Saturday, February 26, 2011
In the maelstrom of the Herman Cain Race Minstrel Affair, we have missed out on quite a few conversations. Last Monday was Presidents' Day--a day of rest, Popeye's Fried Chicken coupon redemption, and obligatory editorials ranking the "best" and "worst" Chief Executives. Of course the Right want to exaggerate the greatness of corporate pitchman turned President, Ronald Reagan. Others want to claim FDR as particularly noteworthy for his mastery of realpolitik because of how he saved capitalism from itself. The middle road and safe choice for the best there was and the best there ever will be are the trinity of Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson. Ultimately, there is no accounting for taste. But historians of the presidency do have their (least and most) favorites.
History is written in multiple drafts. For example, as the people of the Middle East challenge power and remake their societies some on the Right want to claim these events as the direct result of George Bush's dreams of empire in Iraq and a policy of preemptive war. Only the hindsight wisdom of history will determine if that narrative is correct or not.
In parallel, President Jimmy Carter left office as a President much maligned. In the decades which followed, he has become one of our eldest and most respected statesman. Looking backward from America's current malaise, economic crisis, lost hopes and dreams, and a zeitgeist which channels a belief that this country's best years are behind her, Carter's intervention seemed prophetic.
Where would America be in the 21st century if we had followed the plan outlined by President Carter's famous speech? How would Americans respond in the present if Obama channeled the real talk and raw honesty of President Carter? If President Obama looked us in the collective eye and spoke plainly about the mess we are in at the nadir of American Empire and how we can salvage our collective destiny?
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Behold the New Right's latest manufactured scandal. What is the over/under on how long before this video becomes the Fox News rage of the day?
Let's parse the description which accompanies the clip on the website Founding Bloggers. It reads:
"Wow. Just wow. What do you get when SEIU aggressive progressives are confronted with the antithesis of their world view, a black gay conservative American? Their racist heads implode, of course!
In the video below, SEIU thugs hurl vile personal verbal attacks at a free and independent thinking black homosexual conservative American."
We don't need the genius of Noam Chomsky or George Lakoff to analyze the semiotics at work in the above passage. Just as with the Herman Cain liberal racism framing, the New Right has once more discovered victimology, the politics of grievance, and political correctness. Notice the emphasis: this conservative "victim" is described as "free," "independent," "thinking," and "American." As a bonus, the subject of the video is also the Other and now because of his political orientation is doubly marginalized. Thus by implication, liberals, progressives, people of color--and now our GLBQT brothers and sisters who are not Right-wing quislings--are not free, independent, thinking, or American.
Question: is the discovery of "racism" by Right-wing reactionaries the unintended consequence and hell-spawn blowback of 3rd wave feminism's development of the critical framework known as intersectionality?
Long time readers know that I love counterfactuals. I also find prediction markets compelling intellectual exercises as well. In that spirit, let's collectively work through the newest Right-wing echo chamber Dunning-Kruger talking point meme.
So then, a game: What will be the next group that Right-wing reactionaries rush to defend against liberal racism? Some preliminary entries:
1) One legged libertarian hermaphrodites?
2) Overweight, left handed millionaires?
3) Tall blondes who read Ayn Rand and belong to their local university's Objectivist Society?
4) Tea Party tea baggers who are discriminated against in the labor market because of their felony status?
Who would you add to the list?
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The Perfectly Poetic Timing of the White Conservative Soul: Fox News and Barack Obama is an Upright Walking Gorilla
Given all that has transpired this week where good white conservatives painted me with faux outrage as a "racist" for using a metaphor in my description of how black conservatives buck dance and perform for the Right-wing racial imagination, we have this overlooked story on the Fox News website.
Where was the condemnation? Where was the outrage? Funny, I thought the beating heart and soul of contemporary popular tea party conservatism was "colorblind?" That it took great offense to such hateful and vicious speech?
Alas, the Right-wing Vox Populi show their true colors. It is the greatest offense since the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby for a black person to make an allusion that links Herman Cain "to the monkey in the window," but it is alright for white folks to call Barack Obama a gorilla.
Courtesy of the Daily Kos:
Today on the Fox Nation web site, they posted a story on the popularity of some new videos of a gorilla walking upright like a man. That seems like it should be an innocuous little animal tale with a precocious jungle creature imitating human behavior. But this is Fox Nation we're talking about.
This is the sort of item that Fox Nation posts fully aware of the dog-whistle effect it will have on its readers: a community of dimwits that is simply incapable of masking the open hostility and racism that is at the core of their putrid souls. Here is a sampling of the comments to be found attached to the article:
1preacher: Yea, I could see where this Gorilla evolved from obama's family.
amveteran: This is a true knuckle dragger. Reminds me of Al Sharpton.
winterhawk: Just as I thought, that's buckwheat's daddy.
flyinjohn23: Not only that....He got himself one of those Hiawian Birth Certificates over the internet all on his own too.
1preacher: Because I said that this was obama's mother, that is racist? Not following that one.
hawk1052: Shelia Jackson Lee, comes to mind.
armed: is the one in the background carrying a teleprompter and throwing tater tots at the other one.
And if that isn't bad enough, there were at least 13 comments that the Fox Nationalists "flagged for review." If the examples above made it past their decency filter, we can only imagine how disgusting were the comments that were removed were. And in addition to the overt racism, there was also an abundance of derogatory and idiotic remarks regarding evolution and the intelligence of liberals.
These people are sick and beyond pathetic. And Fox News knows exactly what they are doing by throwing this chum in the tank. This isn't the first time that Fox Nation's readers behaved so atrociously. Last year they posted feverishly about how they wished the President were dead.
The bigots at Fox are surely comfortable with this sort of hatred. We learned last summer that only 1.38% of Fox's audience is African American (compared to about 20% each for CNN and MSNBC). So they probably don't think they have much to lose by being racist jerkwads. Just their humanity, and they don't have much of that to begin with.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Ownage? Chauncey DeVega's Appearance on Ambush "Journalist" Jason Mattera's Radio Show to Discuss the Herman Cain is a Race Minstrel Affair
For those not in the know, this
Thus, all subtlety would be thrown out of the window when/if I appeared on his show. I made a simple calculus: 770 AM is a huge station with great reach which I could play to my advantage; two, an appearance on a cookie cutter Right-wing radio show would be a chance to conduct a long-planned experiment.
The Right-wing echo chamber is not based on reasoned discourse because its premise is anti-intellectualism. Consequently, those not of the Right-wing tribe often lose in "debates" when on their turf because the tendency of progressives/Leftists/centrists/reasonable Conservatives is to want to talk and exchange ideas. Popular Conservatism is based on the opposite--scream, talk in bullet points, and recite talking points. The only way to win is to either play for a stalemate, or alternatively to deploy the rhetorical strategies of mouth-breathing Populist Conservatism against them.
In my appearance on The Jason Mattera Show I decided for a combination of both approaches. Mattera is a bully. Mattera is also someone who must control the situation in order to make his points because he is so utterly and totally bereft of substantive ideas. How do you beat a bully? You bully them back. How do you defeat an ambush? You ambush your attackers.
The Mattera Show did a good deal of subtle post-editing in their podcast of my appearance on Sunday (note to self: always record your own appearances for posterity sake) . In my live appearance, Mattera was noticeably flustered and could not answer basic questions: are black people who vote for the Democratic Party children or stupid? Are poor whites who vote for the Republican Party on a "plantation" of sorts?
He conveniently edited these out with repeated inserts of "lower his mic." During the live broadcast Mattera had no answer and fell all over himself evading the question.
I had some contacts listening to the show live. That group included neutral folks so that I could get some unbiased feedback. The consensus on their end was that I owned Mr. Mattera from step one. In the version which Jason Mattera did not throw down the memory well, I think I fought him to a standstill and won on points (especially given the fact that kicked me off the show in consternation and resorted to profanity and calling me a "kook" when he could not make his "logic" stick). There is also a caller--now edited out--who further angered Mattera when she seconded everything that I said.
The Right-wing shock jock class is not one that I want to be associated with on a repeated basis. As I told a friend, I felt as though I lost a few I.Q. points from merely being a "guest" in such a venue. I can only imagine the damage which Right-wing media does to its listeners. As always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated.
The segment starts at about minute 57.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
I want to thank all of my fellow travelers who have chimed in on the Herman Cain Race Minstrel Affair. I may not have responded to each of you individually. But trust, your support is appreciated and I give love to you all.
I am going to be doing a few more interviews on the radio, as well as online regarding this matter, and then move on. I don't dance or monkeyshine for gold, silver, or attention so I am going to stick with the girl that I brought to the prom. Stated differently, I am going to keep doing what I have been doing damn/despite/because/and regardless of the consequences. As you know I follow the pro-wrestlers' creed: I am me with the volume turned up. I will not deviate from my promise to always be sincere and real. That decision rule--one rooted in my working class roots--has brought me farther than I ever thought possible. With your help, our momentum will keep pushing us forward to bigger and greater things.
In keeping with my love principle, I only felt it fair to ask one of the longtime members of the WARN family who has been out there in the trenches--quite literally--since this dust-up began, to give her account of the events as she experienced them.
Courtesy of our friend OhCrapIhaveacrushonSarahPalin fame...
I was raised by Reagan Democrat(ic) Moral Majority Christian Coalition parents, both ordained ministers, who were primarily "race people". That is, they saw their own work as the first/only Blacks in their places of employment, our positioning as the first/only Blacks in our neighborhood and their decision to send me to all-white Christian schools as desegregation part 2. Many liberals do not know about, or understand, this aspect of Black conservatism. I do, because I lived it, and am a product of it. I spent three years at Fundagelical U., where I had my first more-than-friends same-sex set of events (oh, the things that go on in those sex-segregated dorms...) My father was emeritus and board member of a Christian college with ties to the New Apostolic Reformation. My first vote was for Pat Robertson.
And yes, I really do have a crush on Sarah Palin.
With those ex-conservative bonafides out of the way, I can say with certainty there's good reason not to trust people like Herman Cain, Unhyphenated-Americans like Lloyd Marcus, and the seven other Black characters on the Tea Party circuit. Their sincerity is in question, due not simply to their skin color, as Chauncey's detractors wish to make one believe, but because of their behavior which fits longstanding patterns of race-opportunism.
Enter: coonery, tommery and minstrelsy--the popular American art form infamous for distorting and misrepresenting Black people in the White imagination. Make no mistake: Race minstrelsy continues in the 21st century.
Ask yourself the following. Do tales of black incompetence, vindictiveness, threats of socio-political instability, and white slavery sound familiar?
Have you ever noticed that Republicans, and with all of their loud wails of being the "party of Lincoln," do not mention the postbellum era of Republican Reconstruction during the years of 1865-1877? Though "Jim Crow" was a character out of blackface minstrelsy, White state's rights conservatives imposed this formal type of racism on all non-whites immediately after the end of the Civil War, with this period of de facto white supremacy being codified into law with the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy vs Ferguson (1896). Furthermore, in many regions of the US, such as the west south, north and midwest, this condition lasted into the late 1970s and sometimes decades beyond.
So of course Republicans don't mention the problematic era of Reconstruction--at least not in their outside voices anyway. Why? To do so would alienate their state's rights, Confederate flag-fetishizing constituents.
Hey you, the voter with all the values! Have some Obama waffles!
For example, the Obama Waffles caricature, based in Aunt Jemima visual rhetoric, is directly out of minstrelsy branding. Black conservatives know this. The Muslim-baiting, McCarthy-lite inside content was even worse. But how many conservatives, outside of one, professional homo-hater Bishop Harry Jackson, have ever dared to speak up against such bigotry?
In addition, have you ever noticed how "these lovers of the Constitution" are silent on Tammy Bruce's almost-daily characterization of President Barack Obama as "Urkel?" What is a reference to a 1990s-era sitcom character that scholars Mary Dalton and Laura Linder associate with minstrelsy stock characters such as Sambo the coon. Moreover, it never made the news when Bruce asserted back in January that she gets to call gays "homos" because she is one.
Of course, we heard a few grumbles from their corner when Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com posted an illustration of Senator Joe Lieberman in blackface. But, I do not recall it making the news at Fox News.
And no maliciousness or death wishes are ever directed at those who wield the epithet "race-pimp", which on the American right is synonymous with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Yet we saw it happen against Mr. DeVega over at Alternet.
Conservative jihadis from the lowliest twitterers to the twits at Fox/Kingdom Holding News Channel seek to silence Chauncey DeVega's so-called "racism" as they are quick to condemn and police the behavior of every Black person outside the conservative fold. Ultimately, a Black man speaking his mind about the behavior of a Black conservative without the permission of white overseers, and without apologies or reservation, is an affront to their White authority.
To White conservatives this is bad behavior. Moreover, it is bad behavior that must be punished. Preferably, with repeated epithet strings like like "you're on the Democrat plantation"; "only Black conservatives (i.e. 5% of Black voters or less) think for themselves"; The KKK is the Democrats Robert Byrd; Nazis are Socialists; Read some Ayn Rand, etc. etc. etc.. We observed this behavior from freeper after freeper over at Alternet.
Nobody with common sense buys their stale old Reconstruction-era hysteria. This is the fundamental issue conservatives have with Chauncey DeVega's article, and his subsequent, rage-inducing refusal to be intimidated by even the loudest, most obnoxious Right-wing bullies.
For Herman Cain's part, he is simply using this as a free publicity grab. He should be thanking Chauncey DeVega and giving him 15% for putting Cain on the cultural map, instead of leaving him to stew in Tea Party obscurity.
Despite what the paleoconservatives at Outside the Beltway would have us believe, images out of race minstrelsy are ugly. So is minstrelsy-inspired talk like "Sambo beat the bitch." Who can blame white state's rights conservatives for wanting to distance themselves from this history?
At present, the mainstream state's rights crowd and affiliated Tea Partiers seem to be testing out another remedy.
Armed with language and concepts stolen from liberals, the left wing of the far Right is on the march. They are bringing the conservative movement to a social crossroads.
This week, we saw all manner of state's rights conservatives labeling the entire left "racists" who, like Chauncey DeVega, victimize them with "hate speech". The late 20th and early days of the 21st centuries are apparently moments when the bizarre and surreal have seemingly become the new normal and mundane.
Conservative gays like GOProud attend CPAC. Even Glenn Beck says same sex marriage isn't a threat to America and shouldn't be a priority of the right. Sarah Palin wears the label "feminist" with in-your-face aplomb, and, seeimingly, singlehandedly introduced the concept of "misogyny" to the same right-wing males who have spent the past twenty years denying it's existence. Now, they use the term with relish against anyone who disagree with her policies. The feminists who did not vote for Mrs. Palin are now "the sexists".
Two years ago, no conservative would be caught dead engaging in such leftist Marxist progressive politically-correct anti-liberty speech. Today, it's the norm in many of their circles. However ironic and problematic, given their backgrounds the lemmings cheering on Herman Cain at CPAC are going to have a much tougher time repackaging themselves as mavens of diversity and true inheritors of the mantle of abolitionism and civil rights.
During the Civil Rights era, state's rights conservatives such as the John Birch Society (which bankrolls CPAC) and Ezra Taft Benson (Glenn Beck's favorite), routinely labeled MLK and any other civil rights workers Communists, Socialists, or Marxists. They were in the right-wing gaze people who were unable to think for themselves.
Today, the GOP runs candidates who dress as Nazi war criminals in their spare time. Their gubernatorial candidate for New York sends these emails to friends on the taxpayer dime. Conservative Republicans permit governors to impose Confederate History Month onto the public, and dig in their heels when others allow KKK members to be commemorated on state license plates. A Republican women's organization in South Carolina recently held a "Southern Experience" ball, complete with Confederate generals (Glenn McConnell, R - SC State Senate President), and rent-a-slaves. McConnell's colleague in the senate, Jake Knotts, called other GOP politicians "ragheads".
For me, this grand burlesque of extreme cognitive dissonance has been the week's entertainment. Save for a couple shows on Fox and the usual suspects on the Right-wing side of these Internets, their predictable antics in trying to shut down Chauncey DeVega turned out to be a flop. In a tragicomedy of sorts, conservatives have become the very anti-First Amendment PC police they have spent the past two decades decrying. And it is high comedy watching them try to fulfill this role on the public stage.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I am glad I avoided this drive-by. This is the new meme folks: liberals are bigots and full of hatred. And of course, Conservatives want to "get past" race.
Insert fingers into throat and induce vomiting.
Oh yeah, Bret Baier doesn't like me either.
I am a slave catcher. Wow. And apparently, the Democrats are the "plantation" and liberals and progressives are the forces of white supremacy and the Southern slaveocracy. Stunning.
Wouldn't it be funny if Cain road the road to the GOP nomination on the back of Chauncey DeVega? I guess little people do in fact make history.
What a Day: Chauncey DeVega Says No to Fox News and Also Gets Herman Cain to Say "Race Minstrel" on the Erick Erickson Show
This has been a whirlwind few days. I am still processing everything and am appreciative of your support. Regardless of what happens I got a Right-wing conservative talk radio host to quote Transformers: The Movie. Score points for the ghetto nerds with that one. I also had the pleasure of having Hermain Cain quote me calling him a "race minstrel" and "black garbage pail kid." And now I was condemned by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Cynthia Tucker as "sophomoric" and "vicious." It would seem I am moving up to the high rent district with the enemies I am making. Oh the joys of life.
Finally, I was invited on Fox News to debate Juan Williams on the Sean Hannity Show. I politely declined for a variety of reasons. But, if the venue and timing were a better fit I am more than willing to do an appearance...hint hint, if NPR or others want to chat I am ready, willing, and more than eager and able. I am also going to make a surprise appearance on blogtalk radio in a few minutes. Sometimes folks should be careful who they mention as the devil may in fact show up.
Stay strong in the struggle.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Judge Chauncey DeVega by His Foes: I Have Been Rebuked (Again) by Establishment Black Conservative Garbage Pail Kids for Saying Herman Cain is a Race Minstrel
Black Conservatives Condemn Left-Wing Blogger's Racial Attack on Herman Cain
Washington, D.C. – Members of the Project 21 black leadership network are condemning a major left-wing web site's blistering racial attack on black conservative Herman Cain, and once again is asking why the liberal civil rights establishment still refuses to condemn racial attacks on black conservatives.
"I find it shocking and an indictment of Herman Cain's antagonist when he is obviously compelled to retreat to amoral diatribe when valid arguments against Cain's record cannot be found. This tactic is the 800-pound yellow gorilla in the middle of the room that progressives like to pretend doesn't exist," said Project 21 çhairman Mychal Massie. "Where are the usual suspects who are so quick to find racial insult in the acts of the tea partiers?"
Cain, a prominent conservative activist and former corporate CEO, was a speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. on February 11. In the wake of that speech, the prominent left-wing web site AlterNet featured a blog post referencing the address that called Cain "a monkey in the window." Cain's speech was called "a version of race minstrelsy where he performs 'authentic negritude' as wish fulfillment for White Conservative fantasies" and "bad comedy." Black conservatives in general were referred to as "black garbage pail kids" who "entertain and perform for their White Conservative masters."
"It would be one thing to critique Herman Cain's politics, but it seems the message was less important than the man. This cowardly, anonymous attack was based solely on Cain's race," noted Project 21's Massie. "It's a problem that all black conservatives face, and it's appalling when such race-based animosity is ignored by the civil rights establishment. Saying nothing will confirm they have a double-standard rooted deeply in a political agenda."
The author of the outrageous AlterNet post is "Chauncey DeVega" — a pseudonym. According to his bio, DeVega's writing has appeared in prominent media venues such as the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly and the Root (a web site run by the Washington Post and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates). DeVega's post was added to the AlterNet site on February 12. He also has another blog hosted by Salon.com as well as his own web site.
"I call on AlterNet to immediately withdraw and issue a public condemnation of this vitriolic content appearing in their online publication," said Project 21 member Niger Innis, who introduced Cain at CPAC. "AlterNet's mission statement boasts that it is a medium that transcends traditional journalism and is, instead, intended to 'emphasize workable solutions to persistent social problems.' AlterNet also asserts that their content 'underscores a commitment to fairness, equality and global stewardship.' Such virtues are in direct contradiction to the deplorable and irresponsible commentary they have allowed to be published."
Innis, who is also the national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, added: "This is particularly ironic that, after calls for civility in political discourse by many in the media, they would — through their inaction — encourage such socially reckless and racially insensitive material on a prominent left-wing publication."
On July 17, 2010 on the Fox News Channel, Project 21 full-time fellow Deneen Borelli asked NAACP senior vice president Hilary Shelton if his group would "issue a statement condemning those individuals" who target black conservatives for abuse based on their politics. At the time, Shelton replied, "Why, yes, ma'am… Just give us some details." Despite sending him details and a follow-up letter, no condemnation was ever issued by the NAACP.
Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie repeatedly challenged Al Shaprton, Marc Morial and former D.C. congressional delegate Walter Fauntroy to a debate, now tentatively scheduled, with or without them, for February 28 in Washington, D.C., to address the trio's past allegations about tea party extremism. Massie has yet to receive any replies.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives since 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Chauncey DeVega is Public Enemy Number One in the Conservative Blogosphere Because He Called Herman Cain a Race Minstrel
It would seem that Chauncey DeVega is a bad boy again. In the past, I have been mean to Sarah Palin. And in the present, my cruelty apparently knows no boundaries as I have hurt the feelings and besmirched the honor of good Conservative
Color me pleased. So my friends, the Conservative horde has been unleashed. From Breitbart, the Washington Times, to Hot Air, Pajamas Media, Townhall, and Power Line the right wing echo chamber is beating its drums. Please enjoy my infamy, as I wouldn't be motivated to cause so much trouble if it were not for all of your support.
What next my tribe of respectable negro friends and allies? Should I lay low or join the battle? And what will the reactionary troglodytes of the New Right do next?
Monday, February 14, 2011
Can't a brother have an onanistically good time without having the bugaboo of race show up when he least expects it...
And once more, how does it feel to be a problem...or perhaps even window dressing?
Ultimately, the historical power of white supremacy is (contrary to the fantasies held by the post-Civil Rights generation) not that of an outlier. Instead, white supremacy's power is in its ubiquitous nature--the capacity to be both everywhere and nowhere at all.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
In the immortal words of Megatron in Transformers: The Movie, Herman Cain's speech to CPAC really is bad comedy. As you know, I find
When race minstrelsy was America's most popular form of mass entertainment, black actors would often have to pretend to be white men, who then in turn would put on the cork to play the role of the "black" coon, Sambo, or Jumping Jim Crow. Adding insult to injury, in a truly perverse and twisted example of the power of American white supremacy black vaudevillians would often pretend to be white in order to denigrate black people for the pleasures of the white gaze.
Herman Cain--an ironic name if ever, and one more suited to a tragic figure in a Harlem Renaissance era novella--is not "blackening twice" as some race minstrels chose to do.
[Unfortunately, the attendees at CPAC are not the butt of some type of joke where the white man wearing the cork is really a black man in secret.]
Instead, Herman Cain's shtick is a version of race minstrelsy where he performs "authentic negritude" as wish fulfillment for White Conservative fantasies. Like the fountain at Lourdes, Cain in his designated role as black Conservative mascot, absolves the White racial reactionaries at CPAC of their sins. This is a refined performance that Black Conservatives have perfected over many decades and centuries of practice.
Let's consider the routine. First, Cain enters the stage to Motown music. Then Cain feigns swimming after rolling up his sleeves to show them his black skin and how he is a hardworking negro (not like those other ones). Cain bellows in a preacher affected voice and channels the folksy negro down home accent of his late grandpappy. In the money shot, Cain gives the obligatory "black folks who are not Republicans are on the plantation" speech to the joyous applause of his White benefactors. And he doubles down by legitimating any opposition to President Barack Obama as virtuous and patriotic regardless of the bigoted well-springs from which it may flow.
In total, CPAC is a carnival and a roadshow for reactionary Conservatives. It is only fitting that in the great tradition of the freak show, the human zoo, the boardwalk, and the great midway world's fairs of the 19th and 20th centuries, there is a Borneo man, a Venus Hottentot or a tribe of cannibals from deepest darkest Africa or Papua New Guinea on display. For CPAC and the White Conservative imagination, Herman Cain and his black and brown kin are that featured attraction.
We always need a monkey in the window, for he/she reminds us of our humanity while simultaneously reinforcing a sense of our own superiority. Sadly, there are always folks who are willing to play that role because it pays so well.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Working on some things here...but in the meantime my friend Werner Herzog's Bear of the website I Used to be Disgusted, Now I try to be Amused, has come up with something pithy, sharp, and sardonic that deserves some shine. The following is really meme worthy--at least in my humble opinion--so please circulate it widely. A question: What would you add to the list?
Some of the same people who use the political system in this country to impose their religious views of abortion and homosexuality on everyone else in this country are those doing the most fear mongering about the Muslim Brotherhood?
That many so-called "libertarians" who decry national parks and health care reform as "tyranny" maintain support for an authoritarian ruler like Mubarak?
The same people who weep over the loss of "traditional values" are among the loudest cheerleaders for the biggest destroyer of traditional values yet invented: unfettered consumer capitalism.?
That the same people who are constantly spewing paranoid rhetoric about "the government" want to burn Julian Assange at the stake for unmasking the government's lies and hypocrisies when it comes to foreign policy?
Many academics who use their research to defend and praise the disadvantaged have no sympathy whatsoever for the downtrodden adjuncts in their own departments who are criminally underpaid?
The Pope who constantly chides Europeans over their lack of morality covered up horrible crimes by his own clergy?
A man like Rick Perry, who has never been anything in his entire life except for a politician, can make a career out of attacking government.? (Here's an idea Rick: we'll take you up on it and let you give up your wasteful government job.)
Monday, February 7, 2011
If Mad Men has taught me anything, it is that in their chosen vocation, the dream merchants do few things unintentionally as they cultivate the desires of citizen-consumers.
It is almost assured that there will be much overreaction and hand-wringing over the racially clumsy and stereotyped laden Pepsi Max Superbowl ad. But, said response does not mean that the spot itself is not worthy of some critical engagement.
There really isn't too much to offer in terms of meta-analysis for this spot. Perhaps, this is why the advertisement just seems so lazy. The commercial deploys the "Sassy Mammy"/Sapphire stereotype: the over-bearing, neck-snapping black woman (and lest we not forget that stereotypes persist because they are rooted in some reality that folks choose to reproduce or not...see Tyler Perry and others) which persists even into the 21st century. As the obligatory target for said "sista's" overbearing harpiness, Pepsi Max features an emasculated black man and his obligatory object of lust--the always beguiling and sexy white woman. In turn, Black man's kryptonite is left unconscious by Sapphire..and his big, black, wide, can. She and her man then beat a hasty retreat.
If we don't retreat in the face of what seems to be such a grossly flat text, the semiotics of the Pepsi Max commercial can become (at least potentially) quite interesting. Could there in fact be more going on in the implications of the advertisement (and what it is signaling to in the collective political subconscious) than in the spot itself? Is a focus on reception more illuminating than an exclusive examination of the text's visuals and narrative?
For example, check out some of the running comments on the advertisement here. White privilege and the normality of whiteness--as always--are on fully display. Because you know, "why can't it just be about a man and his overbearing wife?" and "why do you always have to bring race into this stuff?"
"What if Famous Filmmakers Directed the Superbowl?" is Way Better Than the Real Game That Was Pittsburgh Versus Green Bay
To my eyes, the the Superbowl was blah. But after watching Slate's great video, the question remains: What if George Lucas directed the Superbowl?
Your thoughts? Who are the Sith? Who are the Jedi? And would the level of sadness and "suckitude" equal that of Phantom Menace?
Or if being really provocative: What if Spike Lee directed the Superbowl? In such a happening, what would our eyes have been treated to in that most entertaining of counter-factual no prize events?
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Black professional athletes may still be a bunch of million dollar slaves, but Doug Williams was/is still THAT DUDE. I remember going to the barbershop that week and all the folks were still talking about Doug Williams' amazing performance. And not to be forgotten, this was still in a moment when respectable folks could publicly muse about the intellectual ability of black quarterbacks and their perceived lack of the acuity necessary to run a sophisticated NFL offense. How things change? (Or do they?)
Enjoy the game folks, I am more interested in the commercials than the teams playing (my beloved Pats done messed up again, but at least Tom Brady is the unanimous MVP...thank the fates that piece of human debris Michael Vick didn't get one vote from the press for that most high acknowledgment. There appears to be some little amount of justice in the world).
Have fun. Be safe.
Friday, February 4, 2011
One day, far in the future, I will write the book Pimpin' and Reconstruction: Reflections on African American Deviance and Resistance in the Post Civil War South.
Just a quick reminder of sorts, that Black History is made by real people, some heroic, others despicable, and many who are just content to stand by the sidelines of history. We are "blues people." But, black folk are also everyday people. For my dollar, the luxury to be the latter has always been the real goal of the Black Freedom Struggle.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
As I am learning, interviews for a popular audience are difficult to do because personality has to be balanced with communicating complex facts in a setting that is not generally amenable to a college or university lecture. Some folks can do this effortlessly (like Professor West) and other amazingly accomplished scholars not so well (see Professor Nell Irvin Painter's painful interview on the Colbert Report as an example).
I always pay close attention to the great performers of the pundit and intellectual classes. Why? One, I admire anyone who is a master of the craft. And two, many of the skills exhibited by the most engaging and incisive intellectuals who ply their craft in public life are transferable to the classroom. While many of us who make our living in the library and in front of students are indifferent to the art of teaching as a performance, for those of us who ponder such things a great interview is a gold mine of professional riches.
Brother West and Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson put on a master clinic in the art of the interview. While the complexities of Black History Month in the post-racial Age of Obama cannot be reduced to 20 minutes, both gave as good as they got and offered us a good many gems to improvise around.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Let's play this as a hybrid open thread of sorts...
The pundit classes are chattering away on the street-level events in Egypt. I choose to demure. For now, I am just sitting back and enjoying the ride so to speak as Mubarak and 30 plus years of U.S. policy get's shaken, rattled, and rolled. My thoughts on the uprising in Egypt are also more meta-level than policy oriented. I have been increasingly struck by the question of "who watches the watchers?" and how the American media is 1) framing the event and 2) how "experts" of questionable expertise are trotted out for their obligatory 30 seconds of analysis where they offer unqualified observations in the service of very narrow policy agendas.
On an existential level the crisis in Egypt is about politics. This is an observation to which a superficial reader would reply, "and so what?" But, the idea of "politics" and what constitutes "the political" is laden with assumptions (of culture, time period, and social location). By implication, these assumptions go uninterrogated and unreflected upon. Moreover, I would bet dollars to donuts that most Americans (and people elsewhere) could give you examples of things that are political, but would struggle with providing an actual definition of politics.
This is an important exercise if we are going to offer a critique of how the American media is covering the crisis in Egypt. For example, if one watches Fox News there is an implicit narrative that the protests in Egypt are an example of "abnormal politics." If one watches Al-Jazeera the frame is one where the protests are an ideal example of politics as action--regular people are fighting for their share of power against an oppressive State.
For folks in political science this is a basic debate--and one that can become quite heated. In the discipline there does exist a broad agreement on what constitutes politics. However, it is on the margins, in interdisciplinary spaces, and where questions of power, culture, and identity are at the forefront where the "politics" in political science can become very contentious.
A question then: Of this less than exhaustive list, which definition applies most directly to the events in Egypt?
Politics is about how societies negotiate the distribution of power, resources, and access to private and public goods;
Politics is essentially the study of power and authority;
Politics is about who gets what, when, how, and why;
Politics is the study of the large N: institutions, public opinion, mass behavior, and international relations.
Or is the Egyptian uprising an example of some other type of politics (or even a phenomenon entirely apart from Western notions of the idea)?
The floor is yours.
Monday, January 31, 2011
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.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Saturday Afternoon Thinking Project: Hagler Versus Hearns--"You Are Too Young For This Fight. Violence Like This Could Hurt Your Soul..."
As we do on some Saturdays, let's reflect on that sweetest of sweet sciences.
With all the dust-up regarding Amy Chua's "Tiger Mom" thesis on Chinese mothers and their "unique" parenting skills, I have been thinking about my formative years. My parents were not perfect (whose are?) Nevertheless, in my humble opinion they did a good deal right. Sometimes this was intentional (my dad telling me that you can have any woman you want if you make her realize how beautiful she is). Other times the life lesson was accidental and unintended (my mom waiting outside in the rain for 8 hours to see Return of the Jedi with me, simply because she promised to do so months before).
Ultimately, there is no universal manual for how to be a good parent. Doctor Spock may help some. But, advice about the aggregate does not necessarily help you raise your own kids given their own unique souls, personalities, needs, wants, dreams, and desires. As a qualifier, I do not have children. But if I have taken any of what I learned from my mom and dad (as well as those of my dearest friends), the lesson seems to be that you have to let folks find their own way--even while you guide them through ownership of their errors, misdeeds, and mistakes.
Thus, to the destination signaled to by the legendary Hagler-Hearns bout...
My dad was a funny guy. He left porn around the house for me to find because he was worried that I read too much and wasn't chasing the ladies enough. In fact, one of my fondest masturbatory memories was finding Black Tail in Prison Volume 6 on top of the VCR one Monday morning. By the way, the fight he had with my mom that evening regarding the corruption of my soul is a close second for my funniest memory of all time.
I was also allowed to read whatever I liked. Why? Because knowledge is power. Moreover, I could see whatever movie I wanted to as long as I gave my parents a report about its content. Likewise, there were no restrictions on what music I listened to as long as I could explain its aesthetic qualities--either positive or negative--to my parents.
I was also allowed to watch classic Eddie Murphy era Saturday Night Live. Lest we forget that before he sold out and made movies for the preteen set, Eddie was THAT dude. I will never forget coming into the den that evening while my parents were watching the legendary skit in which Eddie Murphy pitched over sized diaphragms in a faux infomercial. My mom yelled at me to go back to bed because the skit was too adult for me. My dad said, "let the boy stay, it's just sex."
Some months later I wandered to the den again. It was about midnight or so and the fight between Hagler and Hearns was on the TV (to this day I do not know how he got that next evening bootleg in an era well before pay-per-view). I was wide-eyed and excited. Wearing my GI JOE pajamas I sat down in the recliner and announced that I am going to make some of that old-school, cook on the range top, Jiffy Pop Popcorn and watch the fight.
Pops looked at me. He calmly (yet sternly) said, "You are too young for this fight. Violence like this could hurt your soul. If you watch this fight you will get old before you are ready."
I was annoyed and quite frankly pissed off. I could do whatever I wanted to, but I couldn't watch Hagler-Hearns? Give me a break! To a preteen who thought he was older than his years this was the worst of insults. Looking backwards from 2011 and watching the Hagler-Hearns fight with adult eyes I think my dad may have been right. Such is the wisdom of age.
You tell me: was pops right to shield a set of young and innocent eyes from the drama that was Hagler-Hearns? And how would you less than tiger moms and tiger dads have handled said situation?
Thursday, January 27, 2011
On the post "Howard Stern's Ownage of the "Sarah Palin Tea Party Battle Hymn," Thrasher wrote:
Yes I can define (racism) by inserting a number of conventional definitions However I always reserve the right to define reality from my personhood as a Black man in USA where the articulation of this offense does not have to shaped or fashioned using the paradigms of the ruling class (read white folks or those educated and influenced by the ruling class)..
When Black folks rely on the lexicon and tools of engagement defined by the ruling class than we engaged in making excuses for racists like Stearn and others.. Tragically for some of us Unless we insert and employ their (ruling class) verbiage or tools our concerns are not acknowledged or recognized. I reject such an approach especially when racism is on the table...
I have a few other readers' comments in the queue to bump up. But Thrasher's observations on the nature of racism caught my eye because in the Age of Obama they are quite prescient and lead to no small number of important questions.
One of my formative experiences in graduate school was attending a lecture by noted scholar James Cone of Martin and Malcolm in America fame. In that lecture, Cone mentioned how some of the most difficult students to work with on questions of racial inequality and white supremacy are black and brown folk. Because they often translate lived experience into a universal and generalizable data point, the move from the personal to the scholarly can be a bit rough.
Thrasher's comment brought me back to that moment. What is the definition of racism (or sexism, or homophobia, or any of the other assorted "isms" that are now part of common speak)? Who gets to decide? Is there one definition? Or are there many? Is "racist" as overused and misapplied a word as "misogynist?"
Moreover, we must necessarily tread towards realpolitik in these explorations: What is the relationship of one's definition of "racism" to power? For example, conservatives embrace an insincere colorblind politics where to even discuss the realities of racial inequality is somehow "racist." By comparison, there are many liberals and progressives who would assert that to in fact not have an open conversation about the realities of race is itself racist.
Like many of you, I can offer an academic, dense, and complicated definition of the concept. But, I am curious as to how you balance the point of view of the aggrieved (the politics of feeling and emotion) with the politics of detached intellectualism, positivism, and a belief in the merits of specific historicism.
And yes, I am being intentionally provocative.