Thursday, October 27, 2011

Be Careful! Big Pimpin Herman Cain Will Put You On Pimp Arrest for Reckless Eyeballing

It is hard out there for a white pimp. Get your hustle on Mr. White Folks!

No deep analysis here. Just a chance to indulge in some pimping goodness...

1. Given Herman Cain's love of chromed-out Cadillacs, and now the newest information that Cornbread does not allow staffers to talk to him unless they are first spoken to, I deem him the Tea Party Pimp Godfather. But Herman Cain still needs a street name, any suggestions?

2. Of the "popular" pimps, I got nothing but love for Fillmore Slim--granted these folks are a bunch of clowns who exploit the weak and the vulnerable--but Mr. Fillmore has a certain "compelling" habitus:

What Would James Madison Do (WWJMD)? Would the Framers Support the Occupy Wall Street Movement?

Populist movements are exciting; they are quintessentially "American" moments that validate our national mythos. This sentiment appears on both sides of the ideological divide.

Although they are an AstroTurf organization funded by the Koch brothers, the Tea Party believes that they are "of the people," and in turn represent the authentic voice of a disaffected silent majority.

Occupy Wall Street, a spontaneous, unfocused, sit-in movement, speaks for an aggrieved and upset public who are disgusted by robber baron gangster capitalism, and an ineffective government that has abandoned the Common Good to the interests of the American kleptocracy.

The Tea Party, and Occupy Wall Street, are united in a belief that their respective struggles are in keeping with the best traditions of American democracy and citizen activism. In all, they imagine themselves to be fulfilling the cornerstone values of American civil religion; moreover, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are (in their own eyes, and however problematic the assumption) ideal-typical examples of American exceptionalism in action.

While the former is more explicit in this regard (with their fetish-like worship of the Constitution and love of period regalia), both have embraced freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievance, as values which are central to their respective "movement cultures." Implicit here, is a belief that the framers of the Constitution would support their efforts and goals.

As it often does, and once more, history complicates matters.

The Constitution, while extremely radical for its era, is in many ways an anti-democratic document that is designed to subvert and prevent mass democracy. The framers represented a particular set of regional, economic, class, and racial interests. The Constitution was a compromise document that reflected those realities. For example:

1. The Constitution is an explicitly pro-slavery document which protected the interests of the Southern planters and those of the landed classes;

2. The Senate, founded as an American version of the House of Lords, was a representative body explicitly designed as a check on the House of Representatives. Senators would finally be subject to direct popular vote, as opposed to nomination, in 1913;

3. In order to exercise the franchise to vote, citizens had to be white, male, and own property, a requirement that would not be changed until the era of Jacksonian democracy. The practical effect of these rules was that a significant part of the American public were ineligible to vote from the time of the founding through to the first decades of the 19th century (with white women being granted the right to vote in 1920);

4. James Madison and others expressed a deep anxiety about factions, the passions of a mass democratic public, and how infectious differences over property and wealth could usurp American democracy--and therefore ought to be protected against by the Constitution.

In total, the long arc of the American experience has been a broadening of rights, liberties, and freedoms, as well as the enfranchisement of whole categories of citizens originally left out of the Constitution's vision of democracy. Ultimately, mass democracy has meant working against the elite democracy imagined by the framers.

While certainly not possessed of a lockstep unity of belief on matters of public and social policy (this flattening of history and mythologizing of "the founding fathers" was a product of the 1950s and the Cold War), the framers were, in many ways, the "1 percent" of their era.

Of course, one needs to be cautious in reading back to a specific moment more than two hundred years ago and importing the framer's sensibilities to the present (What would they say about globalization? Would they be aghast that Corporations are now legal persons? How would they respond to an America that is extremely diverse and a global power?).

But, as Occupy Wall Street works in the best tradition of citizen-activism to reclaim the power of transformative, radical democratic action, it behooves us to ask just who the "1 percent" were in the past, and how their interests may (or may not) echo into the present.

Thus the question: What would James Madison, one of the most "elitist" of his peers, think about the 99 percent? What of the framers more generally? How would they respond to Occupy Wall Street?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not So Post-Racial: The Walking Dead Episode "Bloodletting" Reviewed

With the exception of the show's premiere episode, Bloodletting is the closest that The Walking Dead TV series has come to the style, tone, and spirit of its source material.

With the departure of Frank Darabont, I was prepared to finally judge The Walking Dead, pardon my pun, a dead project. "Bloodletting" demonstrates that perhaps there is some hope for the series, that despite its high ratings and crossover appeal, has stumbled mightily in comparison to its source material...

This is a critical essay. If you want a summary or traditional review of The Walking Dead Season Two's episode Bloodletting you should look here, here, or here. What follows is spoiler territory.


As I have suggested elsewhere, part of the appeal of the zombie genre is its flexibility. The rising of the dead, what is ultimately the unthinkable, grants the storyteller a rich premise with which to explore issues of society, survival, human nature, science run amok, psychic trauma, and identity. And as exemplified by movies such as Zombieland or Return of the Living Dead, zombie fiction can also just be good fun that allows readers a brain eating, gore filled, ass kicking, 90 minutes of distracting joy.

I am a huge fan and long-time follower of The Walking Dead comic book series. The graphic novel is decidedly "about something," i.e. it is a text that meditates on serious matters of life, death, and existential meaning, as opposed to being "about nothing."

Here, The Walking Dead comic book plays with issues of race, gender, and identity in a decidedly subtle way: the most important "difference" in a world where the dead now walk the Earth is the new "racial" divide of zombies versus the living; skin color, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality are now obsolete as categories that order and frame human society.

If race is a social construction, then the divide between the living and the undead is real and fixed. Moreover, race, as well as other once socially relevant categories of difference, is discarded because the Other is now all of us. The zombies are now the in-group; the living are the out-group. Humankind is now suffering, in mass, under the threat of real power.

[In all, the walking dead are us; the walking dead are them. Do you get the double-meaning?]

Race is still real: the brilliance of The Walking Dead comic book, as well as its most recent TV episode, lies in how both acknowledge this fact. The concept gains meaning because it is not directly discussed in the text. And because popular culture tells us something about the moment in which it is created and consumed (the Age of Obama; a country still negotiating the challenges of the colorline; the Great Recession), race cannot help but be present in both the graphic novel and the TV series.

Or channeling Stuart Hall, The Walking Dead is rich with semiotic possibilities, and the floating signifiers of race, class, and gender cannot help but be present even in a world that is possessed of the unthinkable and the absurd, where the cycle of life and death is broken, and our breathing, living humanity struggles for existence against the heretofore unimaginable.

Bloodletting is an episode that is explicitly about race. HBO's Boardwalk Empire duly noted, Bloodletting also features one of the most dense, as well as ideologically rich, moments in recent television.

T-Dog, The Walking Dead TV series' stereotypical, hyper black masculine caricature of authentic ghetto negritude, was injured in the previous episode. In Bloodletting, he sits with Dale, one of the original (and most well-developed) characters from the graphic novel and they discuss the realities of race in an conversation straight out of the movie Crash. Because The Walking Dead TV series features standard characters such as the "redneck hillbilly," vulnerable women who are the damsel of the week in need of saving, wayward children who do stupid things, and black women who are emotionally broken and give up on life, the dialogue is melodramatic and heavy handed.

T-Dog, apparently suffering from the effects of blood poisoning, reflects on the likelihood of his survival given that he is surrounded by poor white trash and Southern Cops--a group he believes are more likely to lynch him than to offer aid and comfort. Dale, a good, trusting, white man of a certain age, can't accept that "race matters" during an apocalypse. To Dale's eyes there is no evidence of racial malice or prejudice by Daryl (or any other members of the party), so why would T-Dog even worry about such a possibility?

In this exchange there is racism denying, white privilege, conservative colorblindness, and the need for people of color (and the Other) to convince the in-group of the validity of their experiences. While counter-intuitive, I would suggest that this scene in Bloodletting is so utterly transparent that it borders on genius. In all, T-Dog and Dale break the fourth wall. They signal an aspect of the show to the viewers which has been obvious since its first episode: race and gender matter in this story, even as a superficial reading of the narrative would suggest that it does not.

Race also works symbolically in Dale and T-Dog's exchange. "Racial contamination" has long been a dominant theme in science fiction and speculative literature. Science fiction embodies this concept by transposing the historic White fear of miscegenation and interracial sex onto aliens, robots, and monsters. For example, films such as Alien, Blade Runner, and the The Thing are extended meditations on the twin fears of racial passing and racial pollution.

T-Dog is a racial contaminant of sorts because he is the only black man in a small group of white survivors. T-Dog also represents the fear of racial contamination in other ways as well. Primarily, T-Dog could 1) be infected with the zombie virus (we know that he was cut by a jagged piece of metal, but could some zombie blood have gotten in his wound?) and 2) will inevitably turn into a zombie if he dies.

The scene that immediately follows T-Dog and Dale's conversation about the realities of race in The Walking Dead is another signal that race matters, and will continue to matter in the story, even if it remains little discussed. In a continuation of last week's storyline, the remaining characters are battling a group of zombies in a wooded area. Andrea, The Walking Dead's stereotypical, white, female character (and thus always vulnerable and perpetually in peril) is attacked by a shabbily dressed African American zombie. He tries to bite her--an act of violation and penetration--and his body falls atop her in a position which suggests rape and sexual violation. Who comes to her rescue in her fight against an undead black rapist? Maggie, a white, blonde haired maiden riding a horse, who then proceeds to kill the offending ghoul.

Nationalism; patriotism; white womanhood as the embodiment of the Racial State (and to be protected at all costs); and white women dispatching black brutes are all present in this one moment in Bloodletting. While certainly not The Clansmen or Birth of a Nation, the visual and thematic union of sex, violence, and race is hard to overlook and dismiss as being a mere coincidence--especially given how it flows from the racially pregnant conversation between Dale and T-Dog.

Bloodletting is a great episode. The question remains as to if the writers of The Walking Dead will drop these issues of race and identity, or return to them given that they have been introduced explicitly in the narrative. I hope Glenn Mazzara pushes the story forward while innovating and improving on what Frank Darabont and Jonathan Hickman fashioned during Season One.

As always here are some questions.

1. The events that will occur at the farm have been pretty well telegraphed. Readers of the comic book know that there is a surprise in one of the barns. If you were writing the TV series would you follow through on one of the best storylines from the source material or would you continue to deviate as the show has done to this point?

2. Why shoot Carl now? This is another huge moment in the comic book. What is accomplished in the long run by playing this card now? Carl has so much growing to do, does this action take away from what should have actually happened in the first season (you know, all that necessary and nasty stuff with Shane).

3. How long do you think the affair was going on between Shane and Rick's wife Lori. She is pregnant by him, implies that he let Rick get shot on purpose because of their affair, and then continues on with the affair once the plague begins. Is Lori a tragic figure? Or is she contemptible? Could she be both?

4. There is a quota for black characters on genre TV. Michonne will debut this season. When T-Dog dies will this open the door for Tyrese? Or are AMC and the writers of The Walking Dead reluctant to have too many "strong" black characters on one TV show, lest white audiences become uncomfortable?

5. The writers of The Walking Dead are already playing fast and loose with the comic book's source material. Given their "creativity" in this regard what do you think we will see next? The Prison storyline and the Governor? The Hunters? Or will the next arc be something all together new?

6. George Romero recently said that he does not prefer the TV show over the comic book. Words of wisdom or a matter of personal taste?

7. The racial allegory comes full circle at the end of Bloodletting. Daryl has the necessary medicine to save T-Dog's life. Is this hackneyed and a further advance of the earlier Crash-like melodrama? Or will this moment build to something where Darryl confronts T-Dog because he senses some element of racial anxiety or fear, emotions that Darryl takes to be an offense and a slap in the face?

8. Dead pool. In the comic book no one is safe. In the TV series, which character do you think will die next?

9. Zombies are all the rage. Folks are bandwagoning all over the place. To point: have any of you read Colson Whitehead's zombie opus Zone One? Anyone check out The Walking Dead novel Rise of the Governor? Are either worth buying?

John McWhorter's Defense of Herman Cain's Race Minstrelsy is the Very Definition of Piss Poor Thinking

But there is little evidence that Cain is trading on that kind of racism: “Shucky ducky” and “I does not care” are harmless cultural flotsam. Rather than policing Cain’s behavior, we should take it as a learning opportunity. At the least, our conception of blackness should be generous enough that conservative black Republicans can afford to be black in public.
John McWhorter is a curious fellow. When McWhorter is working in his depth as a socio-linguist he is devastatingly sharp. By comparison, McWhorter's writings on politics are horribly uneven. At times, he knocks it out out of the park; more often than not McWhorter's observations are a more high-brow version of typical, lazy thinking, black conservatism.

Unfortunately, McWhorter's piece in the New Republic defending "Cornbread" Herman Cain falls into the latter pattern. He is bending over backwards to explain away a black buffoon's routine that is prefaced on denigrating the intelligence and dignity of African Americans for the glee, approval, and entertainment of white conservatives. Moreover, McWhorter, a true intellectual, misses the obvious, i.e. the reason d'etre of race minstrelsy. The black mask was precisely a fantasy role that validated the fantasies of white supremacy at the expense of African American personhood and humanity.

How John McWhorter can miss this obvious aspect of Herman Cain's presidential campaign--by a man who is a rocket scientist, and a Morehouse graduate, feigning a version of country negro illiteracy that is straight out of Song of the South--is shocking to me. Such an omission on McWhorter's part can only be intentional.

If John McWhorter were a social scientist, I would accuse him of conducting "piss poor social science." He is a professor in the humanities. Thus, I am unsure of the equivalent to describe McWhorter's myopic and poorly reasoned article on Herb Cain. Any suggestions as to a fitting moniker?

Here is a particularly rich passage. The whole essay can be found here.
Were it that we could come to the same agreement about Herman Cain’s sense of humor. Unfortunately, when he says that his Secret Service handle could be “Cornbread,” or greets an enthusiastic audience with the theatrically humble expression “Shucky ducky,” commentators get their hackles up. Read the op-ed written by Brown University’s Ulli Ryder last week in the New York Daily News and you would think that Cain is himself a racist, encouraging insulting “stereotypes”.
The truth is much simpler—namely, he is exposing (in some cases, introducing) the country to an authentic thread of black culture. Cain isn’t a self-hating minstrel. Quite the opposite: He’s a black man from the South actually comfortable enough to be himself on the national stage.On the epistemological question of whether there is such a thing as “authentically black” culture, I have my doubts, and have expressed them at length in my previous writing.
But we also shouldn’t say that there is no such thing as blackness at all, as some educated black people have alleged. A culture with no traits is nothing—or at least nothing worth discussing. The real problem is that many political and media elites have a much too narrow conception of what it means to be black. Indeed, one of the saddest things about modern black American culture is the sense that there are large aspects of it that are somehow not respectable.

The fact is Cain is a black person from the state of Georgia: Why shouldn’t he have a right to invoke vernacular Southern black culture, including a fondness for cornbread? Cain’s saying “shucky ducky” is no different—no more anti-black—than when President Obama says “goin” instead of “going.” It is Cain’s critics, with their deep-seated ambivalence about the value of black culture, who deserve to face the charge of self-hatred. Where Cain is proud to display his blackness—from its physical characteristics (he has openly said he finds the color of his own skin to be beautiful) to its more subtle and humble cultural components—his detractors would seem to wish he would not be so black where white people can see it.
Certainly, some of Cain’s rhetoric needs to be contextualized to be properly understood. More than anything, Cain shows an affinity and comfort with the particular sense of humor rooted in black American experience. However questionable it is as a political trope, Cain has been regularly employing on the campaign trail a particularly black rhetorical comic style, one that involves a certain cartoonish, and fantastic treatment of violence. This is the tradition he was drawing on, for example, when he called for a border fence that would electrocute Mexicans.

What Would Edward Bernays Say About Herman Cain's Cigarrette Smoking Man Ad?

Cigarettes are a symbol of male sexual power and the penis.

Question: Why is Herman Cain using this symbol in his newest campaign ad? Is Herman Cain telling folks to grab his metaphorical cigarette, to work its shaft, his large, thick, heavy "torch of freedom?"

How nasty...

Herman Cain is a master of political theater. This is one of his strongest points, and logically a go to recurring trope. I am unsure if the gimmick will continue to work for Mr. "9-0-9," as Cain is rapidly being revealed as a candidate who has no clothes.

But let's take Cain's cigarette smoking ad seriously for a moment. He is clearly signalling to some notion that cigarette smoking is politically incorrect, and that "real Americans" must "take their country back."

Question: when did putting a cancer stick in one's mouth become an act of resistance to tyrannical state power and a symbol to rally around the flag against an oppressive State?

Sigmund Freud wrote a great deal about oral fixations. How would he analyze Herman Cain's newest ad? What would Frantz Fanon say about Herman Cain's habit of prominently featuring white folks in his ads and on his campaign's website?

Closely analyzing and viewing Herman Cain's video, what is in fact being suggested there? Is Herman Cain really a black man who is an "all American" white guy who smokes? Or can white folks seamlessly find their interests validated by working with a "good negro" like Herman Cain?

As I often do, let's take a swerve to the far lane, one quite relevant and revealing.

Edward Bernays, the father of modern public relations, had a thing for cigarette smoking flappers. It would appear that Herman Cain has a thing for "real American" white men as the ideal spokespersons for his campaign.

A rich coincidence, is it not?

My common refrain, once more history echoes--

Monday, October 24, 2011

Race Matters: Liberal Racism and the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Thanks for your advice on the Daily Kos blowup. We are still dialoguing on the topic. I do appreciate your guidance and wisdom on the matter.

Like many of you, I have been following the Occupy Wall Street Movement for some weeks now. I thought it would have been a moment that came and went, an episode which crystallizes the frustration that Americans are feeling in the time of the Great Recession, a boil once popped that deflates in a moment of cathartic release.

I still remain worried that the powers that be, will at some point, pull a Douglas MacArthur Bonus Army move and commence to head-cracking. I am also impressed by folks speaking truth to power, and finding their voice in a moment of declining civic engagement, a time when emotional, financial, and spiritual exhaustion could easily lead them to disengage and surrender.

There are numerous challenges ahead regarding the Occupy Wall Street Movement. These include the need for the Occupy Wall Street Movement participants to come up with a dominant frame, find a leader or spokesperson, and form a national organization.

In this regard, Occupy Wall Street's decentralized nature is both a strength and a weakness. It gives flexibility and makes the movement (ironically in some ways) a bit harder for elites to derail. Decentralization also makes it difficult to develop a fixed, clear, and coherent set of policy goals to advocate for in the arena of normal politics.

Occupy Wall Street also faces a practical hurtle, one that at first glance seems insurmountable: can people power have any impact on the decision-making processes of a financier class who are by their very nature(s) both anti-democratic and plutocratic?

Race and class are intimately and inseparably tied together in American society. Blacks and Latinos have been particularly hard hit by the Great Recession. Extreme wealth and income inequality, even as made worst in recent years, are the predictable and intended results of centuries-long government policies that economically disadvantaged people of color while simultaneously subsidizing the creation of the white middle class in America.

Moreover, the destruction of America's central cities by post-Fordist, neo-liberal economic policies put a brown and black face on the American poor in the popular imagination. These early efforts at the shock doctrine, deep retrenchment by the State, and austerity as a policy (and not as a temporary condition or corrective) were first perfected on the poor and working classes in America's central cities. History comes full circle as the knife sharpeners are now at the throats of the (white) American middle class.

Eventually, Occupy Wall Street will have to deal with how differences of ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, and citizenship complicate their movement culture and policy goals. Diversity can be an asset; it can also make for real difficulties in getting self-interested, albeit well-intentioned, agents to work together towards a common goal.

Like their intellectual fore bearers in the American Communist Party in Harlem circa 1930, some on the Left, the most orthodox and doctrinaire types especially, will insist that the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about class and not race. Moreover, from their perspective, any talk about race is a distraction from more "important" issues.

This is a dangerous and problematic script where even among Progressives and the Left, white (male) privilege threatens to win out, even as the participants in Occupy Wall Street wrap themselves in the power of the "human microphone."

White liberals and white conservatives are both infected by white supremacy and white privilege. In addition, both are invested in the white racial frame and a type of racial heliocentrism where "whiteness" equals normality: in this aspect, I have long suggested that white liberals and white conservatives differ only in how the disease that is white racism manifests itself.

This suggestion offends liberals, because to them, racism is a particular sin of their ideological adversaries--and being politically correct on matters of race is a badge to be worn and a flag flown with (oftentimes) smug moral superiority over others who are not as "enlightened."

By comparison, conservatives react with a mix of defensiveness and aggression as they default to a tired script of white victimology, where in the Age of Obama, anti-racism is the new racism; ironically, for racially resentful white conservatives in particular, the act of naming a thing for what it actually is becomes the greater sin.

In all, white conservatives and white liberals both imagine themselves to be the natural masters of the universe. Liberals are ashamed of this fact. Conservatives revel in it. What will happen to the Occupy Wall Street Movement when black and brown folks assert the relevance of their own experiences? When they/we/us grab the human microphone and take center stage?

The participatory democratic culture of the Occupy Wall Street Movement is fraught with the same challenges of power, inequality, and identity as American society writ large. It would be naive to expect otherwise.

In my reconnaissance of Daily Kos, I closely followed the fallout from a post called "A Black Woman Who Occupied Wall Street: Why She Won't Be Going Back." The comments by (majority white) "Kossacks" to the author's experiences are quite--for lack of a better word--fascinating.

I am all for being alert to how Right-wing types could potentially play the role of agent provocateurs. Yet, I also find it curious, that the general idea, i.e. that "gosh race could be a variable!" in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, was treated with such skepticism.

As is our tradition, I have some questions:

Have any of you been to the Occupy Wall Street rallies? If so, what dynamics of race, class, and gender have you observed?

Is the human microphone really that inclusive? Or are some voices and experiences being censored and excluded?

Are those who are the Other outside of the Occupy Wall Street Movement being treated as others within that counter-cultural setting? Or is the dynamic reversed where black and brown folks give a sense of "authentic" resistance, (and do pardon my obvious pun) some "oppositional color," to what at present appears to be a very white Occupy Wall Street movement?

Amber Cole and The Very Definition of Prudery: The Good Liberals at Daily Kos vs. Chauncey Devega

I am done with grading and have a bunch of posts that are in the backlog.

My post on Amber Rose inflamed some folks at Daily Kos. Because you all know me here, and some of you have been long time members of the WARN family, you understand that I am a plain talker. I do not sit around and write to please folks, or to win plaudits and virtual "points," "likes," or "tips." Of course, I enjoy a good pat on the back or acknowledgment for my deeds when they are well done. But in total, pleasing others is not my modus operandi.

The open letter I wrote to Amber Cole (and to young women like her everywhere) caused quite a bit of anger over at Daily Kos. Of course, I probed and pushed back against the "Kossacks" which only served to inflame them. 150 comments later a few of them are still throwing a fit that I would dare to suggest that we need to speak plainly and directly with young girls about their sexuality.

A small minority of readers did in fact agree with both the tone and directness of my open letter. But, the consensus was that I am a sex deviant, a misogynist, a prude who wants to take away a woman's right to an abortion, and that I am not a "real progressive." These comments are none too different from those on my Martin Luther King Jr. piece in which I challenged 2 dimensional hero worship and flat histories which do more to obscure than reveal the greatness and complexity of the man.

Now, please feel free to criticize my content, style, or approach to writing. I give as good as I get. But, there is another element at work in the mouth-frothing upsetness I saw at Daily Kos. I believe that I am close to figuring out what the variable is.

As I develop that thesis (and continue my reconnaissance) it would be very useful if you could help me to put the pearl clutching rage of the Daily Kos's readership at my open letter to Amber Rose in perspective.

I know people are reading the post; at present, folks have remained relatively silent. WARN is not an amen corner so do offer your thoughts--even if you passionately disagree with me.

Some questions:

1. Is my post on Amber Cole lurid?

2. Have I misidentified the problem?

3. Am I "blaming the victim?"

4. Is there something especially problematic about giving a teenager advice that is direct, honest, and transparent about her sexuality and those of her peers?

5. Is my letter based on a false assumption? Here I mean, are young girls, in particular young black and brown girls who may live in under-resourced communities where male role models are absent, actually receiving appropriate advice about their choices in sexual partners? Is my concern much to do about nothing?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Victimology and the Failure of a Father's Parenting Skills: An Open Letter to Amber Cole, High School Fellatio Artist

At times one must issue an obligatory comment...

Apparently, a teenage girl named Amber Cole was recorded performing oral sex on a teenage boy. Apparently, said teenage boy's friend recorded the event and posted it on the Internet. Apparently, this is a matter that has transcended the private and crossed over into the realm of public concern.

In the age of the Internet I yearn for the good old days of my youth.

Back in the day we only had young girls who would have sex on the roofs of portable classrooms while the whole school watched. We were disgusted and laughed at our friends who caught the clap in the 5th grade and described in horrid detail how their "privates were clogged up." Without cell phone cameras and the Internet, we had no choice but to be creative and hide in the closet and watch while our friends did the deed with willing young ladies.

Can it be that it was all so simple then?

The Amber Cole episode is the latest manufactured moral panic and hysterical moment, a temporary stopping point while the Internet and mass media wait for the next missing white woman story.

The Amber Cole episode is also revealing of a culture where everyone is a victim and no one takes responsibility for their deeds. Amber Cole is not a death row inmate about to be executed for a crime she may not have committed. I am not Amber Cole. You are not Amber Cole. Amber Cole is not a tragic figure who symbolizes the lost generational possibilities of black youth and how black women are marginalized in American culture and society. Hip hop did not cause Amber Cole to have oral sex in a gym; nor did the rise of social media and the Internet cause the young auteur filmmaker to record his boy getting some brain. Boys will be boys; Boys should also be held accountable for their choices.

In all, Amber Cole is a story about a teenage girl, who like many teenagers, made a misguided choice to have sex with someone in a public place and was caught mid fellatio, on her knees.
Young people make poor choices--that is part of the luxury and curse of youth.

If we are to "scale-up" and generalize from teen sex to more troubling social ills, the most problematic aspect of the Amber Cole blowjob debacle is how her father, a supposedly responsible adult, makes excuses for his daughter and casts blame on every party--except himself--for her "adventurous" sexuality.

What type of home environment and parenting would produce a young girl who has sex in a public school gym? What did he teach his daughter about love and relationships? Did he have a real talk with Amber Cole about sex and her emerging sexuality? About the emotional, physical, and financial consequences of having sex?

Children often fail their parents. Parents often fail their children. In the case of Amber Cole, I suspect it may be more the latter than the former. The cliche is "that it takes a village to raise a child." As a a public service, I offer my version of the talk that Amber Cole's dad should have had with her about sex and relationships. There are likely millions of Amber Coles in this country today. Many of them do not have responsible male role models in their lives. The following is also an open letter to them.



As a teenager you are growing up very fast. At times you are going to feel like you are an adult, at other times you are going to very much feel like a child. Being 14 years old is an awkward age; in a perfect world you should have the protection of your family and elders while you figure out where your life is going in the future. You are also going to have the freedom to make some choices that could follow you forever. So let's be real. Your friends are either having sex, thinking about it all the time, doing some combination of the two, or lying and exaggerating about how much sex they are having.

I am not going to lie to you. Sex feels good. It feels really really good with the right person and when you are in the right frame of mind emotionally and physically. I am not going to lie to you. You can have sex without being in a relationship, you can have sex with yourself, and love and sex don't necessarily have anything to do with one another. I know that is an unconventional thing to say to a teenager, and pardon my stereotyping, perhaps especially so to a young girl, when society sells you a bill of goods about love, relationships, dating, and romance, and then compellingly packages those lies in bad movies and poorly written R&B songs.

Americans are fascinated with sex but are really immature about sexuality. Sex is all around you and you are going to feel a natural impulse to want to experiment. These yearnings and feelings are nothing new. Teenagers and young adults have been having sex without their parents' knowledge or approval for thousands and millions of years. In fact, I think most parents prefer not to know how the erotic awakening of their sons and daughters is proceeding.

The difference today is that you have far more opportunities to get into trouble with sex. The internet and social media are new inventions that create a false sense of intimacy between people (remember just cause you text someone or send them messages on Facebook does not make them your "friend" in real life), and for many communities there really isn't any shame at having sex with multiple people and getting pregnant out of wedlock. In fact, those poor choices, especially when they are made by poor women with few resources, are valorized as the actions of "strong women," when, in fact, they are poor choices that reveal anything but a strength of wisdom and commonsense.

You are going to have sex at some point. You are probably already having sex or doing "sexual" things already. That is okay. Of course, you need to play safe. At 14 or 15 or even 18 are you necessarily ready for the emotional, physical, and psychological consequences of sex? The answer is no. But I am also a practical person.

So, before you let someone put their penis inside of you, or other parts near you, in your mouth, or elsewhere, ask the following: Would I want to be connected to this person forever if I got pregnant? Do I know where his or her penis or vagina was last night? Would I be ashamed if my friends or family found out I was butt naked and carrying on with this guy or girl?

Those questions and moments of reflection can prevent a good many poor decisions on your part. Will you always do the right thing? Of course not.

I am an adult and have made many questionable choices. Some nights it felt good in the moment, and she was sexy and gorgeous in the right light and with a few drinks in me, and the next day I said "what the hell was I thinking!" The difference between an adult and a teenager is that I have the resources to clean up after myself and to fix any problems I may get into without going to the state welfare office or my mom and dad or other relatives.

You do not have that luxury. Consequently, you need to be much more careful with who you have sex with at such a young and vulnerable age. You also don't have the emotional maturity and life experience yet to figure out all that comes with, well for lack of a better word, fucking someone else. There are folks in their 30s and 40s and beyond who still get all twisted up emotionally by someone who knows how to please them sexually. If grown folks confuse a great orgasm with love, imagine how vulnerable you are at such an early age in the game?

Amber, the following is something that your dad really should have told you. And if he did, you should have paid much closer attention to his words.

Young men and teenagers will say anything to have sex with you. They will promise you the world...the scary part is in that moment said Lothario probably means it because those words will get him one step closer to being inside of you. Amber, you can't fuck your way to love. He will not love you if you have sex with him. Sucking on his penis will not get the poison out and make everything between the two of you better.

If he tells you to have sex with him to "prove" that you love him or "he will leave you" that is a cue to get your things and go. Never let him "just put the tip in" or "try it raw for a few minutes." Trust me, once you get to that point he is not going to put a condom on. You will not want him to. He will not want to. So don't go there.

I don't want you to be afraid of boys and developing a relationship that will one day blossom into something substantial. In fact, one of the worst things that parents can do is to give their kids a guilt complex about their sexuality and create a sense of shame about what is a very natural and human desire. In the black community, I see this a good deal where heavy handed moralizing, hyper-religiosity, and a real fear that young girls will become teen moms, creates a culture where parents' prudery and fear actually encourages their daughters and sons to make poor decisions about sex. This baggage follows many of our young people into adulthood and they never develop a full and healthy attitude about their sexuality.

Amber please be smart. Do play safe and enjoy life. Finally Amber, always keep in mind that sex has little at all to do with love.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Beyond Niggerhead: Watch the Documentary "Banished: American Ethnic Cleansings" Before the Copyright Monster Takes It Down

Video streaming by Ustream

The ugliness of Whiteness is a bunch of thieves who should own their history. They benefit from wrong but can wash their hands of it with innocence and denial, where the greater umbrage is that someone would dare to question the origins of their self-made myth of uplift and righteous individualism.

When Rick Perry's Niggerhead "scandal" broke a few weeks ago, I suggested that the more interesting element to the Washington Post expose on his family retreat and racist nostalgia was that he heralded from a sundown town.

While a few folks signaled to this hidden history--where black Americans were forcibly expelled from their homes and communities throughout America--most among the pundit classes went with the simple frame where racism involves mean words, a bogeyman still lingering like a crazy grandma under the stairs or secreted away in the closet...even into the Age of Obama.

The documentary Banished is a real gem. It explores the ethnic cleansing of Forsyth County, Georgia and the material, psychological, and material consequences of that crime which linger into the present some hundred or so years later. The history is the present: when sociologists and economists discuss the causal variables that explain a wealth disparity in America where whites have 2 dollars for every 10 cents that black Americans possess, they need to look no farther than the events documented in Banished.

White racism involved the systemic denial of opportunities for wealth creation and wealth accrual by black Americans. The Racial State subsidized the enrichment of whites as a privileged class in a zero sum game which involved the denial of the same opportunities to all citizens across the colorline. Perhaps, one day policy makers will be able to have a reasonable and mature conversation about justice--reparations in this case--where making communities and people financially whole will be understood for the public policy imperative that it is.

Do check out Banished before the copyright monster comes and takes it down.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Toure (Again) on MSNBC: Herman Cain is a "Coon" Who Acts Like Flavor Flav

I like Toure. I have read some of his work on hip hop. But, I bristle when I see folks doing a reach and trying to force punditry and insightful commentary. Yes, Herman Cain is a race minstrel. But, the real point of using that line of attack is not to engage in name calling. The real point is that Herman Cain's racial shtick is a means to an end, one which is very pernicious and an affront to the Common Good.

Folks are picking up my meme but don't have a real grasp of its nuance. That is very, very frustrating as borrowing without citation is one thing, but if you are going to do an homage at least innovate while staying true to the substance of the original work.

I am not "hating" on Toure for getting his shine. But, I arch my eyebrow when I know that I have cut promos on Herman Cain which are ten times better, sliced down to the bone and through the joints like Ogami Itto's katana, and where the material is 100 percent original.

Just "keeping it real" as we used to say a decade or so ago. I feel like I won. I also feel like I lost at the same time.

Now, back to other things...

Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery: Did Time Magazine Copy Chauncey DeVega's Takedown of "Race Minstrel" Herman Cain?

Cain is a clown. You see it in the way he constantly mollifies white audiences with self-effacing, racialized comedy that borders on minstrelsy (referring to himself as “black-walnut ice cream” or suggesting that the Secret Service call him “Cornbread”). You see it in his stunning gaps in knowledge and understanding of foreign policy and domestic affairs. He says if you don’t have a job, don’t blame Wall Street, because it’s your fault, which in a crippling recession with historically high unemployment numbers means he’s either frighteningly blind or offensively ignorant. This is not a man of serious intellect or realistic solutions or admirable character. This is a buffoon.
I curse my semi-anonymity. At times I feel like a professional wrestler or MC who more well known folks copy in order to get over, yet remains unknown except for a small circle of true fans.

Again, I have no choice but to smile with satisfaction because I was way ahead of the curve on Herman Cain's race minstrelesque routine, calling him out almost a year ago, well before others were keen to his gimmick. I took a good amount of heat for being a truth teller. Hell, I was even condemned by a Pulitzer prize winning journalist for daring to state what should have been abundantly clear to any thinking person.

In all, my refined ownage of Herman Cain is copied but never replicated. I do not know if I have a special insight into self-hating negroes and their genus and phylum; perhaps, I just have a pithy way of describing their nonsense and calling attention to what is circulating in the collective political subconscious.

To point: Toure, author and cultural critic, has a piece on Time Magazine's website where he goes hard at Herman Cain. In doing so, he innovates with language, going old school by using a word--unctuous--that I have never heard before (curse me my public school education). What is familiar, eerily so, are the notes that he hits in his essay, Is Herman Cain the Most Unctous Black Man Alive?

Toure calls Cain a clown, a race minstrel, focuses on how he performs a type of degenerative blackness, benefits from the soft bigotry of low expectations, and is the worst embodiment of what Conservatives imagine affirmative action to be as a policy.

Is this just a coincidence? Or is Toure's essay a loving homage to my long running series of critical essays on Herman Cain? I will never know.

As the founder of Herman Cain Studies, I do have some advice for those who are majoring in the subject. Your critiques may have all of the elements that I have modeled: the focus on Cain as a performer; his channeling of minstrelsy as a racist fantasy figure for white conservative's dreams and aspirations; and how he celebrates ignorance as a black buffoon. But, you are missing a few important details.

One, you have to talk about how Herman Cain dances. The dancing is both literal and metaphorical. It is dancing nonetheless. Ultimately, a piece on Herb Cain's race minstrelsy without a reference to either buckdancing, standing on a box and dancing for money, shuffling and cakewalking for the entertainment of white conservatives, or just the general phrase, "shucking and jiving," is incomplete.

Second, there is another element to Herman Cain's performance that has been hiding in plain sight. As of today, no one has hit on it. As the founder of Herman Cain Studies, I am forced to push the field forward by making an appropriate intervention in the near future. And finally, no critique of Herman Cain, written now or ever, will match the beauty of the following paragraph:
In total, CPAC is a carnival and a roadshow for reactionary Conservatives. It is only fitting that in the great tradition of the freak show, the human zoo, the boardwalk, and the great midway world's fairs of the 19th and 20th centuries, there is a Borneo man, a Venus Hottentot or a tribe of cannibals from deepest darkest Africa or Papua New Guinea on display. For CPAC and the White Conservative imagination, Herman Cain and his black and brown kin are that featured attraction.
When Routledge or Norton publishes an annotated volume or short guide to Herman Cain Studies I would like that passage from my essay Black History Month is Herman Cain Playing a Race Minstrel for CPAC, to be the entry under "Chauncey DeVega."

We have gone over these waters many times my friends. Am I being too sensitive and a bit egocentric on these matters? Or are folks taking my playbook and running with it?

(A Preamble to) the Most Racist Thing I have Ever Seen: Did You Know that Asian Americans Eat the Most Watermelon?

Stereotypes persist because in some way, however small, they are true. This is an accurate observation, so broad, that it defies Weber's model of ideal-typical cases. Why? For all the examples of a stereotype that may be true, there are many more that invalidate the rule.

One of the persistent stereotypes of black folks is that we love watermelon. The racist white gaze of the antebellum period conjured up this notion. It continued onward into the future where whites lessened the gross blow over time; but the stereotype still persists. There are black folks who proudly announce that they love watermelon without any shame at all--to hell with anyone who tells them otherwise.
I for one am one of those black folks who won't eat watermelon in mixed company. Now, I will make an exception for Friendly's restaurant and its "wattamelon ice cream roll"--what heaven it is--but to sit down, chow down, and eat some watermelon (with the obligatory fried chicken) in public? Nope. Ain't. Gonna. Happen.

Our tax dollars are hard at work folks. Apparently, the USDA has determined that watermelon is most popular among our Asian brothers and sisters. Riddle you that one. Forget the model minority myth, it should be the eating more than all others watermelon myth that in fact stigmatizes our East Asian brothers and sisters.
We also cannot forget the income variable and its relationship to watermelon consumption:
You tell me. Do stereotypes persist because they are true? Or do they persist because they are not true...but remain true enough to validate erroneous priors and make the in-group feel good about themselves?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Humor: Faster than a Bowl of Chitlins, Richard Pryor is "Super Nigger"

I am stuck knee deep in midterm papers, grading furiously in an effort to make an escape (which explains the light tempo to my posts this week). In these moments I need a laugh. On a Thursday, the day before Friday, I suspect a laugh may raise your spirits too.

I remain surprised that the critical literature on African American humor and comedy is so underdeveloped. One would think that given how comedy is a voice for the subaltern to speak back to power (through satire, the carnivalesque, or the grotesque) that there would be many books and articles on the topic.

Save for Mel Watkin's book and Lawrence Levine's chapter-long treatment in Black Culture and Black Consciousness the scholarly work on African American humor remains thin. Thankfully, folks are starting to step up and fill that gap. Laughing Mad was released in 2007. Laughing Fit to Kill came out in 2008. I have just began working through the latter: it is a solid work with a nice balance between theory, criticism, and aesthetics.

Super Nigger moves me because Pryor's playful routine exposes the idea of black folks being written out of the script as superheroes by the white gaze, and one that some people of color internalize, where the very notion of being a "super human" is outside of the realm of possibility for a people judged by white racism to be anti-citizens (at best) and subhuman (at worst).

With Pryor's genius comes a comedy with multiple levels of tension, joy, and tragedy. Here, the character Super Nigger is still a "nigger"--even though the phrase and its power are ostensibly reversed through the use of code switching and black vernacular English--who is unable to "see through whitey." Moreover, he is still vulnerable to a little boy (that in the context of the routine is coded as white) who dares to call him "Super Nigger." This exchange is rich with double meaning and possibility because our protagonist is in fact named Super Nigger, but how dare one call him a "super nigger."

The appeal of Super Nigger is that he can enact a fantasy held by so many black folks historically, where grown adults were reduced to "boy" and "girl," or "auntie and uncle" as they worked as caregivers, maids, drivers, and Pullman car porters who had to feign deference to white folks of any age, be they older or younger, in the cradle or the grave.

Super Nigger is the very definition of the super hero as a projection and a fantasy figure for the collective subconscious: he can whoop that little white boy's behind and put him in his place without fear of retribution.

In all, Richard Pryor was the definition of genius. He made everyone before him obsolete; Pryor was the standard by which all comedians to follow would be judged. Richard Pryor was also amazingly self-reflective. For example, he was the master of the word "nigger." He manipulated it, exposed it, twisted it, and ultimately rejected its use as one of the most ugly words in the English language:

Many folks work "blue" for the sake of cussing and talking about sex. Pryor worked blue as a means of telling a story and being nakedly human.

What are your favorite Pryor routines? And is there anyone who comes close to taking his crown?

A bonus for the Age of Obama, Richard Pryor on the differences between black women and white women:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Please Get His Name Out of Your Mouth: Black Tea Party Favorite Allen West Suggests that Dr. King Would Oppose the 99 Percent Movement

“But when you talk to these Occupy Wall Street gangs, they’re all over the place. It’s like a shotgun as opposed to a precision-guided munition.”

He also dismissed protesters’ claim that Wall Street is responsible for the nation’s economic woes and high unemployment. He also disputed Obama’s contention that Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported the Occupy protesters.

The economic troubles are the responsibility of “Washington, D.C., and the policies thereof,” he maintains. “And when you talk about the unemployment rate, it’s very simple. We have just hit a thousand days under President Obama. The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when he took over. The unemployment rate now is 9.1 percent. The unemployment rate in the African-American community is almost 17 percent.

“It has nothing to do with Wall Street. It has everything to do with the failed policies coming out of the Obama administration.

“Martin Luther King Jr. would not have backed these types of protesters. He had a focus, a message. He was divinely inspired. I don’t know what the inspiration is for these individuals.”

West was asked whether Obama’s stated support for the Occupy Wall Street movement ultimately could lead to violence on the part of protesters.

“I’m very concerned about class warfare rhetoric,” he tells Newsmax.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s memory has become a cheap industry and prop that anyone can buy a share of--no sacrifice, wisdom, honesty, or sincerity required.

As I pointed out in my essay on Dr. King's sexual peccadilloes and how folks want a perfect man as opposed to a heroic figure who also happened to be human (a point that met with pearl clutching rage, denial, and vitriol over at the kumbaya party that is Daily Kos), we need to have a serious conversation about who and what Brother King stood for in life and death.

I can shake my head at how Glenn Beck and the Tea Party GOP have tried to appropriate King's radical vision in a desperate ploy to capture him for their team. My standards and expectations are so low for the Tea Party GOP and reactionary right in the Age of Obama that there is little which they can do to surprise me.

But perhaps I expect too much from black folks who are the direct descendants and beneficiaries of the Civil Rights Movement. Maybe, I give Dr. King's daughter and son too much credit as folks who can speak both for his legacy and in his stead. And it could simply be that I don't have much use for the counter-factual which is the "what would Dr. King say or do?" game.

But in all, the way that black conservatives working at the behest of the Tea Party GOP abuse his legacy is just dishonest, a lie, a cold misappropriation of history, and an act of willful ignorance.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is the exhalation of righteous frustration at the corporateocracy and a broken economy which views all of us as surplus labor. It is true that you cannot recreate the past; political strategies of protest and intervention have to change to fit the battle of the moment. But ultimately (and while still evolving), the sentiments guiding the Occupy Wall Street movement are in the best tradition of Brother King's struggle and legacy.

Let us not forget that Martin Luther King Jr. was killed while fighting for the rights of union workers, the working class, the poor, and against what would eventually mature into the austerity policies advocated for by the forces of neo liberalism and the Tea Party GOP, where the federal budget is balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable, and the upper classes can benefit from the largess of the State while having to put few, if any, resources into the collective pot.

Shame on you Mr. West, as ideology clearly overrides principle and a commitment to the truth for the myth makers to whom you pledge allegiance. If Dr. King were alive today, the Tea Party GOP, with their rank hostility to "class warfare," and a belief that poor people have only themselves to blame if they are not rich, would hate him. In all, "Socialist" would be the kindest thing that West and company would throw in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's direction.

History speaks back; it does not support Allen West's sad and dishonest distortion of events:

It isn't the Reverend Wright Scandal (Yet): Herman Cain's "Liberal" Black Church Problem

Herman Cain has vaulted to the top of the polls as a Republican presidential candidate, but there’s one audience that may prove tougher for him to win over: his hometown church.
Cain, a conservative who recently said African-Americans were “brainwashed” into voting Democratic, is an associate minister at an Atlanta megachurch that has been a stronghold of liberal activism and is led by a pastor who cites Malcolm X as one of his influences.
Cain is a longtime member of Antioch Baptist Church North, which sits near the former college and home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The church, founded by freed slaves 134 years ago, boasts 14,000 members and an operating budget of more than $5 million. For years Antioch has hosted a “who’s who” of civil rights activists as guest speakers, including Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young.
Antioch’s powerful senior pastor, the Rev. C.M. Alexander, doesn’t share Cain’s political philosophy, Atlanta clergy say. But Cain and Alexander are so close that Cain sang “The Impossible Dream” for the pastor’s 50th anniversary celebration. The Atlanta businessman-turned-presidential hopeful is well liked by many members of his church, though some disagree with his politics, Antioch pastors say.Cain’s piety may be just as fascinating as his politics, interviews suggest.
“He’s a real person who is more complicated than the sound bite you may have heard from him,” says the Rev. Fredrick Robinson, a friend of Cain’s who was an associate minister at Antioch before leaving to form his own church.
At Antioch, Cain has had to share the pews with fiery critics of the Republican Party like Joe Beasley, a man born to sharecroppers who once said he’s been called the “N-word” more times than he can count.
I have some pieces forthcoming on Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy, and other goodness in the next few days, but in the meantime I thought that I would offer my obligatory observation on the Tea Party GOP debate in Las Vegas.

In all, it was a joy to watch. We had apples and oranges, pandering to the religious Right, allusions to the "fact" those who are not "godly" and religious have no character and are thus unfit to be President, and of course the obligatory rantings and lies about "Obamacare" and the evils of "regulation." Ron Paul also brought the truth on Ronnie Raygun--what was a priceless moment.

Herb Cain did okay. True, dude did get beat up and couldn't answer questions with any directness or sincerity beyond his shallow talking points. But, there were no gaffes as major as not knowing what neoconservatism is, or being forced to walk back his joke about killing people with electricity and his super border fence.

However, yesterday's story on CNN about Herman Cain's church family is going to get him in trouble sooner rather than later. I am not religious. Moreover, I do not "get" the black church. As a result, I do not have a proverbial dog in the fight in conversations about black religiosity.

That having been said, I marvel at how black folks love to let all sorts of people into their churches, video cameras on, dvds ready for sale, and Youtube on blast. To this point, Herman Cain has gotten the exceptional negro "who is a "credit to his race" pass by anti-black, racially resentful Tea Party GOP Conservatives.

But the question remains: At what point will Herman Cain slip up and reveal himself as a Judas goat, too much an "authentic" negro for their liking? Cain danced the dance when he dared to critique Rick Perry's Niggerwood memories and had to eat crow when Limbaugh et al. fried the bird up and forced him to swallow it with moldy molasses and under-cooked hominy grits. He got a pass for that transgression and was able to earn some forgiveness by dancing in the chalk outlined box and promising not to backsass in the future.

But for how long will Herman Cain aka "Cornbread" be able to keep up the routine before his blackness becomes a liability, a trait that is inconvenient and uncomfortable for his white Conservative masters?

Jesse Jackson.

Malcolm X.

Social justice.

In all, CNN's "The Liberal Church of Herman Cain" connects him to the great rogues gallery of black liberalism and anti-white sentiment that stands boot on the throat of White America, oppressing them at every moment...gleeful at the sound of white surrender and victimhood.

How long my friends until Fox News and the Right-wing blogosphere jumps all over this interesting tidbit of information?
Cain accepted the offer and brought a group of worshippers along with him to support Robinson’s small church, the pastor says.
Cain’s views on race aren’t simplistic, Robinson says. Cain says he doesn’t think racism is a huge obstacle for blacks, but Robinson says Cain has privately told him it’s a problem and once even complained about “the good ol’ boy” network in Georgia Republican politics.
“He knows there’s racism in the tea party, but he’ll never say that because they are his supporters. That bothers a lot of people, but he plays to that base not because he’s a sellout but because he’s a politician,” Robinson says.
Fate is a trickster. Fate also has a sense of humor. Will she be laughing soon?

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.