Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Race is How Class is Lived...Some More Reflections on Structures, Individual Agency, and the Undeserving Poor
The joys of discussing poverty, public policy, and baby daddy baby mama drama. Why not bring Dr. William Julius Wilson right into the fold to make a heady intervention? Oh the wonders of tricknology and these Internets.
As we were beginning to develop in our earlier conversation, the poverty puzzle is hard to untangle. Is poverty a function of personal responsibility (or the lack thereof), structural inequality, or some combination of the two? Because Americans do not have a class consciousness in the same way that Europeans or others do (Americans like to think of themselves as uniformly middle class be they earning 1 million a year or 10,000 dollars) it is hard to even begin to talk about the relationship between structures, politics, and individual outcomes.
When one adds the moral scripts of the "deserving vs. the undeserving poor," the waters get muddied even more as political ideology and cultural explanations inevitably trump a deep analysis of political economy and social structures.
In my commitment as a Black pragmatist to individual agency and a belief in the capacity of folks to make decisions--and to be held accountable for their outcomes--I can explain why many young sisters choose to be DNA receptacles for the semi-jobless bums and cornerboys who bring nothing to the table but "pretty eyes" and "swagga" (and other reasons including local social prestige; peer pressure; limited life chances and truncated opportunity structures; and the sickening "I wanted someone to love"). However, I can still beat my head on the ground in frustration as I try to puzzle out why so many would make poor decision making a modus operandi.
Class is the modality in which race is lived in America. The following questions logically follow. Are many black folks poor because they are black? Or are they black because they are poor?
This is a classic conundrum, one that is more difficult to resolve than how it appears initially.
The history is deep here folks:
Monday, May 9, 2011
I hope your Mother's Day was restful and good. In the glow of such holidays we often forget that questions of parenting and family also involve the hard realities of resources, life chances, and opportunity structures. For ultimately, it is in the home where we first begin to learn our roles as citizen and community member.
Family arrangements also come in many different shapes, sizes, and forms. There is the potential for dignity and success in all of them, but potential does not need always equal an outcome realized. Moreover, while we may want to embrace the mantra that "love conquers all," the hard nosed reality is that some family arrangements are more optimal in a given society than are others.
In the black community, and in particular among the ghetto underclasses, the last few decades have witnessed the rise of a troubling norm where the de facto--if not preferred by some--home arrangement is one in which single mothers raise children and the father is not present (nor, is he expected to be). Sadly, in many communities "Baby Daddies" have become cheap substitutes and stand-ins for fathers, men who were traditionally partners, protectors, and role models for manhood. In total, it appears that the marriage markets in many black communities are broken, distorted, and perhaps so badly damaged that they cannot be easily repaired in either the near or long term.
Of course, societies change over time. Arrangements of home are reflections of evolving moral norms and dynamic relationships of political economy (see the rising divorce rates in the United States). However, an acknowledgment of the factors which are leading to a breakdown in the black family is not an exercise in excuse making. Nor is it an exercise in overlooking the socially deleterious outcomes that are more likely to come when subculture becomes the norm and shame has been shown the door.
Some frightening statistics:
1. 72 percent of black and 51 percent of Latinas gave birth to children out of wedlock.
2. Single, female headed households are more likely to be below the poverty line.
3. Children from fatherless homes are 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
This is a recipe for social disorganization and veritable States of Nature where a youthocracy of the street pirates becomes the norm, and chaos comes to dominate communities and impugn their standard of living.
While the intentions driving the campaign to honor "young mamas" are well meaning, the reality is that the family arrangements highlighted in their campaign are not be valorized or idealized. Sure, a strong sister can make it, but should she have to in the absence of her partner? Or where many men have abandoned their responsibilities? Is there anything grand about young single mothers, struggling with a lack of resources and support?
And no, said young women--many of whom are suitable as candidates for The Maury Povich Show--is not likely to end up a MacArthur Genius Fellow.
Once more, this is the soft bigotry of low expectations, where some valorize and make noble behavior that they would not accept for their own children or kin. But somehow, it is okay for "those people."
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Saturday Afternoon Thinking Project: Of Birthers, Deathers, and David Icke's Reptilian Aliens Rule the World Hypothesis
Something fun for a Saturday.
Obama's release of his long form birth certificate has gutted support for the Birthers. In conjunction with the one two punch that was Obama's order to successfully rid the world of Osama Bin Laden, the Tea Party New Right GOP is on their heels. While fun to watch, the Birthers will evolve and continue on to other silliness. Their party will continue the freak show as the Republicans try to select a challenger from a pitiable field of contenders for the 2012 election.
Some (if not most) of the Birthers will follow Trump's racist lead and become obsessed with the President's school records--you know the fix was in for that black guy to be voted head of the Harvard Law Review folks. Others, desperate to deny the President any success, will spin elaborate fictions where Osama is still alive and hidden away somewhere; Obama strategically waited to kill him as to find the most politically expedient moment to hurt the Republicans; and the most desperate and partisan will not rally around the flag, but instead will find a way to question Obama's leadership and role in the decision to send Seal Team 6 to double tap Bin Laden's melon.
The paranoid style is an old script in American politics. History tells us that the Birthers and the Deathers will eventually fold into the lunatic fringe--to the degree they do not already overlap. But, conspiracy-talk and the propensity of people to practice and believe in it, signals to important ebbs and flows in the collective political subconscious. Oftentimes, the root problem that breeds a belief in conspiracy theories is either a sense of powerlessness or a feeling that the world is changing. Thus there is something existentially "wrong" with it. Consequently, a need for explanations--however ridiculous--becomes necessary to resolve cognitive dissonance and to find parsimony in one's understanding of reality.
I love a good conspiracy theory (thank you Art Bell). For example, I am highly suspicious of the official accounts of the events on 9/11 (Operation Northwoods anyone?). The moon landings occurred, but I have not heard a compelling explanation for why we have not returned (perhaps we never left?). The National Security State is real: the panoptic moment occurred decades ago. Military technology is at least two to three generations ahead of that generally known to exist by the mass public (just what was the secret weapon alluded to by Bow Woodward on 60 Minutes a few years ago?)
In thinking about the Birthers and Deathers my thoughts returned to David Icke, one of my favorite practicioners of the conspiranoid craft. He melds the frightening truth of the global power elite with a carnival barker's style. There are aliens afoot, Planet X is coming, and the world is not as the common man understands it to be.
I wonder how how the Deathers will bend their worldview to fit into Icke's vision?
Friday, May 6, 2011
A Final (Guest) Post on the Trump Hating on Obama Birther Meme: The Birth Of A Nation - Certificate.
We Are Respectable Negroes works because there are good folks who have stuck with it from the beginning. As I continue to evolve WARN, I have been spreading our wings and inviting friends and allies to offer up their thoughts in this, my humble little corner of the digital public square.
I have already offered my two cents on the Birther nonsense and the mouth-breathing white populists who are their base. As a result of releasing his long form birth certificate, it would seem that Obama has ethered most of that crowd. Subsequently, in a nice gesture and complement to the Birther debacle, Carey Carey, one of our frequent commentators, sent the following piece my way. It is a nice and creative final word on the Birther meme. Enjoy.
On second thought, maybe I should be careful what I ask for. Don’t quote me, but I believe a couple of the main characters in the original Birth of a Nation were abolitionist Congressman Austin Stoneman and his mulatto protégé, Silas Lynch, who somehow is elected Lieutenant Governor. See, the more I think about it, the movie The Birth of a Nation and The Birth of a Certificate have eerie similarities. Let’s see, a mulatto (excuse my French) an elected official and a “Lynch”, yikes, the Birth of a Certificate - Nation - 2011. Oh Lord, but they’re JUST movies, right?
Well, movies or not, I smell propaganda, but I don’t know who to believe? I mean, some folks are saying President Obama caved in under the pressure of Donald Trump. Other have said Mr. Trump is such a double-speaking slime bag. Yet, some folks are saying Obama's campaign posturing of avoiding race and making Black issues marginal is a backturn turn in our navigation of this life in America as Black Folks and some are saying what the POTUS did last week was brilliant.
Well well well, so many views spoken in so many ways. However, since I am an average black man from the flatlands of Iowa, I tend to view things in a different light. See, I am not a self proclaimed political analyst, nor a quasi-intellectual, so I have to tell it like I see it, in the best way I know how.
Listen, I come from a family of storytellers who always enriched their “messages” and stories by opening with little tidbits of information. So, in true family tradition I offer the following to voice my opinion on the Birth of a Certificate.
The night was glare, the moon was yellow, and the leaves came tumbling down. Quantum banter relinquished it's liberally greased floors to silence. Like the toes of the Wicked Witch of The East, retentively coiled upon losing their ruby red glass slippers, I am suggesting the appendages of the black blogsphere should relax it's pointed index fingers to a slightly paused position.
To make a point, I opened with a line from the song Stagolee. Well, let me hit you with a few more lines...
"I was standin' on the corner when I heard my bulldog bark; he was barkin' at the two mens who gamblin' in the dark. It was Stagolee and Billy, Two men who gamble' late, Stagolee throw seven, Billy swore that he throwed eight. Stagolee told Billy, "I can't let you go with that; You have won my money and my brand new Stetson hat." Stagolee went home, And got his forty-four. Stagolee found Billy, "Oh please don't take my life! I got three little children, And a very sick little wife" Stagolee shot Billy, Oh he shot that boy so fast"
Okay, now I’m thinking about some white folks and Democrats vs. Republicans. Therein lies the core of my discontent with people like Donald Trump and those of his ilk. Look, some folks have no shame and are constitutionally incapable of telling the truth. So no matter what we say, real change will never come from their mouth. My daughter has a couple of sayings that addresses that point...“don’t make a liar lie” (don't ask a liar a question, because they are going to do what they always do... tell you a lie) and “That’s yo lie, you tell it, I’m not cosigning that bullsh*t”
Both Stagolee and Billy knew who was wrong, but somebody didn’t budge.
And you know what, Langston Hughes spoke on The Ways of White Folks. I loved the brilliance of Langston Hughes. His artful way of showing people their evil ways - without yelling at them, or calling them enigmatic names - was a stroke of genius.
Hughes's stories were messages from that other America, sharply etched vignettes of its daily life, cruelly accurate portrayals of black people colliding -- sometimes humorously, more often tragically -- with whites".
So now I’m thinking about President Obama and this latest birth certificate fiasco. But wait, if you’re of the mindset that those who use “bad words” and/or vulgar language, only do so because they possess a limited vocabulary, I say miss me with that BULLSH*T, okay. And, if you’re offended by such language.... as Dr. Seuss said,
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now, cuz I am about to let it all hang out!
Listen, I’ve said this many times, telling some white folks what they’ve done wrong and shame shame shame on them, does little or nothing to persuade them to stop their evil ways. So, since Obama is a black man, and every black person knows how to say “motherfu*ker”... real good, I know he would like to say exactly what’s on his mind. Seriously, although he is the president, if you show me a black person that can’t cus (when they have to) or at the very least say the word “motherfu*ker” with gusto and passion, I’ll show you an Oreo or a black man that lived in a cave on the south side of the moon.
So, although all that political “correctness” and purple prose we and the president find ourselves engaged in - is the championed voice, I can’t help but believe our president would like to sometimes, some GOTDAMN time, tell a mfer what’s really on his mind. Check this out. If the cameras were not flashing, and if he, President Obama, would not be attacked from jokers on the left and clowns on the right, I believe the conversation would have been as followed--
Donald Trump: Mr. President, since you’re a black man and we’ve never had a black president, would you show us your birth certificate. We know your mother was white so we have a few questions.
The President: Look here you fu*kin’ weasel, you can miss me with that bullshit and kiss the pink part of my assh*le. How dare you offend me and my mother in that fashion.
Trump: But Mr. President, the public has a right to know about all the affairs of your mother and rather or not you’re really an American.
The President: Is that right? Well, I hate to talk about yo momma , she was a good ol' ho, with a two dollar pumtang, and a rubber a$$hole. See man, you done pissed me off and set off the natural black man in me. Your mother was talking about wrappin’ her thang around my chin. I told her she should be blowing it out her a$$ and try to be my mutherfkin’ friend.
Trump: OH NO, not another angry black man?
The President: OH NO MFer, don’t start crying like a bitch now, you started this shit. Your eyes my shine and you teeth my grin, but I’m tired of you diggin’ in my ass one mo again... you and all your friends. Hug me, love me, or leave me the fu*k alone, because I’m the HNIC up in this motherfu*ker.
Well my friends, that’s what the president would like to say. Yeah, he’d like to pull out his Johnson and slap some folks with it. See, as I said, some people are never going to change regardless of what we say or what names we call them. So we might as well lead with a good left hook and an uppercut while they keep on jabbing. Yeah, fuck’em and the Confederate horses they rode in on.
Hey, my daddy told me you have to bring some to get some, or get out of the damn fight. Bullies love punks. I don't like punks and I've never been one, and I don‘t believe Obama could have come this far if he remotely had punkish ways. I know he wouldn’t have a strong black woman like his wife Michelle. Forget about it, she’s from the south side of Chicago. I am left to believe some folks will never seek first to understand and will never admit guilt, and will continue to view our president from a very narrow perspective that fits their own agenda.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
The Ironies of History in the Age of Obama: When White Folks Yell "U.S.A.!" Black and Brown Folks Used to Best Run Away...Not Anymore It Seems
What a difference ten years makes? On September 11, 2001 America was attacked by Al-Qaeda. In that moment Bin Laden succeeded in initiating a series of events that would eventually kick over the delicate house of cards that was the American Empire.
On September 14, 2001 President Bush would stand triumphantly over the rubble of the World Trade Center where he would proceed to beat the drums of war and blow the trumpets of patriotism. A fews later, speaking to the best impulses of Americans as citizen-consumers, Bush told us that to defy the terrorists that we should all go shopping.
Ten years later, President Barack Obama would return to the site of the World Trade Center and bring some closure to the events of that horrific day. Obama put the hit on Osama. The bogeyman was dead. Now we can move forward as a nation. The symbolic politics are powerful here: The President is our national cheerleader, an informal Head of State, and the embodiment of America's hopes and dreams. Thus, the fixation by the Birthers and the New Right in denying America's first Black President the legitimacy of his position as Commander in Chief precisely because the white racial frame cannot accept a person of color as Chief Executive.
The President's return to the hallowed grounds of 9-11 is also pregnant with no small amount of irony in how the politics of race are punctuated by occasional deviations from the script in the Age of Obama. Black folks have always been loyal patriots. We loved a country that did not love us back.
However, our patriotism is also sophisticated and qualified for we are suspicious of power and are keen to the lies (both big and small) that leaders tell--and how American democracy was exclusive of people of color. Moreover, the flag waving drums of war moments that accompany America's call to battle and triumphalism are often moments of violence, where white Americans renew the brotherhood of citizenship by shedding the blood of black and brown folk.
The Zoot Suit Riots, the lynching of African American GI's while still in their uniforms, the Bloody Summer of 1919, and the acts of discrimination both subtle and gross by the Greatest Generation against black and brown folk in the Age of Jim Crow are testimonies to this ugly history. History is not dead. It lingers in our collective consciousness. For a Blues People, history's echoes run deep. By comparison, one of the historical advantages of Whiteness is the ability to be ahistorical--a people without roots, origins or responsibility.
Thus, when black and brown folks hear chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" we are right to be suspicious and fearful, for those nationalist orgasmic utterances have often accompanied a trip to the lynching tree or a bloodied blow to the head as the imagined fraternity of white men was reinscribed and renewed at our expense. The Birthers, White Populism and the Tea Bag GOP's embrace of real American White Nationalism is one more reminder of this exclusive club's continued existence into the 21st century. But for a moment, Obama's trip to Ground Zero has--for a few days--upset this dynamic.
Here is one from the archives (wow, four years have gone by?). Today, we have quite a few new visitors curious of the kind people at Crooks and Liars, so it always fun to reach back and bring out a classic piece. The following post is on vigilante John Horn's shooting of two burglars in Texas a few years back. This essay remains one of my favorite pieces of all time for a variety of reasons.
There is a nice synergy here: the post speaks to the noxious brew of racialized Patriotism and nationalism that is channeled through those old howls of "U.S.A.!"; the coveted shit-huffer award was introduced in this post; and there is no small dose of ghetto nerdness on display. Good stuff...at least in my opinion.
A few months back, a story circulated regarding a drug called, "jenkem." Apparently, this "new" drug, a product of Africa of course--where those poor natives do nothing but fight famine, suffer under genocide, live in failed States, and huff shit--consists of human feces and urine in a bong. Here, the "user" would take a "hit" by inhaling the noxious fumes generated by this ungodly concoction:
2. .09: the New Black Panthers make their appearance. Doesn't their leadership look like something out of Reverend Slick's, "Jive Soul Bro' Video?"
3. .11: "You are a disgrace to your race, get a job"--white symbolic racism in action
4. 1:02: "U.S.A., U.S.A."--Uhh ohh, the "White Power," oops I mean "U.S.A." chants have begun. Frankly, I prefer the honesty of Seig Heil and those honest skinhead types who advertise their bigotry and don't hide behind slogans of "equality" or "freedom"
5. 1:17 to 3:07: motorcycle's revving their engines and more U.S.A. chants--You know motorcycles scare off black radicals. Note to any white racists reading this post: motorcycles are more effective than water when it comes to scaring away black people.
6. 3:56-7:40: More U.S.A. chants
7. 8;37-8:51: More rebel yells, motorcycles revving, and The New Black Panthers beat a hasty retreat
Member of Cobra
Code Name: Revolution
Real Name: Ty Jackson
Bio: Recruited from the legendary rap group Public Enemy's cadre of elite bodyguards, The S1W's, Revolution is an expert in political theater and all manner of clowning and cooning. Although only 5 feet tall, Revolution has spent time in the Army National Guard where he received a dishonorable discharge for drug use and insubordination. Revolution, later went to prison where he was recruited by Cobra. Following his formal training on Cobra Island, Revolution was tasked with corrupting black radical organizations. As a member of the "Ebony Guards," Revolution worked in parallel with The Crimson Guard. While the latter was tasked with infiltrating suburban communities, corporations, and industry, the Ebony Guards were tasked with urban "renewal" and ghetto "pacification."
Weapons specialties: Saturday night specials; zip guns; Molotov cocktails; spoken word poetry; bad fashion; revolutionary fury; instant recall of conspiracy theories; and knowledge of self.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Racism Chasing? Native American Group Wants Apology for U.S. Military's Use of "Geronimo" as a Code Name for Bin Laden
Stealthy helicopters. Stealth UAV's. The Fog of War. Urban legends are born in which Navy Seals bring folded flags to the families of their brothers who participate in "great missions for the country." Heroic dogs strapped to commandos as they rappel out of helicopters and breach Osama's compound. The existence of DEVGRU aka Seal Team Six sort of confirmed by Joe Biden. A soon to be iconic photo of the President and his circle of advisers watching a live feed of the UBL kill mission. And of course, now some old fashioned racism chasing.
When there is a presidency defining event that speaks to the zeitgeist of a people in need of closure after the national trauma that was 9/11, it would seem that all folks gather to suckle at the teats of the metaphorical cow.
I took my racism racism shoes off on Sunday night and can't find them. Apparently, some of our Native American brothers and sisters are crying foul because the codename for Bin Laden was "Geronimo." Thus, an act of disrespect was apparently committed by linking one of the greatest warriors and freedom fighters of the First Peoples to a thug who died hiding out in a mansion while his hard-body Al-Qaeda soldiers are roughing it out in the field.
I will leave this one up to you all to arbitrate:
The leader of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe is asking President Barack Obama for a formal apology for the government's use of the code name "Geronimo" for Osama bin Laden.
Tribal Chairman Jeff Houser sent a letter to the president Tuesday, saying equating the legendary Apache warrior to a "mass murderer and cowardly terrorist" was painful and offensive to all Native Americans.
The letter was posted Wednesday morning on the Oklahoma tribe's website.
"Right now Native American children all over this country are facing the reality of having one of their most revered figures being connected to a terrorist and murderer of thousands of innocent Americans," Houser wrote. "Think about how they feel at this point."
Houser noted Obama was elected on a message of compassion and change. Forever linking the memory of Geronimo to "one of the most despicable enemies this country has ever had" shows neither compassion to Native Americans nor change in perception of Indians or their struggle, he said.
The White House referred questions on the matter to the U.S. Defense Department, which said no disrespect was meant to Native Americans.
The department wouldn't elaborate but said code names typically are chosen randomly so those working on a mission can communicate without divulging any information to adversaries
Meanwhile, news about the code name spread quickly across Indian Country and on social network sites, resulting in a groundswell of criticism against the U.S. government. Other tribes and tribal leaders issued statements of disapproval, while countless Facebook and Twitter users chimed in, some using historical photos of the Apache leader for their profile pictures.
Geronimo is a legend among Apaches and other Indian tribes for the fierce fighting he brought on during the 19th century as he tried to protect his land, his people and their way of life from encroachment by U.S. and Mexican armies.
Stories have been passed down about the Chiricahua Apache leader being able to walk without leaving footprints, helping him evade the thousands of soldiers and scouts who spent years looking for him throughout the Southwest.
In his letter, Houser told Obama that his tribe — like the rest of the nation — was ecstatic about learning of bin Laden's death during a raid in Pakistan. But those feelings were tempered as details about the code name emerged.
"Unlike the coward Osama bin Laden, Geronimo faced his enemy in numerous battles and engagements," Houser wrote. "He is perhaps one of the greatest symbols of Native American resistance in the history of the United States."
Geronimo was born in 1829 in what would later become the state of New Mexico. Aside from leading resistance efforts for his people, he was also known as a spiritual leader.
After the families of Geronimo and other Apache warriors were captured and sent to Florida, he and 35 warriors surrendered to Gen. Nelson A. Miles near the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1886.
Geronimo eventually was sent to Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where he died of pneumonia in 1909 after nearly 23 years of captivity. He was buried in the Fort Sill Apache prisoner of war cemetery.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Events interfered with this drop. At present, Alternet has this piece running at almost 400 comments. It seems that some folks can't handle the truth. There is a related piece forthcoming from one of our people Carey Carey as well. Let's get back to business folks.
With the election of America's first black president we collectively witnessed the ascendancy of a person whose life story embodies the American dream. Obama was not alone in the grand play that is American life. There were other players who competed for the spotlight.
During this same moment America witnessed the rise of Sarah Palin to fame and glory, a woman who rides White populism and racial resentment in much the same that a witch rides a broom. As a second addition to the Tea Party GOP's Rogues Gallery there is a carnival barker named Donald Trump, a man who once lurked stage left but is now the GOP front runner as he perfectly embodies PT Barnum's famous observation that "there is a sucker born every minute," while shilling for the worst and most ugly nativist and xenophobic impulses of the White Conservative Soul.
Ultimately, the election of Barack Obama has provided a series of object lessons in the durability of the colorline in American life. Most pointedly, Obama's tenure has provided an opportunity for the worst aspects of White privilege to rear their ugly head. In doing so, the continuing significance of Whiteness is made ever more clear in a moment when the old bugaboo of White racism was thought to have been slain on November 4, 2008.
To point: Imagine if Sarah Palin, a person who wallows in mediocrity and wears failure as a virtue, were any race other than White. Would a black (or Latino or Asian or Hispanic) woman with Palin's credentials have gotten a tenth as far? Let's entertain another counter-factual: If the Tea Party and their supporters were a group of black or brown folk, who showed up with guns at events attended by the President, threatening nullification and secession, and engaging in treasonous talk, how many seconds would pass before they were locked up and taken out by the F.B.I. as threats to the security of the State? If the Tea Party were black they would have been disappeared to Gitmo or some other secret site faster than you can say Fox News.
Earlier this week President Obama tried to be the adult in the room by surrendering his birth certificate in an effort to satisfy the frothing at the mouth birthers and their cabal leaders Donald Trump and Pat Buchanan. Of course, his generous act does nothing to satisfy the Birther beast for it is insatiable in its madness. Nevertheless, a lesson can still be salvaged by exploring the rank bigotry which drives the Birther movement. In an era of racism without racists, the Tea Party GOP Birther brigands provide one more lesson in the permanence of the social evil known as White privilege.
Scholars and activists have described Whiteness as a type of property, unearned privilege, invisibility, normality, and invisibility. Donald Trump and The Birthers exhibit a surplus of all of these traits...and more.
2. Naturally, the President should be White. Of course, leaders of trade and industry should be White. The natural order of things equates being White and male with having natural authority and ability--a set of traits which exist without question or doubt regardless of competence or ability. Whiteness deems the inverse for people of color. As President Obama has learned, by mere fact of his birth, and coincidence of the color of his skin, his legitimacy will always in doubt.
3. Whiteness equals authority. Thus, any White person, at any time, can question the accomplishments of a person of color. The most mediocre of White people, the sum total of whose life has amounted to 1/100th of President Obama's successes (or that of other people of color) can feel legitimate in questioning how the latter came to find their "unnatural" position in the social hierarchy. Whiteness is an advantage in the marathon of life. Through this unearned head-start a psychic wage is paid, one that allows any White person, anywhere, to question how a black or brown person came to be ahead in life for such a thing can never happen in a "just" world. Whiteness allows white folks to not feel embarrassed or ashamed in asking such impolitic and rude questions.
4. Whiteness is a get out of jail free card. Whiteness is also the freedom to be utterly unreflective regarding the foolishness and madness of one's deeds and statements as long as the target of such madness is the Other. The Birthers, Buchanan, Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Limbaugh, Breitbart and Beck engage in routine crazy talk. But Whiteness allows them to be taken seriously (at least at first) for White privilege allows the luxury of being utterly unreflective in most things.
5. White privilege is freedom from accountability. Donald Trump, Pat Buchanan, and the rank and file knuckle-dragging Birther brigands will not will they face any consequences for their ill deeds in slandering the President of the United States, or how many openly foment sedition and rebellion against the government of the United States.
6. The Obama birth certificate debacle has exposed how to be truly American a person must be White. This is one of the central unspoken (and widely accepted) truths of race in America. For example, Sarah Palin channels The Blood Countess Erzebet Bathory and bathes in this bigotry with all of her "real America" talk. Although it is a lie in the face of history, because America is a mulatto culture where the majority of black folks (and of course our Native American brothers and sisters) were in the U.S. many decades (if not at least a century) before the great unwashed masses of white ethnics arrived here, Whiteness still imagines African Americans and other people of color as semi-permanent outsiders. In total, to be American is to be Black. The Birthers in their racial heliocentrism--where to be White is to be the center of the world--are repulsed by this fact.
7. White privilege is the ability to be "normal" and "invisible." Whiteness is never interrogated. Consequently, the White nationalism of the Tea Party GOP and its embrace of the Birthers has been long able to deflect the charge that they are racist or tinged by yearnings for a return to "the good old days" when "those people" knew their place. Because Whiteness is invisibility it works like chaff to obscure the obvious fact that much of the opposition to President Obama has always been about his race and not about policy. The signs at the Tea Parties are ignored or explained away, the racist emails laughed at and/or minimized as trite and silly, and bigoted White folks who display their bonafides whenever given the opportunity are labeled as outliers.
There is slippage in naming the White racism of the Birthers as such because so many are invested in denying the semi-permanency of White supremacy in America, a sentiment that still lingers decades after the end of Jim and Jane Crow.8. The White racial frame. Whiteness is the default position for viewing the world. It is a cognitive map and means of processing reality. The election of Barack Obama upsets this world view. Many of those drunken on Whiteness and invested in the version of events that are offered by the White Racial Frame really do think they are operating as a "principled" opposition or that they are "colorblind," when in reality race, and fears of the racial Other, are driving their behavior. Here, Whiteness and white privilege work as pathologies that make a person immune to the real motivations driving their anti-Obama derangement syndrome.
9. Whiteness is the ability and power to reframe reality. Despite whatever documents or evidence that President Obama may offer to silence the growly, rabid hostility of the Birthers and the White Conservative Soul, the terrain for debate will be continually shifted. This is a function of ideology plus partisanship mixed together and combined in the Right-wing echo chamber. This reframing of reality is also born of the narcissism that is Whiteness, for the world is what they/he/she says it is.
10. White privilege is also surprising. Many black and brown folks (as well as others) have been saying from day one that the opposition to President Obama, and the silliness suggested by the conspiranoid Birthers in particular, have been motivated by racism. Those voices were often silenced and attacked as being too sensitive and wedded to some outmoded notion of political correctness. The pundit classes have finally seen the obvious: race is the driving force behind Trump and the Tea Party GOP's obsession with Obama's birth certificate. When those not White said as much they were dismissed. Lesson for us all: Despite our protests and the evidence that black and brown folks may bring to the table, racism does not exist until good White folks say that it does.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Discommendation? Black Conservative Mychal Massie Buckdances for His White Masters By Violently Disparaging President Obama's Take Down of Bin Laden
Mother Jones Magazine has waded through the muck and mire of the Right-wing blogosphere to come up with a 10 point list of how the Right is spinning President Obama's taking down of Bin Laden.
There a few gems--agitprop ambush journalist goon Jason Mattera (the clown who I embarrassed on his own radio show a few months back) appears on the list and takes a dig at the First Lady--but the following congratulatory utterance particularly caught my eye. I remain surprised that black
4. WorldNetDaily contributor Mychal Massie:
Ultimately, Malcolm X's famous observation about the politics of race loyalty and self-interest in the Black community certainly do ring true in Massie's comments. In these moments of success for America's First Black President the "house negroes" of contemporary Conservatism have to do the double tap and hate twice as hard as their White masters in order to keep their bonafides.
I have not begun the process of discommendation for one who betrays the Black community (and the common good) in some time. Should we begin that most sacred of processes and kick Mr. Massie out of the clan?
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Osama bin Laden is dead. Dude was hiding in plain sight the whole time. Talk about playing the counter-intelligence game tight.
The saying used to be that politics stopped at the Atlantic and the Pacific. Since the election of President Obama the Republicans have thrown that rule out of the window. In this moment, I wonder if the Republican Tea Party GOP will revert to that old rubric as we work through just how the CIA, Delta Force, and Seal Team Six operators pulled this mission off.
Smart money says that the Right-wing will further embarrass themselves as they deny the President (and all of us) a collective rally around the flag moment.
Some scenarios and in progress thoughts on what the Tea Party GOP will do in the aftermath of Bin Laden's death.
1. The Tea Party GOP will say that it was actually Bush that set the wheels in motion to get Osama bin Laden--that Osama was killed under Obama's watch is just a coincidence.
2. The Right will suggest that Osama bin Laden was actually a figurehead at this point and his death means nothing.
3. Osama's death is a vindication of George Bush's misadventures in the Middle East. History will remember him well.
What other scenarios can you imagine? Will the Republicans deny America's first Black President this symbolic high point? Or will the Right and Conservatives act with some class and dignity in this moment?
He Was Doing the Dozens and Signifying All Over Their Asses: President Obama's Ownage of Trump and Company at the White House Correspondents' Dinner
This is the brother I voted for.
Anyone can read a joke, but it takes real timing to deliver it well. For my dollar, the greatness of Obama's speech and the video package that accompanied it was how they were laced with ghetto nerdness, winks to the golden age of hip hop, child of the 1980s goodness.
Biggie and Tupac? Hulk Hogan? And Ol' Dirty Bastard accompanying an homage to Joe Biden? Who ever would have thunk you would see such things from a sitting President? Not me. Crom is pleased.
[By the way President Obama, Optimus was a great insert, but what you really needed for a perfect "I am the Juggernaut bitch" moment was some Rodimus Prime from Transformers: The Movie]:
All the negritude naysayers should now be silenced: Obama is unapologetically Black. The President demonstrated it once more with how he effortlessly signified all over Donald Trump and the Tea Party GOP's roody poo candy asses and took them for a ride on Jabroni Drive"--
President Obama's speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner is just one more data point which explains why the White Populist Tea Party GOPers hate him. He is better than them. Obama has nothing but contempt for those knuckledraggers and he makes it clear whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Tim Wise Brings the Ruckus: Cry-Baby Beached White Males Without Jobs and the Pathology of White Privilege
Something to think about on a Sunday...
I demure when outdone. I had written a piece on the Newsweek story from a week or so ago on White men that detailed how they are especially "oppressed" and "disadvantaged" in the time of The Great Recession. After watching Brother Tim Wise do his thing my post goes down the memory well never to be seen again (unless you all revive it back to life).
As my dad, who as long time readers of We Are Respectable Negroes know was a professional musician that played with James Brown among many others said, "sometimes, when someone is hotter on the set you sit back, watch, and are entertained. If you are lucky, perhaps you will learn something. Then you take that lesson and do your thing when you get a turn. Burn it up so folks know they got to follow you and bring it."
Thus, to the goodies that come with white privilege (where a 6 percent unemployment rate for college educated white men is understood to be horrendous). As the great comedian Louis CK says, who wouldn't re-up each year as White with all of the goodies one gets with being a member of that team!
Even when many a white person is out of a job and other folks--people of color in this instance--with the same credentials are significantly more likely to be unemployed, they feel aggrieved. The American Dream has long been exposed as a patent lie to most thinking people. Whiteness allows white folks to believe in it because they don't have the uniquely privileged perspective that comes from seeing the man who is pulling the strings behind the veil or curtain exposed: The Wizard of Oz moment that comes from being the little man behind the stove that the in-group is denied. Talk about the ironies of history.
Here is a telling contrast to the sad state of "Beach White Males" as offered courtesy of The Loop 21:
Overall Unemployment Goes Down, Black Unemployment Goes Up
This past Friday, April 1st, the March 2011 news tickers showed that the overall unemployment went down to the best rate in two years. But, for African Americans, it actually got worst. We wish this was an April Fool’s joke.
The black unemployment rate actually increased during the month of March from 15.3 percent in February to 15.5 percent. There was no improvement for us to celebrate, just less jobs. It’s already bad that as jobless numbers stream in, African American unemployment – especially for black males – is in high double digit territory.
“A true economic recovery cannot be experienced until it is felt by every community in our nation, especially our communities of color,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in a recent statement following the release of the March unemployment numbers. She’ll be constantly reminding folks of that while lobbying for support of her Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act of 2011.
In fact, while the recovery is sloooow-moving, you can’t help but recall just how deep a ditch the economy was in regarding job creation (or lack thereof). Check the chart below for a glimpse at how bad. Compared to losing 700,000 jobs per month in the final hours of the Bush Administration, President Obama appears to have done much better with it despite the challenges.
In that sense, it seems as though minority populations have a disproportionately further distance to go than other groups. Yet, the “official line” or overall good news is that this time last year, the black unemployment rate was 20 percent.
Still, as stunning and obvious as that might seem, no one could tell theLoop21 exactly how these numbers came to be.
"All of the statistics show that the less education you have the more the recession hurts you,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). “People need to keep that in mind when these young people are dropping out of school -- and I'm not saying that's all of it. But that's consistent no matter what your race is."
Cummings, seated in a district that is battling its share of recession redux on a regular basis, regularly holds town halls on foreclosures. A thousand people showed up for the last one.
Another often referenced problem with the “official” unemployment numbers is that they fail to include those who have stopped looking for work. Michigan Congressmen Hansen Clarke and John Conyers are both desperately reaching for explanations regarding their districts’ struggles with unemployment that has reached the high 20s.
Conyers, for his part, seemed more preoccupied with holding hearings on sports-related concussions when he was House Judiciary Committee chair than trying to figure out ways to soften the economic concussion that's hitting Detroit.
And though firebrand Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida doesn't have to confront unemployment numbers that high, he commented on the issue of how jobless numbers are skewed by not counting those who have given up.
"When you look at the real unemployment number of people out there that have just given up -- we have another number of epic proportions," said West, keeping it unusually real and strangely off his Tea Party message in recent weeks.
Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) was a bit less diplomatic about the situation, calling for urgency. "I'm thrilled some Americans are finding jobs but we still have only one person per every five job pursuers who are able to get a job,” Cleaver said. "The time is growing short for the need to focus on African American unemployment.”
The issue of whether President Obama could support targeted help for African American joblessness came up during Cleaver's meeting with the President on March 30th. Whether the President will support a push for legislation that could disproportionately assist a black community dealing with a jobless rate almost double the national average is for a deadlocked jury to decide. Cleaver and other senior black caucus members' talk with Obama allegedly centered on the plight of the so-called “99ers” or those who, in most states, have already exhausted at least 99 weeks of unemployment insurance.
But, when asked about whether or not the meeting produced any real progress on the issue, we got a muffled “Yes, they did come up,” from Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and a rushed, non-elaborating “[w]e’re working on it” from Lee who really didn’t seem all that happy to talk about it.
Lee is probably mum so as not to put future deals in jeopardy. A meeting on her unemployment benefits extension bill with House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor is already scheduled for this week – actually, a day before the government is scheduled to shut down. Can you say “reschedule?”
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Got something substantial on this Birther mess in the works, but the following seemed well-timed...
Trump's haranguing of the President over his birth certificate is a bone deep example of white racism. Commentators of all stripes took to the airwaves yesterday to finally call out the Birthers for what they are--not so polite bigots. In the broadsides fired by many in the pundit classes there is rage and offense at how Trump and the Tea Party GOP mine white bigotry for political gain. But, there is not a sense of personal offense. Sure, there is upset at Trump and the Birthers for their nonsense, but an offense of principle is not that same as feeling that you were collectively slapped in the face by the repeated insinuations that America's first black President is somehow a fraud.
Many black Americans are deeply offended by the white nationalist coloured Birther conspiracy because it signals once more that our citizenship and belonging is always in question. In total, the anti-black animus of the Birthers and their obsession with Obama's birth (and commitment to devaluing all of his life accomplishments) is a textbook example of symbolic racism. And on a more personal level, how many successful black folks can relate to having their accomplishments questioned at every turn, even by white folks who are utterly mediocre and that would be lucky to shine our shoes if we blessed them with the opportunity to do so?
History runs deep here, both in the bigotry of the Birthers, as well as in the hurt felt by Black Americans during this debacle. Obama's birth certificate is his 21st century slave pass or set of freedom papers. The unapologetic gall and dastardly nerve of the Birthers is that they feel entitled and free to question a man of great accomplishments simply because he is not White. As Judge Taney wrote in the infamous Dredd Scott decision, black Americans are "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
When the white trash "conspiranoids" of the Birther movement, and a man like Donald Trump who was born on 3rd base and thinks he hit a triple in life, demand "the papers" on President Obama, they are just signaling to a deep history that Barack--like other black folks--had best know their place and don't ever dare to step out of it.
So much for post-racial America and the Age of Obama, for just as during Jim and Jane Crow the lowest white man can feel right and just in trying to knock the highest black man from his perch because for a negro to dream and achieve is too much for the White (Conservative) Racial Id to countenance or accept.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Birth Certificate Follies: Buchanan and Trump Call Obama's Punk Card and He Predictably Folds (Again)
I would like to say that I am surprised that Barack Obama surrendered to Buchanan, Trump, and the Tea Party GOP Birther brigands. But sadly, his retreat from battle is just one more example of a man whose life and political career have been based on being a chronic compromiser--often to his own detriment.
Only time will tell if Obama's release of his birth certificate is actually a shrewd move in a game of political chess that cuts the legs out from under the Birthers. My concern is that Obama's political calculus is based on a false prior: as John Birth inspired paranoids driven by White Nationalism, the Birthers do not really care about the birth certificate, it is a MacGuffin of sorts, a stand in for the Tea Party GOP's deep bigotry and the inability of contemporary Conservatism's id to process the fact that a black man is President.
As Barack Obama has chronically done on many issues, even those where the American people gave him a mandate to lead, the President has sought common ground with his foes, a group that collectively want to see his presidency fail...even at the cost of the Common Good. In trying to make sense of Barack Obama's role as the 21st century Neville Chamberlain of American politics, I have been working through an idea that I need your help with.
Thus, some questions:
1. Is Obama's desire to surrender at every juncture a function of his inability --as a very rational and deeply reflective person--to understand the depth of the ideologically driven hatred and rage exhibited by the Right towards him?
2. I ask this very carefully, is President Obama as a self-identified black man born to a white family, who has had to negotiate his blackness throughout his life, ill equipped to "get" the ugliness of the white racism that drives the opposition to him? Because the President's family were "good white folks" (as my grandma would describe them), is Obama unable to accept that many Conservatives hold a deep antipathy towards his personhood, and that there is nothing he as a black man can do to satisfy them?
3. During his formative years, did Obama somehow miss the "Survival Skills 101 for Being Young Gifted and Black in America" life lesson?
4. Is appeasement simply Obama's default decision rule in times of crisis or challenge?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Annotating White Conservative Internally Inconsistent Foolishness: Barack Obama's Racist Easter Church Service
It seems that Reverend Wright was not enough. The Right is trying to generate another Obama "racist" Pastor scandal as a lead into the 2012 election.
Race really is a set of cognitive maps and a perceptual screen for understanding and interpreting the world. Some on the Right see bigotry and anti-white animus in this video. By contrast, I hear and see a learned, reflective and measured man. I am no church goer for I have no use for religion. But the learned and nuanced reading of American culture and life offered by Pastor Wallace Charles is enough to even tempt me to have a sit down in this brother's pew.
Conservative talk radio website WRNO's essay, "Obama's Church Choice for Easter Based on Race" is telling not because of how it plays to white Conservatives' fears of America's first Black President. Likewise, it is not shocking that the New Right hate President Obama because they demonstrate that ugliness at every opportunity. Rather, what is insightful here is that the paranoid imagination of the Tea Party GOP holds no pretenses of internal consistency in their criticism of the President. The end goal of destroying the President much be reached at any and all costs--style, wit, and intelligence in presentation be damned.
[An introductory question: Riddle me this. So Barack Obama is a closet Muslim not born in this country, but he goes to racist Black Christian Churches? Please help me understand.]
Let's play the annotation game and expose the Tea Party GOP's nuttery as channeled by Conservative talk radio website WRNO. My comments follow in bracketed italics.
Obama's Church Choice for Easter Based on Race
It may sound a little callous and abrasive to even be suspicious of Obama's choice of churches for Easter Sunday 2011, but given the climate of the media bias so overwhelmingly in favor of casting Obama in the best light possible, the regular media professionals can't be trusted to actually do some basic reporting.
[Note the early wink to the myth of the liberal media that is embraced by Conservatives. This is a great deflection because it immediately establishes an observation that can be easily disproved as an indisputable fact, i.e. there is no liberal media: A corporate media dominates the 4th estate. By starting with this lie, Conservatives are free to transmute Right-wing opinion based news, i.e. Fox, into fact based journalism.]
Shiloh Baptist Church was that it was founded by freed slaves during the Civil War. There was no mention that this was the first Presidential visit to Shiloh, nor any mention that this inaugural visit could be more than a coincidence.
[A good dog whistle is deployed here. God forbid that a Black man would dare to go to a church founded by Americans seeking their freedom in an era of overt and violent white supremacy. I thought that Conservatives would run to this history as they channel a childish version of the GOP as "the Party of Lincoln." Instead, and especially when it relates to the first Black president, Conservative pundits abandon their own principles (to the degree they possess any) to take a specious political shot. Because Obama dared to attend a church founded by Americans who took their freedom and demanded that this country live up to its democratic potential, he is slurred as somehow being too "pro-black" and thus is by definition "anti-white."]
Was there no mention that this is a predominately black church because the media didn't want the American people to know that our President chooses his church based on race? I'm reticent to openly guess at the media's intentions, but when flattering facts are reported and unflattering facts are omitted, we have no choice but to fill in the blanks.
[Sunday is the most segregated day of the week in this country. White folks go to one set of churches. Black and brown folks go to others. That having been said, the idea that President Barack Obama chooses a church based on its racial composition is a glaring example of the normativity of whiteness and the blinding glare that is White privilege. So White Presidents can go to any church, however uniform in their composition, and that choice goes uncommented upon. Why? Because whiteness allows white folks to make choices free of the calculus or stigma that is race making in practice. This is the ultimate privilege of whiteness in America, and one that Obama as a black man can never access.]
It's understandable that the President hasn't been too eager to jump back into church life given that the one and only church our President has ever joined in his life is one of the biggest political sandbags he carried through the 2008 campaign.
[Naked signaling to Reverend Wright, a human noose that the Right literally tried to hang around then candidate Obama's neck. Also, this passage hints at the erroneous belief, and once more to whiteness as normality, that White folks' churches are imagined by many as being spaces free of politics. Insert fingers into mouth and induce vomiting.]
One has to dig into the blog notes from various reporters to piece together the content from the sermon. Aside from the First Couple being honored guests, Pastor Wallace Charles Smith also announces that his 4 week old grandson is attending church for the first time, and a pool reporter noted an interesting perspective on the infant...
Pastor Smith talked about how his baby grandson's gurgling is actually "talking" because he is saying 'I am here ... they tried to write me off as 3/5 a person in the Constitution, but I am here right now ... and is saying I am not going to let anybody from stopping me from being what God wants me to be.'"
The pastor hears American institutional racism in a baby's gurgle? Do most people with infants hear Constitutional bigotry in their baby's gibberish? Did any mention of the 3/5 clause or racism in general make it into the Easter service you attended? Is this pastor's amazing leap from a baby bark to white oppression another coincidence to add to the list, or has he established a pattern of race baiting and white bashing in the past?
[These folks don't have a sense of humor or irony. Once more to the power of the colorline to limit the White Conservative soul's ability to empathize across divides of race and to accept that their life experiences and perspectives may not be that of others. This is typical of the Conservative political personality type. Nevertheless, it is still jarring to see it so nakedly displayed. Black folks are a Blues People. We can't run away from our history, because blackness is politicized in the womb. And yes, there is something prophetic and triumphant about the thought of a black child in the year 2011 as heir to a triumphant lineage of survival and success. Perhaps some possessed of Whiteness don't get that fact.
Just as when Conservatives threw a collective fit when Michelle Obama dared to suggest that America has done people of color wrong for centuries, and thus the election of her husband allowed for a new feeling of pride, the WRNO hit piece mines the fool's gold of symbolic racism to inspire their mouthbreathing racially resentful audience (see the attached comments on the website if you want to see the political scatology the contemporary Right wallows in). Blacks folks (and other people of color to varying degrees) are perpetual outsiders in Conservatism's conception(s) of what it means to be American. As enshrined for centuries in law or more recently in Palin's gutteral and shrill war cries of "Real America," to be White is to be a full and equal member of the polity.]
No great research team was needed to uncover what comes next. The fact that a YouTube search immediately grants the answer only underscores how astronomically inept/lazy/biased the media can be.
This is in fact another pastor who sees racism around every corner, preaches white hatred, and equates talk radio with the Klan, specifically mentioning Rush.
[Ah the joys of white victimology and white oppression. It is a new/old day in American again.
So, is this the same Rush Limbaugh who describes Barack Obama's supporters as savages and walking human debris? Or says that Liberals and those others who voted for Barack Obama actually did so because they wanted to create an America in which white people shine the shoes of black people? Is this the same Right-wing talk radio that routinely offers Eliminationist rhetoric where liberals and those not sufficiently Conservative are to be killed, possessed of a mental illness, and ought to be expunged from the body politic by any means necessary? No connection to the spirit and ethic of white bigotry and violence is present here. Nope. Nothing to see here. Move along.]
While this pastor is a little less flamboyant than Jeremiah Wright in both tone and wardrobe, the evidence is in: Obama prefers and actively seeks out these churches, race is our President's primary motivation on a variety of decisions, and the media will actively provide cover for minority racists as long as it fits their narrative.
[Damn minority racists they are everywhere, hurting good white folks and limiting their life chances!
Never forget, black churches are sites of conspiracy making and strange religious practices where white folks are burned in effigy and America is routinely besmirched by ingrates who should be happy the slave ship dropped them off in the United States. Thus, we need a secret video to reveal these hidden truths of black political malfeasance and treason. Why? Because President Obama is a race obsessed, "Traitor in Chief" who hates white people, wants to oppress them, and is pathologically attracted to these cult like hives of anti-white scum and villainy. Once more, the Right signals to a basic premise: the White Racial Frame cannot accept that a black man is President.
This is doubly ironic given that Obama is both remarkably race neutral and hyper-vigilant in being a President who happens to be black and not America's first black President. Sadly, he cannot win for losing. If Obama does not talk about race the Left and the Black pundit classes skewer him. When he wakes up in the morning the White Tea Party GOP Fox News echo chamber condemns him for being black and having the nerve to breath air. Dude can't win for losing.]
Monday, April 25, 2011
As John Street smartly offers, popular culture is politics and politics is popular culture.
We have got quite a few new visitors to WARN this last week (join the movement folks, we love and need you all to keep growing) . I offer a "hello" to our new readers, and an "I am glad you still here" for the people that have been following the machinations of Chaucey DeVega and family from the very beginning a few years back.
I must apologize. I have not done a critical reading of a popular culture text in some time. I am going to get back to that beloved habit very shortly as I enjoy it a great deal. But, a brief detour back to my professional bread and butter seemed well timed given all of the recent talk of birtherism, Donald Trump's front runner status, and the Tea Party GOP's allegiance to the nonsense thinking embodied by its cabal of potential 2012 candidates.
If I were impolitic, I would simply say that those Conservatives who subscribe to the belief that Obama is not eligible to be the President of the United States by the status of his birth were rank bigots who suckle at the poisoned teats of the wrong end of history as they masturbate with their own feces in an odd projection of self-loathing and simultaneous dominative racism.
[Did I just write that? Damn and wow! Sometimes I surprise even myself with those turns of phrase.]
But given that more than a plurality of Republicans believe that the President is part of some Manchurian candidate-like conspiracy which was elaborately planned decades ago you/I/we need to take this Birther mess more seriously. On the surface this is the paranoid style run amok and is thus nothing new. Digging a little deeper, the obvious fact that the Birther meme is about race, difference, and Whiteness at the turn of the 21st century becomes more apparent. However, if you get to the heart of the Tootsie Roll pop, Birtherism is all about the pathology of the White Conservative Soul and also the synergy of a few key facts that often go under-discussed.
Primarily, Obama is a black man who happens to be President. This is unsettling to many white folks--as well as to their coloured colonial administrators. Even more telling: the vitriol directed towards President Obama is not just a function of White American anxiety at the time of a declining empire.
Sure, economic insecurity and realistic group conflict are part of the story. But, there is more going on. Here, I would make two interventions. First, the hatred by the New Right towards President Obama is not only about policy (to the degree that Conservatism can even be decoupled from White supremacy) but also speaks to symbolism: the White Racial Frame cannot accept that a person of color, a black man, is the leader of The Free World and resides in the White House. This is an upset that many of The Greatest Generation and their Conservative spawn cannot countenance. Nope. Not ever, as to be White is to be quintessentially "American" in their eyes.
The second point is a bit more pointed. While Shelby Steele and others smartly suggested that then running for office Barack Obama was a compromise candidate and a "mixed man" who could please white Americans because he did not carry the baggage of slavery and racial comeuppance (like Jackson or Sharpton were imagined to by some). Thus, voting for Obama was a get out jail free card for some white folks and a potentially transgressive act. But, there was a deep problem in Obama's success for other White Americans, the very same core group who would later form the core of the John Birch infused Tea Party GOP.
Barack Obama is unapologetic in his life accomplishments. Regardless of what one thinks of Obama's policies, he is no dolt. President Obama may be too generous to his foes, but the President is without regret or doubt about his intelligence. This explains why the mediocrities of Red State America flock to Palin and her many distinguished life failures for these Tea Party GOP brigands seek not a philosopher king, but rather an intellectually bereft political Whore of Babylon who validates all of the short comings inherent in White Populism. Thus, President Obama gets tarred as "uppity" or "elitist" because, and I give my foes no parlay here, he is better, and more accomplished, than the typical proles of the Tea Party GOP ever could be.
The World, the Flesh, and The Devil is spot on in signaling to this reality. Brother Belafonte is unapologetic in his dignity and plain speech. The film itself captures all of the fears of interracial intimacy held by Tea Party GOP. The truth speaking of Inger Stevens' character is almost a direct channeling of the politics of White racial resentment that drive the Republican Party. For what is all of this "real America" talk, if not a signal to the inviolate and inalienable rights that are imagined to come with Whiteness?
In total, the Tea Party GOP may indulge in talk about Birtherism, xenophobia, rewriting history textbooks in Texas, banning ethic studies in Arizona, secession, nullification, and States' Rights, but the New Right is really about a fierce protection of the psychic and material wages of Whiteness.
The World, the Flesh, and The Devil's money shot that to be "free, white, and twenty-one" sums up the driving mantra and reason d'etre of the Tea Party GOP quite perfectly. Does it not?
I have come to a long and difficult conclusion regarding the White Conservative Soul's antipathy towards President Barack Obama. At first, I thought it was "just" policy and ideology colored by white racism. Now their disdain is becoming even more apparent as the Right and many Conservatives have made it plain that they hate the basic fact that President Obama's exists. At first I did not want to write such a thing. Now, the reality demands that we speak truth to power.
Life isn't fair. It simply is. We must not run from--but instead directly towards--this uncomfortable truth.