Monday, September 12, 2011
Let's Play the Caption Game: Barack Obama and George W. Bush Together at Ground Zero for the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11
Let's get back to business now that the obligatory 9-11 hangover has passed.
President Obama and former President George W. Bush both visited Ground Zero to commemorate that faithful day of ten years ago. As always given the intensely polarized and partisan political moment that is the Age of Obama, the coincidence of "he who killed Bin Laden" and "he who made Bin Laden a low priority" meeting for the first time on hallowed ground has been fodder for both the pundits and the peanut gallery.
To point: the above image is rich with semiotic possibilities where readers and observers can impose their own narratives and meanings--colored by ideology and standing political predispositions--onto the two leaders.
Thus, the caption game seems a good fit to start our week. I will start:
1. Arrogance in Chief?
2. Do you smell what Barack is cooking?
3. The circle is now complete. When we began I was but the learner, now I am the master...
4. A profile in courage?
5. It doesn't matter if they're black or white.
Your thoughts and suggestions?
Saturday, September 10, 2011
my interview tonight, I have been thinking about the phrase "respectable negroes" and its historical origins. When was its first used in the public press? Is it an idea that has gone out of fashion as the colorline has shifted and racism changed? Is black respectability and the questions surrounding it generational, and young people born in the post Civil Rights moment have a different relationship with blackness than their parents and grandparents, thus the idea of being a race man or race woman is anachronistic to them?
Or has the idea of the politics of black respectability been subsumed by a larger discourse on black pathology and the persistent social "problem" that is the ghetto underclass?
When WARN first began there was some good back and forth on the concept of race pride and black respectability. In fact, working through those questions was the impetus for this project and has, to varying degrees, been the meta-narrative which drives my engagement with questions of race, class, politics, and culture. I fly the flag for black respectability when I take on ign'ts and degenerate street culture. I stand up for negro respectability when I call out the old/new racially driven and infused attacks on President Obama that in many cases are a function of a White imagination in which African Americans are never to be given their due or just acknowledgement for successes outside of either a basketball court or music studio.
Although there are millions of ways to be black, and thus my care to avoid race essentialism, race men and race women still have a role to play as we do the intellectual work of truth tellers and serve as honest critics and referees who are not afraid to call out b.s. whenever, and from wherever, they encounter it.
The NY Times archive is a real gem. Of course, the "giant negroes" stories are great. But, today I have been searching for the phrase "respectable negroes." The results are rich, a real potpourri of (living) social history.
For example, the story with the "Miss Negro Slayer..." in the headline confused me as I thought that said person was a superhero or supervillain who either slays negroes or is a negro who slays the innocent.
These matter of fact stories about ethnic cleansing, wanton violence, and lynchings are unsettling reminders of this country's history and how cheap the lives of black folks were and still are. This piece is especially fascinating both for how it describes the preamble to the violence and the distinction made between "good" blacks and "bad niggers."
And sadly, some of the Times' archived stories are reminders of how far we have yet to go as the conversations about black political economy which took place in the 19th and early 20th centuries are eerily similar to those that are still occurring in through the 21st.
In the midst of stories that are not so uplifting, there are great finds such as this piece on the wealthy negro citizens of New York. The idea of black progress and black success was novel to many white folks in the 19th century...ironically the idea of black accomplishment and wealth remains novel to so many of them--and to no small number of African Americans--in the present.
Here is a choice passage:
You can almost feel this brother smiling across time:
He doesn't need the assistance of white men to run it.
How many black folks can say such a thing today?
More troubling, in the Age of Obama, since the invention of the race card, and the birth of colorblind white racism, such a proud and respectable sentiment would probably be called "racist" by a generation drunk on the lie of false equivalence and Conservative multicultural dreaming.
Sigh and exhale.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega Will be on the Our Common Ground Radio Show Tomorrow Evening
You know I love me some Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The race narrative is deep on that show and often goes uncommented upon. Consider for a moment the following: Where else can you see a white frat boy dirty white baseball hat wearing Master Shake, a responsible African American scientist and inventor named Frylock and a lovable Mexican child with the moniker "Meatwad" all living in communal bliss?
I will be on the blogtalk radio show Our Common Ground with Janice Graham tomorrow, Saturday, September 10th at 10pm Eastern Time. The show has some good history with folks such as Melissa Harris Lacewell (now Perry), Louis Farrakhan, David Neiwart, Matt Taibbi, Mark Anthony Neal, Time Wise and others having appeared there in the past.
The interview will be about 90 minutes or so. I wonder if I can fill that much space with my wind bag mouth utterances and failed efforts at punditry? We shall see. Please feel free to call in. It is always fun to chat with folks who are part of the WARN extended family and you all can make or break any show.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Oh Herman Cain, we love you so. I almost felt bad--for a moment--watching you embarrass yourself on MSNBC after the debate at the Reagan Library.
Like Michael Steele, Clarence Thomas and other black conservatives, Cain is a projection of the stereotypical and incorrect belief by White Conservatives and their supplicants that "affirmative action" promotes less qualified people of color over more qualified white men. Ironically, the Right-wing in America proves their fantasy of black and brown incompetence true at every opportunity with their repeated efforts to put forth "unqualified" upright walking black and brown human chaff who live to give cover to populist Conservatism's most nefarious policies.
If Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh were principled Conservatives they would have called for Herman Cain to step out of the race long ago because he is an "affirmative action candidate" who is taking a space on the Tea Party GOP stage that should be reserved for a more "qualified" white person.
If Herman Cain was a principled Conservative he would step down and admit that he is an "affirmative action baby" who doesn't have the political and intellectual chops to stand with such Tea Party GOP luminaries as Perry, Romney, Bachmann and company.
In sum, Cain is stigmatized by his race, a beneficiary of the soft bigotry of low expectations, and not in a position to succeed because he was tapped on the shoulder by his white benefactors in the Tea Party who wanted a person of a certain color and hue to run for President, and not the most qualified person for the job.
Where is the outrage people? Where is the clamor for justice?
The Challenge of Staying on Message and Obama's Job Speech: Robert McNamara vs. President Obama vs. Drew Westen
The Republican clown car debate at the Reagan Library went as expected. To my eyes, Perry showed himself to be the talking point D student we know him to be. Thus, he quite predictably showed himself to be the favorite son for the Tea Party crowd.
Romney is the establishment candidate that may not be "red" enough.
Herman Cain embarrassed himself with his pizza-like slogan "999" and then his followup interview on MSNBC during which he tried to reconcile his love of States' Rights and how he is a product of The Civil Rights Movement. Tragic and sad and funny.
As I tried to watch a man make sense of the inexplicable and irreconcilable I almost--note almost--felt bad for the king garbage pail kid High Vizier of black conservatives that is Herman "Buckdancing" Cain.
Moving forward, I think that Perry's blood lust on the death penalty (was that howling crowd not disturbing?) and refusal to stand down on what some perceived to be a gaffe on Social Security is a points scored moment with the Tea Party GOP primary crowd. That very fact may hurt him in the general election. We shall see...
At present, I sense a bit of pre-fight atmosphere in the air as the American people await President Obama's jobs speech Thursday evening. Unless he goes more than 300 billion in, and calls out the Republicans for their role in the economy and obstructionism where they put party over country and the Common Good, the Left and Progressives will call it a fail.
It's good to be king--except when you are Barack Obama.
Because of the hurricane, the East Coast earthquake, and other matters, I was delayed in discussing psychologist Drew Westen's much discussed essay in the NY Times, a great piece of work that is well worth keeping in mind as we await President Obama's address to Congress later today.
Reflecting on Westen's concerns in "What Happened to Obama?" about the President's narrative and framing of policy, as well as taking McNamara's advice to heart, I would suggest that one of the President's failings has been his inability to tell a compelling story and to call the Tea Party GOP to account as the bullies and faction they have proven themselves to be.
The most damning passage in Westen's NY Times broadside is the following:
Those were the shoes — that was the historic role — that Americans elected Barack Obama to fill. The president is fond of referring to “the arc of history,” paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But with his deep-seated aversion to conflict and his profound failure to understand bully dynamics — in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time — he has broken that arc and has likely bent it backward for at least a generation.
When Dr. King spoke of the great arc bending toward justice, he did not mean that we should wait for it to bend. He exhorted others to put their full weight behind it, and he gave his life speaking with a voice that cut through the blistering force of water cannons and the gnashing teeth of police dogs. He preached the gospel of nonviolence, but he knew that whether a bully hid behind a club or a poll tax, the only effective response was to face the bully down, and to make the bully show his true and repugnant face in public.
Hopefully, Barack Obama's jobs speech will be a return to his promise as a candidate when compared to the structurally constrained President who has abandoned the power of the bully pulpit in the face of Tea Party GOP harassment, and unthinkably irresponsible behavior that is truly and utterly outside of the boundaries of normal politics.
Westen's piece is a required read. In light of his essay, what are you expecting from President Obama's job speech on Thursday night?
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
How Pulp History Matters: Of Smedley Butler, the Wall Street Coup, the Liberty League and the Tea Party GOP
Here is a fun found item that some of you may find of particular interest.
I rarely shill on this website. When I do endorse something, trust me, it is worth your time.
Sadly, Borders bookstore is closing down. Scavenging about, I have found a few gems as Borders liquidates their warehouses. I am now the proud owner of a collected edition of the iconic Willie and Joe comic strip series (a true find) that is all sorts of ghetto nerd cool. I also came upon the Pulp History series. These graphic novels/books (they are hard to put in a narrow category or box) excavate hidden history in an accessible yet sharp way.
David Talbot's Devil Dog explores the life and times of the legendary Marine Corps General Smedley Butler. His adventures were larger than life. The way that Butler's political conscience developed and his personal ethics demanded that he speak truth to power by exposing American militarism, is an arch of a life that is both enviable and ought to be put on the highest pantheon of this country's true patriots.
From policing Haiti, to fighting in the Boxer Rebellion, to standing up to corrupt politicians and rum runners, Mr. Butler was beloved by his troops, respected by his foes, and came to be feared by the financial and corporate elite.
In the lead up to the aborted 1934 Wall Street coup against President Roosevelt, Butler was approached by a cabal of bankers who wanted him to lead a brown shirt group of thugs that would overthrow of the U.S. government.
They misjudged their mark: General Butler would out the financier cabal.
Devil Dog's discussion of the Wall Street plot caught my eye. Whenever given the opportunity, I make sure to reiterate how the Tea Party and the New Right are part of an old Conservative game that is many decades old. Moreover, the Koch Brothers who are the corporate financiers of the "grass roots" Tea Party movement (and other Right-wing reactionary groups) have a deep family connection to the racist John Birch society.
The rhetoric against Roosevelt by the Right-wing during the 1930s and 1940s was eerily similar to much of what counts as reasonable discourse and a political agenda for Conservatives in the present.
Devil Dog describes how the plotters of the coup against Roosevelt approached Smedley Butler:
He told him that Colonel Murphy, his wealthy employer, was working with a group of other powerful men in the financial and corporate worlds to build a "super organization to maintain democracy." These men the bond salesman said, were increasingly concerned about President Roosevelt's policies, which they considered "socialistic." They were deeply alarmed by how Roosevelt was abandoning the gold standard and increasing the supply of paper money to crate government jobs for the poor. They feared FDR's inflationary policies would shrink their fortunes and bankrupt the nation.
They called him a "traitor to his class"--they said he was taking the country down the same road as Russia. Something drastic had to be done to save America.
Butler was stunned and infuriated by what he was hearing. But he tried to keep his famous temper in check--he needed to know more. What did these people want with him? Butler asked Macguire.
...A couple of weeks before, MacGuire had told Butler that the "super organization" to overthrow the Roosevelt presidency would be announced soon. The Wall Street man predicted that it would be described benignly, as a society "to maintain the Constitution." Now staring at the newspaper in his well-worn armchair, a chill ran up the general's spine.
Eerily familiar, no? I can swear that I have heard similar rhetoric from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and the clown car that is the 2012 GOP Presidential field. There is an irony here. In the 1930s, the gangster capitalists were going to use force to overthrow the government. In the year 2011, force is unnecessary as the financier class purchased the keys to the people's government many decades ago.
There you have it. Once more, history isn't even past, it's yesterday...and today.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Beginning of the Academic Year Conservative Victimology: "Watch Your Mouth Prof, 'Tea Bagger' is a Sexist Word"
Here is a great news item with which to start the new academic year. The Right-wing in America is anti-intellectual. We know this. The populist Tea Party GOP brigands even more so.
Yet, we must not sleep on them: Conservatives have a long plan to reshape the academy by destroying tenure (and by implication academic freedom), making sure to fund think tanks and named chairs which push their economic and political agenda despite any empirical evidence in support of its validity, and to push an agenda of "balance" where (white) conservatives are a new class of "minorities" in need of "affirmative action" on college campuses.
Professional bomb thrower and bully David Horowitz has been building an enemies list for years and the Right-wing thought police have long been policing the discourse on both Palestine as well as other subjects.
That is the genius in the reframing of reality offered by the populist Right--just as they created the myth of the liberal media--the Right-wing's spin doctors and Orwellian propagandists have generated the lie that "higher education" is a space run amok with liberals. The truth is much, much, more complicated than the tired, thin and flat version of events commonly offered by Conservatives. Academia is very conservative and traditional in many ways. It is also moving more rightward as corporate models of "profit and loss" are applied to the liberal arts model of learning in colleges and universities.
Now, I admit it. I have repeatedly called the Tea Party GOP "tea baggers." I have had evaluations where sensitive conservatives have complained that I am "mean" to them and do not validate their views; one student even mentioned my "disrespect" towards the Tea Party as "unacceptable."
Confessing further, I also have described Sarah Palin as a person with a head full of nothing, as well as called out the Right-wing populists as "mouth breathers" and neo-John Birchers during my seminars. The truth hurts I guess.
Maybe, they will come after little old Chauncey DeVega next...not holding my breath.
Pay careful attention to how Mike Adams suggests that right-leaning students should use the very mechanisms which Conservatives once condemned as "identity politics" to further break the system. The New Right and the Tea Party GOP are dangerous and dishonest folks who are capable of anything as long as it serves their ideological ends. Until reasonable centrists, progressives, liberals, and old school principled conservatives understand that reality, they will keep on losing, and losing badly.
How to Harass a Tea Partier
Hello Curtis (Curtis Wright is a conservative talk show host in Wilmington, North Carolina):
I want to thank you personally for forwarding a letter from a student complaining about the extent of political indoctrination that is present in the classroom in the so-called social sciences at UNC-Wilmington. While I found many of her complaints to be minor, I was troubled by one obscene reference to members of the Tea Party, which was allegedly made in class by her political science professor. That, of course, was the reference to members of the Tea Party as “tea baggers.”
There is no need to go into great detail regarding the sexual nature of the term “tea bagger.” It is a term that is simply not used in polite company. It certainly has no place in academic discussions held in political sciences classes in front of a captive audience of college students.
College professors who choose to incorporate terms like "tea bagging" into their lectures have long enjoyed the protection of the First Amendment. In recent years, however, universities have decided that their own harassment codes trump the First Amendment. And that provides us with a unique opportunity to teach the teacher a thing or two about the tension between civil discourse and the First Amendment.
UNC-Wilmington defines sexual harassment as follows:"unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when such conduct constitutes an express or implied condition to another person's academic pursuits, university employment, or participation in activities sponsored by the university or organizations or groups related to the university, or is engaged in for the purpose of interfering with such pursuits, employment, or participation, or creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive environment for such pursuits, employment, or participation."
Obviously, when a male political science professor dismisses a female supporter of the Tea Party as one who enjoys oral sex, he has offended her. And that falls squarely within the university definition of sexual harassment.
The university website further states that: “Harassment at UNCW is taken seriously. Faculty and staff are required to report sexual harassment when it is alleged. Harassment by an employee must be reported to UNCW Human Resources and harassment by a student should be reported to the Office of the Dean of Students.”
The Associate Provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Jose Hernandez, has been forwarded an email, from a female student, expressing her concerns about the use of the term “tea baggers” in the classroom. Therefore, it is now his responsibility to move forward with an investigation against the professor who has allegedly been using this term in the classroom. I’m sure that the female student feels excluded by hearing obscene sexualized references to her and those who share her political beliefs.
There could be more bad news for professors who like to insult students in the classroom by using obscene references. Recently, the Obama administration issued an order to all universities who receive financial aid from the federal government. Under the order, they are mandated (a patriarchal term if I have ever heard one) to employ a “preponderance of evidence” standard in all campus sexual harassment and sexual assault cases. This means that professors referring to female students as “tea baggers” can be found liable even if the accuser demonstrates that the accusations are only “probably” true.
Using the “probably” standard rather than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” makes it easier to convict the guilty. But it also makes it easier to convict the innocent. The Obama administration seems to be equally comfortable with both prospects. Furthermore, if universities refuse to employ the lower standard they will lose all federal funding, including all student financial assistance.
The time has come for conservative students to take the gloves off and start fighting campus indoctrination by turning the weapons of the left against the leftists themselves. By taking my advice and using the “harassment” mechanism, one of two things is guaranteed to happen:
1. We can get rid of scores of leftist professors who create a climate of “intimidation” and “offense” in the classroom.
2. We can enlist the help of campus leftists in restoring the standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” in campus sexual assault and sexual harassment cases.
Either way, this should prove to be a win-win situation. Our Founding Fathers would be proud. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention, Curtis. It will soon be brought to the attention of the general administration as well as the general public.
Nouveau Blaxploitation: A Buckdancing Rogues Gallery of Black Conservatives Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of White Populist Tea Party America
Continuing with a theme as we get the week going.
I am rendered speechless by these clowns. I heard about the above meeting, but only recently has it become available on a consistent basis online.
Are these black supplicants deranged? Are they confused? Self-interested utility maximizing getting paid rational actors? Possessed of Whiteness and false consciousness?
I often mention it because the experience was so revealing, but the White supremacist I hung out with one evening several years back shared something with me that I have heard echoed by others who are more polite in their investment in whiteness--White folks, for the most part, don't respect Uncle Tom bootblacks. They use them, but they mock them in private.
Does the rogues gallery that is modern day Black Conservative slave drivers understand this reality as they get on their knees and offer political fellatio to the Great White Father?
In all, the pledge of allegiance by the black conservative rogues gallery to reactionary White Conservatism is so surreal that it belongs in the exploitation "classic" Goodbye Uncle Tom:
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
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.
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.
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 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
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.