Saturday, April 25, 2009

12 Monkeys in 2009--Enter the Great Swine Flu Pandemic

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON, April 25 (Reuters) - An unusual new flu virus has spread widely and cannot be contained, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Saturday.

"It is clear that this is widespread. And that is why we have let you know that we cannot contain the spread of this virus," the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters on a conference call.

The strain of swine flu is suspected of killing as many as 68 people in Mexico and infecting more than 1,000 more, including eight in the United States. (Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Patricia Zengerle)

Ominous. No?

Am I the only one who has been thinking about the movie 12 Monkeys as the swine flu outbreak seems to be taking on the markers of a global pandemic?

Is this life imitating art imitating life?

Damn It, Why Did Madonna Constantine Think of This First! And where is My 200 Million Dollar Noose? or It is Time for a Respectable Negro Flashback!

Oh nooses, we love you so--get the dark irony? We posted on this last year, and as we do by tradition--here is a respectable negro flashback!

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, on the 200 million dollar lawsuit for unlawful termination and harassment by Madonna Constantine (i.e. the Columbia Teacher's College professor who found a noose on her door in an incident purported to be fabricated as a means of justifying her removal).

Madonna Constantine Strikes Back
by John L. Jackson

Former Teachers College Professor Madonna Constantine became (in)famous last year. More than once.

The first time was because of the hubbub that ensued after she found a noose attached to her office door. The finding turned into a national news story about hate speech and resurgent public displays of racism. Then people began to speculate that she had actually hung the noose herself as a way to deflect from an ongoing investigation into allegations of plagiarism made against her. The noose was found in October of 2007. The investigation was announce in February 2008. And Teachers College fired Constantine three months later.

Just this week, the plot has thickened (as some might have imagined it would). Constantine has filed a lawsuit against her former employer for ruining her reputation. Constantine’s attorney claims that they have proof of her innocence, even speculating that the evidence vindicating Constantine was purposefully ignored by Teachers College in an attempt to justify ousting her.

Of course, Teachers College intends to fight Constantine’s suit, and the school admits to no wrongdoing, calling her suit “baseless.”

I still don’t know how to make sense of this case. It gets glossed as one person’s disingenuous attempt to inoculate herself from critique by using the protective cover of racial sympathy, as an example of taking the so-called “race card” to completely new heights.

I’ve always refused to believe that Constantine put that noose on her own door, even as I admit that the ordering of public events do easily fit such a cynical scenario. But the reality of American life is more complicated than a “gotcha” melodrama about one person’s conniving attempt to short-circuit contemporary justice with recourse to part of racism’s historical iconography, the proverbial lynching noose...

The story continues here.

Black to the past, or is that the future?

Chauncey DeVega says: I Couldn't Resist...Beware the Attack of the Nooses

I cower as I write this. My Zombie Survival Guide, and my SAS Survival Handbook have some valuable tips for dealing with this type of calamity. But, I fear the information they impart may not help me survive the attack.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in The New York Times, the nooses are on the march and they are unstoppable. Run black people, run as far, and as fast, as you can.

They are coming and they are unstoppable.

May God have mercy on our souls.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Through the Looking Glass--Fox News' Unhinged, Irrational Obama Attacks Stir up Violent Right-Wing Militants

I feel that a convergence in our universe and the Nigarro universe is fast approaching.

Courtesy of Alternet:

Fox News' Unhinged, Irrational Obama Attacks Stir up Violent Right-Wing Militants
by Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America

Imagine if Fox News had been on the air back on February 28, 1993, just months into the new Democratic president's first term, when agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempted to serve warrants on David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound, located on the outskirts of Waco, Texas. Agents arrived because federal authorities got a tip that Koresh and the followers of the misguided messiah were stockpiling weapons.

The authorities were right. Outgunned, ATF agents quickly met resistance from the Davidians, who had a .50-caliber rifle, machine guns, and more than a million rounds of ammunition at their disposal. The shootout lasted hours and became the longest in American law-enforcement history. In the end, four ATF agents were killed, and 16 were wounded. Inside the compound, five Davidians were killed and scores more injured, including Koresh, who was shot in the hip and the wrist. The gunbattle signaled the start of a 51-day standoff between Koresh and federal authorities.

Rupert Murdoch's all-news channel didn't debut in America until October 1996, but it's chilling to consider the what-ifs of how today's Fox News lineup of doomsday, anti-government prophets would have reacted to controversial and defining news events in the early 1990s -- like Waco.

As news of the failed Waco raid broke, would Fox News' notoriously weepy and apocalyptic host Glenn Beck have broken down on the air and wept for the tyranny that he saw unfolding in the government's raid? While FBI negotiators tried to win the release of Koresh's followers, would Beck have warned viewers that the president would "take your gun away one way or another"?

Amidst the 51-day siege, would Beck have warned against the creeping "totalitarian state" inside America? Would the host have gravely announced that we'd "come to a very dangerous point in our country's long, storied history"?

Would Beck have routinely vilified President Clinton as a fascist? Would he have told viewers that he wanted to debunk the militia-movement conspiracy theory that the federal government was building prison camps, but that he just couldn't knock the story down -- and that, at first glance, it appeared to be "half true"?...

the complete article can be found here.

For Those in the Know: It Seems that Chauncey DeVega is Just a Bit HardHeaded and Immune to Abuse

One of my favorites:

Again, my motto:

Do they know what They created?

Today is a good day, even if I can't help but be a little dark:

Why not?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Does the Mayor of Have to Say on Earth Day?

Oh well, any excuse to share the message of the mayor of is a good one--he seems to be in an especially cantankerous mood on this video. Maybe the mayor needs more fiber?

I was sad, now I am happy again...this brother is a source of endless laughter (and he is right about Oprah).

Are you ready for a Pastor Manning bonus? I am. Question, is it right to pray to God that Obama walks out of the White House and forgets to put on his pants? Isn't there some prayer bylaw against such motions?

Did you know that Obama's tax cuts are to blame for an increase in drug use among black people? So says Pastor Manning:

Lord have mercy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Who Wins When a Samurai Fights a Viking? or Spike TV's Newest Show, Deadliest Warriors

You know you are getting old when the shows you fantasized about as a child are now being made. To point: Spike TV's Deadliest Warriors. This fun show pits history's most archetypal combatants against one another in computer generated combat. Now, I am not generally a fun of counter-factuals, i.e. "what if scenarios?" because outcomes are a function of a specific time and place. Here, weapons are a function of necessity and the practical challenges one has to overcome. And, how can one decide who the deadliest warrior is in the modern context, where individuals are supported by other assets (be it artillery; air power; long-range intelligence and surveillance)? Moreover, how does one decide who actually "wins" without including the heart, drive, and personality of each warrior in the equation.

Nevertheless, the show makes for great viewing and should be required for all ghetto nerds. Be advised, the first two matchups are a bit controversial. The first show's featured matchup was between a Gladiator and an Apache Scout--an odd pairing, but the show was exciting and well executed. The second, and here is where this ghetto nerd gets upset, featured a Samurai versus a Viking. My people the Samurai won (of course), but a more classic matchup would have been a Knight from the high Medieval period versus a Samurai--this would have been one hell of a thing to see. The third episode features a Ninja versus a Spartan Warrior. I will not ruin the outcome, but will only say that a standup fight between a Ninja and any adversary is outside of the very utility and essence of what a Ninja did/does embody.

These observations hint at the brilliance of the show--late night bar conversation between armchair historians about something that never happened. Quintessential ghetto nerdness.

Here is an episode guide and a featured clip:

Random questions.

1. Greatest military leader? Greatest warrior?

2. Should Ike have rearmed the Germans after World War 2 and under Patton unleashed the Allied Army on the Russians? Who would have won?

3. Other matchups: Delta Force versus Navy Seal Team 6; British Royal Commandos versus U.S. Marines; Gurkhas versus the Isreali Special Forces; a Mameluke versus an Aztec warrior. Your picks?

4. F-15 verus Su-27?

5. Technology aside, is the Abrams series of main battle tanks the best in history, or does that title go to the T-34?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What is Wrong with Black People? Who is this Sad Soul? Katrina Pierson, What Has Gone So Wrong in Your Life for You to Believe Such Things?

Lord; God above; JC; Allah; Yoda; El Elyon; Elohim; Jehovah; Most High; the Creator; He who watches over me when I do really stupid stuff and you still got my back and protect me from the consequences of my actions and deeds, I pray for this sad soul. Crom do you hear me?

Is it a coincidence that her name is Katrina? And, am I so foul as to state that there are so many reasons for "us" to hate ourselves, does it not hurt when one of "us" takes the bait? Fittingly, from the Wikipedia entry on Black Skin, White Masks:

In this study, Fanon uses psychoanalysis and psychoanalytical theory to explain the feelings of dependency and inadequacy that Black people experience in a White world. He speaks of the divided self-perception of the Black Subject who has lost his native cultural originality and embraced the culture of the mother country. As a result of the inferiority complex engendered in the mind of the Black Subject, he will try to appropriate and imitate the cultural code of the colonizer. The behavior, Fanon argues, is even more evident in upwardly mobile and educated Black people who can afford to acquire the trappings of White culture. Originally formulated to combat the oppression of black people, Fanon's insights are still influential today, being utilized by various groups such as the Palestinians, the Tamils, African Americans and others, and used in their struggle for cultural and political autonomy. Fanon presents both historical interpretation and underlying social indictment.

Most High, the God I pray to when I am in the most dire of circumstances, am I wrong to imagine that she would be the sort of "sister" to star in an inter-racial porno movie as she is defiled by a group of White men, who all the while hurl the most worst racial epithets at her while she begs for more? Why do I feel bad for her, all the while why she doesn't feel bad for herself? And take note of "White" versus "white," lest one complain (because long time readers know that I am a big fan of race mixing).

Shall she suffer discommendation? I so want to kick her out of the tribe, shall we?

The Pulitzer Organization Awards Two Works Addressing Slavery in America

2009 PULITZER PRIZE FOR HISTORY: “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” by Annette Gordon-Reed. A painstaking exploration of a sprawling multi-generation slave family that casts provocative new light on the relationship between Sally Hemings and her master, Thomas Jefferson.

"In the mid-1700s the English captain of a trading ship that made runs between England and the Virginia colony fathered a child by an enslaved woman living near Williamsburg. The woman, whose name is unknown and who is believed to have been born in Africa, was owned by the Eppeses, a prominent Virginia family. The captain, whose surname was Hemings, and the woman had a daughter. They named her Elizabeth.
So begins this epic work named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times,, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times. Annette Gordon-Reed's "riveting history" of the Hemings family, whose story comes to vivid life in this brilliantly researched and deeply moving work. Gordon-Reed, author of the highly acclaimed historiography Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, unearths startling new information about the Hemingses, Jefferson, and his white family. Although the book presents the most detailed and richly drawn portrait ever written of Sarah Hemings, better known by her nickname Sally, who bore seven children by Jefferson over the course of their thirty-eight-year liaison, The Hemingses of Monticello tells more than the story of her life with Jefferson and their children. The Hemingses as a whole take their rightful place in the narrative of the family's extraordinary engagement with one of history's most important figures."

Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers University. She is the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.

2009 PULITZER PRIZE FOR GENERAL NONFICTION: “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II,” by Douglas A. Blackmon. A precise and eloquent work that examines a deliberate system of racial suppression and that rescues a multitude of atrocities from virtual obscurity.

"Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries, and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. Government officials leased falsely imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and dozens of corporations—including U.S. Steel—looking for cheap and abundant labor. Armies of “free” black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery."

Douglas A. Blackmon is the Atlanta Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal. He has written extensively on race, the economy, and American society.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Would the Over/Under be on a Fight Between the President of Iran and the Clowns at the UN Racism Conference?

Since, I nodded to Chavez, why not send Mahmoud Ahmadinejad some love too--love being that he is a real character who brings out the best and worst in people.

Clowns and nooses? Can someone help me understand the symbolism at work here?

But, Ahmaninejad is no fool, so don't sleep on him.

To cite: Ahmaninejad's interview on 60 Minutes where he owns George Bush:

Chauncey DeVega says: Brother Obama Meets Brother Chavez--So, How Would You Caption This Photo?

We haven't done this in a long time. How would you caption this photo? I have two wholly unrelated caption suggestions:

1. Damn, Obama that is a nice cut you got. Can Wali fly down here and give me an edge up?

2. Chavez to Obama: Brother, don't take any IMF money to finance your bailout, their terms are worse than a payday loan.

3. Not a comment, but a musical cue--would the soundtrack for them giving each other dap be, Wu-Tang's "Triumph"; Jay-Z's "Can't Knock the Hustle (the remix)"; KRS-One's "Can't Wake Me Up (I'm a Blunt Being Smoked)"; Dre and Cube's "Natural Born Killaz"; or Biggie's "Real Niggas Do Real Things"?

Why not? This is one of the boldest, ballsy, hard body moves I have seen in a long time--Chavez calling Bush out at the United Nations:

Do you smell the sulfur?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Glenn Beck Discovers How to Mine Poorer Black Folk as Fodder for His Populist Project or Welcome to the Glenn Beck Negro of the Moment Telethon

I won't judge the parents in this video--I will leave that up to you.

Compassionate conservatism in action? Is Glenn Beck a friend of working class and lower middle class black folk? Is this exploitive? Is this the mirror of liberal guilt? Am I wrong for this setting off so many levels on my B.S. detector? What is next, a Glenn Beck meets Jerry Lewis help poor folk of color marathon? ("Real Americans, you too can sponsor a poor American colored child!") Will Glenn Beck start his own version of Jesse Jackson's, Operation Push? Wait a second, that would actually be priceless...

And how long will it take until this Right-Wing populism descends into a let's eliminate the Department of Education screed...oops, I guess it already has if you watch the entire episode on Fox.

One thought: notice how Beck rails against money being the solution to poor schooling, but he interviews children who are actually victims of a disadvantageous funding scheme, one that is based upon an inherently unequal cut of property taxes as the basis for how public schools get their monies. As one of my White teachers in college said, if suburbanites really don't think that money matters in education ask them to send their kids to an underfunded, inner city school--then see what said parents response to that proposition is.

When I see Beck in this mode, he reminds me of Maury Povich: someone who feigns empathy all the while he holds a deep disdain, and an utter lack of empathy, for his guests:

Am I being unfair?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Updated--Let's Play the Conspicuous Negro Game! or One Black Fool Who Loves Him Some Tea Bagging...You Know There is Always One In Every Crowd

I was looking for the conspicuous negro--my own version of Where's Waldo--amongst the April 15th tea baggers (with a hope that I wouldn't find one). Alas, why must there always be one person of color willing to play poster child and pet for these Right Wing demagogues?

This lost soul was seen tea bagging outside the Bristol, County Courthouse in Bristol, Tennessee...Tennessee? one would think that being from the South he would know better.

Quick thought: doesn't he look like Apollo Creed from Rocky IV? Second thought: how many times will Fox News show this mascot as a way of insulating the April 15th "protesters" from the charge of being a group of right-wing, populist, racists?

Update: We have a second conspicuous negro amongst the sea of tea baggers. Doesn't he look like Tiger Woods' doppleganger? Are the tragic mulatto Canablasians actually fluffers for the tea baggers. And notice the smiling white guy in the background who feels like a good person because the crowd is "integrated"...thus alleviating his guilt.

Two bonus pics:

Why did they have to bring Homey the Clown into their xenophobia and racism? Don't these people have any decency? Aren't some things just off limits? Where will this end? Who's next, Mr. T?

Social science in action--the masses are indeed asses it seems--two irreconcilable issue positions held at one time (increasing spending, while cutting taxes).

It is a Tea Bagging April 15th! But When Are We Going to Have a Hot Carl for Glenn Beck Festivus for the Rest of Us?

It is tea bagging day! Are you celebrating this most wonderful of holidays by attending a tea bagging rally in your hometown or are you instead tea bagging at home with a loved one?

I must ask, what is next? A Cleveland steamer protest? A hotbox for Obama day? A give Congress a Dutch rudder march on Washington? A Cincinnati Bow tie for freedom? Maybe what the Right-Wing crowd really wants is for Obama to donkey punch them? Are the April the 15th tea baggers also playing their rusty trombones at the protests?

Sorry, I just couldn't resist...

I propose that as a counter protest all sensible folks sign a petition in order to inaugurate a new holiday--A Hot Carl for Glenn Beck Festivus for the Rest of Us. Has a ring to it, does it not?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Anti-Barack Obama Threat Pyramid: Homeland Security on Increased Alert for Right Wing Domestic Terrorists in the Age of Obama

Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean someone isn't actually after you...

When the government itself is releasing this information--an unclassified report no less--it does make one wonder what threats against Obama, our national security, and the common good that we are not privy to.

A quick question: If the unthinkable were to occur, would the Right-Wing media take ownership and admit any level of culpability or responsibility?


A choice excerpt from the Washington Time's piece "Federal Agency Warns of Radicals on Right"--

The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "rightwing extremist activity," saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.

A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "rightwing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.

"It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration," the warning says.

The White House has distanced itself from the analysis. When asked for comment on its contents, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, "The President is focused not on politics but rather taking the steps necessary to protect all Americans from the threat of violence and terrorism regardless of its origins. He also believes those who serve represent the best of this country, and he will continue to ensure that our veterans receive the respect and benefits they have earned."

The story continues here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Exposed! Glenn Beck's Intentional Lies and Distortions About the Progressive Movement Laid Bare

I am all for bringing extra guns (and bullets) to a gunfight--I don't ever want to lose for lack of shooting back. Frankly, it just isn't this respectable negro's style if you get my meaning. As demonstrated by my last post, I am disgusted by the April 15th, "we want to kill and depose our sitting president without having the nerve to explicitly say so nonsense." Therefore, I am left with no choice but to bring out some extra firepower to speak on the issue.

In this case, my call: you got my back? The response: hell yeah. The resolution: perfect.

Thus, I bring forth a guest post from one of our respectable negro allies, Wernor Herzog's Bear--someone who you all should be paying much closer attention to (if I do say so myself).

As we used to say re: Golden Age hip hop, this one is highly quotable:

The Abuse of History II: The Progressive Movement

In this installment of my series on the recent abuses of history in the right wing media, I'd like to address Glenn Beck's recent conflation of the American Progressive movement with fascism. The word "fascism" has long been rendered bereft of meaning due to its abuse by ideologues on both the Right and on the Left, but Beck and the far Right are now taking this abuse to another level. As I've already discussed in terms of Jonah Goldberg's atrocity of a book, the conservative attempt to call modern liberalism "fascist" rests on a giant raft of lies, distortions, and laughably facile connections. The moronic chain of reasoning usually works like this: Hitler wanted to limit smoking and so do liberals, and thus liberals are fascists. (Goldberg actually makes this connection in his book, believe it or not.) According to this logic, the American Lung Association must be staffed by a bunch of monocled, jack booted SS men.

We can take a similar example of distorted, willfully misleading reasoning in Beck's program last week. He tries to connect public anger towards the banking CEOs who ruined our financial sector with the situation in Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution, as if resentment and criticism of the wealthy is inherently Communist. Really Glenn? Here's a quick quiz, and try to guess who wrote or said the following quotations, answers provided below.

1. "The money power preys on the nation in times of peace, and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy."

2. "All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came."

3. "It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes.”

1. Abe Lincoln 2. Tom Paine 3. Andrew Jackson

I am most upset, however, at Beck's smearing of the Progressive movement and associating it and FDR with fascism because they expanded the role of government, contradicting Beck's "strict constructionist" worldview. (Although I'm not sure how waging an unprovoked war to change another nation's system of government fits into a limited view of the government's role.) Yes, what a bunch of horrible people those Progressives were, advocating things like child labor legislation, the ability for workers to organize, clean food and drug laws, lessening the power of political machines, the direct election of Senators, a more equitable taxation system, breaking up monopolies, and giving women the right to vote. How awful for them to respond to tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, where 146 women perished when they couldn't escape, by making factories provide unlocked fire exits. How dare these fascist Progressives put such onerous restrictions on a business' right to make money! Shouldn't women like Jane Addams have just stayed home and made babies instead of providing education to the poor of Chicago and helping to found troublesome organizations like the NAACP? That's what Glenn Beck's intellectual godfathers would have told her to do. They also opposed all of the political causes that I mentioned above.

Now, I would be the first to admit that the Progressive movement had its flaws. It could take an elitist attitude towards the people it claimed to help, it did relatively little to address the oppressive racism of the early twentieth century, and some prominent Progressives like Margaret Sanger subscribed to eugenics. Beck tries to use this latter fact to make one his many facile connections between fascism and Progressivism, since Hitler believed in eugenics as well. I don't want to excuse eugenicists of any political stripe, but all the same, eugenics was a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, and Hitler represented a particularly extreme and racist understanding of it. Most eugenicists wanted to limit the ability for certain "undesirables" to reproduce, but did not want to euthenize the mentally and physically ill (a ala Hitler), nor did they believe in the propagation of a "master race." Based on Beck's reasoning, Eisenhower would be a fascist for building the Interstate Highway System, because he was inspired by the German Autobahn.

Furthermore, when Beck tries to make "judicial activism" a Progressive tactic, he forgets that the courts in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era continually gave corporations the rights of individuals under the Fourteenth Amendment. Using a "strict constructionist" interpretation of contract law, they struck down all kinds of legislation regulating work hours (which could be 12-14 hours a day at that time) and child labor as limits on the "right of contract." At least "judicial activists" like Earl Warren used their power to overturn segregation rather than endorse it (as turn of the century jurists had in the infamous Plessey decision.)

Of course, through all of his rantings, Beck and his minions use the word "fascism" without understanding what it actually means. Fascism is a very particular political ideology, it is NOT merely a system with an authoritarian leader or a single political party. Here is a useful definition from historian of fascism Robert Paxton:

"a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

Other historians have crafted their own definitions of "generic fascism," but all point to extreme nationalism as the key ingredient. That being the case, labelling the avowed internationalist Woodrow Wilson a "fascist" actually calls him the OPPOSITE of what he really was. And is there anyone on the American scene these days pushing an "obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimbhood" more than Beck, who keeps telling his audience that they need to "take their country back" from shadowy elements? Beck's show is a veritable cavalcade of militant nationalism, singling out an amorphous "them" that is to blame for America's problems, a "them" that somehow includes America's enemies in World War II, modern day terrorists, and supporters of Barack Obama's agenda. Is there no more obnoxious cult of unity than the anti-immigrant monoculturalism spouted by his fake, distorted Tom Paine actor? I wouldn't call Beck a fascist, but his paranoid style, messianic nationalism, villification of "them," and implicit endorsement of extralegal violence makes me very uneasy.

And as long as Beck is playing the game of political genealogy, I think it's time to put his intellectual forbears under the microscope. He likes to connect his worldview to that of the "Founders," abusing the image of men like Thomas Paine in the process, but his brand of conservatism had many supporters in the 1930s. Even though he likes to compare FDR and his supporters to Nazis, they actually wanted to get involved with World War II in order to arrest fascism's spread. (Hence Woody Guthrie's famous "This Machine Kills Fascists" sticker and leftist Charlie Chaplin's satire of Hitler in The Great Dictator.)

The radical Right of that time, however, shared fascism's obsessive hatred of Communism, rampant paranoia, and even its noxious anti-Semitism. Henry Ford, that captain of industry and entrenched opponent of organized labor, was an avid reader of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion who maintained his business in Nazi Germany even after World War II began. The Beck of that era's radio waves, Father Coughlin, mixed "we surround them" populism with praise for Hitler and Mussolini and a healthy dose of anti-Semitism. In fact, FDR's most virulent opponents hatched a secret plot to overthrow him in a military coup, which begs the question, who are the fascists here?

Beck wants us to "learn from the past," but he spews forth an ideology that calls for America to return to the very Gilded Age miseries that the Progressive movement rescued us from. We've tried radical free market ideology in the past: it failed in the nineteenth century, it failed during the Roaring Twenties, and it failed more recently in the form of a financial collapse brought on by irresponsible deregulation. Like Plessey, unregulated slaughterhouses, "trusts," and male-only suffrage, Beck and his misbegotten ideas ought to be swept into the dustbin of history.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Glenn Beck, the April 15th "Tea Party", and Other Nonsense that Makes Me Want to Throw Up in My Mouth

We have something special planned regarding this Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Right-Wing, April 15th tea bagging, militia, seditious, race baiting nonsense in the near future.

For now, I am rendered speechless and I just may throw up in my own mouth:

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: The Thrilla in Manila, Ali and Frazier, and the Politics of Memory

HBO is airing a great special this weekend on the rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. This documentary, Thrilla in Manila, is exciting and noteworthy because it presents the epic battles between these two men from the under appreciated, and little spoken to point of view of Joe Frazier.

As I have noted many times, Muhammad Ali is one of my personal heroes. But, many forget how complicated and conflicted Ali the man, as opposed to the myth, actually was.

As the great book Ghosts of Manila details, Ali could be cruel, selfish, and mercurial. Thus, Ali-Frasier was so powerful a rivalry precisely because it was so intensely personal. To that point, Ali (as he also did with Foreman and Liston) was able to present himself as the "authentic" black man, while he portrayed his opponents as "Uncle Toms." Ironically, Ali trafficked in some of the worst racial stereotypes to demean his opponents, when in fact, Ali was much more privileged in his childhood and upbringing, and in this imaginary more "White", than either Liston, Foreman, or Frazier.

Not surprisingly, given that his show routinely features some of the most honest and real conversations about race in this country, this past week Howard Stern had a great discussion about the politics of black authenticity in the Ali-Frazier rivalry.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Some quick thoughts. One, while funny at the time, I would suggest in hindsight that there was indeed something pernicious and foul in Ali's calling Frazier a "gorilla" and a "monkey." Two, did you know that Ali spoke to a KKK rally where he reiterated their shared commitment to racial separatism? So, was Ali a hero or a villain? Or was he a little of both? Who was the real hero of the Ali-Frazier rivalry? Joe Frazier or Muhammad Ali?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Barack Obama--President, Product, and Salesman

A few weeks ago, I posted some pictures which highlighted the ways that Barack Obama's likeness and name have been used to endorse all manner of goods--fried chicken, hair care products, wigs, doo rags, etc. etc. etc. I also asked our readers to send us their best/worst examples of Obamamania run amok.

Sent to us by a loyal reader (a respectable white ally who braved the cold to attend Obama's inauguration), here are the first contributions to our online exhibit, Barack Obama: the Man, the Myth, and the Product.


Got to love the Barack Obama cardboard standup:

Did Martin Bernal approve of this image (I couldn't resist the joke)? Barack Obama: too strong! too Black! too Egyptian!

Tasting is indeed believing...I guess?

Shaka Zulu meets Barack Obama:

Keep those contributions coming folks!

Friday, April 10, 2009

We Are Respectable Negroes Flashback--the Color Matching Game Revisited: What’s Up With Waxy Michelle? Is She café-au-lait?

So exactly what shade of respectable negro is Michelle Obama? I would say Mocha-Mania.

Hat tip to the Root:

What’s Up With Waxy Michelle?

Madame Tussauds has immortalized the Obamas. Cool. But since when is Michelle café-au-lait?

No doubt about it, Michelle Obama’s on a roll right now, coming fresh off her triumphant G-20 It Girl World Tour: Hugging the Queen. Swarmed by schoolgirls in London. Air-kissing Carla Bruni Sarkozy. The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown asks, “Is Michelle the New Oprah?” and compares her to Princess Di. She’s been dubbed the hugger in chief, Mighty Michelle, a first lady whose popularity soars with a 72 percent approval rating. And now, she’s been immortalized in wax, standing right alongside her husband at Madame Tussauds in Washington, D.C.

The basic details of her face, though not quite pretty enough, are there: the curve of her nose, the almond tilt of the eyes, the radiant smile. Her normally bouncing bob is a little stiff, not surprising, since it’s a statue. The pearls are there, along with the trademark sleeveless dress and cardigan. All in all, it’s Michelle Obama.

But what’s up with the café-au-lait shading? The wax first lady looks a good couple of shades lighter than her biracial husband. She’s immortalized in a honey hue that has absolutely, positively, nothing to do with her richly mahogany reality...

The story continues here.


Our very own Gordon Gartrelle provides a helpful guide to answering this question (one far more handy than walking around all day with a paper bag against which to test one's hue).

I recently had my place painted, so I’ve been looking at nothing

I recently had my place painted, so I’ve been looking at nothing but color samples for weeks. As I pored over the bizarre but creative color names (lazy afternoon?), I had a stroke of inspiration.

Brilliant minds have wrestled with the implications of colorism in America, and we are grateful for their contributions. The problem? Their color distinctions aren’t stratified enough. What’s worse, these rough distinctions (e.g. “light, medium, dark”) have no flair.

Thus, in the spirit of Benjamin Moore and Wu Tang, we would like to provide a public service to Social Scientists and any others who may be interested in race: a formal, yet playful classification of black folks’ various hues, complete with punchy, memorable names. Who knows? Given our recent discussion about light-skinned educational and political elites, perhaps this classification tool can aid Affirmative Action for darker black folks:

Now that we have our color categories, I want to invite our readers to play The Matching Game. To play, simply choose a few black people who best represent each color and post them in your comments. We’ve suggested some prominent black people below. Of course, feel free to choose your own color representatives or create your own color categories. Early next week, we will reveal our lists (including where each of us falls on the color spectrum).

**Clarence Thomas**Morgan Freeman**Gwen Ifill**Biggie**Jasmine Guy** Jay Z **Soledad Obrien**Ben Jealous**Angela Bassett**Jesse Jackson**Reverend Wright** **Julian Bond** Don Cheadle**Lena Horne**Denzel Washington**50 Cent**Vin Diesel **Beyonce**Miles Davis **Harold Ford**Wesley Snipes**Muhammad Ali** Oprah **John McWhorter**Malcolm X**Nia Long**Angela Davis**Common**Will Smith **Stanley Crouch**Flava Flav** Michael Eric Dyson**OJ**Whoopie Goldberg/Lil Wayne (has anyone ever seen them both in the same room?)** Halle Berry**Michelle Obama **Barack Obama**

Gordon Gartrelle Offers Odds on the New Beyonce Movie "Obsessed."

I have to hand it to the makers of "Obsessed," the upcoming movie in which Beyonce plays a wife whose husband is stalked by a white coworker with whom he flirted. The creators of this movie certainly have their fingers on the pulse of black women’s anxieties…circa 1992.

What I learned from this trailer: black men cannot be trusted; the white woman is the black man’s kryptonite; white women are scheming and crazy.

I want to offer some odds on whether certain things will happen in this movie.

Odds that the phrase “strong black woman” appears in the movie: 50 to 1

Odds that Beyonce calls the white woman “bitch”: 5 to 4

Odds that Beyonce calls the white woman “white bitch”: 1000 to 1 (they don’t want to make this too overtly racial).

Odds that the black husband actually ends up sleeping with the white coworker: 15 to 1

Odds that Beyonce’s best friend (probably black) will tell her to drop her man: 35 to 1

Odds that one of the black characters says something like “I’m a successful exec; I’ve fought hard to make it”: 3 to 1

Odds that Beyonce has to offer the obligatory “this isn’t about race; it’s about respect” speech in an attempt to absolve the creators of charges of stoking the flames of racial hatred: 7 to 5

Odds that Beyonce says “don’t mess with my man” before she ends up killing or knocking out the white woman: 3 to 2

Odds that the police won’t do anything because the woman is white, blonde and attractive: 2 to 1

Odds that the sequel will be about a DL brotha stalking her man: 10 to 1

Odds that “Obsessed” will be any good: 200,000 to 1

Anybody else want to offer some odds?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Laid Off Corporate Types Discover That They Too Can Help Kill Hip Hop a Little Bit More or Instead of Falling Into a Rut, Busting Out a New Groove

As detailed by the New York Times story, "Instead of Falling Into a Rut, Busting Out a New Groove," it seems some laid off New Yorkers are paying money to "learn" how to become "Dee Jays."

"You don't get into the game to make money, you do it because you love music." This is the advice I received from a well known dj (who later became my mentor) when I talked to him about buying my first set of 1200's (I also had a really hard time at first and he told me that you have to get past being scared about doing badly because once you get over that fear you will grow, and eventually if you are lucky, you'll be good).

The other great bit of wisdom he shared was that you have to get over the fear of being embarrassed by doing badly at a show. Not all folks are going to dance, or even acknowledge your work. It can have nothing at all to do with you. Again, once you get this behind you, or as I did with a radio show I was not at all experienced enough to perform live on--I hope those tapes are lost to the ages--you won't have anything else to fear. Well, this is only a half-truth, as I once had a fader go wrong on me at a show that was being recorded for broadcast and I had to improvise by using the line inputs about embarrassing and nerve wracking.

Things have really changed it seems. The counter-culture will always become popular culture, and then eventually kitsch, as it descends into self-self-parody. The fact that these poor souls are paying money to get into the game is even more so troubling. Now, I don' t bemoan the fact that new arrivals want to pick up a "hobby" that is sacred to me. But, please don't cheapen it by comparing the ability to work as a mobile dj (i.e. a walking jukebox or human Ipod) with someone who has a real set of skills and can deploy them to tell a story musically, who "has paid their dues" in more ways than one, and has taken mastery of the craft that is musical storyteller seriously enough to understand that you are taking your audience on an emotional journey.

On the point of paying dues, how many of you literally remember paying dues by carrying dozens of heavy records (doubles when you could afford them) in your backpack or a cardboard box as you went from Downstairs Records to Rock and Soul to Beat Street to VP Records--help me out, what the hell was the name of the spot in the Bronx that had all of the exclusive gear from Nervous Records? And does anyone else remember Distributor's Records in Hamden, Connecticut? RIP "Rodge," the coolest 70ish year old, white, hip hop head I ever met. On that point, I can't hate on Cutlers as the staff there in the late 1980s and 1990s really knew their music, especially their classic house.

Please do not be mistaken, I am not a Luddite. Yes, I do understand the irony of traditionalists like myself complaining about the innovation of PC based DJ equipment, but the photo of two, fiftyish year old, former corporate types standing behind a MAC while they learn how to "scratch" and beatmatch (FYI you aren't blending if the computer is doing it for you) is a wonderful testimony to how technology can ruin the art and science of musical and expressive creativity.

One final thought: this story made me think of a great week I experienced in the summer of 2008 during which I had the chance to see Grandmaster Flash on a Monday, and DJ Kool Herc on a Friday. Being in the presence of these godfathers of hip hop was both exciting and depressing. To the former, the chance to just breath the same air and watch them at work was meaningful in a way common to any student who is reverential towards a master. To the latter, it was saddening to see Flash's opening act using PC based DJ equipment--seeing this was laden with symbolism as analog has given way to what is on average a far less rich, not as talented, nor as gifted cadre of digitally devoted, new upstarts.

In reflecting on Herc, while he used the standard tools of the trade, it hurt--yes hurt is the appropriate word--as he worked through the classics and tried to educate his audience about what hip hop was before hip hop was a genre called "hip hop":

Why? Herc's audience stood mute and totally disinterested in the lesson that they were receiving. Yet, when Herc bowed to the inevitable and played some Southern influenced, minstrelesque, crap hop the audience (comprised of mostly 20 year olds and teenagers) behaved as though it was the second coming. That night, hip hop died just a little bit more, a slow death of a thousand cuts, this once vibrant thing that the keepers of its flame cannot even keep alight.

The New York Times piece follows:

Instead of Falling Into a Rut, Busting Out a New Groove

Earl Wilson/The New York Times

At dubspot, from left, Marcia Levine, April White and Channing Sanchez are among those considering new careers as D.J.’s.

Channing Sanchez, who lost his job in January, has found a way to mix business with pleasure.

The director of operations at dubspot said that many new students were looking for something fun to do after being laid off.

Mr. Sanchez, 51, was a jewelry salesman at Tiffany & Co., on Fifth Avenue, for 23 years. After hearing what has become a familiar phrase — “You’re being laid off” — he put himself on a different sort of track to future employment: he is training to become a D.J.

“I used to spin records 30 years ago,” Mr. Sanchez, headset in hand, said the other day just before he began another session at a turntable. “Now that the stress of losing my job is gone, this a fun and creative way to make some extra money.”

Within minutes, Mr. Sanchez and several other aspiring D.J.’s were sliding into their stations to scratch records and mix songs at dubspot, an electronic music production and D.J. school in Manhattan, where enrollment — now 300 — has doubled since it opened last year, largely because of the economic downturn.

“I’m getting a lot of calls from people who are saying, ‘I just got my severance package, and this is something I have wanted to do my whole life,’ ” said Kelly Webb, dubspot’s director of operations. “In the midst of this economic crisis, some people have simply decided to go out and do what really makes them happy.”

That description certainly fits Tom Macari, 26, who was until last month an information technology manager at Frederic Fekkai in Manhattan.

“I used to D.J. at parties when I was 16, and I’m still young enough to get back in the business,” he said. “I used to mix records and CDs, but now most D.J.’s are downloading songs from computers, which is why I needed to take this course.”

Rob Principe, the founder and chief executive of Scratch DJ Academy in Manhattan, said that his company had also seen an increase in enrollment.

“This year as opposed to last, we are up 18 percent,” Mr. Principe said. “When the going gets tough, people tend to go back to things that they are really interested in doing, whether that is to pursue something like this as a hobby or as an alternate means of income.”

Dan Giove, the president and founder of dubspot, where a five-month course costs $1,695.00, said that a D.J., depending on experience and venue, can make anywhere from $50 to $1,000 an event.

“You can absolutely make a living as a D.J.,” he said. “In fact, we are seeing some of our students going out there and finding themselves decent-paying gigs.”

Mr. Giove pointed to April White, a 30-year-old account supervisor at a public relations firm in Manhattan who is so worried about losing her job that she has already put Plan B in motion.

“I’ve been gigging like mad,” said Ms. White, who has been working at bars and other event spaces around the city, including at a bar called Mr. West, where she was spinning her vinyl one evening.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wow!!! Zora, Our Very Own Negress, Makes Her Debut on the New York Times Column the Opinionator

[Insert slow clap or slap to the haters and easily offended]

Zora, our own respectable negress got some shine from The New York Times on Tuesday with her post, "What America Really Wants is a National Mammy."

Some choice comments from the readers of said journal of record (Eric, we do appreciate you giving us some is much appreciated)--Zora knows how to rile folks up it seems!

I liked this article a lot. Although I don’t follow fashion much, I’m one of those 70some percent who adore Michelle Obama, which makes me wonder why in god’s name Zora would assume that the mainstream is uncomfortable because of Michelle’s “negritude.” And what’s with all the “WASP,” and “mammy” lingo? I realize racism still exists, but sheesh…some people just don’t realize how out of touch this embattled perspective is. America loves their new president and his beautiful, intelligent wife and yes, some Americans are having to redefine their view of black women, but I’d also like to think that in turn some black women could redefine their view of America.

— colortheory

Well, I guess I’m in the “good, middle-class Negress,” category according to Zora, but what a condescending way to refer to people whose lives helped make Michelle Obama’s First Ladyship possible. I arrived in Baden-Baden, London, Paris, etc. as a representative of the U.S. nearly 30 years before Barack and Michelle did and, yes, I was wearing something by a mainstream designer. I had to give a damn what people thought because there were no E.E.O. requirements for international jobs back then and probably still aren’t. Fortunately for me, my field — international technical standards — was inclined to make appointments based on merit, since it mattered. However, well aware I was a first in every way, you betcha I covered my arms and kept to mainstream fashions (which I also happen to like). Because of those who paved the way, Michelle Obama is now in a position to wear whatever she chooses. As long as her heart and mind remain as open, kind and honorable as they are, I could care less what she has on. The rest of us will just have to keep Vera and Donna and Calvin and Oscar busy for her.


I enjoyed this article save for the last few paragraphs. Who pray tell is looking for a “national mammy”? We’ve elected an African American president, let it be over!! The first couple is hugely popular, why would anyone revert to these stereotypes? The country has indicated they are ready to move on, are you with us Zora or are you going to hold everyone back?

— kate dimmock

Isn’t it kinda racist to call Oprah a “mammy”?

— yo

Uh. Michelle doesn’t look like a middle class black with her conservative sheathes and straightened hair? She looks very corporate to me.

I’m not complaining. I think she looks great and certainly don’t think major labels represent anything interesting but please, let’s not act like she’s breaking any new fashion ground.

And frankly, I think she looks like a lot of first ladies, very corporate. She’s just taller than most of them. Height does not make you a more powerful person.

Also, to suggest that one of the most powerful women, most powerful people really in media today is a mammy figure.

Other than a shared weight problem, exactly how? The problem all first ladies share is clearly the problem all women share, we confuse physical appearance with personal worthiness.

And as a final aside, I don’t think most Americans share the impressions of the bloggers either way of Michelle Obama.

— nSH

amazing this michelle. all her pretty dresses, husband president living in the white house. maybe finally this woman can really say she is proud to be an american, and we really arent all that mean!!!! give me laura any day.
— claire

It’s unfortunate that degree of “Blackness” have to be measured. Comparing Oprah Winfrey with the First Lady? Why do you put Black women into such a confined box? YOU’RE putting the ceilings on them, Zora.

And please, if you think that people of all colors aren’t content and comfortable with Michelle Obama- at some 70% approval rating- you obviously are missing the greater consensus of America.

Just let her be herself without making her better-than or worse-than anyone else.

— Julia

“If Michelle were overweight and outwardly insecure about her Negritude (ala Oprah Winfrey…”‘

I’m not sure what the author means by this but, the notion that Oprah Winfrey is “outwardly insecure about her Negritude,” is laughable. As for the rest of it, Obama is a stunning woman even if she sometimes gets it wrong. (Could it be she has other, more important things on her mind?) Nevertheless, she is beloved by the public, no matter what she’s wearing. So enough with the articles that try to convince us that she has bad taste. Give it a rest. To paraphrase the late Mae West, Carla Bruni is a model, Michelle Obama is the real thing.

— Yvonne

Gordon Gartrelle Reflects on the History Fair

I recently served as a judged for the History Fair city finals. The experience was both rewarding and depressing. Here are a few observations and reflections about the experience:

1.) I was disappointed that very few black kids made it the finals, but was happy that the handful of black kids who did make it had the most family members and supporters in attendance.

2.) Had my office not come to represent, there wouldn’t have been any black judges.

Why don’t/can’t more black kids and adults participate in this enriching experience?

3.) It was great to see young people so passionate about history that they would spend months researching their topics.

4.) A surprising number of the entries offered little to no evidence and contained claims that were flat out wrong. Not just wrong in a “they’ll learn a more complicated version when they get to college” way, but inexcusably wrong.

How in the hell did these projects make it to the finals?

What kind of teachers would allow their students to submit these claims?

5.) One of the entries was so raggedy, I was embarrassed for the students. In addition to the history being wildly inaccurate and there being unacceptable typos, the project presented the life and death of an iconic black figure with Tiger Beat style lettering and designs (it wouldn’t have been out of place for the “i”s to be dotted with hearts). I had hoped that the students who made it were not black, but part of me just knew that they were. I was wrong. They were white girls—negrophiles, but white girls nonetheless.

What does it say about my perception of the state of black urban education that I assumed these students were black?

6.) 80% of the entries I judged were about black historical figures, but none of these entries were created by black students. Several of the entries made problematic assumptions about black people. When the students turned out to be white, these assumptions became even more pernicious in my eyes.

Was I wrong for judging these white kids’ assumptions about black people more harshly than I would had these kids been black?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Zora Says: What America Really Wants is a National Mammy

She's statuesque, confident, self-defined, beautiful and black. Pobrecita. What an unfortunate combination of qualities for Michelle Obama to carry, for they seem to stand in the way of the mainstream's ability to feel completely comfortable with her as America's first lady. Folks are still struggling to understand her (and to define her) because she is so unlike any other Black woman on the national and international stage. One "tired" and superficial way of managing this is by focusing on her appearance.

If Michelle were overweight and outwardly insecure about her Negritude (ala Oprah Winfrey), America would likely embrace her more affectionately as our own. She would be heralded as our national Mammy. Yes, she would still get some digs; but the scrutiny of her appearance wouldn't be nearly as great. We've seen mammies before and we are comfortable with them. Instead, we don't quite know what to do with Michelle Obama. The problem is that she does not confirm the WASP woman as an ideal -- neither by fitting into the stereotype of the loud, overweight black woman nor by being the good, middle-class Negress who conforms to the norms of white women.

The issue with Michelle Obama is that she is not only comfortable with her body, but she also seems to like it. Michelle dresses to accentuate a body that she is obviously proud of. Her clothing is cut to show off toned arms, shapely legs and womanly hips. She wears bold colors that complement her dark skin and make her stand out in a crowd. She favors designers who are American but who are not necessarily designing for a white elite. From the beginning, it has been clear that Michelle Obama asks herself two questions when she gets dressed: What do I like? and What looks good on me?

Our first lady doesn't wear dowdy pantsuits to cover her hips or mid-section. She doesn't don black, brown or grey ensembles to facilitate her disappearance into the background. She passes up non-threatening pastels. She doesn't seem to concern herself with what others might be wearing. She seems to give a damn about what others might find proper.

A recent Women's Wear Daily article criticized Michelle Obama for not patronizing the major American designers. The author deemed her unpatriotic: "Save for a recent digression to Michael Kors, Obama continues to show zero interest in the big guns of American fashion, those whose names resonate around the world, and who collectively employ thousands of people." If you consider the style and advertising of the "big guns," it should not be surprising that Obama isn't flocking to them. Designers such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Oscar De La Renta and even Carolina Herrera have centered their aesthetic on a WASP ideal. (The biggest irony has always been that none of those major designers are even remotely Anglo-Saxon or protestant.) Their preferred base of consumers is located within eight or nine blocks on the upper-East side of New York City. Other than stylized conformity, what do they have to offer our first lady?

The truth is that Michelle Obama isn't particularly daring in her fashion choices. If you move past the colors, prints, and independent labels, her clothing is actually conservative. Thus, her preference for J.Crew. The hemlines are low and the cuts are classic. Stylistically, the comparison to Jackie O. is more than fair.

While Michelle Obama clearly owns her own image and makes her own choices (for better or for worse), observers are quick to credit fashionista Ikram Goldman with the first lady's style. Of course, our worldly, educated first lady has no means of knowing on her own about designers like Watanabe, Alaia, Thakoon and Toledo. The thought seems to be that she is, after all, only a black girl from the south-side of Chicago. One writer argues in response to a New York Times blog posting, "It is oddly , and you guys will go up in arms when I say this, as though everyone knows better what this unsophisticated (in the fashion sense of sophistry) woman of color should do and wear. The CFDA and it’s senior members feel it’s their domain to teach Michelle the ropes. You never heard them doing the same with the other non women of color who inhabited the White House. There was a bit of nagging Hillary to clean herself up, but nothing to this degree. It smacks of a very insidious form of racism." Another writes, "This idea that THEY know best and Mrs. O can’t figure this out on her own is silly. The attitude underlying this is a general one about BLACK WOMEN in the fashion industry (note, I didn’t say women of color)."

I have always said that racism is about the power to define and to other. The focus on Michelle Obama's appearance is a last ditch effort on the part of some to assert power over her, to sum up her worthiness on the basis of her looks. It is taboo to openly talk about her race, so they resort to focusing on the loud colors, the "big Butt," the "massive arms," etc. Give it up folks! It's not working. Michelle Obama and millions of other black women around the world could give a damn about what you think. Your norms are not ours. It is your problem if you can't engage us based on what is in our minds rather than what is on our behinds. What is unfortunate is that the more Obama resists the criticism, the greater the efforts will be to tear her down. Her appearance should not be on her list of battles.