Monday, August 29, 2011

Chauncey DeVega on the Ed Schultz Radio Show and How We Can Take Back the Gadsden Flag From the Tea Party GOP

I am going to be on The Ed Schultz Radio Show today, i.e Monday, August 29th at 2:30pm EST discussing my piece on the role of racism and racial resentment in the Tea Party GOP's assault on President Obama.

You can listen here.

While I prepare for my ten minutes of fun, I thought that sharing the following would be thought provoking. This one is for you military grognards, history buffs, and ghetto nerds.

One of our allies John Kurkman, of the great site Random Walks, was kind enough to send the following piece on the Tea Party's repeated abuse and misappropriation of history to WARN. He originally posted his essay on his own site, but I asked for a bit more. John kindly followed through.

In the spirit of Clerks 2, I think we can take the Gadsden Flag back from those mouth breathing brigands. I really do.


Is it Too Late to Rehabilitate the Gadsden Flag?

Years ago, my eldest brother was in a small town just south of Minneapolis, and it was one of those hundreds of thousands of Mayberry towns that are scattered throughout America that would be categorized by, well, you know who, as the “Real America”.

And within the town was a funny little curio shop. And within the window of the shop were two fist-sized chunks of raw copper that were so strangely twisted, in a bizarre visual kind of congealed from a molten state as to look like they had just recently arrived from orbit, that my brother had to have them.

After a brief and unsuccessful haggle with the portly and cheerful pink-faced owner of the shop - who looked like Sergeant Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes – he went ahead and bought them.
And after some friendly banter, he invited my brother into a back room of the shop to show him “some other stuff he might be interested in”.

Now, I’ll interrupt the narrative for a moment to point out a particular about me and mine, which is that we are sturdy Viking types on both sides of the family. As such, being your standard blue-eyed, tow-headed Aryan darlings - in other words, “Real Americans” - we are occasionally are privy to some things that, well, others would prefer not be known about them. You’ll see why I mention this in a minute.

So, anyway, Sergeant Schultz takes my brother into the backroom, where he sees, jammed from floor to rafters, probably the largest collection of Nazi memorabilia ever seen outside of Glenn Beck’s fetish room.

In my brother’s words “The little hairs on the back of my neck and arms stood up. It was pure fucking evil in that room”. Well, of course not. They were just objects. But then ol’ Schultzie let it be known his sympathies towards and against certain ethnic groups, with a particular affinity towards final solutions. It was as if a rock had been turned over, and little, slimy, multi-legged critters were sent scurrying about.

Long story short, my brother exited the shop with the copper purchase rescinded. Too bad, as he really liked the copper pieces, but the intangible price was a little too high.

Now, what is the fucking point of all this? Well, in a later conversation, I lamented as to how much of our Northern European culture had been impoverished. How so many of our symbols had been denied to us due to the Nazi pollution, the misappropriation of all our cool Nordic shit.
“Like what?”

“Oh, I don’t know, you can’t use the swastika anymore”.

“Ah, you fuckin' idiot! The swastika’s not Nordic. It’s Sanskrit, Hitler took it from ancient India. All that Aryan bullshit. It wasn’t ‘ours’ to begin with”.

Ah, well, there you see the result of one element of an effective propaganda, known as the cognitive illusion of “anchoring” or “priming”. Of course, ignorance, a less than fully informed state within the subject, would preferably exist first, but this is not a strict requirement. What you do is, by first implanting a plausible lie into the subject, they are then primed to accept an implausible lie closer to the first lie than the truth.

Not surprisingly, those PR firms that established the formative parameters and narratives of the Tea Party did something similar. Presenting as literally or distinctly such a batch of disgustingly soft-bodied, unattractive, brittle-minded, shallow-thinking, cranky old right wing Christians, whose chief and only joy in life is to piss and moan, is of no attraction to, well, to anyone.

(And yes, once the cameras were off of them, the talk is invariably about God, Jesus, and turning the good old US of A into a decent white Christian nation. The kind of nation, ironically, where Jesus Christ, (whisper this part ) because he’s a JEW, should never be allowed to hold public office. The kind of nation that respects and holds dear the Ten Commandments, especially that tenth one, and that part about not coveting thy neighbor’s slaves. But I digress… If you are interested, a fun behind-the-scenes Tea Party narrative can be found here.

After considering what characteristics could be considered cool, those wonks took an associational leap of faith, cobbled together the initials T E A to present a form of a rebellious insurgency, which though still considered old and doddery to the general public, would look especially cool within the rabidly zealous cohort.

In essence, the PR lizards offered the wretched old fat fucks the easy image of a formidable rebel force. Wow! Talk about a hard sell, but…

Which brings up the second cognitive illusion within this propaganda ploy known as “ease of representation”, or, if you will, the fallacy of spontaneous generation, or the implanting of a event or situation which, the more it impresses upon one emotionally, is then more likely to be thought of as objectively real.

At first, this fallacy sounds like “anchoring”, but the difference is “anchoring” is presented as a reasonable or common sense thing, which in turn the scared little animal mind uses to rationalize the emotion of fear. “Ease of representation”, on the other hand, starts from an emotional impression, and adds value to the “common sense” fact. As such, combined, they are a powerful feedback loop.

All you need now is the right symbol, one that will unleash the appropriate associational cascade. In the case of 1930s Germany, they had the swastika. In the case of 2000s America, there is the Gadsden Flag**, the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag.

And why not? It’s got all sorts of things going for it, including direct sensory impact. Yellow, nature’s poison warning color, advertising “Do Not Fuck With Me!” Snake. Primal primate fear response. And associational plus, an appeal to victimizers: “I’m pathetic and powerless, but I can still hurt you somehow! Haha! Beware! Boo!”

Plus, on a smoky ship deck or over a distance, the Gadsden Flag is easy to see.

And then, of course, there are all of the associations with the American revolution.

So, should a faction of the Republican party, a rabidly insane bunch of “fat, arrogant, overpaid, overfed, sanctimonious, overindulged, white, racist, over-privileged, disgustingly soft-bodied, pudge ball, business criminal, asshole cocksuckers”* like the Tea Party be allowed to mangle a symbol of American unity to further their own selfish, useless, tiny-brained, fucked-up Ayn Randian vision of how Lily White and Christian and seriously puckered up asshole tight America should be? I don't think so. The question is, is it too late?

Considering that the latest polls suggest that Tea Partiers are more unpopular than atheists and Muslims, perhaps it's time they stop appropriating a perfectly good symbol. They've already managed to ruin the word "patriot".

My understanding is, now that they've put their anal taint on this symbol, even a request from stalwart Americans like Marine veterans to fly the flag is getting a refusal.

“In Connecticut, lawmakers refused to fly the Gadsden flag at the capitol building in April because of the Tea Party’s “political nature,” but they also refused to display it on the Fourth of July at the request of a group of retired Marines. A man living near Phoenix, Ariz. was recently ordered by his homeowners’ association to remove the Gadsden flag flying outside his home, despite his protests that he wasn’t displaying it to support the Tea Party. The American Civil Liberties Union came to his defense, citing a violation of First Amendment rights. In Colorado, a similar dispute over the same flag is ongoing as well”.

Is it too late to stop the pejorative process that is going on with, not just the flag, but words like “patriot”, ‘liberty”, “freedom”?

To those who have misappropriated the flag, nothing can be done, save, well, my favorite idea which is to let them have their Christian/John Galtian paradise. Let them seastead. Or wall off Arizona, ship ‘em all down there, and let them work out their fantasies.

As for us regular folks? I suspect some small of education might help. Perhaps a commercial with US Marines and former Marines, reminding all of us citizens that the Gadsden flag is not only their flag, but your flag too. It should be, always, a symbol of national unity, and not divisiveness.
And, uh, no, I’m not all that broken up that the swastika is permanently stigmatized. If necessary, I can come up with a nice little symbol of my own. Maybe something along the lines of the Artist Formerly Known As…

Nah. Been done already.

*appropriated courtesy of George Carlin, with minor modifications

**The Gadsden Flag first went into battle as the personal flag of Commodore Esek Hopkins, a battle flag for the Continental Marines. It is one of the first flags of the US Marine Corps.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cornel West Says that Dr. King is Weeping From His Grave Because of President Obama's Cowardice

I am surprised that more folks are not talking about the following editorial "Dr King Weeps from his Grave" in Thursday's NY Times.

And Brother Cornel wonders why President Obama hasn't invited him to the White House? Being a trouble making truth teller comes with little love and dap from the HNIC.

I remain uncomfortable about the Invisible Manesque battle royal aspects of the Cornel West vs Obama fight. But, we live in the age of the Black super public; what is a time when private black talk in the black counter-public has apparently attained full obsolescence.

In one of our salons from this week we had a great talk about the way the Tea Party GOP racializes President Obama through the use of symbolic racism. There I asked, how do we situate Barack Obama as the first black Chief Executive relative to the Civil Rights Movement?

West is trying to offer an answer. What is yours?


THE Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was to be dedicated on the National Mall on Sunday — exactly 56 years after the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi and 48 years after the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (Because of Hurricane Irene, the ceremony has been postponed.)

These events constitute major milestones in the turbulent history of race and democracy in America, and the undeniable success of the civil rights movement — culminating in the election of Barack Obama in 2008 — warrants our attention and elation. Yet the prophetic words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel still haunt us: “The whole future of America depends on the impact and influence of Dr. King.”

Rabbi Heschel spoke those words during the last years of King’s life, when 72 percent of whites and 55 percent of blacks disapproved of King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and his efforts to eradicate poverty in America. King’s dream of a more democratic America had become, in his words, “a nightmare,” owing to the persistence of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism.” He called America a “sick society.” On the Sunday after his assassination, in 1968, he was to have preached a sermon titled “Why America May Go to Hell.”

King did not think that America ought to go to hell, but rather that it might go to hell owing to its economic injustice, cultural decay and political paralysis. He was not an American Gibbon, chronicling the decline and fall of the American empire, but a courageous and visionary Christian blues man, fighting with style and love in the face of the four catastrophes he identified.

Militarism is an imperial catastrophe that has produced a military-industrial complex and national security state and warped the country’s priorities and stature (as with the immoral drones, dropping bombs on innocent civilians). Materialism is a spiritual catastrophe, promoted by a corporate media multiplex and a culture industry that have hardened the hearts of hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of would-be citizens. Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists.

Racism is a moral catastrophe, most graphically seen in the prison industrial complex and targeted police surveillance in black and brown ghettos rendered invisible in public discourse. Arbitrary uses of the law — in the name of the “war” on drugs — have produced, in the legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s apt phrase, a new Jim Crow of mass incarceration. And poverty is an economic catastrophe, inseparable from the power of greedy oligarchs and avaricious plutocrats indifferent to the misery of poor children, elderly citizens and working people.

The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

As the talk show host Tavis Smiley and I have said in our national tour against poverty, the recent budget deal is only the latest phase of a 30-year, top-down, one-sided war against the poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes and cutting spending for those already socially neglected and economically abandoned. Our two main political parties, each beholden to big money, offer merely alternative versions of oligarchic rule.

The absence of a King-worthy narrative to reinvigorate poor and working people has enabled right-wing populists to seize the moment with credible claims about government corruption and ridiculous claims about tax cuts’ stimulating growth. This right-wing threat is a catastrophic response to King’s four catastrophes; its agenda would lead to hellish conditions for most Americans.

King weeps from his grave. He never confused substance with symbolism. He never conflated a flesh and blood sacrifice with a stone and mortar edifice. We rightly celebrate his substance and sacrifice because he loved us all so deeply. Let us not remain satisfied with symbolism because we too often fear the challenge he embraced. Our greatest writer, Herman Melville, who spent his life in love with America even as he was our most fierce critic of the myth of American exceptionalism, noted, “Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges; hence the conclusion of such a narration is apt to be less finished than an architectural finial.”

King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.

In concrete terms, this means support for progressive politicians like Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County supervisor; extensive community and media organizing; civil disobedience; and life and death confrontations with the powers that be. Like King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle.

Cornel West, a philosopher, is a professor at Princeton.

On the Foreshadowing of Evil: The Iceman Richard Kuklinski and the Future of Michael Vick

Our convo on Vick is cool. Being a "free black man" can be empowering. More important, I like the trust and exchange we have developed together. Looking at the views on the post I know there are lots of folks who are lurking. Talk my friends. Share. We are all family here.

I love this interview series from HBO. Mastery of craft impresses me. Dr. Park Dietz is that dude when it comes to serial killers. He can talk to them, relax them, and get to their heart of darkness. Whatever your trade may be, a true expert is beautiful to behold.

Thus, some more follow up from my post on Michael Vick and the soft bigotry of low expectations. I assert that Kuklinski did nothing less than what Vick did to animals. In fact, Vick may have done worst.

Please help me resolve how Vick's debased ways could not possibly be related to the same wickedness committed by the Iceman against other people, he being one of America's most legendary of serial killers.

Why is the Iceman a true monster, but some excuse away the evil potential signaled to by Vick's barbarism? Is that because Vick can run around with a football?

I will listen and learn. This is no Sphinx; please have at it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations: If Michael Vick were White He Would Still be a Piece of Human Debris

Race is an undeniable and complex element of Vick's story, both because of his style as well as the rarity of black QBs in the NFL. A decade after he became the first black QB to be drafted No. 1 overall, about one in five of the league's passers is African-American, compared with two-thirds of all players. But after his arrest for dogfighting, so many people asked: Would a white football player have gotten nearly two years in prison for what Vick did to dogs?
This question makes me cringe. It is so facile, naive, shortsighted and flawed that it is meaningless. Whiteness comes with great advantages, but it's not a get-out-of-every-crime-free card. Killing dogs is a heinous crime that disgusts and frightens many Americans. I'm certain white privilege would not be enough to rescue a white NFL star caught killing dogs.
Dog equals God.

On a day when I read about a noble four legged friend sitting Shiva for his slain Navy Seal human friend, the following piece on Michael Vick was really ill-timed.

I generally like Toure's writing. But, I cannot cosign this excuse making disguised as an exploration of Michael Vick's wicked behavior. So, this will be a bit of a promo that I am cutting on the subject. Proceed at your caution.

The following is normative as these types of editorials often are. Moreover, I maintain no semblance of fairness or empathy towards Michael Vick, the beast that he is.

In all, this will be one of those moments where the silent majority will agree or disagree with unanimous sentiment. I may lose a few of you. More generally, this honesty and real talk will confuse those who want to brand me as being a stereotypical "liberal" or "progressive." Black Pragmatists are so much more than that my friends. I embrace that ability to go both Left and Right at the same time. Black folks are and remain both modern and postmodern.

I cannot resist using that gift.

Blackness can be oh so confusing.

We rarely talk about sports here on We Are Respectable Negroes. However, sports is also politics. And when we talk about million dollar slaves and the politicization of the black body, questions of race and representation cannot help but bubble to the surface.

I cannot accept the soft bigotry of low expectations wherein some make excuses for the criminal behavior of people of color out of a sense of pity (or as I term it, "liberal racism"). That does not mean that structures are unimportant. We must always take a full account of the whole person.

Thus, when I talk about street pirate flash mobs, thuggish criminal behavior, Moynihan's prescient insight, or upright-walking, mouth-breathing, human apes, I accept the structural and institutional variables. But, I always zero in on human agency and the power of choice. The latter may be truncated and limited by classism, sexism, or white supremacy. Nevertheless, they are still operative and are not universally overriding.

I cannot escape the following though: One of the reasons I love the Black Freedom Struggle and see we/us as part of it even into the Age of Obama is that despite how easy it would be to justify the wrong, black folks as a people have more often than not chosen the correct path of action.

Michael Vick's criminal behavior and cruelty towards his pet dogs is one of the sites where all of those questions intersect. His resuscitation in the eyes of some parts of the public is also an opportunity to critically interrogate the role of celebrity in American public life. I would also suggest that on both counts, much of the sports viewing public has failed...and done so miserably.

There is a common error: All matters of criminality and irresponsibility are not necessarily related to "blackness" or "culture." Certainly, the latter is socially located and specific. It is also contingent on historical circumstances. I bristle when I see folks who should know better seeking to explain the inexplicable; to make sense of that which is prima facie absurd and cruel on its face.

In the barbershops and other parts of the black counter-public which I frequent, and where I have brought up my thoughts on Michael Vick, I have been met with anger and at times rage. The latter often comes from man-children who can tell you every stat on the Madden NFL video game, but not how much they have in the bank or in their IRAs--their opinion is significantly discounted in my eyes as they have not learned to grow beyond the idolization(s) of youth.

I have also met smart and wise men who would echo the following.

As Toure suggests:
Here's another question: If Vick grew up with the paternal support that white kids are more likely to have (72 percent percent of black children are born to unwed mothers compared with 29 percent of white children), would he have been involved in dogfighting? I ask this not to look for an excuse but to explore the roots of his behavior. Vick's stunningly stupid moral breakdown with respect to dogs is certainly related to the culture of the world he grew up in, which he says fully embraced dogfighting.
But it's also related to the household he grew up in.
Those smart folks I alluded to above also make claims about the "culture" of the South and how dog fighting is "acceptable" there. Or that this matter isn't about race, rather it is about "regional identity." Others offer the experiences of black folks hunted by dogs during slavery. Therefore, our historical closeness to such animals is not the same as that of whites. More well read brothers always go back to Brother Cornel West's points about cultural nihilism in (black) American life and excuse-make on the basis of neo liberalism's failings and how deindustrialization and the black culture industry made us all into "victims."

Insert finger into throat to induce vomiting.

We can grant all of those points and still be left with a puzzle: the killing, maiming, and evil treatment of sympathetic, loyal, and feeling animals by Michael Vick and others is relatively uncommon. Given the macro-level forces that drive race, class, and culture, how do we explain those poor black and brown folks in Katrina who died with their pets, doing everything to save their animal family members? How do we explain those other working class and poor black folks who would feed their pets in the time of the Great Recession before they themselves ate?

It is true that we live in a cold world where many children are born into broken homes. Street courage and toughness is prized above empathy and vulnerability. We also live in a moment where little black boys are told they are "little men" at age the of 5 or 6--"the man of the house"--and then we shake our heads when these same children commit adult crimes and get into mischief because they lack impulse control and life wisdom.

These "little men" are often abused and slapped in the faces by their caregivers when they show any weakness, vulnerability, or curiosity. Amd ultimately for these hard women and hard men who "parent" those kids, human sympathy and empathy are liabilities. Childhood is discarded when they are young. Ironically, it is cultivated and prized when they are adult "baby boys."

The racial state would have it no other way. Bad black parenting does the work of white supremacy. And yes, I did indeed say that.

The black underclass and those afflicted with ghetto related behaviors have for the most part still not found a way out of that labyrinth.

I must ask: How does sociological theory obfuscate what we actually know about the Michael Vicks of the world?
Toure continues:
So let's look at him a different way. Let's see him as someone in the third act of the epic movie that is his life, leading a team that many expect to see in the Super Bowl. Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" is playing underneath because the humbled protagonist has finally overcome his personal demons and has begun living up to his athletic promise. And to those who believe we should judge a man by how he responds when dealing with the worst life has to offer -- with how he climbs after he hits rock bottom -- Michael Vick has become heroic.And that has nothing to do with race.
Michael Vick is no hero. How did our standards for heroism fall so low such that the ill deeds of humans who kill and abuse their trusting pets, and then go to jail for their evil, is elevated as some great journey of self-discovery and reinvention?

Michael Vick is a piece of human refuse. I would say that if he were black, white, brown, yellow, green, or red. A sense of linked fate does not protect him from the consequence of his choices.

Yet sadly, the union of money ball, plus a stereotypically desperate story of underclass ghetto degeneracy is perhaps one of the few areas where Vick's race provides any defense for those whose commitments on these issues are more casual and contingent.

If a poor white country boy (or a rich white man) had done Michael Vick's horrible crimes I am unsure if there would be any redemption song. Well, I take that back. Perhaps there would be, as many who can make millions for others often find forgiveness in a culture where falls from grace and rising again are viewed as noble second acts in life.

Thus then, for Michael Vick, the soft bigotry of low expectations mates with the prime mover of greed and the capitalist bottom line. Nevertheless, the balance sheet on his personhood and soul are still a gross negative.

Animal murderers and dog fighters have a propensity for other criminal deeds. Mark my words, Michael Vick may have gotten a second act in life; he will not be able to correct the character defect which motivates his behavior. Vick will be in jail again, and perhaps next time it will be for an even greater crime.

I sharpen my knives waiting for that day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Ironies of White Supremacy: A Black State Trooper and a White KKK Toddler Meet

Lots to do here that I missed out on because of the earthquake mess.

I like my money quick, just like Bernie Mac in Kings of Comedy. The phone rang today and there was money involved. So for the last 12 hours I was putting in some work for the powers that be. When one of the head muckety-mucks asks me to do something, and they ask nicely, I always say "yes."

The dogs need their medicine. I need my comic books and Chimay. Good deal I figured.

So much to discuss though. I have a great guest piece on the Tea Party and the Gadsden flag from one of our allies that I will post soon. There is a contest also in the works. I will also be posting an annotated exchange with a colorblind racist that I have been indulging for a month, there are other assorted things bubbling up to...such as highlighting one of the great salons that has been happening in our comments section.

We are growing and doing well. Thank you. I really appreciate it.

As a place holder, here is an image I have been thinking about for months, ever since I picked up Dr. Goldberg's book The Threat of Race. The troubling and problematic intersections of race and neoliberalism are embodied by President Obama. We can be in denial. But, the facts are increasingly obvious on that matter. Thus, we can choose to deny or engage.

How much has changed? How much has stayed the same? Questions I ask when the old school is turned into near absurdity as it encounters the reality of black folks with (local) power.

Crom/God/The Most High/The Force/JC Soul Brother Number One/The Blessed Exchequer does indeed have a sense of humor.

As I shared upon his election, I cried, yes I cried when Barack Obama won. I always knew there was a deeper game going on that would lead to inevitable disappointment. Not totally his fault, but he is much responsible and should take agency for his actions and deeds. He is a great man who has shunned away much of his potential greatness.

And on any day I would sit down and build with the brother. For whatever we/they say, he is a first ballot hall of fame entrant dealing with forces that all of us cannot even imagine. Nor, would most of us want that obligation.

President Obama is still a legend. And oftentimes legends are just people who make compromises that we do not like.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Zen of Sanford and Son and the Virginia Earthquake or How Many Ways Will the Tea Party GOP Blame the Earthquake on the President?

Is there any life issue, event, or challenge that Sanford and Son has not addressed? The Zen of Fred Sanford is truly the Way.

See, we get a black President and now we got earthquakes and the like.

It is really Obama's fault. It really is. As are all the problems in the world.

And we know the Right-wing knuckledraggers are on that meme already. For all we know the Tea Party GOP has allied itself with Cobra or gotten access to HAARP in a twisted, needlessly complicated and nefarious plot to further destroy the country!

What will Pastor Manning inevitably say on the Obama-earthquake connection? We know dude is in the studio as we speak cutting a promo...

Monday, August 22, 2011

It's Not a Lie if You Believe It: Rick Perry Defends His Fight for Corporate Tax Cuts as Part of Dr. King's Dream and Legacy

Apparently, Rick Perry is operating from the George Costanza principle of history and politics where it's not a lie if you believe it.

We know that the Right-wing and the Tea Party GOP is operating in its own world, writing their own history, and shifting the terms of reality to fit their ideology. The shift is Orwellian. It is also a threat to democracy long in the making.

A healthy democracy requires some sense of a shared consensus on values, the meaning of history, the Good Life, citizenship and the Common Good. The more the Tea Party GOP's Christian Dominionist Right Wing Populist truncheons such as the Bachmanns, Palins, and Perrys speak, the more clear it is that shared values and consensus have apparently exited stage right.

But even in their reframing of reality there has to be some limit, some place they will not go. Why? Not because of the Right's nobility or that their embrace of anti-intellectualism as a virtue demands some feigned hold on the truth. No, Rick Perry and his kind should know to tell lies that are not so easily exposed and refuted. It is a bad strategy because eventually you get exposed.

Then again, I am working through an assumption that the public cares for truth tellers and that the press will do their job and hold Perry and company accountable for their repeated rapes gang bang santorum laced bukkakes of history. Alas, we know that will not occur.

For those with sense, and who care, at least we have Dr. King's words and wisdom to act as a check on Rick Perry's lie:

Medical Apartheid: They Put a Hole in A Black Man's Head Using Radiation; Of Course the Eugenicists Love Black Folks

Easing into Monday.

True dignity is uncommon. When we encounter it, especially from the elder gods, we must embrace its lessons.

Thus, Kapla my brother! Your heart and soul possess great honor. You teach us all.

Nevertheless, medical Apartheid is real.

Science is not neutral. It serves the interests of the powerful. That is hard for some to believe, but curse me my respect for Foucault's wisdom.

One of the reasons I started WARN was to talk to folks that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to engage with. Chris Sharp, one of our kind folks who comment here, forwarded me this link about forced sterilization. The Mississippi appendectomy is real history.

As you all know, I challenge my students with the faces and words of real people. The Millennials are possessed of a short term memory Youtube age, where if they do not have a visual, said event never occurred. I give them no quarter or comfort. I bring on tears for their benefit. The following will serve that end:

You should see the faces when I teach On Killing and show them war porn. They look away. I smile. But I thought they were bad men and bad women? Apparently, most are not.

In all, Chris Sharp's suggestion will be added to my classroom rotation. Eugenics was a joint project of the Nazis and of White American elites. University departments, intellectuals, scientists, and others were invested in the global project that is/was White supremacy. I know that hurts for some to hear. It is the truth. We ought not to retreat from it.

Savages did eventually becomes negroes. One of them became President. So again, I guess there is progress. Is there not?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Symbolic Racism in Action: President Obama Wants to Make White Americans "Dependent" on the Government Just Like Black People Are

"He's a very bright man. But think about his life. And think about what he was exposed to and what he saw in America. He's only relating what his experience in life was ... 
"His intent isn't to destroy. It's to create dependency because it worked so well for him. I don't say that critically. Look at people for what they are. Don't assume ulterior motives. I don't think he doesn't love our country. I think he does. 
"As an African American male, coming through the progress of everything he experienced, he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs. So he believes in them. I just don't believe they work overall and in the long run they don't help our country. 
But he doesn't know that because his life experience is something different. So it's very important not to get mad at the man. And I understand, his philosophy -- there's nothing wrong with his philosophy other than it's goofy and wrong [laughter] -- but that doesn't make him a bad person."
I was taught by my parents and god parents that as a black man in America I had to do at least ten times as good as a white person to get half as far. In the post-Civil Rights era I am at times tempted to drop that down to a ratio of five to one. But after seeing what the election of the first Black President has unleashed on the part of many white folks of a certain age, I am tempted to let the rule stay in effect.

Why? Because in all, the Age of Obama is an enema that has freed the most ugly types of Whiteness to act without shame or censure.

There are two concepts that students of race and politics find particularly useful as they work through how race and power intersect in American life. The more recent of the two is Joe Feagin's "white racial frame." This is really a foundational concept for understanding the many ways that whiteness is legitimated, and in turn quite literally frames how White America understands social reality and the very idea of what "normal" is.

The second concept is symbolic racism. Because racism has evolved over time from the classic slavery, hood and sheets type known as dominative racism, to the more contemporary "colorblind" variety, the language and theory has had to shift as well. These types of White racism often overlap, and one does not necessarily preclude the other. I would suggest that as we unpack the hostility of the White Right and the Tea Party GOP to President Obama, symbolic racism, and its auxiliary white racial resentment, remain the most revealing and useful frameworks for making sense of the foolishness we are witnessing.

Tom Coburn's recent comments about President Obama are an object lesson in the concept.

Symbolic racism is based upon the idea that the citizenship of blacks folks is always in question, our hard work suspect, and that we do not embody the intangibles of "Americanness." Moreover, Blacks defy the expectations of the Protestant Work Ethic, are morally suspect, complain too much about racism, and have received "special" benefits that have been denied to white people. This explains why the rhetoric of "take our America back" works so well for Right-wing populist thugs. Black Americans are the very definition of the anti-citizen and are imagined as both perpetually and existentially outside of the American mainstream.

The Tom Coburns of the world (along with the less polite Buchanans, Limbaughs, Becks, and Coulters) cannot conceptualize black genius. They cannot even accept the idea of the black middle class or that there are black and brown folks whose achievements are superior to those of the great mass of white mediocrities in this country.

Black success exists outside of their cognitive map. Beyond ideology (although Conservatism in noteworthy for its dependence on racial resentment and animus), many whites cannot even imagine the idea of a President who happens to be black. It is inconceivable. Thus, the attacks on Obama are about more than policy. They are assaults on his very personhood, attacks which are legitimated by the white racial frame.

That is the ultimate myopia of white privilege and Whiteness. The former tells white folks that they are always the best and are de facto qualified for any task or responsibility; the latter protects them from having to confront that the reality is otherwise.

Symbolic racism and Whiteness also team up to create a blind spot that is utterly devoid of introspection or critical interrogation. Does Tom Coburn know that more whites are on welfare and food stamps than any other group? What of the culture of poverty among whites in places such as rural red state America and Appalachia? Does he consider federal policies that both sustain and created the white middle class a type of entitlement? What of tax right-offs, farm subsidies, and the military industrial complex? Are those creating a class of white "dependent" Americans?

In the white racial frame black folks are always thugs, incompetents, welfare queens, and degenerate failures until we prove to the satisfaction of white folks that we are not. I know that President Obama is a forgiving and (to my eyes) naive soul on the ways of White folks. But, I do hope that Obama is finally learning about the limitations of Whiteness and how they color the vitriol and opposition he has faced every day of his presidency by Conservatives and the New Right.

Or as a "bound man," is Obama also blinded by Whiteness's glare? I do hope not.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

They Live to Rape History: Black Conservative Allen West is Here to Save African-Americans from the Evil Democratic Plantation

So Black Conservatives fancy themselves as necromancers who are trying to save Black Americans from social death? How many spell points does that take?

The history of black folks in this country really is a plaything. Folks can abuse it. They can twist it. They can draw false analogies. They can lie about it. And at this point, I don't know whether to blame the black leadership classes or the colored masses for allowing this abuse of history to continue for so long.

A provocative thought: Why is the history of black folks, with the horrors of a centuries-long experience of slavery and The Middle Passage, with many millions gone, game for abuse in the name of political pandering? Would anyone ever dare play such a disingenuous game with the history of our Jewish brothers and sisters and the Holocaust?

Imagine, a Jewish Republican calling out his brethren who vote for the Democrats as being trapped in a death camp and that he is going to free them like Schindler.

That would be sickening and unthinkable. Just as it should be.

Allen West, like black garbage pail kid Herman Cain stays on the tired script that black Americans who are Democrats are somehow slaves in need of saving by Black Republicans. As I have called folks out for before, this is an obnoxious argument that is dependent on several even more offensive suppositions.

1. Note West's use of the word "sensibility." Apparently, Black folks are stupid, don't have agency, and they have been hoodwinked by the Democrats. Black people are mindless shuffling fools who have no sense of their own collective self-interest.

2. The idea of black Republicans saving black people from the evil Democrats is twisted in its narrative. Black Democrats, i.e. the vast majority of Black America is sitting around waiting to be saved on yee old plantation; the heroic, selfless Black Conservative empowers them to freedom; these liberated masses of black humanity then run to the good safety of the Tea Party GOP and the beneficence of the Great White Father.

3. As a group, Black Americans are the only ones stigmatized in this way. Where are the questions about poor whites having false consciousness as they vote for the Tea Party GOP? Where is the savior narrative regarding white people in Red State American who consistently vote for a party based on Culture War appeals and racial resentment, all the while said party has gutted the American middle class and transferred wealth upward to the plutocrats?

The Democratic Party equals plantation analogy popularized by the Republican Party and legitimized by their Black Conservative sycophants is dependent on one of the big lies that still lingers large in White American popular memory.

For Whiteness and those overly identified with it, chattel slavery was Gone with the Wind and black Americans really were not fit for freedom. Centuries of slavery was a few bad white folks being mean, and the majority were good--and if Michele Bachmann is to be believed the Christian slave owners were particularly kind and loving to their slaves:

Slavery, as it operated in the pervasively Christian society which was the old South, was not an adversarial relationship founded upon racial animosity. In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt, but, over time, mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause. The credit for this startling reality must go to the Christian faith. . . . The unity and companionship that existed between the races in the South prior to the war was the fruit of a common faith.

Moreover, Birth of a Nation was real and not a fantasy. Slavery is Song of the South and happy shiftless colored folks on the plantation singing spirituals.

It was not babies ripped from their mothers and killed on the docks by slavers during the seasoning process; chattel slavery was not millions of people dead and waters red with blood such that sharks learned to follow The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade for a quick meal; the plantation was a fun place, not one where people were raped, abused, killed, disfigured, and punished by devices straight out of the Medieval period.

Chattel slavery wasn't a twisted house of perversion where white men raped black men and black women in order to assert power, where slave owners would sell their own black children into slavery for profit, or give little white girls human dolls as birthday gifts or wedding presents. The Slaveocracy was of course not a world where the bodies of black women could be made accessible to any white man, at any time, and the bodies of white women were protected as the exclusive province and domain of their husbands.

The South was a folksy fun place, not a police state where whites lived in fear of slave rebellions and the daily threat that their beloved human property would poison them, burn them with fire, or slit the sleeping throats of kind and benevolent masters and their kin.

In all, the Slaveocracy was not an institution that lifted up the lowest white man above the most high, refined, and educated black person by mere virtue of melanin count. No, the South and the Confederacy was noble, honorable, and a "tradition" worth preserving.

If any group in America knows the value of citizenship it is Black Americans. The Black Conservative Plantation lie spits in the face of this fact, and reduces us to sitting in the back seat, mere passengers in the democracy that we helped to create. If the buckdancing for the applause of White Conservatives didn't pay so well, I would hope that Allen West, Herman Cain, Clarence Thomas and the other minstrel crooners for the Right would stand up for the dignity of their own people. But then again, slavery and colonialism also created a class of black and brown folks who wanted to be honorary Whites.

Said group had little sense of linked fate to their brothers and sisters. Why would we ever expect that those old, and quite lucrative habits, would ever change?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Wisdom of Crowds: New Research Reveals that the Tea Party is Less Popular Than "Muslims" and "Atheists" Among the American Public

But in fact the Tea Party is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion: among most Americans, even before the furor over the debt limit, its brand was becoming toxic. To embrace the Tea Party carries great political risk for Republicans, but perhaps not for the reason you might think. 
Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent. 
Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.
Once more political science shows itself to be the master social science. We mock you!

Just kidding...

The masses may be asses. As individuals they are often duped, hoodwinked, and led astray. But perhaps, just maybe, the wisdom of American democracy is that in the aggregate, and over time, the people can more or less get it right.

I smiled today when I read the NY Times' column "Crashing the Tea Party" by esteemed political scientists David Campbell and Robert Putnam. I was happy because I am really fond of their work and hold both of them in the very highest of regard. They are truly giants in the field. I also like being proven correct as my most recent essays on the Tea Party brigand John Birch highwaymen were supported by Putnam and Campbell's rigorous empirical work.

[These are the moments that tempt me to come out of the shadows and break kayfabe as getting in on the conversation as the "real" Chauncey DeVega would be great fun. But for now, I have to work from the shadows. Alas.]

Thinking and right minded black and brown folks, and politically in tune white folks and others, have been all over the Tea Party since their emergence some years ago. As is our habit, black Americans were once again leading from the front and at the forward edge of public opinion.

The way that Black folks have long called out the threat posed by the Tea Party's brand of Right-wing populism and racial resentment, and how others belatedly followed, is par for our role in American society. It can be exhausting and comes with little reward, but we all have our special burdens and role to play in the chorus that is American democracy.

Putnam and Campbell score a range of body blows and head shots to the Tea Party GOP corpus that are worth higlighting.

For example:
Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party’s “origin story.” Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today. 
What’s more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters. 
So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.
The Right's lie of a causal narrative about the Tea Party is exposed. We knew they were Republicans on steroids. The Tea Party is also an AstroTurf organization. Students of race and politics also understand the deep role that racism plays in the policies and strategies of the contemporary GOP.

In all, the tea baggers are politically tuned in, but likely only to highly partisan sources, and revel in their roles as the foot soldier jihadis for the New Right.
More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.
Theocracy watch. The naked embrace of theocracy by Perry and Bachmann is chilling. The media are still playing softball with them--but the idea that Christian Dominionists could be at the top of a mainstream political ticket speaks to 1) the deep divides in this country socially and politically about what good government embodies and the Constitution allows; and 2) how as a nation in decline and crisis, the fringe can become mainstream and thus insert themselves into a broken democratic process as a legitimate option and alternative.

To beat a tired drum, if theocracy and fascism come to America it will be through the bottom up and led by Right-wing "Christian patriots" such as Bachmann, Palin, and company. Be weary and cautious.
Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity. 
On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans. Indeed, at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today’s Tea Party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern in 1972. 
The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party — repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the Tea Party, Republicans risk repeating history.
I hope so.

But thinking more broadly, there is an effect in social psychology where people generalize from their own positions and cohort to what they intuit to be the opinions of larger groups of people. The Tea Party GOPers believe that they are the "real voice" of "real America"; the tea baggers also assume that they are the silent majority and speak for the mass public.

The Right-wing will respond to Campbell and Putnam's work with the usual mix of Conservative victimology and anti-intellectual zeal. And if  Frances Fox Piven's experience is a guideline, both should maybe get some extra security and start screening their calls and emails.

How do you think they will spin this newest data on the Tea Party's role as a faction and obstructionist outlier in American politics and public life? Will it be more of the "lamestream media" and "liberal academics" are "victimizing" us meme? Or will they try something new?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

History's Echoes: Ruby Bridges Visits the White House vs. White Students Who Benefit From a Virginia School Desegration Scholarship

First, I would like to thank Ruby Bridges for her courage. She and others like her made America a better place. They are the shoulders upon which so many of us stand. Although I often lament the fact that regular people do often make history for the worst (see Right-wing populism), they also make history for the better as well.

The latter is why I hold those black folks and others in such low regard who could have made a difference in our time of struggle, but like the Herman Cains of the world, had better things to do and "didn't want any trouble." My contempt also extends to those individuals who have directly and indirectly benefited from the Civil Rights Movement, but who feel no affinity for black and brown people.

As I have been fond of saying as of late, history's echoes are indeed deep and long. Reflecting upon the Black Freedom Struggle and the work done to integrate America's schools by such pioneers as the Little Rock Nine, Ruby Bridges, James Meredith, and many others, I began to think about justice and how far this country has come on matters of racial inequality...and so far she has to go.

Ruby Bridges' trip to the White House is so poignant symbolically precisely because of how it seems to close the circle. Thinking people know the work is far from complete--American schools are as segregated (if not more so in some areas) as they were during Jim and Jane Crow--but the moment brings a nice warm fuzzy feeling to those prone to such things.

Ironically, those fuzzy feelings are also cousins to the flat history, and the twin lies of nostalgia and kumbaya colorblind America that have been thoroughly taken to task in the recent discussions of the white savior film The Help, a movie whose lessons on these matters are clear: racial inequality and the lived legacies of white supremacy in the present can just be solved by a big group hug, a good rewrite of history where all parties are made equally culpable, and by working really hard to avoid any conversations of responsibility or blame.

The language of racial justice is quite limited in the post-Civil Rights, American context. "Reparations" is verboten. While the very word itself is terrifying to a good swath of White America, and the idea that groups of people can petition for grievance, lost wages, wealth, and for some accounting of one of the greatest crimes in human history is well-established in International Law, to even utter "reparations" is deemed a sin that will exile one from the mainstream of American politics.

There is always a caveat: in experiments where the scenario is fictional (but a mirror for what happened in this country), and under which they could conceivably benefit, white Americans are in favor of reparations. But, the same white folks are repelled by the idea of reparations when it applies to Black Americans. Adding an additional complication, other groups in America have petitioned for a group redress of grievance with little protest.

Riddle me that one...

I have always suggested that it ain't about the money and never really has been: the most real and substantial obstacle to reparations is the very idea that White America owes a formal apology to black Americans. To do such a thing, the very act of saying, "I am sorry, we are responsible, and a crime was committed by Whites against Blacks in America" or "yes, whites have and continue to receive unearned advantages because of the color of their skin and the State aided and abetted this" is too much for many to countenance.

Whiteness allows white folks to selectively be a people without a history. Because they lack history, to be held accountable is anathema and unthinkable. In all, opposition to reparations has little to do about "principled" ideology or beliefs about what the State should or ought to do relative to different groups on matters of justice. There are simply too many exceptions made for the consistency rule to be in effect.

The other obstacle to rich and significant conversation about matters of race, justice, and compensation is that everyone is "black" in post-Civil Rights, multicultural, colorblind America. To talk about blackness as something historical and real, a social fact which impacts life chances, and is influenced by institutional structures, as opposed to a "lifestyle" choice mediated by the black culture industry and Multicultural Inc., is simply too "angry" and "un-pc" for the Age of Obama, what is a moment when to critically engage race is to be a "racist" who delights in playing the "race card."

Because Blackness is a commodity that is both sold and consumed, blacks art, black music, black culture, black letters, black genius, and black artistry are made accessible to all. In twenty-first century America, black suffering, black injustice, and black struggle are also products and experiences to be shared across the colorline.

Funny, everyone want to be black when it is convenient; but few ever want to be Black when it counts.

For some time, I have wanted to discuss the following story on how white folks in Virginia are benefiting from a scholarship for those harmed by school segregation and Jim Crow. Ruby Bridges' visit to the White House has provided the fulcrum to finally share it with you all.

I must ask: How did justice ever get so twisted?

Some of Virginia's Brown Versus Board College Grants Go to Whites

“Both black and white students lost an opportunity because of the state’s decision, and both deserve this aid,” said Brenda Edwards, who administers the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarships for the Virginia Division of Legislative Services. “White people hear Brown v. Board, and they think they’re not eligible. We’re trying to change that perception. . . . We want more people to get the education they missed out on years ago.”

Half a century after many Virginia public schools shut their doors rather than accept black students, the state is offering college scholarships to compensate those whose education suffered in the era of “massive resistance” to desegregation. Among the recipients: white students.

Since 2004, about 70 people have won the scholarships, including a handful of white Virginians whose schooling was disrupted in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A precise count of white scholarship recipients was unavailable, but the total is thought to be fewer than 10. Officials who oversee the state program say they want to spread the word to more white students who might be eligible.

Phyllis Archer, 57, a scholarship recipient who is black, said the push to include white students in the program is misguided. “This was the state’s chance to apologize for wrongdoing, not to award people who have never known racism,” Archer said.

June Jeffrey, 69, is also a scholarship recipient. She is a real estate agent who is studying English at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton and is white.

In 1958, four years after the landmark Supreme Court ruling that found school segregation unconstitutional, Jeffrey’s high school in Warren County closed its doors.

While black students left the county or attended loosely organized classes in living rooms and church basements, Jeffrey’s school reestablished itself as the Warren County Education Foundation School, which enrolled only white students. It held classes in buildings across town, keeping the same teachers and paying them partly with public funds.

When a federal court ruled in February 1959 that Warren County schools must integrate, Jeffrey and most of her classmates remained at the all-white foundation school. But she said they lost access to facilities, counseling and the trappings of a traditional high school experience.

“We missed having a real senior year,” Jeffrey recalled. “We just wanted to finish up with our friends.”

Jeffrey detailed those experiences when she applied for the scholarship years later.

“I was just hoping that they wouldn’t ask me for a photo,” she said. She was never sure whether white students qualified.

Not only do they qualify, she later learned, but officials are traveling the state to inform residents — including white residents — of their eligibility. Former students whose public schools in Charlottesville, Norfolk, Prince Edward County or Warren County closed in the late ’50s and early ’60s are eligible.

The effort to recruit white applicants has reopened wounds from Virginia’s painful racial history.

Archer, who is working toward a degree in nonprofit management from the University of Richmond, said she wonders whether some scholarship recipients are from families that defended segregation. “That’s really unacceptable,” she said...

The story continues here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Now Introducing Michelle Bachmann the New Kielbasa Queen

I would buy that for a dollar.

Sometimes you just can't resist. The caption possibilities are endless, the jokes are easy given our good lady theocrat Michelle Bachmann's desire to always submit to her husband in all things, and we don't even have to mention professional homophobe Mr. Bachmann's "questionable" sexual identity.

But any chance to revisit the Kielbasa Queen on Howard Stern's classic Channel 9 TV show is worth taking:

An Epic Fail From the Peanut Gallery: Tea Party GOPers Defend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Honor When President Obama "Dares" to Channel His Memory

And now that King has his own memorial on the Mall I think that we forget when he was alive there was nobody who was more vilified, nobody who was more controversial, nobody who was more despairing at times. There was a decade that followed the great successes of Birmingham and Selma in which he was just struggling, fighting the good fight, and scorned, and many folks angry. But what he understood, what kept him going, was that the arc of moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. But it doesn’t bend on its own. It bends because all of us are putting our hand on the arc and we are bending it in that direction. And it takes time. And it’s hard work. And there are frustrations.

In a recent fund raising speech in New York the President evoked Dr. King and his prophetic vision. As with all matters related to Barack Obama some on the Right are using that moment to vilify the President. No surprise.

But, there are at least two interrelated issues that warrant exploration.

One, how do we locate President Obama relative to Dr. King? Given that the former is a corporatist and quite center Right in his politics, I would think the comparison on policy matters is a bit of a stretch.

Second, who "owns" Dr. King's legacy and vision? This one is a bit more complicated. On one of my favorite black garbage pail kids black conservative websites, we were having a little go around where the one and only Cobb, enabled by his white conservative feces slinging supplicants, wanted to suggest (as he often does) that the Right is "colorblind" and somehow Conservatism "gets" King's vision on race "correctly." Although I clearly disagree with the priors, Cobb did however hit on an interesting question: Why do some folks become almost apoplectic when Conservatives try to claim Dr. King?

I offer the following answer.

Overlooking the overt racism and racially resentful politics of the Tea Party GOP, as well as the tons of evidence from political psychologists and others that Conservatism is linked to authoritarian personality types, and thus racism is a natural outgrowth of those traits, a claim that contemporary Conservatives are invested in Dr. King's radical vision just strikes me as dishonest. He was vilified by the Right in his own lifetime. If Dr. King's vision on poverty, race, social justice, and health care were offered today, he would be driven out of the town square and tried in absentia by the Fox News Tea Party GOP cabal.

Because Dr. King is an American icon all parties want to own a piece of the action. That reality leads to an almost inexorable flattening and oversimplification of history where Conservatives can claim one part of the "I Have a Dream Speech" for example, to in turn argue against positions that King would have actually supported.

I typically want to dismiss such moves by Black Conservatives, Glenn Beck, and others as predictable and uninteresting. One cannot expect an ideology that in practice is prefaced on anti-intellectualism to be at all rigorous. Yet, in the Age of Obama those inversions of history have started to bear fruit. Thus, they must be treated more carefully.

The Right has with great skill moved moved the political terrain in their favor, shifted the language used to discuss politics and policy, created parallel sources of "information" from "think tanks" whose only purpose is to advance a far Right ideology (regardless of the facts or science on a policy issue), and created an alternate media and professional propaganda wing that subverts the role and responsibility of the Fourth Estate in a democracy. The sum effect of these elements is that the foot soldiers of the Tea Party GOP actually mistake thin, specious, politically oriented opinions for rock solid, concrete facts.

And as I argued here, because the Tea Party GOP and their faithful are ideological cultists on every almost issue from climate change, to the separation of church and state, to the economy, facts and reason are subverted by faith. In short, it is true because they say so. The mainstream media enables these delusions because they exist in a marketplace and cultural moment where all opinions, however ridiculous, are framed as being equal, and consequently worth reasonable discussion and attention.

The Right's response to Obama's speech on Dr. King is one more of those moments. As I often do, here is the peanut gallery in all of its glory. The mouth breathers of the Right defend King against Obama, and by doing so dishonor the former's memory, through their own twisted lens of history as it relates to the present.

Take special note of both their basic misunderstandings of history and fact, and the mental gymnastics needed to make it all cohere.


Chuck, a vet August 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Remember Dr. King very well.

First of all, he was an American and a Patriot! He did not want a socialist welfare state, nor did he substitute his loyalty to this Country for anti-American interests.

He was not a redistribution of wealth fanatic, but really wanted a level playing field. Most of all, his goal for all was a real policy of “a hand up”, not “a hand out”. Big difference.

For this guy to compare Dr King to himself is like throwing a rose into a pile of fertilizer. (Which is the only thing that was really “shovel ready” in this administration).

Dan August 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Obama is not even close to MLK. First and foremost MLK was willing to die for his beliefs, Obama can’t even make a decision that might result in him being a one term president.

Luke August 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm

How dare he compare himself to MLK, MLK gave people freedom and Obama is taking peoples freedom away.

JoeKidd August 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Americans are citizens of The UNITED States of America — not Obama’s divided states of America.

They belong to one race: The HUMAN race.

And under their skin, they bleed ONE color.

Now Obama may think he can get that color to run in the streets — he has been busy stirring his pot of Hate — but he’s wrong! You only separate colors when doing wash.

Hmm August 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Martin Luther King Jr was not known for hating the United States of America – try again, Mr. Obama. Martin Luther King Jr was not known for promoting divisiveness – try again, Mr. Obama. Martin Luther King Jr was not known for encouraging dependence on government handouts – strike three, you are out, Mr. Obama.

StopGovtBondage August 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Barry compares himself to a lot of important and successful people: Abe Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and now Martin Luther King Jr.

Thing is – Barack Obama has earned nothing – there are NO ACCOMPLISHMENTS…..his positions have either been Affirmative Action, or positions have been purchased or politicized….nothing has ever been based on merit.

And with the chip on his shoulder regarding successful people – Obama is now tearing the country apart with his class warfare……MLK – I think not.

wrongagain August 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Biggest difference would be everyone loved Dr. King. Dr. King worked to ensure everyone was judged based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. You have decided skin color tells you all you need to know.

Susan August 13, 2011 at 11:19 am

All this talk of August vacations has me wondering. Do you ever take a vacation Keith? Love coming to your blog each day to get an unfiltered view of what is happening in DC, and you are always here. Thank you for what you do.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a Republican. He believed in non-violent resistance, just like us Tea party advocates. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” That is one of the quotes Obama had weaved into the oval office rug. It was actually Theodore Parker, an 1800′s abolitionist and not MLK who originally said those words. Too bad the progressives stole that quote and twisted its meaning. I’ll bet neither Theodore Parker nor MLK thought those words would one day be used to justify Obama’s version of social justice and redistribution of wealth.

srdem65 August 13, 2011 at 10:43 am

MrO should hang his head in shame to compare his travails to those of MLK or to imply that his agenda is the same as RevKing’s.
RevKing never once called his many opponents “enemies” or called for their punishment, he never ridiculed anyone to further himself, but instead, prayed for a day when all would be judged by their character, not the color of their skin.

12wlw12 August 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm

How dare that flea compare himself to Martin Luther King! He is no more than the dirt beneath King’s shoes!. We all shared King’s dream and prayed some day it would happen. Of course there are, and always will be, those with hate in their hearts, on both sides who will not give it up. But remember this, it was not only blacks marching with Rev. King. His dream was to bring America together.. Obama and his ilk have almost destroyed everything MLK stood and fought for… the unmetigated gall of that ‘person’ comparing himself to such a great man… He has no shame!!

Susan August 13, 2011 at 1:42 pm


pilgrimsjog August 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm

“I have a nightmare that one day the sons of former slaves will sit at the table of victimhood, screaming at the sons of former democrat slaver owners, under the big tent of the democrat, progressive, slave party. Cause there ain’t no party like a democrat slave party. Git yo victim on and git paid. That’s why we vote for ‘em! To git back wages for picking democrat cotton!

kitman3 August 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm

MLK was not a social justice advocate he believed in individual redemption not collective redemption.
Personal responsibility was his creed.
Progressives are so desperate to reelect our socialist-in-chief they will lie and distort MLK for their own use.
Progressivism = Totalitarianism
The “ONE” is DONE
The “O” has got to GO

Ron August 13, 2011 at 3:05 pm

MLK wanted a world where people were judged by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin.

Obama, through his racist actions, and support of affirmative action, racial quotas and setasides, has proven that he wants to judge blacks based on the color of their skin, and NOT the content of their character.

What hasn’t Barak Hussein lied about?

Carl Spackler August 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm

what the H is the “arc of moral universe?” And is it ironic or fitting that his metaphor of morality is taking something straight and bending it?

jack prong August 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm

the only people who vilified dr. king were your fellow democrats, barack. dr. king was a card-carrying republican. your fellow democrats started and operated the ku klux klan from the civil war forward to today. dr. king did not lay down his life so guys like barack obama could peddle snake oil socialism. he died in a quest to get others recognized for their character and their individual rights not so you could start up a super-plantation in the united states called obamaville.

Johnny B Good August 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Dr King stood up against white racists and black racists and remains as a national hero to people of all skin color. BHO thinks that anyone who disagrees with him is automatically a racist. BHO and his mindless minions use racial fear like a teleprompter to accomplish their sad agenda.

marg1 August 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm

King calmed the stormy waters. Obama creates chaos everywhere he goes.

What an arrogant jerk obama is. Delusional, manipulative, and dangerous for the entire planet.

How ’bout them drones he’s playing war with? And doing it all on his own without Congressional approval. Congress should impeach him, and the Nobel Committee ought to be screaming to get their Peace Prize back.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hiding in Plain Sight: Racism's Role in the Tea Party GOP's Efforts to Destroy President Barack Obama and the U.S. Economy

A Standard & Poor’s director said for the first time Thursday that one reason the United States lost its triple-A credit rating was that several lawmakers expressed skepticism about the serious consequences of a credit default — a position put forth by some Republicans.
Without specifically mentioning Republicans, S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji said the stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that “people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default,” Mukherji said.
“That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable,” he added. “This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns.”
The statement seems likely to bolster one Democratic line of attack, that it was tea party intransigence — not a shortcoming of leadership by President Barack Obama — that is to blame for the U.S. downgrade, from AAA to AA+. Obama himself called on Republicans to “put country ahead of party” Thursday — a dig at conservatives in Congress who are blocking his agenda.
In black and white and from the horse's mouth.

For the first time in its history, the pristine AAA credit rating of the United States has been downgraded. Through the Great Depression and two world wars America was able to remain first among nations, a sure bet for investors, and the gold standard for following through on a promise that it would pay its debts in full, on time, and with interest. Apparently, the credit rating of the United States could survive all these perils, but not the tenure of its first Black President.

While deeply concerned by the federal government’s failure to resolve the long-term structural weaknesses in the economy, Standard & Poor’s was clear about what drove its auditors to lower the credit rating of the United States: the politics in Washington D.C. are dysfunctional and broken; and a mature and reasonable solution to the debt ceiling debate, one that grew out of normal politics and not economic terrorism, would have likely averted this most unfortunate, but wholly predictable, of outcomes.

As the pundit classes try to make sense of the debt ceiling-credit downgrade political drama, they are overlooking a central element in the Tea Party GOP’s almost mouth-frothing resistance President Barack Obama since his landslide election in 2008.

While the black blogosphere (and even Twitter) has been bubbling with this issue for some time, the mainstream media has been dancing around a fact which remains hidden in plain sight. Just as they did with their poor coverage of the Birther issue, and out of fear of a Conservative backlash, the mainstream media is loathe to speak truth to power and point out the obvious: racial hostility is one of the primary forces driving the opposition of the Tea Party GOP to President Obama. This has been evident during the debt ceiling debate and on policy matters across the board. To fail to understand this most basic of realities is to fail to understand American politics in the Age of Obama.

Having matured with the smear campaign against President Bill Clinton, Right-wing talk radio and Fox News have created an echo chamber in which ideological purity is the premier value: this dynamic has amplified the tensions between conservatives and the rest of the American people, and removed any possibility of finding a shared middle ground on issues of common concern. A normal politics of negotiation and compromise is imperiled because the terms of the debate are presented in dire, stark, and apocalyptic language.

As a result, extreme party polarization, when added to a political conversation in which the volume has been turned up way high by the Right-wing rage machine, has created a situation where the temptation to use racial appeals to destroy President Barack Obama is almost too great to resist.

In short, while extreme political ideology by the Right may be driving their stubbornness, and a cult-like belief in Free Market Fundamentalism demands tax cuts for the rich and austerity for the poor as the only solution to The Great Recession, the election of the country's first black president is a license to abandon all hold on the world of facts and reason.

There are several elements driving the Tea Party GOP’s efforts to “blacken” President Obama with the goal of limiting his ability to lead the country, and hobbling the Democratic Party at every turn.