Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Doing the Race Hustle: How "Mixed Race" Students Game the College Admissions Process

"But students can now choose from a menu of new boxes of racial and ethnic categories — because the Department of Education started requiring universities this past school year to comply with a broad federal edict to collect more information about race and ethnicity. The change has made it easier for students to claim a multiracial identity — highlighting those parts of their backgrounds they might want to bring to the fore and disregarding others, as Ms. Scott considered doing with her Asian heritage.

So the number of applicants who identify themselves as multiracial has mushroomed, adding another layer of anxiety, soul- (and family-tree-) searching and even gamesmanship to the process."
The racial state is a bureaucracy. Like any other arrangement of power it has a set of rules and expectations that can be navigated, manipulated, and little cracks found to slip over or through. When race, a social construct that is a true lie, a fiction that is real, fixed, and also simultaneously changing is added to the mix, the bureaucratic game can both be simplified ("no blacks need apply") as well as made more complex (colorblind but still color conscious, where last hired means first fired). In theory, the bureaucracy is also supposed to be a consistent set of fixed rules where efficiency and fairness reigns, and the old world customs of patronage and noblesse oblige do not apply.

As The New York Times' "On College Applications a Question of Race or Races can Perplex" explores, the coloured class/middle races seem particularly adept at playing the college admissions game to their advantage. Given that one of the driving impetuses behind the mixed race movement is a desire to claim some sort of white privilege, such leverage makes a great deal of sense in practice.

For outsiders and those not privy to the inner workings of the college admissions process (or how fellowships and other goodies are dolled out) the article in The Times would seem to justify the very unfair--and what on the face of seems very unseemly--role that race plays in how colleges decide who to admit and what types of financial aid and scholarships to award.

For the layperson who is drunk on some half-digested, misunderstanding of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech," the fact that a student must decide which race to emphasize or identify with on a college application seems to clearly disadvantage white applicants.

Moreover, for the disingenuous Ward Connerly bottom feeding types of the political ecosystem, the idea that race matters is one more reason to jettison the whole racial bureaucracy and live a life of colorblind fiction and fantasy. The bottom line of their objections is at its heart a simple one: white folks are somehow losing out in college admissions--and good, hard working white students (and in some circles those "model minority" Asian-Americans) who did everything "right" even more so.

This is untrue for a variety of reasons. First, college admissions are based on a number of variables. And as recent research has found, being the relative of a donor or an alumni with money counts much more than any other factor (once more to the wages of Whiteness). The other issue is the nebulous category of how a given student is deemed "qualified" for a given school (and if they are then going to be offered a seat).

Many Sam and Susy snowflakes believe that they "deserve" to be admitted to a given (elite) institution and that they "earned" it. Sorry to break it to you Sam and Susy Snowflake: the college admissions process does not work that way.

SATs are weak tools for predicting college success beyond the freshmen year. Moreover, the more important goal is how to best assemble a diverse and compelling class of students who can be successful at a given institution. Where everyone is more or less qualified, intangibles carry a great amount of weight.

To point: a working class kid who held 2 jobs and managed a 1100 on her SATs is far more compelling than an upper class kid who had tutors and access to all sorts of support and then proceeds to only score a 1300. A kid from the 'res, or rural Appalachia, or the South Bronx, or a Latino from rural Texas with similar (or even lower) scores is more compelling to many college admissions committees.

Granting all of those realities does not mean that the college admissions process should not be modified. Where race matters it can also be gamed and manipulated. In my time I have seen many versions of the race hustle at work in the college and university admissions process. Here are some of the cons in the "check off your race box game" that I have either witnessed directly or heard about:

  • The rich student from North Africa who decides to identify as "African-American" because they are from the continent of Africa.
  • The white students who check off African-American because human life began on that continent (and they will provide their own DNA tests to prove it...and sue if they do not get admitted).
  • The white South African who checks off African-American. Riddle me that one.
  • The student who claims a black/Hispanic/Native American/Asian relative some two or three generations ago (and whose heritage they do not honor or identify with) in order to get some imagined advantage.
  • The mixed race student who lives and identifies as a white person, but wants to see what they can "get" for being something other than White. Said student gets admitted, is invited to the multicultural student weekend and never shows up, and lives the rest of their college tenure counted in a database as a student of color...always being sure to quickly throw out any mail they get from the Office of Multicultural Relations lest their friends find out they are not a full blooded WASP.
  • The African or Caribbean student who feels no affinity for Black Americans, is admitted on grounds of "diversity" as an "African American," and then makes sure to maintain as much distance as possible from said group.

As The New York Times points out, college administrators and faculty are participants in the racial bureaucracy. They can decide to enable the race hustle. The same personnel can also choose to stand firm on their principles as they work to match up both the spirit and the letter of the law in a long game which sees sincere diversity in colleges and universities as a net gain for all students.

On that point, and in the best spirit of the Notorious B.I.G., I got a story to tell.

In a previous life, I worked on two rather prestigious fellowship and summer training programs for undergraduate students. In that capacity I had to decide who to admit, who to late list, and who to reject outright. These programs were targeted at students from a very specific socio-economic and racial background, groups which were/are grossly under-represented in graduate and professional programs.

One of my easiest criteria for making the first cut was a simple one: Does the applicant meet the admissions criteria? As a standing rule, I would put any application which checked off "other" as their racial identity in the "to be looked at later" file. If an applicant wrote in their own label (Tiger Woods's "Canablasian" for example) or came up with some crazy, bizarre, race hustle identity such as "white, African-American, Polynesian, Native American, whose third Aunt was from Brazil" I smiled and put it in the "down the memory well" circular file.

These choices were made as much on principle--these programs were targeted at students with some sense of linked fate, shared history with, and membership in, a racially disadvantaged group in this country--as for efficiency. To this day, I do not feel that I did anything either inappropriate, or outside of the programmatic rules I strictly adhered to in my role as a gatekeeper in the racial bureaucracy.

Apparently, I was not alone. There are annual meetings which the staff and faculty of these fellowship programs are obligated to attend. In one of the training sessions these very questions came up. How do you categorize mixed race applicants? Do students who check off "other" count? Are they eligible?

I volunteered my rubric. Half the room responded as the Amen! chorus and shared that they too use a similar set of rules. The other half of the room was visibly angry and upset, that this was somehow unfair and penalized students who may identify as white or have a "mixed" background.

Triumphantly, I quoted the regulations governing the fellowship program verbatim. Folks smiled. Others sneered. Talk about a moment where I cut some heads in the best jazz improv session sense.

Thus the paradox of life in the Age of Obama and colorblind, multicultural America: Long live the racial bureaucracy! Down with the racial bureaucracy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Willie Horton 2011 Campaign Ad: "Give Us Your Cash Bitch" Courtesy of Tea Party Affiliated Group Turn Right USA



Once more why I am a bit of a Luddite. Nothing but bad can result from all of the excess computing power folks have on their home PCs.

[Is it that hard out there on the block? Do these brothers so desperately need to get their money that they would embarrass themselves in this way?]

I enjoy deconstructing campaign commercials in my classes. This gem against California councilwoman Janice Hahn is most certainly going to go in the hall of shame along with Carly Fiorina's demon sheep and Dan Fanelli's anti-Muslim suicide bomber racial profiling hit piece.

Please help me out with the semiotics of the Turn Right USA's advertisement as I cannot even begin to make sense of something so obvious. On one hand I want to call this ad genius in its unconscionable level of political pornography, woman hating, and race baiting. But then again I am loathe to dignify something so grotesque with the distinction of genius (is "expert" a better word?). Oh, what a conundrum.

In the Tea Party Right wing imagination, with its corrupted White soul, this is just one more unsurprising when "Giant Negroes Attack" episode served up with a little interracial sex for flavor and a healthy dose of moral panic for seasoning.

Ultimately, I love the myopia of the White Gaze and how it sees all black folks as universal, interchangeable thugs. It makes me feel a bit dangerous and wild--so much so that I may go out and scare some white people tonight. How exciting and fun!

13 Ways that the New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate was a Monster’s Ball

They say that great trees--like great republics--rot not from outside, but fall apart from within. How did the United States arrive at a place where policy positions held by the lunatic, late night, talk radio crowd of the Right-wing could catapult into a televised debate, espoused by "serious" candidates?

The 2011 Republican debate in New Hampshire was a car wreck where all seemed to crawl out with vitals intact. Nevertheless, it was a freak show where opinions once held as anathema to normal politics were casually given voice by the Tea Party GOP candidates. Here are the top 13 ways of how this night was a Monster's Ball in the worst sense of the American political tradition.

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1. Ayn Rand inspired wet dream. The Tea Party GOP wants to make her dystopian vision of unregulated free markets and a further maldistribution of wealth upward into America's salvation. In total (and despite three decades of evidence to the contrary), the Great Recession will be cured by less regulation and not more, where the State gives more resources to those with the most with the hope that they will somehow "trickle down" to the rest of us. Please don't pee on my head and tell me that it is raining.

And oh yeah, if Ron Paul is to be taken seriously, don't be a person who is sick and in need of emergency health care because you will need to wait for the free market and charity hospitals to develop a fix for what ails as you lay dying on the floor.

2. The American Theocracy is real. God. Family. 23 adopted kids. God. Family. Faith. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. According to the 2012 Republican candidates one must be a person of "faith," i.e. a Judeo-Christian of some stripe, in order to be a "moral" person.

Insert finger into throat and induce vomiting.

Question: if God supposedly wants all of the 2012 Tea Party GOP candidates to win, what will happen when they lose? Moreover, which God was correct in its whisperings in the 2012 Republican candidate's individual ears? Which of these "Gods" was lying? How would we know? Will there be a holy war over this issue? Will fatwas be issued by the losing candidates?

3. The Constitution wept once when the Tea Party GOP candidates--a group who supposedly worship America's founding document as a fetish or totem that should be judged by the magical, divinely inspired intent of the "founders"--gave lip service to the notion of repealing birthright citizenship in order to solve America's immigration problems.

4. The Constitution wept a second time when the Tea Party GOP candidates repeated the spurious and willful lie that America was founded as a quasi theocracy, where Jefferson's "thick wall" between church and state was intended only to protect the former from the latter. The establishment clause apparently does not apply, as America was founded as a Christian republic. Perhaps, the Right-wing Tea Party GOP Glenn Beck crowd is reading too much of that pseudo-historian David Barton's nonsense histories?

5. The Constitution wept a third time when the Tea Party GOP candidates led by Herman Cain supported the argument that there ought to be a loyalty oath to the Constitution that is exclusive to Muslim Americans. Never mind that the Constitution prohibits such tests of religious faith as qualifiers for holding public office. Not content to let Herman Cain grab the theocratic zealot vote, Newt Gingrich doubled down on stupid by connecting American Muslims to Nazis and Communist infiltrators. Uncle Joe McCarthy would indeed be proud.

6. The government is bad. The government is always the problem and never the solution. As America witnessed in the death of a great American city during Hurricane Katrina, all of our contemporary problems at the nadir of empire can be cured by rolling back citizens' expectations of the State that it should act in the interest of the Common Good. In fact, the State's failure should be expected as citizens should never have any sense that the government will act in the collective interest, or for the protection of the weakest and most vulnerable.

7. The truth suffered quite a few black eyes at the hands of the 2012 Republican Presidential Nominees. If you listen to their mouth utterances, the American people overwhelmingly hate Obama's efforts to reform the health care system (in fact the public is quite split). The American people are also very concerned with the budget deficit more than they are with job creation. The bailout of the Auto Industry will lose money and further destroy the U.S. economy. And finally, if Michele Bachmann is to be believed, it is only the liberals and the democrats who pass big spending bills upon getting into office. These are all lies. Apparently for Conservatives, reality is making the real world bend to your ideological priors.

8. America is not an exceptional country. There are some candidates who want the U.S. to model their Social Security system after Chile...a country with one of the worst distributions of income in the world. Question: I thought that the Tea Party GOP never looked to other countries for solutions to American problems? Is there a Latin or South American kleptocracy clause to the Constitution that I overlooked? Is this an auxiliary to the Monroe Doctrine?

9. Clarity and transparency were made sick by the debate's dancing around the issue of gay marriage. So, is it the states or the federal government who gets to decide if same sex marriage should be legal? And if we have a Constitutional amendment in "defense of marriage" does that not trump all of the States' Rights talk on the issue as offered during by the 2012 Tea Party Republican field? What of that inconvenient part of the Constitution called the Equal Protection Clause?

10. Civility towards the President of the United States of America in the body of Barack Obama is truly dead. During the Bush administration there was all this screaming by the Republican Party about the need to respect the Office of the President. With President Obama as President this rule has apparently been jettisoned. According to the 2012 Tea Party GOP first class, Obama is a traitor, a failure, and an incompetent who wants to destroy the United States. He is somehow accomplishing this from within...Obama's killing of Osama Bin Laden conveniently aside. In sum, President Obama is some type of Manchurian candidate who is cuckolded by nefarious foreign powers--and probably his Kenyan father's voodoo African ghost who controls him from beyond the grave.

11. Unions violate the rights of the American people. They are antithetical to freedom of association as protected by the Constitution. The reality that most Americans are no longer unionized, that wages have been flat for at least 30 years in part because of this fact, and that those countries with strong unions have a higher standard of living (and their citizens more happy), is an inconvenient aside. Just remember: unions are taking your freedoms away you loyal patriotic Red State Americans!

12. The shadow of Sarah Palin is indeed long: one must never say the name of she who must not be mentioned lest you be smited. Most importantly, you must kiss the Mama Grizzly's ring and tell all who would listen that she is more qualified, and in fact would have been a better President than that failed, elitist, high-foreheaded, intellectual, rapscallion, uppity black constitutional attorney Harvard/University of Chicago guy by the name of Barack Obama.

13. Just like the legendary Ol' Dirty Bastard, Mr. Herman "shucky ducky Soul Train" Cain is for the children! Wu-Tang forever!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Historian's Epic Fail: John Brown is not Osama Bin Laden

With the official government killing of Osama bin Laden last month, the issue of using violence in a good cause has once again surfaced. "Justice has been done," said President Obama as he announced bin Laden's death by a team of Navy SEAL operatives. Americans reacted, American-style, with bibulous celebrations in Times Square and, more quietly, with feelings of relief and contemplation. Some of that contemplation included the question: Did the United States have the moral authority to assassinate bin Laden, no matter how much evil he had committed?

Personally, I don't have a straightforward answer to that question, but I can tell you as a historian that the connections between violence and terrorism and our country's long history of responding to violence with violence always leads me to think about John Brown and his raid on Harpers Ferry, Va. (now West Virginia), in 1859, an event that historians believe intensified the sectional controversy between North and South that eventually led to the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861. And when I think about John Brown, a radical abolitionist who believed that violence could -- and should -- be used to end slavery in America, I can't help also thinking about the place he raided, Harpers Ferry -- one of the most peaceful, scenic spots in the entire United States.
In the world of advanced academic pedantry, sometimes folks miss the forest for the trees. That would seem to be the case with Glenn W. LaFantasie's essay, "The Thoroughly American Soul of John Brown" which was recently featured on Salon.com.

How anyone can parallel Osama Bin Laden with the Abolitionist freedom fighter Mr. John Brown is beyond me. Moreover, Professor LaFantasie's accompanying question of how and if America is a violent society seems to be a bit uninteresting and obvious. But alas, each academic subfield has its own compelling questions and inside baseball debates that others may not get or have ready access to.

[On a related note, check out the comments section on "The Thoroughly American Soul of John Brown." There is some serious sonning going on where lay-readers and other folks are tearing the good Professor to bits....which is one more reason many academics prefer to play in safer and more secure waters where the Queenberry rules apply].

There is a disturbing tone to LaFantasie's essay, one that is none too uncommon: the love and affinity of black folks for John Brown is viewed as somehow aberrant or a special case.
In our own day, Brown still stirs up controversy and sets people -- especially historians -- at odds with one another. Yet among one group of Americans -- African-Americans -- there seems to be a consensus about John Brown that exists among no other segment of the society. For black Americans, John Brown is a hero, and ever since his death they have sustained their high opinion of him and have elevated him to a place occupied by few whites.
This is myopic because the story of black America is the American story. Ultimately, to track it is to better understand some of the basic questions which this democracy in progress has struggled.

The more obvious problem with LaFantasie's analysis of John Brown's radical freedom fighting and revolutionary work is that his premise is misdirected and underdeveloped: The raid on Harper's Ferry is viewed as a wild eyed provocation against the South; Brown's deeds are misguided; the use of violence to settle political differences is wrong because it exists outside of the State's monopoly on force.

What is missing here is an acknowledgement that chattel slavery is a perpetual state of violence and war against those held in bondage. Simply put, the Southern Slaveocracy--and later the CSA--were military states that practiced daily acts of terrorism against their black American citizens.

One of the early commenters on "The Thoroughly American Soul of John Brown" got it spot on when they observed that there is no hand-wringing over the violence committed by the Allies against the Nazis or the Japanese during World War Two. Those wars are simply viewed as "just." Thus, why all this introspection about the legitimacy of John Brown's violence (which the author characterizes as "abhorrent"), and not an emphasis on context? That John Brown acted in the name of liberating black humanity from the chains and shackles of inhuman bondage?

I am hesitant to say it, but in the eyes of some, even into the present, is black life that cheap? So cheap in fact, that all sorts of mental gymnastics have to occur in order to come to a decision rule for when acts of liberation balance out in the ledger?

John Brown understood the redemptive and necessary power of violence. Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, and many nameless others throughout the Black Atlantic also understood the prime directive of agency, resistance and survival. Many folks in the United States--both black and white, North and South--do not want to tell that story.

Thus the irony: the slave owners and slave resisters were all quintessentially American. They could also be quite violent, the former by definition much more so. In a world of simple, flat, binary answers many fear that uncomfortable truth.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Of Herman Cain, Pesky Negro Agitators, and the Free Rider Problem in the Glorious Black Freedom Struggle

Heading into his senior year of high school, Cain had the opportunity to be in the first class of black students to integrate Atlanta high schools. But he didn’t choose the path of the Little Rock Nine. “I was a good student, and my principal and my counselor came to me and asked if I would be willing to be one of the kids to be bused to another part of town,” Cain said. “I talked to my dad about it, and he didn’t say ‘Don’t do it.’ But he said, ‘Well, you could do that if you want to, but that’s not your fight by yourself. You’ve got a chance to go on to college,’ which he couldn’t do.”

How could leaving Archer have kept him from college? “I could have gone over there, and they could have made it so unbelievably difficult that I might not have graduated. We didn’t know what to expect.” He paused to take a few bites. “Remember, the world wasn’t fair then. Okay? So I prayed about it, decided not to do it.”

A quick thought before the Tea Party GOP demolition derby debate in New Hampshire on Monday night.

Most folks would like to believe that they would fight the good fight, join up with the Freedom Riders and take on Jim Crow, struggle as guerrillas with the French Underground, or fly their Y-wing fighters with the Rebel Alliance against the evil Galactic Empire. But how many of us actually would?

According to The Weekly Standard, Herman Cain wants all of the good white folks to know that he was not one of those pesky Negro rapscallion agitators who were causing trouble in the South during The Civil Rights Movement. This is not a dog whistle--what is a much overused phrase these days. Rather, Cain's interview with The Weekly Standard is a naked signal to his white public that he is one of "the good ones."

As a black conservative, playing the role of racial accommodationist, good luck salve and lucky charm is de riguer: especially given how Herman Cain makes light jokes about segregated water fountains, the tone of his interview with The Weekly Standard is not at all surprising.

Nevertheless, there is an interesting and productive question that comes from Herman Cain's admission that he had better things to do instead of fighting Jim and Jane Crow White supremacy. In any struggle or movement there really is no real incentive to participate. Because the goals are usually a type of public good (i.e. something that has to be granted to all parties and cannot generally be denied to a given individual) why risk one's life, limbs, health, and safety when there are others who are perfectly willing to carry the burden with little if any cost to you?

Enter: the classic free rider, collective action problem. If most folks just want to stay out of the way of history and are content to remain anonymous as they simply go about their business in the face of Power, is it fair or reasonable to expect them to fight the good fight? More bluntly, are the Herman Cains of the world--those who stood by while others struggled--cowards? Or is coward too mean and imprecise a word?

Maybe the black, brown, women, gay, working class, and other folks who stood on the sidelines while other people labored to expand democracy and make citizenship more full were simply rational actors who played the game well.

That may not seem very civic-minded, but it is perhaps a cold, hard, truth.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Of Christian Nationalism, the Israel Lobby, and Herman Cain's Loyalty Oath for Muslim Americans



Going to see Super 8 tonight, and am still working on a post on X-Men. Others have most certainly beaten me with my thoughts on the latter, but there is still lots to be said on the film.

A quick thought.

I have little use for religion. I also smile and smirk at the hypocrisy of Conservatives and all of their "values," "God," and evangelical talk. But I do love Bobby D's movie The Apostle. Riddle me that one.

Much of the Right's religious talk is rank hypocrisy. Rarely (if ever) does their interpretation of Jesus Christ as a historical figure's teachings mesh up with their anti-poor, kleptocratic, intolerant, judgmental, mean spirited politics--on that note, if you want to make the head of an evangelical Conservative explode give them a copy of JimWallis's book God's Politics.

In short, this country's founding document clearly mandates that there should be a thick and substantial wall between matters of church and state. It is ironic then that Constitutional fetishists like Herman Cain and other Tea Party GOPers want to tear down those barriers. It is doubly funny, that characters like black garbage pail kid Herman Cain want to impose unconstitutional litmus tests for Muslim Americans who want to be elected to public office. That a black man, a member of a group whose citizenship and fitness for national belonging has been repeatedly questioned would do such a thing, is tragic.

Moreover, when Alan Keyes is a voice of reason calling a person out for pursuing intellectually and morally indefensible canards of questionable thought and reason in respect to the Constitution we know that the Republic truly is on life support.

In the interest of consistency in all things, if Herman Cain supports a loyalty test for Muslim Americans because they are somehow conflicted in their support of the Constitution (and by implication are not patriotic), when is Congress going to have hearings on the Israel lobby and the role of Christian Nationalists in shaping American domestic and foreign policy? Will there be loyalty tests for members of groups such as Christians United for Israel or AIPAC? Where was the outcry when President Bush, without embarrassment, talked about God telling him to invade Iraq?

I am not religious. But I am fair. And if we are going to be fair the obvious must be stated: the Evangelical Right and Christian Nationalists have done more long term damage to the domestic and international security of this country than any Muslim American ever has.

Where are the hearings on those folks Mr. Cain?

Of Racism, Air Conditioning, and Constructive Feedback's Brilliant BTU to Black Empowerment Analogy

I was thoroughly miserable on Wednesday because I am unwilling to give in to my landlord's rule that we must rent an air conditioner from his company and then pay an additional fee for its installation. In disgust, I then went to downtown Chicago and proceeded to sweat through my linen suit because the air conditioning was turned down in my office. I wandered about and a friend picked me up and drove me to get Chinese food. I was hot, grumpy, and my yummies from Joy Yee's did not make me smile. What a crappy day.

All was wrong. Now I know why. My malaise is not related to the heat and lack of A/C throughout my overpriced apartment. No, it is an existential conditional related to my negritude that is best captured by the unit of measurement known as the British Thermal Unit (BTU). I was not privy to this fact until my daily read of Constructive Feedback's (a fixture in the black blogosphere) website.

I am moved that the black community's perpetual struggle with the ghetto ign't classes, structural inequality, and colorblind racism in the Age of Obama can in fact be reduced to an air conditioner analogy. Forget a check in every bank account, or a turkey in every pot, we need air conditioning as the vanguard of race and class progress in this time of the Great Recession.

Constructive Feedback's model is a great heuristic and metaphor for diagnosing all that ails us and by extension--because black and brown folks are the miner's canary--America. I say this without snark, meanness, or irony.

Ultimately, I give love where deserved. Constructive Feedback gets a good deal of well-deserved hate and is an object of thrown uncleaned chitterlings innards towards the back of his head at the black family cookout at the beach. The beta in the wolf pack, he is abused because his suffering diffuses conflict among the group. Nevertheless, we ought to acknowledge the role he plays in maintaining harmony. In this moment, Constructive Feedback deserves some love for his air conditioning/BTU/black empowerment moment of wit and genius.

As a Klingon once said to Captain James T. Kirk, Constructive Feedback I salute you! My friends, on a Friday, and in the interest of friendship, please share your thoughts on why you too love Constructive Feedback's air conditioning analogy.

If you were going to piggy back on Constructive Feedback's BTU/AC analogy for all that ails black folks and America (more broadly) what metric to appliance relationship would you use?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Leaked! Herman Cain's New Campaign Video "We are the Real America" is Seeking Actors: Here is the Call for Extras



I have friends and contacts in places high and low. One of them forwarded me a call for extras from Herman Cain's newest campaign commercial, "We are the Real America." It fits perfectly. I cannot help but to laugh and smile as I read it. Enjoy.

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Herman Cain, Republican Party 2012 Presidential Candidate is seeking extras for the shooting of a new campaign video called "We Are the Real America." This project is currently auditioning actors and is being cast in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

The campaign video is being shot by a well-known director who is a notable supporter of Conservative political causes in Hollywood. The 5 minute video is financed by the group Friends of Herman Cain for President in 2012. The campaign film highlights Herman Cain's broad appeal to a diverse group of Americans and how he speaks for the silent majority.

The film is seeking extras for crowd shots, as well as individuals and families for close in profiles. For extras, we are looking for the following:
  • Active seniors who convey a sense of happiness and excitement about the future
  • Young, clean cut blacks and Latinos
  • Soccer moms and their children
  • Traditional, middle class Americans from suburban and rural backgrounds. Country music and Christian gospel fans are especially sought after.
If you are located in the Atlanta, Georgia area and would like to be considered for Herman Cain's new campaign video "We are the Real America" please email Hermancain.com with the role you are auditioning for in the subject heading.

We are also seeking actors and actresses for the following roles:
    1. Patriotic Muslim. She should be a very exciting, captivating and beautiful Muslim-American. An observant Muslim, she will be comfortable wearing a colorful hijab in the film. This actress radiates a love of the United States. Very charming and delicate, she will be shot waving a small American flag at a backyard barbecue while dancing with her American friends.
    2. Real American Motorcycle Rider. He is a powerfully built American with long blond hair, tattoos, and a goatee. Always ready for action, he is never far from his Harley Davidson motorcycle. Wearing jeans and a leather vest, he will have his patriotic tattoos prominently featured in Herman Cain's campaign video. If possible, this actor will have an American flag on his biceps that he will flex for a climactic close in shot.
    3. Upwardly Mobile Black Professional. He is a slight to small framed African American who wears glasses. With a clean cut look (no dread locks or other ethnic haircut) he is very excited and charmed by Herman Cain's presence. They will likely embrace each other and exchange a high five. He should be athletic because their meeting will occur while playing golf. This actor will wear a relaxed corporate look of khaki jeans, a cell phone on his belt, and a white baseball hat.
    4. Multiracial Family. This group of two parents and at least two children should be of different racial backgrounds. Both are professionals and very much in love. An African American and white couple is preferred. An Asian and white couple is also acceptable. The child should be no older than 2 years old (small enough to be placed on their father's shoulder while securely waving an American flag), and have light brown or red hair. Grey, hazel, or blue eyes are preferred.
    5. Sikh and Jewish Friends. At least one observant Sikh (turban wearing) and one observant Jewish actor (with yarmulke) or actress are needed. They should be young (no older than 30 years old), very athletic, and fashionable hipsters or otherwise edgy, cool, and tuned into popular culture. Both will be in the campaign video playing either soccer or Hacky Sack among a larger group of Herman Cain supporters while they update their status on Facebook or Twitter by using their Ipods or Ipads.
    6. Latinos in Military Uniform. A former veteran or active duty service person is needed. We are especially open to groups of military personnel from Latin or South America who are enthusiastic supporters of Herman Cain. They will be expected to appear in both their dress uniforms and camouflage. Battle ribbons and medals should be prominently displayed. Replica weapons will be furnished to the actors and actresses.

    7. Arab American with Dog. One person from the Middle East is needed with his or her dog. Preferably, a yellow Labrador retriever or a lovable mutt who enjoys interacting with others. The dog should be a puppy. If it is exceptionally talented and has prior acting experience, an older animal will also be acceptable.

Please submit photos and resumes by email only.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brother X-Squared Returns to Talk About X-Men: First Class, President Obama, and to Reveal a Shocking Secret to Chauncey DeVega

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) is proud to bring you the latest installment in our recurring series of interviews with Brother X-Squared, president of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party.

As long time followers of WARNNN already know, Brother X-Squared is a potent activist, black futurist, and visionary thinker. He is also a noted cultural critic in the greatest tradition of African American commentary and letters. It has been six months since we last spoke with Brother X-Squared. He has been incommunicado and apparently in hiding. Brother X-Squared has promised us an explosive and jaw dropping expose on the future of America. Brother X-Squared has teased that his appearance on WARNNN will be of particular import to Chauncey DeVega, Editor and Founder of We Are Respectable Negroes.

WARNNN: Brother X-Squared, it has been too long. Where have you been? What have you been up to? What is this information that you are going to share with me? Are you safe? Where were you hiding?

Brother X-Squared: Silence child! I see that my absence has allowed your mental musculature and integumentary system of melanin wisdom to atrophy like the little penis of that white sex freak Anthony Weiner from New York. Brother X-Squared is never in hiding! Can you hide from the sun? From its heat? From its rays? The sun and the moon are in a dance and it is only cosmic forces that keep me from irradiating you 24 hours a day! I have taught you so much since we met those years ago. Yet, in my absence it seems that you have taken 5 steps backwards for every 1 step forward! Try again. This time with patience and be deliberate in your speech.

WARNNN: My humble apologies. What have you been up to these last few months? Were they productive?

Brother X-Squared: A little better. Do cicadas come out at night and sing the blues for moon crickets when the slave ship is coming into port?

WARNNN: You lost me, Brother X-Squared...

Brother X-Squared: Even in your confusion and stupidity there is truth. You truly are one of the lost mentally captive negroes in this hellish land called Amerikkka. Once more you do not understand the Negro folk wisdom. Sad. Tragic. Even the evil White Man knows of my wisdom and is making a special computer that can translate metaphors from different languages so that the CIA can spy on people. They will never create a cipher that can beat Brother X-Squared...but that is a talk for another time.

Chauncey, you need to get a copy of Laurence Levine's book Black Culture and Black Consciousness so you can learn something about your own great heritage as a Nubian! The answer is yes! I have been productive! I have put plans into motion that are still bearing fruit, I am a perpetual self sustaining nuclear reactor that is powered by my melanin. I have foreseen the decline of America. It is here as we speak! The visions came to me while I led a special month long training retreat for my soldiers in the North American Chapter of the New Black Panther Party.

WARNNN: What did you discover?

Brother X-Squared: You and the other mental idiots who comprise the majority of the captive black Africans in America are not ready for the whole truth. So, I will give you just a little dose. The White Man hides his truth in plain sight. He also wraps them up in lies. Sometimes he twists up the language--what the white genius devil George Orwell called newspeak in his book 1984. I can divine it because my mental state is strong and transcendent as it resonates through the dark matter of the universe. All this talk about the debt ceiling is your first clue!

How can debt be an evil calamity that is high in the sky? No, it is a hellish burden that sucks you in like quick sand! The White Man's evil is so deep that he is even trying to appropriate the wisdom of the great African empires of Kush and Benin and their gold standard to save his sorry butt! Impossible, the White Man can never master the economic systems of the black gods because his mind is corrupt and cruel from his natural state as an ignorant cave dweller.

WARNNN: I have to agree with you. The world is on the verge of a second Great Depression and the corporations and financiers are using the shock doctrine and disaster capitalism to bring the American people down. Ironic then that Barack Obama, America's first black President, may be her last if the economy continues its decline.

Brother X-Squared: Fool. I mock you.

WARNNN: Excuse me?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Intellectual Scatology: Ann Coulter's New Book Calls Liberals "Demonic" and Possessed of a "Mob Mentality" That Will Destroy America

In "Demonic," Coulter traces the words and movements of groups from the Ku Klux Klan and the SDS to anti-war protesters and Democrats today to argue her point that liberals have "consistently used mob tactics to implement their idea of the 'general will.'"

"Just as fire seeks oxygen, Democrats seek power, which is why they will always be found championing the mob whether the mob consists of Democrats lynching blacks or Democrats slandering the critics of Obama Care as racists," Coulter writes.
Ann Coulter has penned a new missive in which she argues that "the liberals"--anyone not a Right-wing Republican--are part of a dangerous mob. In turn, this mob will destroy democracy. There are also biblical overtones because these mobs are also apparently possessed by demons--or perhaps even are demons themselves. Coulter's mob of evil liberals is exemplified by the KKK, environmentalists, unions, advocates of health care reform, the L.A. riots, the O.J. Simpson trial, and anti-war protesters. She also connects the dots to Hitler and Mussolini and floats the suggestion that the liberals may start killing conservatives...

Let me stop. I can't even write anymore of this stuff. Have you ever encountered a mentally unhinged person? One whose rambling thoughts are so utterly believable to themselves that through sheer persistence they wear you down and suck you into their reality?

After trying to make sense of a few of the excerpts taken from Ann Coulter's new book Demonic (which was featured on ABC), I am exhausted. Truly. Tired.

Demonic is hot garbage which does not even rise to the level of failed political satire--but those on the Right who consume such tripe will take Demonic as authoritative because it confirms their priors.

For the anti-intellectual Conservative book reading crowd, Coulter's Demonic has facts, dates, and the names of people who are experts is mass psychology; it is written by someone they agree with; Demonic calls anyone who is not a Conservatives harsh names; thus, her arguments must be true.

You can't polish a turd--which makes any serious engagement with her premise impossible. But, you can try to understand the fecal waste in much the same way that Hippocrates studied the humors of the body, or Chinese herbalists would exam the excretia of their patients for indicators of disease.

There are multiple levels of Freudian projection going on in Coulter's screed: at present, the mob and the mouth breathing horde are a fixture of the White Populist Right and the Tea Party GOP brigands; but of course that reality goes uncommented upon.

This is serious stuff. As we have repeatedly seen, the Right-wing is creating an alternative reality fully equipped with their own "experts," schools and universities, and rewriting history when the facts do not match up with their ideology.

As an example of Tea Party GOP newspeak in action, here are seven intellectually scatological excerpts from Demonic to pick through...I couldn't muster the strength or patience to do more. My comments are in brackets.


For safety sake, be sure to wear latex gloves to avoid any pathogens or diseases from Coulter's "treatise":
1. The demon is a mob, and the mob is demonic. It is the nihilistic mob of the French Revolution; it is the revolutionaries who seized control of Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century; it is the Maoist gangs looting villages and impaling babies in China; it is the Ku Klux Klan terrorizing Republicans and blacks in the South; it is the 1992 Los Angeles riot that left fifty dead and did $1 billion of damage after the first Rodney King verdict; it is the bloody riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; it is the masked hoodlums smashing up Seattle when bankers came to town; it is the 500,000 illegal aliens marching under a foreign flag in Los Angeles; it is throngs of Islamic fanatics attending the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's funeral, tearing his body out of its coffin; it is left-wing protesters destroying property and attacking delegates at the 2004 and 2008 Republican National Conventions.
[Huh? What a piss poor example of reasoning from a set of disparate cases. How many of these things are not like the others?]
2. The Democratic Party is the party of the mob, irrespective of what the mob represents. Democrats activate mobs, depend on mobs, coddle mobs, publicize and celebrate mobs -- they are the mob. Indeed, the very idea of a "community organizer" is to stir up a mob for some political purpose. "As so frequently happens when a crowd goes wild," historian Eric Durschmied says, "there is always one who shouts louder and thereby appoints himself as their leader." Those are the people we call "elected Democrats."
[In political analysis one should strive for specific historicity, i.e. in less fancy talk making sure that you are grounding your cases in the correct temporal context. There are many examples of Conservatives killing, murdering, plundering, and engaging in "mob like" behavior. Moreover, the "Democrats" of today and not the same party as yesteryear. The same can be said of the Republicans. Note the "community organizer" dog whistle for trouble-making Negro agitators...you know, that guy Barack Obama, or Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, or Suffragists, or anyone else who believed that you can use your Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms to organize and demand a redress of grievances from the State.]
3. The Democrats' playbook doesn't involve heads on pikes -- as yet -- but uses a more insidious means to incite the mob. The twisting of truth, stirring of passions, demonizing of opponents, and relying on propagandistic images in lieu of ideas -- these are the earmarks of a mob leader. Over and over again, one finds the Democrats manipulating the mob to gain power. It is official Democratic policy to appeal to the least informed, most weak-minded and perpetually alarmed members of the public.
[Classic projection. The Right-wing media echo chamber is rife with Eliminationist rhetoric that calls for the killing, murder, and destruction of liberals and progressives. It is par for the course that the Right refers to liberals as "libtards," or uses the slogan that "liberalism is a mental illness." Where facts are proof of intent, we have seen cases of actual murder and violence incited by the Right-wing media machine, where Glenn Beck's devotees for example have actually gone on shooting rampages at the behest of their Great Leader.

To Coulter's last point: The Southern Strategy, Palin's faux populism, and the post 9/11 playbook of the GOP have all leveraged fear and appeals to low information Conservative voters to mobilize their base.]
4. Although the left in America is widely recognized as hysterical, unreasonable, and clueless, the "root cause" of these traits has generally been neglected. More than a century ago, Gustave Le Bon perfectly captured the liberal psychological profile in his 1896 book, "The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind." Le Bon -- a French physician, scientist, and social psychologist -- was the first to identify the phenomenon of mass psychology. His groundbreaking book "The Crowd" paints a disturbing picture of the behavior of mobs. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini used his book to learn how to incite a mob. Our liberals could have been Le Bon's study subjects.
[This is another gem from Coulter. The structure of the argument and its conclusions are classic propaganda and New Right communication strategy. Begin the observation with an opinion, one that you in turn take to be common knowledge and fact (the Tea Party GOP could certainly be described as "hysterical, unreasonable, and clueless"). Then link the observation with a source you signal as authoritative, which you in turn proceed to rid of all complexity and nuance. Mention an onerous historical figure, i.e. Hitler, and then link it to the target of your assault--here "the liberals."]
5. All the characteristics of mob behavior set forth by Le Bon in 1895 are evident in modern liberalism -- simplistic, extreme black-and-white thinking, fear of novelty, inability to follow logical arguments, acceptance of contradictory ideas, being transfixed by images, a religious worship of their leaders, and a blind hatred of their opponents.
[This is the best example of intentional propaganda and misrepresentation so far from Coulter's Demonic. All of these traits are common to what the literature on social psychology calls the Conservative/Authoritarian political personality type.

As a result of upbringing, and perhaps even brain structure, Conservatives are more likely to be fearful of change and difference, exemplify binary thinking in regards to problem solving, and be compelled by moral appeals and scripts.

The Authoritarian personality type craves strong leaders and is particularly vulnerable to the allure of the charismatic figure. Coulter must have been privy to this widely available information and intentionally lied for the validation of her readers.]
6. Conservatives don't cotton to slogans...Conservatives write books and articles, make arguments, and seek debates, but are perplexed by slogans...An orator wishing to move a crowd must make an abusive use of violent affirmations.
To exaggerate, to affirm, to resort to repetitions, and never to attempt to prove anything by reasoning are methods of argument well known to speakers at public meetings." Liberals love slogans because the "laws of logic have no action on crowds." Mobs, Le Bon says, "are not to be influenced by reasoning, and can only comprehend rough-and-ready associations of ideas."
He could be describing the New York Times and other journals of elite opinion when he describes periodicals that "manufacture opinions for their readers and supply them with ready- made phrases which dispense them of the trouble of reasoning." You will see all the techniques for inspiring mobs in liberal behavior.
[People's exhibit number one: Fox News and their disingenuous slogan "Fair and Balanced." The Right-wing in America is expert at disseminating talking points, coordinating them across multiple outlets, and focusing on the theme of the day. Coulter's attack on the "liberal media" is a great example of how Conservatives are able to so effectively propagandize their audience.

The strategy is simple. First, you make an assertion for which there is little if any evidence (that the media is liberal), then proceed from the premise to argue the opposite (Fox News is "neutral"), which in turn insulates you from any rebuttal (so what if Fox News has admitted they are opinion based journalism, that they routinely distort facts, and are in the pocket of the GOP, they are a "fair" alternative to the "liberal" media!).]
7. The only traditions liberals are eager to smash are moral and sexual ones, such as marriage and protecting the unborn. Crowds are too impulsive to be moral, according to Le Bon, which explains why liberals are mad for innovation when it comes to thousands-year-old institutions like marriage. Only when it comes to scientific innovation, are they hidebound traditionalists. Indeed, the only way to get liberals interested in novel scientific research is to propose slaughtering human embryos.
When adult stem cell researchers had already produced treatments for eighty different diseases, while embryonic stem cell researchers were stuck in the dark ages, the failed researchers won liberal hearts by pointing out that their method destroyed human fetuses, while adult stem research did not.
As long as Democrats can win by demagoguing the mob, they are perfectly happy to turn America into a banana republic.
With the country drowning in debt and Medicare and Social Security putting us on a high-speed bullet train to bankruptcy, the entire Democratic Party refuses to deal with entitlements. Instead, they will gin up the mobs to throw out any politician who cuts these increasingly theoretical "benefits." The country will have the economy of Uganda, but Democrats will be in total control.
Rich liberals want chaos for everyone except themselves, confident that they can afford a "green" lifestyle and their children will still attend Sidwell Friends. The rest of us are forced to live in a lawless universe of no energy, gay marriage, girl soldiers, and marauding criminals because liberals can't enjoy their wealth unless other people are living in complete pandemonium. They promote anarchy, believing the middle class should live in squalor, while liberals will be protected by their wealth against the mob.
[Wow. This is a buffet of talking points that exemplify the Right-wing media shotgun approach. As exemplified by the above passage, Ann Coulter really is a poop flinging monkey. She hits on just about every part of the Right-wing's Culture War meme: liberals are immoral and want to destroy "traditional" American values; the liberals want to kill babies in the womb; after ruining the nuclear family with their godless Communism, the liberals then want to make everyone gay.

Coulter also gets a dig in for the white populists by suggesting that Obama and his imagined cadre of "elitists" think they are better than the silent majority, red state, steak and potatoes crowd. Like most Right-wing propaganda, Coulter's analysis is decontextualized and does not link any of the country's contemporary economic or political challenges to two Bush terms or decades of trickle down and failed supply side economic policies.

She reserved her best money shot for Barack Obama, America's first black President--under his tenure the United States will become a "banana republic" like Uganda. Coulter and the New Right's formula for Obama derangement syndrome? Add race, hyperbole, histrionics, some Culture War seasoning, rinse and repeat.]

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rick Santorum's Nostalgia for the Good Old Days: You Too Can Have Thirteen Slaves for a Nickel!



I will have more on Rick Santorum's honest moment of yearning for a return to pre-1965 America to come in a bit. Given Santorum's mouth utterance over the weekend, my discovery of a 1939 issue of Popular Mechanics and its essay "Thirteen Slaves for a Nickel" was priceless in its timing.

You have to love the whiteness of memory. When the Tea Party GOP and their assorted crew of candidates talk about "real America" and "the good old days" they are really signaling to a myopic Whiteness of memory. The blacks knew their places. Women knew to shut up and stay in the home. The domestic sphere was secure. The queers stayed in the closet. Happy Days and Leave it to Beaver were actually real...except for the parts that were not.

Most important to the White Soul, there wasn't all of this "political correctness" stuff. Good white people could say what they want and about whoever they wished without any consequences. It was also a fun time where the possibilities of science and progress were everywhere. One could even innocently dream of owning black people as slaves and recreating yee old southern plantation with the help of your friend the kilowatt--without having to worry about being made to feel guilty by those Negro agitators and other assorted rapscallions and troublemakers.

The semiotics of "Thirteen Slaves for a Nickel" are priceless (pay particular attention to the smiling faces, the invisibility of non-whites, and how domesticity is depicted).

Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega on the Ed Schultz Radio Show Discussing How the Tea Party GOP is Rewriting History



One more clip to share. I like seeing WARN's name under my own. It feels right. I also must thank all of you folks for making that happen as this project was supposed to be a fun distraction, not something that would get any sort of attention at all. And as always, please share any and all suggestions.

On first listen a few weeks back, I felt this interview did not go well. The topic was slightly different than what I expected. Once I got into my groove I had to talk a bit faster than I prefer. Now, in hindsight, and watching the interview with the visuals, it was not too bad.

For those venturing into the talking head game I have learned quite a bit this last year. As you know I was a radio host for many years. But, being the one who asks is not the same as he/she who responds. A lesson for fellow travelers: have a game plan and a few talking points, yet be ready to shift quickly.
Thank you for indulging me my sharing. I get better at what I do precisely because of your feedback and honesty. There are some things going down this week that may pay off, keep me in your thoughts and the party will keep on...

They Are Who We Know Them to Be: Walter Williams' Libertarian Pandering and the War on Black America



This is a great way to start the week.

As a black pragmatist, and one who holds the feet of the ign't classes up to the fire because I have rejected the soft bigotry of low expectations, my belief in the wisdom of D.P. Moynihan (I like that abbreviation because the elder God is made to sound like a gangsta rapper) is unshaken. Moreover, I always double down on how Billy Cosby was right and correct in most of what he said about the self-destructive behaviors of the ghetto black underclass(es).

Nevertheless, I bristle when I see black conservatives such as Walter Williams and their related ilk. One, he can do better. But, Williams has figured out that simplistic explanations to complex problems pay great dividends. Two, he is a full time bootblack and lackey for the anti-black and brown New Right colorblind neo-liberal GOP. Thus, Walter Williams is utterly insincere in his analysis, as well as in the origins from which his critiques flow. To borrow from a previous post, black folks like Williams would easily rationalize owning their own kin and selling them down the river in the interest of profit maximization. Ugliness of that sort is timeless and consequently should not be a surprise.

Williams is not to be disregarded. Structures matter: but he denies them. A strong case can be made for the very same macro-level forces contributing to white poverty. Yet, Williams overlooks them. In total, simplistic explanations about the economy and labor market trump nuanced understandings about socio-political reality and how individuals negotiate truncated life chances.

Walter E. Williams' explanations and his libertarian yearnings about the role of the State in destroying black families is as much truth as it is a fiction. There, lies are mixed with truth. In the Right-wing echo chamber of self-fulfilling memes and mantras, that combination is a toxic mix which is hard to overcome. But there is a vulnerability: like the exhaust port on the Death Star, the naked pandering of black conservatives and libertarians is easily exposed and thus made an easy target. The challenge then is learning to trust the Force as we place a well placed proton torpedo deep into the heart of their shaky arguments.

Truths mixed with lies are tough pool my friends. They always have been. They always will. And that is not going to change any time soon. The solution: never expect the liar to be anything but what his or her essential nature dictates:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

No Small Amount of Complexity: Free Blacks Who Owned Other African-Americans During Slavery

Earlier this week, I offered an intervention regarding African-American Civil War reenactors and how many Americans still hold on to basic misunderstandings about the institution of slavery and the Black Freedom Struggle.

One of our commenters, Nomad, was kind enough to offer some push back on what he saw as problematic, binary assumptions regarding race and the Southern slaveocracy. There, he suggested the common understanding that black slave owners were for the most part benevolent (owning kin folk to protect them from enslavement by whites) was somewhat overstated. Nomad and I dialogued. Subsequently, I went down the rabbit hole and learned some new things about free blacks in the South who owned other African Americans as slaves.

The institution of chattel slavery in America was prefaced on white supremacy. It was a system almost uniformly unique to, and reserved for, Black people in the United States. However, like all social institutions there is much complexity (and times where the exception proves the rule) in how individuals interact with, manipulate, as well as suffer under it.

I am not a historian of the South and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, so those of you who may be please share any insights or additional information that you may have on the subject. I am especially curious as to the reliability of the following accounts, as well as the state of historiography on the subject of free blacks who participated in the slave trade. I would really like to know how accurate Popular Science was--the source of the following information--as a journal of record in the early 20th century.

[There is a separate post to be done on the rise of mass communication, the popular press, and in particular the role of magazines in both maintaining--and eventually tearing down--the Racial State and American Apartheid.]

As I am fond of saying, black folks are like any other people in the range of our humanity: some of us heroic, others trying just to survive, many are greedy, others selfless, and a few truly great and amazing. The following accounts are powerful examples of how we worked to maintain family, but also how black Americans were also property to be traded, purchased on credit and installment plans, and part of the ledger sheet to be accounted for in probate.

Example One: The Trickster Entrepreneur
There was a negro named Nat Butler who lived near Aberdeen, Harford County, Md., who owned a small farm and bought and sold negroes for the southern trade. This sharp and noted fellow would persuade a slave to run off and hide for a few days at a place prepared by Butler, who would in the meantime see the master of the runaway and learn the price he would take for him. If the owner had little hope of recovering his slave and so placed the price low, Nat would buy him and resell him to slave dealers who knew Butler's rendezvous for hidden negroes. His conduct became so notorious that he lost the confidence of slave owners and respect of negroes, who several times tried to murder him.
Example Two: Working hard, and making difficult choices, in order to maintain family
Jim Scott, a worthy colored man of the same county, was a local preacher and an industrious servant. He bought himself, wife and children from his master, Mr. George Amos, giving his own note, endorsed by his white neighbors. He hired out his wife and larger children and himself for ten years and paid off his indebtedness. He offered his son Henry to Mr. Henry Webster of "Webster's Forest" for three hundred dollars for five years, or until he was twenty-five years of age. Another negro in the same region sold his children in order to purchase his wife and set her free.

Dick Hunter, of Laurens County, S. C, was the slave of his wife, and he finished paying for himself long after the civil war. He died in 1902. Dick was first owned by Mr. James Hunter. The master entered into an arrangement with the boy, an intelligent youth, by which the latter was permitted to work for others for wages and reserve a part of his earnings to be applied to the purchase of his freedom, one thousand dollars being the stipulated price. Dick married a woman of color, and had paid six hundred dollars of his purchase money when his master died intestate, leaving no record of his private arrangement with the slave boy. Thereupon Dick was sold as one of the properties of the estate and was bought by a bachelor named Nugent. 

Meanwhile Dick's wife had died and he married another free woman of color. This woman purchased her husband from Nugent, agreeing to pay for him on the installment plan. During four or five years the installments were paid, amounting to several hundred dollars. Then the civil war broke out, and in a little while Nugent died. His estate was claimed by relatives who lived in the west, and contracts between masters and slaves for the manumission of the latter were at that time frowned upon by the law. 
Dick was put upon the block and sold for the second time, bringing fifteen hundred dollars. The buyer was again his wife and she was enabled to make the purchase through the generosity and compassion of a white neighbor, Mr. Clark Templeton, who provided the money. When the war ended this debt was still due Templeton's estate, and Dick did not repudiate it, though doubtless under the law he might have done so. On the other hand, he continued to work and save, and in the course of six or eight years after emancipation he paid the last dollar with interest.
Example three: Beware a woman scorned who happens to own you as a slave
Aunt Fanny Canady was a colored woman of Louisville, Ky., who bought herself and several members of her family. She also owned her husband, named Jim, a little drunken cobbler. One day Fanny went into her husband's shop with fire in her eyes and finger pointed at her husband. She said, "Jim, if you don't 'have yourself, I'm gwine sell you down river." Jim sat mute and trembling, as to send down the river meant to sell to a negro trader and to be taken to the cotton fields of the far south.
Example four: Likewise, if your son owns you as a slave, you had best be appreciative and respectful towards him
Judge William Gasken, who owned the man of whom we have just told, was thrice married, one of his wives being a daughter of Colonel McClure, of New Bern. After his death, one of the slaves, Jacob, became the property of Mrs. Gasken. This Jacob's wife was a free woman, and they had a son Jacob, then a young man and free, of course, as the child of a free woman. Aided by his mother's efforts, he managed to purchase his father at a very reasonable price as negroes were then held. All went smoothly for awhile, when young Jacob did not act as his father thought he should and his parent reproved him with fatherly love. Young Jacob was so disgruntled that he went off to a negro speculator named John Gildersleeve, who was from Long Island and was then in New Bern. This trader bought the father at a high price and at once sent him off south. Young Jacob afterward boasted that "the old man had gone to the corn fields about New Orleans where they might learn him some manners."
Example five: White folks look out for their own. Don't ever forget that chattel slavery in America was the "peculiar institution," one exclusively reserved for Black people
There were instances in which free negroes became the purchasers and masters of transported white people, redemptioners. An example of the purchase by free negroes of two families of Germans who had not been able to pay their passage from Amsterdam to Baltimore and were sold for their passage money to a term of labor, is given in a volume issued in 1818 in Stuttgart. It contains letters written in 1817 addressed from Baltimore to the Baron von Gagern, Minister Plenipotentiary to the diet in Frankfort-on-the-Main. The Germans of Baltimore were so outraged by this action that they immediately got together a purse and bought the freedom of these immigrants. An early law of Virginia is aimed at the same thing, and forbids negroes or Indians to buy "Christian servants," but permits them to purchase those of their own "nation."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Did You Know that Tom Jones was Black? The Black Israelites Share The Secret History of White People with the BBC



Last night I saw X-Men: First Class at a free screening courtesy of Aint It Cool News here in Chicago. I am going back to get more of that goodness this weekend and you all should too.

In the meantime, these Youtube Internets has yielded more lost/found knowledge for our enjoyment.

There is some great synergy here. First, I love the Black Israelites--especially when they fight zombies or make privileged, self-entitled, young white college snowflakes cry. Add them to some Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, which was one of the best shows on cable at the time (along with Michael Moore's The Awful Truth), and you have a wondrous gem.

I always knew that Tom Jones was a brother. He, along with Emeril Lagasse (who comes from Fall River, Massachusetts and also cooks Hoppin' John Black Eyed Peas for luck on New Years...what other proof do you need!), I have long suspected of passing in plain sight. But, the Black Israelites in their "dropnology" and excavation of hidden histories are also demonstrating how information without context can be quite problematic. Oftentimes, it can often do more harm than good--to all parties involved.

Thus, the "front toward enemy" claymore mine rule of research, teaching, and punditry: take cover and when in doubt make sure that the enemy gets the full force of whatever fire you are throwing out. The Black Israelites's "seminar" with Louis Theroux fits that rubric perfectly.

Earlier this week I shared some of The History of White People. Here is a second dose of Dr. Painter's brilliant historiography. If the brothers in the Black Israelites get a hold of this book they are going to have some real combustibles to work with and folks had best duck for cover when they detonate them:
Jean Baptiste Chardin (1643-1713)--also known as Sir John Chardin--A French Protestant (Huguenot) whose family were jewelers to the court of Louis XIV, traveled routinely to Persian and Indian in the 1670s and 1680s seeking rare baubles for the French royal household...A scientist at heart, he took meticulous notes while racked by constant fear.
Chardin loathed the chaotic Black Sea region, where brigands controlled the highways, often threatening his goods, his freedom, and his life. As he says of Circassians, "it is impossible for them to glimpse an opportunity for thievery without taking advantage of it." They eat with their hands, go to the bathroom right next to where they eat, and then continue eating without washing. Chardin is totally disgusted.

The habits of the Mingrelians (Caucasian people on the northeast coast of the Black Sea) are vile. They "and their neighbors are huge drunkards, worse than the Germans and all the northern Europeans when it comes to drink." Not only do Mingrelians consider assassination, murder, and incest as admirable traits, they steal each other's wives without compunction. The women are not much better; they were too much makeup and their bodily stench overcomes whatever amorous intention their appearance might have inspired. "These people are complete savages," Chardin rails.
Wham. Boom. There goes the dynamite.

As a Friday bonus, here is one more clip from Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends where the irreplaceable Khalid Muhammad offers one of my favorite quoteables of all time on the relationship between white people, fashion, and his choice in pants:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega on Ring of Fire Radio Discussing Tea Party Racism



I did this interview with Mike P of Ring of Fire a month or so ago and the video is now online. This went pretty well to my ears. But as I joke, I need to institute a quota on my use of "folks" and "connecting the dots." As always thoughts and suggestions are always welcome.

Explaining How and Why America is a White Man's Country...

I changed some info on the sidebar. I procrastinated. But, I finally got around to it. As requested by some of you, I am going to be doing more posts on history, sex, military science, esoteric potpourri and other miscellaneous goodness. Chauncey DeVega moves forward. As does this website.

On a housekeeping note, I am also going to trim down the links list to about 10 web pages. Do you have any suggestions for what to add, and which links to discard? Likewise, the list of favorite posts is getting (at least) halved. So please, offer your suggestions there as well.

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I love to share good reads. I also need to clarify some of the terms I use on WARN. As a first effort, I want to work harder on giving an example and explication of the phrase "Herrenvolk republic"--one of my go to bits of Lingua Franca that I deploy here quite often.

A few weeks ago I mentioned The History of White People--a text which is oh so quotable. This post is the first of two sessions based on sharing pithy bits of wisdom from said great book. We often talk of America as a "White Republic." What follows is a sense of why and how that came to be.

Dr. Painter's observations on the roots of that phrase can stand on their own because they capture the spirit and substance of the ether and ectoplasm in which this country inhales, and was/is birthed so well. My friends, do not forget that history's reach is long and deep: when Palin and the other members of the New Right Tea Party GOP talk about "real America" they are signaling to the following:

As politics freed all white people and ideology whitened the face of freedom, "free white males: seemed useless redundancy...During the nineteenth century, when "free white males" was losing its usefulness because fewer and fewer whites were not free, another phrase was coming into use, one with a much longer life, "universal suffrage."The United States was the first nation to drastically lower economic barriers to voting. Between 1790 and the mid 1850's the ideology of democracy gained wide acceptance, so that active citizenship was opened to virtually all adult white men, including most immigrant settlers...

All women, people ineligible to become citizens (Native American Indians and Asians), the enslaved, and free people of African decent outside New England continued to be excluded, as well as paupers, felons, and transients such as canal workers and sailors...In this situation, "universal suffrage" meant adult white male suffrage, though from time to time the definition of white came into question...

The abolition of economic barriers to voting by white men made the United States, in the then common parlance, "a white man's country," a polity defined by race and limited to white men. Once prerequisites for active citizenship came down to maleness and whiteness, poor men could be welcomed into the definition of American, as long as they could be defined as white--the first enlargement of American whiteness.

What a powerful irony. On one hand black folks are quintessentially American. Our music, culture, struggle for democracy, and weight of character and history, in many ways exemplifies the best of what the U.S.A. is and can be. Nevertheless, by tradition and habit, people of color are a perennial Other which Whiteness and the in-group as "real Americans" use to define themselves against.

As they say, "God bless the United States of America." God help her in negotiating her deep contradictions. Tell me my friends, what can we do to save her?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Honoring African American Civil War Soldiers, But Still Searching for the Myth That is "The Black Confederate"



There is so much right with what these brothers are doing, which is why I will tread carefully in my intervention--one, that as always, is based on my prime directives of the love principle and a whole commitment to Black Pragmatism.

Even while trying to free our minds, there is much gunk and debris nested in the consciousness of those who were once colonized, excluded, made the Other, or oppressed. Consequently, those narratives that serve to legitimate Power are often reproduced by the very same individuals who are resisting it. In much the same way that a fish does not know that it lives in water, black Americans often accept and internalize White dominant scripts, frames, and narratives about both our history and present. Thus, we often see our selves through the White gaze.

When those moments are present and reproduced--especially by black folks who are trying to generate a counter-narrative in the face of White supremacist fictions about the humanity of black people--they are glaring. Consider the following quotation from The Tennessean's piece "Black Soldiers Celebrated as Civil War's Forgotten Heroes," where one of the members of the 13th United States Colored Soldiers Living History Association observes that:
“It was a painful time, yes. But I want people to understand that African-Americans were not all slaves and property and mindless and un-ambitious,” said Norman Hill, a retired executive with the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain. “We were strong; we weren’t all just raggedy slaves. These men marched for what they believed in.”
For lack of a better phrase, that just hurts. The irony is grand: A black man channeling the ancestors' freedom struggle and expressing how manhood rights were earned, and freedom dues paid, in blood, yet still holding on to a white supremacist fiction of happy lazy slaves on the yee olde plantation, shiftless and weak, saved by the good graces of White civilization and the benevolent hand of the planter class.

When I see speak to, read about, or encounter brothers and sisters who know not the greatness of their legacy and struggle as Black Americans, I like to remind them of the following facts.

Would mindless and un-ambitious slaves have:

1. Created such a sense of peril because of their daily resistance to the slaveocracy that the South was a veritable military state, where it was law in many regions that white men had to carry firearms on Sunday to put down slave rebellions? Or fought back so often and with such fervor that the TransAtlantic slave trade, while a charnel house for its human cargo, was also one of the most dangerous jobs in the world for those crews who ran the floating dungeons?

2. Manumitted themselves by the tens of thousands, risking life and limb to flee Northward, be reunited with family and kin once sold off, or created an indigenous culture of resistance and survival?

3. Hired out their own labor, negotiated the terms of their relationships with their masters, and then lived semi-independently working as skilled craftsmen, who in turn would buy their freedom and that of their kin folk?

4. Upon liberating themselves reorganized the plantations, kicked their former masters of off the land, and in some cases whipped white slave owners as punishment for their barbarous deeds?

5. Instituted some of the most forward thinking and progressive governments in this country's history during Reconstruction? Served in the U.S. Senate and Congress with distinction, only a few years removed from the end of slavery? Become prosperous entrepreneurs, formed black Wall Streets, and created their own vibrant civil society?

6. Had an appreciation for the grand irony of liberating themselves, returning South wearing the Union blue, and quite literally turning their former communities upside down as Jubilee day had come in the form of black men, marching South, and turning the tide of battle against the Confederacy?

Sadly, some black folks are ashamed of their ancestors' struggles. They eye-roll and look down at the ground when that "slavery stuff" comes up. Some are ashamed and feel like they are the "losers" in American history. Or alternatively, that they are heirs to a tradition of defeat and are somehow a lesser people. I never understood those sentiments. Black Americans have triumphed despite unimaginable obstacles, took our freedom through acts small and great, and tried to save American democracy from the wicked inequities of its own poisoned, White supremacist heart. In short, black Americans saved the country from itself--and selflessly did so for the betterment of all people(s).

We must always be cautious, for in this triumph, and in the 13th United States Colored Soldiers Living History Association's effort to preserve that history, the ugly, dead hand of White racism still reaches out, wearing the glove of friendship as it tries to resuscitate Confederate nobility and the lie that is the fantasy of Redemption:

“It’s not just black and white. You might almost say there were shades of gray,” Hill said. Ruffin Abernathy went to war with his owner, Tom Abernathy of Giles County. He served as a cook with the 3rd Tennessee Infantry and later as a surgeon’s assistant. After the war, he requested and received a Confederate pension and lived the rest of his long life as a farmer near Pulaski, Tenn.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans approached the family, hoping to place a military headstone on Ruffin Abernathy’s grave as a belated honor. The family agreed, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs balked, arguing that because Abernathy was a slave, he wasn’t really a soldier. “They said he would be considered more like ‘equipment,’ ” Gordon said.

Instead, the Sons of Confederate Veterans raised money on their own to buy new headstones for Abernathy and 17 other black Confederates in the Pulaski cemetery. Gordon and her family attended the ceremony on Nov. 8, 2009, which featured cannon fire and costumed re-enactors firing volleys over the graves.

The re-enactors offered to present a flag to the family — a Confederate flag.

“I was sort of torn about whether to accept,” Gordon said. “I couldn’t see accepting the Confederate battle flag, but there was one flag they called the Bonnie Blue flag of freedom.”

And so the Sons of Confederate Veterans presented the family with the Bonnie Blue flag, a single star on a bright blue background. A star not unlike the North Star that used to guide escaped slaves to freedom.

“I thought, freedom might mean one thing to them,” Gordon said. “And it might mean something else to me.”

The myth makers of Whiteness and the flimflam artists of the Neo-Confederate, White populist, Tea Party crowd are always looking for The Black Confederate Soldier. Somehow, he/she washes away the formal and treasonous declarations made by the South's leaders. Most importantly, the unicorn that is The Black Confederate Soldier acts as a magical totem who rewrites the basic truth that the war between the states first and foremost hinged upon the South's desire (in the name of economic "necessity") to maintain a formal system of white supremacy and the permanent inter-generational bondage of millions of people, a group whose only crime was to be born black in a country where they had "no rights that a white man was bound to respect."

As I have written elsewhere, there is no nobility in either the Confederacy or their misadventure. The stars and bars was and remains a symbol of terrorism, treason, and violence. In total, those individuals who honor the Confederacy are celebrating rebellion and white bigotry. By extension, and across the generations, they have blood on their hands.

Ms. Gordon is a better person than I am, for I would have demanded that the Sons of Confederate Veterans stay far away from my ancestors' memory and the honored dead who struggled to survive, live, and triumph despite the wickedness of the White supremacist State known as the CSA.

In sum, it is great to see a group of African American Civil War reenactors who are taking some control of their own history. Making that legacy come alive is important. But, we cannot abandon the fight in the present for controlling the meta-narrative about our own history, or for liberating our minds and cognitive schema from the muck and mire that is White racism.

History is written in drafts. As Americans of all colors, let's at least make sure that we get this central story--that of the Civil War, race, slavery, liberation, and our unfinished democratic project--correct.