Thursday, May 1, 2008

White History Month: Five Indisputably White Movies




I know that White History Month has passed, and I wanted to get this one as a Friday Five, but I wasn't able to (please, no CP Time jokes).

1.) Birth of a Nation

Most white folks abhor the racist stereotypes and plot of D.W. Griffith’s “masterpiece.” What makes this a White movie isn’t the racism, it’s the selective detachment of its fans: the ability to set aside their disdain for the film’s reprehensible content while appreciating its stylistic appeal and praising Griffith’s technical prowess. It’s not even a matter of the aggrieved being black. Leni Riefenstahl, though frequently condemned a “Nazi hag,” receives similar praise for her Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. Remember that the next time an old white critic is talking about the moral and stylistic bankruptcy of all rap music.


2.) Gone With the Wind

The softer side of Birth of a Nation. Confederate apologist melodrama. Filled with rank stereotypes about happy darkies. What more could you want?


3.) Rocky

The ultimate white male fantasy. Its moral is that white people’s hard work and grit can allow them to triumph over physically gifted, but undisciplined, flashy, loudmouthed black people. This is still played out in every major sport today. Peep the dominant narrative of the recent Floyd Mayweather/Ricky Hatton fight. Hoosiers also fits into this category.


4.) Forrest Gump

This one isn’t as obvious as Rocky. Forrest Gump, as some scholars have argued, struck a chord with so many, because its vision of History is America’s dominant vision of History. Forrest lumbers blindy through the past (his present), not as an agent, but as a passive screen upon which History plays out. “Segregation? Vietnam? Who me? I had no part in that.” And, to prove that he wasn’t racist, Forrest's best friend was a dim-witted black Bama, who predictably died in Forrest’s arms (side note: Dave Chappelle, who worked with Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, turned down the role of Bubba because it was offensive and stereotypical).


5.) Grease

Contains two of White people’s favorite things: 1950s nostalgia (no black people) and jazz hands.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I’m outraged by his comments…I'm saddened by the spectacle...That's enough...…The man I saw today is not the man I knew...



These, paraphrased words from Obama today, in response to Reverend Jeremiah Wright's brilliant, hilarious, captivating, and--quite frankly--on fucking point performances on his recent media tour. Moyers was OK, but the Press Corps and the NAACP address were incredible, for real. He threw up the damn Q in the middle of a press conference!!!! I don't fuck with Black Greeks, but damn, that's black.

I usually love every kind of irony, but the irony brought about by Obama’s denunciation of Wright doesn't bring me much joy. Obama’s words of outrage describe exactly how I feel about Obama at this moment.

I officially rescind my support for Brother Barack, and throw it behind…no one. I don’t care that Obama is tap-dancing for Massa; we all knew that he had no shot of even sniffing the presidency unless he did a little bojangling. To this point, however, he has tap-danced while keeping his dignity, while maintaining an ounce of self-respect. He’s been a political Sammy Davis Jr. of sorts. Before today, however, he has refused to commit wholesale to the rules of the brain dead (white) mainstream media. Weeks ago in Philadelphia, he gave us, for the first time I can recall, an instance of a black man tap-dancing for white folks, but creating something nobler in the process, namely, not only an intelligent, nuanced piece of rhetoric on American race relations, but also a defiant black middle finger to the white people who demanded that he throw his pastor under the bus.

TAN said that in his Philly race speech, Obama threw on the do-rag; after today, it’s clear that Obama has not only ripped off that do-rag, he's replaced it with a blonde wig. It’s not his fault, really. From day one, I knew that, before accepting him, the white media would either need to blacken him up, or stamp out any modicum of blackness from him. They can only comprehend black people on their own terms: “not like the others” or nigger. In this campaign, they’ve done both.

I never thought that they’d allow Obama to win the nomination (still don’t, actually), but I thought that they’d extend him a little more leeway than they would an “authentic” African American. I feel like a damn fool for believing that.

These are the same people see nothing wrong with demanding that Obama appease their asinine fears that he will bring Al Sharpton, Farrakhan, and Reverend Wright into the White House with him, promptly nuke Israel, and mandate reparations. These are the same people who will praise Obama’s moderate stance and applaud his “Sistah Souljah moment” for a couple of weeks (just wait until they ask him how he could have been mistaken about Wright’s true feelings for two decades).

These are the same people who have next to nothing to say about white presidential candidates’ associations with Bob Jones University, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and John Hagee.

Sure, it took a “not really black” black for them to embrace, but when push came to shove, their hackneyed racist narrative won out: black people are ungrateful, unpatriotic, exotic, abnormal, angry, stupid.

And it must have hurt Barack to stomp on his clinging mentor’s knuckles, while getting on his knees and licking Massa’s boots. I know that Michelle is fuming. Though it’s sad that the media has made it their mission to drive a wedge between Obama and his father figure Wright, it’s even sadder that Wright has had to retaliate against Obama. But what else could he do? The Reverend is an intelligent, proud, more than respectable negro. And he honestly viewed the mainstream media’s attack on his preaching as an attack on the black church. He truly saw Obama's denunciation as a slap in the face. And you know what? He was right. Again, I don’t blame Barack, but I can’t cosign that kind of bitch move, even if the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been.

I can, however, tell you this: Reverend Wright is my new favorite black man. Take away the crazy AIDS conspiracy theory shit, the bunkum about black vs. white learning styles, and the notion that we’re African, and what do you have: an unforgivably black man, a man who speaks the truths that white America never wants to hear, a man who is unwilling to conform to white norms--norms that are, when considered objectively, patently ridiculous. A truth teller derided as a charlatan and hatemonger. Wright treated the Press Corps with the mockery and contempt they deserve, and he's called a nutjob. We live in a real life racial Twilight Zone (or Bizarro World for the geeks among us--Chauncey, I’m looking at you).

I'm not a religious man, so it wouldn't make sense for me to echo Wright's “God Damn America” speech. Let me, however, offer a less controversial substitute:

Fuck the inbred rednecks who think Obama’s secretly Muslim. Fuck the anti-intellectual knuckle-draggers who see post-graduate education as a detriment. Fuck the mouth-breathers who elect people just because they look, act, and mangle language just like a regular American! Fuck the corporate media, the multimillionaire talking heads who toss about accusations of elitism while polluting the news (the fucking news!) with endless high school gossip pap and insignificant bullshit about lapel jewelry. Fuck the white liberals, who, through their participation in this Reverend Wright sham, reveal their duplicitous nature and their steadfast commitment to white privilege. Fuck the cowardly black pundits who are too scared to say what they know: that Reverend Wright is only divisive and outrageous to Panglossian fools who refuse to deal with history and current reality. In short, fuck this stupid, racist-ass country.

But…but, thank all of these people for proving Reverend Wright’s points. Now there's some irony I can appreciate.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: On the Sean Bell Case and Why I Have Nothing to Say



The Sean Bell shooting and trial is a sad situation for all involved. It seems that Brother Sharpton is "going to shut down" NYC (if a bunch of crazies trying to get to their God on 9-11 couldn't shut down my favorite city, I doubt Sharpton will come close). The family is dismayed. Some in the public are confused. Many people of all stripes and hues are supportive of the police and their difficult job. The Feds are going to get involved, etc. etc. etc. My exhaustion and disinterest are already apparent. Frankly, I will only offer a few thoughts on the case. I know some of you will be upset, and please share your thoughts and anger, but I have to be honest.

1. All parties involved are knuckleheads (see People's Exhibit number one to the left--Bell's friend posing with money donated to the survivors following the incident) and this case was a mess to begin with. I was going to give a shit-huffer award for this case, but because a life was taken, I deferred (I do have some taste!). As I have told folks before, I don't much like cops and I don't much like felons. Which leads to points two and three...

2. In my experience most cops were either A) the bully in high school or B) the kid who was picked on. Neither are folks you want to trust with petty power and the responsibility to make life and death decisions. In my opinion, many cops live to play the hero and the cowboy. When they get the chance to act out the fantasy they will do it, however ill-advised:



3. Sean Bell's death is unfortunate and it didn't need to happen. That having been said, he does not need to be valorized or made a hero. Bell is not a martyr and he wasn't assassinated:



As I said in a previous post in regards to those Jena Six fools, black "leadership" needs to be more careful about the causes they choose to fight for, and how they spend political currency. Black pundits should also critically reflect on how they position themselves relative to cases such as these. There are many innocent and honest people of color, and poor folk of all colors, being harassed and abused by the police--let's spend our energy defending their rights. It must be said that Bell's companions (and from what I have read, Bell himself) were felons. Yes, I know it is a "right of passage" for young black men to get arrested and "the system" is unavoidable (insert finger in mouth and induce vomiting). Yes, it shouldn't matter if you are a "good person" or not in terms of how the police make judgments, but this variable can't be ignored. Why? Because in general, criminality speaks to character and to poor decision-making. Which leads to point four...

4. Trust, Bell's friend did brag about having a gun, and he likely made a flippant comment about using it while in the strip club. Brothers, drugs, naked ladies, testosterone, and police don't mix. Moral of the story: we need to have a serious conversation within the black community about gun play and how for some black men (and women--because they are part of this too) black masculinity is inseparably tied to violence. This is life and death business and too many of our young men are getting killed behind this stupidity.

5. This incident speaks to how police are currently trained. Following these incidents I am always surprised by how the public fixates with great surprise on the number of rounds fired by the police. Apparently, the public isn't widely aware that many police are now being trained by former members of the Special Forces and private security companies (mercenaries). You see, there was lots of money and surplus equipment floating around after the Cold War. And with 9-11, additional resources were thrown into militarizing the police (even small town America needs a SWAT team). Like the military, police are conditioned and trained to shoot in concert with one another (the phrase when this runs training runs amok is ironically called "sympathetic shooting"). This training explains why you rarely hear of just one officer firing his or her weapon--if one fires they all instinctively unload on the target until the target is neutralized, they are out of ammo, or they decide to reload.

6. In terms of police training, in my reading of the case there needs to be more emphasis on fire discipline and fire control--police need to be better trained at controlling their impulses and making the actual life and death decision of when to discharge their weapons. When you have a group of police surrounding a vehicle and shooting at all directions you have a high chance of cross-fire (i.e. shooting each other) and of hitting innocent people (bullets did go into the walls and windows of neighboring homes). All around bad stuff.

7. My verdict. The cops should have gotten off because the prosecution didn't prove their case. As this observer points out, Bell's witnesses were neither convincing or sympathetic. The police should be fired because they violated police procedures--like it or not, a car isn't generally considered a deadly weapon in most instances. The public needs to re-examine how our "peace officers" are trained and how they are armed. Also, there need to be independent offices and special prosecutors appointed whose only job is to deal with police misconduct. There has to be accountability. Finally, we, we meaning black folk, black leadership, and our interested allies, need to have a real talk with our young men about manhood, violence, common sense, and the real consequences of poor decision making. As a community, we need to sit down with these baby boys and have a real talk about "guns and butter", personal responsibility, and manhood:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is Reverend Wright a Race-Baiting Manchurian Candidate?



Some people are more trouble than they are worth. Apparently, Reverend Wright is going to appear on PBS Friday and speak at the National Press Club next week. It seems that our erstwhile ally is rapidly becoming one of those liabilities. Following Pennsylvania, do we really need another dose of the Wright replay reel on Fox News, CNN, et al? I wonder, is the good reverend a Manchurian Candidate? Was the original Reverend Wright kidnapped at some point and then replaced by this duplicate? Is he actually a Manchurian candidate who has been programmed by the McCain faction and the GOP to destroy Obama? Obama, please send some of your "fixers" to speak to Reverend Wright and tell him to promptly shut the hell up and take a well deserved, year long, vacation:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chauncey Devega says: White Hopes and White Dreams in Pennsylvania

Hillary's win in Pennsylvania was a disappointment but not a surprise. Today, pundits, analysts, academics, talking heads, and folks in the barbershop will be hypothesizing about why Obama failed to win Pennsylvania. Was it the after effects of the Obama-Wright affair? The comment that white working class people are "bitter"? A more effective use of machine politics by Hillary? The fall-out from the ABC debate/ambush of Obama?

I offer no clear answers. Accordingly, I must adhere to Occam's razor in my thoughts on Obama's defeat: when in doubt the simplest explanation is quite likely the correct one. The answer: a great many white people are not prepared to vote for a black man for president. Yes, issues matter. Yes, the candidates' personalities and the framing of the campaign impact vote choice. And no, I am not making a reductionist argument that the white bogeyman of racism caused Obama Pennsylvania.

What I am suggesting is that Obama's comment about the bitterness in these white communities, and this comment's reception by many in "Pennsytucky"--those semi-rural, rust belt working class white people--spoke to a different truth, and one not captured in the rush to explain away (or in some instances support) Obama's observation that religion, class alienation, and politics are knotted together.

This truth is found in memory, how people choose to imagine themselves and how they relate to their communities and nation. Obama, spoke to a truth in experience that he undoubtedly has felt as a black man traveling through Red States and the rust belt, a feeling that these white working class and poor people do not like him, do not trust him, and that there is a real racial animosity to be found towards people of color in these communities (for example: sundown towns, or as folks used to say, those towns where they won't sell you a house, rent you an apartment, where you better not stop to eat or use the toilet, and where you best be out of town by sundown). Likely, Obama, as an educated man, an activist, attorney, and student of history must have had moments where he asked himself, "the problems of poor white people and poor black and brown people are the same, but why can't we work together?" Be it the rust-belt or deindustrialized inner city communities, we are both suffering and hurting, where is the sense of shared fate?"

Ultimately, where is that sense of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp populism, this feeling that we are all in this together?



Unfortunately, the white working class, and the white poor are not rubes, they have not been tricked or duped by an insincere Right-wing populism. Yes, many liberals and moderates desperately want to believe that false consciousness and political trickery explains this group's consistent choice of race over class. Yes, many activists are hopeful that if they can just reach out to these disenfranchised white people, and open their eyes to the "truth," then the Republican party's strangle hold on guns, god, and culture will be broken. Some more hopeful souls are emboldened by Obama's victories in predominantly white states in the rural West, an ironic fact of political life where it now appears that to the degree that there are fewer blacks in a State, then some white voters are more likely to support a black candidate (apparently, it seems that living in close proximity to those who are racially different actually breeds more distrust, and sense of competition, rather than less).

Returning once more to memory and choice. Many of those whites who felt alienated from Obama and drawn to Hillary, angered by Obama's assertion that they are bitter or unsophisticated, share a different collective memory--this is their country. Outsiders have taken their opportunities. And the State, the White State, owes them a particular debt and obligation. Moreover, and what is Obama's central miscalculation, is the degree to which the many whites in the rust belt (and elsewhere) actively choose race over class. It is a choice. It is a calculation. They know what they do.

As W.E.B. DuBois, great philosopher and observer of American life once observed, whiteness pays a psychological wage--and many white working class and blue collar voters are gambling that these wages of whiteness will continue to accrue to their children and to their tribe. Perhaps, these Reagan Democrats, the white working class, the blue collar, and the white poor have a deep intuition of how the forces of globalization have "robbed" them of certain opportunities. But simultaneously, on a visceral level, the part of their psyche which smiles at the memory of a Norman Rockwellesque America (this place that never really existed) trusts that the system will right itself. Somehow, in their hopes, and in their dreams, "we" can return to the good old days. That time when white people, people like them, were exclusively at the center of American public life:



And no, many of these white rust belt voters are not willing to support a black man for president. More pointedly, these white voters will not trust Obama to be a steward for their White hopes and dreams.

Chauncey DeVega says: Jay-Z, Obama, Pennsylvania, and Hillary Explained



I am going to post a longer and more extensive post tomorrow on the Obama defeat in Pennsylvania, but for now I have an immediate reaction. First, I am not surprised that Obama lost the state--hell he wasn't surprised either. Second, yes, I am pissed at Hillary--Miss Ann as I refer to her--who is going to destroy the Democratic Party in order to get herself the nomination (more on this Wednesday).

Now, and recently, it seems that Obama watchers have been obsessed with interpreting every bit of his body language. Apparently, Obama was giving the finger to Hillary last week--yes, the blogosphere was offering this interpretation of a passing gesture. Also, Obama was getting the dirt off his shoulder following the Hillary-ABC butt whoopin' he received during the debate. It seems he was signifying some type of affinity to the "hip hop generation." Suspect grouping, cohort, and category. But, bro' Bama checked a good song:



But, Hova aka Jay-Z is the Rosetta Stone to understanding Obama's defeat and the recent dynamics surrounding the presidential campaign.

Think about it, the upswing in Obama's campaign, the "si se puede" moments, the we can succeed and achieve mantras, the Obama moment is infectious and resembles the positive energy expressed by Hova in Roc Boys (yes, I linked this before and I still love the video):



Today, Obama lost, and Hillary schooled old boy in her brand of down and dirty politics. This was Hillary saying, "Obama I got lots of problems but I am going to fight it out, and you Senor Obama are the least of them." Jay-Z, 99 Problems, check and mate:



Obama shook a little, but reflecting on this not surprising moment, says: "hmmm clearly, the Democrats, Hillary, and Billy Bob aren't my peeps, but you know what? my folks got my back! The Clintons clearly aren't my friends, and they surely are my foes." Translation: Jay-Z's Friend or Foe, explains how Obama is gonna now have to get gully with the Clintons if he wants to win (about time):



Now, Obama is going to have to point out the obvious that Hillary and Billy Bob are friends of power--and not the broader interests of the Democratic Party (or their supporters) --perhaps Obama should start putting "Money, Cash, and Hoes" on blast in his new commercials to describe what 4 more years of the Clintons will likely bring to the White House:



From one respectable negro to another, bro' Bama keep the hustle on cause, we, meaning you and us, are going to be alright:



Because you know it's a hard knock life...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chauncey's World of Ghetto Nerds: Science News You Best Be Abreast of

Open your ears and eyes folks, The New World Order is alive, awake, and doing quite well...that sound's pretty ominous doesn't it? Don't overreact, I am just feeling a bit dramatic today.

Some interesting news bits that respectable negroes and our allies best be paying attention to:

1. A hole in space. Yes, a big, black, ominous hole in space. No, it isn't Madea or Monique. Where does this hole go? What is on the other side? Is it an inter-dimensional time portal that leads to a world(s) where black folk rule, the Middle Passage never occurred, and we have George Jetson like technology? Who knows? Maybe it leads to a dimension where the elder races are still in charge? That foul place HG LoveCraft imagined in his twisted dreams. Perhaps a dimension hinted at by Lawrence Fishburne's movie, Event Horizon.

2. A related thought, I am waiting for the basics underlying unified field theory to become common knowledge. This is some wild shit--pardon my French please. Again, I love theoretical physics (although I am becoming a bit soured on string theory) and the idea that there is one simple formula that explains it all is so wonderfully exciting that I can't explain it to those not in the know. I think the movie American Pimp explains it best: trying to explain why unified field theory is so exciting to an ign't is like explaining rocket science to a wino (in the movie the relational phrases were pimp and square):



I couldn't resist--my favorite part of the movie:



3. This scares the hell out of me: scientists are going to use a particle accelerator in an attempt to recreate The Big Bang. No comment. Haven't these scientists seen the movie Doom or played the videogame on which it is based? More recently, have they not seen the movie, The Mist? Please my scientist cousins (we are in the same union after all, The Empiricist's Brotherhood), don't go playing God because we simple, upright monkey walkers, are not ready for that amount of responsibility.

4. The government of the United States will soon be collecting DNA from every person they arrest or detain. And no, it doesn't matter if you are innocent or guilty. And of course, given the racially disparate detention and sentencing rates in this country we know the folk who are going to be overrepresented in this database. The New York Times and The Washington Post buried this story. Again, if I have to tell you why this is a basic violation of our rights as citizens, then you folks get what you deserve. Remember, remember, the fifth of December! Or better yet, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety!"

5. The United States military will be able to regrow limbs, skin, bones, and other parts of the human body. I applaud this development because our war-fighters need the best care available. Why am I disturbed? Hmmm, we already have stop-loss orders, and now horribly injured soldiers will be able to return even faster to battle. I love my science fiction and this is so cliche as to be frightening:



In a related story, the next generation of United States Air Force Heavy Bombers will likely be unmanned air combat vehicles (yes, I stay on top of military affairs as well). Couple this with other innovations in robotic war fighting and I can't help but think of Robert E. Lee's quote, and how these "innovations" may take us even further away from his penetrating observation: "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it." Americans keep your eyes on this story because it is going to further redefine how we think about foreign policy, and our relationship to our leaders' decisions and their/our foreign policy.

6. 300,000 U.S. troops suffer from traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress syndrome. These are your brothers, sisters, children, wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers. No comment.

7. Osama Bin Laden's son claims his father is not himself and that he has been replaced by a look alike or a double. In an earlier post I commented on the way in which Junior Bin Laden looked as though he stepped out of The Matrix Trilogy--leather jackets, sexy girlfriend, cryptic, crazy speech. Now, Junior Laden is talking as though pops is a Cylon or other type of replicant. Please son, accept the fact that your dad is a killer--a killer the U.S. trained and that the CIA claimed as one of their best students.

8. Edward Lorenz, the father of chaos theory recently passed away. This man was a monument to science and creative thinking. Yes, a butterfly flapping its wings over the Pacific can indeed cause a rain shower over Chicago (or perhaps an earthquake). I remember learning about Chaos Theory in High School. This moment was a formative one that reaffirmed my desire to continue my education because Chaos Theory helped me realize that learning can indeed be "fun," yes "fun"--as a representative of The Chocolate Nerd Society, I say: "good travels, and may the force be with you Mr. Lorenz as you continue onward in the greatest of journeys."

9. Marek Edelman, the last commander of Jewish forces during The Warsaw Uprising has passed away. You sir, are a real life badass, a man of courage and honor, and we young respectable negroes would do well to emulate half of what you accomplished. Rest in peace Mr. Edelman, you are one of our honored dead and we should think long on what you said in reflecting on your struggle: "We knew perfectly well that there was no way we could win...It was a symbol of the fight for freedom. A symbol of standing up to Nazism, and of not giving in." Bless you, sir, I would have counted myself lucky to have shared a drink with you.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chauncey's World of Ghetto Nerds: Chauncey DeVega is the Fifth Cylon



It has been a while since we had any ghetto nerd related information to share. This weekend, I am going to make up for the lack of ghettonerdness as of late with both a Saturday and Sunday post.

Damn, can I say it again, damn, Battlestar Galactica is great television! As disappointed as I was that this indeed will be the last season of my beloved show, I am consistently impressed with how Ronald Moore and company are moving the story forward and are not afraid to make difficult choices regarding the plot and characters. Some thoughts and questions:

1. One of my friends has a theory that the humans and the Cylons are the same race and the differences are just artificial--we believe we are different species, so therefore we are. This theory would also give further support for the nonsense science underlying Baltar's "Cylon Detector" and the fact that it didn't work to begin with (his detecting a Number 5 was just blind luck). And do yourself a favor by reading this weekly column, hosted by the New Jersey Star Ledger newspaper, which analyzes the Battlestar Galactica television series.

2. If the humans and the Cylons are basically the same species (with some minor differences in terms of evolution) then the show speaks nicely to claims made by some observers that this show's narrative is deeply centered on questions of race, racial difference and racial passing (check out the new book Cylons in America for that argument, and congrats to the editors and contributors to the volume on their winning the Ray and Pat Browne Award for Best Edited Collection from the American Culture and Popular Culture Association). Again, if race is a social construction, then the animosity between, and belief that, we (humans) and they (Cylons) are different is based on an illusory sense of difference. Relevant and prescient.

3. Lee Adama and Zarek working together. "New" Apollo and "classic" Apollo face to face. I just love their dynamic. Zarek is one of my favorite characters and has been underutilized as of late. Zarek tells the truth (more often than not) and his radical politics only speak to the problematic leadership offered by Admiral Adama and President Roselyn. Hmmm....is Lee Adama going to lead a coup? In his commitment to "truth," will Lee further undermine Roselyn and lead the human fleet further astray from Earth?

4. I love Tory. I love Tory. I love Tory. One more time...I love Tory. In my fantasies, me, Tory, Six, and Dualla pursue my Mormonesque fantasies of a debauched, plural marriage. More seriously, if each Cylon embodies and/or channels a different aspect of our humanity, then what part of our humanity does Tory represent? One could perhaps argue that Tory, with her murder of Tyrol's wife has now been "activated." I would disagree. Tory is now free to be herself and to make the difficult choices necessary for her survival.


5. Related thought, so we have Sharon's half-human/half-Cylon baby, and ostensibly Tyrol's half-human/half-Cylon child as well. There have been critiques made that Tyrol's child is an after thought, i.e. why isn't this child also the focus of the Cylon's obsession? Narratively, why isn't this plot hole addressed? As an alternative, I would suggest that Tyrol is not the father of Cally's child and that at some point she was sleeping around. We shall see.

6. The Cylon Civil War has begun (and ended?) Some thoughts: You have to love the mechanical Cylons and their obvious disgust and anger at being ordered around by the "human" Cylons; Cavil's observations about the failures of democracy were priceless; Which Cylon models will be eliminated? And how will this impact their relationship to the human fleet? Think for a moment, there have been many moments where it was "check and mate" for the human fleet, and their salvation came not because of their smarts or heroism per se, but because the Cylons chose to keep the humans alive. Humanity is a laboratory. Humanity is the key to the Cylons' quest to understand their origins and destiny. Looking forward, if certain models are permanently "boxed" then how will the Cylon's decision-making towards the human fleet be changed?

7. Colonel Tigh now has visions and premonitions a la Baltar. Can we get this man some help? He is a one-eyed, alcoholic that now sees folks who (apparently) aren't really there? Random thought: I like the symbolism embodied by Colonel Tigh--the one eyed man who may very well be a visionary--nice touch in my opinion. In addition, I am very curious to see how Ronald Moore explains Tigh's relationship with Adama and the fact that Tigh seems to break all the rules governing who can or cannot be a Cylon (he ages, he has known Adama for years, and has many long standing relationships with people throughout the fleet). Perhaps, Tigh was replaced during the occupation on New Caprica? Maybe Tigh is the first of the Cylons, a progenitor model that combines all of the flaws and traits embodied by the other models?

8. Who is the final Cylon? My smart money is still on Gaeta. Why? We know little about him. Gaeta is either consistently involved in, or in close proximity to, major decisions and characters, respectively. Now, he is with Starbuck as she searches for Earth. All too convenient for me. Your thoughts?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Five: 5 (W)hite Inventions

Your choices are great, Chauncey, but they are all (w)hite inventions. I would like to highlight some (W)hite inventions:

1. Nuclear weapons
Those White people who believe that our “sacred Western Civilization” is under attack love nukes. Possessing nukes is a kind of White entry club--it’s shorthand for power and modernity. Any time a nation of swarthy, savage hordes has a disagreement, the “Nuke Said Country” t shirts and bumper stickers surface. Also, fear of brown and/or Muslim people (India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iraq, Iran) possessing nukes drives modern American foreign policy. Can you imagine what would happen if a predominantly black country tried to build a nuclear program?


2. War Crimes Tribunals
Nothing makes White people feel better than punishing evildoers. Whiteness allows them to define what people are designated as war criminals, and which acts are designated as war crimes. While there can be white victims of white criminals, and nonwhite victims of nonwhite criminals, never will White people be held accountable for war crimes committed against people of color.


3./4.White flight/Gentrification
What ingenuity White people have. Not only do White people get away from black people by fleeing from them, they get away from black people by fleeing toward them (and driving them out) as well.


But there’s one White invention that underlies the preceding ones and dwarfs all others:


5. White supremacy
White supremacy is the power to define what’s normal; the power to frame current debate; the power to forge history: the power to conveniently remember or forget; the power to make other people give public accounts to satiate White fears. White supremacy is elegant, self-perpetuating (and self-denying)--just a masterful work of social engineering. For my money, no form of ideological domination can fuck with White supremacy--not nobility/class, not gender, not even religion.

Instead of fighting White Supremacy, people who are neither black nor white, without fail aspire to Whiteness and by extension White Supremacy (and why wouldn’t they? The benefits are too great). Even if they aren’t accepted into the club of Whiteness; at least they aren’t black.

And, as many of us know, a whole lot of Black people accept White Supremacy too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: White History Month Week 2--More Great White Inventions Revealed

We are now at the midpoint of White History Month. April has been a grand time. It seems that White History Month is making the days a little brighter, and the weather a bit warmer. All praise White History Month!
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Great White Inventions Week 2

Invention Number 1: The Salad Spinner

White folks are great pioneers of inventing time saving devices--the cotton gin, chattel slavery, Tivo, the millisecond, morbid obesity, and premature ejaculation. The salad spinner is a must have kitchen appliance that is brilliant in its simplicity: you insert the salad into the bowl and then spin away...can it be made any easier? We no longer need to spend precious time pouring salad dressing into a bowl and then shaking and tossing those heavy, leafy greens. It took the genius of our White brothers and sisters to make this must have invention a reality. Do yourself a favor and go to Walmart, or alternatively stay up late at night for the infomercial, and buy one of these wonderful White inventions.

Invention Number 2: The Swiffer Wet Mop

Have you ever wanted to push dirt around on the floor with a huge maxipad? If so, then the Swifter Wet Mop is the perfect invention. College students, graduate students, and other urban dwellers with linoleum floors collectively laid awake at night in prayer: oh God, where is my Swiffer? How can I give the appearance of having a clean floor when guests and relatives come calling? Our prayers were answered by this now indispensable cleaning device. Oh White God, what other cleaning devices do you have in store for us in the future? Perhaps a robotic vacuum?

Invention Number 3: Lysol Disinfectant Spray

I love Lysol. It is one of my White vices. The antiseptic smell reminds me of the hospital, and when its scent hits my nose I know I am in a clean house. Me and Gordon have an ongoing debate in regards to this product where I contend that black people prefer room deodorizer, and old black women are especially fond on any cleaning product you can put on the rug and then vacuum up, while White people prefer Lysol. Random fact: did you know that Lysol was originally marketed as a feminine hygiene product?

Your thoughts my respectable negro allies? Lysol or room deodorizer? And how do inscents fit in? I would argue that inscents are the Esperanto of room/air fresheners because every group enjoys the wonderful scents of Vanilla, Passion, Roses, or Sandalwood--Mexicans, Indians, Black, Asian, White...Am I wrong? Are inscents a means to bring peace to our fractured world?

Invention Number 4: The Penis Pump

No, I am not going to recycle tired stereotypes that black men have large penises, nope wouldn't do it, and it ain't true. Interestingly, while stereotypes are usually labels which people run from, I don't see too many brothers running from this stereotype at all, if anything it is one embraced and held close, even if it may not be true. To clarify, I am not asserting that White people are the only ones to spend time worrying about the size of their organs (and spending time reflecting on how to make their penises grow larger). For example, Arabs have a technique called jelqing--a method which many folks swear by (I didn't have the discipline to keep up with my regimen):


Jelqing Pt.1 - Full Version - Click here for funny video clips

Both The Kama Sutra and The Perfumed Garden describe a technique in which a man puts his flaccid penis through a flat piece of wood and then proceeds to rub bee or wasp stingers on the now engorged organ (I was too scared). Apparently, the chemicals in the stingers promote blood circulation and the growth of one's penis. The penis pump is a uniquely White invention because it combines White civilization's particular gift for technical innovation with a refined appreciation for laziness. If it is good enough for Austin Powers, it is good enough for me. Respectable negroes, join me in praise as I give thanks to White civilization for all the gifts it has bestowed upon us.

Invention Number 4: S/M and Kink

Black folk don't like to be tied up. Black folk don't find being tied up by their lovers at all sexy. Only White, black folk get off on S/M and kink. Moreover, there are no black people who enjoy role playing, this is especially true where said person of color is the "bottom" (black Americans cannot be "bottoms" because of the ever present fear of said Negro having a slavery flashback and killing the person dominating them).

This is truly a White invention because there are no black people that enjoy kink or S/M. This is especially true of scenarios where their non-black partner calls them all manner of racial slurs in a sex ritual that makes such offensive language less powerful through a cathartic process of exposure, power play, and sexual release (this is actually the dynamic to which those ign'ts who argue about the relative merits of "nigger" versus "nigga" are really trying to speak). There are no black men, men such as Chauncey DeVega, who would gladly take a job as an S/M Dom if he could beat the hell out of rich, powerful, White men--and get paid lots of money to do it. Nah, not him, because he is too black and too strong. Yes, the Japanese are into erotic rope play, they call it Shibari, but they probably learned that from the White man. Kink and S/M are uniquely White inventions, inventions that White folks such as the Marquis De Sade and the owners of Formula One racing teams are both uniquely, and particularly, adept at.

Invention Number 5: Oral Sex

Black people, and people of color more generally, do not indulge in oral sex. From the Caribbean to Africa, and throughout the Diaspora, black people will readily tell you that oral sex is something unique to White people. Black women do not perform fellatio--you didn't know that it was demeaning and reminds them of sexual subordination and rape? Black men do not go down on women--in black vernacular speech it is called "bowing"--an Africanism which survived the Middle Passage. In fact, White folks have pioneered the introduction of oral sex, specifically, and the use of one's lips and mouth for erotic play, more generally, to the world. For example, the Japanese did not kiss (as the mouth was believed unclean) until Europeans introduced the practice in the 19th century. If that is the case for the Japanese, then Africans and Inuits were certainly not using their mouths for any unclean purposes until they encountered Europeans. Ohh praise cunnilingus and fellatio! Wonderful gifts to all, gifts made possible only through the Europeans' curiosity and willingness to eat anything! And I really, really, really, mean this most sincerest of thanks...

Cosby Alert: The 'Cos featured in The Atlantic Monthly

I love the 'Cos. He is one part racial visionary and one part cartoon character--my personal Great Gazoo:



This month, The Atlantic Monthly is featuring the 'Cos in a must read article for all respectable negroes and our allies:
The audacity of Bill Cosby’s black conservatism
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
‘This Is How We Lost to the White Man’
Last summer, in Detroit’s St. Paul Church of God in Christ, I watched Bill Cosby summon his inner Malcolm X. It was a hot July evening. Cosby was speaking to an audience of black men dressed in everything from Enyce T-shirts or polos to blazers and ties. Some were there with their sons. Some were there in wheelchairs. The audience was packed tight, rows of folding chairs extended beyond the wooden pews to capture the overflow. But the chairs were not enough, and late arrivals stood against the long shotgun walls, or out in the small lobby, where they hoped to catch a snatch of Cosby’s oratory. Clutching a cordless mic, Cosby paced the front of the church, shifting between prepared remarks and comic ad-libs. A row of old black men, community elders, sat behind him, nodding and grunting throaty affirmations. The rest of the church was in full call-and-response mode, punctuating Cosby’s punch lines with laughter, applause, or cries of “Teach, black man! Teach!”
He began with the story of a black girl who’d risen to become valedictorian of his old high school, despite having been abandoned by her father. “She spoke to the graduating class and her speech started like this,” Cosby said. “‘I was 5 years old. It was Saturday and I stood looking out the window, waiting for him.’ She never said what helped turn her around. She never mentioned her mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother.”
“Understand me,” Cosby said, his face contorted and clenched like a fist. “Men? Men? Men! Where are you, men?”
Audience: “Right here!”
Cosby had come to Detroit aiming to grab the city’s black men by their collars and shake them out of the torpor that has left so many of them—like so many of their peers across the country—undereducated, over-incarcerated, and underrepresented in the ranks of active fathers. No women were in the audience. No reporters were allowed, for fear that their presence might frighten off fathers behind on their child-support payments. But I was there, trading on race, gender, and a promise not to interview any of the allegedly skittish participants.
“Men, if you want to win, we can win,” Cosby said. “We are not a pitiful race of people. We are a bright race, who can move with the best. But we are in a new time, where people are behaving in abnormal ways and calling it normal … When they used to come into our neighborhoods, we put the kids in the basement, grabbed a rifle, and said, ‘By any means necessary.’

Click here for the rest of the piece.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: The World Really is Flat--Who Would Have Thought That Globalization Would Have Wrought This?


Globalization is exciting. The global confluence of cultures and income inequality has brought McDonald's to every part of the world, spread hip hop far and wide, made American popular culture a type of Lingua Franca, and helped to create common problems--like the housing bubble, credit card debt, and a generation of young folk around the world who are pissed off and displaced economically and socially (rioting African and Arab immigrants in France; would-be suicide bombers in the Middle East; angry pants saggin' ign'ts in the U.S.; middle class folks losing their homes in the "heartland"). Now in globalization's wake we can add New York City and Tokyo gropers to the list of signs and signals that our world is indeed quite a bit smaller than it used to be. These are indeed interesting times!

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From Fox News:

Man Arrested 53 Times for Groping Women on New York Subway



NEW YORK — About two weeks after he was released from prison, Freddie Johnson boarded a crowded subway train during morning rush hour in Manhattan, squeezed in behind a woman and ground his pelvis into her backside, authorities said.
It is a fairly common crime on subways in New York. But this was no common criminal.
Johnson has been arrested a staggering 53 times — the majority for groping women on the subway, police and prosecutors said.
In the latest incident, Johnson was being followed by plainclothes officers who recognized him from police photos, authorities said. He was charged with persistent sexual abuse, and if convicted this time, he could be sent away for life. The district attorney's office branded him a "recidivist transit grinder" at a court hearing earlier this week.
But the fact that Johnson was roaming the subways in the first place has raised questions about how the state deals with the problem of repeat sex offenders. His case even drew the scorn of a newspaper editorial this week that labeled Johnson the "Subway Rat"...

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Why does he have to be black? Don't we have enough problems? I think we need to start a respectable negro drop squad to educate these ign'ts about the types of crimes that are worth doing a life sentence for, i.e. none.

In the spirit of learning lessons from abroad, the Japanese are ahead of the curve on this one. Japanese women can buy cell phone programs that tell groping, grinding, horned up Japanese men to stay away. Japanese men can buy subway straps, the use of which signal to women that these men's hands are otherwise occupied--and subsequently not a threat. Japan is experimenting with women-only subway cars to keep the straight, male gropers, or "chikan" away--the jury is out regarding this move as potentially creating a haven for female Japanese gropers and some hot lesbianism (just fantasizing). I don't know if these deterrents will work against garden variety American perverts given that we are not a polite society, but I am sure that American women are working up their own range of defenses against random, flashing, groping subway riders:



We must stop this plague of groping! Respectable negro sisters and our allies, unite to form Devastator--sorry I just always wanted to say that...

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."

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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."

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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...