Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sorry Mr. Heller, Marcus Rediker Demolishes Your Claim that Airlines are as Uncomfortable as Slave Ships



In seminars and conferences a half-cooked or ill-conceived idea is often politely greeted with either a "let's move on" or if there is something to be salvaged, a "let's springboard from there."

My response to the silly and childishly provocative essay by Steven Heller at Print magazine, where he suggests that modern domestic airlines have modeled their seating arrangements after those of the floating dungeon slave ships of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, is in keeping with the above protocol.

"A Curious Similarity" is banal. Because both the hellish slavers and Southwest Airlines both face an efficiency problem does not make the situation at all comparable. One could point out Heller's epic fail at length, but the best and most compelling ownage was the pithy comment on Print's website that:

Sorry, you trivialized it.
That’s like saying Auschwitz is like summer camp. Hey! They both had bunk beds!
You should thank Gawker for sending traffic your way. Congrats, you’re famous!
Oy.

Heller is profoundly ignorant. That deficiency can be cured with effort. I suggest that he start with some Olauduh Equiano, Philip Curtin, Questioning Slavery and then move forward from there.

But, we can jump off from his foolish proposition and land somewhere more substantial and worthy of our time. I have mentioned Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship: A Human History in previous posts. That book is devastating and the stuff of horror movies. His lecture--which is embedded above--captures the power of his work and is inexorable in pulling the listener into his prose.

Know your history folks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stanley Crouch Channels David Horowitz and Attacks Cornel West



Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?

Neatly tied together here, Stanley Crouch has chimed in on Cornel West's critique of Barack Obama. Interestingly, Grimace look alike Stanley Crouch defends Obama and the "blackademics" against West's charges that the President's policies are contrary to the good of the Black community.

While it was little discussed at the time, a year or so ago failed academic and bomb throwing polemicist David Horowitz attempted a beat down of Dr. West in a screed called "Hurricane West: Cornel West and American Radicalism." While possessing some pithy prose, Horowitz's assault was predictable and fit perfectly with his Right-wing victimology, conspiranoid fantasies of a Left-wing plot to destroy America.

To my eyes, what is funny/compelling/unintentionally ironic about Horowitz's vicious 2010 hit piece on Cornel West is that in many ways it is a mirror of Crouch's NY Daily News column of a year later.

There, as viewed through Horowitz's lens, President Obama is a dangerous Socialist Progressive anti-American who is in bed with and enabled by Cornel West's activism and ideology, where the latter is a fraud and con artist--he is apparently also an "academic entertainer" and a walking black stereotype:
There is no other explanation for the ability of a shallow, vain, and trivial intellect, a comrade of anti-Semites and violent racists and a friend to America’s enemies, to attain the cultural eminence that Cornel West has achieved....Cornel West can be seen on the one hand as a progressive version of the Stepin Fetchit stereotype — absurd in his stumbling efforts to impersonate an intellectual and to wear the mantle of a prophet of social change. But Cornel West is also the archetype of an American radicalism that has set out to destroy the American experiment, and whose favorite son now occupies the White House as its commander-in-chief. Viewed as a historic force that has conducted a 50-year assault on America’s institutional values and standards and that has driven America’s cultural decline, the progressive Left is a movement that masks malice towards its own country as a love for the world’s powerless and oppressed.
To Stanley Crouch, Cornel West is an out of touch activist type who is a huckster and academic circus freak who plays the over-educated fool for trinkets and gold:
Serious black intellectuals privately dismissed West many years ago as no more than an academic loudmouth with a good show business game. He has perfected a variety of poses - from academic to conciliator to rapper - that are intended to give the impression that a very substantial mind is mulling over something and will soon drop some rhetorical bombs that will blow away all nonsense. A staple figure in American comedy is the pompous, educated fool, drowning in narcissism. West has long fit the bill; Harris-Perry finally exposed him for those who didn't already know.
I hinted at this before, but will be even more direct at present. There is big money to be made in making sure that one gets their 30 seconds of air time on the Obama-West fracas. I don't want to scream that Horowitz, Crouch, and others are haters per se, but I would certainly whisper the suggestion at a decibel level high enough to hear.

The public intellectual controversy game puts money in the bank and butts in the seat. Thus, why so many want to suckle at the teats in order to move up to the lecture circuit, talking head "A-list." Those who sit in the pews of the Church of Black Authenticity Fighting Over President Obama's Politics need to be mindful of how in their worst moments the chattering classes and the Fourth Estate are (often) playing a game of Three Card Monty on the public.

In sum, the opinion leaders and taste makers do not necessarily care about the common good or the interests of the common man or woman for self-interest is their over-riding principle. We should all be mindful of that fact lest we find ourselves exposed, exhausted, and distracted in this time of national peril.

The Irony of the Black Freedom Struggle's Victory is That We Created a Generation Who Has the Luxury of Not Being Black



I have met so many black folks younger than me who identify as being anything other than what their racial selves actually are. Instead, these young people are "Hispanic," "mixed," "White-identified," "multicultural," "part Indian," or something else. I smirk, because in another age, not too long ago, they too would be up on the auction block with no qualifier given. And for the record none of them could pass the brown paper bag test. Riddle me that one...

In the present, these same folks have the luxury--because of the blood struggles of their ancestors--to run away from blackness. History is laughing, is she not?

****

I love me some Dr. Akbar. Each week or so I am going to be sharing some of his wisdom for those who are tempted to write off our "Afrocentric" brothers without engaging the knowledge which the best and brightest of them bring to the game.

My rediscovery of Dr. Akbar is pleasant and brings on a laugh or two (or three). As a young college student who was dragged with great resistance by his mentors to the Black Man Think Tanks and other such events across this country, I never would have imagined that in my later years I would come to appreciate the hidden truths and knowledge I was exposed to in those spaces. At the time, I thought those events were spaces of reified black masculinity and tired tropes born of obsolete people searching for relevance.

Now I realize that many young people of color, especially those born in the post-Civil Rights moment, are not equipped with the mental and spiritual armor necessary to deal with the psychic burden of blackness--especially as strength can often be turned into weakness by the forces of backstage and frontstage racism.

The multicultural dreams of their parents, peers, popular culture, teachers, and mentors have left them naked and vulnerable before the continued onslaught of structural and impersonal racism. Using a military analogy, old school bigotry was the massed firepower of artillery and the machine gun at the Somme. Modern racism is asymmetrical warfare that beats you with a thousand little cuts backed up by a single JDAM dropped at high altitude from a B-2 stealth bomber that you never hear or see.

My mentors left me prepared to deal with both types of attack. For that gift I am thankful...however belated I may be in offering love and respect.

The last few weeks' conversations about Obama, race, authenticity, and identity can all draw a direct line back to Dr. Akbar's brilliant observation about the trap of freedom and racial self-identification in the glow of the Civil Rights Movement's many successes.

It would seem that race as lived practice and identity in the Age of Obama is indeed a paradox, one that we are still sorting out. Is linked fate and a keen sense of what "black is and black ain't" a blessing or a curse? Is Cornel "blacker" than Obama? Is Cain a "real" black man? Is President Obama a Black president or is he a man who happens to be black? What do we owe to our children and to each other in teaching these lessons?

I am still groping for an answer. Perhaps, we can help each other find one together.



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Raggedy Race Science Revisited: Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?



Lisa Lampanelli is white. She is also one of the most existentially and physically unattractive white women I have ever seen. What then to the hypothesis that whiteness equals beauty?

****

Apparently, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. If Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa's "Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?" is to be believed, it is an empirical "fact" that can be arrived at through the scientific method.

When this story circulated about these Internets last week I did not comment on the big ballyhoo the resulted because it was uninteresting and a bit "meh" to me.

While I understood the hurt feelings, feelings by themselves are not a substitute for reasoned engagement (on that note, his colleagues and students are taking Kanazawa to the woodshed as they should). Moreover, I found it more problematic that Psychology Today quickly deleted the piece and through it down the memory well. That was cowardly, but they are in the money making and not the truth telling business.

Ultimately, Kanazawa's work is piss poor science and I did not feel the need to put on my wading boots. The argument as outlined suffers from problems of construct validity (is Kanazawa actually measuring "beauty" or something else entirely? Are his variables accurate? Are objective measures of beauty as gathered by subjective interviewers reliable or consistent?). The model that he offers is also misspecified (are the relationships between the independent variables correct?). I am not a stats head, but even I could catch those pop up fly balls.

The measurement of beauty is an interesting project and certainly worth exploring. But, and here is Kanazawa's critical error, the concept of beauty is laden with history and socio-political baggage. The notion of beauty is socially constructed and not a fixed or real thing; beauty legitimates certain regimes of truth; and like the race science of an earlier age validates the assumed superiority and assumptions of those who are both creating and administering the test. While trying to reduce this to a scientific puzzle, Dr. Kanazawa, a professor at the esteemed and prestigious LSE, should have known to pick up a few history and social science texts--and consult with his colleagues who study the history and philosophy of science--before endeavoring to explore the relationships between race and science.

[The fact that an Asian brother is conducting research that validates the beauty of white women--and what that says about internalized white racism and the power of Whiteness as normativity--is another dynamic that demands comment, one I will leave that to others.]

The idea of whiteness as THE beauty standard is centuries old. It was created at the nexus of the imperial and colonial projects to rationalize and justify the exploitation of the world by Europeans. The idea that whiteness equals beauty is exposed as a patent lie when the normative philosophy and race thinking underlying the assumption is exposed on its own terms.

To point, the following selection on the relationship between whiteness, beauty, and science from Nell Irvin Painter's great book, The History of White People:

White asks, "Where shall we find unless in the European, that nobly arched head, containing such a quantity of brain...?" The mention of brain leads to a physiognomy of intelligence that recalls Camper's facial angle; White continues, "Where the perpendicular face, the prominent nose, and round projecting chin?" He ends with a soft-porn love note to white feminine beauty that incorporates the fondness for the blush found in many a hymn to whiteness. White and Thomas Jefferson shared with many others this enthusiasm for the virtuous pallor of privileged women. White asks, "In what other quarter of the globe shall we find that blush that overspreads the soft features of the beautiful women of Europe, that emblem of modesty, of delicate feelings, and of sense? Where that nice expression of the amiable and softer passions in the countenance; and that general elegance of features and complexion? Where, except on the bosom of the European woman, two such plump and snowy white hemispheres, tipt with vermillion?"

Sadly, even in the 21st century there are many people who belong to the colored races of the world that both consciously and subconsciously embrace the idea that whiteness is de facto beauty.

It is funny then, that some may scream and howl at the offense committed by Professor Kanazawa, but how many of said protesters believe on a deep and existential level that he was actually correct? Thus, no small amount of Fanon mixed with Freudian projection is the 800 pound elephant in the room that few want to engage.

“Awww Shucky Ducky!” Herman Cain Plays the Black Buffoon as He Announces his 2012 Presidential Campaign Run


There, Princeton University Professor and public intellectual Cornel West launched a broadside against President Obama about apparent deficiencies in how the latter has attended to the political interests and needs of the black community--as well as the working classes and poor, more generally--during his first term in office. Predictably, the African American pundit class was up in arms and quickly chose sides. Some rallied to Cornel’s clarion call. Others took up the banner of President Barack Obama.

To my eyes, the beauty of this moment was how some of the big and perennial questions which surround black politics in the post-Civil Rights era (conversations that are often limited to barbershops, hair salons, living rooms, churches, and classrooms), were debated in public—and at least for a moment were central to the national conversation as we collectively negotiate just what Obama’s presidency means for the dynamics of race in America. 

In total, the Cornel West versus President Obama fracas was a great example of the diversity in political thought among African Americans, and one more indicator for outsiders and the uninformed that black folk—like any other group—are not a hive mind that walks zombie-like to the beat of the same political drummer.

It is ironic then, that as a fitting footnote and coda to this conversation, that Herman Cain, self-described “American Black Conservative” and leading Tea Party GOP figure, announced at a rally held on Saturday that he would be running for the Republican nomination in the 2012 presidential election.

Staged in Herman Cain’s hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, the political theater was indeed grand. Cain strutted to the stage before an almost uniformly White, Tea Party friendly audience. All eyes were glued to this charismatic figure, a black dot in a sea of white bodies, a man who is one part motivational speaker and two parts infomercial pitchman. Cain paused and took in the moment.

History has indeed come full circle. In another century, not too long ago, this would be a scene more akin to a lynching. Where instead of strange fruit ready to be hung and harvested by a blood thirsty rabid crowd of white folks, Cain was greeted with cheers and love by throngs of his Tea Party GOP White Populist devotees. Then, he proceeded to make history: before a live crowd of many thousands, and a national TV audience of many more, Herman Cain channeled all of the energy of Tyler Perry (sans cross-dressing), Meet the Browns, Amos and Andy, as well as Steppin Fetchit, and in his well practiced faux “Southern Negro dialectic” inaugurated the “Awww Schucky Ducky” era of American politics.

When Herman Cain uttered that phrase at the two minute and forty four second mark of his speech, Dignity personified walked out of the room. In total, there are 40 million ways to be Black in America. And just as he did at the freak show carnivalesque Conservative Political Action Conference some months ago, in that moment Herman Cain chose to be a black buffoon for the joys and pleasures of White Conservatives. Sadly it is a script, that like many Black Conservatives before him, Cain knows all too well.

How he chooses to perform his blackness—and do not be mistaken, it is a carefully mediated, honed, and polished routine that is precise in how it fulfills the fantasies of the White Conservative Soul and tickles the delights of the White gaze—is directly related to the grotesque policies that Cain, like many other Tea Party GOP candidates, endorse.

Herman Cain was a leading supporter of the Birther Movement. He wants to further encourage the growth of the corporatecracy and upward maldistribution of the wealth in this country. A self-professed bigot and Islamophobe, Herman Cain is also a religious zealot who in defiance of the Constitution—a document that Conservatives make into a fetish and magical totem—would implement tests of a person’s Judeo Christian faith in order to determine their qualification for public office. Slipping further into “conspiranoid” land, Cain also believes that the reproductive health services offered by Planned Parenthood are part of a genocidal plot to destroy the black family.

Like many Conservatives, he is also drunk on the fiction that cutting taxes and redistributing wealth to the rich will create prosperity for all. Like other Tea Party GOP candidates, a group wallowing in the toxic afterbirth of Reagan’s lie of trickle down economics and the Laffer curve, Cain wants to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poor and working classes through the implementation of a national sales tax and other regressive fiscal measures.

When looked at collectively, black conservatives in the mold of Herman Cain are upright walking human chaff for the most pernicious policies of the Right-wing and Conservatism in the United States. In a perverse play on “the race card” and Conservative victimology, they provide both cover and a defense for charges that these policies are pernicious and harmful to the Common Good, as any critiques of said policies can be summarily dismissed by the Right-wing as “racist.” Ultimately, as I have suggested many times, if you kick over any of the rocks that are giving cover to some of the most extreme policies of the New Right Tea Party GOP in the Age of Obama, a black conservative is almost always uncovered.

For example, Herman Cain shills for the wrong side of history as he tries to vindicate the most extreme elements of social and political Conservatism. Clarence Thomas voted against a significant portion of the Voting Rights Act. Thomas also strongly supported the infamous Citizens United case, where he issued an opinion that lets corporations give unlimited secret monies to political candidates. Juan Williams is a snarling attack dog who cries the victim as he works to support defunding NPR and PBS. And finally, Representative Allen West wants to defund Medicare and leave the country’s most vulnerable citizens open to the predatory practices of the private insurance market.

There are a set of noteworthy paradoxes at work in Cain’s presidential run. Herman Cain is all about race, while simultaneously having nothing to do with race. Herman Cain’s blackness is central to his performance, but Black political interests have nothing to do with his policies. If candidate Herman Cain’s antics to this point are any an indication of what is to come, the “Awww Schucky Ducky” era of American politics will be mighty entertaining.

Funny, at the nadir of American Empire we can fiddle while Rome burns, but if Cain has his way, Nero will most certainly be wearing blackface as he buckdances for gold and silver as the country descends into further rot.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Race Minstrelsy Redux: Herman Cain Announces Presidential Campaign with Eminently Quotable Catch Phrase "Shucky Ducky (Quack Quack)"



Dignity walked out of the room at the two-minute forty four second mark of this video. Frankly, when will Herman Cain finally break out the burnt cork and just get it over with?

And I must ask: Shucky ducky (quack quack)? We have truly entered bizarro world when a Presidential candidate--a black one at that--announces his candidacy to a White Populist "Pro-America" Tea Party GOP crowd with that phrase.

With Obama's presidential victory we saw one glass ceiling shattered. Akin to the three minute mile, with Cain's announcement, the shucky ducky (quack quack) barrier in American politics has finally been broken.

I am at a loss for words. The absurdities of race in the Age of Obama continue once more.


The Apocalypse is Here! Herman Cain is Officially Running for President



Wow, the semiotics of Cain's campaign video are not that deep at all. They are grossly superficial. Color me a bit underwhelmed.

[Question: With all of that cowboy imagery, is Herman Cain channeling black George Bush meets an unknown character from the Mario Van Peeble's movie Posse?]

So it begins. This will be comedy gold as the CPAC Borneo man mascot black conservative sock puppet for the Tea Party GOP officially enters the race.

In the midst of all this joy, I do have a little pain related to Cain's announcement that I would like to share. Zora, one of the founding members of this blog, called me this morning and said that Cain's success is all my fault. She suggested that Cain rode Chauncey DeVega's calling him out all the way to Fox News, and that he should have paid me 15 percent for all the free publicity.

I responded that "history is made by little people, and by often random happenings." Moreover, there is nothing that I could do to prevent the overflowing of the fetid toilet water of the Tea Party GOP from which the Cains, Thomases, and Keyeses of the world emerge.

Even I cannot fight the laws of physics.

The black garbage pail kids conservative menace will always be with us. They will remain the stuff of high comedy. And I will forever enjoy throwing quarters, pennies, and dimes at them while they buckdance for the entrainment and pleasure of the White Conservative Imagination.

Life is good. Yes it really is.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The End is Near! Nevermind Harold Camping's Warnings, Mr. Ghetto's Walmart Video is a True Sign of the Apocalypse



The end of the world is here! No, really it is...at least if you believe Christian evangelical snake oil salesman Harold Camping. But, the portents were not in scripture or in secret signs only discernible to the elect. In its infinite wisdom God sent messengers and prophetic wisdom in many forms. The Mr. Ghetto's Walmart video is one such hint that the end is indeed near.

[Question: What an utterly obvious name? Where is the irony? The creativity? The wit? Dude is from "the ghetto" and rhymes about Walmart. Thus, our failed emcee is "Mr. Ghetto" with a song entitled "Walmart." Is this dearth of ability in our wordsmith the inevitable result of the No Child Left Behind Act? By the way, I offer no comment on those mud duck video vixens...

To my common refrain: once more Daniel Patrick Moynihan is proven right, each and every day, in ways both small and large.]

I don't know if you are going to jump out of your clothes tomorrow and ascend into heaven. I am practical. Thus, I am more worried about all of the planes, trains, and buses that will be driver-less tomorrow than the status of my eternal soul come Saturday at 6pm EST.

But won't I/we be a sucker(s) if Rapture comes tomorrow and I wasn't out tonight eating filet mignon, taking a few sisters for a ride on Space Mountain, and then bringing a select few back home to fry some chicken for me topless in a fantasy that is one part Anais Nin and two parts Pablo Neruda. Oh the erotic possibilities of food and sex. I will be doubly sure to adequately indulge all of these base impulses this evening, as it may be my last night on Earth.

Who knows? Maybe the joke is on all of us non-believers who are not "rapture ready?" We could in fact already be in Hell, and "hip hop" such as the Walmart anthem are our eternal torment--minstrel hop, crap rap, mass culture's version of Dante's Inferno.

Measured Wisdom Part Two: Princeton's Eddie Glaude on the Cornel West and Barack Obama Fracas



This is likely my final post on the Cornel vs. Obama battle.

These Internets are such a source of surprise and wonder. While we lament the decline of the Black public sphere, acknowledge the reality of the Black counter-public, and embrace the hard truths of the black superpublic, much good has come from an expansion and overflowing of Black genius and the diversity of thought in our community towards the direction of audiences that may not have (in other circumstances) been exposed to it.

To point: Crooks and Liars has a great interview with Princeton University's own Dr. Eddie Glaude, Chair of the Department of Af-Am studies, where he adds some nuance to Cornel West's critique of President Barack Obama. This brother is tight and on point. He is also the author of the amazing In a Shade of Blue (for those curious as to how I came upon my embrace of Black pragmatism look no farther than Brother Glaude's amazing, efficient, and sharp work).

Next to American Theocracy, Democracy Inc., Black Visions, A Nation Under our Feet, The Slave Ship, All the World is a Ghetto, The Black Fantastic, and Democracy Remixed, Professor Glaude's In a Shade of Blue is one of my favorite books of the last few years. I don't shill for products on this site, so take my endorsements as real talk--these are works you all need to read.

In the following interview Dr. Glaude does a great job of discussing the hows and whys of Cornel West's position, and what it signals to about the terrain of, and discourses surrounding, contemporary Black politics.

Listen to Dr. Glaude's great interview here on The Majority Report.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Voice of Reason: In the Shadows of Barack vs. West, Joe Feagin Explains Why President Obama Must Be Ninja on All this Race Business

There are levels upon levels of complexity and nuance in the Cornel West vs. Barack Obama fracas. As I hinted at earlier, there is some serious inside baseball going on here that will inevitably come to light--especially as more public intellectual academic types join the rumble.

Some have suggested that the election of Barack Obama was a moment wherein the old guard of the Afrotocracy was forced to face their obsolescence. From Jesse's desire to crush Obama's nuts, Reverend Wright's powerful truth telling, to Dr. West's hurt feelings and wanting to son the President for "not being a free black man," divides between the Civil Rights and post-Civil Rights generation are inevitable. The question remains unanswered if these differences are either healthy and/or helpful to the long, glorious Black Freedom Struggle.

Moreover, the West vs. Obama episode does not signal the end of "identity politics" as some have over-reached in suggesting. As long as there are White people there will be identity politics in this country. As long as there are Black people there will be black politics, black political interests, and a black agenda. And with the "browning" of America race will remain salient, precisely because it is a cognitive map that we use to navigate the world. Ultimately, the "race business" is really a reflection of how deeply white supremacy structures this country's social and political institutions.

Eminent Professor Joe Feagin (an amazing sociologist and all around nice guy by the way who I finally met a few months ago while he was here in Chicago) has some words of wisdom and measured reflection on President Obama's challenge in navigating the perilous straits of being the first President who happens to be black. On his site Racism Review, Dr. Feagin makes the sharp observation that:
Over at The Nation, Melissa Harris-Perry, also a Princeton professor, is very critical of West for his personalizing attack on Obama’s heritage and whitewashed background, even as a hypocritical West himself has lived in a mostly white world since adulthood, especially as a professor at elite white universities. However, like several others, her critique is almost entirely about West’s own life and personal situation, but she mostly ignores West’s on-target structural critique of Obama’s (obligatory?) selling out to corporate America.

Indeed, West is correct that working class and strong progressive, especially independent and forthright black, Americans have very few prominent voices in the top ranks of the Obama administration, including just one cabinet member not from the political or economic establishment. What the critiques of West leave unsaid is that what West is focusing most on how individual black success in U.S. politics, as for Obama, has not meant significant advances for black Americans as a group, nor for Americans of color collectively.

Indeed, what is missing from West’s own critical analysis is the next obvious question: Why does the “not independent” Obama play up to the interests and issues of the dominant white elite and larger white population? This is not a character flaw, but rather about the foundational reality and continuing strength of the white racist system. That is the elephant in the room that not even West calls out.

As I and my colleagues have argued before, black candidates for state and national political offices, like President Obama, cannot adopt, even occasionally, a black counter-framed perspective on the action necessary to deal with the extensive discrimination and severe socioeconomic problems faced by black communities and other communities of color, and expect to win. Even in part, black candidates cannot articulate what they will do to deal with extensive racial discrimination and related racial problems if they are elected, yet when white candidates tell white communities what they will do for them, almost no one accuses them of “playing the race card.”

In contrast, black candidates need only to touch on issues of developing anti-discrimination and desegregation programs for black Americans and other people of color, and they are often called out as biased or extremist...

White candidates and elected politicians regularly take action openly benefiting white communities. Although Obama has not ignored the needs of communities of color in his presidency, he has had to take modest action, and that quietly, to benefit the black community, such as on improving funding for black colleges.
The questions surrounding race, identity, group interests, loyalty, and the symbolic power of America's first Black President--and his obligations (if any) to the African American community--are not going away anytime soon. At times, it is necessary to state the obvious. President Obama is not perfect. He is a man who happens to be both black and the President of the United States. He is not a magical salve or a superhero. And as hard as this is for some to hear, Obama's blackness and his presidency are coincidental--and given America's history, almost mutually exclusive to one another.

I have thought much on the following point and am surprised that more have not signaled to it: Obama as a "first" carries the burdens and dreams of so many on his shoulders. Sadly, realpolitik demands that he disappoint even as he blazes a trail forward. Obama is a consummate politician. His success in that milieu is a twisted sort of progress, for in a way he is just like all the others. That my friends is the unintended (or was it intentional?) consequence of the triumph of "colorblind" politics in the post-Civil Rights moment.

In total, disappointment knows no boundaries of color, race, or creed, for disappointment and compromise are the cement of politics both before and after the Age of Obama. That is a reality which will not change anytime soon. We should learn to accept it, even as we push Obama to be more true to the progressive vision he offered during the campaign.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Baby Mama is Revealed: He is Down with the Brown and Loves the Bunda



Arnie was creeping on his wife. The love child's baby mama is a woman of color. When I saw her picture I said "damn." Arnie, dude, you can do so much better.

But alas, Governor Schwarzenegger's peccadillo is my chance to post some classic Conan, Arnold in his prime, chasing the punani and boasting about his orgasmic prowess clips. I could care less about the governator's adultery. I am a ghetto nerd 1980s baby who just loves him some of the Terminator.

Crom would be proud of your recklessness Arnold. Yes, he would. But next time, find a queen worthy of your super sperm.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Internacine Negro Warfare for White Spectatorship: Apparently Cornel West is the New KKK Because He Criticized Obama



Shameless self-promotion: I will be on The Ed Schultz radio show tomorrow (Thursday, May 19th at 2pm eastern time). The saga continues. Please send me some love so I bring it correct.

On the internecine negro dustup of the moment: See what happens when you black folks put your business out in the street? This Cornel vs. Obama mess is a spectacle akin to the battle royal in Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man. The White gaze is real. Predictably, now we have professional pontificates abusing the language of "racism" and suggesting that Brother West is akin to the KKK--the largest domestic terrorist organization in American history. Why? Because he, a black man, dared to criticize another black man.

Cornel didn't hang any strange fruit. Nor, did he kill some thousands of African Americans across one hundred plus years. But the goal posts for white supremacy--with its ruthless enforcement of the Racial State's regime of dominative racism--have apparently shifted in the Age of Obama.

Sort of reminds me of how reactionary Conservatives discovered racism when I called out black garbage pail kid buckdancing shoe shine boy Tea Party GOP mascot Herman Cain. But, I digress.

The sharks smell blood. They love to see some crabs in a barrel fighting it out. Sadly, it seems that some black folks who ought to know better are willing to feed the 24/7 media monster until its belly is full and bursting at the seams.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cornel West Goes Hard on the President: I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men...


Hat tip to Ta-Nahesi Coates for this one.

It would seem that Cornel West is none to pleased with Barack Obama. I have nothing but love for Brother Cornel and count him as a family and personal friend. But the portrait he paints of Obama--and unintentionally of himself--in this piece by Chris Hedges is devastating, just damning, for lack of a better word.

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation.


When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome.

Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” he says. “He’s got two homes. He has got his family and whatever challenges go on there, and this other home. Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. He’s got Establishment connections. He’s embracing me. It is this smartness, this truncated brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me..."

Dr. West is pissed and personally hurt by what he perceives as disrespect by the President, a man he advised, campaigned for, and of whom he was an early supporter. President Obama and his retinue are upset that Dr. West is being a bit impolitic and calling him out personally. Thus the tragedy of the base--one that is especially great for those Progressives who elected Obama into office.

He cannot be what you want him to be. This was predictable. That reality does not make it right. But in a country where "left,""liberal," and "progressive" are still dirty words, and democracy has been replaced by a corporatocracy, no true radical will ever likely don the cape and crown of the Presidency. Sorry.

Some of what Brother Cornel sons Obama for echoes the conversations that we have had here on We Are Respectable Negroes. Funny, when your own criticisms of Obama's attitude, blackness, and identity are mirrored by a 3rd party it sort of feels unseemly.

Consequently, I think I am going to take a moment of "critical self-reflection" and meditate on what is out of bounds, and perhaps not even accurate, regarding how we triangulate blackness (and a commitment to black America) with President Obama and his policy decisions.

Am I alone, or do you all get where I am coming from?

Know Your Foes: Making Sense of Newt Gingrich's Barack Obama is a Food Stamp President Quip



Newt Gingrich is an existentially ugly person.

He betrays his dying wife and beds a mistress before the former is cold in the ground (extra points, apparently Gingrich was quite generous with his attention towards his wife while she was dying). He is a hypocrite of the first order who condemns President Clinton for his adultry while he himself indulges the same sweet, forbidden, and naughty ambrosia. Most important for my purposes, Newt is also race baiter--a clumsy one at that--of the first order who has earned a silver star with oak leaf cluster for semi-closeted white racism above and beyond the call of duty. It would seem that he wears his racist rank insignia with great pride. Gingrich has no amount of shame. Nor does he offer an apology for his behavior.

We know that Newt, like many Republicans, wallows in the stink filled, fetid sewer water of white racial resentment. We can accept this fact for it is the Tea Party GOP's Raison d'etre.

In response to this reality I would suggest a counter-intuitive move: To condemn Gingrich for calling Barack Obama a "food stamp President" is both an easy target and low-hanging fruit. As Joan Walsh and others have expertly dissected, Gingrich is back to old form as he went beyond mere dog whistle politics this past weekend. There he linked the President (and the Democrats) to anti-poverty programs, the deindustrialized "chocolate city" of Detroit, and signaled to a Southern audience that the 2012 election is the most important since the great usurper Lincoln won election.

Ultimately, Gingrich is the great White Hope for the Tea Party GOP who is shilling that he, and he alone, is able to restore a herrenvolk, low tax, States' Rights utopia and defeat President Obama in 2012.

As the Sith Lord Darth Vader said to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, to expose Gingrich's racism is all too easy. The more productive task is to challenge ourselves to understand the logic of the Conservative, "colorblind" racial frame. It would be easy to ether Gingrich for his obviously racist comments--comments which are part of a long tradition of Right-wing race baiting that predates both Reagan's "welfare queen" and "black bucks buying T-bone steaks on welfare" memes.

I think it would be more fun to rehab Gingrich's logic. Thus, amputating it like a priapic penis engorged with dead blood, rotten with gangrene, and where the owner of that rotten organ will be left with no source of satisfaction save for mustache riding and an eager tongue that stinks of garlic and old Big Macs.

[Sorry, I just saw the great TV show Strange Sex and am in a quite dark mood.]

As a journeyman who enjoys reading texts on war fighting, military strategy, and combat leadership, Gingrich's honest moment returned me to the great book One Bullet Away: The Making of Marine Officer. In said text, Nathaniel Fick, a young officer in training talked about one of the exercises he was blessed to experience in Officer Candidacy School. There, his trainers told him to "turn the map upside down" prior to any attack. In short, one should endeavor to understand the battlefield from your enemy's point of view in order to most efficiently destroy them. This is great life advice. It is also great wisdom for understanding political gamesmanship.

Thus, let us play a game. If you were a Tea Party GOP strategist advising Newt Gingrich in the aftermath of his racist comments about President Obama what would you tell him to do?

Specifically, how would you deflect and spin any criticism of said comments for the mainstream press and Independent voters?

Some initial suggestions (some serious, some farcical).

1. America is suffering high rates of unemployment. Given the rates of poverty under Obama's watch, of course he is the food stamp President.

2. Obama grew up on food stamps. By the President's own admission, he is profoundly influenced by his formative years. Obama's father, a Kenyan anti-colonialist Mau Mau who controls him from beyond the grave, skipped town and left the President's mother alone to raise the country's first black President. Obama can't help but channel a set of life experiences in which he was a beneficiary of government largess.

3. This is all so much racism chasing and reverse racism histrionics! More white people are on food stamps than any other group! This happened during Obama's watch. How can he not be the food stamp President?

4. Democrats and liberals see racism everywhere. Gingrich's observation is simply a principled critique of Obama's policies.

5. Barack Obama's policies made unemployment worse and created a dependent class that cannot exist without government aid. Once more, he is the food stamp President.

6. The best test of principled Republican and conservative policy positions is how quickly the liberals call it racist. Gingrich told an uncomfortable truth. All the Left has are cries of "racism." Typical!

How would you add to this list? And what do these deflections tell us about the Tea Party GOP and its approach to Obama in the 2012 election?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Trying to Cut a Promo: Whiteness Talks Back to Chauncey DeVega on YouTube



Why not? I will make you relatively unknown except in this part of these Internets famous as an object for derision and mocking lesson in white privilege.

In the classroom, instructors are subject to the perils of student evaluations. Despite one's best efforts, talent, hard work, and quality teaching, many snowflakes take it as an opportunity to retaliate for their own willful ignorance and laziness. But, those evaluations do often contain pearls of wisdom that are useful as one perfects their craft. When you submit a journal article or a book proposal you get lots of feedback too. Again, there is a chance for pettiness (especially if the reviewer has figured out who you are and has an ax to grind), but in total, the experience is productive and helpful.

I have often thought it would be great if students could record video journals where they try to to explain what their take away is from the reading, a day's lecture, or a seminar. The disconnect between what is intended by the teacher and what is received by students would likely be great.

"Racism on Liberal Side," is a powerful example of the very concepts which the literature on Whiteness and white privilege is grounded upon. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts at hand, no small amount of ignorance on the realities of race, power, and institutions, and the entry point into Dannyruxspin's rant is the bogeyman of "racism"--a concept he clearly does not grasp.

The myopia of whiteness on display is blinding. It is also both instructive and gratifying to see concepts written about in the abstract proven true (even by those who would deny their existence and saliency).

But I must ask, why is whiteness so unsettled and upset when confronted? It holds all the cards, but is so reflexive and easily threatened. Please, can you help me understand this paradox?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Joys of Politically Incorrect Humor and Why Black Folks Got to Stop Being Mean and Angry All The Time



Blogger has fixed its gremlins and gotten the ghost out of the machine...fingers crossed.

Some good things are happening this weekend: I will be on Ring of Fire Radio today--Saturday, May 14th--talking about my piece on white privilege and the now hobbled Birther Movement. Mike P is cool people and has had me on quite a few times, so please check out the show either online or live on the radio.

I also have a piece that is featured on Alternet. One of my friends challenged me. He said that I am "just" a race man and am pigeonholing myself, if I want to do the pundit thing one day I need to show some breadth. My Alternet piece on the systemic strategy of historical revisionism by Conservatives is my effort to show that there are many styles in my dojo. Tell me what you think pro and con if you get a chance.

Black folks can be a grumpy bunch. We are always looking for something to gripe out, some racist bogeyman to chase down, or some crisis, real or imagined, to immerse ourselves in. The faux controversy over Telemundo's "racist" "Afro-Monkey" comedy skit is one such moment. Although there is no accounting for taste--and I freely admit that I am a proud Negro who still doesn't eat fried chicken or watermelon in mixed company--we need to confront an uncomfortable truth.

Oftentimes the most impolitic aspects of popular culture can be the most pleasure filled. While we may decry the ideologies at work in a given text, we are often at an impasse because the rules of political correctness do not always govern the intangible rules of pleasure and joy.

How many hip hop feminists for example publicly decry "misogyny" in rap lyrics but privately play the most provocative and politically incorrect music for their own entertainment (or booty tapes)? How many black folks decried Amos and Andy or Good Times, but secretly pulled down the shades in their houses and reveled in the laughter and joyous release provided by those "less than convenient for the project of black political empowerment" TV shows?

We are a people like any other. We are ugly. We are beautiful. We are grand. We are petty. Our art and music can be brilliant. It can also be grotesque. In all these cases, the agents on this stage of life are no less black and authentic.

Just like Hoyt said in Training Day, when you can balance the smiles and cries you will have figured out the streets. In parallel, I would suggest that when one can balance the complexities of black life as a preeminently human condition (while simultaneously struggling to negotiate the riddle of Black Respectability) you will have figured out one small part of our Blues Predicament.

Remember folks, it is okay to laugh. The Black Superpublic has made our private joys public. While there are many reasons to deny the pleasures of inconvenient humor, sometimes we just have to give in to the smiles...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Poor White South Africans Can Teach Us About the White Conservative Soul in the Age of Obama



I see dead poor white people...

My grandmother would never give a homeless white man money. Why? Her logic was simple: Given all of the privileges of gender and skin color enjoyed by white men in America, he has no one to blame but himself for being on skid row. I am not as hard nosed on those matters as she. I have come to recognize how Capital is mobile and the myriad ways in which neo-liberalism has struck down so many in its scythe-like wake...across the colorline.

That qualifier now having been noted, I will freely admit that I have a hard time feeling any pity for the poor white folks of South Africa. As beneficiaries of Apartheid they must face their comeuppance for the arch of history is indeed long. Justice is not always easy. There is a tax to be paid and some redistribution to be done.

Race is America's national obsession (where to varying degrees the house that race built has given us all a role to play, such that on occasion we get to be amateur biologists, crude historians, lay social scientists and jackbooted philosophers on the big question of the color line). However, this dynamic is not unique to the United States. Racism and white supremacy were concurrent with the rise of modernity, colonialism, and Empire. Thus, these ideologies were also centuries long global projects that left horrible marks which the coloured peoples of the world are struggling to this day to repair and remedy.

Comparative race studies offers a number of powerful frameworks for making sense of White anxiety in the Age of Obama. Here, the voices of white South Africans in post-Apartheid South Africa offer a penetrating insight into the racial id of the White neo-John Birch New Right and the Tea Party GOP. While some of the pundit classes deploy the sophisticated (and often overused) language and frameworks of Critical Whiteness Studies and "white privilege" to explain the racial demagoguery of the Birthers, Deathers, Tea Party, and anti-Obama conspiranoids, there are more basic impulses motivating white racial resentment that often remain under-discussed.

Whiteness is always afraid of losing. Whiteness is invisible except when it is threatened. And ultimately whiteness is the luxury of never having to think about one's advantages except when they are in perceived as being imperiled....and then being justified in committing any deed (however unethical or immoral) to protect one's advanced placement in the marathon of life.

Unearned privileges are by definition taken for granted. There is a natural order of things that must not be upended for the psychic pain is too great. It is only through an internalization of this almost pathologically narcissistic way of comprehending social reality that White folks can even utter the language of "white oppression." When Beck talks about Obama hating white people, he signals to the sickness. When Buchanan talks about white men suffering under a 21st century Jim Crow in the Age of Obama he signals to the sickness. When Limbaugh, and the assorted cast-off waste water and human detritus that in total constitute contemporary Fox News Conservatism, talk about fictions of black superiority and white subordination--a world where Obama and his supporters will make whites shine black peoples' shoes--they are deep in the sickness.

There is a poetic irony at work here. In the United States, black and brown folk have never sought revenge against White people. The Black Freedom Struggle resulted in no mass killings of white people by African Americans and their allies. Individual acts of politically motivated violence and score settling were even more uncommon. Even when justice should have been meted out at the end of the barrel of a gun, the appeals for black freedom and liberation were inclusive and humanistic.



The goal of the Black Freedom Struggle was broad: this country's centuries long crusade for racial justice was in many ways an endeavor to save White America from the rotten core of its own bigotry.

In South Africa, black people and others suffered merciless violence at the hands of the White Afrikaners. After much struggle and hardship, they did not resort to pogroms or a culling of the heard as a means of working through their just rage against Whites. No, even in South Africa where the blood of liberation oftentimes flowed thick and deep in the streets, black South Africans are able to look at the white poor and have pity and empathy for them.

In both cases, White populists fear the universal laws of action and reaction. Historically, Whiteness offered so much ugliness that many White people fear an inevitable backlash--even while denying the historic and contemporary realities of white supremacy. This dynamic has always fascinated me because it is apparent that many White folks, and the Conservative White Soul in particular, fear getting their comeuppance for a set of ill deeds that they apparently do not want to admit even occurred. The twists and leaps of logic necessary to maintain one's sanity in the face of such madness truly boggles the mind.

Perhaps that is one of the gifts of the Black Soul and its Blues Sensibility to the world? In the face of white suffering we are able to empathize, sympathize, and share with those who may not do so with us. Is this a blessing? Is it a curse? I remain both unsure and uncertain.

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

Not to be Valorized: "Honoring Young Mamas" and the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations



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?)

[On documentary films. Loose Change is great precisely because of the scale of its fraudulent presentation. Zeitgeist, good, but not as compelling to me. The Power of Nightmares is spot on.]

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.
****
Gosh, I wish it was all so simple. Wouldn’t it be nice if the recent fiasco concerning President Obama’s birth certificate was merely a movie? You know, like D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, wouldn’t it be nice if we could sit back, pop and popcorn in hand, and enjoy our new Birth of A Certificate for its technical innovations?

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.

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We are a Nation of Liars, Crooks, Fools, Thieves, and Idiots

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:



Apparently, jenkem has now been debunked. But, the idea rang true for a basic reason--people are lazy, stupid, and will try anything once. Moreover, this idea of huffing shit stuck with me because it seemed the perfect metaphor for these good ol' United States.

We are a nation of among other things, former slaves, tax evaders, and cast-off immigrants. More or less, all of us, myself included, have drunk the Kool-Aid, eaten that shit sandwich, and smelled those fumes generated by the American mythos of freedom, equality, and opportunity (or at least the hope that the American creed can one day be made real). More broadly, human beings believe what we want to believe, in a way, and at a time, that is most convenient to us.

As a respectable negro, I focus much of my attention on those black and white shit-huffers who hit that jenkem bong, and spend their time on high-profile issues, issues that are ultimately of little concern, but that nevertheless cause harm to our life-long crusade for human justice, dignity, and black progress. Now to offer a qualifier, shit-huffers are not restricted to those purveyors of race-based hysteria and other nonsense. Those Bill O'Reilly-Rush Limbaugh neo-cons who supported premier Bush in his Iraq misadventures, despite all evidence to the contrary, are a bunch of shit-huffers. Those idiots who follow good ol' Al Sharpton and Shakedown Jesse around on any damn fool idealistic crusade are also shit-huffers.

The shit-huffers of the moment are those knuckleheads in Pasadena, Florida who are defending the white homeowner (a gentleman by the name of Mr. Joe Horn) that shot dead those ignt's robbing his neighbors. These idiots are joined by The New Black Panther Party and other victomologists who are dedicated to valorizing stupidity in the search of a black "hero" (Brother Gartrelle has one percolating on this issue as we speak). Interestingly, this case reminds me of the Duke rape case where everyone involved is an asshole, but where outside forces make the participants emblematic of all the fissures and tensions in our society.

The Horn case, and the one in California where a white homeowner blasted two criminals who beat his son into a coma, are lightening rods for victimologists, right-wingers, and shit-huffers of all stripes because it is great political theater. As depicted by the following video of the Pasadena protest where The New Black Panthers clashed with those white "defenders" of "justice" and "responsible" home ownership, everyone involved is an idiot (thank God there isn't a token negro in the background supporting the protesters...there is always one, and if you find him, please point the fool out..it's sort of like a game of "Where's Waldo"):



It is instructive to watch the above video with the help of my handy viewing guide.

1. 0.01: "that's it?"---sort of sums it up
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

As documented by the following footage (doesn't Fox News seem to be everywhere folks are acting stupid?) The New Black Panthers return in full force with the "victims," i.e the family members of those ignt's shot dead by Mr. Horn. Here, we have some wonderfully articulate white meth-heads and angry, marching, black fools. Plus, we all know that whenever someone says it isn't about race, it always is:



This is shit-huffing at its finest. On one side we have the New Black Panthers and Quanell X (you know that was the name of our ancestors and it was stolen from us). Of note, Quanell comes equipped with his own G.I. Joe bodyguard. Be honest, doesn't "Bro Joe," the character in the red beret and black camouflage, look like one of those horrible G.I. Joe figures from the early 1990's?

The data card on the back of his action figure would have probably read:

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.

Regardless, one cannot deny the amazing greatness that was G.I. Joe The Movie:



I could care less about the toothless wonders and the PWT opposing the New Black Panthers. But, I really suggest that The New Black Panthers, if they are going to claim that honorable lineage, at least try to live up to it:



Hell, I would be happy if Quannel and his posse read some classic G.I. Joe comic books (or even the new GI Joe comics where Destro has a child by a black woman--he was creepin' on the Baroness) . At least, this would have improved their strategy and tactics--rushing into the heart of your enemy with insufficient forces to exploit any gap you may create in their lines is a no-no because it inevitably leads to encirclement and the destruction of your forces.

So many shit-huffers, so little time. Here is a thought experiment for you: imagine if instead of The New Black Panthers, that Ghostface, Styles P, and Beanie Siegel stepped up and through that group of white "defenders" of "justice?"..Now that would have been a protest worthy of Fox News:



Yo Joe!!!!!