Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The White Racial Frame in Action: Black Folks are Winning in the Great Recession Because Their Unemployment Rate is "Only" 27.4 Percent

Are you always complaining negroes happy now? White folks in suburbia are suffering more than they have in recent memory during this, our time of the Great Recession.

How did you black folks find a way to turn this situation to your advantage? It must be President Obama and his special racial set asides which have helped you all over-perform in this down economy.

So selfish you are...

But more seriously, who writes this sort of tripe? And how can they do it with a straight face?

The white racial frame is real folks. Here is more proof.

From CNBC:

Welcome to the Suburban Depression

The prolonged economic slump we've been in since before the financial crisis really is different than recent recession experiences, especially when it comes to those who now live in poverty.

The official U.S. poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5 percent. Following the calamities of 2008 it climbed upward and kept climbing. By 2009, the rate was 14.3 percent. In 2010 it went to 15.1 percent, according to U.S. Census data reviewed by Pro Publica.

There has not been so large a portion of Americans in poverty since 1993. But this time the growth in poverty is different, hitting whites and suburbia harder than it did during the early 1990s slump. African Americans, by contrast, appear to be doing better.

The poverty rate for whites was 13 percent in 2010. That compares to 12.2 percent in 1993, according to the Census Bureau.

The suburban poverty rate is 11.8 percent, a level not seen since 1967.

African Americans appear to be faring relatively better than they did in the early 1990s. In 1993 the poverty rate for African Americans reached 33.1 percent. Last year it was 27.4 percent.

It's not entirely clear why African Americans are faring so much better in this recession than in the last, at least in terms of poverty. It may be that social and economic progress in the intervening years has left African Americans less vulnerable to economic downturns.

A key factor in the rise in suburban poverty may be the fact that the housing market has played such a central role in the economic slump.

Many suburbs have seen a vast amount of wealth erased by declining housing markets and mortgage foreclosures, resulting in a great deal of economic dislocation. Since white Americans are more likely to own homes than African Americans, this could also explain why whites have fared worse than they did in the 1990s while African Americans have fared better.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

They are a Death Cult: How the Tea Party GOP is the Poltergeist of American Politics

They cheer at the thought of an uninsured person dying. They cheer at the thought of State sponsored murder. In all, the 2012 Tea Party Republican debates have revealed that they are a death cult, a cabal of ghouls.

Some observers were shocked and surprised by the behavior of the Tea Party Republicans and its supporters during the primary debates. Others have complained that CNN's surrender of air time to the Tea Party is a compromise of journalistic ethics.

I would suggest that to the latter, CNN performed a public service by providing a window into the Tea Party Republican soul. And to the former, there should be no surprise here: in the Age of Obama, contemporary Conservatism has surrendered itself to a particularly virulent, dystopian, and pathologically hyper-individualist state of nature, "all against many," type of populist Right-wing ideology.

From the proclamations of Republican officials that the unemployed are poor because they lack spirit and drive, an Orwellian political vocabulary of "job creators" and "non-productive citizens," opines that poor people in America have it relatively easy (thus austerity politics ought not to be that painful), and a belief that the social safety net (basic programs such as Social Security and unemployment insurance) has destroyed the United States and made people "lazy," contemporary Conservatism has fully embraced a politics that are utterly and totally bereft of human empathy.

My claim that the Republican Party is a death cult demands some explication and transparency.

"Cult" is a signal to the narrow thinking and state of epistemic closure that has come to dominate conservative politics. As I have suggested elsewhere, populist Conservatism is also colored by an unflappable instinct that faith should be the guiding principle in political decision making--what is a belief in the unprovable--that fuels a theocratic vision of public policy under the umbrella of Christian Nationalism and Dominionism.

Because the Tea Party GOP's foot soldiers, as well as the Bachmanns, Palins, Perrys, and Cains believe a thing to be true--often in the face of all available evidence and data on the subject--it must in turn be as they imagine. Reality must always bend to their will: the anti-intellectualism of populist Conservatism demands that the facts are to be damned; empirical reality is to be discounted as some type of plot by the mainstream media, "liberals," or "elites."

The cultish behavior of the Republican Party is made manifest by a rigidly orthodox political ideology. Those who do not pray at the mantle (and in the approved position) are labeled heretics. Any conservative who challenges the far Right agenda or believes in pragmatism and normal politics, i.e. working with President Obama and the Democrats in the interest of the Common Good, is labeled a traitor.

Likewise, those who dare to suggest that taxes should be increased on the wealthiest Americans to increase revenue, or that the government has a role to play in providing some relief during the worst economy since the Great Depression, are cast out of the tribe for daring to utter words and hold ideas that are verboten to the high acolyte "true believers" in the Republican Party.

The "death" in my use of the phrase "death cult" is both literal and symbolic. The symbolic aspect works in a number of ways. First, it is present in the Right's support for rampant militarism abroad and how the Tea Party GOP has skillfully used the "national security" narrative, the mass public's fear of terrorism, and an almost pornographic appeal to the tragedy of September 11th to seduce low information conservative voters and Independents into supporting their political agenda.

Second, "compassionate" conservatives are against extending basic income supports and humanitarian assistance to the neediest Americans. As recent data suggests, poverty leads to death and a diminished life span. When the Tea Party Republicans stand against food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and other programs for those displaced by the Great Recession, through actions both direct and indirect, they are in fact killing people.

The literal embrace of death by the Tea Party Republicans works as follows. When supporters of the Republican Party howl that they "want to take their America back" they are signaling to an America that is dead and gone. Their halcyon colored Leave it to Beaver dreams of a country where Whiteness was unchallenged and central in all things, and where "those people" stayed out of the way (or were preferably either invisible or fully subservient to the whims of white folks) is gone.

With immigration, the "browning of America," and a black President, the white racial frame is upset. The cognitive map of the Tea Party Republican faithful is forced to deal with the unthinkable--that in some impossible way they could be marginalized in "their own" country. Of course, this is untrue. But the fear is real and palpable.

The death of American Empire is a close cousin to the death of the Tea Party Republicans' memory of a country that never really was. America is facing unprecedented challenges from China. We rank increasingly low on educational attainment, class mobility, health care, and other measures. Where we are exceptional, in our debt and military spending on a bloated imperial project, the United States looks more like the British at the turn of the 20th century, a country in decline and struggling to manage how to fall with grace as opposed to in a hellish crash.

The Tea Party base is also quite literally dying. Although the fancy social science phrase is "generational replacement," the reality is that the Tea Party is overwhelmingly comprised of white Americans who are much older than the general public. As America changes and they walk off into the sunset to receive their just rewards, the political values and beliefs which are a product of a political moment long past will quite likely become less of a force in American politics. Death for the Tea Party Republicans is a fact that lives in the present.

Ultimately, the sum effect of death's role in the political ideology of the Tea Party Republicans is akin to that of the five stages of grief. They are stuck in the anger stage of the process: the Tea Party has not yet moved on to the step that is "acceptance."

Tea Party Republicans are brought to a mouth frothing rage and madness by fictions such as Birtherism and a belief that whites are oppressed in the Age of Obama because a black man is President. They rage about "class warfare" but look at unions, the working class, and the poor as the causes of America's economic calamity as opposed to the kleptocrats and the rich who have benefited from one of the most maldistributive economies in the world. In their eyes, government is the problem and never the solution. The State is to be torn down by secession and revolt. Tea Party GOP is angry about everything, but they do not know how to transform that energy into productive behavior and good governance.

There is an additional metaphor at work in my suggestion that the Tea Party GOP is a death cult. Despite claims to the contrary, the Tea Party is not a grassroots movement. They are funded by corporate interests such as the Koch brothers. These conservative corporate elites who drive the faux populism of the New Right are acting as the hand on the Ouija board, a group of necromancers who play with death as channeled through the Republican Tea Party.

In their Thanatos game, the corporate Right has unleashed a force that the mainstream of the Republican Party is not able to fully control. The Tea Party is extremely unpopular and their lack of acceptance by the American people is damaging the future electoral fortunes of the Republican Party as a whole.

Or stated differently, the Tea Party is the poltergeist of American politics. It is angry and destructive. The Tea Party poltergeist was summoned up by a crisis of faith, a decline in America's standing in the world, and a system shock brought about by the combination of the Great Recession, failed misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as poor political leadership at home.

Some have suggested that American politics is suffering from an autoimmune disease: the Republican Party's abandonment of normal politics is a symptom of this illness. I do my best to avoid eliminationist rhetoric. Unlike populist conservatives I try not to call my political foes a "sickness" or a "virus" to be destroyed. Nor do I suggest that conservatives are possessed of a mental illness that ought to be cured.

However, I do think that Americans in this political moment are witness to a crisis in spirit and an existential malaise. We are a country in pain. We as a people are angst-ridden. The Ayn Randian dream of the Tea Party GOP, the death cult that they are, is not a solution to the challenges America faces in the 21st century.

The goal of Republicans and populist conservatives in the present is a victory at all costs, one that is Pyrrhic and couched in the language of a glorious struggle or a political holy war, right-wing jihad, and free-market austerity crusade. Consequently, an exorcism is the only viable solution to this abhorrent type of abnormal politics by the Tea Party GOP, one brought about by their fixation on the politics of death. The Tea Party Republicans will cheer death, just as they did during the last two debates. And the Tea Party will bring the roof down upon us all as their poltergeist-like politics works to destroy the common good.

The challenge for liberals, progressives, pragmatists, and reasonable conservatives is how to reclaim life, and by doing so America's future, from the jaws of the death cult that is the populist-infused Republican Party.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Tuesday Mystery: Is the "It's Free Swipe Your EBT Video" a Product of the Military Industrial Complex? To What End Does this Nefarious Plot Lead?

What fun for a Tuesday!

Matlock was meh. But, I used to love me some Murder She Wrote. I also liked Perry Mason...even more so once I found out that Raymond Burr was a fem cross-dresser.

On Alternet, a commenter noted that Christopher A. Jackson, the producer of the "It's Free Swipe Yo EBT" music video, is the owner of a military apparel company with (obvious) ties to the DOD. As you go down the rabbit hole, he is also connected to a shell company/false front op called CIA Records which apparently backed the project and then went "black" and "off board."

Initially, I would have bet money that some far Right Conservative group such as Family Leader had funded this welfare queen "satire." Instead, it could be that Christopher Jackson is in the same proverbial building, but just has a different office number.

[Interesting random factoid on Conservative foolishness and the black community: Herman Cain voiced the "brother" who opposes "snuffing his seeds, toot sweet" in this comically horrid "how the Republican Party can save black people and marriage" campaign ad.]

Let's crowd source this one. If any of you with more technical skills and insight into these matters than me can dig something up on the backers of the "It's Free Swipe Yo EBT" video by all means please pass it along. If one of you is particularly skilled with Photoshop and can generate an overwrought diagram which connects all of the dots in the EBT video puzzle in a manner akin to the JFK conspiracy that too would be appreciated.

Who knows? Maybe this video is the Willie Lynch letter of our time? Could it be a twisted conspiracy that explains all things wrong in the black community? A nefarious plot to create a dependent class by launching an assault on our subliminal mindstates?

I do wonder what Brother X-Squared would say about these developments. I just may have to ask him...

Righting American Political Culture and History: The Party of Lincoln Becomes the Party of Jackson

Werner Herzog's Bear, one of my friends and a frequent guest poster here at WARN has a gem of a piece (it is efficient, dense, and nuanced) on his new site Notes from the Ironbound that you should all check out. Yes, that is a poorly parsed sentence as you should 1) both go to his new website and 2) also read and circulate his newest post that I am shilling for here.

I have a few other guest posts forthcoming this week which all lead to my sharing a good to and fro with a colorblind racist. I have teased our exchange for a bit. Events interfered with my posting the dialogue. I will make a remedy soon enough.

Werner's analysis of the Tea Party GOP's place in American political culture and their misunderstanding of their own wellsprings is spot on. More importantly, he is one of the best academics writing about politics and culture in the blogging game right now. I don't promote lazy and raggedy folks so you know that Werner is on point, and he certainly deserves a much wider audience. Werner's only sin is not writing enough...which I hope that he will correct soon enough.

His essay follows:

The Party of Lincoln Becomes the Party of Jackson

I recently read Gore Vidal's Burr, something I'd been meaning to do for years, and now I've got early American history on the brain.

The Tea Party and others on the political right are big on swearing their allegiance to the Constitution and the Founders, but are typically pretty vague when it comes to the details. The main reason, of course, it that when they say "Constitution" and "Founders" they mean faith in a political Bible and its patriarchs. They possess beliefs founded in belief itself, rather than reason or any knowledge of history.

That tendency to reduce politics to religion is why Enlightenment thinkers on the order of Franklin, Madison, and Jefferson would cringe in horror at the Tea Party's illiteracy and wild-eyed evangelicalism. Franklin was famously comsopolitan, and in his later life was more at home in Paris than Philadelphia, unlike today's uber-patriots who seem proud of their provincialism. Madison warned of the dangers of political factions taking over the levers of power, and evinced a strong desire to keep populism at bay.

Although modern day Tea Partiers might appreciate his small government inclinations, Jefferson advocated a wall of separation between church and state. To top it all off, George Washington was a committed Federalist who tried to increase the power of the federal government, especially in his decision, at Alexander Hamilton's prompting, to assume the debts the states incurred during the Revolution. Ron Paul he was not.

Yet the GOPers still claim fealty to the Founders. Perhaps they do, but to the wrong figures. Our contemporary right-wing populism owes little to the founders, who mostly disdained popular participation in politics, and much more to the Jacksonian era. (This is of course highly ironic, since Jackson is one of the founders of the Democratic party!) Unlike the Enlightenment thinkers of the founding generation, Jackson and his ilk cared little for deep thought.

In fact, they disdained it, and saw intellectual pursuits as inherently suspicious. After all, how dare those pointy-headed know it alls tell us what's right and what's wrong? Whenever I hear mainstream candidates for president deny global warming and evolution, I think of Old Hickory in all of his bigoted ignorance, especially his destruction of the Bank of the United States against all evidence of its necessity.

Jackson's decision helped bring on the Panic of 1837, just as the misbegotten economic religion of supply side has left us with an impoverished middle and working class unable to spend the money needed to restart the economy. Like their dark ancestor, modern Republicans replicate Jackson's provincialized nationalism, in which the only people who count are "real Americans."

And last but not least, they recall his bloody-mindedness. Jackson was famous in his day for his willingness to take lives, from those of his own soldiers to a man he shot to death in a duel to the Cherokee who perished in the ethnic cleansing known as The Trail of Tears. Recently modern day Republicans have made headlines by baying for blood at presidential debates, from the cheers for Rick Perry's bloody record of executions (including a man, Cameron Todd Willingham, who was most likely innocent) and urging that those without health insurance be thrown on the dung heap to die.

I'd like to think that the dark spirit of America's historical id could be exorcised, but in a culture where consumer is king and criticizing popular tastes, no matter how idiotic and debased, meets with the strictest condemnation, Jackson's ghost will remain with us. Whenever there are fearful white people who want to maintain their privileged position and beat down on others to do it, he will be there. As long as the Tea Party continues to stoke the flames of racial resentment, he will be there. Truth be told, Old Hickory's bigoted, violent, provincial, illiterate nature will always resonate with more Americans than the reasoned Enlightenment worldview of the Founders.

Friday, September 16, 2011

On a Broken Health Care System, Ron Paul, Tea Party Ghouls, and a Man With 150lb Testicles

I can't laugh. I simply can't.

I do wonder though, how the ghouls at the Tea Party GOP debate on Monday who laughed at the thought of someone dying for lack of insurance would react to a man who has received criminally negligent care for his 150 pound testicles?

I also wonder what would have transpired if the moderators at the CNN debate had asked Ron Paul about care for an unlucky person whose genitals are so enlarged that he can barely leave the house? Would the charities and churches step up to help John, he who is plagued with edema of the testes?

Universal health care is a human rights issue. It is also a basic issue of economic efficiency where Americans receive some of the worst health care in the advanced industrialized world while spending the most for treatment.

To point, do check out John's entire interview on the Howard Stern. His experience is an ideal typical case that exemplifies all that is wrong with America's broken health care system.

When I hear stories such as this, it is abundantly clear that we are truly a laughing stock.

In all, I struggle to understand the following: how can the flag waving American exceptionalism crowd not feel any embarrassment and lower their heads in shame at the sorry state of medicine in these United States?

I have long known the answer.

Empathy is not a standing prior for Conservatives. Their reaction to the neediest, the most vulnerable, and the poor is proof of that fact. While Conservatives are fond of crowing about a truism which suggests that folks like them give the most to charity, I have long realized that such acts of "generosity" are vainglorious deeds of self-affirmation and not part of a principle of mutual aid and support in the interest of the Common Good.

Am I wrong?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm Tired of Sharing the Most Racist Things That Have Happened to Me, Are You?

Hello, I'm Chauncey DeVega from the blog We Are Respectable Negroes and I am making a study of black people's experiences with racism...

Noted author and journalist Toure has conducted a parallel project with his book Whose Afraid of Post-Blackness? But he is much more patient than I am:
I asked my 105 interviewees, What is the most racist thing that has ever happened to you? The response I received most often was indicative of modern racism: The answer is unknowable. "I imagine it'd be a thing I don't even know ever happened," Aaron McGruder said. "It would be that opportunity that never manifested and I'll never know that it was even possible."
A decision is made in a back room or a high-level office, perhaps by someone you'll never see, about whether or not you get a job or a home loan or admission to a school. Or perhaps you'll never be allowed to know that a home in a certain area or a job is available. This is how modern institutional racism functions and it can weigh on and shape a black person differently than the more overt, simplistic racism of the past did.
In the post-Civil Rights era and the Age of Obama, a large portion of the public imagination views racism as the stuff of mean words and small minds. Racism is an anachronism. The Klan doesn't ride through the streets killing black people anymore; multiculturalism is now a lengua franca for the Generation X Millennial crowd; ultimately, racism is dead because there is a man who happens to be black in the White House.

The reality is much more challenging. Race still structures life chances for people of color. White privilege remains real into the 21st century as a type of property, material right, and psychological investment for white Americans.

But allowing for these facts, Americans still lack a vocabulary for speaking in a sophisticated and nuanced way about racism. Moreover, they also have a void in their cognitive map, one that obviates any capacity for seeing how structures and institutions impact opportunity as 1) Americans historically describe themselves as being middle class (both millionaires and the underclass alike); and 2) many still believe that the Horatio Alger myth is real, even while the wealth gap widens and class mobility has greatly decreased and hardened in this, our time of Great Recession.

In all, these factors buttress an appeal to the oft-heard phrase that all we need is a "national conversation on race" to finally slay the bugaboo of racism.

From the beer summit, to "teachable moments," and the omnipresence of multiculturalism and diversity programs in schools and workplaces, there is a persistent belief that some type of talk therapy will cathartically free the United States from the lingering shadows of white supremacy and make Dr. King's dream real.

Here is the misdirection: Americans have been talking about race for centuries. The result of this difficult dialogue has in some ways been transformative. In others ways, this national conversation on race has resulted in quite a bit of wasted time and energy. People of color have been talking back to Whiteness for centuries; Whiteness chooses either not to listen or to selectively hear that part of the exchange which is both most self-satisfying and self-legitimating. As one would reasonably expect, a unidirectional conversation can become a bit exhausting after more than just a few decades.

Toure's piece in the Atlantic is useful here where he continues that:
"The most racist experience you have," said Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, "is the one that's worst, and the one that's worst is usually the one that transforms the way you look at the world." These moments of suddenly discovering the pain and lack of status and power that attends being black is what comedian Paul Mooney refers to as "a nigger wake-up call."
Skip Gates calls them "the scene of instruction" and he says they exist in classic black autobiographies from slavery to recent days. "For W.E.B. Dubois it was a little girl who wouldn't take his Valentine card," Gates said.
"For James Weldon Johnson in Autobiography of an Ex‑Colored Man it was when the teacher said, 'Would all the white scholars stand up,' and he stands up and she goes 'No, you can sit down.' It's always a moment of trauma. There's always something lacking, a deprivation that makes you realize what being black means."
[A question: is this an experience, one that those not of the Other--for a moment or a lifetime--can ever "get?"]

When people of color share their personal experiences with racism a routine in colorblind, pluralist America is enacted, one wherein the struggles to overcome the brutality and limitations imposed by white supremacy and the colorline have (quite rightly) been framed as a badge of national honor. The obsession with talking--if even in a tired ritual--about national problems is a function of a faith in consensus based politics, and a belief that reasonable people can participate in a discourse that produces a sensible outcome.

Stated more simply, where matters of identity are concerned, if "we" could just "understand" each other, things would inevitably have to get better.

It takes courage to share nakedly, with vulnerability, and with honesty. I would suggest that it does not take much courage to listen fairly. Likewise, when black and brown folks share our pain with the white public in a confessional about how racism has caused hurt (as well as substantive material, economic, and physical harm), it often serves as a detour from serious talk about power, institutions, and privilege--and what real justice would look like.

I appreciate Toure's project. But, I am also made quite tired by how black and brown folks have to share our experiences with white supremacy and racism in order to receive acknowledgement and validation of those experiences from white folks (and some others) by "educating" them about the realities of race in America.

History echoes. There was a scripted moment during the anti-slavery rallies held by Abolitionists where there would be a great reveal, a living, human example of the evils of white supremacy and the peculiar institution's gross wickedness. In that ritual, an escaped slave would take off his or her clothing in order to show the scars caused by the whip, the blade, or other foul instrument to the horror of all in attendance. The "what has racism done to you moment" in the post-Civil Rights era feels like a continuation of that script, but one with a far less generous, invested, and accepting audience.

For those sincere about true and substantive social justice, the "please tell me about racism/sexism/other ism moment" is also an error in tactics: it still plays to the veto power of the privileged and the in-group, where for every honest ear there are many more who want you, the sharer, to tell a story which they, the listener can't wait to invalidate for reasons of their own investment in the status quo and/or a belief that most people are "good" and all that "ism" talk is so much chaff and belly aching.

The script is consistent:

"You were overreacting." "It can't possibly be that bad." "How do you know that was their intent?" "I go through stuff like that all the time, what is the big deal?" "If you expect to see racism, you will find it, you need to just relax." And of course the classic, "you are being too sensitive!"

Here, the common refrain is that empathy and sympathy are dependent on sharing, or that communicating one's experiences are a prerequisite and prior for confronting challenging issues of social policy. And how can we make the world a better place if there are no efforts to talk about personal subjects across lines of human difference and identity?

In the year 2011, many of those white folks who are being spoken to just don't care to listen anymore, except when it is to borrow a lazy script where they discover "reverse racism," minimize the experiences of non-whites with prejudice and bigotry, or to steal Dr. King's radical vision and struggle for their own Right-wing, in defense of Whiteness, populist Conservative agenda.

In post-racial America, a country in which some white folks absurdly claim that they are now "oppressed" by people of color and Barack Obama, the black folk racism confessional just doesn't have any zing or punch left to it.

Sorry folks, I just can't play along anymore. Those white folks on the right side of history have already heard the message and come along. Those others are deaf of ear, and there is nothing you can say to win them over.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When Conservatives Say They Want "Limited Government" This is What They Mean: Behold the Ugliness of "It's Free Swipe Yo EBT"

When Conservatives scream at the moon about the "evils of big government" this is what they mean...

One of the enduring debates in American politics since the emergence of neo-liberal, colorblind political discourse in the late 1970s and early 1980s--and its skillful deployment by the dream merchants and propagandists on the Right--has been the degree (if any) that white racial resentment drives what are ostensibly "race neutral" policy positions.

Ignoring for a moment Lee Atwater's naked confession on the matter, rank and file former Reagan Democrats, suburban swing voters, and today's Tea Party GOPers would bristle in defense at the suggestion that race or racism plays any role at all in their disdain for "big government."

To Conservatives, such an argument is bizarre and strange: How could tax cuts and government rollbacks have anything at all to do with racism or racial resentment? These are just "common sense" solutions that benefit all Americans regardless of their color. Moreover, to even suggest that racism may have anything to do with the drive to implement broad austerity policies which work to gut public services is itself "racist," and further evidence of "identity politics" and "class warfare" by Liberals and Progressives against well-intentioned Conservatives.

Of course, the evidence suggests otherwise. The chants of "take our country back" beg the response "from who?" The narrative of "real America" plays on xenophobia towards non-whites, and a fear of how some type of Other is always at the gates, ready and willing to steal the hard earned just rewards of the (white) American middle class. Ultimately, in a previous year the fixation would have been on Reagan's mythical welfare queens or nefarious "quotas" and "affirmative action" programs that deny white men job opportunities.

In the Age of Obama and the Great Recession, the designated Other is the alien in the White House who happens to be black, Muslims, Hispanic immigrants, public unions, and those who are not Christian Nationalists--the latter category being a group of people who are de facto outside of the grand tradition of American exceptionalism and pro-ordained greatness left to the People by the Christ loving founding fathers.

"It's Free Swipe Yo' EBT" is a sharp lens that embodies much of the Conservative imagination on questions of public policy and "small government." As demonstrated by the 2012 Republican presidential debates, the questions and working assumptions that go unstated among a political community (tax cuts are a cure for economic dilemmas; "unproductive" Americans who are not "job creators" are in fact "leeches" and "parasites" to be expunged from the body politic; America is a Christian Nation and faith matters above all else in matters of public policy) are at least as revealing as those which are stated openly (sick people should be left to die if they don't have insurance; cheers at the idea of executing people; a fetish-like fascination with womenfolk's reproductive organs).

In much the same way, when the Right talks about small government they are in fact thinking about "It's Free Swipe Yo' EBT" and the song's debased caricatures of black women and baby boy black man children who spread their seed all over urban communities like a leaky misdirected faucet in a Depression era flophouse.

In all, what reasonable person wouldn't want to cut off such people from the government tit?

But here the facts, as they often do, get in the way. First, the welfare queen looms large, but she is never White--the latter being the majority of folks on the public dole. Said obsession with limited government and waste seems to exist outside of a reality where welfare was radically changed by the Clinton Administration and "It's Free Swipe Yo' EBT" seems in need of a Welfare to Work remix.

In addition, there is no outrage over corporate fraud of the American tax payer, hedge fund managers who pay little to no taxes in the new Gilded Age, billions of dollars in waste by the military industrial complex, economic supports and tax breaks for the suburban upper and middle classes, tax breaks for the rich which exasperate income inequality and prolong the Great Recession, or the rise of a national security and terror apparatus that functions as an extra legal Leviathan.

The role of race in Conservatism's rhetoric of small government is revealed both by how specific its color arousal syndrome is (at the Other and rarely if ever towards Whiteness) as well as its capacity for misdirection (never at the big players who are actually working against the Common Good and subverting the economy).

Those who sympathize with the human story caricaturized by "It's Free Swipe Yo EBT" are also in a trap as well. To deny the reality spoken to by the song is to deny the Occam razor test for the human capacity to game the system. Good people are good people regardless of class. Bad folks are bad folks regardless of social location. Resources and social structures provide the incentives and opportunities to maximize one's goals--however dishonest, crooked, outside of the lines of propriety, or advantage seeking they may be.

Most certainly, there are women straight out of central casting who view food stamps and public assistance as a credit card of sorts and raise their children to believe that receiving support from the State is a "job" to be aspired to, a career to invest in. Likewise, they have twins in "respectable circles" who broke this country's economy by advocating for irresponsible tax cuts for the very richest Americans, embracing robber baron capitalism, and gutted the American middle class through financial crookery.

Their crimes are different by orders of magnitude. That fact is irrelevant. Herein lies the rub: Colorblind Conservatism looks at the former with immediate suspicion and disdain, while the latter looks back in the mirror and is greeted with a smile. In all, everyone's sin should be nobody's sin...except if you are poor and black and female, for then you are expected to be more noble and good than the White public at large.

Ironically, as adherents to a philosophy built upon unrepentant selfishness one would think that Conservatives would be more sympathetic towards the welfare queens and others who live to game the system.

Greed is good? Is it not? Or maybe just for "us" and not for "them?"

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

Who are We? Of "Respectable Negroes" and the New York Times Archive

As I prepare for 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

A Tea Party GOP Affirmative Action Fail: Herman Cain's Epic Incompetence Exposed on MSNBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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