Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Masses are Asses (Again): 24 Percent of Americans Believe that President Obama is a "Secret Muslim"

Once more, are the masses asses?

Despite what the Tea-Party Palin proud to be ignorant crowd would like to have you believe, this question isn't born of high foreheaded, look down the nose snobbery at "those people."

No, it is a simple acknowledgment that the American public--while smart at times in the aggregate--hold none too few absurd beliefs in private. Thus, the "news" that 24 percent of Americans believe that Obama is a "Muslim" should be taken in stride. Sure, the stakes are a bit higher than how many Americans believe that Elvis is still alive (7 percent by the way). And yes, it is true that the "Obama is a secret Muslim meme" does speak to the power of a very basic idea in the White American psyche that black folk, even in the 21st century, are somehow not "real" or "regular" Americans.

But for my two cents, the idea that Obama is a Muslim (as though that is a crime) is not half as disturbing as the data suggesting that a substantial percentage of Americans still believe that the failed war in Iraq was linked to 9/11 and Osama bin Laden. Ultimately, in the twenty-four news cycle, and the bloviating chorus of the Right-wing noise machine we see two publics. The first: the devotees of Fox, Limbaugh, Beck, et al. who live in their own echo chamber of mutually sustaining talking points and epistemic closure, a framing of the world that is increasingly immune to fact, correction, or intervention. The second: the rest of us who live in the reality based community. The struggle going forward is how to talk to one another about making America a better place, when the basic terms of the conversation seem impossible to agree on.

For some context, here are some other "strange" beliefs held by the American public:

41 percent believe in extra-sensory perception;

25 percent believe in astrology;

41 percent believe that Jesus will return by 2050;

48 percent believe in creationism;

6 percent believe that the moon landings did not take place.

In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, "stupid is as stupid does," and it seems that in the age of the New Right our political environment is more and more coloured by a toxic and contagious fog of willful stupidity.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Let's Play the Photo Caption Game: Black Beauty on Display in Barbados During Crop Over

This is just a bit of self-indulgence on my part, for why have a blog if you can't engage in a little humor at the expense of another party.

So, how would you caption the above photo taken by a friend of mine at the annual Crop Over festival in Barbados? I have a few things in mind...none of them kind.

For starters: "Just because you can do a thing, does not mean that you should."

Your thoughts?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Walking Through the Looking Glass: Right Wing Bloggers Choose their 25 Worst Americans in History

Folks, we have indeed walked through the looking glass.

One of the repeated findings in the literature on American politics is that the American people are for the most part non-ideological and centrist in their political beliefs. Certainly, there are outliers of opinion and different publics reveal an intensity of opinion that is proportional to how much they care about a given issue. But, folks tend to congregate around the middle of the distribution and run away from candidates and issues that are too far to either extreme.

In the campaign preceding Barack Obama's election (and most certainly in the months that have followed) we have been witness to an increasingly polarized electorate. However, with the rise of conservative talk radio, Right wing epistemic closure, and the tin eared blaring by the conservative punditry, there are many elements whom are deeply invested in fueling the exaggerated divides between Red State and Blue State America.

Of course divisions in American politics have always been with us: see people's exhibit number one, the vicious smear campaign against former president Bill Clinton. But the noxious elements of white racial resentment and white victimology have added something else to the hostility faced by Barack Obama. For the Right, the sky certainly is falling...and there is no Chicken Little in waiting.

While hardly scientific, the recent survey by the website Right Wing News which asked 48 conservative bloggers to list the 25 worst Americans in history is quite revealing. Some of the picks are a function of recency (who ever heard of Saul Alinsky until Beck started braying about him?). Others are gimmes (Timothy McVeigh for example). But some are shocking (Jimmy Carter? A man who builds homes for poor people and has dedicated his life to service?).

Quite predictably, who is at the top of the list for worst Americans in history? Barack Obama.

For these conservatives, the President is apparently worse than Timothy McVeigh, Jefferson Davis, John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Governor Faubus, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace, Charles Manson, or Benedict Arnold? Wow.

While the data may tell us one thing, I am more and more convinced that the divides in our political culture are even more severe than is commonly known. If this survey, the rise of the New Right tea baggers, the Texas history revisionism, and anti-immigrant sentiment are taken in context, there are indeed two Americas in this country...Americas which are increasingly separate, hostile, and unequal.

Here are the results in their entirety.

23) Saul Alinsky (7)
23) Bill Clinton (7)
23) Hillary Clinton (7)
19) Michael Moore (7)
19) George Soros (8)
19) Alger Hiss (8)
19) Al Sharpton (8)
13) Al Gore (9)
13) Noam Chomsky (9)
13) Richard Nixon (9)
13) Jane Fonda (9)
13) Harry Reid (9)
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)
11) Margaret Sanger (10)
9) Aldrich Ames (11)
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)
7) Ted Kennedy (14)
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)
5) Benedict Arnold (17)
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)
4) The Rosenbergs (19)
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)
2) Barack Obama (23)
1) Jimmy Carter (25)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Introducing the Seamstress of the KKK and her Klan Couture

Hood Fitting

Ms. Ruth personally sews one robe a day. She works 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week. She has 1 to 3 helpers at times. The person to be fitted measures themselves, fills out the tailoring chart, and mails in the order. It takes 4 to 6 weeks for delivery. Here she puts the final touches on a red Klan hood.


Hate still lives--and is flourishing if the data from the Southern Poverty Law Center is to be believed. Speaking to that point, Mother Jones magazine has a great photo essay on Ms. Ruth, the seamstress of the KKK (accompanied by a troubling series of interviews that you should certainly take the time to listen to).

Not a one dimensional monster, she seems like a kind, yet misguided person. Ms. Ruth loves animals (points for me on that virtue). But Ms. Ruth also hates people who look like me. Moreover in her eyes, the KKK is not a terrorist organization. No, it is a noble civil society organization that has been miscast by the media, liberals, and "outside agitators."

People are complicated. Few are truly, unrepentantly evil. But, can evil hide behind a kind face and the gentle words of someone like Ms. Ruth? Is she in fact a more dangerous bigot and hate monger than the foot soldiers of the KKK, the robes of whom Ms. Ruth so lovingly sews?

Just a thought.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

White Folks, You have to do Better! Suburban Housewife has Sex with 67 Minors; Chicken McNugget Madness Rules the Land

In the Age of Obama white folks are in a real crisis. As conservative pundits and Fox News have bravely pointed out, racism is hurting the white community. Denied jobs, promotions, admissions to college, subject to violence at the polling place and on school buses, and being brow beaten by a tyrannical black president these are indeed dark times for white people in America. Reverse racism is the rule of the land and it will take brave souls such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to take up Dr. King's mantle and force freedom to ring from coast to coast for all Americans.

Decades of research has revealed the psychological, emotional, and physical harm that racism does to its victims. When coupled with structural inequalities in the service of the Racial State, individuals can begin to internalize these negative messages about their collective personhood. Racialized individuals can also develop any number of negative coping skills. In total, a pathological culture can take hold among the disempowered. It would seem that in this long hot summer of white racial resentment white folks are finally beginning to manifest the symptoms of internalized racism. So very tragic. So very sad. I thought my white brothers and sisters were made of sterner stuff.

Ultimately, the destiny of White America is in the hands of its own leadership. Do white folks have the strength to stand up and rediscover their dignity in Barack Obama's America? Will white Americans overcome their worst impulses as they struggle to adjust to their new status as "racial minorities?" Only time will tell...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This Week in White Victimology: U.S. Navy's "Secret Plot" to Discriminate Against White Men Exposed

"In practice, the Navy will be creating a list of privileged "diverse" officers who will enjoy special benefits and career mentoring not available to people of the wrong race, as well as a virtual guarantee of fast-track access to the highest reaches of command. Fifty-six years after the Supreme Court struck down the concept of "separate but equal" treatment of races, the U.S. Navy is erecting a wall of segregation between what will amount to two parallel promotion systems: one for the "diverse" and another for the monotone. If this isn't illegal, it should be."

With the long hot summer of white racial resentment, white victimology, and the nonsense meme of "reverse racism" showing no signs of coming to an end, I thought it would be helpful to offer a weekly update on how white folks are being discriminated against in Barack Obama's America.

Apparently, the United States Navy is working hard to diversify its officer corps. In order to do this, a "secret" list of up and coming young sailors of color have been identified for mentoring by senior officers. Predictably, the defenders of colorblindness and meritocracy on the Right are up in arms for once more "qualified, hard working" white men are being disadvantaged by "racist" policies and "reverse discrimination."

As this story develops over the upcoming weeks, the argument made by the white victimology crowd will be a predictable one: the forces of political correctness aided by Barack Obama are using social engineering to tamper with the foundations of American society to the detriment of national security. Once more, this is evidence of a profound and deep "anti-White" bias in American society. Predictably, for the most extreme on the New Right (the "birthers", racially reactionary conservatives, and the Glenn Beck et al. crowd) this "secret" U.S. Navy program is more proof that Barack Obama wants to make America less safe and not more so.

In their gasps and protests, white victimologists will of course miss out on a few key details--details that are both subtle and obvious. To the latter, the military is one of those places where personnel choices can mean life and death. Here, the U.S. Navy has identified a human resources problem where the best and brightest are not receiving the mentoring needed to reach their full potential. Consequently, the U.S. Navy is not maximizing its pool of available talent. The result? A less effective war fighting machine.

Although now a dirty word because of the success of the Right in co-opting language, it is little discussed that the goal of "diversity" in recruitment and promotion has been long supported by the U.S. military and many corporations. In fact, senior representatives from the U.S. military have been cited as "friends of the court" in legal cases supporting affirmative action. Why? Because pragmatic, results oriented institutions understand that a diverse workforce is more profitable and successful than one which is not.

The subtle point missed by the reverse racism crowd is that they operate from a position where white men are the default choice for all things, and white people are always the wisest of the wise, the best of the best. Rarely is there a moment of reflection where one asks, "did I get this job because of the color of my skin?" "How was I given advice or guidance that perhaps someone of a different color, sexuality, or gender would not have received? How did this help me get a job or promotion?" "Am I really the most qualified person for this job?" "Did I get a leg up because of who I know and my access to certain social networks?"

Here, the myth of meritocracy is a comfortable shield and set of armor to protect the reverse racism crowd from hard questions about success in least until the complications of race, class and gender are exposed as variables in how fast one is able to climb the social and career ladder.

We see echoes of this privileged and myopic worldview all around us. In Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearings the presumed normality of white men was used by her detractors to paint her as a "racist," and a potential member of the Supreme Court who would let "racial and gender identity" influence jurisprudence (for we most certainly know that white Supreme Court justices, scions of neutrality that they are, have never been influenced by their race, gender, or class backgrounds).

Certainly there are echoes of white racial resentment in the hostility against President Obama where some cannot accept the symbolic power embodied by having a President who is not white. And in the most obvious example, the calls that "we want our America back" by the Tea Party crowd represent a herrenvolk ethic that clings to a bygone Leave it to Beaver imagined golden age where white people were at the center of all things--and a return to which the white victimology and reverse racism crowd ultimately yearns for.

The full editorial, "High Seas Segregation" can be found at the Washington Times.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Twisted Funny: Rush Limbaugh Suggests that Michelle Obama's Vacation is Linked to Reparations for Slavery

I must laugh because I have no more face palm, embarrassment, head-shaking to offer these clowns.

So once more, the Right-wing echo chamber continues to resonate with the "black folks forever getting reparations" meme that the sickness of the Conservative white soul is drunken on.

Consider for the the Right:

1. Welfare was/is framed as reparations for slavery.

2. Health care reform is reparations for slavery.

3. African America farmers winning a billion dollar lawsuit against the USDA for decades of discrimination is reparations for slavery.

4. Obama's election signals a movement to pay black Americans reparations for slavery--even though the President opposes such an initiative as unworkable.

5. In fact, for Beck et al. every policy initiative offered by Obama is somehow connected to reparations for slavery.

6. Now, Michelle Obama's trip to Spain is somehow connected to the transatlantic slave trade, white guilt, and reparations for slavery.

Question: Where the hell is my check?

Second question (especially) for our white allies, reasonable conservatives, and others: People of color are often held accountable for all members of the tribe, when you hear this level of Right-wing fucktardness stupidity do you shake your head and say, "damn, we white folk got to do better?"

Third question: Do the beaters of the drum that is the Right-wing noise machine have any decency or self-respect? Would they ever make such an allusion to the Holocaust or the genocide of Native Americans?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Handle with Care: Racism, Omar Thornton, and the Connecticut Workplace Shooting Rampage

What is your breaking point? What is your limit? What could drive you to do the unimaginable?

I was talking to my mother in Connecticut today about the tragic workplace shooting that took eight lives at a Hartford area beer distributor. We both commiserated around a common point: It is rare to see a black person shooting up their place of employment. A true oddity it is. Funny, with our shared dark sense of humor, mom and I both agreed that by necessity black Americans have pretty thick skins. For ultimately, black folks couldn't have made it this far as a people if we couldn't balance our laughs and our cries.

I have always, and will continue to firmly believe that if white folk on average went through just a little of the b.s. (both real and imagined...and it is the latter that really kills you in the long term) that black Americans as a people take for granted, they would be shooting up their jobs 24-7.

Thus, and once more it would seem, that white privilege does indeed have many privileges both subtle and gross. (How do you like that Oscar Wilde like wordplay?)

We don't know if Omar Thornton was driven to kill his co-workers because he was harassed on the job. Hell, it won't matter either way, as in the final analysis Omar will have to answer to the fates for the crime which he committed and the lives that he stole.

But the timing of this story could not have been worse. In the long hot summer of Tea Party Breitbart white racial resentment and Chicken Littlesque "the sky is falling" because we have a black President politics, it won't take long for this complicated story of human failing, weakness, and tragedy to be fit into a white racially reactionary frame. Stated more simply, for many on the Right, Omar Thornton's murderous deeds will be magically linked to President Obama, and this tragic incident will be proof positive that "those people" don't know "their place."

A frightening thought: How long until the racially resentful cabal of angry white men who are "losing their country" decide to actively strike back?

Per our tradition, what does the Right-wing Vox Populi peanut gallery have to say about this story?

Oh, well, he kills five people because of what he perceives as racism, then I guess it's ok. That explains it. Wasn't his fault. I wonder if the Dems will see any connection at all with their incessant "playing of the race card" and some
nut-job shooting people at work.--RuralDelivery

This shooter was a thief, is anyone surprised at that? He was caught on tape stealing, is anyone surprised by that? He was fired for stealing, is anyone surprised by that. He plotted to murder white people, is anyone surprised by that? I sure am not. The black panthers have been calling for the killing of crackers and their babies , yet the media ignores it. When it actually happens well its the white guys fault. I would be willing to bet that if any racial animosity was present, it was that of the shooter, and not the victims.--Whiteguy2

Well, there you have it. Racial(unproven) discrimination of a black man is justification for the slaughter of his alledged tormentors.. I'm sure the evidence(his word)will be all that is needed to ensure the headlines read; "8 People commit suicide by racism and are implicated in the subsequent death of their attacker." News at 11.--LizardLips

An entire class of people bitterly clings to simmering racial grievances and a sense of entitlement. Their leaders encourage these feelings and stir up rage in order to retain their own power. This is the result.--Robert

And here I thought we were supposed to be worried about "violent" white tea partiers...

There has to be some way that this can be elevated to a racial issue even though he was video taped stealing.--dumpsterdog

Maybe the victims families should sue the shooters family for everything they have? Isn't that what blacks try and do in the same situation?--NewRiverPatriot

Calling Jessie Jackson. Calling Al Sharpton. Calling Tawana Brawley. Where are you. Time to put the blame on whites again.--tasuja

Yes, the white man drove him to steal beer. Geeeez. This race card thing is getting way out of hand. Obama was supposed to help with this but has only worsened it in my opinion.--johnbminn

The news is not reporting this, but his victims were no doubt all White. Of course the corrupt anti-white holder justice department would not consider this a hate crime. The holder view is thornton was just acting out his frustration and should be understood and eulogized. The obamas probably smiled as well and will consider him a hero.--philty

Now scum like this guy are playing the race card from beyond the grave. He lost his job because he was videotaped stealing. I don't care what he thought about his co-workers being racist, nothing they might have said excuses his murdering people. I only have sympathy for his victims.--reaper69

The white middle class is getting so tired of the race card being used that some are beginning to get fed up. They are getting fed up with getting up for work each day, only to have to give half of their paycheck to some low life drug dealer on SSI. Then if you keep your mouth shut you are a coward according to Eric Holder, but if you speak openly about racial problems you are a racist. How can they win?--goodbyeusa1776

And now his family is screaming RACISM. He was on tape STEALING BEER-and yet the family cries racism. It is thru actions like this that they are NEUTERING the word RACISM. Based upon the RACE of the Victims couldn't we claim he was the RACIST?? And where is the one who was going to UNITE US ALL WITH HIS CORONATION-HAS THE CAT GOT HIS TONGUE???--suehal

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Real Power Behind the Throne: An Exclusive Tell-All Interview with Glenn Beck's Blackboard

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) works hard to bring you, our readers, the stories and information that you care about most. In the three years since our founding, we have had the good fortune to bring you candid interviews with such public figures as Jesse Jackson and Pat Buchanan. One of our greatest coups was an exclusive interview with the nebulous figure "Racism." And of course, Brother X-Squared made his Internet debut on our site. During the last three months, WARNNN has been in secret and delicate negotiations with one of the most important, but little understood, figures in contemporary American politics.

With the rise of what some have labeled The New Right, this individual has risen to prominence and accrued power that few would have imagined possible. After a fitful series of off the record conversations, covert exchanges, and overcoming a real fear of the repercussions of this interview for his personal safety (as well as that of his family), we are proud to present the silent partner in Glenn Beck's success. In an exclusive interview, Glenn Beck's blackboard is finally prepared to pull aside the curtain and reveal all that he knows about his partner's meteoric rise to fame on Fox News.

WARNNN: We are so happy to have you on the show. I know this was hard for you to do and we have talked many times off the record about your feelings regarding Beck and the rise of The New Right. Given that you have been working with Glenn Beck for several years now, please explain to our readers your timing. Why now? Why do an interview with us? What is driving your decision to come clean, for lack of a better word.

Blackboard: I mean this has been really hard for me to do. I know that there will be repercussions for my speaking with you. I have a family that I support. With this economy it is so hard to get reliable work and this gig quite literally came out of nowhere. One day I was sitting in a storage room, praying that someone would find me still useful. With all these computers and PowerPoint and other such "progress" it is hard for a traditionalist like me to get work. The next day I am on Fox News with millions of viewers, tens of millions of people watching me. But you know, I am a patriot. You know what I mean? I really love this country and sometimes it is just so hard to be involved with Glenn Beck and this Tea Party nonsense. The last six months, well even before Obama got elected, he has been unhinged. But as of late it stopped being a game for me. Yeah, I cash the checks I get paid, but he has gotten more and more crazy. Quite frankly it scares me.

WARNNN: Is there any one specific event that has pushed you this far. I know that in our talks over the months you have relayed how you are physically afraid that something could happen to you at Glenn Beck's hands. Is it this fear, or is it something else?

Blackboard: I know that Beck is building up to some great theatrical moment where he goes on a rant and smashes me or one of my brothers with a hammer. I am living on borrowed time. I get that. The breaking point for me was the domestic terrorist who was going to shoot up the ACLU and the Tides Foundation out in California. That story didn't get a great deal of press, but when I heard about it, I felt sick. How many times did Beck use me to talk about that group? Ten, twenty, thirty, maybe more? There have been lots of shootings linked to Glenn Beck and his rants. At first, I just brushed it off. You know how denial works, you come up with all sorts of other explanations...maybe these are just crazy people? Or they would have shot up the police or a museum anyway, so my hands are clean.

But after a point it is just obvious that Beck and his Right-wing people are trying to create chaos. I don't want blood on my conscience. I really really don't. And trust me, I have been in the production meetings, I hear what Glenn and his people are planning. They are going to get more and more extreme. One day, and you have my word on this, something very bad is going to happen. Beck will get on television and deny that he had anything to do with it, or that "progressives" were behind it. You can take that to the bank.

WARNNN: In one of our talks a few weeks ago you mentioned the race baiting and the black people are racist against whites narrative that Beck has been pushing as of late. Can you share your feelings on that?

Blackboard: That hurt me too. Come on now, as a person of color, as a black board in particular, I was disgusted by the whole thing. It gets tired, how he keeps talking about the New Black Panthers and Obama hating white people, and drawing these twisted diagrams where every black person is somehow connected to Farrakhan, or communists, or some nonsense. But I am there to do a job. I am not there to voice my opinions. But beyond the racism, I was more upset by how he could bring prominent black professors and other learned people on the show. Man that got me. I have paid my dues in this business. To see smart people who should know better encouraging Glenn's ad hoc conspiracy theories sickens me. But who am I to judge? I wanted to get paid so I did what I had to do. Those professors and others must be thinking the same thing--go on Beck and you get on The New York Times best seller list. Money talks.

WARNNN: As a detour, and because I think your history is so fascinating, can you share a bit of your lineage with our readers? Did your family's legacy have anything to do with your finally deciding to go public?

Blackboard. My family got to America in the early 1800s. It was a really exciting time where we were the newest things on the block. We were very prosperous and successful. I have relatives who worked at all of the major universities in the country. Great minds. Sharp people writing on us everyday, us working to communicate with and teach young minds. I think for me that was what is driving me to talk to the public about Glenn Beck. I know real intelligence and sharpness when I see it because I have worked with some of the best. Beck is a fraud and I just kept thinking to myself that I am better than this. I really got to thinking about my family. Did you know that my grandfather worked with Albert Einstein?

I kept thinking how would he have felt about what I am doing now. Enabling Glenn Beck and his violent, conspiracies. I don't think my grandfather would be proud. No, I know for a fact that he wouldn't be happy with me. Money matters, but personal integrity counts even more.

WARNNN: You used an interesting phrase. Blackboard, you said that you "enable" Glenn Beck. Can you clarify that a bit for our readers?

Blackboard: Think about it. Could Glenn Beck do his professorial shtick if it weren't for me? Come on! Imagine him doing his performance with a whiteboard or PowerPoint. It wouldn't work at all. Beck would just be a crazy man who could just as easily be on the streets of New York or Chicago walking around with a placard screaming "the end is near!" Me and my people, the blackboards Beck uses, we give him his credibility. Take us away and Glenn Beck has absolutely nothing. Nothing at all!

WARNNN: Playing devil's advocate for a moment. Some would say you are jealous, a "hater" of sorts. That you are the silent partner and are resentful that Glenn Beck gets all of the attention.
Is this true?

Blackboard: I opened this interview by explaining how much I love America. I went from being semi-employed to having one of the best gigs on television. I am the only blackboard in the country doing what I do on a nightly basis. I have fame. I have more money than I could ever ask for. No, this is about my conscience. Folks need to speak out against The New Right and Glenn Beck. These are trying times. America is in real trouble. I do this in the interest of justice.

WARNNN: Fair and honest. Please share with our readers what you told me about the behind the scenes activities on the show. What have you seen?

Blackboard: There will be volumes written on the scene that is Beck's show. He has cultivated this wholesome, Christian image for himself. Whatever, being vague for legal reasons, that show is a cult of personality and his guests and crew are enjoying it for all its worth. When those lights go off the party is just beginning, trust me. What gets me the most, and maybe your readers may not appreciate this, is how pornographic and intimate Beck's performance really is. He brings you into his little twisted world, looks you in the eyes, talks about saving you from the monsters under the bed, and then builds to a near orgasmic crescendo. For me as a blackboard, what is the worst part of it, and I am a married so this is hard for me to talk about, is how Beck uses us two, three, or four at a time. Chalk everywhere, misspelled words, moving around us all. So disgusting. I feel nasty even talking about it. Beck is so uncaring and vile at times that he leaves us there overnight, unwashed, covered in his handwriting. I can't begin to tell you how soiled that leaves you feeling.

WARNNN: What would you like our readers to do? What should they know?

Blackboard: I think you should stop watching him. Beck only gets his power because of the attention he receives. And don't for a moment take him lightly. Beck really believes everything that he is saying. Over the last year or so, Beck has become messianic. All that stuff about Dr. King is sincere. Beck believes he is here to continue Brother King's legacy. Those talks about revolution and such. Beck really thinks he is going to be martyred. I am relatively voiceless. I can speak with great care and through venues such as WARNNN, but really all I can do is non-violently resist. I can try to deflect Beck, smudge his words, makes things a bit confusing for the viewer but that is all. You have to stop Beck and The New Right. This is the responsibility of decent, reasonable Americans everywhere. As I said, I may not have long for this world--especially once Fox News and Glenn hear about this interview. But, I did what I had to do. I can go off to my destiny with a clear conscience.

WARNNN: We really appreciate your courage. You will be in our thoughts and prayers. Please be safe.

Blackboard: Thank you, and I will do my best.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Funny: Old School Player Wisdom on the Joys of Sex

We are the product of those who mentor us. For example, I have mentioned my uncle Mr. Tucker many times on this site as an entry point for folks to understand just where the twisted genius that is Chauncey DeVega came from.

He was the old school player eccentric who would ask me about the differences between the wondrous yonis of the different races. Mr. Tucker would travel to the Dominican Republic with garbage bags full of cheap clothes and trinkets for the young women he would bed while on holiday. He was also the millionaire skinflint next door who never parted with his ducats, even after death (a long story). And in my favorite memory of him, my uncle--a married man by the way--had a personal refrigerator that was padlocked and chained shut so that his wife would not steal "his" food. It was only after his death that I found out the strange and even more astounding truth behind his odd refrigerator practices...but the truth of that mystery will remain mine and mine alone, for the dead must be allowed their secrets.

Apparently, my uncle Tucker has a doppelganger who dispenses sage wisdom on love, sex, and the mysteries of women. Random question: Why is it that the old, out of shape, and seemingly undesirable seem to get all the play? Second question: Is this what Viagra has wrought upon us as a society?

Laugh and enjoy. And if you can, go out there and get yourself a "snappy" this Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pathologies of the Right (Continued): Shirley Sherrod Used 'Lynching' To Gin Up Democratic Voters

Just when you thought he couldn't make himself appear even more bigoted and stupid, American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord just keeps on talking. With the spirited defense of his sick and twisted political hit piece "Shirley Sherrod a Liar", Jeffrey is more and more like a man sinking in quicksand--arms flailing about, writhing in panic, and in denial as to his inevitable end.

Once more we are dealing with very sick, sick people.

From Talking Points Memo:

On Monday, former Reagan administration official Jeffrey Lord astonished the left and the right by penning an article in the conservative American Spectator attacking former-USDA official Shirley Sherrod for using the term "lynching" to describe the murder of one of her relative years ago. The problem, according to Lord, was that the victim, Bobby Hall was beaten to death by a blackjack, rather than being hanged by the neck. "It's...possible that she knew the truth and chose to embellish it, changing a brutal and fatal beating to a lynching."

Critics, even at his own magazine, pounced, noting that a lynching is an extrajudicial murder by a mob, whether or not the weapon of choice is a rope.

Last night, in an interview with TPMDC, Lord defended himself and extended his critique of Sherrod, and the entire Democratic party, which he claims is the true repository of racism in the United States.

"I have felt for a long time that my friends on the American left, in the Democratic party have just had this atrocious history with racial issue," Lord said. "I mean it just can't possibly be any worse. I've gone back and read all the platforms for the Democratic party starting in 1840 which was the first one."

What's changed in the last generation, according to Lord, is simply the nature of the Democratic party's racism.

"What struck me about [the Sherrod speech] was that sort of little, casual aside, where she says something about health care, and 'I've never seen people so mean' ... The implication is -- and she uses the phrase at one point 'the black president' and 'we endured the Bush years'. And the implication to me was that she was saying 'if you didn't agree with Obamacare then you're a bigot,'" Lord said. "The essence of the formula is 'scare race X to death that race Y or Z is coming after them in some fashion, and then, you know, you get all the votes and the money, etc, etc, etc. And that all that's gone on over a couple years of history of the Democratic party is that the races have changed."

"What is the difference, really, between Jimmy Byrnes trying to pursue a "white" agenda, and Sonia Sotomayor's wise Latina comment?" Lord asked rhetorically.

For Lord, the key inconsistency is that Democratic southerners were to blame both for Hall's murder, and for ultimately overturning the conviction of his killers, and yet, decades later, Sherrod sympathizes with the Democratic party.

"I understand that people on the other side are going to go poopoopoo and the Nixon Southern Strategy and all that kind of thing," Lord said. "To think that this was just, all these people just switched their party and made the Republican party segregationist is just nuts. I was there."

Lord stands by his initial criticism too: that Sherrod was wrong to use the term "lynching."

"Lynching is most serious business," Lord said. "Let's just say for the sake of the argument that you're 'pro-life' and you're an official in the Bush administration at HHS in a comparable job to what Shirley Sherrod has. And you stand up in a neutral forum where you're there as a government official and you refer to Roe v. Wade as the 'Baby Killer Act. Holy cow, you don't think there'd be any reverberation for that?"

"To be an official of the United States government and stand up there and make such a blatantly flammable description, can be interpreted only one way: that you were trying to gin up the so-called pro-life vote," Lord added. "And to me, what she did here was that equivalent. She used a phrase -- the lynching phrase, however she phrased it there -- that's just designed to inflame people."

Barraged by criticism Monday, Lord later expanded his critique of Sherrod by arguing that Hall wasn't beaten to death by enough people to constituted a mob, and therefore it couldn't have been a lynching in two different ways. He stands by that assessment.

"Certainly the image in my head of a lynching is rope around the neck," Lord told me. "And when we really got into this, it was quite apparent to me that there was all sorts of other things. That there has to be a mob -- mob action. Well what is a mob? Is it two people? Is it three people?"

Lord says he doesn't want Sherrod to lose her job, and urges his fellow conservatives to work toward winning over black voters. "Get out there and engage on race," Lord said. "There's no reason in the world that we can't be getting the black vote. But it's our job to separate black from left and talk about left and right."

Thursday Afternoon Musical Randomness: Cassius Clay, The Gray Album, and a Little Help from My Friends

One of my heroes.

As I did last week with Brother Bruce Lee, here is some randomness from these Internets. So you tell me, on a long Thursday, one day before Friday, and two days from the weekend, what songs get you through Thursday?

For me today, we have my boy Jay to the Z's "Encore" being remixed by the one and only Dangermouse with the beats of The Beatles:

I end today with my boy Joe Cocker because in these trying times we do really need "A Little Help from our Friends":

What will get you through to Saturday?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Slouching Towards Eugenics? The Evolutionary Origins of "Ghetto Related" Behaviors

FROM feckless fathers and teenaged mothers to so-called feral kids, the media seems to take a voyeuristic pleasure in documenting the lives of the "underclass". Whether they are inclined to condemn or sympathise, commentators regularly ask how society got to be this way. There is seldom agreement, but one explanation you are unlikely to hear is that this kind of "delinquent" behaviour is a sensible response to the circumstances of a life constrained by poverty. Yet that is exactly what some evolutionary biologists are now proposing.

There is no reason to view the poor as stupid or in any way different from anyone else, says Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle in the UK. All of us are simply human beings, making the best of the hand life has dealt us. If we understand this, it won't just change the way we view the lives of the poorest in society, it will also show how misguided many current efforts to tackle society's problems are - and it will suggest better solutions.

Evolutionary theory predicts that if you are a mammal growing up in a harsh, unpredictable environment where you are susceptible to disease and might die young, then you should follow a "fast" reproductive strategy - grow up quickly, and have offspring early and close together so you can ensure leaving some viable progeny before you become ill or die. For a range of animal species there is evidence that this does happen. Now research suggests that humans are no exception.


Are the rich and the poor that different in their values and beliefs? Are middle class black Americans that divergent from those in the underclass, seemingly trapped in a perpetual state of poverty? As suggested by a widely discussed public opinion poll in 2007, are there really two "races" of black Americans? The ghetto underclass and the African American middle and professional classes?

Question: Are these divides in values and behavior rooted in nature or nurture? Behavioral scientist Dr. David Nettle would suggest that both forces are at work.

I am of two minds on these matters. On one hand, any conversation about race, poverty, and genetics will always make me feel a bit dirty because science has been used to advance and support white supremacy (of note, science was also used to tear down Jim Crow and formal white supremacy in post-World War 2 America). Ultimately, because science is "a regime of knowledge," it serves elite interests. And by implication, what counts as "truth" in a given moment is malleable and not fixed. In the muddy waters where "race" meets "culture" and then intersects with "behavior" much evil can be done--especially when the study of the relationship between poverty, genetics, and human behavior almost always slouches towards a Bell Curve like moment in which "bad genes" meet "ghetto culture."

On the other hand, I cannot deny the obvious social realities of black poverty, underclass culture, and limited life opportunities. If science can help serve the public good by shining a light on what could be the biological and evolutionary forces that are driving destructive choices, then why not go down that road? Beyond moral condemnation and looking down one's nose at the seemingly irrational behaviors of the underclasses (of all colors), perhaps by understanding the selective incentives that drive their choices all boats can be lifted?

For example, the young woman with 5 children by 3 different men may in fact be making an advantageous choice given her social milieu. The corner boy with his Alpha male persona and "warrior genes" may in fact know exactly what he is doing, as criminal behavior imparts local social status that in turn earns him prestige in his 'hood and the opportunity to impregnate multiple women, thus spreading his DNA. Conspicuous consumption and spending one's resources on overpriced sneakers, expensive clothes, and a rented Mercedes when one lives in a poor neighborhood and has no savings in the bank, may actually be an optimal strategy in a signaling game with one's similarly located peers.

But as someone invested in the uplift of African Americans, I must ask how do these types of very local social capital translate outside of a limited social, economic and geographic space? Moreover, as compelling on the surface as these socio-biological frameworks may at first appear, I am deeply troubled that a scientific explanation for self-destructive behavior can become a legitimation of these "choices" and their long-term negative outcomes. Are these worries misplaced? Reflexively, given the fiction that is race, the wide diversity of human behavior within a given aggregate population, and the complexities of class, do these arguments about group behavior obfuscate more than they reveal?

The powerful article, "Die young, live Fast: The Evolution of an Underclass" can be found here in its entirety. We are doing a cross-posting on this piece with two other bloggers--the always notable (and quotable) culture warrior Cobb and man of science Cnu of Subrealism fame. So please check out their great commentaries.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pathologies of The Right: American Spectator Magazine Brands Shirley Sherrod a Liar because her Relative wasn't Really Lynched, He was "Only" Murdered

In other words, the Supreme Court of the United States, with the basic facts of the case agreed to by all nine Justices in Screws vs. the U.S. Government, says not one word about Bobby Hall being lynched. Why? Because it never happened.

So why in the world would Ms. Sherrod say something like this?

No idea. It's possible that Ms. Sherrod simply doesn't know the truth. As with any family, stories from generations past can get handed down and over time the truth gets rubbed away and fantasy or fiction replaces it, younger generations none the wiser. This event took place before Ms. Sherrod was born, so that is certainly possible.

It's also possible that she knew the truth and chose to embellish it, changing a brutal and fatal beating to a lynching.

The image stirred by the image of the noosed rope in the hands of a racist lynch mob was, to say the least, frighteningly chilling. Did Ms. Sherrod deliberately concoct this story in search of a piece of that ugly romance to add "glamour" to a family story that is gut-wrenchingly horrendous already?

Again, I have no idea.

There is also a third possibility for what appears to be a straight-out fabrication. Having watched Ms. Sherrod's speech and read the transcript, I think it's abundantly clear that she is a liberal or progressive political activist.

She is clearly enamored of President Obama and the progressive ideas that once fueled the New Deal and is the rock upon which progressives would build their Utopia. Her fierce devotion to the idea that government programs are the source of all good is not to be missed, whether she is championing the idea of working in the federal government or the idea that a particular program where she doles out millions is a source of agricultural nirvana.


Following the debacle that is the Shirley Sherrod affair, the Right and its echo chamber have revealed themselves to be (perhaps) worse than I had ever imagined. In the rush of the conservative punditry to defend Fox News and Breitbart, their thin mask of decency has finally been thrown aside.

Of course, we can expect Limbaugh, Buchanan, Beck, and Coulter to continue with their bloviating, mouth frothing cries of reverse racism in the Age of Obama for that is their shtick. I am also willing to concede the cheap partisan games that Fox News plays as they race bait and gin up white racial anxiety in order to drive ratings. And ultimately, to my own immediate political and social concerns, I can sit not very surprised by how black conservatives have been noticeably silent on the Shirley Sherrod affair.

But, when is enough enough? At what point do the adults enter the room and say "no more?"

That moment has now passed, as conservative mouthpiece The American Spectator ran a column today suggesting that Shirley Sherrod's relative Mr. Bobby Hall was not lynched by the Klan. According to Jeffrey Lord, "he was only beaten to death." I kid you not. From The American Spectator's reasoning, the original "lie" that is Sherrod's story is proof of her lack of trustworthiness. By extension, "the exaggeration" of the circumstances surrounding the death of Shirley Sherrod's relation is evidence of a "racist" "progressive" agenda because Ms. Sherrod apparently does not criticize the Southern Democrats and Hugo Black, legendary Supreme Court justice (and noted member of the KKK), who freed her relative's killers.

Quite frankly, this is exhausting to even explore.

Never mind that lynching need not only be committed with a rope ("lynching" is a catch all phrase for murder by a group of people), but that an opinion journalist at a "respected" magazine would consider the terms of Ms. Sherrod's family story--a particularly painful and tragic act of white supremacy--as fair game for a political hit piece is beyond reproach.

In my writings here and elsewhere I try to be even handed. I assume that while I may hold deep seeded disagreements with conservatives on many an issue, that we are all (more or less) decent people at heart. But in the aftermath of Obama's election, it has become more and more apparent that many on the Right are possessed of no small amount of moral cowardice: Even when racism is obvious (as proven by the racial theater of The Tea Party, the Arizona and Texas resolutions, and the not so coded dog whistle that is the trope of "real Americans" and "Joe the Plumber," standard fare for Palin and her brood) they stand silent and in denial.

The games played in the aftermath of the Sherrod affair have led me to the following inexorable conclusion, one that is motivated by an adherence to parsimony in my reasoning, and the b.s. test famously called Occam's razor. In total, the New Right is threatened on an existential level by the fact that a black man had the unmitigated gall to run for President and that he won.

These folks (as typified by the Jeffrey Lord's, Pat Buchanan's, Rush Limbaugh's, Bill O'Reilly's and Glenn Beck's of the world) are also projecting their deeply rooted racial fears on to others. While they have long denied the existence of white racism (be it structural or personal) against black and brown people in this country, many on the Right are afraid that a black man who happens to be President will turn the tables on white folk and do to them what historically Whites as a group have visited on people of color in these United States for some 3oo or more years. In this twisted alternate reality white people are victims of racism, and black folks have been laying in wait for centuries to visit undeserved and unjust vengeance upon "The Man."

Sadly, we have reached an impasse in this country, one that neither a "beer summit" or "teachable moment" will correct. Why? Because denial mixed with fear are potent elements in a toxic stew of white racial resentment on the Right--a mix that will not be undone by appeals to reason, historical fact, or common sense. There is no pithy way to put it. These are very sick, sick people. I would be embarrassed for them if they had any shame.

The unbelievably vexing "Sherrod Story False," can be found here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Not So Funny: The Pregnant Woman Ign't Battle Royal at a Burger King Parking Lot

We truly are a society too sick to survive. Really. We are a culture where fame is fortune, and where at the nadir of American empire people are distracted by spectacle and foolishness. As black folks, we live in the age of Obama, but we still have so many that are crippled--psychically, emotionally, and intellectually--by a self-hating, internalized ugliness. As a mirror, the rise of the collective mediocrity that is Sarah Palin infused faux populism, tea bagger stupidity, and Breibart madness speak to the very same cultural crisis: the mediocre among us have won, and now they are on Youtube, the evening news, and the Internet.

Question one: Is this video more an indictment of black men (who are cheering this fight on and later participating in the melee) or black womanhood?

Question two: When did "bitch" and the generic "female" come to replace miss, ma'am, or sister?

Question three: Is this what happens when grandma is 30 years old?

Question four: What would Brother Malcolm say about this madness?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Now Introducing "The Ballad of Shirley Sherrod"

The saga of Shirley Sherrod has all of the elements of a classic American story: a little person beaten down by the powers that be; a muckraking villain; the vexing elements of race, class, and gender; and a triumphant victory where the bad guys are exposed and our heroine stands supreme.

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

Since the election of Barack Obama it has become increasingly clear that the dividing lines between Left and Right, liberal and conservative, are hardening. I have always hoped that we can come together on issues of policy in the interest of the national good. However, an increasing amount of evidence gathered over the years has come to suggest that conservatives and liberals live in different ethical, cognitive, and emotional universes. In total, these differences are only amplified by the right wing echo chamber noise machine.

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:

Ms. Sherrod's Speech Was Most Certainly Not About Transcending Racism

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?

A Controversial Choice? Tom Vilsack is My Respectable Negro of the Week

contrite [kənˈtraɪt ˈkɒntraɪt]
1. full of guilt or regret; remorseful

2. arising from a sense of shame or guilt contrite promises

3. (Christian Religious Writings / Theology) Theol remorseful for past sin and resolved to avoid future sin
[from Latin contrītus worn out, from conterere to bruise, from terere to grind]

contritely adv

contriteness n


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

The Twisted Politics of White Victimology: In Defense of Shirley Sherrod

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 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?