Wednesday, October 5, 2011
"Joe Feagin is not nice to white people, how is he going to win us over? ""Jane Elliot is mean to white people, what is wrong with her?"
Those are two questions from my class on Race and American politics which I am teaching this quarter. I like sharing these pedagogical moments with you all as so much of what we talk about regarding race and politics here on WARN--and in other moments more generally--can be traced back to what students are learning (or not) in the classroom. We make citizens in our schools; thus, the tin eared responses to white racism in the Age of Obama and a drunken ideology of conservative colorblindness that offers nothing, and masks almost everything, can often be traced right back to those spaces.
As a black guy who teaches courses on race I am always impressed by the candor of my students. Quite a few don't want to engage for fear of "saying the wrong thing." Generally, and with good speed, folks pick up on the fact that my courses are not some version of the Oprah Winfrey Show. I am not interested in having an encounter session. My goals are direct: read the texts, process the claims, and apply the theory.
Public feelings and personal moments of transformation are entertaining; they generally don't have a place in my seminars. Nevertheless, and while only a journeyman, I still remain surprised by the vulnerability and honesty of the white students in my classes. As one of their few non-white lecturers I can become their personal confessor. I am also a flagellating truth teller. Many stay for the punishment and want more. Others run away.
Here, there are a few moments that have repeated themselves. First, white students hate sister Jane Elliot. There is a revulsion at how she brings the heat and holds white folks accountable for their racism and prejudice.
The second is more curious: many students (mostly white, but a few of color) get upset at Dr. Joe Feagin's analyses of white racism as a societal organizing concept. Inevitably, he is described as "mean" to white people. Feagin apparently "doesn't want to win them over."
I smile and respond that the history of white supremacy and the institutional legacies of white racism are not nice. Moreover, some history is just ugly and should be presented as such. Most importantly--and this upsets quite a few white students--few authors in any field sit back and ask "how will my argument make people of color feel? Will it hurt their feelings?" Consequently, why should you be extended the courtesy?
On a meta level I will never stop shaking my head at the vulnerability of Whiteness. Its owners and practitioners have the world oriented around them. Whiteness is one of the greatest inventions in human history. White folks can gain all of the advantages of white supremacy in post-Civil Rights America and can wash their hands of it, all the while being able to play the "reverse racism" defense when the reality of white racism is called out for what it is.
Whiteness seems so durable. Its owners and practitioners so weak. How could this be? Perhaps, this duality is one of the secrets to how Whiteness and white privilege have endured for so long?
The revulsion of some at the truth of white racism is an example of white privilege in action where how dare someone deviate from the white racial frame and turn the lens inward, upsetting White priors, White beliefs, and a White sense of nobility and innocence.
There are also students who pleasantly surprise you with their directness. While some would be offended, I am intrigued by a student who submitted a list of questions to me after a class on race and life chances. He is a bold one; I think he should be commended even as his directness would be off-putting to some.
Said student asked me the following:
1. As a black American, assuming you consider yourself "black" and an "American" are you "thankful" that you were given a "traditional" "non-black" name rather than one that is stereotypically "black?"
2. Do you think having a "black" name would have impacted your career?
3. If you are dealing with a white person who is really ignorant about racism how do you tell them this?
So let's work through this together. How would you respond to these questions? Alternatively, is there something problematic about these questions to begin with? Is said student operating from a position of white privilege where he feels empowered to query a black professor in such a personal manner?
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
It Only Took a Few Hours Folks: Herman Cain Buckdances, Apologizes to Rick Perry, and Performs Political Fellatio on His White Masters
Herman Cain is no Morehouse man. He never was. Rather, Herman Cain is all balls and no shaft...to quote the immortal cartoon the Boondocks.
Black garbage pail kid
There is no road to Damascus moment here for Cain; he is one who would find a way to explain away a lynching if it were to his political advantage.
Shame Cain. Shame on you. Shame on anyone like you. Shame on your supporters.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Boy You Best Know Your Place! Herman Cain's Criticism of Rick Perry Gets Him Checked by His White Republican Masters
You might have anticipated that Perry would face a firestorm for being associated with the property, but it's Cain whose remarks are drawing the most criticism from the right. At RedState, Erick Erickson concluded, "It also seems to be a slander Herman Cain is picking up and running with as a way to get into second place." Glenn Reynolds remarked that until now, Cain's "big appeal is that he's not just another black race-card-playing politician." Over at the Daily Caller, Matt Lewis called Cain's remarks "a cheap shot, and, perhaps a signal that Cain is willing to play the race card against a fellow Republican when it benefits him."Adam Serwer at Mother Jones brings the heat again...
The key phrase here is "fellow Republican." Because, you see, no one thought Cain was "playing the race card" when he said in the same program that black people are "brainwashed" into voting for Democrats and suggested that black people who vote Republican are "thinking for themselves." Cain wasn't rebuked by conservatives when he previously suggested President Barack Obama was not "a strong black man," implied liberals were out to commit genocide against blacks through support for abortion rights, and said he wouldn't appoint a Muslim to his cabinet.
I wonder what is the corollary to Brother Malcom's sharp wisdom as applied to black conservatives who dare to call out white racism among their Republican brethren?
Once more, we see that black conservatives like Cain, Steele and others are just convenient upright walking racism shields for the Tea Party GOP. They are dispensable. And they best know their place on these matters as rule number one is 1) never call out white conservatives on their racism and 2) no reckless eyeballing or back-sassing against white Republicans:
None of that, in the eyes of the conservatives who cheered him for those remarks, constituted "playing the race card." But when a man who is old enough to recall living under American apartheid gets a little emotional over a piece of land called "Niggerhead," that's where the right draws the line.I do hope that the black pundit class is politically sharp enough to let Herman Cain suffer the barbs of his white masters in the Tea Party GOP. He should not benefit from our habit to rally the troops, leverage linked fate, and defend a person who is actually working against the interests of black Americans simply by virtue of their melanin count--remember the Clarence Thomas debacle?
Not just because Cain is attacking a fellow Republican, but because he stepped out of the proper role of a black conservative, which is to reassure Republicans that their political problems with race are the inventions of a liberal conspiracy. Cain just ran head first into the brick wall of conservative anti-anti-racism, the attitude on the right that accusations of racism directed at white people are of far greater consequence than any lingering vestiges of institutional racism nonwhites might face.
In a Republican Party where a significant number of its members believe that the Confederacy was on the right side of history, Niggerhead may actually be a clarion call for conservative rectitude.
The question remains, how low and for how long will Herman Cain grovel in order to get back into the big house where the vittles be tasty and the beds aren't made out of straw and hay?
Sunday, October 2, 2011
It was a mostly white world. In 1950, the census counted about 900 black residents out of a population of about 13,000 in Haskell County, numbers that have declined steadily. Most blacks worked as maids or field hands and lived in an across-the-tracks neighborhood in the city of Haskell, the county seat, about 20 minutes from Paint Creek.
Throckmorton County, where the hunting camp is located, was for years considered a virtual no-go zone for blacks because of old stories about the lynching of a black man there, locals said. The 1950 Census listed one black resident in Throckmorton County out of a population of about 3,600. In 1960, there were four; in 1970, two; in 1980, none. The 2010 Census shows 11 black residents.
Mae Lou Yeldell, who is black and has lived in Haskell County for 70 years, recalled a gas station refusing to sell her father fuel when he drove the family through Throckmorton in the 1950s. She said it was not uncommon in the 1950s and ’60s for whites to greet blacks with, “Morning, nigger!”
“I heard that so much it’s like a broken record,” said Yeldell, who had never heard of the hunting spot by the river.And you wonder why black folks had to use The Green Book as a guide for safety while touring this country?
Saturday, October 1, 2011
I have been silent on the whole liberal racism dust up over at Salon.com and The Nation. The car wreck is good sport. Beyond that, my thoughts would be tangential to the conversation and would just get folks upset.
My friends and I have shared a long running conversation about liberal racism. It is a peculiar beast. Conservatives, who are the most frequently tarred, and with good reason, by the label of being "racist," display a variant of white supremacy born of a willful historical myopia that couches white racism as being a mere "inconvenience" or historical oddity (when in fact white supremacy is the dominant historical narrative in the modern world).
By comparison, liberals are hyper-conscious of race and racial inequality. "Progressive" attitudes on race are central to liberal-left identity.
However, this race consciousness does not immunize them from being active racists or from holding beliefs that are deeply informed by a premise that people of color are inferior, or perhaps stated in a more benign fashion, are merely "different." Here, difference becomes a signifier of a compelling and curious Other.
This Other needs saving, this Other needs to be understood, and this Other needs help. He is pathological and cannot escape the myriad of limited life choices that await him. She is damaged by the dual oppressions of white racism and black male sexism. They cannot overcome racial adversity and white supremacy without our help.
The danger of this paternalistic attitude is that for some self-consciously progressive members of the Left, they, like their conservative nemeses, are also afflicted by a myopia that works to preclude self-reflection. These good liberals believe they have a pass which excludes the possibility of racist thought, speech, or action. Ultimately, these good liberals are incapable of being racists because they are the friends of the poor coloured folk of the world. These good liberals are supposedly our most erstwhile allies...
You see, America is a sick society. We are all deeply afflicted by white supremacy. Black people, white people, brown folk, all of us, have internalized and reproduced this social order. Some of us are more conscious of it than others. A rare few try to speak truth to power so that we can overcome this debilitating social ill by bringing it to the light, by exposing it, and by challenging it whenever we see it.
This divide in experience, how white supremacy impacts us differently, operates in our lives, structures our memories, and gives some more voice than others--and by doing so simultaneously precludes both empathy and sympathy (note the difference) from the empowered towards those less so--is how white supremacy operates as a lived system in this country.
The label of Conservative or Liberal does not make one immune from this sickness, it merely filters and shapes how it is expressed.
As brother Malcolm said, liberals are also invested in this system of inequality and they should own and confront it.
Friday, September 30, 2011
If a Political Candidate Said that Jewish Voters were "Brainwashed" Would the Media Bite Their Tongues?
It is in the ether. Brother Cornell Belcher took the words right out of my mouth. Finally, someone has the courage to state the obvious.
One of the reasons I keep returning to how Herman Cain and other
Moreover, the argument by white conservatives and their black conservative lapdogs that African Americans are tricked or bamboozled into voting for the Democrats is doubly problematic because it harnesses the image of black people as childlike and simple--a group not fit for the American democratic project--better suited for a life of toil and labor on the plantation, content to serve White folks (with a toothy grin), as opposed to leading a country.
In turn, this argument reinforces the age old idea that of all groups in America, black folks are not suited for citizenship. When Cornell Belcher asks, "what if Jewish folks were called brainwashed by a political candidate? How would the media respond?" he hits the nail on the head and exposes a racist and white supremacist assumption about black freedom, dignity, and personhood, one which still lingers on into the Age of Obama.
I suspect that if a major candidate dared to suggest Jewish folks were brainswashed all hell would break loose--and rightly so. If a major candidate dared to suggest that white working class voters or Christian Evangelicals were brainwashed into voting for Republicans the Tea Party GOP would become apoplectic just as they did when President Obama meekly observed that some in Red State America are blinded by "guns, god, and religion."
But in America, the white racial frame is the de facto state of normal. Thus, there is silence when the citizenship and political sophistication of black Americans is impugned. Why? Because many Whites (and some others) would take such a claim as a given, a nothing to see here, Star Wars inspired move along moment.
Herman Cain and other Black Conservatives are human puppets who eagerly sit bare bottomed on the naked lap of Whiteness: thus they give a pass for these racist assumptions, as they excuse make and enable a distorted and warped black image of black humanity, an image that is soothing and a good fit for the racial depravities of the White (Conservative) Mind.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
When I come upon a compelling find on Youtube I like to share it with you all.
Obama's Racist Black Theology is entertaining. It is skillful in how it presents decontextualized information in a manner which validates the priors of its audience while maintaining a veneer of scholarly rigor and critical distance. Great stuff. Even better propaganda for the low information Tea Party Conservative crowd.
There are some real gems here: Little did I know that the movie Independence Day was based upon the teachings of Nation of Islam's founder Fard Muhammad. Nor did I know that Black Israelites were praying for a space ship to arrive on the day of Obama's election in order to carry the elect few off into the cosmos. I smiled at the walk down memory lane that was the ridiculousness of Khalid Muhammad's promo on white folks and Apartheid.
Obama's Racist Black Theology also represents the sickness that is white racism mated with Right-wing zealotry in the Age of Obama. While reasonable folks shook their heads at the Birthers and all of the other assorted crazy talk by Conservatives that the President is a closet Socialist or is controlled by some voodoo magic from his dead Kenyan father, the agitprop antics of the Tea Party GOP and their foot soldiers is no laughing matter.
Our society is sick; right wing reactionary politics are a symptom of the disease. Moreover, because conservatism and racism are one in the same in America, the election of the country's first black President has freed both to interact in a synergistic manner where "conspiranoids" and a fantastic combination of Ayn Randian dystopian politics and Right-wing Christian Nationalism work through the old ether of white racial resentment to create an utterly dysfunctional political culture.
The Right-wing populists who lapped at the trough of the Reverend Wright controversy and who daily suggest that white folks are oppressed and losing their country to those Others, are not too distant from the imaginary offered by the Obama's Racist Black Theology video.
Bachmann, Perry, and the rogues gallery that is the Tea Party GOP Presidential field would find much to agree with there.
The lunatic Right and the mainstream Republican Party are both similarly detached from reality (many believe in Christian Nationalism; that God tells them to run for high office; prayer controls the economy; science is trumped by fantasy; and folks like pseudo-historian David Barton have "proven" America is founded as a Christian republic).
Doubling down, the lunatic Right and the mainstream Republican Party also both possess an instinctive disgust and revulsion at the very personhood of Barack Obama. And faith trumps all, such that matters of fact and empiricism are overridden by--what are for all intents and purposes--practical beliefs in superstition and magic on matters ranging from the economy, to tax policy, to science, and foreign affairs.
In reflecting on the Reverend Wright affair it did not matter that few if any of Obama's detractors actually read anything of substance about black liberation theology, or took the time to actually engage in a substantive way with Dr. Cone. Nor, did the Right ever critically reflect on Reverend Wright's truth telling about America's history of abuses both at home and abroad.
Reality is dead. Long live the triumph of ideology, fantasy, and Orwellian doublespeak over the world of facts and reason.
When watching videos such as Obama's Racist Black Theology, listening to Right-wing talk radio, or checking in on Fox News, I am reminded that they offer a caricature of reality which fulfills the fantasies of American Authoritarians.
In all, for that and other reasons I do not envy Obama his job.
Consider for a moment the tasks at hand: Barack Obama has to quadrangulate between rabid conservatives who see him as grotesque and monstrous (both because he is a Democrat and also because he had the sheer nerve to be a black man who ran for the Office of President and won), white liberals who want him to be Shaft or 50 Cent, and none too few black folks with unreasonable expectations that he is a messiah who has disappointed them, leaving Black America a lost/found tribe in the desert.
I wouldn't take that bargain for 1 dollar or a million. Would you?
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The one African-American running for the GOP presidential nomination said Wednesday the black community was 'brainwashed' for traditionally siding with liberal politicians.
"African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view," Cain said on CNN's "The Situation Room" in an interview airing Wednesday between 5-7 p.m. ET. "I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative. So it's just brainwashing and people not being open minded, pure and simple."
This is the irony of all ironies: in post-racial America an African American Tea Party GOP front runner named Herman Cain can channel the worst sentiments of the white supremacist tracts of the 19th and 20th century as he belittles the black community while fulfilling the fantasies of the White Conservative Soul.
A hunter by necessity, he never made an axe, spear or arrowhead worth preserving beyond the moment of its use. He lived as an ox, content to graze for an hour. In a land of stone and timber, he never carved a block, sawed a foot of lumber or built a house save of broken sticks and mud.
With league on league of ocean strand and miles of inland seas, for 4,000 years he watched their surface ripple under the wind, heard the thunder of the surf on his beach, the howl of the storm over his head, gazed on the dim blue horizons calling him to worlds that lie beyond, and yet he never dreamed of a sail. He lived as his fathers lived - stole his food, worked his wife, sold his children, ate his brother, content to drink, sing, to dance, and sport as the ape.
And this creature, half child, half animal, the creature of impulse, whim and conceit, pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw; a being who left to his will, roams at night and sleeps in the day, whose speech knows no word of love, whose passions once aroused, are as the fury of the tiger - they have set this thing to rule over the Southern people ... Merciful God ... it surpasses human belief."
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
First, I would like to thank the good folks over at Crooks and Liars for giving us some shine on Monday. The love is always appreciated. For those readers new to WARN I wish you a sincere welcome.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
The Power of The Tea Party Imaginary: Why is This Man Crying While He Sings the Star Spangled Banner?
When you figure out why this man is brought to tears by the Star Spangled Banner, you will finally understand the appeal of the Tea Party GOP.
Moreover, when you figure out why this man is crying you will begin to grasp the difficulties faced by appeals to reason and empirically driven reality in trying to beat back the emotion, faith, and fear based nationalism of the Republican Party.
Consequently, reasoned discussions of policy and good governance are made secondary to a sense of belonging. For folks who feel alienated, scared, and "want to take their America back" (from "the blacks, the gays, the atheists, the Socialists, the liberals" etc.) a sense of belonging is a powerful salve for alienation and anomie.
A key point. When the ghouls in the audience at the last three Republican debates howled for murder, death, and in support of hatred towards Americans who happen not to be straight, they were marking out the boundaries of their political community. Their cheers were not those of outliers; they were the id of a community that stood silent in complicity and agreement.
Friday, September 23, 2011
The keywords are in green. My observations and comments follow underneath.
Is this research for a paper on intertextuality, gender, critical race theory and historicizing Lacanian psychoanalytic frameworks in B Movies?
At least 10 times a day someone asks this question. Is there some cultural movement afoot I am not privy to, some Kanye West meets Cee Lo black hipster douchebaggery that necessitates having a shag haircut?
A young scholar in training. Impressive, most impressive.
The Tea Party GOP: They Cheer Murder; They Cheer Letting Sick People Die; And Now They Boo American Soldiers Who Happen to be Gay
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Please allow me this minor bit of self-indulgence.
If you're President Obama, you've had a bit of a transformation. That is, from the mild-mannered Clark Kent into, well, Superman.
Or something like that.
When we last left this story, President Obama was trying to be the measured adult in the room, compromising over the debt ceiling to get a deal. In the end, it wasn't the "grand bargain" that Obama wanted. Liberals argued that it was awful, too -- chastising the president for negotiating with himself. And Republicans complained that they needed more spending cuts. And, oh, by the way, they still wanted to repeal health care reform.
In other words, an unsatisfactory experience for all.
So when Obama came back to D.C. this fall, the feeling inside the White House was that something had to change. The bad news: Mr. Adult (aka Mr. Compromise) had sunk to new lows in the ratings. The good news: Congress had sunk even lower. Way lower. Then House Speaker John Boehner gave a speech outlining his demands for the deficit reduction "supercommittee."
Shocking, I know.
That about did it. The White House figured it had no partner for peace. The man who had almost signed on to the grand bargain -- with some tax increases and entitlement cuts -- wasn't about to come back to the table anytime soon.
The next step: play the game.
The president outlined his demand for the debt reduction supercommittee: no spending cuts for the middle class without commensurate tax increases on the wealthy. No proposals for long-term entitlement reform. But there was a catchy bumper sticker: the Buffett Rule. Billionaires should not pay a lower tax rate than the rest of us.
It's not intellectually satisfying. Nor does it improve the chances for a deal out of the supercommittee that can get anywhere in Congress. It's politics, plain and simple.
In fact, the strategy does one big thing: It reunites the president with the base of the Democratic Party, which finally had something to cheer. When Barack Obama came out swinging this week, threatening to veto any deficit reduction measure without a balance of new taxes and spending cuts, there was joy among liberals. Obama had finally come home.
For the rest of us, well, it was a dismal peek at reality. Who can really fault the White House for playing politics with Republicans who have refused to cut the big deals? After all, the GOP presidential candidates, by and large, are still complaining that Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling. After Boehner lay down his laws, Obama had to do the same. He could no longer negotiate with himself.
So he joined the game. Maybe it's the opening salvo, and maybe something will come of this kabuki. But there is a final calculation here: if nothing comes out of the supercommittee, the president would be less damaged than the Congress.
As for the rest of us, we're still Waiting for Superman. The real one.
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
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.
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.