Monday, September 5, 2011
Labor Day Laughter: H.K. Edgerton, Black Confederate Dunce Performing for White Confederate Veterans Association
Sunday, September 4, 2011
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.
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.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Jim Crow Dreaming: Rush Limbaugh Revels in the Joy of the Tea Party GOP Putting Barack Obama "in His Place"
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?
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.
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
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.
An Exclusive Interview with "Whiteness," Senior Adviser to the Tea Party GOP and Governor Rick Perry
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
What a catchy title? And what an image...
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
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.
“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.
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!”
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
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?
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?
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.