Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Laughter: H.K. Edgerton, Black Confederate Dunce Performing for White Confederate Veterans Association



Dude must be auditioning to be the opening speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

H.K. Edgerton is all sorts of awesome. Ta-Nehisi Coates has this up on his Atlantic site and it is going to be fun to follow how his readers respond to this foolishness.

Question: is this video sufficient evidence that Edgerton is non-compos mentis and should be committed to a mental health facility? If I were on a jury Edgerton's performance would be pretty damn compelling evidence that something is a bit off and he needs some meds.

Doubling down, here is a story on Edgerton's run-in with the KKK and how they are none too dissimilar in their racial attitudes from the Neo-Confederate Civil War reenactors that black fool pals around with.

Confederates in Black

H.K. Edgerton speaks wistfully of the "sense of family" that bound blacks and whites under slavery. There was great "love between the African who was here in the Southland and his master," he says.

Despite its poor reviews, Edgerton concludes, slavery served as an "institution of learning" for blacks.

Edgerton sounds a lot like other apologists for slavery — many of whom, like him, pledge allegiance to the Confederate battle flag and the movement around it. But he stands out from this crowd in some significant ways.

For starters, he's black.

And Edgerton is also the former president of the Asheville, N.C., branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) — a group that fellow neo-Confederate Arthur Ravenal, a white South Carolina state senator, described this year as the "National Association of Retarded People."

Edgerton sees no contradictions here. In an interview with the Intelligence Report, he insisted that he's doing his part to "correct the lies" when he suggests that "it was better to be an African in the Southland as a slave than to be free in Africa." He's speaking as a "favored son of the South," he said, when he addresses Confederate flag rallies from North Carolina to Georgia to Texas.

In a lily-white movement that most blacks find deeply offensive, Edgerton seems to feel quite at home. And as he dances to the tune of "Dixie" — sometimes quite literally — he helps gives the cause the appearance of legitimacy.

It is a gloss that frequently racist neo-Confederate groups desperately need in order to maintain the idea that theirs is a movement that celebrates "heritage, not hate."

'I Don't Want To Be Black'
Edgerton is almost unique, but not entirely so. The other prominent black figure on the Confederate flag rally circuit is a former militiaman who recently proclaimed: "I am hereby resigning myself from the black race."

J.J. Johnson, once a leading militia figure in Ohio, offers running commentary on the Confederate flag issue in his Internet publication, the Sierra Times.

"I hope some black person is reading this right now and fuming," he writes in one editorial. "If you think the Confederate flag is insulting to you, you are being used, or as we say it in the hood, you bein' played — for a fool."

In "I Don't Want to be Black Anymore," Johnson's most controversial installment to date, he lambastes the NAACP tourism boycott of South Carolina — a measure that helped get the Confederate flag taken down from that state's Capitol building.

For his part, Edgerton manages to remain unfazed when white supremacists show their support at various flag rallies — despite an incident two years ago in which two Klansmen shot up his cousin's house.

"It's highly offensive to me for any member of my family or any member of this community to face that kind of terrorism," Edgerton said after that attack, expressing concern that his relatives might have been targeted because of his position at the NAACP.

But Edgerton still has good things to say about the Klansmen with whom he chatted at a recent flag rally in Stone Mountain, Ga. — the place where the Klan was reborn in the 1920s — although he didn't know then they were Klan members.

"They were willing to shake my hand," he explains.

Well, kind of. At the Stone Mountain event, Edgerton reportedly invited a white woman onto the stage after speaking and gave her a kiss. Not long after, that infamous kiss was being relived on AlaReb, an invitation-only Internet discussion group for neo-Confederates.

"This is what happens when we choose to be inclusionists and integrationists," a woman named Dianne wrote. "If we ask Negroes to support our cause they will expect certain perks, one of which may be the privilege of hugging and kissing the white females in attendance at these events."

A posting signed by David Cooksey, current member and former chairman of the Tuscaloosa County (Ala.) chapter of the purportedly nonracist League of the South (see A League of Their Own), is blunter.

"35 years ago, H.K. would not have even thought of such a disgraceful thing," the posting said in a response to Dianne, "for he would have known that the men would not put up with this violation of a Southern White female! He would have never been seen or heard from again."

...If the Yankee government is the true oppressor for these men, the neo-Confederate movement, in their view, holds the promise of freedom. At an April flag rally in Charleston, S.C., Johnson said he wanted "to see this flag over 49 more state Capitols, because it is a symbol of resistance to federal tyranny."

Edgerton linked his presence at the rally to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "dream that someday the sons of slaves and sons of former slave owners could sit down at the table of brotherhood."

Edgerton often describes his activism as an extension of King's work and the ongoing fight for civil rights. Knowing that few blacks would view King's legacy, civil rights or Southern history as he does, Edgerton seems motivated all the more.

"If every African-American would pick up the Confederate flag," he proclaims, "I would say, 'Free at last, free at last, God almighty, I am free at last.'"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

President Obama, The Compromiser in Chief and the "Too Black, Too White Presidency"

Every campaign enlists its own meta-language. As Randall Kennedy reminds us in his provocative and richly insightful new book, “The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency,” the Obama forces disseminated several messages intended to soothe the racially freighted fears of the white electorate.
On one channel, they reassured voters that he was not an alien, but a normal American patriot. They also made clear that he was a “safe,” conciliatory black man who would never raise his voice in anger or make common cause with people, living or dead, who used race as a platform for grievance. On yet another wavelength, the candidate proffered his bona fides as a black man to ­African-Americans who were initially wary of his unusual upbringing, his white family ties and his predominantly white political support.
The press viewed this courtship of black voters as largely beside the point for a “post-racial” campaign that had bigger fish to fry on the white side of the street.
I hope you are all having a restful and good weekend. I came upon this piece in today's NY Times Book Review and thought it quite fitting for some of our recent discussions about President Obama, race, respect, and identity.

Randall Kennedy and others were spot on during the election of 2008 when they described Obama's candidacy as one where he was in an awkward position as a bound man who had to balance Black expectations, desires, and dreams, along with White anxieties and fears. Obama danced that fine line well enough to win the presidency.

However, the very personality traits and his experiences of upbringing that helped Obama to win the office of the presidency have been liabilities to his leadership while there. The structural limitations aside--and the racially motivated hostility of the Tea Party GOP fully noted--Obama's personality, identity, and personhood are the lived embodiment of an idealistic type of compromise. Consequently, America has a Compromiser in Chief who is not liberal enough for the Left and is too liberal for the Right; he is "too black" for some white folks and simultaneously "too white" for some blacks.

Barack Obama truly is a bound man, and for that reason (and many others) he is teetering on the edge of a failed presidency. Ironically, in one of his greatest moments as a candidate, the American people were offered a preview of Obama's dilemma and how it would lead to difficulties in his leadership and decision making as President.

Here, Kennedy's new book notes:
The widely held notion that the now-famous race speech, “A More Perfect Union,” ranked with the Gettysburg Address or “I Have a Dream” strikes Kennedy as delusional. The speech, he writes, was little more than a carefully calibrated attempt to defuse the public relations crisis precipitated by the Wright affair.
Far from frank, it understated the extent of the country’s racial divisions and sought to blame blacks and whites equally for them, when in fact, Kennedy writes, “black America and white America are not equally culpable. White America enslaved and Jim Crowed black America (not the other way around).”
The speech was in keeping with the candidate’s wildly successful race strategy, which involved making white voters feel better about themselves whenever possible.
Lauded at the time for its delivery and Obama's mastery of language and poise under pressure, the speech has not aged well. Even then I would urge people, my students in particular, to read the text of the speech as by doing so the utter ridiculousness of its premises are made clear.

Black Americans and white Americans are not equally culpable for the ills and evils of racism and the colorline. Obama equated white anger with black justice claims on full citizenship and opportunity. What is a laughable position. In reality, the latter is moral and just, and the former bitter and wrong.

Why did Obama choose to distort both history and the present by knowingly taking such an absurd and intellectually dishonest position?

While genius and smart, Obama is not a truth teller. He is more invested in compromise and finding a "middle ground" (even when to his own disadvantage) than in winning and fighting the good fight.

Ultimately, there is a great amount of pressure placed on "the firsts" in any endeavor. Like Jackie Robinson, Obama may not have been the best choice, but he was the right person at the right time. Moreover, Obama also has a racial temperament that would soothe white voters just enough to cast the ballot for him.

Brent Staples is spot on in this regard with his point that "...two-fistedness is not his nature. He would never have been elected had he run as, say, a brown-skinned version of the leg breaker Lyndon Johnson. The white electorate might one day be ready for a black president like that, but not yet."

The American people needed a leg breaker to correct this country's direction in a time of declining empire and the Great Recession. Sadly, it seems that with President Obama we got a soother and massage artist. The Tea Party GOP are going to enjoy Obama's services all the way to the end, because like any good masseuse he guarantees them a happy ending every time.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Jim Crow Dreaming: Rush Limbaugh Revels in the Joy of the Tea Party GOP Putting Barack Obama "in His Place"

More Jim Crow dreaming. Oh for the good old days when the blacks knew their place.

First, I want to thank Washington Monthly and The Week for giving my pieces on Andre Carson's lynching quip and my interview with Whiteness some love. Much appreciated.

Language is power. It has context. It gives meaning. Language also quite literally speaks for our collective political subconscious. Limbaugh's demand that Obama be "put in his place" (and the fun graphic on his website in which the President is shown being submissive to the GOP) is right out of the Jim Crow imagination.

[If you want to amuse yourself just google "Obama needs to be put in place" and see what appears.]

As I mentioned on the Ed Schultz radio show on Monday, the Tea Party GOP's mining of racial resentment and a sense that America is first and foremost a white man's country is nothing new. In fact, during the 2008 campaign McCain-Palin ran an attack ad which demanded that Barack Obama learn to "respect" Sarah Palin, an ad that for my money was worse than the either the Willie Horton or Jesse Helm's Black Hands/White hands campaign commercials.

Given the context of racialized violence, Jim Crow, and lynchings in this country, any ad demanding that a black man respect a white woman is a none too veiled threat that hit all of the right notes for the Tea Party GOP base. It is just ugly. And funny, the ad was aired without comment or protest.



As you know, I love addressing first priors. So I must engage Limbaugh's question: What exactly is the place of President Barack Obama? Where should he be situated relative to the Tea Party GOP and John Boehner?

As President, I would suggest that Obama's place is to lead, and the role of his office surpasses the petty dictates of John Boehner, any other any individual politician, or political party. But then again, I am one of the old school types who believes in normal politics, and not the politics of extortion and hostage taking that has become the modus operandi for a faction of political thugs and bullies known as the Tea Party GOP.

Speaking of going old school. In thinking about this week's meme of "respect" and how the Tea Party GOP and the White Conservative Jim Crow Soul feel entitled to it by birthright, while America's first black President is constantly belittled, and in turn acts as though he is actually comfortable "getting off of the sidewalk and letting white folks pass," I was reminded of the work done by Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing.

She was exalted during the heyday of 1980s and 1990s Afrocentrism, but has since had her work met with controversy. Regardless of how Welsing's thesis on race and identity has held up in post-racial America, her observations about how racism is a function of the insecurities of Whiteness, and a need to maintain group superiority, seemed spot on given the pathologically obstructionist behavior of populist Conservatives in the Age of Obama.

From the vault:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Boy! You Best Get Off the Sidewalk and Let the White Man Pass: Race and the GOP's Petty Opposition to the Timing of Obama's Speech on the Economy

Where blacks had since slave days been expected to step off the sidewalk to allow white persons to pass unimpeded-failure to do so could result in being murdered-some communities with the new century began to require blacks to keep off the sidewalks altogether when any white children were occupying any part of them. Much the same held for the roadway, where blacks could expect to be stopped by police if they dared pass a white driver. So offensive to white sensibilities was a black driving an expensive car that even well-to-do African-Americans kept to older models so as not to give the dangerous impression of being above themselves...
One requirement was to sometimes illogically cede the right-of-way to a white driver-or even to a black driver who was chauffeuring white passengers. At many four-way-stop intersections in the South, the right-of-way was determined not by who reached the intersection first, but rather by the race of the drivers. When confronting a white driver who was female, a black male driver in the South could and sometimes did face a life-or-death decision. Compounding the difficulty facing African-Americans was the lack of universality of any of these conventions. In some places whites did maintain normal driving rules. But in others, Jim Crow was more important than highway safety.
Boehner just pulled a "boy you best get off the sidewalk and let a white man pass moment" in his demand that the President reschedule his jobs speech scheduled for next week before Congress. If President Obama is not careful the Right may get him for "reckless eyeballing."

Of course and once more, the Tea Party GOP are behaving like spoiled children.

Here MSNBC's Richard Wolffe is spot on: to casual observers the spat over the time of the President's speech on the economy, and how it "conflicts" with the Republican debate, seems mighty petty. This obstructionism on all things is the dominant political strategy by the GOP in the Age of Obama, and it is fueled by a deep hostility to Obama's legitimacy as President.

As I have suggested many times, the idea that a Black person could be in the White House is too much for the White Conservative Soul and the white racial frame to handle. The symbolism is anathema to their conception of America.

In our discussions of race and American life, social scientists and others tend to focus on institutional forces, disparities in resources, the law, and power. There is another element to this country's centuries-long struggle against white racism and for true and full citizenship for all Americans. That element is respect and dignity. Of course, most black folks can recycle stories of our kin and colleagues, where in both the past and present, the hurt was not so much that someone said or did something "racist" (as we are certainly made of sterner stuff than that). Rather, the hurt is because we were not given the basic respect earned and deserved as American citizens.

The examples here and now, in the past and the present, are legion.

When we are profiled as a potential terrorist while reading a book about airplanes and not even given an apology for our humiliation.

When we are followed around stores and asked to show our identification when making a purchase and the white person in front of you was not.

When you walk into a seminar to conduct a training session or teach a class and there is the eye roll or anxiety by those in the room that somehow you are not competent to teach them.

When doctors and lawyers and engineers had to take jobs as Pullman car porters and shuck and jive for the pleasures of white people in order to earn a wage with which to take care of their families.

When grown men and women were called "Auntie" or "Uncle" by whites because "Sir" or "Madam" was an impossible utterance.

When the Birthers, the Graders and Donald Trump led a witch hunt and demanded to see the transcripts of the President, a Harvard grad and University of Chicago professor, because he could not possibly have earned his bonafides (and they remain curiously silent about Rick Perry's abysmal college career as a "Gentlemen D" student).

In sum, these are moments where black Americans as a community have been collectively slapped in the face and denied their dignity simply because of the color of our skin, and the ways that race works to locate people in a hierarchy of "naturalized" relationships. America no longer has laws demanding that blacks get off the sidewalk when whites pass, or that African Americans cannot try on clothes or hats at a store without buying them first.

But, the intangibles of full and equal respect from whites towards non-whites cannot be legislated: history's weight is too great and private thoughts and attitudes are often immune from legal precedent. In the United States, one of white supremacy's most damning and difficult legacies is that for centuries the lowest, most ignorant, stupid, lazy trashy White was elevated above the most educated, refined, literate, and hard working black person.

The Tea Party GOP and their foot soldiers are drunk on that legacy. They may claim to respect the Office of the President, but they most certainly don't respect the man. And no small part of that is because he is Black.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Does the Tea Party Really Want to Lynch Black Folks? Why Andre Carson was Wrong, But Not for the Reasons You May Think





In a talk about the economy earlier this week, Representative Andre Carson (a member of the Congressional Black Caucus) suggested that the Tea Party are the same people who in another time would have loved to see black people "hanging on a tree."
Such language is by its very nature controversial. It is also overwrought because an allusion to lynching and the "strange fruit" of this country's recent memory conceals more than it reveals. In much the same way that black conservatives and their white handlers deploy the horrid language of "the plantation" and "run away slaves" to describe African Americans who make a choice to support the Democratic Party, an appeal to lynching as a means to describe the motives of one's political foes has to be handled with great care and precision.
For those reasons, Carson's suggestion was problematic. But perhaps not in the ways that many would assume.
Let's begin with a simple question. What do we know about the Tea Party? Who are its members? What do Tea Party members believe? What is their rhetoric? What are their dreams and goals for the country?
From recent public opinion research, we know that the Tea Party's membership is made up of older, almost exclusively white folks, and that they want to "return" the country to "Christian values" and "the Constitution." We also know that their animus and upset did not take full form until the election of Barack Obama, America's first Black President. Moreover, public opinion data has revealed that Tea Party members are more likely to believe that blacks are not hard working, are lazy, and complain too much about racism. Tea Party members, as a function of their Conservative political orientation, are awash in racially resentful attitudes.
The Tea Party uses the language of secession and the neo-Confederacy. They also advocate violent solutions to removing an "illegitimate" and "Socialist" President: these are the Tea Party's dreams of civic virtue and justice.
In all, the Tea Party is in many ways a group of white folks who feel "oppressed" because of their race and believe that they are victims of prejudice in the Age of Obama.
The signs at their rallies which depict the President as a monkey or witch doctor, the statements of their leaders, as well as the private emails and other documents which have come to light, are all plain in the face types of evidence for the role of bigotry and prejudice as driving factors in the Tea Party movement.
A second question. What do we know about the lynchings of black Americans?
Thousands of black Americans were lynched between the 1880s and the 1930s. In fact, the last lynching occurred in 1981. Lynchings took place all over the country and not just in the South. They were a form of racial terrorism by Whites against blacks that was intended to maintain their dominant position across the colorline. No one--children, women (some who were pregnant) and men--was spared the threat of death by rope, bonfire, gun, pipe, truncheon or other foul weapon.
Lynchings were a type of ritualized violence. This is a critical fact that cannot be overlooked. Lynchings were festive civic events, where whites would buy souvenirs (often human body parts from the victims), take photos, and circulate said images on postcards all over the country. In total, racial violence was a way of creating White community in a White supremacist society. Take for example the oft cited lynching of Sam Hose:

The train carrying Hose to Newnan was packed with people who were eager to witness the man's execution. As soon as Hose was off of the train, a huge mob crowded around him and marched him to the jail, cheering and shouting along the way.
Plans were made to take Hose back to Palmetto for his execution; however, several prominent members of the community spoke out, pleading with the mob to allow justice to take its course. Governor Candler ordered even ordered out the troops. Upon hearing this, the mob decided that the execution needed to take place immediately and within minutes, Sam Hose was hanging from a tree.
Hose's execution was extremely brutal. Hose initially refused to confess, but after his ears were cut from his head, he claimed responsibility for the crimes. The Atlanta Constitution reported that 2000 witnesses watched as he was burned alive and his body cut and mutilated.
Peculiarly, the man responsible for dousing Hose's body and clothes in kerosene was a stranger from the North, who was reported as saying that, though he did not know how people from his part of the country would respond to this, he felt the need to avenge the terrible crimes that had been committed. “For sickening sights, harrowing details and bloodcurdling incidents, the burning of Holt is unsurpassed by any occurrence of a like kind ever heard of in the history of the state'. Even Hose's bones were taken from the scene as souvenirs.
To the eyes of 21st century "post-racial" Americans, this description of barbaric violence seems like something out of a dark, anachronistic past. The participants were "bad" people, outliers, and most whites were "good" people who would never do such a thing. The reality suggests otherwise.
In a Jim and Jane Crow America, with its sundown towns, and rites and rituals of both formal and informal white supremacy and racism, lynchings were a relatively common event. In a post-Civil Rights moment where white savior movies such as The Help flatten history by depicting an America where most whites were decent, and only a few bad people were racist villains, it is hard for many in the public to accept a painful truth: the thousands of white people who attended Sam Hose's lynching thought that they were doing patriotism's work; they represented the silent majority.
In the context of an unapologetically racist America, where whiteness was the very definition of "American" and "citizen," they indeed were.
In the White imagination of Jim and Jane Crow, the lynching of black people was an act of civic virtue. Its rhetoric and ritual was centered around white men protecting white communities (and in particular white women) from the "violence" of blacks. Ultimately, lynching was a physical representation of an "us vs. them" ethos and the necessity of the colorline.
The counterfactual of the Tea Party equals the white supremacist violence of lynching and the hanging tree is a difficult one because we cannot transport individuals through time. But, there is an eerie resonance and echo of continuity between an America where Sam Hose and others were carved up as human souvenirs for the the delight of a debased White Soul and the often mouth frothing rage and hostility by the Right and the Tea Party towards Barack Obama, the country's first black president.
If Carson were more nuanced and precise he would have instead suggested that the Tea Party and the lynching crowd come from the same political wellsprings and share the same political imagination. Of course, white supremacy has changed and evolved over time. Consequently, the expression of such white rage will most certainly be altered.
The Tea Party's language of "we want our America," the naked pandering to white resentment and fear, their abuse of patriotic rhetoric and symbols, overt racial appeals, and how symbolic racism and anti-black sentiment drive their ideology are part of a long lineage reaching back to the John Birch Society, the White Citizens' Councils, and Jim Crow.
And yes, this does include the heinous and evil legacy of lynching where thousands of black folks were burned alive, disfigured, dismembered, and hung from trees.
The Tea Party and its white populist foot soldiers would likely not have held the rope at the lynching party. But, like the many thousands who attended Sam Hose's murder, the Tea Party's members would have dressed in their finest Sunday clothing and brought the kids along on a picnic. The more blood thirsty would have howled and cheered as the victim was torn asunder and their genitals mutilated. The shy and cowardly would have stood on the edge of the crowd catching a peek of the ritual, satisfied that "their" country was safe and that the blacks were being taught to know their place.
History is not fair. It is often ugly. It can be uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the racist origins of White Conservative populism are an uncomfortable truth that must be exposed if we are to truly understand the dynamics of race in the Age of Obama.

An Exclusive Interview with "Whiteness," Senior Adviser to the Tea Party GOP and Governor Rick Perry

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) has scored another coup. A month ago we were contacted by the Simi Valley Hospital for Mental Health. They conveyed that one of their patients, Whiteness, was very eager to speak with us. At first we were understandably suspicious. Such an interview was too good to be true. Apparently, Whiteness had read WARNNN's careful and fair interview with Racism and felt that this was the time to come out of the proverbial shadows and share his life experience and thoughts about politics, race, and culture in the Age of Obama with our readers. Since those initial contacts, the staff of WARNNN has been in constant communication with the staff of the Simi Valley Hospital for Mental Health in preparation for this interview.

We have been warned that Whiteness is a smart and quite compelling personality. However, Whiteness is also prone to gross narcissism, suffers from multiple personality disorder, megalomania, is prone to violent impulses, and has a type of psychological myopia that manifests itself through physical symptoms. Consequently, several nurses and doctors will be outside of the room for the duration of the interview should we need assistance. Because he is medicated, Whiteness will not be restrained.

WARNNN's interviewer was cautioned to be ever vigilant of the potential for Whiteness to act out and become violent. Whiteness is apparently the heir to a long lineage of sociopaths and has become extremely agitated ever since the election of Barack Obama.

Waivers have been signed. We are to proceed at our own risk.

WARNNN: How are you Whiteness? We have wanted to chat with you for a long time. We appreciate your agreeing to this interview.

Whiteness: No problem at all. I have wanted to share and talk with all of you for many, many years. My family and I have tried to talk to folks. But, we are so misunderstood. I appreciate your speaking with me.

WARNNN: How are you feeling? We understand that you have been here for a few years ever since the election of President Obama. How are your spirits? Are you getting by okay?

Whiteness: Things are hard. I am a patriot and I love America so very, very much. But, the economy is doing so badly and I have so many of my people out of work. I am scared, frightened, and really upset. Something is wrong and it needs to be fixed.

WARNNN: I hear you. We have so much in common as Americans. In the black and Latino community for example the unemployment rate is almost 20 percent whereas for white folks it is about 10 percent. That is so bad...

Whiteness: That isn't the issue. Those people are always out of work. America is in a national crisis. Americans, hard working real Americans are struggling out there. This is unacceptable. The system is broken.

WARNNN: I don't mean to be impolitic but I must ask a question.

Whiteness: About me being in this hospital?

WARNNN: Yes. Exactly. How did this happen? What brought you here? In our pre-interview you seemed pretty stable and normal? What happened?

Whiteness: I come from a family with a long history of mental health issues. Our disease is passed down from parent to child. The sickness is funny because there is no predicting when it will manifest. One of my relatives back in the 1600s lived to be more than one hundred years old. Can you believe that? His son lived another hundred or so years. Then low and behold my dad, he died right at the end of the 1960s. Dropped dead. He went mad and just lost it.

I was born on the day he died. I always had issues, you know upset about some stuff, but I was high functioning and making it more or less okay. Then Obama got made President and I snapped. Luckily, some folks close to me got me some help and put me here. But, through the Internet and my cell phone I have been able to keep chatting with folks, making a living, and feeling useful. I feel more or less okay. Yet sometimes, I just am out of it. So upset at everything. I am very grateful for the help I get in the hospital and the meds I receive. But between you and me, in here I don't like those pills and have been cutting back on them.

WARNNN: Is that wise? Are you sure that is a good thing to be doing?

Whiteness: Come closer if you would. Please. I don't see very well. My peripheral vision is a bit shot, and I can really only see things close to me. I want to whisper something in your ear so they can't hear it.

WARNNN. Okay. What is it?

Whiteness: It isn't that I don't like Obama because of his color. I don't see color. I am a conservative. I love the Constitution. Obama's policies are anti-American. He hates this country and wants to destroy it. I am a patriot. I want to save this country. Get it? And you know what? He is half-white. Why doesn't he claim that too!

WARNNN: Well, he self identifies as a black man.

Whiteness: What's your point. He is half-white. I said so. You can't tell me what he is. That is reverse racism! Obama hates white people!

WARNNN: So the fact that the President is a black man has nothing to do with why you, Whiteness, are upset?

Whiteness: Not a damn thing. Nothing at all.

WARNNN: That is so refreshing to hear. Tell me about your family if you would. What of your history? How long were you all in the United States?

Whiteness: I haven't been here long. We are immigrants and came through Ellis Island. My other relatives came with the pilgrims. We never owned slaves. My family fought for the Union against slavery and we never had anything to do with it!

WARNNN: Please calm down. I am confused. This is something I hear alot of. So none of your family was here for the majority of the country's history? And you had nothing to do with slavery? But, you were here at the founding?

Whiteness: Absolutely. The framers were geniuses!

WARNNN: I am confused. Which is it? I mean, when I hear White folks talk about American history no one was ever here when bad things happened. And no one is ever responsible for any of this country's ill deeds? And....

Whiteness: Shut up! I am good. I have value! I don't know why you people are so hard on me. I want to do the right thing and I am always criticized! It isn't fair. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

WARNNN: Okay. Please calm down. I appreciate your honesty. Let's take a step back for a moment.

Whiteness: I would like that. I would like that a great deal, you are so kind.

WARNNN: Please tell me about your relationships, family, friends, other folks.

Whiteness. I am not close to my immediate family. They call them in here to "moderate" my behavior when I "act out." My brother and sister Liberalism and Feminism can be such jerks. Always trying to correct me and make me act the way they think that I should! They are so self-righteous. They have many of the problems I do. But, they will never admit it! They can go right to hell, sanctimonious bastards they are. My cousin Race Traitor is so quiet and smug, always trying to do the right thing. I hate him for it!

WARNNN: What about love and intimacy?

Whiteness: I love black women. I really do. I like Latinas and Asians too. Oh the contrast of the skin, you know how they move, my God! I feel so alive when I am with them. So very real and alive! Have you ever eaten their food or danced with them! Damn. You don't know what you are missing. They have such an amazing culture!

WARNNN: I get you. I understand. Moving on.

Whiteness: Did you know my babysitter as a child was a Latina? My mom's Auntie was a black woman. We loved them so much. Those women loved us more than their own children. Do you know how blessed that makes a person feel! Do you have any idea? The whole world revolving around you and everyone there to love you!

WARNNN: Wow. Share more please.

Whiteness: Mental illness runs in our family. We have had a few doctors that were black people. But they were very impatient and told us things we didn't want to hear. Now I have a black friend who I talk to about things. He is so nice and supportive. Quite validating and kind. But, my psychologist is a White guy. We can be honest with each other. I get upset at times, but I feel like we "get" each other. You know what I mean?

WARNNN: Very much so.

Whiteness: You want to know what really upsets me. I am so inclusive. Me and my family are always inviting new people to join us. We hand down our goodies to whoever is our friend. I get no love for that! It isn't fair. My family has let in so many people over time. Again, no credit. We are not bigots! Some of our best friends are black people, good blacks, you know what I mean?

I feel so put upon sometimes. It is so hard, so very hard being me. Those good minorities help me feel okay, but my life is so unfair and hard. I hurt sometimes. Deep in my heart. I just want to do right and people won't let me.

WARNNN: Why is that? Why do you feel that you are treated badly?

Whiteness: I am oppressed. I try to do the right thing but can never get ahead. I am kind and good. You people always make things worse. If you would just let things go away we would all get ahead. All you do is play the race card and cause trouble. We are all past that racism stuff in America! When was the last time you ever saw the KKK? Never! Not once! When were you a slave! Tell me! When! Stop complaining!

WARNNN: I get you.

Whiteness: Can I show you a magic trick?

WARNNN: Sure you can. I love magic.

Whiteness: I am going to cover my eyes with my hands and then disappear. One, two, three, and poof! I am gone!

WARNNN: I see you.

Whiteness: No you can't.

WARNNN: I do. You are sitting right in front of me.

Whiteness: You people always find a way to see me. Not fair. Not fair. Play nice!

WARNNN: Earlier you said that the election of President Obama was hard on you. Can you please explain?

Whiteness: Of course. First of all he hates white people. Then he gets made President. I can't even get a job now because of him. All I want to do is work. But, Obama hates hard working white people like me and takes away our opportunities with reverse racism and affirmative action. He even has thugs like the New Black Panther Party and this group called Acorn beating up white people. Obama is also in favor of reparations! I never owned slaves! Not fair.

I feel so low and oppressed. This whole country is wrong. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't die so that I could be treated this way. Have you ever heard the "I have a Dream Speech?" What a great Republican King was. He died so that all of us could be free. Do you have any idea what it feels like to be judged based on the color of your skin?

I am White. Right now, everything I do, absolutely everything, causes me to be oppressed because of my color. Dr. King would be so upset by that injustice! He died for me!

WARNNN: I always like to ask folks who I interview about popular culture. What are you reading, watching, listening to at the moment?

Whiteness: I love Fox News. I am reading good books by Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Maulkin, David Barton, Jonah Goldberg, Thomas Sowell, and other smart people. I really liked the movie The Help. The Blindside is a favorite too. On my all time movie list would have to be Mississippi Burning and Driving Miss Daisy. Precious was also great. I used to really like Mad Men. But once the third season started up it was not too pleasant. The classics are great as well--Leave it to Beaver; The Andy Griffith Show; Diff'rnt Strokes; Good Times; Webster; and Friends are really satisfying to me. I liked some of the episodes of The Cosby Show. Not all. But some.

WARNNN: I always end my interviews by asking folks to teach me about something I don't know.

Whiteness: You always talk about this thing you call the White Soul.

WARNNN: You do read what I write. Yes, that is a very important concept in the literature on white racial identity and Jim Crow. What are your thoughts on it?

Whiteness. You are so mistaken. I don't have a soul. I never have.

WARNNN: Honest. Profound. Thank you. I do hope we can speak again.

Whiteness: I do hope so as well.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Pat Buchanan and the Sexual Awakening of Chauncey DeVega



What a catchy title? And what an image...

I have a random question for those of you willing to indulge me for a second.

I very infrequently post on Daily Kos in their diaries section. I do this with shorter pieces or those that could go viral. It is also just good habit to spread work around to bring in different eyes and opinions.

Today, I shared my essay on Pat Buchanan and how the right is playing the black folks be taking white folks' jobs cut the federal government meme. The responses were not on the point and questions I offered. Rather, the comments were focused on the following passage in said piece:

The equivalent to Buchanan's screed would be having sex with a 13 year old teenager who read one of Ann Hooper's sex guides and had no practical field experience with the yoni: He knew all the points to hit; but the young Lothario lacked technique---groping and heated penetration that was frustrating to the degree that it titillated. But it was mighty enthusiastic!

Apparently, I am a perv and deviant for 1) suggesting that 13 year old teenage boys read sex guides and 2) that they want to practice said skills with the objects of their affection/affection/penile throbbings and 3) for using a sexual metaphor to talk about politics.

I know that my writing style is not for everyone. I can move from being deadly serious to darkly satirical on a dime--and often in the same piece. I also have no shame at sharing how as a young lad I would hump the bed Ghostface style as I brought myself to titanic rapture.

I also am not afraid to tell a story about how I once turned down a fun random post local bar roll in the hay with a hot in the pants for Chauncey DeVega's black genius white sister over President Lincoln's views on social equality between the races.

And no, I am not making that one up. We were ready to go to pleasure town and the conversation took an odd turn. You will have to read my autobiography one day to get all of the details (assuming a press will ever publish it).

Ultimately, I try to be real with all of you. I don't think that "punditry" or news analysis has to be boring and always so dry. Mix it up and have fun with it. Most importantly, I make a conscious effort to not take myself that seriously.

[On a related note, there could be a general discomfort with some of the readers at Daily Kos with issues of race more generally. I have heard that from folks, but I am not familiar enough with the site to know for sure]

I am all for corrections and suggestions about style, i.e. how such an allusion could be distracting to readers. But, I remain confused with how some folks could be so tender as to become upset by the thought that young people are sexual beings.

So my friends, was/am I a sex freak ghetto nerd because I read books on how to do the deed? Are those disturbed by a reference to teen sexuality suffering from a sex negative ethos? Is there something odd about me--being critically self-reflective for a moment--that as a function of upbringing and personality type I just don't get all the prudery and religious guilt about going to Space Mountain?

I believe it was either Gore Vidal or George Chauncey who said that Americans are fascinated with sex but remain profoundly immature about sexuality. Those remain wise words.

Tea Party GOP Meme Alert: Destroy the Federal Government Cause It Employs Too Many of "The Blacks!"



Pat Buchanan is the unrepentant voice of the White Racial Id in the Age of Obama...he is so the trend setter and barometer for the Tea Party GOP on issues of race and white racial resentment. For that, I am grateful. Uncle Pat makes doing recon on his team oh so easy, as they hide their wicked pathologies in plain sight.

Last week Pat Buchanan blessed the public with two articles. The first was a great example of poo poo slinging Right-wing head cheese that included almost every talking point from the Right-wing in the Age of Obama. White racial resentment, symbolic racism, white rage, anti-affirmative action, Obama as anti-white, white victimology, yada yada was all there: Thus, I deem "The View from Martha's Vineyard" utterly brilliant.

The equivalent to Buchanan's screed would be having sex with a 13 year old teenager who read one of Ann Hooper's sex guides and had no practical field experience with the yoni: He knew all the points to hit; but the young Lothario lacked technique---groping and heated penetration that was frustrating to the degree that it titillated. But it was mighty enthusiastic!

Pat Buchanan doubled down with his follow up piece, "Obama's Race Based Spoils System."

This is the money shot my friends. One of the old school/new school white angst memes of recent note is that President Barack Obama administers a spoils system for racial minorities. He supposedly hates white people. As a result of his anti-white zeal, Obama has set up a system of institutional "affirmative action" to hand down goodies to the colored folk, goodies which are to the exclusion of hard working white men.

In its most crude White nationalist reading, the time of the Great Recession and Right wing austerity policies will lead to "black uprisings" as the Fed's budget is cut. In Uncle Pat's more sophisticated narrative, the story of "black and brown equals government employees," is a naked dog whistle that the U.S. budget should just be cut because it employs lazy "colored folks" to the disadvantage of "hard working," "real American" whites.

This is the 21st century version of Bacon's Rebellion folks. White elites have long known that they can motivate racially resentful white folks to act against their own class interests through appeals to the psychic wages of white supremacy and white privilege. Moreover, the feigned color blind policies of Conservatism do this work through the language of "small government" and "constitutionalism," what are ultimately ways of talking nasty about black and brown folks without sounding racist.

Conservative wunderkind Lee Atwater said it best and most honestly with his famous quip that:

"You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

But here is my question. Is this new/old narrative of kill the federal government because it employs too many "darkies" just a system artifact, i.e. it exists in the political subconscious of Whiteness and Conservatism and can thus be harnessed without having to use the actual language of race?

Or is the "federal government equals employment for undeserving blacks and minorities" (and others, here meaning you lazy teachers and union members) a top down talking point, where opinion leaders like Buchanan, Fox News, and the Tea Party GOP's leadership filter it gravity-like in a daily message to the foot soldiers of the Right, who then reproduce and disseminate it broadly?

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.