that the depiction of childlike blacks I was now seeing on the screen ... was what my mother had carried with her to Hawaii all those years before, a reflection of the simple fantasies that had been forbidden to a white middle-class girl from Kansas, the promise of another life, warm, sensual, exotic, different."

By college, Stanley had started introducing herself as Ann. She met Barack Obama Sr. in a Russian-language class. He was one of the first Africans to attend the University of Hawaii and a focus of great curiosity. He spoke at church groups and was interviewed for several local-newspaper stories. "He had this magnetic personality," remembers Neil Abercrombie, a member of Congress from Hawaii who was friends with Obama Sr. in college. "Everything was oratory from him, even the most commonplace observation."


I think the ATLAH church got this one wrong. Sorry Pastor Manning it wasn't Obama's daddy who was as you said "in heat," it was Momma Obama who loved that old black magic:

Who would have thought that a single viewing of the movie Black Orpheus would lead to a love of black folk and the (literal) creation of Brother O'Bama?

I think this calls for a Billie Ocean moment:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Object Lesson Number One: A White Black Person

In the spirit of White History Month, I have decided to provide examples of some White, black People that include the (in)famous, the commonplace, and the everyday. This is a respectable negro version of Batman's Rogues Gallery.

Black men who only date white women:

Larry Elder, in the spirit of his book, is "a stupid black man":

Thomas Sowell, who has an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Glass from the movie Unbreakable:

Uncle Clarence Thomas:

John McWhorter, now resident black expert on everything at the Manhattan Institute:

Black women who only date white men:

Good ol' reliable Shelby Steele:

Any more nominees?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Chauncey DeVega Says: Celebrate and Praise these Great White Inventions

A quick thought on the White in White History

White History Month is here and I am so happy! in fact, I am tingling with delight as I think about my first entry for this auspicious event. First, we need to clarify some terms. "White" is different from white. The former speaks to the relationship between power and race--the unstated assumptions that those who are White are by definition normal, are privileged (but won't generally admit it nor confront it), and whose race is invisible, i.e. it just isn't something to be thought of and "race" is a category which by definition describes the Other, and not White people. Thus, the label/field/disciple/category of whiteness (and whiteness studies) when folk want to critically interrogate White racial identity.

white is a bit different. white is simply a factual observation as in "those are some white people." But, they often overlap, and yes race is "socially constructed" so there is malleability to the category. Ultimately, there are black, White people, there are White black people, and there are folk of all color that have white/White tastes--like Zora and me, but not Gordon, as he is an "authentic" negro.

As you read our White History posts every Wednesday keep these qualifiers in mind. You should also reflect on one of my favorite quotes: "Treason to Whiteness is loyalty to humanity."

There are so many White inventions. There are also lots of white inventions as well. Since White folk basically invented the modern world, and all of its goodies, I have a hard time knowing where to begin. So here is my first take (and not my last) on some important inventions worthy of being honored during White History Month.

Invention number 1. The Flowbee.

Some of you may be too young to remember the miracle that was the Flowbee. Before SuperCuts--that wonderful place where white people, as well as black folks who don't know to go to a barbershop (or were adopted by white parents) go to get their haircuts--white people invented an attachment that would turn a vacuum cleaner into a pair of barber clippers. You would place an attachment on the end of the vacuum cleaner hose, set the length which you wanted your hair cut, and vacuum away. The Flowbee was perfect for the quintessential white haircut, "the bowl." As a black person, and I guess this went for Jews as well, I was always jealous that I couldn't use the Flowbee. My hair was happy to be nappy and those tight little knots and curls of hair were incompatible with the original Flowbee. One couldn't contain my glee when the new and improved Flowbee was unleashed onto the marketplace. Its tagline: "the Flowbee now works on Afro Hair!" Damn, I was so excited because I could finally cut my hair like white people, and I was one step closer to "passing" because of it. The flowbee is so important to the lifestyles of white people that there are online communities devoted to it, and the flowbee has subsequently been the subject of much scholarly research and examination.

Invention number 2. Febreze

Febreze is one of the greatest gifts which white people have ever given the world because it allows you to wear dirty, smelly, stinky clothes over and over again. In fact, did you know that Febreze is so popular that many consider "febreze" to be a proper verb? Undoubtedly, this practical and inspired gift to mankind has roots in Europe where a whole continent committed itself to covering up their unclean ways, all around funkiness, and history of poor hygiene (random story: did you know that European travel narratives from the 18th and 19th centuries are full of erotic praise for the hygiene of those "heathen" "savage" women who unlike Europeans at the time, didn't have stinky punanies? Those white Imperialists loved getting with those nice smelling brown, black, red, and yellow women...and who can blame them?) Yes, I love me some Febreze. Did you know I once wore a sweater for a month and simply febrezed it everyday despite the fact that is smelled of smoke and sweat? Ahh, the wonders of white technology.

Invention Number 3. Marshmallow Fluff

I have never seen a non-white person eat this stuff. Growing up, and to this day, I have white friends who wax nostalgic about eating this foul marshmallow food substitute. I remember growing up and seeing white kids at lunch with Fluff sandwiches. As I reflect, perhaps it is a white version of the mustard or ketchup sandwich that many poor black people wax nostalgic about eating when they were kids? The curious should follow this link for a history of the foul, white substance. Apparently, Fluff is so prevalent as a staple of the white diet, that some public officials want to see it banned. From the Boston Globe: "The escalating war on junk food in schools has targeted a new enemy -- that gooey, sugary, and often irresistible sandwich spread known to children everywhere as Fluff. Outraged that his son was served peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff sandwiches at a Cambridge elementary school, state Senator Jarrett T. Barrios, a Democrat, said he will offer an amendment to a junk-food bill this week that would severely limit the serving of marshmallow spreads in school lunch programs statewide." Thank goodness someone is taking steps to confront Fluff and its negative impact on white youth. Because frankly, for the same reasons I would never let my daughter play with a hula hoop, there is just something a bit wrong with all that white gooey stuff coming out of our children's mouths.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 4,000 dead Americans, The Iraq War, and Black Patriotism

Dr. King was killed forty years ago last week. Of course, this "anniversary" was thoroughly covered, commented upon, and at the center of the public's consciousness for an obligatory few days of national remembrance, reflection, and celebrating of how far America has come (or perhaps not) towards resolving our national dilemma of racial inequality and white supremacy--a dilemma that is simultaneously both a national obsession and character flaw that resident Negress in the Bush regime, Condi Rice, quite surprisingly and incisively described as a "birth defect at America's founding." At moments such as these, I experience a bit of "two-ness." On one hand I am cynical and suspicious of America's willingness to deify King while also being quite proud of his heroism, patriotism, courage, and human imperfections. Yes, his imperfections, imperfections which made King all the more human to me, and perhaps to others of the post-Civil Rights generation, a cohort born a bit removed from the immediate glare of King, "The Movement," and those tumultuous 1960s.

I have asked myself repeatedly, which King do we celebrate? Do we celebrate the optimistic humanist who believed in the hopeful possibility of America's redemption? Or do we celebrate the King that criticized the Vietnam War? The man who moved the black freedom struggle Northward and became increasingly convinced of white society's inability to move past its racism? Do we celebrate a man that saw the struggle against poverty and human indignity as a cornerstone and prerequisite for justice, a justice for all people everywhere? I know the answer, as I suspect you do as well, but the question, despite toying with triteness, remains relevant, and is perhaps made more so, because of the simplicity of the question.

America is "blessed" with the ability to package any fact, event, or situation to fit its national needs. For example, because nationhood is about selective acts of remembrance and forgetting, America can reimagine its founding as untainted by the complexities of classism, racism, or sexism. Alternatively, one can craft a story in which these inconveniences are mere imperfections to be struggled against and that the American creed has been perfected precisely because of the malleability of our society and politics, a "consensus liberalism," that can account for all locations on the political spectrum and that can heal all wounds.

America, through the same process of remembering and forgetting, can remake its heroes and its struggles. We cannot forget that Dr. King, at the time of his death was one of the most unpopular people in the country, not a national hero, but rather a man reviled and scorned. Upon his death, and in the decades since, Dr. King has been transformed into an icon, a God among men, and a symbol of the best which America has to offer.

Accordingly, the radicalism of Dr. King's vision has been removed. King has been so thoroughly white-washed that the Right can disingenuously deploy King's name to both fight affirmative action, as well as to counter the efforts of ethically and fair minded Americans to correct a disadvantageous racial order; corporations can use Dr. King to sell McDonald's fast food, Apple Computers, and automobiles; and King's message is an antidote, a happy pill of sorts with the power to make everyone feel good about how far we have come:

Of course, as a respectable Negro, and as someone working to be a better "race man," I miss the latter Dr. King, not because his earlier work wasn't relevant or radical (I and others like me are the direct descendants of his dream and owe a debt that can never be repaid) but because his radical critique of power, militarism, and a State which fails its citizens, remains frighteningly relevant in 2008.

Today, we are bogged down in a civil war in Iraq that has claimed thousands of American dead, tens of thousands wounded, orders of magnitude more Iraqis killed, and which shows precious few signs of being resolved in the near-term. We have an administration which continues to lie about the Iraq War, its costs in both financial and human terms, and a political establishment that seems unwilling to confront the dire impact of the Iraq misadventure on America's social, economic, and political stability. The Iraq War has damaged the U.S. military to such a degree that generals, soldiers, and veterans are speaking out in protest.

Sadly, the Iraq War is a tar baby that can we can extricate ourselves from, much like the British did from the U.S. during the 18th and 19th centuries, an action which preserved British dominance and power, if we only had the political will. As he opposed the Vietnam War, Dr. King's vision would certainly condemn the madness of our misguided Middle East adventure(s). More troubling to me as a proud American (and that is one of the complexities of red, yellow, black and brown folk's relationship to this country isn't it? this pride and loyalty?), is how this righteous critique would be rejected as being treasonous:

Or as the sentiments of America haters:

Even relative hawks like myself, citizens that are not afraid of using both "soft" and "hard" power in the pursuit of America's preeminence in the World--which is a nicer way of saying the carrot and the stick, would likely be marked as traitors to the cause.

Certainly, the radical King, as we have seen in the attacks on Obama's patriotism and loyalty, would be greeted with condemnation by the Right and their (often manipulated) supporters in red-state America. As a function of "symbolic racism" blacks are always suspect as traitors, as likely "bad citizens," and our loyalty is questioned despite our repeated response to America's call to arms:

Or our heroism:

Or our sacrifice:

Here, and most relevant in this moment, is that the most sickening part of the Wright-Obama debacle is how Obama and Wright can be labeled as disloyal by the Right, when the shrill elite of the Conservative wing have either never served, had other things to do, were AWOL, or were otherwise far from the combat that they dared accuse others of either exaggerating or dissembling about. The base hypocrisy of these "chicken-hawks," and the unwillingness of the public to hold them accountable as they led, and continue to lead America down a path which leaves us weaker rather than stronger, is ominous for what is portends about the health of our civic culture.

In my reflections on Dr. King and his legacy, I close with the following: What is patriotism? What is "black patriotism?" Is there such a thing? Hell, is there such a thing as "white patriotism?" What does patriotism mean at present? And will we ever have a political space for the type of radical critique which Dr. King offered?

And yes, this most radical King is the one I miss the most...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

We Respectable Negroes Love some Tracy Morgan: His soon to be Classic Interview with Howard Stern

Tracy Morgan is a funny brother whether he be drunk or sober.

I have told anyone who will listen about how great Tracy Morgan's interview with Howard Stern was 2 weeks ago. In my opinion, this interview will rank up there with Chappelle's episode of Inside the Actor's Studio. In this interview Tracy shares his:

1. favorite movies to masturbate to (these films include Caligula, Private Parts, and Pam Anderson's sex tape);
2. we learn a new word for fellatio ("car wash");
3. discusses his spectacular endowment (it is like Darth Vader's helmet);
4. his 10,000 pairs of sneakers;
5. why black kids in the 'hood would shit in the public pool (it was an act of political resistance--that sounds like infrapolitics to me--I wonder what Robin Kelley or James Scott would say about pool-shitting?);
6. why he will vote for the "HNIC" Obama and how he would love to have sex with Hillary Clinton (he is gonna "stink up the room" when they finally get together).

Here are the clips, enjoy:

Clip 1

Clip 2

Clip 3

Clip 4

Clip 5

Clip 6

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday Five: 5 “American” terms that are code for “white”

I know that we said that we are reserving Wednesdays to post on White History Month, but I just couldn't resist. Like most black people, I am very aware of race and language in popular culture. To kick of White History Month, I have decided to celebrate one of white people's rich cultural traditions, namely, white language. I've compiled a list of five terms that use “America” but are actually code for “white people.”

1.) All-American

Any time this word is used as an adjective and it isn’t in the context of high school or college sports, you can rest assured that it’s describing a white person.

e.g. All-American girl, All-American boy, All-American family.

2.) America’s sweetheart

While it is supposed to signal beauty and innocence, it is reserved for young white women.

e.g. “Oh, Jennifer Aniston, we love you! You truly are America’s sweetheart.”

3.) Middle America

This and its cousin “The Heartland” (which brings to mind Nazi Vaterland), rests upon the idealization of such noble “middle American values” as maintaining peaceful towns, promoting family values, and educating children. These pathologies are not limited to white people or those in the Midwest, of course, but whiteness as ideological, practical purity is definitely a subtext of the term “Middle America.”

4.) Red-blooded American male

This one is supposed to signal fierce heterosexuality and manliness, but it almost always signals popular straight white male desire.

e.g. “What red-blooded American male doesn’t find the Olson Twins hot?” Uh, maybe ones who aren’t into the stick figure junkie troll look?

5.) Americana

I have a handful of rules about cultural critics: never trust one who 1) attaches the prefix “post” to musical genres; 2) romanticizes “the golden age” of anything, or 3) uses the word “Americana” with a straight face. Technically, jazz falls under the Americana rubric, but it’s usually the toothless, bastardized forms performed by inoffensive white artists. It is Bob Costas’ bullshit about the purity of baseball before it was fully integrated. It is bland, suburban-approved art. But “Americana” is at root, a product of condescending pseudo-intellectuals who try to advertise their appreciation of common “folk art” (sound familiar?)

Bonus: U.S.A.! (chanted)

If you hear white people chanting “U.S.A.” and you’re not at a sporting event, you are assed out!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: Help Our People--Violence at Black Funeral Homes on the Rise

White people kill themselves, Black people kill each other, and Chinese people don't die...

From the New York Times story Body Collector in Detroit Answers When Death Calls (for the full video click here).

I promised not to talk about black folks this week, but I am having a Bill Cosby moment.

They say you can tell alot about a society by how they treat their children, old people, and criminals. I would add one more category to this list--one can tell a great deal about a society by how they treat their dead.

I love a good story about funerals or funeral homes (Yes, I am a bit twisted, I know this and admit it). There is a certain pornography of death at play in these spaces, and this is especially true of funerals in the black community. At funerals for black folk I have seen photos of the body taken, video recordings made, and professional funeral attendees (well probably semi-professional actually) who make going to funerals and crying a second job. Apparently, anthropologists have argued that this is an Africanism that continues in Black America where these professional criers are said to help with the grieving process. One can also hypothesize that documenting the death ritual made sense given how geographically dispersed black folk have been during our 2 great migrations--it makes sense but that don't make it any less creepy. And of course we hold funerals for the "n-word" and for the "negative perceptions" of black people. We love funerals it seems.

I have also seen fights at funerals and bodies pulled out of caskets when the dozen or so baby mamas show up to mourn "their" man. But, nothing tops the following story for absolute shame and embarrassment. On the anniversary of King's death can't we do better?

Apparently, The Wall Street Journal has found space in its esteemed pages to cover the rising tide of violence at black funerals. It seems folks are getting shot at, armed guards are being hired, and general mayhem is on the rise. Apparently, some knuckleheads are inspired by the funeral drive by in the movie Colors. To quote the article, "funeral homes used to be the most respected places you could walk into beside the church," says Jeff Gardner, a co-owner of A.D. Porter & Sons in Louisville, Ky., and a third-generation undertaker. "Nobody respects life and the young folks nowadays don't mind dying." Maybe the ign'ts can stop wearing their white-tee's, maybe they can't help but man-share, and they can't help but love minstrel-hop, but can folks at least respect the dead? I wonder if has anything to say about this?

Ooh well, it was worth a try.

I have a habit of bookmarking tragic, odd, and ridiculous stories, thus the impetus for this blog. From my personal collection, here are some other great funeral home related entries:

1. Wade funeral home in New Haven, CT cited for having decomposing bodies in its basement. Apparently, the owner "forgot" he had the bodies and put them in the basement. Oops.

2. Colonial funeral home in Hamden, CT is now using billboards to advertise its services. More interestingly, the owner of the funeral home, in a dispute with a client's family, threw the ashes of the deceased at the plaintiffs during a court hearing. Don't let this dissuade you from using their services because the owner is cool people (I know him quite well).

3. From The Village Voice, "A Harlem funeral home has been sued for losing bodies and filching corpses from nearby hospitals. Now it must answer charges that a dead man's body was chewed up by rats." Enough said, check out the article here.

4. The body collector speaks about life and death in Detroit. Watch the video, hear his wisdom, and share his thoughts with friends and family.

Brother Cosby I think you have another crusade.

Chauncey's World of Ghetto Nerds: Solomon Grundy is Very Very Angry! or Why the Hell does the TSA Mess with Respectable Negroes?

When I get pissed off I channel either the Incredible Hulk or Solomon Grundy. A few months back when that knucklehead staged his own noose incident I got Incredible Hulk angry:

Yesterday, I was far more upset and I became Solomon Grundy angry. The latter is more of a personal rage, while the former is more of a you deserve to get hit upside the head with a sock full of quarters angry:

The source of my Solomon Grundy rage was the 2 rather unpleasant encounters I had with Transportation Safety Administration staff while traveling from my current headquarters back to my ancestral home.

During the first leg of my trip I was profiled. Yes, profiled. Now, folks who read this site and know me personally, know that I don't throw around such language easily or without care. Here, I fit a profile, a brown guy, with a one way ticket, traveling from the Midwest to the East Coast. I humored the brother interrogating me. He asked dumb questions but I smiled and answered them. Yes, I was tempted to tell the TSA officer that he was following a script and that these anti-terrorist measures are a joke that don't actually make us safer, but I let him earn his 13 dollars an hour without my intervention. I smiled, he defended democracy and felt good about himself, I didn't tell him how a smart person would actually bring a plane down, and I went along with my business.

Now folks, the story gets interesting. On the second leg of my trip, I flew out of a PWT airport--PWT meaning poor white trash where the TSA staff are happy to have benefits and are pleased to be one step above the "rest of us." Frankly, these are the same folks who often become police officers so that they can harass people and be the bullies they were in High School.

I got to the lane and of course I was in the middle of a conversation I would rather be apart from--an argument about race and history. I asked myself, "why? why God do I have to be around these people. Why do I have to hear these conversations?" An old, angry, balding white man was quite hostile and lecturing a black woman, his coworker, about race--I bit my tongue. He continued to tell her that, "race doesn't matter, race doesn't matter to me, get over it," and in that moment I had a list of books and research to share with him, but I knew it would not matter. I watched. I don't begrudge people being idiots. And frankly, I don't believe in mass democracy or the wisdom of the masses. I wanted to lecture him on white privilege and history, but realized it wouldn't matter. I even whispered to the sister that "he will never understand, so please stop trying." It fell on deaf ears as she ignored me.

Then it happened, I had my Solomon Grundy moment--the white ign't--yes, there are white ignt's--decided to tell a story about Rodney King, and that the cops did the right thing and that it wasn't racial. Damn, Damn, Damn..yes in capital letters, I became Solomon Grundy!

I called over the manager and I wanted names. Do you understand my rage? I don't care about ideological purity, or even that folks should agree with my politics. What enraged me was that a person with petty power, here meaning the power in that moment to determine who would get checked, who would be detained and their person inspected, and that would hold such retrograde attitudes could hurt the public, really sickened me. For the record, I think Rodney King was an asshole who deserved to get his ass kicked, but I am not a police officer, and I don't have rules to abide by. Moreover, that ign't had surrendered and any fair minded person would have to admit the show was over and that King was done with:

Ultimately, from my perspective, someone who couldn't see that fact shouldn't be in TSA, and he certainly shouldn't have that level of power or public trust.

Am I a bad person? Am I unreasonable because I am calling in favors to get him fired? Am I a hostile, mean person because I have called my congressman and senator and told them a person with this little level of discretion shouldn't be a TSA officer because they can't be trusted? Is it unfair that I believe that someone who is so indiscreet, and holds a prior that black people are criminals, shouldn't work for TSA,? Help a brother out, am I that wrong?

My respectable negro friends, white, black, brown, or other, please share some of your unfair, unreasonable, TSA moments, so we can heal together.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

W is for White, White as in White History Month

We are suffering from a combination of Obama fatigue, and a bit of exhaustion from talking about all this black-race stuff...because black folk really do make us tired. Accordingly, we are inaugurating April as White History Month here at We are Respectable Negroes. On Wednesdays throughout the month we are going to feature great white people, great moments in white history, and great white inventions. Truthfully, we have always been sympathetic to arguments against Black History Month and all of the attention black folk get throughout the year can be a bit deafening. Thus, White History Month will serve as a corrective to Black History Month, and because white folk don't get enough shine throughout the year we black folk are giving White History Month a long month, a whole 30 days of attention and love (or 5 Wednesdays). Hopefully, this will help the self-esteem of white people, and provide an opportunity to celebrate their many, and often overlooked, contributions to America and the world.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Why we did it and what we learned: The Obama Assassination Story

This has been an interesting few weeks. Our Obama Assassinated storyline has been our most popular post, while simultaneously being our most surprising. A few weeks ago, we (being Chauncey) and Gordon had a conversation where we reflected on how everyone seems to be saying the same thing, but no one has the nerve to really engage it. In the NY Times, on NPR, in conversations with friends and family there was a clear worry, and in the major news outlets more of a subtext actually, of anxiety regarding a black man running for president. Folks were thinking, "hell the brother may be killed" but no one would bring the issue to the forefront. I understand this worry-- this is only a blog and my entries were the amongst the hardest things I have ever written, professionally or personally. In formulating the storyline things came pretty easy. We had to set up the event. Put ourselves in that horrible place, and then in both literary and metaphorical terms, pull the trigger. The rest came surprisingly easy.

What did we learn? Well, from talking to friends and family who read the blog they were on the fence. On one hand they were like, "damn, that could happen," but that was mixed with, "well, if you write about it that isn't really cool." We expected that. But, what was really surprising was how the storyline was like one hand clapping in the wind (did you know that is how Buddhists describe the "sin" of masturbation?) in that there was lots of attention, but few posts. Even more interestingly, was not how the traffic was an obvious response to the keywords "Obama" and "assassinated"--it was "link-bait" which we expected--but that how many repeat, unique visitors came back to follow each installment, yet didn't post a comment. Now, we had some crazy anonymous posts which ironically said Obama would never be killed as "we" are past that (yeah right), but we also had a few that were very critical of Obama and which captured the real vitriol and hostility that is against him as a candidate. The final lesson learned, and the post that received the most traffic ironically, was that you don't mention conservative television or radio programs, or dare to broach the idea/fact/probability that they would find a way to spin the story such that Obama got what was coming to him...never, ever, do that.

Ultimately, the moral of the story is that folks like to read about their anxieties made real, but don't want to talk about it. The second moral is that one can write about a hypothetical plot against Obama all they want, but don't dare to ever, and I mean ever, speak ill of Fox News!

Alas, we will be back this week and next with our usual tomfoolery, satire, insight, and (relative) genius. This was an interesting and surprising exercise that we would repeat again if given the choice. A final thought: one of my best friends asked the pointed question, "what is the race of the assassin? Is he black?" I replied that I won't say, and does it matter? But, of course I do have an answer. What do you all think? What race was Mr. Roybock? And does it matter? Would the assassin's racial background shape how the public would respond to Obama's murder?

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Frightening Scenario: Barack Obama Assassinated! Part 6--Fox News Responds

See our disclaimer here

Sean Hannity Interviews Ed Rendell


Hannity: New details have emerged about Obama’s alleged shooter, Jonathan Fernandes Roybock, including an apparent explanation for his behavior, in which he cites fears of Obama’s loyalty to America. I’m here to discuss these new developments with Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Ed Rendell. Welcome. Thanks for joining us.

Rendell: Thank you, Sean.

Hannity: As we move forward with this story, some will wonder if Obama’s own chickens didn’t come home to roost. Obama lived the American Dream, his recently released tax records showed him to be a millionaire, and this great country allowed him to go to Harvard, but he continued to associate himself with Anti-American black radicals. And now they—some of these leftist, radical websites and blogs—are saying that Obama’s killing is proof that America is a racist country. I don’t buy it. Do you?

Rendell: First, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to Michelle Obama, his beautiful daughters, uh…Malia and Sasha, and the rest of his family. This is a tragedy of the highest order. And…

Hannity: Governor Rendell, Do you believe this nonsense that America is a racist country, and that one lone act proves it?

Rendell: Sean, No, I…We have some problems, but the focus should be on figuring out why this young man did this and making sure something like it doesn’t happen again.

Hannity: Well, I think we have an idea of why this happened—and this is my own personal belief here, but I speak for a lot of regular Americans, “typical white people,” as Obama said—hatred like that coming from Obama’s pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright has the potential to stir up this kind of violence. We have a clip here of one of Reverend Wright’s most famous vicious, hate-filled tirades…

Wright: The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing God Bless America? No, no, no! Not God bless America. God damn America! It's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human!"

Rendell: Certainly that kind of hate is unacceptable. Reverend Wright’s beliefs and words about America and his anti-Semitic attacks on Israel have no place in decent society.

Hannity: The AP is reporting that this kid, Jonathan Fernandes Roybock, was a student of political philosophy, and had a number of classics of Western Thought, along with my own books. The liberal media is, predictably, trying to blame these great works for Obama’s shooting. Let me ask you this: If he had read those books in his study, especially my own, Let Freedom Ring and Deliver Us From Evil, wouldn’t he have seen that violence is not a cornerstone of conservative thought. I mean, you have the anarchists, the Communists, you have the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, Islamofascist terrorists. Isn’t political assassination a tactic of the radical left?

Rendell: Sean, This is not a time for that kind of divisive rhetoric.

Hannity: I’m not..This is not divisive rhetoric. All I’m saying is that history proves that conservative thinkers and regimes value order, not this kind of chaotic violence and murder.

Rendell: I don’t think it’s wise to argue that. That’s just patently false. There are all kinds of examples of right-wing regimes and individuals who resort to loathsome political violence.

Hannity: That’s not true, Name one…

Rendell: Tim McVeigh, all of those who bomb abortion clinics and assassinate doctors. There are…James Earl Ray, the man who killed Martin Luther King. Sean, it isn’t just …

Hannity: Those are isolated events, Governor Rendell. Those are nowhere near the kind of violence that comes from the left.

Rendell: Sean, honestly, what do…

Hannity: We have to wrap it up in a minute, but since you mentioned the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, some are looking at Obama’s legacy and comparing him to King. In my opinion, the politically correct media is too cowardly to tell the truth: that Obama was no King. First of all, Obama didn’t accomplish anything. He gave a speech in 2004. He was only in office for a brief period and introduced no legislation of note. King fought for a colorblind America; he wanted Americans to be judged not by the content… not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. Obama was more akin to Malcolm X. I think that history will remember Obama as a divisive figure.

Rendell: Sean, Sean. No. How can you…

Hannity: Although his actions were extreme and indefensible, Roybock’s basic point that Obama was not post-racial politician, but one with his feet squarely in the black radical community, was correct. This is a kid who obviously…I just don’t think we should be demonizing this kid, who clearly had some mental issues. Anyway, final word Governor…?

Rendell: Obama was not perfect. He made some unwise decisions as far as associations, but I don’t think we should let that take away from the fact that he was a truly remarkable human being. History will look upon him as a great American. What a tragic loss for his family, for this country, and for humanity. I’m a close friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton. She wants the American public to know that, as much as it pains her to go on in the face of this tragedy, as president, she will continue Barack Obama’s legacy.

Hannity: Thank you for joining us, Governor Rendell. Always a pleasure…Next up, more fallout from the Obama shooting and what the New Black Panther Party has to say about getting revenge on white Americans.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Frightening Scenario: Barack Obama Assassinated! Part 5--The Assassin's Confession Revealed

This a fictional story done in the spirit of War of the Worlds. The names are fictional, and any relation to people, living or dead, is strictly coincidental. See our full disclaimer posted here.
An Assassin's Confession: "Why I did it" by Jonathan Fernandes Roybock
NewsWire Service 8:00pm
August 22, 2008

To an overflow audience of reporters, the FBI and Secret Service held a second press conference today where they answered additional questions regarding the Obama assassination, released a statement from Mr. Roybock's family, and finally made public the text of the assassin's letter of confession.

The FBI and the Secret Service reiterated that they are increasingly certain that Jonathan Fernandes Roybock acted alone in his shooting of presidential candidate Barack Obama. As shared during the press conference, forensics experts continue to review the security footage, the trajectory of the fatal bullets, and other physical evidence taken from the auditorium of Large State University. To this point, they have not discovered any evidence which would suggest multiple gunmen. In response to witness reports that they heard multiple gunshots from multiple directions, and that one of the members of Obama's staff appeared to "signal" Mr. Roybock, police and government officials responded: "no comment, these differing memories are common during and after horrible events such as these...we are exhaustively pursuing all leads and interviewing everyone who was in the auditorium that afternoon."

The Roybock family, through their attorney, have issued the following statement. "We are horribly shocked and dismayed by the actions of our child and brother. We grieve with the nation and pray that we as a people can overcome this most horrible turn of events. Barack Obama's loss, and the pain his untimely death has caused his family, friends, and supporters is unimaginable. As parents, as Americans, and as likely voters for Mr. Obama, we grieve as well. During this difficult time, we ask that our privacy continue to be respected as we try to make sense of this unbelievable act."

Following their release of the family's statement, the lead spokesman for the FBI and Secret Service circulated a copy of Mr. Roybock's confessional statement entitled, "Why I did it." Although reluctant to discuss the details contained in the alleged gunman's journals and newly discovered website, they reiterated their earlier comments that Mr. Roybock was a voracious reader, and had many volumes of books and magazines that are popular with conservative and right-wing audiences. Officials also shared that near Mr. Roybock's diary and confession, he had neatly placed several volumes of political writing by such authors as Plato, Socrates, Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, John Locke, and Adam Smith. Next to his confession, Mr. Roybock had placed a copy of the book Conscience of a Conservative which he had extensively underlined and bookmarked. In response to a question from the press regarding the confessional, and if it was placed in any one book, officials shared that the note had been inserted among the pages of the book Liberal Fascism.

The text of Mr. Roybock's confession follows:

"Why I did it"

I can only imagine the consternation and disbelief which will follow my actions later today. I also know and understand the pain that I have caused so many people, my parents, friends, family, teachers, and associates through what they may see as an unneccessary and hateful act. I apologize to them, but I do hope that they will come to understand the wisdom of my deeds.

I hold no malice towards Mr. Obama. I believe in my heart that he is a good person, a God fearing man, and that he loves his family. However, in matters of State and of government I believe him to be profoundly misguided. As I have watched over the course of several months his campaign has gained momentum despite the efforts of reasoned and intelligent critics to point out his many shortcomings. Normally, one would simply accept this as a failing of our political system--a system which has produced few great leaders and has continued to serve our most base, mediocre, and corrupt interests. We are unable to enter into political community and select the best, the most noble, and the most accomplished among us to be president. We have no council of elders, no Archons, or learned men to guide us in our decision making. Rather, we have a corrupt two party system that reproduces its own mediocrity.

We stand at a key turning point in history. America is engaged in a war against radical Islamic terrorists. Our economy is on the verge of collapse. We face a rising China. And we have a welfare state which coddles the poor, the underachieving, and the weak among us. The country is flooded daily by illegal immigrants whom are not willing to assimilate. Our American civilization is truly in crisis.

I ultimately believe that Mr. Obama would make these problems worse rather than better and that he is ill-equipped to lead this great country during these perilous times. Mr. Obama is a novelty, an example of wish fulfillment by liberal elites, naive young people, and disillusioned Americans whom are desperate for "change." After Obama's support of his hate mongering pastor, his associations with radical Islam during his formative years, his marriage to a woman who by her own admission was never proud to be an American, and a truly disengenous speech on race relations which rather than be assailed for its trite and thin nature, was heralded as one of the greatest moments in American letters, Obama has revealed his true nature. Yet, no one has the courage to intervene or act.

I have tried to tell my fellow professors, students, family members, and anyone who will listen the truth about Obama. No one will listen. I have tried to use the internet. No one listened.

Obama is not an enigma. His intentions and motivations are clear and I cannot in good conscience allow him to become president of this great country.

A great man once wrote that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots. Moreover, many actions are only understood in the context and through the wisdom of critical distance and historical perspective. I acted to save America from itself. God has compelled me to do this and it is He who will ultimately be my judge.

My plan is unstoppable. I have studied the building at Large State University where Obama will speak and am confident in my plan. Today, I will strike a blow for justice and liberty, as Jefferson and our esteemed framers used quills to fight tyranny, I will use other means.


Jonathan Fernandes Roybock, Patriot and Philosopher

A Frightening Scenario: Barack Obama Assassinated! Part 4

see our disclaimer posted here.


Portrait of an Assassin:
Preliminary Information comes to Light about Jonathan Fernandes Roybock
NewsWire Service
August 22, 2008

FBI, Secret Service, and Large State University police held a press conference today where a great deal of information, information which was until recently held in confidence regarding Jonathan Fernandes Roybock, was shared several hours ago.

According to officials, Jonathan Fernandes Roybock was a student at Large State University, where as earlier reported, he was a senior majoring in History and Philosophy. After a raid by FBI tactical teams on his campus apartment more information about this alleged shooter has become available. According to officers whom have seen his apartment, "this is very anti-climactic, he wasn't crazy or anything...he was just a very political and a well read young man, we can't describe how shocked we are that he seemed to be quite normal."

During the press conference, officials relayed how in Jonathan Fernandes Roybock's dorm there were many books, articles, and newspaper clippings in boxes and on bookshelves. In a very orderly fashion, Mr. Royback had apparently amassed a great deal of information about politics, history, and culture. He lived alone in a single dorm, and his neighbors reported that he was a bit quiet, but that nothing seemed out of the ordinary about him.

Among his books, and on his computer, officials reported that there were many conservative and libertarian texts and websites. Titles on his bookshelf included popular texts by Rush Limbaugh, Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, and other popular conservative pundits and critics. Likewise, his computer included bookmarks of websites such as Fox News and the Weekly Standard. Also, among the files on his computer were conservative and right-wing videos culled from the popular website "YouTube." Analysts from the FBI and Secret Service are still analyzing these files.

Apparently, a diary was also found in his dorm room. Rumors are also circulating that Jonathan Fernandes Roybock wrote a letter explaining his actions that was left posted on the wall of the dorm room. When asked about this letter, officials at the press conference replied that they will share its contents later today once certain information has been confirmed, and precautions for the safety of Mr. Roybock's family have been reviewed. Of note, Jonathan Fernandes Roybock was known to be quite active in several conservative and right-wing student organizations including the Ayn Rand Society, the Objectivist Society, and Students for Academic Freedom.

Mr. Roybock's family has issued a statement where they have expressed their shock, dismay, grief, and pain at his actions. Mr. Roybock's family has reiterated President Bush's call for calm and for healing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Frightening Scenario: Barack Obama Assassinated! Part 3

see our disclaimer posted here.


Alleged Assassin of Barack Obama Identified!
by staff reporter
NewsWire Service
August 21, 2008

As the nation remains stunned by the death of Barack Obama, officials with the Secret Service, FBI, and Large State University police, conducted a joint press conference where for the first time they revealed the name of the alleged assassin, Jonathan Fernandes Roybock. As the press waited in silence, Secret Service officials confirmed rumors that in fact the alleged shooter was a a senior at Large State University where he majored in Philosophy and History. Officials were very tight lipped about the specifics of their investigation citing security concerns and the fact that this is an ongoing and still developing event. However, they did confirm that security tapes clearly show that Mr. Roybock was the lone shooter. When challenged that Mr. Roybock must have had "inside help," and the repeated worries regarding lax security at other Obama rallies, government and local officials reiterated that security at yesterday's event met and exceeded all standards.

Overnight, there were no reports of violence or civil disruption. While groups of people have spontaneously assembled in silent vigils at churches, major street intersections, and at state capitals throughout the country, the nation remains calm.

We will continue to update this story as details emerge.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Frightening Scenario: Barack Obama Assassinated! Part 2

see our disclaimer posted here
Barack Obama Assassinated!
by staff reporter
NewsWire Service
August 20, 2008

As reported several hours ago, Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama was shot earlier today during a campaign event at Large State University. Secret Service agents shot and killed the gunman and immediately secured the crime scene. Obama was transported to a local hospital where during emergency surgery he succumbed to his injuries. Obama's camp and his wife Michelle are pleading for calm as these events unfold. The Clinton camp has issued a statement of support expressing their shock at these horrible events. Condolences and offers of support are flooding the Obama camp and the State Department from foreign leaders and dignitaries. President Bush is pleading for calm as the FBI, Homeland Security, and other law enforcement agencies are rushing to investigate the crime scene. At present, there are no reports of violence or civil disruption. In a manner reminiscent of the moments following the terrorist attacks of 9-11, an eerie calm has descended across the country as news of Obama's death has paralyzed America. Citizens hungry for any information about the day's events remain glued to their televisions, radios, and computers.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, FBI and Secret Service spokespeople have disclosed that there was only one gunman and that his identity is known. However, it remains unknown if the alleged gunman is part of a larger conspiracy or if he had outside assistance. The alleged assassin's family, close associates, and acquaintances have been contacted and the shooter's immediate family is now under police protection. It is still not known if the alleged gunman was a student at Large State University.

The terrorist threat level remains at orange, although the Department of Homeland Security has hinted that it may be raised. In a precautionary move, the United States military has canceled all leaves and vacations, and raised its alert status as a deterrent against any foreign power or terrorist organization using this crisis as an opportunity to act against U.S. interests.

The nation remains in shock at this tragic turn of events. More news is forthcoming.

A Frightening Scenario: Barack Obama Assassinated!

Following Obama's historic speech on race, I have been talking to many people in my circle of friends and family. What has struck me is how so many of them, unprompted, have said, "you know they are going to kill him now." I have heard this repeated in barbershops, airports, bars, and restaurants. Interestingly, while yes, many of the voices have been those of black people, many of my white respectable negro allies have hinted at much the same. It is ironic that these worries and concerns are often dismissed as the fear-mongering sentiments of paranoid, histrionic black people and conspiracy theorists.

It has always struck me how Americans, and black Americans in particular have every reason to be paranoid: how many "conspiracies" have later turned out to likely be true? How many radical American political thinkers have been struck down and killed under questionable circumstances? In this regard, the response of many white Americans to the Wright-Obama debacle hints at a deep disconnect between black and white Americans (see Tim Wise's excellent editorial) on the nature of American society. Many apparently don't get the most absurd conspiracy of them all, i.e. that millions of people could be transported across the ocean, kept in bondage, excluded from citizenship, subjected to racial terrorism and segregation, and still be claimed as (and be) loyal Americans. This is the cruelest joke of them all...and why black folk tend to have a deep appreciation for irony.

Our disclaimer: ultimately, and after much reflection we have decided to follow through on our own political "War of the Worlds". We pray this won't happen, but feel obligated to put it on "paper" and make "real" the scenario. The hateful vitriol spewed by the Right in these recent days has made it clear that Obama's safety could be endangered by a lone gunman or other misanthrope (fact: "assassinate Obama" is already one of the most popular google search terms, and many outlets and sites have started to cover the story.

Periodically throughout the week we are going to add new details to this story and follow it as though it actually occurred. How would people react? What would the country do? How would race relations be impacted? This series will be difficult to write and it actually causes much anxiety, but we feel it must be done.


Barack Obama Shot!
by staff reporter
NewsWire Service
August 20, 2008

This is a breaking news story.

During a rally at Large State University, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was shot while delivering a speech about his inevitable nomination as the Democratic Party presidential candidate and how his campaign had started a process of healing the country's racial wounds. Obama was hit five times in the chest and was immediately rushed via ambulance to a local hospital. The secret service quickly killed the gunman who had penetrated several layers of security, stood up in the middle of the crowd, and shot Obama at approximately the ten minute mark of his speech. This is a developing story and details are rapidly emerging.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Barack Obama's Racial Kung Fu

I was waiting for the gravity of Barack's speech to sink in. Next week me and Gordon are going to reflect on our hopes and worries regarding Obama's campaign, but for now, I have a few quick thoughts.

First, Obama's speech on race and the Wright-Obama debacle was courageous. He took on corporatism, racism, white racial resentment, and black self-sabotage. As others have observed this is probably one of the most important as well as most needed speeches on race since the Civil Rights Movement.

Second, this speech wasn't perfect, but how could it be? Obama had to accomplish specific political goals (regaining some momentum and addressing the Right's mean spirited and vicious charges) while also not appearing to abandon his base or to "sell out," two goals he accomplished quite well. My ears only perked up once during this speech--when he equated white racism and racial resentment with black anger I grimaced as these two issues are quite separate and different. Moreover, they are not morally equivalent (black folks have every reason to be angry and pissed off given their treatment in this country; white anger at some perceived wrong done to them by black people simply does not have the same legitimacy).

Bro'bama I am proud of you right now. Accordingly, you deserve a We Are Respectable Negroes Kung Fu Tribute (one of the highest honors we negroes can award).

Obama's speech exemplified the balance of Shaolin Monks:

He handled his business with the intensity and deftness of Silver Fox:

Obama skillfully applied the snake style from the Five Deadly Venoms:

Brother, you have alot more soul than I gave you credit for, sort of like my boy Jim Kelly in Black Belt Jones:

You schooled middle America and your detractors in a fashion akin to Bruce Lee when he lectured his young pupil in Enter the Dragon:

You really have been training hard brother Obama because your speech shows how far you have come in this campaign:

When the time comes, I hope you do McCain and Hillary just like Pai Mei aka Gordon Liu schooled Uma Thurman in Kill Bill:

And much respect to you Brother Obama like the Ghost Dog to the RZA:

Peace, and the struggle continues...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chauncey Devega Says: Yes Virginia, there is a White Church

When I was a younger respectable negro I served as the commentary editor for my college newspaper. There, I had the chance to write all manner of provocative articles in an effort to (and I just learned the phrase at the time) "speak truth to power." I took particular pleasure in upsetting the white students at my small liberal arts institution. I would make them cry, enrage them to the point where I received death threats, and play on their liberal guilt--it was there that I learned about the many erotic possibilities which would potentially come to a racial messiah from the hot and flustered college co-eds who loved their local black radical. Ultimately, I simply enjoyed being the center of attention every Friday when the school paper was published...and attention would indeed come, and it often came when I least expected it.

In one of my more tame pieces I made a simple allusion, a throwaway really, to the fact that Jesus was "black." Here, I meant Jesus was "black" politically--he fought for the little guy, challenged State power, was politically progressive, and defended the weak against the strong. I also meant the historical Jesus, the man, was certainly not white. These were simple facts, written without much preamble or embellishment. Predictably, the reaction to these claims was so powerful and so immediate one would think that I had publicly lambasted the Pope and then killed his dog. I was threatened, verbally abused, and greeted by tears. Even my allies, my sincere supporters didn't understand why I would bring "race" into it. I responded with confusion. How did I bring race into anything? Race and racism are simple facts of life in America, I didn't introduce race to a situation where it wasn't already meaningful and relevant. The "anything" in this case was religion. The anything was the mere idea that I would state a fact in contrary to a fantasy, a deeply held fantasy that religion and faith are somehow immune from these questions of race and justice. I was befuddled, these normally rational, smart, reflective people lost all capacity for common sense when I dared to bring up an inconvenient truth.

It was then that I adopted my mantra to not mix religion and politics, never in my personal life, not in my relationships, and certainly never in my academic work because matters of religion often make rational, intelligent people act like total fools.

Now the Barack-Wright affair--and yes, this is how I believe history books will refer to this most untidy matter--has forced me to break my rule.

During the last week Fox News has transformed itself into the 24 Hour Black Religion Network where every second of every day offers some new morsel of information about Obama and Reverend Wright. Fox News has become so fixated on this issue that I am soon expecting TD Jakes, Reverend Ike, or Creflo Dollar to appear accompanied by praise dancers and interludes from Mahalia Jackson. However, if they could play some of this brother from the ATLAH Church I would be particularly pleased:

What is troubling, but hardly surprising in this matter, is how black folks are once more marked as the "other." The subtext (isn't it even a subtext anymore?) is that the black church is the center for some type of radical politics, that black people are bad citizens and ultimately, Obama is really one of "those blacks" and his mainstream appeal was the result of a sham, an effort to pull the proverbial negro wool over the eyes of "mainstream," i.e. good, white, patriotic Americans. Also, and the black church bears responsibility here as well, this fascination with black churches (which is cultivated by "cultural tours" of black churches like those offered by Trinity in Chicago) reeks of a type of racial voyeurism where black people are the subject of a particularly pernicious type of white spectatorship: look at the black people? Aren't they interesting? How they pray is so "animated"? Isn't the music amazing?...Maybe they will get the spirit and speak in tongues!

This effort by the right-wing to "blacken" Obama ignores some key facts and proceeds from a number of false assumptions. First, we must ask just how unpatriotic, disloyal, out of the "mainstream," or "crazy" are Pastor Wright's positions? Here, this divide speaks to the ways how (some) black people and (many) white people view the world through profoundly different lenses. While we may no longer exist in two worlds "separate, hostile, and unequal," we certainly are often worlds apart.

Let's offer a quick summary:

Not too much crazy there, no? The U.S. has supported authoritarian regimes which committed acts of terror and atrocities against their own people. Why is the idea of "blowback" or as Malcolm X said, "of the chickens coming home to roost" so troubling? On this point, I am reminded of Oprah Winfrey's 9-11 episode where experts explained to soccer moms everywhere that America has enemies, and that America often behaves like an international gangster who is long overdue for retaliation from elements abroad (I guess this is news to some). America has been stained by slavery, Jim Crow, support for state sponsored racial inequality, and continues to have an atrocious record in regards to the justice claims of poor people and people of color. Why is this so controversial? Katrina was a national embarrassment and from a religiously informed perspective that looks to the Bible as providing examples for how righteous societies ought to treat its citizens, and how societies which fail to do so will be punished by God, what is so unsettling or unpatriotic about the idea of divine retribution? How frightening is it that God may "damn" America? How absurd is this notion when one seeks, from a religiously informed perspective, to explain our declining position in the world?

This controversy also speaks to how the black church is a deeply political space, and that black liberation theology is an effort to speak to the particular needs of black people in America. We are not all the same, and any effort to mask how race informs our varied life experiences is naive at best and disingenuous at worst. Moreover, it is a perspective often advanced by those who do not have to deal with the "inconvenience" of racism. The irony in this debacle is that the black church is deeply conservative and supports positions that most political Conservatives, if they were actually honest about their own racial politics and deep animus towards black people, would support. The proposition that black folk can do for ourselves, or perhaps see value in black spaces of community and support, spaces that are not prefaced on assimilation and integration, troubles the Right:

These efforts at self-reliance are then translated into racial separatism. By extension and association, Obama is tarred and feathered--stained by his association with these "radicals," when in reality the positions held by Pastor Wright (and others) are not all too radical. Moreover, why isn't truth seeking the cornerstone of patriotism? Must we lie to ourselves and our children about America and our shared history lest we be castigated as traitors and subversives?

As much as the black church is made the object of spectacle, it is also an opportunity to turn the table. As has often been observed, the hour of prayer remains the most segregated time of the week. If the black church is "political" or "separatist" to any degree, the "white church" exhibits those same traits, and does so in a far more negative fashion. This is scary to some white folk, this challenge to the assumption that "normal" equals "white" and that "whiteness" ought not to be interrogated. But, it is one of the basic perks of white privilege, a type of convenient myopia where one does not have to see the painful or inconvenient.

For example, in America the white church has supported slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK, racial violence, and the political disempowerment of people of color. Yet, we tremble at speaking this truth. At present, the white Church is deeply political. The alliance of the Republican Party and Christian Evangelicals has given us the Bush administration and the Iraq War. The white church, with its Christian Fascism, conflates love of country and God with love of the regime and patriotism:

As further evidence of the political double standard present in the Barack-Wright affair, where is the clarion call against McCain and his affiliation with Pastor John Hagee who called Catholicism a cult?

Why hasn't Bush been called to task for speaking at Bob Jones university, a racist institution that prohibited inter-racial dating?

And black preachers don't have a monopoly on "incendiary" or "crazy" speech as Pat Robertson provides ample evidence:

Along with (reformed racist) Jerry Falwell:

As a secularist, and as a respectable negro American, I am deeply disturbed by this perilous turn in the presidential campaign. Obama, in his stirring speech today didn't throw Pastor Wright under the proverbial bus, but he did do some necessary dancing around the issue. The right-wing will predictably stay on message with attacks on Obama's character and loyalty. Predictably,their loyal sheep will march in lockstep behind these conservative demagogues. Some critics and observers have echoed my concerns about the hypocrisy surrounding the Wright-Obama affair, but unfortunately it has not (yet) become a groundswell.

Sadly, this moment reminds me of Winston Churchill's quote, "
never was so much owed by so many to so few." But unfortunately, it is a vocal few on conservative talk radio and Fox News who in their unbridled vitriol, prejudice, and political hostility, have through their attacks on Obama further poisoned our political discourse and potentially hurt so many.