Saturday, October 1, 2011

Weekend Fun: Let's Talk About Liberal Racism and Barack Obama



I have been silent on the whole liberal racism dust up over at Salon.com and The Nation. The car wreck is good sport. Beyond that, my thoughts would be tangential to the conversation and would just get folks upset.

I never want to get folks upset...

One of the benefits of writing online is that you have a ready set of archives from which to draw. In fact, you are sometimes surprised by the depth of the files and wonder why at times there are issues which just don't move you. In my limited time as an online bloviator, critic, and lay political analyst, I have come to realize that sometimes I have nothing to offer on a topic because--much to my surprise--I have already offered my thoughts on said issue some time in the past.

To point: a reader reminded me of a post I did during President Obama's campaign where I made the following observation about liberal racism. There I suggested:
My friends and I have shared a long running conversation about liberal racism. It is a peculiar beast. Conservatives, who are the most frequently tarred, and with good reason, by the label of being "racist," display a variant of white supremacy born of a willful historical myopia that couches white racism as being a mere "inconvenience" or historical oddity (when in fact white supremacy is the dominant historical narrative in the modern world).
By comparison, liberals are hyper-conscious of race and racial inequality. "Progressive" attitudes on race are central to liberal-left identity.
However, this race consciousness does not immunize them from being active racists or from holding beliefs that are deeply informed by a premise that people of color are inferior, or perhaps stated in a more benign fashion, are merely "different." Here, difference becomes a signifier of a compelling and curious Other.
This Other needs saving, this Other needs to be understood, and this Other needs help. He is pathological and cannot escape the myriad of limited life choices that await him. She is damaged by the dual oppressions of white racism and black male sexism. They cannot overcome racial adversity and white supremacy without our help.
The danger of this paternalistic attitude is that for some self-consciously progressive members of the Left, they, like their conservative nemeses, are also afflicted by a myopia that works to preclude self-reflection. These good liberals believe they have a pass which excludes the possibility of racist thought, speech, or action. Ultimately, these good liberals are incapable of being racists because they are the friends of the poor coloured folk of the world. These good liberals are supposedly our most erstwhile allies...
You see, America is a sick society. We are all deeply afflicted by white supremacy. Black people, white people, brown folk, all of us, have internalized and reproduced this social order. Some of us are more conscious of it than others. A rare few try to speak truth to power so that we can overcome this debilitating social ill by bringing it to the light, by exposing it, and by challenging it whenever we see it.
This divide in experience, how white supremacy impacts us differently, operates in our lives, structures our memories, and gives some more voice than others--and by doing so simultaneously precludes both empathy and sympathy (note the difference) from the empowered towards those less so--is how white supremacy operates as a lived system in this country.
The label of Conservative or Liberal does not make one immune from this sickness, it merely filters and shapes how it is expressed.
As brother Malcolm said, liberals are also invested in this system of inequality and they should own and confront it.
Wow, that feels dirty. Quoting oneself always seems like a low bar. Please forgive me that academic geek moment of critical self-reflection.

But there you have it. The controversy over liberal racism and Barack Obama is about something else all together--what that is I will stay quiet on. But for now, you have my thoughts on that particular beast, of the same genus and phylum as Conservative racism, but just with a slightly different disease profile.

What are your two cents on this liberal racism meme? Much to do about something? Or a bunch of hot air from folks with buyer's remorse who are trying to justify their feelings of upset at President Obama?

20 comments:

nicoleandmaggie said...

Kipling has a poem that pretty precisely sums up that stance, right? http://www.online-literature.com/keats/922/

But I tend to think the problem is more what Larry Wilmore talked about in his segment on how Barack Obama is not the Magic Negro. http://www.indecisionforever.com/2010/01/20/daily-show-barack-obama-is-not-a-magic-negro/

And there's just the general problem that the Obama administration is sucking at controlling their message, getting public support/outrage to help them do what they want to do, and communicating the accomplishments they have made. That makes the lack of magic negro disappointment all the more deep. If this were a Hollywood movie we'd all be hugging by now.

ross said...

Makes one wonder just what candidate Obama was doing when he said (among other things) that his was going to be a post-racial administration.

What he was doing was raising expectations that he was going to be different. Not a president of blue states and red states, but a president of purple states.

How's that working out?

nomad said...

White liberals abandoning Obama? Must be racism. Black liberals abandoning Obama? Must be issues. What we have here is a strawman. I hate racism. But I also hate false accusations of racism. Heck, I'd be disappointed if white liberals weren't abandoning this closet Republican.

Unknown said...

@Nomad. Actually, according to Steve Harvey, you're an Uncle Tom if you are a black liberal and you're abandoning Obama.

And let's not forget, Ms. Harris-Perry (truly a disgusting woman) would not only claim white liberals are horrible racists for failing to back Barack but that black unemployment is the fault of the Congressional Black Caucus. Did you see that report she filed on Rachael Maddow show? God, Lord it was stupid. But you see, in the sick, sick mind of the Obots (Ms. Harris-Perry clearly being a charter member) Obama is but a mere baby who is faced with Big Mean Republicans who have sapped away all the power of the Presidency from our brave Littlest President. And only Toms, racists and the damn, dirt CBC can't see that.

Unknown said...

Side note:

Since we are on the topic of our country and race, I'd love to hear Chauncey's feelings on this story whose link I've posted below straight off Youtube.

http://youtu.be/3f4Vs3jI6cU

chaunceydevega said...

@NicoleMaggie. The last paragraph is the key. Allowing for all of the nonsense he has had to deal with, what failings have there been in message and narrative? That would be my focus.

@Ross. I have always said that Obama is racial reconciliator. Just read his vaunted "race" speech. If we take him at face value, Obama because of his cultural dna and upbringing does not, perhaps cannot comprehend the depths of white supremacy in this country. As President he is getting schooled so to speak.

@Nomad. He would be a Rockefeller, Bush 1 Republican in another era. But, ask yourself, pick your poison one of the thugs on the GOP or working with what we got? The lesser of two evils?

@Unknown. Let's be clear here. Why is she "disgusting?" That is a hell of a thing to say. Please qualify it as it weakens your other observations.

On the video--thanks for that too--that is old research which is getting more attention. I think the paper came out a few years back. It would make total sense given what we know about subconscious bias and race on everything from white jurors and the death penalty, to shoot/no shoot tests with police, to the IAT test at Harvard.

geerussell said...

My 2 cents on the liberal racism meme is these dust ups are the inevitable, periodic release of tension between tourists and locals.

I think it's impossible to exist in the frame of the privileged outsider without the view being tinted with paternalism and from time to time all parties need a reminder of that.

We can all be friends again when the dust settles.

nomad said...

@CD
As you have said "We are all deeply afflicted by white supremacy. Black people, white people, brown folk, all of us, have internalized" this social order. I would go further. We have internalized racism. White supremacy. Hence black liberals are as capable of exhibiting racially condescending attitudes as are white liberals. Although he is not a liberal, take for example your president. What'd he say? STFU? Does it sound any better coming from a black president than from a white one? Obama's perspective on race is exactly the same as the white family that raised him. Black is a state of mind, not a skin color.

Plantsmantx said...

"This Other needs saving, this Other needs to be understood, and this Other needs help."

...and in terms of this particular dustup, the people who fit that description most are the most rabidly pro Obama whites.

"What are your two cents on this liberal racism meme? Much to do about something? Or a bunch of hot air from folks with buyer's remorse who are trying to justify their feelings of upset at President Obama?"

Am I misunderstanding this question? The "liberal racism" meme is clearly coming from the people who have anything but buyer's remorse over Obama.

Anonymous said...

Please, I would like to read what your thoughts are on this "dust up." Please write it.

CNu said...

Out here in flyover, Harris-Lacewell gives every appearance of being a rental negroe, leggobeast-ana-skunt.

That aside, her article at the nation didn't bring a dayyum thing worthy of my time or consideration.

Folks who voted for Obama, voted for him in hopes of getting a genuine black man in the white house.

What we've gotten instead is a neutered, neutralized and incompetent narrator in chief who's not getting even the baseline narrative done.

Anyone, at this point, making apologetics for Obama is exceedingly suspect when it comes down to the question of objective standards and measures...,

Corporatist rental negroes for Obama - are mostly indistinguishable from any other sort of ersatz "public" (read MSM "intellectual" picking up a check to do a propagandist's job) academic - who despite significant comparative job security expresses the administrative courage of a cockaroach...,

But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

to those occupying the position but not doing the job - phukkem....,

Thrasher said...

White liberal racism of course is as ugly and lethal as white conservative racism and white jewish racism and white liberterian racism, white progressive racism, yada, yad, yada..

The common theme and constant has not changed in centuries...Racism practiced by whites of all stripes is fucked ...

White liberals probably sting more for Black folks just like white jewish racism often surprises you up close and personal..

At end of the day all of it wounds and alters the reality of Black folks

CNu said...

Sad that it had to come from the mouthend of a CBC tapeworm, but even a stopped clock is right two times a day...,

Oh Crap said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

"@Unknown. Let's be clear here. Why is she "disgusting?" That is a hell of a thing to say. Please qualify it as it weakens your other observations.

If you can't find something vulgar in this Obots decision to try to race bully and race guilt liberals into voting for a President who has bitched slap the Left for 3 years straight then I can't help you.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm interested in your last line CD:
"As brother Malcom said, liberals are also invested in this system of inequality and they should confront it."

That has been on my mind alot throughout my life, as I've been very unclear as to how to confront it. Ultimately, I take a very pragmatic stance about things. I'll quote Donald Draper from Mad Men. He was asked by his boss about what he thinks about another add firm hiring a "negro boy". Donald Draper replied, "I'm glad I'm not that boy". These are my feelings exactly, when it comes to racial issues.

I watched my father's brown face get in the way of his entrepreneurial success growing up, and having been given a "white" face by my mother, I've sort of made up my mind to try not to be too sentimental about my father's hard ships, as I pursue my own success...

Wow, that was cathartic. Rebuttal please!!!???

How do "I" confront inequality??

nomad said...

@Anonymous
I'd like to know more about your experiences if you'd care to share. I am/was writing about the issue of mixed raced people of early America (mulattoes). That sounds remarkably like the story of some of these people. I've been noticing a lot of 21st century parallels. http://historyofaaart.wordpress.com/

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. Good sharing.

"Ultimately, I take a very pragmatic stance about things. I'll quote Donald Draper from Mad Men. He was asked by his boss about what he thinks about another add firm hiring a "negro boy". Donald Draper replied, "I'm glad I'm not that boy". These are my feelings exactly, when it comes to racial issues."

That is a great line from Mad Men, one of my favorite shoes, because it speaks to the heart of white privilege--I don't want to trade places with you ever; but I can't acknowledge the legitimacy of your anger, pain, and righteousness of wanting to upset my privilege. Why so upset you Others? I know why. To own it costs too much.

"I watched my father's brown face get in the way of his entrepreneurial success growing up, and having been given a "white" face by my mother, I've sort of made up my mind to try not to be too sentimental about my father's hard ships, as I pursue my own success..."

No rebuttal. I can't tell you how to feel. A thought? Sometimes being a self-interested rational actor comes with a price. You have to decide if that price is worth paying...for you now, later reflecting on your life as an older person, and explaining your choice to your children if you have any. Those are your choices. They are not mine.

Get me?

Robert said...

I think part of the appeal of Obama for white liberals was that it made them feel noble for "voting for a black man" but a non-threatning light skinned black man that didn't attack white supremacy, made them feel safe with his talk of "no such thing as a black or white America" his being the son of a White woman and his having been raised by his white Grandparents.

However I don't believe white liberals are fed up with him now because he is black, I think it's because he is right-wing.