Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: Obama is Called a Nigger at a Sarah Palin Rally or Why I Prefer My Racism Straight With No Chaser

It seems that Barack Obama was finally called a "nigger" at a recent Republican presidential rally.

I am not surprised. Nor, am I particularly upset. I have succumbed to election fatigue and there is little which can possibly occur at this point in the campaign to either shock or amaze me.

The Republican Party is responsible for this moment. I link this to the party, and not singularly to either Sarah Palin or John McCain because they collectively must bear responsibility for this uncivil behavior. And again, I do not say "shocking" because it was wholly predictable and expected given the tempest unleashed by McCain-Palin and the Right wing echo chamber. True, the landmark event which is a Black man being on the verge of the presidency was bound to unleash the fear and anxiety at the heart of America's racial subconscious. However, McCain, Palin, and the other puppet masters in the GOP have fanned and encouraged it.

McCain and Palin have trafficked in modern racism--what smart folks who study these things call "symbolic racism." It is a racism without racists. It is a white supremacy conducted through institutions and structures. It is the soft-bigotry of low expectations. It is benign neglect.

Symbolic racism is deft in how it massages language. Consider, Obama is called "unqualified." He is called "strange." Barack cavorts with "terrorists." He is more interested in being a "celebrity" than in being a real leader. Obama wants to be "the one." Ultimately, he "isn't prepared to lead." Do not be mistaken. This isn't a call for sensitivity and kid gloves in politics. As long time readers well know, I believe in playing to win--and I don't boohoo cheap shots or low blows. Rather, it is a call for honesty. To turn a phrase, Palin-McCain should simply call a spade a spade.

The tragedy of this situation is that McCain has sacrificed his personal integrity and (mostly) honorable legacy as a public servant for what, even if he wins, may be a Phyrric victory: he has sold his soul to the devil, the Christian Nationalists, the Neo-Cons, and rabid, frothing at the mouth anti-Abortionists, in total, groups which represent the fringe elements of the Republican Party (and who are now at its center). Sadly, as Colin Powell bravely pointed out, McCain has catered to the worst parts of the American creed. Ironically, Sarah Palin has lost nothing. Because of her utter lack of introspection, Palin remains bullet proof, Teflon coated, and seemingly immune to any challenge or criticism as she positions herself as a rising star for the 2012 elections. It seems that fate is not without a sense of humor.

Together, McCain and Palin are whoremasters of a particularly dirty type of racial politics, a politics, that at its core, is the remnant of a type of deep seeded, white supremacy. Neither, and I believe this to be especially true of John McCain, would hang the noose, but together they share a deep yearning for a White world. However, I must admit that I am much less sure of Palin in this regard, as she seems the type to not even pee on a negro if he or she were on fire.

During this campaign there have been moments of verbal slippage when politeness has yielded to honesty. For example, when Obama was publicly branded as "uppity." Ironically, in this one instance the media spoke truth to power--certainly not in the way Brother Cornel West would have imagined-- in how it gave voice to the not so well hidden subtexts of McCain and Palin's attacks on the Democratic nominee.

You see, this is why I prefer my racism straight with no chaser. You see, this is why I prefer honest racists.

If we decode symbolic racism, with its matrix of codes, shadows, and smoke screens, the real essence of Palin and McCain's attacks are readily clear.

When McCain and Palin call Obama unqualified they are really saying "he does not know his place," and in the coded appeals of symbolic racism, Obama has taken "your" job. When McCain and Palin call Obama "arrogant" and "the One," they are saying that he is not sufficiently deferent. When McCain and Palin say that Obama will make America unsafe, they are saying that he, THAT black man, is himself the source of danger. And moreover, how can THAT black man protect your White interests? When McCain and Palin say Obama is inexperienced they are really saying that he is an "affirmative action hire." When McCain and Palin say that Obama associates with terrorists and that he doesn't really love America, they are really saying that he, THAT black man, is not a "real" American citizen. By definition, Obama, because he is a Black man, cannot be a patriot.

You see, this is why I prefer my racism straight with no chaser. You see, this is why I prefer honest racists. You see, this is why I wish that Palin and McCain would simply say what they really feel:

In fact, I suggest that it would be far more refreshing, honest, and effective if McCain and Palin would simply go all in and feature the corrupt, partying, lazy black senators of Birth of a Nation (see minute 4:36) as the centerpieces of their campaign ads. This approach would be far more efficient than their present approach because it would save Palin and McCain from the distraction of having to operate through allusion and innuendo.

You see, I can deal with honest racists. In fact, I have a grudging respect for them. I deplore their wickedness and posturing. I abhor their resistance to wisdom. I detest how they give life to the worst parts of our humanity. But at least I can respect their honesty.

Plus, we respectable negroes know quite well how to deal with honest racists:

You see, this is why I prefer my racism straight with no chaser. You see, this is why I prefer honest racists. You see, this is why I wish that Palin and McCain would simply say what they really feel.

And how do you, fellow respectable negroes and our white allies, feel in this moment?

Plan to Kill Obama and Black Schoolchildren

Here's news of yet another plot uncovered. No one wants to be right about the possibility of these scenarios, but is amazing how quickly we are dismissed as "paranoid," "hate-mongers" when we express these very valid fears. Several posts back, I wrote about the history of lynching in America and its link to fears of losing power/dominance. I was surprised at the number of people who accused me of stirring up racial resentments. One person even referred to me as "dangerous." Gordon writes about the phenomenon of "black victimology," but this is a situation where fears and and anxieties are too often dismissed.

Two young men who are believers in “white power” have been arrested and charged in Tennessee in what federal officials described as a plan to assassinate Senator Barack Obama and kill black children at a school...

Federal officials said that both of the men who were arrested — Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Ark., and Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn. — told interrogators that they had talked of assassinating Mr. Obama. Lawyers for the men could not be reached.

The two men “planned to drive their vehicle as fast as they could toward Obama shooting at him from the windows,” according to an affidavit filed in federal court in Jackson, Tenn., by an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Mr. Obama has no plans to be in Tennessee, and the affidavit does not make clear whether the men had picked a place for an attack.

The assassination was to be the culmination of a “killing spree” that would also single out children at an unnamed, predominately black school, federal officials said. The men talked of “killing 88 people and beheading 14 African-Americans,” according to the affidavit.

The two men each had “very strong views” about Aryan white power and “skinhead” ideology, the federal officials said, and the numbers 88 and 14 have special significance in the white power movement. The number 88 is shorthand for “Heil, Hitler” — H is the eighth letter in the alphabet —and 14 signifies a 14-word mantra among white supremacists: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”...

Clearly, we are not imagining this.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Zora Says: Kenyan Invokes Ancestral Spirits to Protect Obama

We're not sure if our readers have noticed, but the anxiety of respectable Negroes about the upcoming election has diminished. We've got an insider in the McCain-Palin camp who is engaged in spiritual warfare on behalf of Negroes around the world -- Bishop Thomas Muthee.

Bishop Thomas Muthee is a powerful Kenyan witch doctor who has been able to infiltrate Sarah Palin's inner circle, gaining her trust and confidence. It is little known that Bishop Muthee is actually a second cousin to Barack Obama. Obama's grandmother visited Muthee several years ago when she first became aware of her grandson's ambitions. Mama Obama gathered the elders and consulted the ancestors about Obama's fate. It was decided that Muthee would be the one to act on behalf of the tribe to protect both Obama and the well-being of Negroes everywhere.

"Bishop" Muthee began his work by calling his tribes people together to carry out an elaborate hoax on the local Pentecostal missionaries. Women began spreading rumors about a witch who was supposedly terrorizing the town's children. The missionaries were intrigued, but still skeptical. They were finally convinced when a young woman was brought before them. They were horrified at the sight of her dreadlocks, her red, black and gold headdress, and her gold nose ring. When she started quoting Charles Darwin, they immediately dropped to their knees and began to plead for the blood of Jesus to protect them. Their pleas were in vain.

The missionaries were helpless. It was at this point that Muthee stepped in to organize a massive prayer circle. Thousands gathered from his town and beyond to pray. In addition to their prayers, each individual contributed a "tithe." Less that twenty-four hours later, there was absolutely no sign of the witch in the entire Kenyan countryside. The missionaries were amazed and proclaimed Muthee a "spiritual warrior," singing his praises at Pentecostal revivals around the world. (Meanwhile, the young "witch" settled into her first year of study at Stanford Medical School secured by a generous scholarship from her townspeople).

Muthee was eventually invited to Alaska by Patrick Donelson, a former fishing guide and pastor to Sarah Palin. Donelson and Palin consulted Muthee about fighting the demons and witches that were trying to block Palin's path to political power. Muthee convinced Palin to take part in a ceremony that would supposedly cloak her with an impenetrable, spiritual armour.
In that ceremony, Muthee invoked the powers of his ancestors, Obama's ancestors, and the ancestors of Negroes around the world. He chanted centuries old Swahili invocations which Palin mistook for "speaking in tongues." As the ancestors began to awaken, the parishioners at Wasilla Assemblies of God that Sunday morning witnessed something they referred to as “awesome” and “very, very powerful.”

Muthee chanted and held his hand firmly to Palin's back, her spiritual core. The spirits of the ancestors were able to flow from Muthee into Palin. Palin began to quiver and found herself struggling to keep her balance. From time to time, the more powerful of the ancestral spirits would speak through her. Again, the Swahili chants were mistaken by everyone for "speaking in tongues." When the ancestors had solidly taken over Palin's spirit, Muthee released her and declared a "spiritual victory." Palin confidently returned to her pew.

From that pivotal morning forward, the ancestral spirits have been working through Palin in ways that even Muthee himself did not imagine. They have been able to "charm" nearly every anti-Negro, anti-Obama spirit that Palin comes in contact with. Each one she charms goes on to charm another. Where before they were able to hide their latent racism, these charmed individuals are finding it nearly impossible not to speak their true thoughts and feelings. Conservative leaders who previously counted themselves among the best and the brightest, find themselves deferring to an unknown woman who represents everything they purportedly disdain among the white trash voters they have been able to manipulate for years.

Palin is seemingly unaware of the powers that are working through her. The spirits have given her a high that she has never experienced before. When asked about her boundless energy and consistent cheer, she naively attributes them to regular exercise and prayer. Critics have accused Palin of not answering questions directly and not sticking to the topics in her debates. Palin, of course, dismisses the criticism; for she is completely unaware of what she is saying from one moment to the next. Remember that it is not Palin speaking, but rather the ancestral spirits who are working through her to undermine those who seek to block Obama's path. (Each time Palin winks inappropriately, however, I wonder if the real Palin is attempting to signal to her friends and family that something is awry).

So far, the power of the ancestors is working better than Mama Obama and Muthee had hoped. Respectable Negroes and their allies should all be encouraged by the force that has been shown thus far. We urge you, however, to not be mere witnesses to the awesome wonders of our ancestors. Seize the opportunity to channel your psychic energy to support the spiritual warriors fighting on our behalf. Each time a vote for Obama is cast, the warriors are further emboldened. The struggle continues.

Respectable Negroes in Their Sunday Best

Among the myriad attractions of Sunday morning services at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem are the impassioned sermons of the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, its pastor, and the chance to hear its stirring gospel choir.

The procession recalled an era of elegance presumed long gone but in fact revived each week at West 138th Street and Lenox Avenue. “We made this style,” said Joe Alexander, who watched as the crowd filed by. “We’ve been dressing like this for 100 years.”


Friday, October 24, 2008

Zora Says: The Literature of Urban Affairs

Not only have we had to suffer the indignity of having great African-American literary works shelved alongside bad Iceberg Slim knockoffs, we now have to endure a New York Times discussion of those knockoffs as a window onto the "urban" experience. So now "ghetto lit" / "urban fiction" reflects my life as an Oakland transplant in New York City? Of course, not. It's supposed to reflect my life as a Negress in modern America --> urban=Negro.

One expert on "urban affairs" offers in the article, "... the genre tells the stories of African-Americans who survived the 1980s drug wars. This is about documenting history, or, I should say, collective memory." Can I ask whose collective memory? A more accurate comment might have said that this genre of fiction is about documenting a collective imagination. In that collective, I would include all of America -- black and non-black.

A parallel can be found in gangster rap with its exaggerated violence and masculinity. The more it was sold to American audiences as an authentic representation of the Negro experience, the more we saw young, black suburbanites posturing as thugs at the local malls with their white friends in tow. We also witnessed white, frat boys hosting "ghetto" theme parties where they would talk, dress and act as they imagine black people do. The members of NWA, and currently Rick Ross, are masters of performing and reinforcing this collective imagination of authentic Negritude. (The reality is that they all come from lower-middle to middle class backgrounds.) Travel around the world and you will see idiots of all nationalities performing as Negroes, as hawd rappuhs. At one point, it seemed that all you had to do was have a jerry curl and hold a forty-ounce in your hand in order to get a record deal. Remember looking around wondering what happened to groups like Tribe Called Quest and Poor Righteous Teachers?

In the same way that gangster rap played into the collective imagination of black men as aggressive, thoughtless criminals, ghetto lit is playing into the collective imagination of black women as hard, gold-digging whores: "And then there’s Angel, a Versace-clad seductress who shoots her boyfriend in the head during sex, stuffs money from his safe into her Vuitton bags and, as she fondles the cash, experiences a sexual frisson narrated in terms too graphic to reproduce here." Says Shonda Miller, 35, "I read what I can relate to. They’re writing about what I’ve experienced. It’s easier than reading about Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.” Really? If this is what she relates to, am I wrong in thinking that Ms. Miller should be in jail, or at least in counseling?

I am fearful of what ghetto lit will do to the already negative images of Negro women in America. Yes, there was Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines before, but they were never legitimized in the same way. They simply weren't placed in the same category as Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. Publishers were not falling all over themselves to produce them and they certainly weren't getting regular press in mainstream newspapers. The images of Negro women as oversexed and threatening are being articulated as never before. And sadly, I have to add, by ourselves. While we may be writing this smut ourselves, we certainly are not the only ones consuming it. I have found ghetto lit dominating the African American literature section in bookstores across Vermont, Idaho and Maine. New Englanders, Christians, Main Streeters, Gun Enthusiasts and Real Americans are reading these books, gaining perspective on "urban affairs." Shiver, shiver.

The New York Times praises the genre for bringing in new readers: “We’ve got people who are reading for the first time. We’ve got people coming into our building asking for Teri Woods who have never come here before,” said Lora-Lynn Rice, the director of collections at the Martin Library in York County. “Why would we not embrace this?” Why? Because not only is it negative, most of it is terribly written. Have these librarians read these books for themselves?

One reader responded to the article by saying, "People often miss the point when discussing these "urban fiction". They are poorly written, loaded with grammatical errors and typos, since most of them are self published. They are found mostly in areas where there is a vast population of African Americans. Young African American readers are being exposed to these materials that are filled with errors. So when they're test scores in reading, for instance, are lower than other students; how rewarding that they were exposed to poorly written materials such as these overrated urban fiction materials. Furthermore, I don't want my stinkin' tax dollars paying for a book called "Gold Digga" or "Wifey". Yuck!" Well-said.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gordon Gartrelle offers some reflections on linked fate

I recently commented on Zora’s thought-provoking post about linked fate. In my comment, I noted that, even after years of wrestling with linked fate, I am unable to articulate a clear philosophy.

A string of recent events have helped me work through some of my difficulties with linked fate, so that now I’m at least able to throw out some inchoate thoughts on the subject:

First, on Thursday I began my second year as a volunteer reading mentor at a public school in which all of the students are poor and black. This is the youngest group of children (2nd Graders) I’ve ever mentored.

Then, minutes after leaving the school, I saw a woman in her late 20s waiting at the bus stop. She had her name written on the back of her tracksuit, but I could only see part of the name. When she got on the bus ahead of me, I saw the full name in all its glory: FALACIA!

Finally, on Friday I snagged front row seats to a stellar performance by a troupe of West African dancers. Before they even started dancing, I caught a whiff of one dancer who smelled like a mildewed onion frying in vinegar. Instead of devoting my full attention to the show, I found myself trying to pinpoint which of them was so damn musty. Ultimately, I located the culprit and decided to breathe through my mouth when he was near.

All three events occupied my mind throughout the weekend (the dance show largely because I was haunted by traumatic olfactory flashbacks). While these events haven’t led me to a coherent position on linked fate, they’ve at least started the ball rolling.

Before I detail what I learned from the events, let me reiterate what I said in response to Zora: linked fate may be a practical reality, but it doesn’t have to carry moral implications. I’m tied to black degenerates because those who accept white supremacy are too corrupted to distinguish between me and the degenerates; I do not, as Zora said, feel any moral connection to degenerates.

“this makes us look bad”
I have tutored and mentored poor black children for over a decade, primarily because I exhibit a sense of race pride when it comes to black folks’ academic and professional successes. The flipside, of course, is that I have a deep sense of shame about black folks’ academic and professional failings. For whatever reason, even though the failures aren’t my own, they feel like my own. It goes without saying that this should be the ethos of all members of a community, but given the numbers, it is especially important for black communities.

Lesson: As it turns out, I do have a moral sense of linked fate, but it applies mostly to children, and especially to their educational achievement; once these children grow up, however, my sense of linked fate only extends to them if they chose to be respectable. By “respectable” I mean that they work hard, they try not to bring kids into the world unless they can support them, they support kids they do bring into the world, they have a respect for the law (when the law makes sense), they act beyond mere impulse and self-satisfaction, and they have a regard for the common good.

This only sounds like a right-wing talking point because the left has failed to address the matter in a serious way. I’m about treating children like children and treating adults like adults. This runs counter to the approaches of most conservatives—who want to treat children like adults—and many liberals—who want to treat adults like children.

“this makes her look bad”
Ah, the hours I’ve spent thinking about Falacia (I wonder if her brother’s name is Connalingus). Whenever I see black people with bizarre names, I feel bad for the individual, because I know that her life chances will likely be unfairly limited, Falacia may be an intelligent, industrious woman. And though her name should have no bearing on her success, it probably will. Unlike some respectable negroes, I don’t recoil in horror and argue that her weird name somehow embarrasses black people as a whole. I feel the same way about black folks who dress in loud, tacky clothes or consume ghetto lit and crappy music and TV shows.

Lesson: When it comes to black taste (child names, taste in clothes, books, movies, TV, music), I think that each black person’s taste reflects only on that person. TAN seemed to suggest the opposite when he inquired why there is a dearth of mainstream black satire. He worried that this lack might make it seem as if black people aren’t sophisticated enough to understand satire. This is, without question, the wrong way to look at these matters, and I scolded TAN accordingly.

“this makes them look bad”
When I first smelled the one pungent dancer, my thoughts immediately focused on the other 13 dancers. I was concerned that the funky one would reinforce stereotypes not about African-Americans, but about Africans and “foreigners” in general. All it takes is one rotten apple to taint the whole bunch.

Lesson: Whatever sense of black linked fate I have doesn’t really extend past African-Americans, but I am sympathetic to the linked fate situations of other groups of black people.

Now that I've put these thoughts out there, I invite our readers (and Zora and Chauncey) to tear them apart. Do any of these ponits need to be clarified? Am I contradicting myself somewhere?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Why Do Space Aliens Only Kidnap White People?--The British Open Their Secret UFO Files

The Brits have finally come clean. It seems that the British government has decided to open their secret UFO files. These files are a treasure trove of information. They contain stories of UFO's the size of Aircraft Carriers terrorizing British airspace, landings near military bases, and abductions of British citizens. Now, as a ghetto nerd I certainly believe in extra-terrestrial life. One would have to be a an overly religious, Luddite, mouth breather who doesn't believe in evolution to not concede the obvious. Random thought: I really have never understood how religion cannot include space aliens as God's creations (I think there are several beliefs systems outside of the Judeo-Christian which do have that expansive view), but that is a conversation for another time.

But, while I believe in aliens, I am unsure if they have ever visited Earth. As I often say, why would they? We are a planet located in the equivalent of a galactic trailer park. Unless they are slumming, we are likely far away from the inter-galactic equivalent of I-95. But, I have always wondered where are the black and brown folk who have been kidnapped by aliens? Why don't we get some love?

Interestingly, one of the first documented cases of alien abduction was that of an interracial couple, Betty and Barney Hill in the White Mountains near Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1961. This was a widely discussed and documented case that attracted much media attention. It was also one of the first cases where repressed memories were recovered through hypnosis. Funny thing, the Hills weren't taken too seriously at the time because they were an inter-racial couple, and of course, you have to be crazy to marry across the race line. Moreover, the aliens--the grays as they would come to be called in the ufology community--wanted Mr. Hill's sperm so this hurt his credibility a bit. Damn it, why do those aliens come all that distance to collect semen and put things in people's behinds? Perverts.

Random thought: when black folks are featured in these shows, why do they announce to the world that they had hot, alien sex? Are we that irresistible?

I know the aliens, if they have perfected free energy and can travel between the stars, must certainly have evolved beyond petty colorism and race prejudice. Perhaps, we respectable negroes can start a support group for people of color who have been abducted by aliens or have seen ufo's? We are a galactic people by nature, so perhaps our alien brothers will eventually come back to Earth in order to claim us?

As a primer for potential members of our Respectable Negro Alien Abductee and Visitation Support Group, I offer the following useful videos:

1. Betty and Barney Hill describe their abduction by extraterrestrials:

2. Betty and Barney Hill under hypnosis:

2. Noted physicist, Michio Kaku discusses how governments would respond if ET were to visit the Earth:

3. Riley Martin on Jerry Springer--simply classic:

4.Riley Martin discussing his 72 hour love making session, courtesy of alien Viagra, with the Biavians:

5. An unforgettable episode of the Art Bell show which featured a phone call from Area 51:

Come out of the closet my brothers and sisters. I know I am not alone. In fact, I actually saw a UFO in 1995 near New Britain, Connecticut and have never been the same since that fateful evening...maybe they touched me psychically. Come clean my friends. Share your stories and experiences. You are safe here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Caught Between Joe Louis and Jack Johnson--Obama's Black Man Dillemma

Allow me this blasphemous thought: Did Barack Obama really win the final debate with John McCain? I know that most pundits, critics, and other informed observers declared Obama the winner. But, and I have struggled with this in the days following the event, in my heart of hearts, I don't really know.

Now, allow me a qualifier. Returning to the boxing metaphors so common to politics and punditry (and which I used in my analysis of Biden-Palin), I certainly believe that Obama won on points. But was Obama really victorious? In his artful moves, skillful jabs and counter punches against McCain, did Obama let him land too many head shots and visibly damaging punches? The very types of blows that judges--in this case those Joe Six Packs and teetering Reagan Democrats--respond to in their scoring?

Barack Obama's dilemma in how to best approach McCain and Palin's attacks is a literal embodiment of the "two-ness," the schism which exists at the heart of being Black and American.

Obama's racially marked life is a careful balancing act on the precipice of authenticity politics. On one hand, Obama is not black enough. On the other hand, he is too black. Barack Obama, as vanguard flag bearer for a 21st century understanding of Blackness, is still shadowed by a set of 20th, 19th, and 18th century stereotypes about black personhood and humanity. These stereotypes, of black violence, underachievement, arrogance, of being "uppity" and untrustworthy are the fuel for McCain and Palin's assault on his candidacy. Obama's eloquence is dismissed as snake oil--a contemporary spin on the oft-used phrases, "you are so articulate," "or where did you learn to speak so well?" that many of us are all too familiar with. He is told to "respect" Sarah Palin, a polite nod to the rule that "boy you better know your place" and "you best not reckless eyeball at a white woman."

In Barack Obama's metaphorical boxing match with McCain-Palin (and yes, they are flip sides of the same coin--2 heads on a Right wing leviathan) he has been urged by his supporters to fight back, to take the battle to the Republicans in a visible and direct way. Obama has skillfully countered with commercials, through his surrogates, and in eloquent campaign speeches. But here is my worry, in those moments of direct interaction, in that squared circle of the boxing ring that was the debate, he has avoided direct counters for fear of scoring too damaging a shot.

For example, during the debate Obama passed up obvious attacks and counters, including a lazy left hand cross that was the moderator's question on Sarah Palin's candidacy, in favor of dodges and quick flurries. When McCain dared to play the victim and label Congressman Lewis's comments about Republican race bating as a type of hate speech and smear against Republicans at large, Obama took the blow and shrugged it aside. Likewise, the provocative shots on Acorn and William Ayers were parried but never counter-punched despite the relative ease of Barack landing a killing blow in that instance if he so desired (the Keating Five; Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters; Reverend Hagee, the Bridge to Nowhere, Palin's association with the Alaska Independence Party; McCain's support for death squads in Latin America, etc. etc.).

Barack is forced to be the gentleman's champ. In our boxing metaphor he is Joe Louis. In his efforts to remain above the fray and to speak to the issues, Barack has avoided being too aggressive lest he lose the tenuous support of a significant segment of the white public. Like Joe Louis--America's heavyweight champion during World War 2 who happened to be African American--Obama has to deftly perform a non-threatening black masculinity. He is cool. He is calm. He is collected. And he can never let himself be perceived as too impassioned or angry.

Again, the two-ness, the duality of Barack's identity comes to the forefront. Obama is already perceived by many in the Heart Land, and those others immersed in the Republican echo chamber, as an uppity negro who doesn't know his place. Most important, this stereotype looms in the hearts and minds of some voters who are actually considering voting for a black Man despite the power of their racist fears and anxieties.

In the racial subconscious of these voters, Barack Obama is Jack Johnson. He is unrepentant blackness. Yet, and this is the absurdity of racism, they are fundamentally different figures who are somehow related in this twisted psyche of white supremacy. Unlike Papa Jack, Obama does not defy white supremacy and the threat of white racial terrorism by publicly cavorting with white women, a life threatening move when the noose was still enforced. Nor does Obama stuff socks down his pants in order to intimidate his opponents through a performed and exaggerated black masculinity. Nevertheless, in the minds of many voters, Obama is a moment, a split second, an opportunity to be taken away from becoming that figure.

In a slightly more benign form, Barack Obama represents the dual figures of Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang. The Rocky films, thinly veiled narratives of white ethnic uplift in the face of black entitlement, are caricatures by design, but their story speaks to this political truth. Like Apollo Creed, Obama is in the eyes of Right wing conservatives, arrogant, a show off, and a celebrity figure. Rocky, is the All-American Horatio Alger in boxing trunks, a scrappy hard worker who lacks physical gifts but who succeeds despite the odds against him.

To this same public, Barack Obama is a Clubber Lang figure. And if Obama responds with more force to McCain and Palin's assaults, he moves a step closer to validating their worst fears about black criminality, violence, and of how an Obama presidency may disrupt the "rightful" and "natural" order of things:

This is the ugliness at the root of white Conservative fears and anxieties about Obama, and how they have so easily cast him as some variety of strange, foreign, Other. When local Republican Party Organizations depict Obama with fried chicken, Kool-aid, and watermelons on their posters and flyers they are signaling to this deep and profound racism and prejudice. When the Right links Obama to Osama bin Laden they are speaking to this bigotry. When they circulate emails with a picture of his African relatives in traditional clothing, the Right is speaking to a sentiment that Obama, on an existential level, does not belong in their "White" house.

But, if politics is the exercise of compromise, of a practical exercise of power, Obama needs the support of some of these voters. People, who like those featured in Sunday's New York Times Magazine harbor deep levels of anti-black animus, but are actively considering voting for Barack Obama because economic self-interest trumps their bigotry.

My ultimate worry is that Barack's tactically sound engagement with McCain and Palin may surprisingly hurt him: if there is a "man-code" of sorts, a set of rules regarding personal honor, dignity and reputation, will Barack's necessary and artful dodging, jabbing, and amazing footwork be his demise? Should Obama move to a more devastating and direct strategy where he goes for the inevitable knockout punch?

Perhaps, these gun-toting, "God fearing" "Heartland" voters want to see if Barack will stand up to these attacks on his manhood and honor. Maybe, and I truly worry, their assessment of his manhood, of his ability to be an effective president is linked to Obama's necessary unwillingness to land a devastating knockout punch to John McCain's metaphorical glass jaw. This approach is a direct contrast to Obama's current strategy of beating McCain-Palin through a death of a thousand cuts. Will this be enough? Will McCain's newest cut man, Joe the Plumber, be enough to recapture momentum during these last few weeks? Or will Obama's newest trainer Colin Powell push him over the finish line?

Sarah Palin and John McCain are textbook, school yard bullies. And maybe, just maybe, Barack Obama just needs to punch John McCain in the nose to prove a point. And maybe, just maybe, Obama through that one deed will have earned the respect (and votes) of those Joe Six Packs and Lunch pail voters come election day. Or am I being too hopeful?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: Now That is Respectable Negro Behavior--Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama

(CNN) -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell announced Sunday that he will be voting for Sen. Barack Obama, citing the Democrat's "ability to inspire" and the "inclusive nature of his campaign."

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says he is voting for Barack Obama.

"I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Sen. Barack Obama," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Powell said he was concerned about what he characterized as a recent negative turn of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain's campaign, such as the campaign's attempts to tie Obama to former 1960s radical Bill Ayers.

"I think that's inappropriate. I understand what politics is about -- I know how you can go after one another, and that's good. But I think this goes too far, and I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for," he said.

The story continues here.


It is a good Sunday isn't it?

Music is about feelings and energy. Sometimes what a song says is different from how it captures a particular mood. Right now, in my twisted ghetto nerd mind where neural pathways sometimes connect in strange and unexpected ways, my mental Ipod is blasting these songs, and two moments of random popular culture bliss, when I think about the Obama-Powell connection:

For some reason, as I think about Obama's run for the White House I think of the King--that greatest of kings the Burger King--And yes, I know I have issues:

Obama is about to put McCain to sleep:

Shook Ones, because it just feels right:

Together, the smell of success:

Blowback or how Bush and Company played themselves in their treatment of Colin Powell:

Let's get it on, 'nuff said:

I feel like you can't stop the prophet:

I don't know what the personal cost to Colin Powell will be for this endorsement, but this moment rings of Obi-Wan passing the torch (literally and figuratively) to young Luke Skywalker:

Today is a good day, is it not?

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Quick Video Montage: Bachmann's Loyalty Test Meets Sarah Palin's "Pro-American" Parts of the Country

Did you know that Republican Michelle Bachmann wants loyalty tests for Congressional representatives?

Did you know that Sarah Palin speaks for real America? Apparently there are "pro-America" and "anti-American" parts of the country. I guess we respectable negroes aren't real Americans.

Perhaps there are some among us that yearn for the good old days of McCarthyism and the Red Scare.

If this wasn't so sad it would indeed be funny. God bless America...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joe the Plumber, I Will Say It Again, Joe the Plumber

Introducing number 70 on our now sort of famous, "How to Say 'White' Voter Without Saying 'white'" list: Joe the Plumber!

At this moment we have crossed the line from the absurd as embodied by Sarah Palin to the surreal as embodied by Joe the Plumber.

I am rendered speechless.

Zora Says: What Would White Folks Think?

At this point, you have all figured out that Chauncey, Gordon and I differ a lot in our writing styles, in our sense of humor, and in our perspectives on the politics of race. This isn't something that typically bothers us; indeed, in the great Negro tradition, we glory in our diversity. However, there is one area that we continue to struggle with -- What do White folks think? and Do we care?

I have to say that from the early beginnings of this blog, I have always been conscious of how White readers would interpret our posts. My concerns have had to do less with whether or not they will see them as acceptable nee respectable, and more to do with them misinterpreting our project. We all know that there are things that we might say among ourselves that we would never say in mixed company. (I think that this must be true for every racial or ethnic group in America, including Jews, Desi, Chinese-Americans, etc.)

Alexyss Tylor has been the subject of several Chauncey DeVega posts. And, to quote Monty Python's Pontious Pilot, Alexyss is indeed "wisible." I have never been completely comfortable highlighting her on this site, however, because I don't think that White folks get the joke. Do they see truth where we see irony? In order for something to be ironic, it has to have some basis in reality. If our White readers have a skewed understanding of African-American life in the first place, how can they ever get our jokes? This is the conundrum that Dave Chapelle found himself in: are they laughing with me, or are they laughing at me?

Being a respectable Negress, I also worry about how certain images and narratives will reflect on the African-American community at large. We actually have a post label titled "politics of respectability" that we attach to postings that either challenge negro respectability or engage it in some way. Among our "dislikes" are malt liquor, Tyler Perry and ghetto literature. Why? Because they either confirm or reinforce negative racial stereotypes. Chaucey recently wanted to post pictures from You Know You Dead Ass Wrong on our blog and I flat out refused. I don't want any part of promoting negative images of Negroes, for there is an abundance out there already. On this subject, Gordon often loses his patience with me. He feels no attachment to the figures on sites like Hot Ghetto Mess. His sense of linked fate does not extend to them. He and Chris Rock share the sentiment that there is a difference between "niggers" and black people. Gordon may have a valid point, but do White people get that difference?

Finally, I don't like double-standards. How would we react if we found out that Hot Ghetto Mess was produced by a bunch of elite, White kids? Or, better yet, by Republican operatives? Can we refer to ourselves or to others as "niggers" and then get upset when someone White does the same thing? Can we be essentialist about other races and ethnic groups and then protest when we are essentialized? Does it matter if we are "just joking?"

"It's a very delicate line to walk," says David Allen Grier in discussing his new show Chocolate News. "...It's one thing to put on a dress and be that sassy black woman, which is a negative African-American female archetype. Now it's another thing to comment on just that phenomenon ... There has been a genetic mutation ... that the only way black men can be heard is by dressing like fat black mamas."

Both Chauncey and Gordon often say that we shouldn't waste our time concerned about how others will interpret our work. We simply can't control what readers, Negro or not, will take away. Even while they say this in the context of this blog, I also know that they are strivers who study and work in circles where they are often "the only one." No matter what they say, they have to care what White people think.

What do other Negro bloggers think? How are you all navigating this terrain? Who's your audience? And for White bloggers and readers, what do you people think? Am I underestimating you?

The Good People of Harlem Speak on Barack Obama--The Wisdom of the Masses is Clear....and They Are Quite Confused

Wow! Political Science in action--we should make a t-shirt or two or three with that slogan emblazoned on the front.

I guess the research which suggests that voters are ill-informed, make poor choices (more often than not), and many don't know what their candidate's actual issue positions are--folks be confused-- is in fact correct.

One more reason why I don't think all folk need to have full access to the franchise. But, it is another reason to be hopeful for our democracy as low information voters are common across the color line.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

McCain Versus Obama in the 3rd Debate: We Respectable Negroes Call Your Bluff Mr. McCain

John McCain has promised to whip Obama's butt in the 3rd debate. If the desperation and vitriol demonstrated by the McCain-Palin ticket during the last few weeks is any indication, it may be a rough night for Barack Obama. McCain has nothing to lose (maybe the election?) by not going "all in." To date, McCain and Palin are trying to link:

1. Obama and Ayers;
2. Michelle Obama and Ayers's wife;
3. Obama to the economic crisis;
4. Obama to the discredited male prostitute who claims he used drugs during sex binges with Obama;
5. Obama to Reverend Wright (again);
6. Obama to residential developer Mike Rezko;
7. Obama to terrorists;
8. Obama to Marxists;
8. Obama to anyone they possibly can.

I am of the mind that the best way to beat an opponent is to give them exactly what they want, but only on your own terms, and in the way, and at the time, which best serves your strategy.

I call your bluff Mr. McCain. As we posted some months ago, I am going to once more provide you with a handy chart that details Obama's "problematic" relationships: use this at your own peril Mr. McCain because I am one respectable negro who can't wait to see how you are going to play your hand Wednesday night:

Some "dangerous" relationships

1. Barack Obama-->Michelle Obama--> Princeton University
(where she wrote her "unpatriotic" senior thesis)--> Cornel West
(a dangerous Democratic Socialist who makes lots of money on the lecture circuit and from his hip hop cd's)-->either Karl Marx (Cornel has probably read Marx)--> or even worst to Black Jesus (the Black church is going to be the end of Obama isn't it?).

2. Michelle Obama-->Black people (yes, "real" black people)...

3. Obama-->1960s radical and (now) Professor Bill Ayers-->Father Pfleger-->Reverend Wright (via Trinity Church) and to Louis Farrakhan ('nuff said)-->Libyan President Muamar Quaddafi (remember Farrakhan was getting bankrolled by the now cross-dressing and somewhat insane Libyan leader-->the terrorist organization Hamas-->Yasser Arafat-->Osama Bin Laden. This one could be the end for Barack because Osama is far worse and far more dangerous than Black Jesus...

4. Obama-->his white, hippy, race mixing mother (she had a thing for the brown folks)-->Marx (she is an anthropologist by training)-->Dirty Hippies. We all hate dirty hippies:

5. Obama--> his African, lapsed-Muslim, apostate, father-->Hamas-->Arafat-->Al Queda. This is an easy one because many Americans already believe Obama is a Muslim, that Muslims are all terrorists, and that Obama could be a closet supporter of Islamic terrorism (or alternatively that Obama's father and by extension Obama could somehow be targets of suicide bombers because of dad's status as an "apostate"). The Right has been on this one since jump street so they will only increase their emphasis of this point in the coming months:

6. Obama-->his African father-->his African extended family-->Shaka Zulu. I love Shaka Zulu and in fact believe that any link to Shaka should give a candidate instant credibility. While all folks may not agree with the power of Shaka, I couldn't resist sharing it:

This chart is less than comprehensive. For example, I left out the noted scholar Rashid Khalidi and how from Obama to Khalidi one can go instantly to Osama and Al Queda (because of course, anyone that is critical of either the Israeli occupation or of political zionism is anti-Semitic.

One could also instantly go from Marx to just about anything that the Right would find threatening, problematic, scary, or unsettling (full employment, yikes!!!) but that link was too obvious.
I think this video sums it up best:

It Seems that Our 69 Ways to Name "White" Folk Without Saying "white" Has a Life of Its Own

Thank you for your honesty Mr. O'Reilly--ain't life funny? I never thought I would say such a thing.

Not that we are at the center of a vortex or anything, or even that we are deists of whiteness (get the joke, it has meanings within meanings within meanings), but our little Euphemisms for Naming White Folk List seems to have its finger on the collective American political pulse.

Maybe a little birdie will email Fox and CNN and tell them where they saw this list first?

As Hannibal on the A-Team said, I love it when a plan comes together!

From CNN:

Can we just call white voters white voters?

OK, I’m not trying to be the race guy, but these labels are driving me nuts!

Earlier today CNN aired a piece on Joe Sixpack, and not a single African American, Hispanic or Asian was interviewed.

Now, do these groups drink six packs? Yep. But don’t we know that Palin isn’t talking to them? Yep. So why not just say it?

We even played a soundbite of Palin saying Joe Sixpack and hockey moms. Trust me, she’s not speaking to anyone who looks like me!

But there are other terms that have been thrown around by candidates, political strategists and the media, and no one wants to be honest as to who we are talking about.

Wal-mart moms. Soccer moms. NASCAR dads. Small town America.

Seriously. Read all of those phrases, and when you think of who candidates, political strategists and the media are talking about, who immediately comes to mind? I can tell you no one black, Hispanic or Asian!

So, can we just stop the nonsense and say, all at once - WHITE AMERICANS.

I just think it’s so obvious, but it as if we - the collective media - just doesn’t want to say it.

But to further explain the Joe Sixpack stuff, I saw an interview on American Morning with with Jackie and Dunlap, two redneck comedians. So essentially we’re going to two country white guys to define Joe Sixpack. Need we say anything more as to who Joe Sixpack is?

Now they were hilarious, and I love ‘em - got Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy on my iPod - but it’s as if the white elephant is in the room and we close our eyes and act like it’s not there.

See, if we’re discussing black, Hispanic and female voters, we just say, “black, Hispanic and female.” But we try to be cute and not say what we really mean.

Lastly, can someone tell me the last time you heard McCain or Palin say inner city? Maybe those aren’t the voters they care about.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Resolved: James T. Harris has Been Voted Out of the Tribe of Respectable Negroes

The people have spoken! James T. Harris is officially "out" of the tribe. These are the moments when democracy works.

We will email him our proclamation and share the response with you once we receive it.

Always remember that the tribe of Respectable Negroes is a participatory democracy. So please be vigilant and secure in the knowledge that you too can nominate lapdog Uncle Toms and Aunt Tomasinas for discommendation.

Lynch Mobs and White American Insecurity

The past is never dead. It's not even past. -- Faulkner

We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him. -- Benjamin Tillman

We're all feeling uneasy lately with the frighteningly blatant, white supremacist tone that has entered national politics. Not only are we more acutely fearing for Barack Obama's safety, many of us are also fearing for our own. I wish that I could lay blame solely on the Republicans for this, but I can't. Miz Hillary and her husband were instrumental is stirring up white America's latent fears about losing their supremacy and power. Miz Palin and her running mate are not just stirring the pot, but are bringing it to a full boil. Republican rallies as of late are just short of lynch mobs.

A not insignificant body of white Americans are feeling imperiled. Their dominance in global affairs is declining. Their personal economic security is crumbling. Their social dominance is being challenged everyday with the growing visibility and influence of colored folks. The world as they know it, and expect it to remain, is rapidly changing.

As Miz Hillary herself began to feel insecure in the face of negro assumptions of political power, she began tapping into white racial fears: "In an effort to scare off white voters, Mr. Obama was ghettoized as a cocaine user (by the chief Clinton strategist, Mark Penn, among others), 'the black candidate' (as Clinton strategists told the Associated Press) and Jesse Jackson redux (by Mr. Clinton himself)." All the while, Obama took the high road -- not talking about race and not highlighting obvious weaknesses in the Clinton history, e.g. Whitewater and Bill's philandering. The fact that the Clintons and their supporters are still angry at and resentful of Obama says a lot. Aside from not "staying in his place" and deferring to a white woman, what exactly did he do to so offend them?

The McCain-Palin campaign is cultivating ground that the Clintons have already sewn. Their early ad Lashing Out accused Obama of referring to Palin as "good looking" and concluded that he was "disrespectful." The implied question was, "Are the good white people of America going to let this negro get away with disrespecting a white woman?" At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are viewed as new and unheard of by the mainstream press. This isn't new at all.

It is not surprising that white women are at the center of opposition to Obama's candidacy. Historically, lynch mobs and white supremacist rallies in America have often used the need to protect white female virtue as a justification for violence against Negroes. Just beneath the surface of those claims, however, have been economic and social insecurity. In much of the Deep South lynchings peaked in the late 19th century, as whites turned to terrorism to dissuade blacks from voting and to enforce Jim Crow laws. In the Mississippi Delta lynchings of blacks increased in the early 20th century as white planters tried to enforce control of labor when more blacks became sharecroppers and laborers.

Typically, Negro fears of white violence in recent decades have been dismissed as histrionic and unfounded. It is both refreshing and sobering that the mainstream media are now beginning to openly identify the racial fears that have been so much a part of this election year -- refreshing in that they are finally validating real concerns and sobering in that they are validating real concerns. On the Discovery channel tonight, Ted Koppel will link the phenomenon of lynching to today's political climate in what should be an illuminating one-hour documentary. "Lynchings are a form of terrorism. And the particular purpose was to say to African Americans that you will never vote or be a part of the political process in this country. And if you think you will move in that direction there will be terrible consequences," Koppel told Tell Me More host Michel Martin.

That McCain has felt the need to address the jeers and racism of his own supporters says a great deal. Is he surprised at the hate and ignorance he and others have been able to give voice to? Is he scared that he will be called upon to explain violence committed in his and Palin's names? Or, is he just covering his ass?

The past is never dead ...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: The Battle for Sadr City featured on 60 Minutes

60 Minutes pulled the curtain back a bit tonight on the present/future of military technology and war making in its feature story "How Technology Helped Win the Sadr City Battle." Now, this wasn't an expose on the U.S. military's "secret" weapons alluded to by Bob Woodward in his interview a few weeks ago, but it did provide some tantalizing bits of new information.

As a ghetto nerd student of military affairs I am always proud of our war fighters and their courage: imagine being a combat engineer and putting up a cement wall while taking all that fire. As I am fond of saying, those brothers are born again hard. And whenever those operators in Task Force 17 are mentioned I can't help but have a crooked smile while I say a prayer for whoever those Army Delta and Navy Seals are going to send on an express, one way trip to the afterlife.

That having been said, in this most dire of moments, I just hope that we can extend our ingenuity at making war abroad to fixing our broken economy at home.

Some other choice "war porn" as we like to call it:

Special Ops in Sadr City

So much like a video game it is scary:

A typical day in the office at Ramadi:

Say hello to my little friend:

Some balance lest we become too fond of war:

Never forget, "It is good that war is so horrible, or we might grow to like it."

A Sunday Afternoon Dose of Politics and Prayer: An Obama Win Means "Their" God is Bigger Than "Our" God

“There are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his [McCain’s] opponent wins, for a variety of reasons,” said Arnold Conrad, former pastor of Grave Evangelical Free Church. “And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name in all that happens between now and Election Day.”

As the Wall Street journal is reporting, apparently McCain's camp has a direct hot line to God. Funny, Palin and McCain are calling in all the favors they can get this electoral season. Palin the Christian Nationalist seeks blessings for pipelines, fiscal growth, and political success from African witch doctors and McCain allows his rallies to be opened with blessings that explicitly speak in terms of "our" God and "their" God. And folks wonder why there are many critics, pundits, and observers on both sides of the partisan divide who find this effort to "Otherize" Obama so sickening and disturbing. Funny, it makes one think which candidate really has the "pastor problem?"

Two thoughts. First, do these moments not highlight the wisdom of being a strict secularist, especially in all things political? Second, isn't it ironic that the Christian Nationalists who are McCain and the GOP's base want to criticize the Arab world and "Islamo-fascists" for being theocratic, while in their hearts McCain-Palin and company believe much the same?

The McCain camp's response is typically evasive. We are never responsible for the actions of our staff members or what occurs at our rallies (or for what our VP candidate says or does) yet we continue to benefit from them:

“While we understand the important role that faith plays in informing the votes of Iowans, questions about the religious background of the candidates only serve to distract from the real questions in this race about Barack Obama’s judgment, policies and readiness to lead as commander in chief,” said McCain spokeswoman Wendy Riemann.

It is at these moments that I recall Thomas Jefferson's words that:

"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

I do sincerely hope that both camps will reflect on this practical wisdom.