As demonstrated by hundreds of comments, it would appear that I am the object of no small amount of upset by some readers of the Daily Kos.
Am I surprised? No. My style of direct speaking, and commitment to always voice truth to power may not be everyone's cup of tea. That is okay.
As folks who have followed me over the last few years know, I can go all out and cut a damn good promo if need be; I also can move silently and do work with a scalpel; And at times I choose to use a garrote to ether my opponents.
In all, styles make fights and I try to use the right tool from the tool box in order to get the job done.
A few months back, some of my folks online encouraged me to check out Daily Kos and its fracas over race and blogging while black. I received emails from allies and friends asking about my thoughts on the matter, and if I were going to get involved. I'm not 'fam so I initially demurred. But, what I saw while lurking was enough to encourage me to move forward. I chose my time wisely and decided to make some small forays, to do some basic recon in order to get the lay of the land.
As Brother King and the other warriors in our glorious black freedom struggle realized, sometimes you have to shake the bushes to get the snakes out. At other times, you need to lay an ambush to get a sense of how your enemy will react.
I have long been a student of Whiteness. I am particularly interested in racism--and the many manifestations of white privilege--as performed by white liberals.
The latter are particularly fascinating on these matters because in our contemporary political imagination "racism" is something those "other people" do. White supremacy and racism are albatrosses and weights that hang from the necks of the Right, the false white populists, the Tea Party GOP and Birthers, racial reactionaries, and the bomb throwers and bigots like Buchanan, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Beck.
There sins are not "our" sins, in fact, a belief in anti-racism, and the merits of "multiculturalism," are the distinguishing marks of the contemporary left and progressives in the Age of Obama.
I knew what I would find at the Daily Kos. There would be some allies and perhaps even some friends. There would be those put off and afraid. Some would come closer and others would run away. That is the way of the world; Its diversity is a good thing.
I also knew that I would encounter white privilege, glaring examples in fact, that would further the thesis that Whiteness does real work in our society as it impacts all folks across the color line.
I always try to pass along what I have learned on my journeys to others. Here is a primer, a set of helpful hints for black folks (and other fellow travelers), who may endeavor to write about race, politics, culture, and power at the Daily Kos and other predominantly white spaces on these Internets.
Please do amend it as necessary.
1. Every community has certain rules. The rule here is to be "respectful." Respect can also mean conforming, knowing your place, not rocking the boat, and staying on the approved script. Respect is also about power: who wields it; who makes the rules; who gets to decide what behavior is "inappropriate." In majority white spaces, those decisions and rules are always racialized. You probably learned those unspoken rules and life lessons as your guide for life, from a parent, elder, or other sage. Remember, those rules still apply online. Do update your Negro Motorist Green Book with entries about blogging while black at the Daily Kos.
2. Whiteness is ultimately about the maintenance of white privilege. White privilege can be understood in material, economic, legal, social, and political terms. The most basic manifestation of white privilege is the freedom and ability to determine how and when you will be uncomfortable, and under what circumstances. Thus, do not engage in any talk about race, white supremacy, identity politics, or other matters that may make certain folks "uncomfortable," "upset," "feel dirty," or "angry."
3. Your intellectual life, creative voice, and right to speak are subject to the demands of the chorus. You must get permission to speak. You must live for the approval of the (white) Kossacks. If you do not, then you will be marginalized, confronted, and told that your voice is not welcome.
4. To the above: remember that you as the Other are the perpetual teacher. Never forget that special burden. And yes, it is hard to be the teacher when your students will feign knowing more about these matters of life experience, history, and power than you do. Never forget, you are the little man behind the stove--even when others want to argue for an equivalence of insight and experience.
5. For blacks to criticize other black folks for their tom foolery, race minstrel shtick, or hostility to the empowerment of people of color, is verboten. You must speak in an approved tone that does not offend the sensibilities of white folks who may want to participate in the conversation. We live in the age of the black superpublic where there are no more "black spaces" for private talk. Moreover, the white gaze is real; never forget that your conversation and critique should always allow a space for Whiteness to participate. To do any less is both rude and uncivilized.
6. Race is always secondary to class. In fact, if we just stopped talking about all of this race stuff then our problems would be solved. Abandon intersectionality. Remember, it is always class--and you should forget that class location is a function of this country's racial hierarchy. Really, I mean it. Simply forget those inconvenient facts. Delete them now. Your life will be a lot easier.
7. The Right is lampooned and mocked for its "echo chamber" memes and tendency towards "epistemic closure." The Left has its problems in that regard as well. Be prepared.
The Freepers, Townhall, and Fox News types have "Socialist," "libtard" and "class warfare" as their Orwellian newspeak PC working conversation shutdown vocabulary. As an equivalent, many Kossacks throw about "racism" and "sexism" to marginalize those with who they disagree. Like their peers on the Right, most cannot define these terms. They are simply weapons of the lazy and the anti-intellectual. Avoid the fire, smoke, and distraction of those slow moving bludgeons by asking for a definition: most will disengage because they have none to offer.
8. The ban hammer and Daily Kos' "hide rating" is a type of cyberbullying and intimidation. Some rules appear "race neutral." In practice, we know that they are not. Tread carefully. Whiteness is a lie. Because it is a lie, Whiteness is existentially dependent on hiding the truth. The "HR" is a tool to that end.
9. There is frontstage racism and backstage racism. Frontstage racism is that which occurs in public. Backstage racism occurs in private, and in (often) all white spaces where people feel comfortable enough to let their guard down. Because racism has evolved over time, frontstage racism is heavily policed and a source of shame when the perpetrator is called out. Backstage racism continues on in the Age of Obama.
Because of their different political personality types, white liberals and white conservatives manifest racism and racial resentment in divergent, if not complementary ways. What they have in common is a type of racial heliocentrism, what we call "the white racial frame" which puts Whiteness at the center of all things. Conservatives are more honest about this fact. Liberals and white progressives are also paid the psychic wages of Whiteness, but they cash the check while feeling either very great guilty or grossly magnanimous.
10. Take the words of the Kossacks seriously for what they reveal about white privilege and liberal/left/progressive politics is invaluable. For example, on my post regarding Herman Cain's noxious race politics, the commenter Poetic Mind wrote that:
...a selection of uprates...well, my hr stands,I am still unconvinced: the presentation and the racialist undertones still make this post inappropriate for a progressive blog...sure, I am not African American, I may not be able to follow your perspective as an African American, but Dailykos has community standards and I still feel, you haven't met them...but in time with more posts you will probably understand what a progressive blog is really about... progressiveness is looking into the future, not getting hung up by the past!
Progressives are "race neutral." In fact, you need to leave the richness of your humanity and life experiences out of the conversation. Your Blues Sensibility and four centuries of experience in the New World, the Black Atlantic, and as the co-founders of this Republic, ought to be ignored. You are quintessentially American, but that essence is inconvenient. It may make some white folks uncomfortable: we are the envy of the world; but no one really wants to be black.
Ultimately, black folks are in need of a good lecture about the real meaning of "progressive" struggle.
We may have led the fight to improve American democracy and carried whole peoples and their struggles on our backs, but now we have sit at the knee of "the real progressives" and take our moment of instruction. Like John Lewis learned at an Occupy Wall Street protest, you best know your place and always ask for permission to participate.