Monday, October 17, 2011

Battle of the Iron Mics: Herman Cain's "Imagine There's No Pizza" Versus Eli Porter's Epic Rap Freestyle

Now that my friends is funny: the absurd has now become commonplace.

Question: is Herman Cain a feeder? Is he into sploshing?

Somewhere, way off in the future, a Chinese scholar will write his epic book The Fall of the American Empire. In said yet to be written text, there will a footnote akin to Suetonias's allusion to Tiberius's love of having young boys "crawl between his thighs when he went swimming and tease him with their licks and nibbles.

Said footnote will reference Jim Crow apologist, he who electrocutes "illegal aliens," gospel singer, player of Sim City and lover of pizza Mr. Herman Cain. Lacking context, future generations will wonder if Herman Cain was literally all of these things, or if these were phrases and metaphors lost to the ages and thus now made indecipherable to contemporary eyes.

He does not stand alone in his gospel timbre greatness. There are other internet signing sensations who demand to be compared to Herman Cain. While he will never become the Tea Party GOP front runner (although he is the subject of an epic documentary), I cannot resist the question of questions, the battle of the ages, and a rumble for all time. If you were a judge on American Idol, who would you vote the winner in a battle between the legendary emcee Eli Porter and pizza magnet Mr. Herman Cain?

You make the call.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Real History: Dr. King was a Prophet, He was also a Plagiarizer, "Sexually Athletic," Unpopular, and a Genius

In his 1991 memoir, Breaking Barriers, journalist Carl Rowan writes that in 1964 congressman John Rooney told him that he and his congressional committee had heard J. Edgar Hoover play an audiotape of an apparent orgy held in King's Washington hotel suite. Over the sounds of a couple having intercourse in the background, according to Rooney, King could be heard saying to a man identified as Abernathy, "Come on over here, you big black motherfucker, and let me suck your dick."
What a great visual and a funny story.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial was dedicated today. As a country, we can breath a collective exhalation as racism is finally dead, Dr. King's dream achieved, and a Black President, the goal of the long Black Freedom Struggle has been elected. The memorial is a symbol of America's great triumph over white supremacy.

Of course, those are narratives best suited for a flattened version of history, one more fit for children and the willfully ignorant than for truth seekers and truth tellers. A country needs its lies, mythologies, and fictions. A country should also take account of how far it has come, while also realizing how much work remains. In all, history is the thing of cowards and free-riders (Herman Cain for example) who create fictions of their participation in righteous struggles (how every black person has relatives who marched with King and The Movement).

The reality is that most folks stand aside and watch history happen around them. Moreover, in reflecting on the evils of the past, no one is ever responsible ("my family never owned slaves"; "we were immigrants who came here after slavery"), it was always "those people" and never us. Most folks were good, the bad were in the minority, shadows who hovered in the closets and alleyways of our collective memory. When there is goodness everyone wants to own a piece of it. Where there is bad, most run away from how it benefited them. Lies are comforting things--especially when we convince ourselves that they are true.

I like my heroes will all of their complications and not despite them. Like all Americans, and black and brown folks in particular, I owe Dr. King and the other freedom fighters in the movement a debt that I can never repay. This is a given that should always be acknowledged. I also celebrate Dr. King's legacy as a real man, a thinking man, a loving man, and a flawed man.

He yelled "I'm fucking for Jesus!" and "I am not a Negro tonight!" while displaying his "compulsive sexual athleticism" with multiple women in one evening. Brother King was a shrewd strategist and provocateur who shamed white America by exposing its violent ugliness and hypocrisy. Dr. King plagiarized portions of his dissertation and speeches. He was also a calculating master of realpolitik. And of course Dr. King was prophetic as he faced down death: I cannot help but to honor a person who meets fate with their eyes open. In our shared black vernacular, Brother Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was "real folk."

As Americans engage in a little hero worship today with the dedication of Dr. King's monument, let's not forget that he was one of the most unpopular people in America (with a significant percentage of whites, and no small number of blacks) at the time of his death. Let us also not forget that the United States government harassed, threatened, and undermined the Civil Rights Movement. The FBI was particularly obsessed with Dr. King as they famously urged him to commit suicide in order to save face for his various peccadilloes and "indiscretions."

When I look at the Dr. King memorial I think of those efforts to destroy him, and how unpopular he was while alive. I love him even more for his perseverance in the face of such opposition. We should honor his greatness and full humanity; on this day and all others Dr. King's memory deserves more than childish platitudes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Masses are Asses: Herman Cain's "9-9-9" Plan is the Ringtone Rap of 21st Century Politics

And at every turn, he stresses his business background, noting that at a recent debate fellow Republican candidates dismissed his 9-9-9 tax plan as politically dead on arrival.
“Politicians put together things that will pass. Businessmen put together plans that solve the problems,” he said.
Indeed, Cain’s 9-9-9 plan seems to have put him on the map. Following the rally in Jackson, Cain bolted off the stage and shook hands with onlookers, including Linda Fowler-Cole, who had wandered over after a shopping trip to Lowe’s and was wearing a T-shirt with an oversized picture of Obama “I heard the 9-9-9 guy was here and I came to take a look,” the Democrat said. “I like Obama, but that 9-9-9 is catchy.”
In Bartlett, Tenn., Cain drew a number of black supporters who were excited at the prospect of a conservative African-American of his stature.
“To me he represents what Martin Luther King was talking about when he talked about his dream,” Reginald Tooley, a 49-year-old physical therapist from Memphis, said. “With hard work and self-reliance you can do anything you want.”
Cain says he has been buoyed by support from regular folks.
“You just don’t know how much this encourages me, the fact that you all came out tonight,” he said in Waverly.
“You see, this is what the folks in D.C. don’t get because they don’t come out here to meet with you.
The masses are indeed asses. While political scientists such as Converse, Stokes, Campbell, and others said much the same thing in a more sophisticated manner, my pithy one liner has a bit more zing to it.

We had black folks crying on election night because Barack Obama was going to pay their rent and buy them gas. During the campaign there were black folks in Harlem who confused Obama and McCain's policy positions during interviews. Not to be excluded, we had the low information, upright walking mouth breathers who flocked to Sarah Palin.

And now, we have corn bread black walnut black garbage pail kid black conservative Herman Cain whose "9-9-9" plan has caught the ear of the masses.

Herman Cain should cut a check to the "rent is too damn high!' brother because he totally stole his (rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, emphasize words, simple slogan) gimmick.

All I have to offer is a sigh. Sunday, Herman Cain is on Face the Nation. The memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will also be dedicated on that same day. Given this coincidence of events, I shudder to think of the foolishness that will come out of Herman Cain's mouth on Sunday.

Brace yourselves folks, Herman Cain is a consummate performer. He cannot, will not, and is existentially incapable of, letting such an opportunity pass without performing a special buck-dancing routine for his Tea Party GOP masters.

You have been forewarned. Be prepared.

Featured Reader Comment: Reconsidering White Privilege and White Angst During the Great Recession

Mr. Devega,
Your "spoiled kid at the birthday party" analogy does not seem apt. If the white people that you readily lump together as an operating unit feel pessimistic about their prospects, how does it follow that the reason for their pessimism is some good that's come to minorities? It seems to me that one could logically conclude from the cited statistics that minorities have a healthier, more realistic outlook than white folks. But the assumption that a person's unease over a lost job or house is based on his or her feeling that somebody of another race might be doing better does not appear to be founded in these statistics.
Michael Henry Grant
Like you all, I am a product of my upbringing. During my formative years, I was lucky to have had Black, Hispanic, white, and Native American brothers and sisters as my teachers from kindergarten all the way through to high school and college. In talking with one of my dear friends today--while I was watching the Chicago bomb squad blow up a suspicious package at the Metra station near my house--we reflected on how our childhood was pretty unique by all accounts. We grew up in a very segregated town; but the town was small, and most folks had friends from a range of backgrounds. At the time it was awkward. In hindsight, the experience was a blessing.

Somewhere along the way, I remember being told that how one asks a question has a direct influence on the type of answer they receive in return.

Occasionally, I feature readers' comments. I do not do this as much as I should. I plan on improving on this shortcoming in the future. Michael's question is an opportunity to self-correct.

I do not have a ready answer to his observation: I am more than willing to admit that sometimes I come up short, as hyperbole and language can override rigorous theory building and empirically grounded truth telling.

Therefore, I reach out to you.

How would you all respond to Michael's post about white privilege and my analogy--one I am willing to reconsider by the way--that relates white victimology to a spoiled brat at a birthday party?

I am curious as to your answers given that I learn much from the readers of WARN. I am also a sucker for any correspondence that ends with "respectfully." Condemn me my upbringing.

In all, I guess I am my father and mother's child, an old soul, one who is a sucker for formality.

Please share, is Michael on to something? Is white rage not necessarily about black and brown success? During the Great Recession how do we balance race and class in our discussions of national anxiety and fear?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Who Won the Fight? Bill O'Reilly Takes on the Tag Team of Cornel West and Tavis Smiley

There is a poll up on the side bar.

O'Reilly versus West and Smiley is fun to watch. Who wins?

I follow the logic of professional wrestling: whenever you have a handicap match the person who is outnumbered only has to hold his own to win the match because the audience expects two people to always be able to beat up one person. O'Reilly, on his own turf here, proves that rule to be true. In his fracas with Cornel and Tavis just finishing the race counts as a win.

Why did O'Reilly best them?

Cornel is too smart to be able to effectively confront stupidity and talking point demagoguery. Consequently, his punches don't hit because they are too subtle.

Tavis is playing the bad cop who does not get into the fight until Brother West throws the opening punches. Moreover, Tavis would have been more effective in the studio, one on one, and within an arms reach of O'Reilly--folks, never underestimate the importance of personal, physical distance as a variable in a debate. Trust me, it matters a great deal.

O'Reilly only has to be a bully and deflect because his arguments are basic, simple, direct, and lack any degree of nuance. This linguistic strategy is why the Tea Party GOP and other low information voters are so easily persuaded by the bloviators on Fox News and Right-wing talk radio. Conservatives are driven by an authoritarian impulse. They also like simple answers which reinforce their binary worldview. O'Reilly is the strong man and guiding light which they are instinctively attracted to; thus, it is very difficult if not impossible to win over his audience.

I have an open invite to go on Fox News. I have refused for fear of falling into the same trap that was sprung on West and Tavis. I still study and watch and prepare for the future as other's missteps are to my advantage. To this point I have learned that when you deal with Right-wing Conservatives you go hard; you also go all in.

There are no half-steps, feints, or teasing a move or opening gambit in their dojo.

Cornel and Tavis are infinitely smarter than me. I also know that they like their attention and getting some shine. But going on O'Reilly was an error on their part, as a person should never enter the devil's house unless fully prepared to take it to the limit, and to go to dark places they have never visited before.

Liberals, Progressives, and reasonable Conservatives still don't get that fact which is why they lose the messaging game.

Red Tails is the Best Movie About the Tuskegee Airmen Ever Made...

Just got in from a screening of Red Tails and thought I would share. The film is being released in January 2012.

Red Tails is better than any other movie made to date about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. Given the competition that is not a surprise. Is this a problem? Absolutely not.

Anthony Hemingway, John Ridley, Aaron McGruder (of the Boondocks) and producer George Lucas have combined to deliver a fun and more than serviceable (as well as very respectful to the subject matter) movie about the awe inspiring Tuskegee airmen. With a full cast of marquee actors such as Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., and a range of folks from HBO's The Wire, the movie is overflowing with familiar faces.

Red Tails is George Lucas's long in the making vanity film about the all African American 332nd Fighter Group during World War 2--a time when Jim and Jane Crow segregation was the law of the land, and "separate but equal" was thought to be a military and social necessity. The movie is corny. It is predictable. There are no surprises here with the plot or character development. And for those folks who possess even a passing familiarity with the Tuskegee Airmen's story and the "Double V" campaign by black Americans for victory abroad against fascism, and at home against white supremacy, Red Tails is a very much by the numbers movie.

Consequently, Red Tails features the obligatory scenes where the black airmen stand up to white bigots and "earn" their respect. There are moments of esprit de corps where the black airmen reflect on the need for race pride, dignity, and excellence in the face of white racism. The Tuskegee airmen are the perennial underdogs, who along with a few self-interested white allies, earn their shot at the big time and deliver brilliantly. The Germans are one dimensional stock villains. As is now obligatory (and quite problematic) in movies about black servicemen in World War 2, there is an interracial love story where one of the African American protagonists falls in love with a beautiful white woman and race is curiously omitted as an obstacle in their relationship.

We know that George Lucas loves speed. To point: the dogfights are thrilling, chaotic, and visceral as they embody a love of machines that began on the screen back with American Graffiti and continued through to Star Wars (a potential Easter egg of sorts: the soundtrack and effects were still being finalized, but sounds borrowed from the pod race in Episode One are used during the dogfights). As a bit of a grognard and gear head, to my eyes at least, George Lucas employed some solid military consultants as the planes don't float like u.f.o.'s--they have real weight and gravity as they move across the screen. Red Tails also features some nice details in the insignia and nose art of the Tuskegee Airmen's Warhawks and Mustangs, as well as the Luftwaffe's BF 109s and FW 190s. Together these little touches give an air of authenticity to the film.

In all, Red Tails is a mix of the 1990s World War 2 movie Memphis Belle, and such classics as Twelve O'Clock High and The Flying Leathernecks. Consequently, the nostalgia level is turned way up, and the dialogue is both self-consciously and unapologetically aware of its own melodrama. As a result, there are several times when the film force feeds nationalism and patriotism down the audience's throat.

I will forgive George Lucas and the other folks who worked on Red Tails that aesthetic and narrative choice. For a variety of reasons, Black Americans (and other people of color) never got their corny, jingoistic, nostalgia laden mass market World War 2 movie (Windtalkers excluded). Now we have it in Red Tails.

Given that America is a country, exhausted and made cynical by an imperial misadventure in Iraq and a losing war in Afghanistan, will the movie do good business? While many potential movie goers may be turned off by a film that is not Saving Private Ryan, there are likely others who yearn for a return to a simple story of good guys and bad guys, and where the lines of right and wrong are clearly drawn.

I choose to forgive Red Tails' flat history, two dimensional characters, and predictable plot. It took decades, but we finally have a technically competent, compelling, World War 2 action movie where black folks are treated with respect, dignity, and not as sideshows to our own history (and acknowledging the obvious example here: the excellent movie A Soldier's Story is a different genre of film than Red Tails).

Ultimately, Red Tails is more than the sum of its parts. It is a good movie, certainly not perfect, but satisfying.

I would like to thank you George. As a life long Star Wars fan and unapologetic ghetto nerd, you have earned back some of my love. It is appreciated and respected. I may not forgive you the misstep that was The Phantom Menace, but with Red Tails you showed me that you still have heart.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

From the Boo Hoo White Privilege Files: In the Great Recession Whites are More Pessimistic About their Futures than Blacks and Latinos

Two years before the height of the financial crisis, Friedman worried aloud about how earnings had failed to keep pace with inflation in recent years. "If we continue along our current trajectory," he said, "many of the pathologies that we have seen in the past, in periods of economic stagnation"--for instance, rising anger directed at immigrants and minorities--"will once again emerge."

In Detroit, Dave Miller and his friends wrap their anger in a code word: "subsidation." It's a 50-cent synonym that rests on the tongues of Macomb County's white working class like sour milk. They don't use the "N" word. For a five-figure salary and overtime, Dave protects lives and property in a black neighborhood, but he will talk your ear off about "welfare cheats" and the essential unfairness of affirmative action. "It's a generational apathy," he says, "and they keep getting more and more [apathetic] because they don't have to work."

Dave and his family know whom to blame for their economic plight. They blame white neighbors who borrowed to buy big houses they couldn't afford and then walked away when the payments grew too expensive. They blame a government "welfare state" that punishes workers like Dave and rewards minorities.
I love White victimology; such a sad and vulnerable people Whiteness has produced.

Black Americans are a people born of the absurd: tens of millions of folks taken from a continent, imprisoned in floating hellish dungeons, brought to a "new world," killed and murdered by the millions (again), exploited as slave labor in the world's "greatest democracy," who then create a new culture of their own while simultaneously gifting white America with our voice, insight, heart, intelligence, creativity, blood, martial spirit, and wisdom, and then struggling to enhance and improve the country's democracy while forcing the Constitution to live up to its fullest ideals for the benefit of all peoples. Talk about exhausting work.

As the Atlantic Monthly's essay, "Why Whites are More Pessimistic About their Future than Minorities" highlights, it is no surprise that black folks are a hopeful people. We have a blues sensibility--one that is tempered with a coal-forged cynicism, that possesses a good deal of hopeful dreaming, and which features no so small amount of enduring hardheadedness and common sense.

But in a moment of declining fortunes, anxieties, and worries that is the Great Recession, one that is impacting people of color disproportionately, white folks have found a reason to be especially pessimistic.

This mix of White pessimism, White angst, and White victimology is one of the great breaches and divides in experience across the colorline, one that certainly cannot be empathized with, and that doubly deserves no sympathy.

Channeling Paul Mooney for a second, I am white folks' best friend because I tell them the truth. Like most people of color, I am also a student of Whiteness. I know and understand things about Whiteness that those who are bathed in it, who clutch it with red knuckled fervor like heirloom family estate pearls during a midnight hold up, and that desperately police and protect it as property, do not. I am not particularly unique in this regard. The Other, the brother-sister outsider, he who is the little man behind the stove, knows these things out of necessity and survival.

Yet, at times I still remain puzzled by the wizable ways of Whiteness and White folks: how can a group of people who are the protected class in this country be so afraid and fearful? White people control every major social, political, economic, academic, scientific, financial, and cultural industry in this country, and have for centuries, so why the insecurity?

I have playfully alluded to this phenomenon as the spoiled kid at the birthday party syndrome. He or she has every toy imaginable but throws a tantrum the minute some other child gets a gift or just a whee bit of attention:
Working-class whites, in other words, are already more prosperous and secure than working-class minorities, but they're less optimistic because they don't believe they're climbing anymore--they're simply trying to hold on to what they've got. Whites today seem to think that the middle-class security their parents and grandparents achieved may be crumbling beneath them. Minorities seem ready to accept the idea that their ascent, while steeper at the moment, will nevertheless deliver them to the middle class someday.
Whiteness has worth and value. White Americans have at least 2.00 dollars in wealth for every 10 cents that blacks and Latinos possess. The GI Bill, and racist practices in hiring and bank lending which rewarded white Americans, and punished people of color, created the white middle class and suburbia. In all, historically, and at every turn, America has been a White Republic that has rewarded the collective mediocrity of white people. That is a bitter pill for some to swallow. It is also the truth:
Dave. Who is white, and who thought, finally, he'd made it. Who broke his back for a dream--a pension, a getaway cottage, security--that seems to be wavering in the Lake Erie haze.
He grew up in Detroit, where the upward mobility of the American middle class could be seen every Friday afternoon. Factory workers, driving cars they'd built, crowded I-75, heading north to their cottages.
That was the deal that Dave Miller signed up for when he dropped out of Wayne State University and followed his dad into the firefighting ranks. The deal was supposed to include decent wages, health insurance, tuition, retirement, mortgages, and maybe, with overtime pay, a boat and a house on the lake--a physical reminder that hard work still pays like it always did.
Blacks folks have had to always be better to get half as far; our excellence has been earned. Sadly, many do not survive the gauntlet. Perhaps, white pessimism is caused by the fact that white folks have farther to fall. Thus, there is great insecurity (for some, perhaps there is a realization that Whiteness and White privilege are an emperor and empress without any clothes; what are frauds perpetrated on the white masses).

Moreover, perhaps this insecurity is further fueled by living in a moment when a black man is President of the United States. If the white racial resentment and bigotry of the Tea Party GOP is any indicator at all, this symbolic change is unsettling to many, and for a significant few, unconscionable and unimaginable.

However, and here is the paradox, black and brown folks may have a shorter distance to fall than white folks in the time of the Great Recession, but the consequences for us are much greater when we take the tumble, as we have much more to lose, and fewer resources to cushion us when we hit the ground.

My ultimate worry is that as Whiteness sees its gains and property under threat, and the white working class realizes the economy is a zero sum game, how long will it take for resentment and disappointment to turn to anger and violence...and towards whom will it be directed?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

For Folks Smarter than Me: Can a Regression Analysis Predict the Success of Herman Cain's "9-9-9" Plan?

A question for folks smarter than I am on these matters...

We have a diverse readership here on WARN. I have chatted with a few of you via email and in other contexts and know that there are some quantitatively oriented and trained social scientists among you.

In the interest of transparency, I can read the math and the stats. I can provide some takeaway on what they convey or not. I can also do a pretty decent sniff test on a funky looking model--but that doesn't mean I can tell you exactly what is wrong and how to do the math by hand to smoke it out. In those instances I say "you need to go talk to that person down the hall."

Today's New York Times piece on Herman Cain's "9-9-9" plan--or as I like to call it the "no, no, no" plan--had a very revealing passage. We now know that the author of said policy briefing is not an economist, he is actually a hedge fund financial manager type, but the following passage really struck me:

In an interview, Mr. Lowrie said he had a bachelor of science degree in accountancy from Case Western Reserve University. On his Facebook page, he describes his political views as “free markets.” Mr. Lowrie said he had been inspired by two well-known proponents of supply-side thinking: Arthur Laffer, often considered the father of the concept that lower tax rates help pay for themselves by generating additional economic growth, and Jude Wanniski, who promoted the idea among politicians. Mr. Lowrie became involved with the Ohio chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative organization supported by the billionaire Koch brothers.
The plan could have major economic and political challenges: It might result in a substantial revenue loss for the government and shift the tax burden toward lower- and middle-income people.In an interview, Mr. Cain, a math major in college, said he had asked Mr. Lowrie to do a “regression analysis” that would allow the government to eliminate all existing taxes, including those on capital gains and estates, and collect the same revenue from just three streams. “The number came up to be 9 percent,” Mr. Cain said. “And that’s how we came up with 9-9-9.”
Mr. Lowrie, who met Mr. Cain at a conference sponsored by the conservative Club for Growth, dismissed the notion that his own understanding of economics was limited by lack of a Ph.D. “I don’t list myself as an economist,” he said. “I have an accounting degree, and I’m an investment adviser. I’ve never hung out in a faculty lounge.”
A former staff member for Mr. Cain in Iowa described his and Mr. Lowrie’s relationship as “buddy-buddy,” adding, “They were just like two executives palling around together.”Their plan has drawn fire from both right and left. Conservatives are wary of a national sales tax, concerned that it would create another, easily increased method of taxation. Among the critics are The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Bruce Bartlett, an official in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, who contributes to the Economix blog for The New York Times.
First, anything that has to do with the much misunderstood Laffer Curve gives me pause. Second, anything having to do with the Koch Brothers should raise a huge red flag amongst folks concerned with the Common Good. But, the statistical lingo which is designed to impress lay people begs an especially good number of questions.
1. Given all of the variables in a nation's economy can you actually use a basic (or even simultaneous) regression model to "predict" economic outputs like GDP? In addition, during last night's debate Herman Cain bragged about "dynamic modeling," i.e. including assumptions about U.S. economic growth as a constant in the model. How reliable is dynamic modeling? How does one factor in the ups and downs of the economy to date, and are said predictions at all reliable out past a given time horizon? Is this some type of weighted variable?
2. Statistical modeling is useful to the degree that it gives you a better answer than a guess would have produced otherwise. If a basic regression analysis has revealed the genius of Cain's 9-9-9 plan, why are there ever business cycles, or ups and downs, or system shocks like the Great Recession? How and why do these models fail? And when have they ever been successful at making accurate predictions?
3. Does the ecological fallacy apply to econometrics? I primarily work with cultural texts and theory. But I have always been suspicious of grand models that purport to make predictions about the economy. Is this suspicion misplaced?
4. Finally, is Mr. Lowrie qualified to be offering these types of analyses? When he says, "“I have an accounting degree, and I’m an investment adviser. I’ve never hung out in a faculty lounge,” I get more than a bit worried. Are you?

Real History: The Political Economy of Black Hair and Jim Crow Barbershops

Black barbers seemed to infuriate their antebellum critics because they appeared to have traded their racial pride for a good livelihood, which explains the recurring charge that barbers had surrendered their manhood, when in fact they served as the breadwinners within their household and beyond...
For inclusion in a true middle class. These members of the black middle class fiercely guarded their recently won status, and segregation rebuked their self-image as nothing else did. Hence, they attacked black barbers even though it was a commonplace that integrated or black-only shops would fail. From the point of view of the black elite, black barbers acted contrary to the interests of their class more than of their race. Only a tiny minority of African Americans possessed the wherewithal to patronize middle-class establishments, while the majority remained stuck in menial jobs that placed them at the beck and call of white employers.
While the anecdote rings odd (and I would not at all be surprised if the story was ultimately proven untrue), Herman Cain's teachable moment about being refused service in a black barbershop has some deep historical roots.

Black barbershops and hair salons have been identified in almost worshipful terms as one of the few remaining autonomous, indigenous, and private spaces in the black community. There, black folks are able to talk free of the white gaze; black barbershops and hair salons are symbols of black self-reliance and economic independence.

Of course, the reality is much more complicated. Koreans, Egyptians and others have come to dominate the at 9 billion dollar a year market for black women's hair care (alarmingly, black Americans spend approximately 500 billion dollars a year on personal care products, what is half of their total buying power). Black barbershops are booming despite the economy, while black hair salons are closing down and their stylists going to work for "mainstream," i.e. white beauty parlors. In all, as Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair suggested, if you need a barometer for the mental, financial, and social health of Black America look no farther than our barbershops and hair salons.

As we moved from slavery to freedom, black barbershops and hair salons were reflections of that journey. Consequently, Jim and Jane Crow hovered over those contingently black spaces. One cannot forget that white racism was both de jure (the law) and de facto (a set of social codes and norms). It was a cradle to the grave system that governed every social interaction between people of color and whites--and yes, even those which occurred in barbershops.

Sharing as is my habit, the book Knights of the Razor: Black Barbers in Slavery and Freedom does a great job of working through the complex and rich history of black barbershops in the Black Public Sphere, and what it reveals about race and race making.
Most black barbershop owners felt that they had little choice but to hold on to their white customers, which would be unlikely if they integrated their shops. Several tried opening "equal rights" barbershops, only to meet with failure. In Philadelphia, a handful of black-owned barbershops did manage to serve an integrated clientele, but white prejudice forced the overwhelming majority of black barbers to serve one race exclusively. The option of serving black men seemed poor business to most.
This animus toward black barbers reflected, in part, a concern that their businesses legitimized segregation. At least one white editor confirmed his argument by citing the refusal of black barbers to serve African Americas as a justification for segregation. According to the editor, businessmen, regardless of their color, turned away certain people simply because "the best paying class of customers can be retained by excluding those who for any reason are objectionable to their fastidious notions."
Traditional, "old school" racism is largely fixated on notions of contamination, threat, and impurity. The act of cutting a person's hair is profoundly intimate and personal. For the racial imagination of Jim and Jane Crow (and even today) the following are potent images: a black man has a razor at a white man's throat while giving him a shave; a black barber's hands touching a white woman's neck and hair; the clippers and shears that were used on a black person's hair potentially "befouling" a white person's pristine and racially uncontaminated personage. Jim Crow laws removed many of these dilemmas. Informal social conventions solved the rest.

During the post-Reconstruction era black barbers had to skillfully negotiate the colorline. They were upwardly mobile and skilled technicians with the capacity to be leaders for the race. However, white folks had the money. Black folks as a group did not. The market was a monopoly of sorts where the former group demanded that they would be served exclusive to all others. Here, racial integration was not a path to economic success for black barbers.
Convinced that the survival of their businesses and hence their middle-class status was at stake, black barbers thwarted anti-discrimination laws with ingenuity and the help of sympathetic judges. Some barbershop proprietors in the District of Columbia made black customers wait unduly long for service and posted exorbitant prices, such as "Haircut $30, Shampoo $40" with an addendum below promising "a liberal our regular customers."...When black men in the District of Columbia won lawsuits against local barbershops, they received only token damages, which in tern led black barbers there to be more assertive of their right to refuse service to African Americans.
One of the city's barbershop owners went so far as to take out an advertisement in the Washington Bee, a black newspaper:
Preston's Pension Office Barbershop, first class in every particular.
Devoted Strictly to White Trade.
The rumor that this shop has been serving any colored trade is false in every particular.

The personal truly is the political. Sometimes this is quite literal, where bodies are (in what we call "bio-politics") made an object of power. In other instances the observation is more general, where the rules governing personal interactions reveal a society's larger macro-level social and political dynamics.

Historically and into the present, the black barbershop possesses both of these traits in abundance.

Please share. What is the state of affairs in the black barbershops and hair salons in your communities? If they are in fact a thermometer for the health of Black America, what is her prognosis?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Real History: The Jewish Community in Selma Alabama Reflects on the Civil Rights Movement

Inspired by recent events, this week I am going to do a few posts on the real faces and real stories of the Civil Rights Movement years.

Herman Cain's defense of his craven non-participation during the height of the 1960s resistance to Jim Crow is a great entry point for reflecting on the fact that history is complex and not the stuff of 5th grade history class. Consider the historic lies that Dr. King was popular, that Civil Rights for black folks were embraced by most whites, and that all African Americans were noble warriors in a grand struggle of liberation.

Most people, on both sides of the colorline, were bystanders who wanted to stay out of the way of history.

This interview with some members of the Jewish community in Selma, Alabama brings to the forefront a number of issues. First, it points out how in-between peoples such as Jews who were still earning their whiteness in the 1950s and 1960s had to make a hard choice.

Would they be heroic? Would they be moral cowards?

Two, it challenges a uniform story about Jews and Black folks as "natural allies" (a premise I have always found problematic). And perhaps most provocatively, the Jews of Selma apparently forgot the lessons of shared historical suffering and empathy: their immediate financial, reputational, and personal safety trumped any sense of linked fate with black folks, a people like them who had also been oppressed.

True, there were heroes and there were villains in the Civil Rights moment and the long Black Freedom Struggle. But they were outliers. Most folks were just on cruise control as the world was changing around them.

None too different than today it would seem...

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Pain of Herman Cain: How a Chance Encounter at an African American Barbershop Helped to Create a Black Conservative

All aboard the Cain train!

Brother Cornel West told CNN that Herman Cain is smoking the metaphorical crack pipe. Boyce Watkins used Herman Cain as an object lesson in black on black racism. Professor Eddie Glaude, polite as ever, said that Herman Cain practices "political chicanery." Elder god Reverend Lowery called Herman Cain a butt-licking coprophagist...but he said it using nicer words. And Harry Belafonte just eviscerates Herman Cain and his Tea Party GOP handlers.

What fun. The irony of course is that the more Herb Cain is criticized by African Americans for his role as a professional racism apologist the more popular he will become with his White Conservative reactionary audience and sponsors. Call it the black conservative patted on the head by their white masters corollary to Newton's third law of motion.

I have been reflecting on Herman Cain's story about being denied service at a black barbershop because they could not use the clippers on an African American and still keep their white clientele. That moment is very telling both for what it reveals about Herman Cain's psyche and also for the larger macro-level phenomena it signals to.

Historically, the socio-political interests of black Americans have been racialized. Group interests have served as a powerful variable in the political calculations of African Americans because the reality of white supremacy has been one where we have not had the luxury of buying into a narrative of wide eyed, pie in the sky Whiteness enabled individualism.

We got our butts kicked as a group; our individual merits mattered little to the slaver, Jim and Jim Crow, or the "racism without racists" post-Civil Rights milieu. For example, members of the black middle and upper classes use the social and economic status of their less well-off relatives, friends, and community members as variables which influence their political decision making. Why? The hold of black strivers on the ladder of success is tenuous. In addition, the stale, flat narrative of the black poor and black underclass that dominates the popular imagination is instead one that is real to us: said folks are our brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, and other kin, either fictive or blood related.

Black Conservatives like Herman Cain fit perfectly into this story because one of the variables that over-determines a sense of linked fate with other African Americans (and by implication their political orientation) is how deeply embedded they are in the black community. Black conservatives tend to have fewer attachments to African American social institutions (political associations, neighborhood groups, fraternal organizations, and of course the obligatory barbershops and hair salons) . Consequently, black conservatives are less likely to have a sense of group affinity for and with other African Americans.

In all, the black utility heuristic is not in play for the Cains, Thomases, and Steeles of the world.

The image Herman Cain paints of his barbershop encounter, assuming it is in fact true (and I have serious doubts as he is playing a blackface version of the Horatio Alger myth) is doubly sad because in that one moment he was ostracized from one of the few black spaces which remain in America, and said locale in the black public sphere was still governed by the white gaze and its power to marginalize and do harm to people of color.

Perhaps it is my love of theoretical physics and chaos theory. Or maybe I have watched the Star Trek TNG episode "Tapestry" too many times, but I wonder how that one moment impacted Herman Cain's future political attitudes and life trajectory? Would Herman Cain have become a different person, an upright and proud Morehouse man, instead of a professional racism denier and enabler of white supremacy, if one of the brothers had given his woolly head a proper cut?

I present two possibilities:

1. Herman Cain, a young man raised by a family who did not believe in the merits of the Civil Rights Movement, and which saw Dr. King and others as "outside agitators," had years ago decided to smile and grin in order to get along with white folks. The haircut moment had nothing to do with the man he would become in the future. Cain already believed that it was much better to lay down with the lions as a pet sheep than to dare resist and perhaps suffer harm (or risk being a difficult to digest meal).

2. Herman Cain, embarrassed by seeing black men humiliated by whites in their own barbershop, became disgusted with black people as a whole--and thus convinced of his own "uniqueness" as an "exceptional negro"--decided that he had shared few traits with the "common black." Instead of being angry at the white men who humiliated the black barbers, Herman Cain lashed out at African Americans everywhere. They are a pitiable people in Herman Cain's eyes, so why have anything to do with them?

I do have a thought that I need your help reasoning through: Why didn't Herman Cain, a product of Jim Crow and a man who should be familiar with the depth of the informal black codes and rules of racial comportment in the South, just find another black barbershop where he would be welcome?

Moreover, Cain's choice to buy his own clippers is also telling. There is an argument that black conservatism is actually none too far ideologically from black nationalism. In another person, at another time, with a different history, could Herman Cain's barbershop pain have resulted in him becoming a Black Nationalist as opposed to a race traitor who serves as a human parrot for racially resentful and bigoted White Conservatives?

The possibilities boggle the mind...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Epic Face Palm Moment: Herman Cain Says 'Racism In This Country Today' Doesn't Hold 'Anybody Back In A Big Way'

White supremacy has profoundly damaged some black people people in this country. Truly it has. Case in point: at every step of his career Herman Cain benefited from the Civil Rights Movement and programs such as affirmative action in hiring and university admissions. Now, he spits in the face of that legacy and plays the "racism doesn't exist" game.

I am still processing Herman Cain's mouth utterances and white racism apology parade from earlier today on CNN. At first, I thought that Herman Cain was running a con game and did not believe the mess he was offering to satisfy his white tea party base. Now, I am at a point where I am convinced that Herman Cain believes what he is saying; his internalization of white supremacy and disdain for black people is the real deal.

Herman Cain is a crystallization of black self-hate and a gross, almost clinical narcissism. Here for example, there is so much pain in his anecdote about being refused service at a black barbershop that I almost--notice I said almost--want to shed a tear for him:

In the black community we often talk in private about a dynamic where some who have suffered under white racism (or homophobia, sexism, and other oppressive forces) turn against their own people and seek out the alms and love and validation of Whiteness. The approval sustains them. Herman Cain and his black garbage pail kid black Conservative brethren are the negroes who would run away from a black owned story in order to buy ice from the white man because he or she imagined it to be colder.

With the end of black private spaces, the rise of the Internet, and the emergence of the Black Superpublic, all of our private shames are on display for the world to see. Herman Cain's candidacy is a spectacle. I shutter with what comes next.

[Will Herman Cain tell White America that slavery did black people a favor because it got us out of Africa and brought Christianity to a formerly savage people?]

Chime in folks as I try to collect my thoughts.

What Are White Supremacists Saying About Herman Cain?

I am going to be doing a few posts on the Civil Rights Movement this week as Herman Cain's "I'm not a negro agitator book tour" demands to be put in a historical context. Also, for those who didn't have a chance to see it, go watch Herman Cain's speech at the "Values Summit" (what values I must ask? hate, demagoguery, bigotry, intolerance? I digress...) where he basically said who cares about Jim Crow and segregation I am rich, America loves me, and those other blacks are just complainers.

We know that Herman Cain is a human racism shield for Conservatives. As a black Conservative that is his designated role to play.

On their message boards and websites, Conservatives deploy many a racist defense for their man Herb Cain whenever he is attacked: Cain is a "good one"; He doesn't play the race card like the other blacks; Cain is off the Democrat plantation; He believes in hard work and never benefited from handouts or affirmative action. In all, these are projections which just reinforce the bigotry that lies at the heart of contemporary Conservatism. They are also projections of the White (Conservative) Soul and its racial id.

I judge a man by the company he keeps and by those who defend them when under attack and criticism. Cain lays with and curries the favor of white folks who don't have much love for black people. It is a strategic choice. It also pays well. But what of those whites who are open with their disdain for people of color? If the polite racists have to find ways to justify their racial animosity and channel it through Herman Cain to find some absolution and cover, what of unapologetic racists who don't excuse make?

I get dirty so that you won't have to. Here are some comments from Stormfront and "Niggermania" regarding Tea Party GOP front runner Herman Cain.

There are some eerie resonances here folks (check out "comment 16" for example) with what is common speak in the Right-wing echo chamber, this is the symbolic racism and white racial resentment of the Tea Party GOP totally unfettered:

1. The Blacks had their shot, and they blew it. Now we have prima facie evidence that a Black (or mulatto) President is not less moronic and incompetent than any educated White that can be put forth, so why bother?

2. I can't believe this is occurring in a formerly white nation. It's a sicking sight to witness. Obama and the left are going to destroy this uncle Tom as they're already calling conservatives racist and what's even more messed up is the conservatives are using it to, to counter them...Both kisses the negroids backside like it's some kind of god (worshiping them)...

3. On the flip-side, having both main parties with Negro candidates may wake White people up to the fact that they are NOT represented politically, in a way which a puppet White Republican candidate could never have done.

4. i think it would be a godsend to get hermain cain to win the primary.. can you imagine.. ron Paul goes independent against two black men vote split three ways... paul has a real chance to win

5. As an outsider, he seems like one unimpressive token candidate. Is that really the best black the Republicans could find to prove they're not racist?

6. A bunch of affirmative action jobs and a mumbling ghetto dialect. Even Obama sounds eloquent with a teleprompter.

7. I think that focus group was staged. I don't believe those people were representative of Americans. Herman Cain has no experience with handling people in the government. Also, he is black, and this isn't a black country. He talks slow because he thinks slow. We need a good, white president. Pick someone who we know has correct positions like Ron Paul.

8. I think it's funny that even the "conservative" Negroes can't stop trumpeting their race.

9. That's the problem, if we were a true meritocracy that might be the case, but playing the odds says any Negro in any high position has some AA skeletons in his closet.

10. A negra is a negra, So said Grand father Vox

11. I haven't listened to a thing this Negro has said, because, yup, he's a Negro and I wouldn't vote for him anyway.

12. Can anyone show me a place that functions with a ****** politician? Can anyone show me another country that is a decent place to live that has even a hint of a ****** leading it? We don't need one or the sake of having one. We don't need one at all.

13. Yes, he will support minorities, etc and he would not defend white people because he is a Negro. So...

14. But I am concerned with those points, I worry about the concept of "our Negro is better than your Negro, look we are not racist"

15. Hell will freeze over before I support or vote for this negro. Maybe he knows math and maybe not. You never know with their lot. They are given opportunities not afforded most whites. Chances are he didn't earn it, but had a hand up and has learned to parrot his lines well like our president. They thought he was smart also.

16. I don't want to see another black president either, but we can use Herman Cain. It's been pointed out that he is a big Uncle Tom. Quite literally 'Uncle Ruckus' from the racially motivated cartoon 'Boondocks'. If he is a canidate that White America can get behind, then the race card will be null and void.

17. I know I might get yelled at for this, but he's a conservative white man in a black mans skin. Even if he isn't as true to the cause as Ron Paul, who I fully support. But before you cast judgement please watch this clip on YouTube of Cain acting pro-white. It'll have you laughing.

18. Why the pizza nigger can never win: His supposed rise in GOP polls is just a ploy, the result of Repubs trying to prove to their left-wing accusers that they're not racist just because they hate Obongo; He has yet to be nationally vetted. Once he is, it will come out that he's done the typical TNB: fathered a love child, muh diked white former employees, misused funds, committed tax fraud, etc.; He runs on being this great bidnessman ... so why did the board of Godawful's Pizza fire his nigger ass? (Plus, he was only hired so the company could qualify for fed grants requiring minority management.); The nigger had stage 4 colon and liver cancer, had surgery, but at 66 he's basically a dead nigger walking, not healthy enough for public office; He's way too primitive a nigger. Unlike the high yellow Harvard edumacated Obongo, the coal black cone-headed Cain went to all nigger Morehouse College. Morehouse. Can you get more nigger than that?

19. You would think people would have learned by now that a nigger can't handle the job of POTUS. If it comes down to nigger vs nigger, we will be in deep doo doo. Herman coon has its 999 plan. 9% national tax on purchased goods. This on top of your local and state tax will put everyone in the poor house. We all know that as CEO of nigger king and babydaddy pizza, it was the humans that did all the work and turned the company around. At this time we have a one drop rule nigger in the White House. If we end up with a full blown nigger in charge the entire country will end up a ghetto.

20. The problem here is that the first nigger president has turned out to be such a disaster. The libs and the left and every one suffering from white mans guilt just cannot admit to it being such a bad idea. So they say it is not that he is a nigger. It is that Obongo was not up to the job. So they scramble to place another nigger in office. This they say will prove once and for all "when he wins" that they really are just like us. Problem is that the nigger will just continue to run her into the ground. Then what will they do? Four more years of closing their eyes and chanting "We are the world?" Or will some sense of sanity finally emerge from this modern day dark age?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Last Word Part 2: Reverend Al, Melissa Perry, and Goldie Taylor on Herman Cain's Civil Rights Cowardice

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In case you all missed this extended conversation on The Last Word...

I cosign most of what was said there and am curious as to your thoughts. The panelists should have called out Cain's shtick as a professional racism apologist, but in all it was a solid dialogue. Moreover, I think Melissa was on point, but I can't cosign her critique of O'Donnell for asking those questions across the boundaries of the colorline. I get her "discomfort." But sometimes discomfort is exactly what we need when dealing with the walking human problematic and contradiction that is Herman Cain.

I do have one thought, regret, and ownership moment of reflection that I would like to process with you all. Is it my own ego and arrogance to feel like so much of what we are seeing in the punditry's response to Herman Cain are narratives we/you/us/I have developed here on We Are Respectable Negroes as well as on Alternet? Of course, I am not so foolish as to suggest that I have some unique insight into what is circulating in the ether, but I do have frustrated moments where I shrug my shoulders and have to re-evaluate my decision to operate from the shadows.

In all that is a complement to you all for helping me to be ahead of the curve on many of these matters. You should also give yourselves a congratulatory pat on the back and take a moment to tell folks that "hey, we were talking about this stuff about Herman Cain a long time ago!"

From Martin Bashir: Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth is a Portrait in Courage; Herman Cain is a Portrait in Cowardice

Damn. More folks are piling on Herman Cain. His back must be hurting by now.

The legendary Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth passed away this week. Herman Cain, front runner of the Tea Party GOP has retreated time and time again from the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.

The former is a legend and an older god. The latter is a his own admitting to being a free rider in the glorious Black Freedom Struggle.

To my eyes, the funny thing here is that the elder gods like Brother Shuttlesworth have broad shoulders and carry so many on them--including those folks who are not worthy. And yes, that includes people like Herman Cain.

Here, in my thinking about racial apologist and Tea Party GOP favorite Herman Cain, I am reminded of the following parable:

A snake and a dog became such fast friends that they took a vow that they would never separate. So when it happened that one of them was obliged to leave his native land, the other promised to go with him. They had traveled only a short distance when they came to a wide river.

The snake was now greatly troubled."Alas," he said, "you, my friend, can easily swim, but how can a poor snake like me ever get across this stream?""Never fear," replied the dog; "only place yourself squarely on my broad back and I will carry you safely over." 
No sooner was the snake settled on the dog's broad back, than the dog crawled into the water and began to swim. Halfway across he was startled by a strange rapping on his back, which made him ask the snake what he was doing."Doing?" answered the snake. "I am whetting my sting to see if it is possible to pierce your skin."
"Ungrateful friend," responded the dog, "it is well that I have it in my power both to save myself and to punish you as you deserve." And straightway he sank his back below the surface and shook off the snake into the water.

Herman Cain, like his Black Conservative brethren, are those snakes, riding on the shoulders and backs of those who gave them freedom. Ilk of that stripe are always ready to bite their benefactors, supporters, and trail blazers once they get a free ride. Herman Cain is no exception.

Question: Is Herman Cain the inevitable negative externality of the Civil Rights Movement? Are folks like Herman Cain the rank afterbirth that comes from a people who struggled for freedom for so many, and as part of the bargain of success had to bring the unworthy along for the ride?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion: Chauncey DeVega on the Ring of Fire Radio Show Talking About the Three Elements of Tea Party GOP Racism

Sharing as always.

This interview aired a few weeks back on Ring of Fire and is now available online. Hopefully, my bloviating and pretend punditry wasn't exposed too badly. I didn't expect the third element, a guest co-host from the Daily Beast (which was a nice addition), and we hit on an element of racial threat and terrorism on the part of the Tea Party GOP towards Obama that I had overlooked initially.

It is always good stuff when you can have an organic moment from which to pivot during an interview.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Herman Cain Tap Dances While Getting Beat with a Bag of Quarters by Lawrence O'Donnell on The Last Word

I normally don't take much of a liking to watching another black man get taken to the woodshed so thoroughly.

In the case of Herman Cain I will suspend said decision rule. Moreover, to watch a "Morehouse man" get schooled by a white interviewer on his failure to live up the great tradition of that historically black college was priceless.

A few thoughts on Lawrence O'Donnell's ownage of Herman Cain.

1. What was up with the Amen corner for Herman Cain? I know that he has suspended his campaign to go shill for his book, but that was truly odd. Why didn't Herman Cain go to a studio or a quiet room and do the interview. Was Cain's peanut gallery a condition for appearing on the The Last Word tonight?

2. Only some black people are brainwashed. They are apparently not alone given that the majority of people who vote for Democrats are brainwashed. Did you know, anyone who wants to raise taxes on the super rich is also brainwashed? Curiously, Herman Cain offers no comment on if poor and working class white people who vote for the Republican Party are also brainwashed. And of course he repeats the "class warfare" meme and furthers the propaganda line that 50 percent of tax payers now pay 97 percent of the taxes...this newest "fact" was new to me.

3. Herman Cain truly was a self-interested free rider during the Civil Rights Movement. I particularly enjoyed how he, in typical faux populist Conservative fashion, rewrote history so that in his version of events High School students, other young people, and college students were not involved with the sit-ins and freedom rides. This is utter balderdash. Herman Cain chose to be a bystander to history. There is no courage or honor there.

4. Never fear! Herman Cain ain't one of them pesky negro agitators!

Herman Cain's admission that he passively and obediently went to the back of the bus when a white driver told him to was especially telling. The Tea Party audience, and those who fondly remember Jim and Jane Crow will love that little fact. That allusion was a doubling down of Cain's benign memories of segregated water fountains which weren't that bad "because the water tastes the same." The Conservative White Soul with its fondness for the good old days of yee old South was certainly quite pleased with Herman Cain tonight.

He, like many black conservatives benefit from the Black Freedom Struggle, but are professional hit-men and assassins for white Conservatives, only on the bankroll as racism shields and human chaff for the Tea Party GOP. Cain's interview further demonstrated that fact.

5. When confronted on the questionable math that under-girds his grotesque and regressive "9-9-9" plan (a gangster capitalist ploy, one that would make our economy far worse and further increase wealth and income inequality); challenged on saying that the unemployed who are not rich should blame themselves because its their own fault; that gay people choose their sexuality; on the quack science he pledges allegiance to; his avoidance of service in Vietnam; and his backtracking on Rick Perry's "Niggerhead" debacle, Herman Cain shuffled, jived, buck-danced, bobbed, weaved, cakewalked, and banjo played like a traveling carnival performer on a 1 foot by 2 foot sized wooden box right next to the dog faced boy and the man with a shrunken head.

Herman Cain was dancing for food; He knew that if he fell off that box he wouldn't be gettin' no vittles tonight. Cain teetered a few times, and the box shook, but the tap dancing shoes didn't fall off and touch the ground.

6. Am I the only one who noticed Herman Cain's extremely rapid eye blinking, obvious agitation, and on the edge of overt fluster demeanor which suggested that he was about to go Samuel L. Jackson all over Lawrence O'Donnell?

In all, tonight my friend Herman Cain was one part Jim from Huck Finn, mixed with a bit of The Old Negro Space Program, and some George S. Schulyer for flavor. For the racially reactionary White Conservative Tea Party crowd, Cain's performance was their magical negro moment as he is right out of central casting.

Ultimately it is all toot sweet! Herman Cain ain't snuffin' no seeds as he keeps the train rolling and gains more momentum from the rapturous love that emanates from the dark heart of the White Conservative imagination which fuels his presidential campaign.

The inevitable derailment will be fun to watch.

Did You Know that America is Becoming a Cruel(er) Nation?

Blitzer pressed on: “But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?” Someone in the audience shouted, “Yeah!” And the crowd roared in approval.
A characteristic that these exchanges have in common is cruelty. Cruelty is a close cousin to injustice, yet it is different. Injustice and its opposite, justice—perhaps the most commonly used standards for judging the health of the body politic—are political criteria par excellence, and apply above all to systems and their institutions.
Cruelty and its opposites, kindness, compassion and decency, are more personal. They are apolitical qualities that nevertheless have political consequences. A country’s sense of decency stands outside and above its politics, checking and setting limits on abuses. An unjust society must reform its laws and institutions. A cruel society must reform itself.
There have been many signs recently that the United States has been traveling down a steepening path of cruelty. It’s hard to say why such a thing is occurring, but it seems to have to do with a steadily growing faith in force as the solution to almost any problem, whether at home or abroad.
We are the little man behind the stove. We are the miner's canary and the conscience of a nation. Double consciousness is a gift and a burden for we who are the Dark Princes and Dark Princesses of this new/old world. We who are "niggerized" understand existential terror. We are burdened by this insight; we are pained by this reality; we are empowered and made stronger for and by it.

We who are Other have a gifted insight into the nature of power and the meanness of humanity that those of the in-group, in bed with Whiteness, who embody it, swim in its ether, and breath it as lifeblood do not. Ironically, Whiteness practices cruelty with expert ease; its owner-practitioners feign ignorance and live in denial of said fact.

In the aftermath of the monster's ball that has been the Tea Party GOP's debates to this point, where they have ghoulishly cheered murder, bigotry, and death, some have experienced shock and made to feel aghast. The discovery of Rick Perry's "Niggerhead" was also greeted with surprise by some among the pundit classes and public at large. The Nation magazine picked up this thread with its essay "Cruel America."

We who are the Other are not allowed such childish notions of feigned surprise at the meanness on display by the Right, the kleptocrats, and the Tea Party GOP. As I pointed out several weeks ago, the latter is a death cult; a mean spirited and cruel politics is their Eucharist. In all, for those Others who know power and have suffered under it, we are not allowed such naive, willful, and forced innocence. The stakes for us are simply too high to entertain the myopic worldview that is Whiteness and the white racial frame.

Jonathan Schell continues his musings on cruelty with:
We might also draw a connection between these abuses and the current direction of budgetary decisions, in which, as in the readiness to deny healthcare to the dying, a pitiless will to deprive suffering people of whatever aid they may be receiving is evident.
The list of cuts, achieved or proposed, on the right-wing agenda is too long to recite, but recent examples include the astonishing obstruction of assistance to recent victims of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee unless other programs are cut; opposition to extending unemployment benefits; defeat of the Dream Act, which would give immigrant children a path to citizenship; opposition to spending for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) as well as Head Start, and so on.
It appears that no one is so unfortunate that he or she is exempt from spending cuts, while at the same time no one is so fortunate as to be ineligible for a tax cut. Budget decisions do not involve the death penalty, yet for many they are matters of life and death.
America is a cruel nation. She always has been. In many ways she remains so today. In the past America reveled in its meanness without apology, self-consciousness, or embarrassment. At present, many, the Right and conservatives especially so, are blinded by the glare of American exceptionalism and dreams of a shining city on a hill: these are natural reactions for a people who live in denial of America's decline as an empire.

As flag waivers for the American tradition they are cruel too, but conservatives and the Right are able to find ways to make themselves into victims when the meanness of their politics are placed center stage and made transparent.

The echoes of history. Here is one account of American cruelty that speaks back to Rick Perry's Niggerhead nostalgia, his sundown town halcyon dreams of youth, and the howling screams of the Tea Party GOP audience at the death of their fellow man.


Paris, Texas, Feb. 1, 1893.—Henry Smith, the negro ravisher of 4-year-old Myrtle Vance, has expiated in part his awful crime by death at the stake. Ever since the perpetration of his awful crime this city and the entire surrounding country has been in a wild frenzy of excitement. When the news came last night that he had been captured at Hope, Ark., that he had been identified by B. B. Sturgeon, James T. Hicks, and many other of the Paris searching party, the city was wild with joy over the apprehension of the brute. Hundreds of people poured into the city from the adjoining country and the word passed from lip to lip that the punishment of the fiend should fit the crime—that death by fire was the penalty Smith should pay for the most atrocious murder and terrible outrage in Texas history. Curious and sympathizing alike, they came on train and wagons, on horse, and on foot to see if the frail mind of a man could think of a way to sufficiently punish the perpetrator of so terrible a crime. Whisky shops were closed, unruly mobs were dispersed, schools were dismissed by a proclamation from the mayor, and everything was done in a business-like manner.

About 2 o’clock Friday a mass meeting was called at the courthouse and captains appointed to search for the child. She was found mangled beyond recognition, covered with leaves and brush as above mentioned. As soon as it was learned upon the recovery of the body that the crime was so atrocious the whole town turned out in the chase. The railroads put up bulletins offering free transportation to all who would join in the search. Posses went in every direction, and not a stone was left unturned. Smith was tracked to Detroit on foot, where he jumped on a freight train and left for his old home in Hempstead County, Arkansas. To this county he was tracked and yesterday captured at Clow, a flag station on the Arkansas & Louisiana railway about twenty miles north of Hope. Upon being questioned the fiend denied everything, but upon being stripped for examination his undergarments were seen to be spattered with blood and a part of his shirt was torn off. He was kept under heavy guard at Hope last night, and later on confessed the crime.

This morning he was brought through Texarkana, where 5,000 people awaited the train. . . . At that place speeches were made by prominent Paris citizens, who asked that the prisoner be not molested by Texarkana people, but that the guard be allowed to deliver him up to the outraged and indignant citizens of Paris. Along the road the train gathered strength from the various towns, the people crowded upon the platforms and tops of coaches anxious to see the lynching and the negro who was soon to be delivered to an infuriated mob.

Arriving here at 12 o’clock the train was met by a surging mass of humanity 10,000 strong. The negro was placed upon a carnival float in mockery of a king upon his throne, and, followed by an immense crowd, was escorted through the city so that all might see the most inhuman monster known in current history. The line of march was up Main street to the square, around the square down Clarksville street to Church street, thence to the open prairies about 300 yards from the Texas & Pacific depot. Here Smith was placed upon a scaffold, six feet square and ten feet high, securely bound, within the view of all beholders. Here the victim was tortured for fifty minutes by red-hot iron brands thrust against his quivering body. Commencing at the feet the brands were placed against him inch by inch until they were thrust against the face. Then, being apparently dead, kerosene was poured upon him, cottonseed hulls placed beneath him and set on fire. In less time than it takes to relate it, the tortured man was wafted beyond the grave to another fire, hotter and more terrible than the one just experienced.

Curiosity seekers have carried away already all that was left of the memorable event, even to pieces of charcoal. The cause of the crime was that Henry Vance when a deputy policeman, in the course of his duty was called to arrest Henry Smith for being drunk and disorderly. The Negro was unruly, and Vance was forced to use his club. The Negro swore vengeance, and several times assaulted Vance. In his greed for revenge, last Thursday, he grabbed up the little girl and committed the crime. The father is prostrated with grief and the mother now lies at death’s door, but she has lived to see the slayer of her innocent babe suffer the most horrible death that could be conceived.

Words to describe the awful torture inflicted upon Smith cannot be found. The Negro, for a long time after starting on the journey to Paris, did not realize his plight. At last when he was told that he must die by slow torture he begged for protection. His agony was awful. He pleaded and writhed in bodily and mental pain. Scarcely had the train reached Paris than this torture commenced. His clothes were torn off piecemeal and scattered in the crowd, people catching the shreds and putting them away as mementos. The child’s father, her brother, and two uncles then gathered about the Negro as he lay fastened to the torture platform and thrust hot irons into his quivering flesh. It was horrible—the man dying by slow torture in the midst of smoke from his own burning flesh. Every groan from the fiend, every contortion of his body was cheered by the thickly packed crowd of 10,000 persons. The mass of beings 600 yards in diameter, the scaffold being the center. After burning the feet and legs, the hot irons—plenty of fresh ones being at hand—were rolled up and down Smith’s stomach, back, and arms. Then the eyes were burned out and irons were thrust down his throat.

The men of the Vance family have wreaked vengeance, the crowd piled all kinds of combustible stuff around the scaffold, poured oil on it and set it afire. The Negro rolled and tossed out of the mass, only to be pushed back by the people nearest him. He tossed out again, and was roped and pulled back. Hundreds of people turned away, but the vast crowd still looked calmly on. People were here from every part of this section. They came from Dallas, Fort Worth, Sherman, Denison, Bonham, Texarkana, Fort Smith, Ark., and a party of fifteen came from Hempstead County, Arkansas, where he was captured. Every train that came in was loaded to its utmost capacity, and there were demands at many points for special trains to bring the people here to see the unparalleled punishment for an unparalleled crime. When the news of the burning went over the country like wildfire, at every country town anvils boomed forth the announcement.