For those who write online (either as bloggers or freelancers) what are your greatest hits and misses? And how do you decide when an idea has gone stale and should best be left by the proverbial roadside of abandoned articles/books/chapters/and blog posts?
These questions speak to the problem of immediacy in the 21st and late 20th century news cycles. With the rise of the Internet, the primacy of soft news, and the death of print, the now is yesterday--attention spans have been shortened with deleterious consequences for the public and the role of the 4th Estate as gatekeeper and watchdog. Great articles often go neglected because they missed a narrow window of opportunity. Inversely, mediocre articles often receive an out-sized amount of attention because the timing was perfect.
In the spirit of sharing, here is one of my pieces from the archives. Last year I imagined "What if Sarah Palin were Black?" This post took on a life of its own. Like a friendly zombie, What if Sarah Palin were Black? has been born, died, and resurrected several times.
I wrote a follow up to that piece and never shared it. Why? Because while Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving she 1) receives too much attention and 2) what was a fresh and novel idea can lose its special quality when one goes back to the well once too often.
But what the hell? Like a Director's cut of a DVD that restores footage that was perhaps best left on the editing room floor, here is the sequel to What if Sarah Palin were Black? Was this a good idea whose moment has past or is there still mileage to be gained from a counter-factual that attempts to expose the normativity of whiteness and white privilege through the lens of the Wasilla Wonder?
Sarah Palin is the queen of white conservative victimology. In the aftermath of The Arizona Massacre she has combined her unrepentant narcissism, egomania, and craven lust for media attention--and the money that it brings--into a parade of self-pity.
Not content to lay low, earlier this week Palin doubled down by appearing on Fox News where she further pleaded her case for martyrdom: a detour into bad political theater that would be funny if the bloodshed in Arizona were not so tragic.
Once more, and as has been true throughout her career, Sarah Palin’s mediocrity is rewarded without consequence. This is just one more example of white privilege in action: Palin’s actions do not blight her whole race; just like Jared Loughner's actions don't throw into question whether white men can be trusted with guns (compared to, say, attacks by Muslims, etc.). By extension, Palin's despicable behavior is in no way taken as a comment on white women as as a whole. In the United States, women of color are afforded no such luxury. They are marginalized both because of their gender and their race.
Ultimately, to be a member of a racial minority in a society where Whiteness is the norm is to be collectively linked to strangers. For example, when white men go crazy, commit acts of political violence, try to kill police because Glenn Beck told them to, behave irresponsibly, or act with poor judgment, it is neither a comment on Whiteness nor on white men as a group. No, it is the deed of one person--an individual who has the privilege of embracing the "I" as opposed to the "we" of collective blame and responsibility.
As W.E.B. Du Bois famously asked, "how does it feel to be a problem?" Because of the shield that is Whiteness, white folk--and Sarah Palin in particular--have rarely (if ever) had to ask that question. For a moment, we shall remedy that oversight. With Sarah Palin’s victimology parade in mind here is a thought experiment.
Just as Tim Wise did in his essay “What if the Tea Parties were Black?” let’s play a game of fill in the blanks.
I will start:
If Sarah Palin were black, Fox News would have demanded that the F.B.I. prosecute her for sedition and inciting political violence.
If Sarah Palin were black, the Right-wing would be calling for Black political leadership, as well as the Democratic Party, to both condemn her and renounce any future relationship with the former Governor from Alaska.
If Sarah Palin were black, she would be publicly denounced for being a vacuous, narcissistic, self-centered, "diva" that is not fit for public service and who cares more about her own fame and fortune than she does the common good or the victims of The Arizona Massacre.
If Sarah Palin were black, her behavior would be used as a launching point for discussing how Black leadership is in crisis. In fact, a major news network would air a whole series on how black women are failing their communities and how Palin is emblematic of a larger trend.
If Sarah Palin were black, the Right would be lambasting her for not embodying the Conservative principles of "personal responsibility."
If Sarah Palin were black, Glenn Beck would have already linked her to his imagined cabal and tradition of violence among "Progressive-Liberal-Socialists." On his blackboard there would direct links from Palin to Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saul Alinsky, the Black Panther Party, Angela Davis, the Tides Foundation, The Symbionese Liberation Army, and The Weather Underground.
If Sarah Palin were black, Rush Limbaugh would have said that her behavior is one more example of how liberalism is a "mental illness," that liberals are a "cancer," and that progressives should be "destroyed."
If Sarah Palin were black, she would be persona non grata after The Arizona Massacre and run out of the public square on a rail.