Thursday, July 22, 2010
What is the only thing missing? A song to accompany this tale.
I am lucky to have talented friends who go out of their way to support my hair-brained schemes and impulsive ideas. Courtesy of LGOLDEN, guitarist and singer who has performed at such venues as Toad's Place in New Haven, Connecticut, I proudly present "The Ballad of Shirley Sherrod":
A Peak into the Conservative Imagination: Ms. Sherrod's Speech Was Most Certainly Not About Transcending Racism
Given our country's struggle against white supremacy in order to make whole the central contradictions of the founding and the Constitution-- and how race is as Gunnar Myrdal famously labeled the central American dilemma--moments such as the harassment of Henry Louis Gates Jr. by the Cambridge police, and now the saga of Shirley Sherrod, are lightening rods for our ideological and political divisions. In the case of the latter, to most reasonable folk it seems a cut and dry case where a good person was unfairly maligned by a political opportunist for the purpose of a cheap win in a game of race baiting politics where the bogeyman of "reverse racism" was the weapon of choice. Apparently, not so on the other side of the partisan aisle.
This is only one data point among many that will come into being in the aftermath of the Shirley Sherrod debacle. Nevertheless, it is quite telling for how despite the facts in the Vox Populi Conservative imagination, it is the NAACP and Shirley Sherrod who are the villains and smear merchant Andrew Breitbart who is the victim.
From the National Review:
I've been too busy to get into this, but I finally watched the unabridged Shirley Sherrod speech this morning. I also listened to Mark Levin's interview of Brent Bozell (the "audio rewind" can be accessed here; Mark's interview of Brent is the second and third segment of last night's show (i.e., click on July 21)).
It's all well and good to say Andrew Breitbart should have done more due diligence, or that his source should not have edited out important parts of the tape. As I've noted before, when taped or transcripted statements get presented to juries in litigation, we rely on the "rule of completeness": if one side plays or reads a part of the statement that the other side claims is misleading, that other side gets to present whatever parts of the full statement are necessary for context. This way, the jury has an accurate sense of what the speaker was saying. Clearly, there were parts of the tape left on the cutting room floor that should have been considered in conjunction with the parts Andrew published — and knowing Andrew, he would have published them if he'd had them. (By contrast, the NAACP did have the full speech, but threw Ms. Sherrod under the bus anyway.)
All that said, I don't understand the sudden pendulum swing in the other direction. Now, in Take Two, we are to understand that Ms. Sherrod was not exhibiting racism. Instead, "taken in context," we're told, she is actually a heroic figure who has transcended the racist views that, given the terrible things she saw growing up in the South, were understandable.
Okay, but how come it is not incumbent on the folks who are pushing the revised narrative (and slapping Andrew around over the old one) to account for the Sherrod gem below (which begins a little after the 22 minute mark in her speech)?
For context: She is talking about how the evil "people with money," beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries (i.e., around the founding of our republic), created a still existing system designed to institutionalize racism against black people while simultaneously keeping poor whites and poor blacks divided. All highlighting is mine:
So that's when they made black people servants for life. That's when they put laws in place forbidding them [i.e., blacks and whites] to marry each other. That's when they created the racism that we know of today. They did it to keep us divided. And they — It started working so well, they said, "Gosh, looks like we've come upon something here that could last generations." And here we are, over 400 years later, and it's still working.
What we have to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us. The only difference is that the folks with money want to stay in power and whether it's healthcare or whatever it is, they'll do what they need to do to keep that power, you know. [Applause] It's always about money, ya'll. [Applause and murmurs of agreement.] You know. I haven't seen such a mean-spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. [Mumurs of agreement.] Some of the racism we thought was buried — [someone in the audience says, "It surfaced!"] Didn't it surface? Now, we endured eight years of the Bushes and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black president. [Applause]
I wanted to give you that little history, especially the young people, I want you to know they created it, you know, not just for us, but we got the brunt of it because they needed to elevate whites just a little higher than us to make them think they were so much better. Then they would never work with us, you know, to try to change the situation that they were all in.
So, in Sherrod World, mean-spririted, racist Republicans do nasty things that "we" would never do because we have a president who, being black, is above that stuff. Still, we have-nots need to band together for "change" because a cabal of haves, desperate to keep their power, is still imposing their centuries old capitalist system of institutionalized racism — the same racism that courses through the Republican Party and surfaces on "us versus them" issues like healthcare.
Pardon me, but I think I'll stay off the Canonize Shirley bandwagon. To me, it seems like she's still got plenty of racial baggage. What we're seeing is not transcendence but transference. That's why the NAACP crowd reacted so enthusiastically throughout her speech.
With an ever-expanding federal bureaucracy assuming overlord status in what used to be private industry and private matters, are we supposed to feel better that this particular bureaucrat's disdain, though once directed at all white people, is now channeled only toward successful white people ... most of whom — like successful black people — worked very hard to become successful? Are we supposed to forget that when the Left says, "It's always about the money," you don't have to have a whole lot of money to find yourself on the wrong side of their have/have-not equation? Are we supposed to take comfort in having our affairs managed by bureaucrats who see the country as a Manichean divide beset by institutionalized racism?
contrite [kənˈtraɪt ˈkɒntraɪt]
This may be a controversial choice on my part. But what the hell, the joy of these Internets is the freedom to speak one's mind--with little (or much) consequence. I have much to offer in the upcoming days on The Saga of Shirley Sherrod--some guest posts, a "big" piece, and some random thoughts that will hopefully be worth your time.
In this moment, Shirley Sherrod is our virtual Rosa Parks. And Lord 'cause it must be said, I hope she sues the hell out of Fox and Breitbart for slander. But, there is another half of the story, one oddly fitting given Mrs. Sherrod's theme of race and racial reconciliation.
Today, upset, grumpy, and fired up on a hot Chicago afternoon without a/c in my den, I watched a breaking news story where Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a minor cabinet official whom I have never seen before on television, called a press conference and apologized for preemptively pressuring Shirley Sherrod to resign from her job with his department. I must admit: I watched open mouthed and quite surprised.
He didn't whitewash his misdeeds. Vilsack didn't backtrack. He owned his behavior and the errors he made in firing a good, hard working, public servant.
We extol folks for great deeds. But oftentimes, greatness is not defined by charging a machine gun, fighting off racist cops during Jim Crow, or leading slaves to freedom. Strength and honor can come from doing the right thing when it is profoundly inconvenient. In that spirit, I nominate Tom Vilsack as my respectable negro of the week (because he did the right thing when it would have been easier to have done wrong...and yes it is a given that Shirley Sherrod is in my personal hall of fame). For me, Vilsack's press conference is the very definition of being contrite and professional. Moreover, Tom Vilsack committed a near cousin to seppuku, in an age where cowardice is common and sport, his deeds today were indeed special, unique, and worthy of a pat on the back and a firm, eye locked hand shake between brothers.
Ultimately, in the quasi post-racial age of Obama, for a white man of some decades to get on television and admit that we still have work to do on race (in his own bureau) and to say "my bad" earns a handshake from me. Racial progress does not always come from the loudest, the most vocal, or those who march in the street. Contrary to those seeking the dramatic, often, it is the work of folk of all colors, doing the correct thing quietly (or in this case before millions), with dignity and little acknowledgment that moves mountains sometimes by an inch, and sometimes by miles. These folks do the good and the moral because these deeds are simply the right thing to do. An awkward sentence, but one true to the story of race and progress in this country and the triumphs of the Black Freedom Struggle.
Pray tell. Am I being too forgiving?
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Boo hoo once more at the absurd claim that white folks are seemingly the newest victims of discrimination and racism in America.
Did you know that white people are oppressed in America? That the NAACP is a “racist” organization? And that white people, in particular white Conservatives, routinely suffer grievous discrimination in these United States at the hands of the Obama administration? I didn’t until I started watching Fox News and listening to Right-wing talk radio.
It would seem that the voice of a few, amplified by a 24 hour Right wing propaganda machine, can indeed make a mountain out of a molehill. Here, Fox News can magnify caricatures such as the New Black Panther Party into perpetrators of high crimes and misdemeanors. Limbaugh et al. can reframe the NAACP as being a hate organization. And if one were to listen to Glenn Beck, there is a grand conspiracy against "ordinary" "hard-working" White Americans that only he (as the rechristened Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) can save them from. In this long hot summer of race baiting by conservatives, we can add the bullying and subsequent resignation of Shirley Sherrod, a "racist" USDA official, to the list of the Right's short-term triumphs as they fight for a truly "colorblind" America.
Unfortunately, as long as it continues to pay dividends in the form of low hanging fruit, the news frame of white conservative victimology will predominate for the foreseeable future--where it serves as a distraction from the real issues imperiling our country's future.
Nuance and context were slain long ago by opinion based journalism and the rise of the 24 hour news cycle. There is no longer room for the delicate, for facts, or details that would suggest a news item is not as sensational as it would first appear. In the case of Shirley Sherrod, a person's career is now over precisely because of how race has become a spectacle, and the media replay a thin and tired narrative, one more than a century old, where white folks are portrayed as the real victims of racial discrimination in America.
I must ask a provocative question: What did Shirley Sherrod do that was so wrong? If one does some research, they would easily discover that she actually assisted a white farmer who had come to her seeking aid. Moreover, the moral of her speech, presented in heavily edited fashion by Fox News, was how class actually unites us, and where race is an illusion that separates folks of common concern and interest.
Let's be frank. As a practical matter, Shirley Sherrod was a bureaucrat faced with a condescending, quite likely embarrassed white farmer who had to ask a black woman (of all people, the horror...an experience that my fellow members of the coloured professional classes can certainly relate to) for assistance. She chose to offer the white farmer help, initially not going beyond the call of duty--but rendering the required amount of assistance--and also referred him to legal counsel. We may disagree about the level of professionalism she demonstrated in that first encounter, but once more how does a choice, one made some two decades before (and since resolved positively) reveal anything about Shirley Sherrod in the present?
To point. One more inconvenient data point excluded by the Right-Wing echo chamber in their witch hunt for Shirley Sherrod: the family of the white farmer in question has come out in her defense and praised the assistance she has given them over the years.
Most troubling is how context and history will be reimagined in this moment. The USDA has a long history of discrimination against black and female farmers. In fact, they settled a billion dollar lawsuit to make amends for the persistent harm done to farmers of color and women by that bureau's racist and sexist policies. Given the myopia and selective memory common to the Right and enabled by its media machine, one story of a black bureaucrat's choice to help a white farmer (and do not forget that she actually assisted him) will become the dominant, uncontested narrative, as opposed to the real racism and sexism--structural, persistent inequality and disadvantage--experienced by the plaintiffs who sued the USDA.
There is also a powerful irony in the Right wing's discovery of white victimhood. Beyond the absurd claims of anti-white racism or "reverse discrimination" (what are Orwellian new speak like oxymorons) the very people screaming the loudest about anti-white bigotry are the same people that consistently dismissed claims of prima facie racism against people of color. Racial minorities were told to "get over it," that they were imagining things. "So what if there is racism just work harder and stop complaining." Or my favorite, that black and brown folks should "stop playing the race card."
Funny, it seems that white conservatives have rediscovered their religion. Its name? The politics of grievance and identity. Born of Jim Crow and slavery, it was refined as Nixon's Southern strategy, used by Reagan and Bush, and was the patina and timbre of the McCain Palin campaign against Barack Obama. I wonder though, why doesn't the Right, and its aggrieved white membership, follow the same advice that they so generously gave to others?
And ultimately one must ask the obvious: If the roles were reversed, and a white bureaucrat made the same choices about a black farmer, how would the Right twist themselves into a knot defending him or her?
Monday, July 19, 2010
I love turning a premise on its head. Given that Mark Williams was working in what was essentially race minstrelsy in his dig at the NAACP, let's use his logic to skewer the New Right and the Tea Party instead.
So the Tea Party has repudiated unapologetic bigot Mark Williams, author of the notorious "Letter to Abraham Lincoln from 'the Coloreds.'" Remember, politics is chess. It is not checkers. I don't trust these neo-John Birchers to act in the interest of justice, intelligence, wisdom or the like for that is against their modus operandi. Moreover, white racial resentment is the fuel and fire for the Tea Party, so one must ask "Why repudiate Mark Williams now? What is to be gained? Will this 'rebranding' help legitimize the Tea Party?"
Thus, I have been asking myself the following: What was the conversation like between black conservative
So then, let us indulge our imaginations as we reconstruct that conversation:
The Tea Party: Hi boy. How are you feeling today? You know we love you, don't you?
David Webb: Yessa sir. I knows how much you loves us poor negroes. You is good white folk. I be know that.
The Tea Party: So we have a problem. We brought you and other minorities into our family for a reason. Michelle Malkin, Alan Keyes, Kenneth Gladney, Shelby Steele, and you fit into this grand American project because you have the courage to do things we cannot. You all are special. You good minority Americans know that right? Be our friends and we will take care of that. Got me?
David Webb: Oh yes. Oh yes sir my boss man! We be workin' for you good white people all's the time! I ain't a common niggrah like those other ones. I be a good one. What you needs me to do? Please, I will do whatever you be asking!
The Tea Party: Which way does trouble roll?
David Webb: I be understand that stuff. It be going downhill sir. I learned that lesson real good so many years ago!
The Tea Party: You are a good black Conservative. Excellent. You do pay close attention to your lessons. Okay then. You are going to appear on the tv and condemn Mark Williams.
David Webb: Condemn? You mean like condom? What a man puts on his pee pee to keep the baby making juice from coming out?
The Tea Party: No, I mean that we tell them they are bad people.
David Webb: I get's that pretty easy. I am a good house negro. I am no rapscallion runway with that touch of the rascality. I am a good black conservative. I like you. I don't cause no trouble. Whatever it be you want I is gonna help you.
The Tea Party: I love you. White folk love you. You know that right?
David Webb: Oh yes! I knows you loves me. What do I need to say on that there talking box with the pictures you smart people call the television?
The Tea Party: Say that Mark Williams is a bad white man and that we good white patriots in the Tea Party are not racists. Can you do that?
David Webb: Oh yes sir. Oh good Lord I know that to be true! Lordie Jesus I be dons't able to do that. I will even put on my good white people voice. I can be reals smart when you all let me. The good white folk won't even know what is going on! They will be so happy to see me. But massa I can't be vouching for how those darkies and bad niggrahs in the fields will be criticizing me. They may see through the whole bamboozle! I be scared. I know you promised to reward me for being a good house negro but I don't want no troubles. I is scared...
The Tea Party: Know your place boy. Have we ever failed you? Are those coloreds who work with us taken care of?
David Webb: Absolutely mister! We got good jobs. Kenneth Gladney, Lloyd Marcus, even Dr. King's niece she be mighty happy on that good white man Glenn Beck's show. Her uncle such a bad colored, now she be trying to do right. I hope she can fit things right to be makin' up for her uncle's sins. That bad Dr. King was such a disobedient black against the good white man. It made me and my kin so sad.
You knows I be sorry for questionin' you. I get out my place sometime. I know that Glenn Beck and you will take care of me. I is scared sometime is all. Us coloreds we get scared 'cause we ain't got the courage of the white man.
The Tea Party: Good boy. That lazy unqualified Clarence Thomas is doing good isn't he?
David Webb: Oh massa he is! You be right! If he can make it I know I can!
The Tea Party: Excellent. You know the way to get even with and neutralize those liberal whites and those NAACP negro trouble makers is to set black against black. So, those liberals in the media will send a colored against you when you go on the television. Do what we say and you will be fine. Trust me you will be rewarded. Be our mouthpiece and all things will be fine. Understand boy?
David Webb: Yes sir! I get's you! This be so great, I can't wait to go on that big talking picture show with the box and condemn, that is how you be done say it right?, that bad white man Mark Williams. This be so good.
The Tea Party: Negro watch your place. Don't you ever ever ever talk bad about no White man! Don't you ever!
David Webb: I's is sorry. I know's we be on the same team. Sometimes I get's excited and uppity is all. That happens to we negroes. Can't help it. We be too emotional. I will do a good job. Not to mouthy or sharp tongued just good enough. I will make it clear he be a good white man. Maybe he just a bit confused and how you be saying, "misdirected," that is a mouthful for a negro like me. Does that be okay? Please say yes? We black conservatives just want to please you boss...
The Tea Party: Good boy. You know your place. Do that interview and we good white Tea Party folk will change up our game! You colored tea baggers are good people. Real good. You make our lives so much easier. I hope you know that. Just keep being good and we will reward you.
David Webb: As long as there be sunshine I be taking in those rewards. We love how you good white folk pat us on the head and let us know we be good. I be dons't showin' that bad white man Mark Williams that he is a racist and then you good folk will reward us black conservatives! Sure 'nuff we be eatin' high on the hog tonight, I ain't never leavin' the white man's plantation! Thanks you boss for being such a good massa! We black conservatives love you all 'cause you let us be special!
The Tea Party: Good boy. Good boy. It best you know your place and you will be rewarded as you know. Now go back to your work cleaning those toilets and mopping our floors and we will call you when you are needed again. But don't you get's too far out of our sight cause you coloreds, even conservatives like that Michael Steele have a tendency to roam. Boy, don't you forget your slave pass. Not ever...
David Webb: I got's my pass right here. But boss you be knowing I don't need it, I am mighty comfortable right here on our plantation and in our big house 'cause you do takes such good care of us.
The Tea Party: We do. That we do.
David Webb: Oh yessa that be correct. Thank you massa and I be at your beck and call like all the other good black conservatives when you be calling on us! We lives to serve, that we do!
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Brother X-Squared, Black Radical Genius, Speaks on The New Black Panthers, Voter Intimidation, and the Obama Administration
The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) in partnership with the website The Intersection of Madness and Reality is proud to bring you the latest installment in our recurring series of interviews with Brother X-Squared, president of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party. As you know, Brother X-Squared has become a legendary force on the Internet following his stunning debut on WARNNN last year. In this latest installment in our series with Brother X-Squared, The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network has decided to hand the reigns over to Brother Rippa, founder of The Intersection of Madness and Reality for a special expose on Brother X-Squared's relationship with The New Black Panther Party, President Obama, and the Department of Justice.
RIPPA: It's good to finally catch up with your Brother X-Squared; it's really been tough. In particular I wanted to have a chat about the situation concerning the New Black Panther Party's Philadelphia chapter. Are you familiar with their voter intimidation case? The very case that has been dropped by the DOJ?
Brother X-Squared: It is good to speak with you again. As I always have to do with that sad respectable Negro Chauncey DeVega, I need to correct your questions as well. You are growing in knowledge, but like many confused captive Nubians you do not understand the power of words. First, what of this "catch up" and "tough" that you speak of? Brother X-Squared is a leader of men. I am in the front line of intellectual battle with the evils of the White Man in America and his colored supplicants--yes I am talking about Obama and his minions--I don't have to catch up to anything. It is the world that is behind Brother X-Squared. "Tough" is a word that implies that there is weakness to be overcome. Brother X-Squared and the other saved New Black Men in America have never been weak.
Weakness is for the sagging hip hop coon show minstrel hoppers and those basketball chasing negroes who follow Lebron James and the NBA...what I call the "nigger ball association" because they are a bunch of million dollar slaves. The fools obsessed with that nonsense are similarly brainwashed! We have black people that know nothing of their history and don't even know how much money they have in their checking accounts who can wax poetic about all manner of stupidity and sports. Most sadly, we have black queens who will lay with these sad humanzees because of their knowledge of basketball or how well they play some foolish sports related video game. All of which is tricknology that the White man has laid for the unsaved Black man in America. You don't need Willie Lynch, another lie perpetrated by the White man by the way, to hold down the captive negro. No, just give him a basketball and ESPN.
I am familiar with the case against the quote unquote New Black Panthers. What a joke, a fraud, a game. And of this, and damn, the white man has so much power in language he even studies it with a field called sociolinguistics--but you simple negroes know nothing of such things--the idea of voter and intimidation being applied to black people is a con. With this country's history of lynching, violence, rape, murder, and the denial of voting rights to the Black Man--the White devils even had to add a clause to their wicked Constitution to give us the right to vote which they then denied for a century or so--the thought that a Black person could even intimidate a white person is a laugh! A joke! A farce!
Once more and again language shows it power. DOJ equals Department of Justice! Whatever. Is there any justice in America for the captive black man and his radical brown, red, and yellow brothers? Answer my question Brother Rippa? Is there! And don't you dare lie...
RIPPA: Well, we can get into a lengthy discussion about "justice" and the black man in America, but I rather not. Instead, let's stick to the subject at hand. I must say Brother X-Squared, you seem a bit more animated than usual. Is this voter intimidation case more personal for you because it centers on the New Black Panther Party? I mean you said a mouthful just now, but let's be honest: this is 2010, I'm not sure if they actually do poll taxes anymore anywhere in America these days. Your thoughts?
Brother X-Squared: Hmmmm, it would seem that your case of draptomania has returned. Especially in your use of evil and twisted language such as "poll tax." You don't even know the history of that word, how the black man was abused as though on a poll by white America and then taxed for having the nerve to even breath the air. Sick. So sick this society is.
But, seeing that we have much to discuss I will defer. This New Black Panther story is the white man pulling the nigger cotton over your collective eyes. You see the white man is a master of strategy and tactics. So many of the devils use what is called subterfuge to get their way. Two of those wicked white Europeans, one named Clausewitz, and the other you know, Napoleon--who had a tiny little penis by the way which explained his megalomania--preached that you have to distract your foe and then you can hit them when you are ready.
Just like with that mess with those Russian spies, you see the white man's FBI and CIA, just like they did with Cointelpro in the 1960s were on to those Russians and let them keep doing their mess. This way they learned about the big plans the Russians had in store. This is why I will not play the white man's game. By presenting all of your information it empowers him to distract, control, and trick you into working for his ends! So deep this is, like the wisdom of the ancient Nubians who invented chess. We must think 10, 20, 50 steps ahead if we are to win. Sadly, so many captive negroes only think about tomorrow while they play simple games like Spades and Craps or sing Karaoke at ghetto bars. Pathetic.
Have you seen those quote unquote New Black Panthers. Old men with sticks wearing tired uniforms! Brother X-Squared disavows them! They are unwittingly being used as a pawn by the white man.
They get all this mess and controversy started about white people being victims as a pretext to the real evil! Brother X-Squared has foreseen this: there is a white backlash against that halfrican Obama. Those white sick sex freak tea baggers and militia types egged on by those drug addicts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck...two true deviants who will be caught one day with dead children in the trunks of their cars...are trying to incite violence against Black people. It is called eliminationism. The right wing Fox news types drink it in everyday of their lives. They want to eliminate their foes by any means necessary!
Brother X-Squared is ready. I say come for me, although I know they won't because the white man is a natural coward, and we will settle this in battle.
RIPPA: But Brother X-Squared, the same white folks you speak ill of as it relates to this case are raising hell! They're not too happy that the first Black president and his sidekick Eric Holder took a stand and decided to drop the charges against the New Black Panther Party. Doesn't that count for something? Can America's first Black president at least get some credit? Is he not worthy?
Brother X-Squared: Again, you must be in jest. Do not waste your time trying to figure out the twisted minds of white people. You see for the real power brokers the only thing that matters is money! The color green oh yes! The Bilderbergs, the IMF, all those folks don't care about countries, or borders. They care about power. You see they know, because the White man is my enemy but he is oh so devious and smart...never underestimate him...that he can put those dumb tea bagger conservative white people (with the help of their slave catching coon Republican assistants against each other....never trust a Black Conservative! Never! They are sick in the way that Frantz Fanon discussed) by talking about black people. Then as always, they don't see how their social betters are destroying them. Did you know that the top 5 percent of people own 90 percent of the wealth in the good ol' us of a! Ha! What sort of democracy is that!
The white man, in particular the middle and working class white man, has always been tricked by his racism. Throughout this country's history, starting at Bacon's Rebellion, the dumb white working classes were turned against black people. The white man will cut off his own nose to spite his face by not working with black people on issues of common concern! So dumb they are!
You know what I think of Obama so don't ask. He is a spiritual zero. No energy. A nonentity because his white and black sides cancel each other out. Eric Holder, notice the name, wow this is deep, "hold her" is a punk, one of Obama's supplicants. His energy is feminine and weak. Thus his non-sense on America being cowardly on race. The Black original man is no coward! Never has been, never will be! Those white devils, but he wouldn't honestly say that, are the true cowards, along with any weak negroes fool enough to follow them...next question.
You are missing on an obvious question about Brother X-Squared and the New Black Panthers. Perhaps your mindstate remains blinded by my octahedron Nubian black knowledge that is the god particle walking the Earth in human form as Brother X-Squared--not that fake b.s. science revealed by those European devils and their atom smashers!
RIPPA: Well now that you brought that up Brother X-Squared, I do have a serious question about yourself and the New Black Panther Party. You see brother, I'm a bit bothered. I realize you speak many truths, and it is in itself a blessing to sit at your feet as a child in the struggle. However, I saw the recent tape being widely circulated which shows on the the alleged perpetrators of voter intimidation - he goes by the name King Samir Shabaaz. I couldn't help but to notice a striking resembleance between the both of you. Brother X-Squared, was that you on the tape? Do you really advocate the killing of "crackas" and their babies?
Brother X-Squared: Now you are trying to see the light! Yes, oh yes! Have you ever heard of Operation Mincemeat during World War 2? You see those white British were master spies and they came up with all sorts of tricks. In fact, they even taught the CIA--those devils were called the OSS back in those days--how to be especially devious and evil. To trick the Nazis they took a corpse and put all sort of fake documents on it. The body washed up on shore and the Germans took the body and analyzed the documents. They got bamboozled! The British devils those foul Imperialists that they are told the Germans exactly what they wanted to hear. The result? Those white allied wicked armies that segregated black and brown soldiers successfully landed in France on D-Day. This is the same thing they are doing with that fake King Samir Shabaaz! They have someone who dresses like me and who imitates me to trick you black and white fools! I am the original, the one and only Brother X-Squared. There is no imitation!
Now you need to separate the issue of my wanting to kill Crackas and their evil foul spawn from this New Black Panther mess. The white man is doing a good job killing himself. I only need to sit back on watch as the white man, a product of Yakub's science, destroys his own Earth. Like an owl, only the white man fouls his own nest! Now, I will stare down and destroy crackas wherever I find them. The cracka is a particularly befouled type of white devil who was the poor white trash overseer who died by the hundreds of thousands to maintain a system of white supremacist slavery that they they didn't even benefit from. They are the forebearers of those wicked Glenn Beck dumb tea baggers. Suckers! I line up crackas by the the dozens and immolate them with the power of my black gaze. I am for all time and in all ways a black king, an African Ultraman fighting to free the captive black man in America!
RIPPA: Oh wow! So this is yet another one of those examples of "tricknology" you often speak of? But why you Brother X-Squared? Why do they seek to destroy you? You mentioned "them" killing each other, but yet said nothing about us killing each other. I'm confused Brother X-Squared; confused I am. Is White Supremacy winning?
Brother X-Squared: No, tricknology is the use of techne, look up your Greek Brother Rippa! That fire stolen from Prometheus to make evil machines and technology. Damn that white man. What my enemies are using is called subterfuge. Not all tricknology is subterfuge. Not all subterfuge involves technology. Why me? Why do you think? How many strong true Nubian warriors are willing to stand in the gap and confront the white man's evil armies?
I will tell you. None! Brother Rippa, again, you are blinded by my mental mindstate because you have let your brain and pscyhe become weak like all those other simpleton negroes. The white man is killing himself as I said. The Black man, the new age slave, has been killing himself for centuries. Now, what is going on in our cities, places like Chicago where these young weak self hating negro ign't troglodytes shoot each other by the dozens each weekend is just a culling of the herd. This is Malthus and Darwin in action! Oh yes it is!
We need the weak and the lumpen to destroy each other for only the strong, mentally prepared black freedom fighter like Brother X-Squared will remain standing! White supremacy has already won Brother Rippa. If you can't see that, I cannot help you. I am about playing a new game, once more I am playing in the fourth dimension of knowledge whereas the unfreed minds are living in the White man's Matrix!
RIPPA: Once again you have left a lot on my plate to digest Brother X-Squared. I guess in essence what you are saying is that you're the embodiment of "blackness" and ultimately this "attack" on you is emblematic of the forces of "evil" and their ongoing pursuit and destruction of the black man? As always Brother X-Squared, it is indeed a pleasure to sit at your feet as you share your wisdom much like Black Jesus did on the mount as he traveled throughout Africa.
Brother X-Squared: Hmmmm. You sound suspicious and mocking. But, given that you are trying to overcome your mental drapetomania I will give you the benefit of the doubt. I am not the embodiment of blackness for blackness is omnipresent and all powerful and cannot be contained in one vessel. The evil was done to the Black Man over centuries! It will not be healed in my lifetime or yours! Trust my words. Black Jesus is a mythological figure. I am real. I am here. And I will continue to preach the truth.
|Mooney on Movies|
I apologize for my extended absence, folks. Chauncey has done a commendable job holding it down dolo. I know from experience how tough it is to lose one of your writing colleagues (Zora, come back!).
I thought I’d ease the burden on Chauncey by offering reviews for the last six black movies I’ve seen. I’m extremely short on time, so not only am I bundling the reviews in pairs, I’m doing them in haiku.
35 Rhums & Killer of Sheep
black splendor in the mundane
fell asleep on both
Precious & Medicine for Melancholy
White liberals' dream
black folks wrote this shit?
Black Dynamite & Diary of a Tired Black Man
low budget as fuck
funny for different reasons
best movies ever?
Friday, July 16, 2010
Question: Could there be any gift that does not keep on giving in the way that the tea bagger Palin brigades do with so much unselfish selflessness?
[Talk about a genius example of Oscar Wilde inspired wordplay, was that sentence not like wiping your behind with silk?]
Mark Williams' offering is one of those rare and priceless moments where a Freudian slip meets a psychological projection. Despite (or maybe because of himself) one of the key spokespeople for the Tea Party reveals who he and they really are as he attempts to rebut the charge that there are in fact racist elements within the Tea Party, all the while simultaneously deploying the white racist tactic of projection...what kids more affectionately call the "so I am, but what are you!" game.
Lost in the collective sigh and exhalation regarding the tea bagger's, Sarah Palin's, and the twisted Right wing populi's claim that the NAACP is somehow a "racist" organization, there is a teachable moment that has gone unclaimed by the punditry and the peanut galleries alike. The collective conservative White denial and defensiveness against what was a very measured and reasonable resolution by the NAACP was 1) a missed opportunity for the Tea Party to seize the initiative and be in agreement that the racists in their ranks should be expunged and 2) would suggest that in relief, the tea baggers seem to have a profound misunderstanding of the nature of chattel slavery in the New World.
Alternatively stated: What sort of twisted person would joke about slavery and suggest that the premier civil rights organization of the 20th century somehow profited more than the United States' slaveocracy and its bloody handed slave traders? That fighting White supremacy somehow earns money and profit in an order of magnitude greater than that earned by the perpetrators of one of THE greatest crimes against humanity? Ultimately, and this is the sickness implicit in white Conservative race baiting reactionary politics, how could one reasonably suggest that the Black Holocaust was somehow a benefit to African Americans?
To even have to write these questions seems absurd. The tea baggers, New Right, die hard conservatives, and their related ilk somehow believe that slavery was a walk in the park. Possessed of a bizarre view of American history (and drunken on a visual of happy slaves on ye old plantation sitting under the shade tree, playfully picking cotton, and eating watermelon till the sun sets), slavery is reduced to an inconvenience to be gotten over.
In the conservative imagination, race is not a variable that over-determines life chances even into the 21st century. No, racism would only go away if people of color would stop complaining. Just as the Civil Rights Movement was greeted by a white ethnic backlash that manufactured stories of white disenfranchisement and the folk fiction of signs that read "No Irish, No dogs," (a twisted equivalence game where all oppressions are somehow created equal) the New Right imagines white folks as being the new victims of Jim Crow.
What many willfully ignorant folk do not understand is that chattel slavery in the New World was barbaric. In the United States it tore a hole in our collective democracy and exposed the glaring contradictions of a Constitution that purported to proclaim freedom for all while excluding all those deemed 3/5th's of a person. With its long shadow, slavery in America has produced a legacy of structural inequalities in wealth, income, access, and opportunity that plague us to this day. The slaveocracy and white supremacy were also realities in which black bodies were counted as amongst the most valuable assets in the United States--so valuable in fact that a whole society would risk destruction in order to protect this human capital.
And not to be forgotten is the human cost of slavery--the millions who died during the barbaric Middle Passage, and the many millions more grinded under by the gears of the human killing fields of the plantation. These are anonymous and lost people, statistics if you would, for those who do not share their kinship or blood. For others, these are our lost brothers, sisters, ancestors, and kin. They are the whispers on the wind of memory and history not to be forgotten as they speak to a missing link in our connection to both the past and present.
In total, the way that some conservatives, and in particular how the New Right and the Mark Williams's of the world play these sacred dead for cheap political gain, suggests a broader crisis in political faith, values, empathy, and community that goes beyond race and straight to an emptiness of shared struggle in the face of common problems. We are a society in crisis. The tomfoolery and race baiting of the tea baggers makes this dire truth even more clear.
All in all Mark Williams, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party brigands believe that slavery was a joke, or alternatively that the enslavement of black Americans is a punchline to a political speech. As we began, you don't joke about slavery, the Holocaust, or the genocide of Native Americans. You just don't. When the New Right and its believers do so, they reveal once more a political culture that is terribly sick. For in conclusion, these neo-John Bircher racists show us all the while who they have always been. And for that we should be grateful...while also being truly disturbed.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Thursday Randomness: Bruce Lee on Fame and Being a "Star," Pray Tell What Lessons Do Your Heroes have for All of Us?
Some randomness for you all.
I have a few heroes in my life: Brother Malcolm, Martin, Muhammad Ali, and Bruce Lee. True, no bs. One of the favorite truisms I have heard throughout my years is that black folk have two pictures in their homes: Bruce Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. For some, we would add JFK Jr., especially if you went to my grandma's house.
Random factoid: I actually studied Kung Fu with one of, if not the only, African Americans to study with the most high and skilled teachers in China. I will never forget watching this brother doing our forms in dress shoes as I slipped, bare footed, embarrassed, and near fallen in front of him. Our teacher smiled, suppressed a laugh, and said I best keep practicing...
I also remember him hitting me once and I damn near was lifted off of my feet. Funny, after a few years of study I still was an incompetent...but ironically, that little bit I absorbed saved my life on one frightening night. Trust, if I had a time machine I would go back and pay closer attention to Brother Paul's teaching so I could actually be semi-competent beyond the ability to fight off young ign'ts with undersized pistols who happened to tangle with the wrong negro.
As we reach for the stars, as our wings of wax melt, and we keep on trying despite the obstacles, Brother Bruce Lee's words still resonate. I keep on trying to be a star even though I am far from being one. But funny, thus my faith in the creator of the multiverse, I keep getting lucky despite myself.
Ain't fate grand?
My respectable negroes friends and allies, tell me of your heroes and what lessons they have taught you? Are your heroes conventional or unconventional? Are these personal lessons which none can comprehend? Or are these teachings for all of us to grasp and share?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Absurdity of the Day: Sarah Palin and the Tea Baggers Accuse the NAACP of being "Racist" and "Divisive"
We do indeed live in strange times. So for the Right, the NAACP is a "racist" organization, and the tea baggers are innocent Americans unfairly accused of racist behavior?
Beyond partisan sniping, what is so troubling about this classic, white deflection (i.e. a mirroring where those who call out racism are in turn labeled as "racists") is that it involves a 1) deep misunderstanding of what racism actually is and 2) that in the 24 hour news cycle where all points of view are equally valid, Palin and the Vox Right peanut gallery's claims will be elevated to that of the reasoned and rational.
Mining white racial resentment for electoral gains is a tried and true strategy of the Right and Conservatives in this country. Remember, political parties are a brand name, a type of shortcut that helps its members (potential or actual) decide to support the organization. While by the reasonable person standard the Tea Party may not be a classic white supremacist organization per se, they certainly contain a great many racists. Moreover, if public opinion data is any indication, the tea baggers are certainly very "traditional" in their racial attitudes.
Ultimately, (and as I suggested before) the tea baggers condone and give safe harbor to the racists in their midst. For me, that is enough to christen the Tea Party as the new age John Birchers that they are, a group of people who as I often remark may not hold the noose at the lynching party, but would show up in their Sunday finery and cheer it on.
To point on the twisted world in which the Right wing populists live, a choice excerpt from the article "NAACP vs. Tea Party: Racism Debate Heats Up as Sarah Palin Joins Fray":
The St. Louis Tea Party coalition on Monday evening passed a resolution of its own condemning the NAACP for "hypocritically engaging in the very conduct it purports to oppose." The resolution calls on the NAACP to withdraw its resolution. It even urges the IRS to reconsider its tax-exempt status of the NAACP because of what the Tea Party coalition dubbed the organization's "habitual partisan political behavior."
Former Alaska Gov. Palin , a vocal advocate of the Tea Party movement, jumped into the heated race debate Monday night, assailing the NAACP resolution as an example of "typical divisive politics that is so absolutely unnecessary." "The Tea Party movement is a beautiful movement, full of diverse people, diverse backgrounds," Palin said on Fox News' "Hannity." "It's very unfortunate that they are taking this tactic because it's a false accusation that Tea Party Americans are racist. Any good American hates racism. We don't stand for it. It is unacceptable." Palin in turn called on President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to "repudiate" the resolution and "set the record straight."
The former GOP vice presidential candidate tweeted her support for the Tea Party again today: "I'm busy today so notify me asap when NAACP renders verdict: are liberty-loving, equality-respecting patriots racist? Bated breath,waiting..." Other Tea Party loyalists charge the NAACP's charges are driven solely by political motivations and are misguided. "Those ideas that Tea Party people are racist and that we're trying to instigate a racist climate in this country, that's simply a lie. That's out and out falsehood," said Rev. C.L. Bryant, a former president of NAACP's Garland, Texas, chapter who is now a leading Tea Party activist.
"I have not heard one racial slur that came out of that march," said Bryant, referring to the Tea Party protest on Capitol Hill where members of Congress alleged racist comments. "Those were simply Americans who were protesting."
****We do indeed live in interesting times, do we not? And am I so wrong to yearn for the good old days of honest racists and honest racism? When folks wore their stripes (or hoods) proudly for all to see?
Monday, July 12, 2010
Of Race and Science: It would Seem that Different Centers of Gravity Explain Black and White Differences in Swimming and Running
I get goose bumps when I see these stories because someone's career is about to take a turn, one both unexpected and unintended, for the worst:
This disparity in athletic achievement, obvious to Olympic viewers, throws up so many sensitive questions of race and human difference that it is rarely discussed in public. But now two US academics have risked controversy by publishing a theory that attempts to explain the contrasting performance of black and white athletes using the laws of locomotion.
They argue that black sprinters have a 0.15 second advantage over their white rivals because they tend to have a higher centre of gravity, meaning they can fall to the ground more quickly between each stride. Conversely, having a lower then average centre of gravity helps white swimmers because their speed is determined by the height they can get above water.
More of their upper bodies are above the waterline, so they can generate and ride larger waves.
Adrian Bejan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University in North Carolina, and Dr Edward Jones of Howard University in Washington, used existing data on the body dimensions of soldiers of various nationalities to determine that black people – or more precisely those of West African origin – have a centre of gravity three per cent higher than white people.
Prof Bejan said the theory “completely accounts” for the increasing racial segregation of Olympic podiums.
As a society, we have struggled long and hard to disabuse the masses of any notion that race is a biological construct. Nevertheless, we often confront the Occam's razor test for what constitutes knowledge on these matters: if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck. So then, when one group seemingly dominates a sport for example, some then make a leap of faith regarding all other members of said "racial" group. In short, biology mates with performance to become destiny.
We have to be careful here because the relationship between race and science is so ugly, perilous, and barbaric. However, we must also ask ourselves should these questions about biology and race be pursued precisely because we are afraid of them? And what to do with knowledge (however socially inconvenient) that in other contexts may yield some social good--here for example, research on diseases that are almost exclusive to certain "racial" groups?
We know that race is a true lie (there is only one race, the human race). But there is something oddly compelling about the study of inter-group difference and assumed phenotypical differences.
Ultimately, I would suggest that these stories about race and athletic prowess tell us more about culture, values, and relative returns on investment than anything about biology. Black folk are not naturally good jumpers and runners, thus their predominance in the NBA. No, there is a self-fulfilling narrative that some black folk who grow up in ghetto communities gravitate to a game that is cheap to play, assigns local prestige, and which seems to offer the illusion of escape from the 'hood. In the early 20th century it was Jews who dominated basketball in the U.S. for many of the same reasons:
Could it be that West Africans, and in particular folks from the African ethnic groups studied have a cultural and financial incentive to invest in running? Or more generally, that whites dominate swimming because of the many cultural, geographic, and financial incentives for them to learn and excel at that particular sport?
The problem with the argument that West African blacks and white swimmers are somehow designed differently (and thus these divergent outcomes) is one of incompleteness: The math and physics may be right, but the conclusion is methodologically insufficient because the model excludes the variables of culture and history.
The full story follows here.
Does Aaron McGruder Hate Black Women?--"The Lovely Ebony Brown," Boondocks Season 3 Episode Reviewed
Are things really this dire in the black community? Would a beautiful young black woman have to marry an old black man to find love?
Are the tensions that great, and the divides so huge, between black men and black women? As one of my colleagues emotionally and instinctively interjects when we try to have a reasonable conversation about black professional women and their marriage prospects, "are black women in fact mules?" Are they really that unloved, unwanted, and the least desirable of all women in American society?
Let slip the dogs of war. Brother Aaron McGruder is going to be in some hot mess scalding like boiling chitterlings and the hot grits thrown at Al Green after The Lovely Ebony Brown circulates on these Internets. Trust, this episode will be talked about for years, angrily responded to, written about by the punditry, vilified by black feminists, and flamed on websites...by folks who likely didn't watch the episode in its entirety. And moreover, by folks that are preordained and have as a standing decision rule to reject any critical self-reflective exploration of black male-female relationships because The Lovely Ebony Brown does not offer a simple validation of the black women as perpetual victims meme.
Ultimately, as he demonstrated with his deconstruction of that coontastic minstrel Tyler Perry, McGruder's most recent Boondocks episode "The Lovely Ebony Brown" is one more example of him leaving it all on the dance floor and going out in style. He is a genius with uncommon honesty and insight into the dynamics of the post-Civil Rights black public. I ain't "dick riding" as the expression goes. No, I am simply acknowledging courage and uncommon smarts when I see them. Kudos to you Mr. McGruder.
As I did with the Boondocks episode "Pause," here are some thoughts, reflections, Easter Eggs, and the like:
1. What is really going on with the marriage dynamic between black men and black women? Sure, marriage markets matter and black women are more likely to marry "down." But, there seems to be a fixation and assumption that black men, and black male professionals in particular, are obsessed with marrying outside of the race. In reality, the out marriage rate for black Americans is quite low. Even among black men, the group most common to "out marry," the percentage is rather modest. We notice these outliers, the classic bogeyman pairing of the upwardly mobile black man and quasi-upward white woman that is the nightmare of some black women, precisely because it is infrequent. Thus we see the pink elephant and take it as the norm, as opposed to noticing all the gray elephants that are the most common.
Restated in different terms: most folk, the vast majority, marry within their own racial group.
Random thought: given that Asian women have the highest out marriage rates, what are the private conversations on this topic like among our Asian brothers?
So why all the fuss about interracial relationships? For some sisters (and brothers), what about investing in improving one's own self esteem as opposed to obsessing about the love partners and relationship choices made by other people?
2. The Chain of Being. This episode showed McGruder's depth and literacy once more as it repeatedly winked at the aforementioned historical artifact. This concept, born of The Atlantic Slave Trade, reached back to The Bible and its tale of The Curse of Ham to justify black enslavement. Here, in the White supremacist Colonial/Imperial imagination, a chain of being from beast to those of African decent was created where "White Europeans" were naturally on top as full citizens and human beings, and all others on the bottom. A neat arrangement if you want to conquer continents and rape, destroy, and kill "people" by the tens of millions without any guilt and with the support of the Church.
3. Slight of hand. Foreground and background. Was The Lovely Ebony Brown more of a Grandpa episode or a Ruckus episode? In favor of the latter see the following classic quotes unleashed by the Honorable Reverend Uncle Ruckus:
"Black women don't jog, that way they don't sweat out all of those industrial strength toxic avenger chemicals they use to straighten out their hair." [Extra points for the Toxic Avenger reference by the way].
"The key to happiness is to eliminate all black women from your life."
I have many favorite racial slurs. I will now add Uncle Ruckus' use of "wildebeest," and "Afro tramp," to my verbal Rolodex. Interestingly, Ruckus missed my favorite gendered racial slur: she-boon.
"I mean she was a ape but she was the prettiest ape I ever seen."
"Finally that which the darkie has done in darkness shall come to light."
"A black woman's body is the temple of doom!"
"Beneath that big soft lotioney exterior, those wide inviting hips, and that ample chocolate bosom is a savage Africanized pot boiling bone in the nose doing the monkey dance playing drums female!"
4. On relationships: Folks are generally messed up. Returning to the social commentary underlying this episode, am I the only one disturbed by the black woman in peril narrative and can't find a good black man meme that is commonly used as a mask for avoiding critical self reflection? For example, in the popular imagination all the sisters are marriageable and all the black men are raggedy, on the DL, in jail, dating white women or the like. What of the fact that many folks--men and women are not marriageable in general--and what would this do to the debate?
5. Obvious wink from the episode: the folly and stupidity of Myspace Internet celebrity status.
6. Second obvious wink from the episode: Jackie Brown.
7. On a serious note. The conversation about running, exercise, and Black women. Did you know that 80 percent of black women are overweight? How are the euphemisms of "strong black woman," "thick," the enabling behavior of such pseudo-celebrities as the Venus Hottentot wannabe Buffie the Body, and the valorizing of such folks as Monique and Precious, enabling this health crisis?
8. Inside academic, upwardly mobile, black bourgeoisie joke: Tom, resident black professional, extols the beauty and wonder of black women all the while being married to a white woman.
9. Second inside academic, upwardly mobile, black bourgeoisie joke. Grandpa's exaggerations of his participation in The Civil Rights Movement in the face of an obvious collective action problem a la Dennis Chong's book Collective Action and the Civil Rights Movement.
10. Ghetto nerd confession. In my early years I wanted to have my way with Jessica Rabbit. In my later tween years I would have devoured Lynn Minmay. My newest cartoon crush is Ebony Brown. Oh Lords of Kobol, please send her my way and I would take Miss Brown to space mountain again and again and again!
11. Moral of this most recent Boondocks episode: Be careful what you wish for, as you may get he or she and then proceed to mess said relationship up. Question: How many of you have found the partner of your dreams only to talk yourself out of it and push them away?
Saturday, July 10, 2010
I am a big fan of polemicist, writer, professional provocateur, and thinker Chris Hitchens. As you know, I firmly believe that religion ruins all things (a separate claim from my deeply held faith in the existence of God as the master of the multiverse). While I will never approach the deftness of Hitchens in how he argues such a basic point, I can still admire his verbal, intellectual, and philosophical jujitsu. To that point, for your Saturday enjoyment here is some classic Chris Hitchens doing his own version of Dusty Rhodes'
Friday, July 9, 2010
Weekend Funny: Mel Gibson's Racist Rant Revealed or Let's Play the Mel Gibson Movie Quotable Racism Game
I do think this is oh so funny as I love it when people show themselves for who they always are and have been. The only real tragedy is that I won't be able to watch the Lethal Weapon movies anymore (ironic given the interracial buddy role formula perfected by that series).
However, all is not lost with the movie Braveheart. It is a new classic and Mel's most recent racist rant should not sentence the Oscar winning film to the dustbin of history. I really believe that if we work hard enough, that we can take Braveheart back. How? By using the best of our jazz sensibilities and improvising around Braveheart's many quotables, we can salvage Mel's racism for the common, creative good.
For example, see Mel Gibson's heroic pronouncement as William Wallace that:
Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!....from a pack of niggers.
Or how about this one:
Now tell me, what does that mean to be noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don't follow titles, they follow courage. Now our people know you. Noble, and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they'd follow you. And so would I...from a pack of niggers.
We all end up dead, it's just a question of how and why...from a pack of niggers.
What a fun game! What other Mel Gibson movies can we improvise around using elements of his pithy, crude, racism?
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Breaking kayfabe once more. For folks in academia summer is a time to catch up on one's own work that has been neglected throughout the prior nine months. I have a major project to finish (THE major project for those in the know...30ish more pages, please send me luck). Yet for reasons both financial and practical, I decided to teach a 4 week intensive summer course. For the most part the students are a good, likeable lot. As is common to summer courses some are there because they are especially motivated. Others are enrolled because they guessed that the summer version of a given course will be easier than its traditional quarter/semester/trimester companion.
I am a reasonable guy and thus split the difference. In four weeks I cannot assign the same amount of work as I would in a traditional class. But, I can hold you accountable for what you do read and will hopefully find a way to present it in an interesting way that will hold your attention--thus discussion, mixed with documentaries, small group work and simulations. As the cherry on top of this delightful dish, I even offered a take home, open book midterm that was due 48 hours after it was assigned...a proverbial gift presented on a gold infused platter.
Pray tell you ask, "how many students passed the exam? Most must have surely gotten an A!" You would be mistaken my friends. Out of some twenty students the average grade was a low C or D with a few F's for good measure. The good students did great and "knicked it out of the box." The other students floundered. In keeping with my being some sort of empiricist, when I see the unpredictable I try to do a little research and make sense of the world. Here, I decided to use these Internets for something productive: What do educational journals, The Chronicle, and the like say about student performance and take home exams?
Unfortunately, the conclusions were scattered and unconvincing. But, I then stumbled upon this gem of an essay by Thomas Reeves on the History News Network. Although it does not directly address the mysteries of how and why students fail a comparatively easy task, the piece does give us some context for how college and university life is changing at the nadir of the American empire. While the author's lamentations are from the hinterlands of academic Siberia (his words, not mine), my gut tells me that his observations about anti-intellectualism in American life rings true across the land...and not just in higher ed.
Some choice excerpts from My Experience Teaching Apathetic Students at a School with Open Admissions:
What I have seen going on in the world of open admissions education I call "The Classroom Game." Since I teach two introductory survey courses every semester in American history, let me begin there.
One quickly learns that the young people signed up for 101 and 102 (the chronological break between the courses at Parkside is 1877) know virtually nothing about the history of their own nation. They have no grasp of colonial America (I've been asked, "Is the seventeenth century the 1700s?") or the nation's constitutional machinery. All religion baffles them (no doubt a tribute to the secularism dominant in modern public schools), all intellectual history eludes them, and politics bores them. Even after instruction, they often confuse World War I and World War II. All the presidents before Clinton are a blur; Franklin D. Roosevelt sometimes shows up on exams in the Gilded Age and U.S. Grant in the twentieth century. Almost all of the students simply refuse to memorize the Chief Executives in their proper chronological order. In fact, they choose to ignore dates of any kind; written exams rarely contain any. More than one student has told me frankly, "I don't do dates."
This proud ignorance rests on a seemingly invincible anti-intellectualism. The blue collar families from which the Parkside students normally come do not stress reading, and the students are generally first generation college. (I can empathize, as I was the first in my family's history to graduate from high school.) These amiable, polite, almost invariably likeable young people read little or nothing. In a class of 50, not more than one or two read a newspaper daily; what tiny grasp they have of current events comes from television news. Reading books and magazines outside the classroom is not something they would even consider doing. In short, they have no intellectual life and see no need for one. They can talk about several things, including their jobs, television, sports, and Rock, but they are often baffled and sometimes irritated to hear from their professor that there is more to life. If that "more" requires reading, they aren't interested.
On the first day of class, you learn that only a minority of the students has purchased the textbook. The others have either not gotten around to it (a few never do) or are waiting until they size up the professor. If he or she seems demanding, some make a hasty exit...