Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Three is His Lucky Number: Four Questions on Herman Cain's Angry Black Man Sex Scandal

[There is a new poll up on the sidebar for those so inclined]

The men in white coats are coming to take him away. What a priceless image.

Pimp mack daddy Godfather Herman Cain is grumpy. I think he needs a nap.

An observation: President Barack Obama is not allowed to get angry lest he be called an "angry black man."

First question: will Herman Cain's momentary channeling of Sam Jackson be interpreted by his allies as proof that he is a "strong black man?"

Second question: There is a third woman accusing Cain of acting inappropriately. By the time this winds down how many accusers will there be in total? I say no less than five and no more than 7.

Third question: With each accusation of sexual harassment Herman Cain becomes more popular with his base. Is this a tipping model? Will Herman Cain's stock soar until it reaches a crescendo where his fly by night, thumbing of the nose at those liberals and feminists, becomes even too much for Conservatives to tolerate?

Fourth question: That which lingers but has not yet been broached...are these women white?

A Perpetual Line Stepper: Cornel West Wants to Go Upside Ron Christie's Head on Real Time with Bill Maher

Someone suggested that I sound like Ron Christie. I don't hear the resemblance as I am much more chocolaty and sensual, a mass of impenetrable negritude that calls women to me like a black hole in outer space beckons passing starships.

If "their" blacks are indeed better than "our" blacks, Ron Christie's appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher does not do their team much credit at all. I am all for ideological diversity, but I have to wonder at what point does personal integrity--or even intellectual honesty--become a variable and decision rule for talking head conservatives. Christie consistently talks out of both sides of mouth; this interview is no different, as he spins and offers nonsense talk in an effort to undermine President Barack Obama.

The Maher interview is also a great example of how punditry is a performance, especially in this example where Christie and West are both channeling their own respective types of negritude.

Cornel is the afrodemic superstar philosopher cut from the cloth of DuBois, who appears in movies, and produces unnecessarily dense prose in an effortlessly magical act of intellectual and philosophical creation. Christie is the approved and safe negro who is non-threatening, and operates from the head, and certainly not the heart (or the loins). He is passionless. In all, Ron Christie's blackness is his own interpretation and performance of Whiteness.

West is certainly clowning during this interview when he feigns wanting to knock Christie upside his head for being a perpetual line stepper. But, who do you think would win in a fight? Christie seems very traditional to me, the type to operate under the Queen's rules like a late 19th century era pugilist. West, an emcee and street intellectual, could get a little gangsta and gully if he so chose. Christie has youth; West has age and wisdom.

Who wins?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Please Stop the Lie, Herman Cain is Not Being Lynched

Herman Cain is being questioned about reports that during the 1990s he sexually harassed several women and his employer paid them hush money. The Right, who (re)discovered white victimology and grievance politics with the election of President Obama, and racism with their embrace of Herman Cain, have now deployed the "high tech lynching" oeuvre.

Clarence Thomas introduced that ugly phrase into the popular imagination with his pleading, desperate defense against sexual harassment charges during the Anita Hill scandal. Since that moment, it has become a type of lengua franca for black conservatives and their defenders.

Ann Coulter has used that ugly language to defend Herman Cain. Rush Limbaugh has used that ugly language to defend Herman Cain. Herman Cain himself has feigned martyrdom and invited a high tech lynching as proof of his bonafides as a black conservative.

The history of African Americans is a plaything for the Right and black conservatives. They pretend that Dr. King would have supported them, that the Democratic Party is a plantation, and black people are zombies and brainwashed fools--as opposed to a radically democratic and revolutionary people whose struggles have forced American democracy to live up to its potential and creed. Thus, the use of the phrase high tech lynching by conservatives, and their black lapdogs, is in no way a surprise.

A lack of surprise at their abuse of language, and distortion of history, is not a defense; nor is it an excuse. Herman Cain is not being lynched--be it by "high tech" or "low tech" means. Black conservatives are not being lynched--be it by "liberals" or other black folks.

If conservatives are willing to evoke the ancestors, and a very dark, twisted, and troubling history to make a cheap political point, they ought to be willing to look into the face of the very legacy and reality they reference.

To point: the political action committee Americans for Herman Cain has circulated an email provocatively titled "Don’t let the left ‘lynch’ another black conservative." This letter is intended to rally the troops in a spirited defense of their chosen son against an evil mob that would do him harm, hanging him from the lynching tree, where he would dangle like so much strange fruit.

As an experiment and object lesson, I am going to mate Herman Cain and his ally's pleas for money with some actual images from America's century-long history of lynching. Perhaps this simple act will expose the ugliness, cowardice, and disrespect that Black Conservatives and others have for the history of African Americans (and our struggle for full freedom and equality across the Black Atlantic), when they play with the language of racialized violence and slavery.

Folks often forget that words are violence. When Herman Cain and his allies utter the phrase "high tech lynching" they are committing a violent act. The tragedy for Herman Cain is that his allusions to lynching are a type of self-inflicted wound against the black community, a group to which he has some ostensible attachment.

I am troubled by that fact; However, I am more disturbed that Herman Cain, a child of the South, and Jim and Jane Crow, may not understand the harm that he does to himself, and to others, when he cries that he is a victim of human barbarism, most gross and most cruel.

I have a request. Herman Cain, please get the phrase "high tech lynching" out of your mouth. Please, tell your alllies to do the same. You are not being lynched. Nor, are you under any such existential threat.

Is a picture worth a thousand words? I suggest that it is...

Don’t let the left ‘lynch’ another black conservative

They’re at it again. The left is trying to destroy Herman Cain - just like they did to Clarence Thomas.
They are engaging in a “high tech” lynching by smearing his reputation and attacking his character.
The idea of a black conservative like Herman Cain as the GOP nominee is Barack Obama and the Left’s worst nightmare. That’s why they will do anything to take him down.
As the leading pro-Cain committee, we intend to fight back by launching one million phone calls in Iowa to defend Herman Cain. Will you join us?
The left wing have told Conservatives they have to pick Mitt Romney, despite his flip-flops on abortion, immigration, gun control. They’ve told us he’s more electable, ignoring the fact he’s lagging behind in the polls after 6 years of campaigning.
Let’s send a clear message to those who would like to tell us what to do. Let’s stand up against those who would like to take down any black man who stands up for Conservative values. Join “Americans for Herman Cain” today and support our efforts to fight back.
We have a real choice this time: Herman Cain. Will you help him today?
It’s days like this that reminds us why we launched “Americans for Herman Cain,” a project of 9-9-9 Fund.
Herman Cain has grassroots support. He has the poll numbers. He is a conservative. He can beat Barack Obama. Now it’s our job to propel him to victory in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, and Arizona.
We’re going to do everything from TV ads, voter mail, advocacy phones identifying Herman’s supporters, to get out the vote programs. But we can’t do it without your help. We’re fiscal conservatives like you, and we won’t waste a dollar.
Will you help us by helping fund part of the one million phone calls we are starting ASAP in Iowa? Will you help us elect a true conservative outsider in the mold of Ronald Reagan to the White House?
Together, we will take our country back.
For America,
Jordan Gehrke
Campaign Director

Monday, October 31, 2011

An Exclusive Interview with Herman Cain: The Truth About His Sex Scandal, Love of Clarence Thomas, and the "Herminator" Experience

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) works hard to bring you, our readers, the stories and information that you care about most. In the three years since our founding, we have had the good fortune to bring you candid interviews with such public figures as Jesse Jackson and Pat Buchanan. Some of our greatest coups have involved exclusive interviews with such personalities as Racism, Whiteness, and Glenn Beck's ill-fated Blackboard. And of course, the one and only Brother X-Squared made his Internet debut on our site.

In an effort to bring you cutting edge interviews with some of the country's leading figures, we have requested a chat with Republican Party front runner Mr. Herman Cain. Given our tumultuous history with Mr. Cain, we expected to be declined an on the record conversation. Much to our surprise he agreed to a one on one interview with WARNNN. In this candid conversation Herman Cain leaves no stone uncovered as he directly addresses a number of issues, most notably the recent charges that he sexually harassed two of his female employees while head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.

WARNNN: Hello Mr. Cain, I would like to thank you for agreeing to do an interview. I know that you are very busy and your schedule has many demands placed on it. It is truly a pleasure to be able to chat with you.

Herman Cain: No problem at all. I love getting a chance to share my message with the people. The more they hear about how I am bringing businesses experience and plain talking truth to solving this country's problems the more excited they get. As President of Godfather's Pizza I know how to solve problems, I took a failing company and turned it around, I am also a bestselling author, you can hear my talks all over the country, I haven't even raised my speaking fees and...

WARNNN: We are very familiar with your career. It is quite distinguished. The American people have gotten a chance to know you these last few months and...

Herman Cain: Please let me continue. And I raised profits and efficiency. I even made pizzas myself! Did you know that I am a grandfather and that I beat stage 4 cancer. I am also a husband, a churchgoer, a Christian and...

WARNNN: Let's cut to the chase Mr. Cain, if you would allow us. You have said some very controversial things on the way to your party's presidential nomination in 2012. You have suggested that black people are brainwashed and not capable of thinking for themselves. You have called black people who don't support you slaves on a plantation. Do you still believe that? Why did you criticize, quite correctly, Rick Perry for frequenting a family camp called "Niggerhead," and then walk back your statement when Rush Limbaugh and others said you were playing the race card? Please explain?

Herman Cain: That is all you liberals can do, shift the subject, ignore the facts, and resort to name-calling.

WARNNN: You did say those things, correct?

Herman Cain: No, I didn't. You misunderstood me. Um, I was kidding and America needs to get a sense of humor. So yes, I am like Harriett Tubman. I will lead you to freedom, like her, I got a gun to shoot any of those confused slaves who won't run to freedom and want to run back to slave catchers like Cornel West and those other liberals with the Democratic Party.

Me and the good people of the Tea Party, along with good friends like Neal Boortz (his family almost owned my kin in the good old days of slavery) who love me and aren't racist will show you the way. If blacks would get off the plantation and not be brainwashed their lives would be much better.

Let's talk about something that matters like my plan to bring economic prosperity back to the United States please.

WARNNN: Fair point. Your 9-9-9 plan has been called regressive and unfair to poor and working class people. In fact, the plan will not raise sufficient revenue and will make income and wealth inequality worst. A majority of Americans think that we need a more fair economy, how does your plan accomplish this?

Herman Cain:...............You need to talk to my secret advisers and special most respected experts, your ciphering be wrong on this issue. Your so-called facts aren't right. Most important, if you aren't rich it is your own fault. You are a bum who is lazy if you aren't rich like me. Deal with it.

WARNNN: Okay, as an African-American, how do think your plan will help the middle class of that group, those strivers who saw their wealth and homes wiped out by the Great Recession?

Herman Cain: First of all, they need to go protest outside the White House, this is all Obama's fault. Second, I am not an African anything. I am a black American. I have empowerment zones that will let you create growth. No regulations, no zoning rules, nothing to hold back the job creators. Plus, you don't pay no taxes if you start up a business there and businesses will be freed of paying the minimum wage. Don't you see, it will be amazing! Plus, with my plan you don't pay taxes on used food or used goods. It is transparent and makes sense!

WARNNN: So you want people to dumpster dive? To eat old and used food? What about clothing? You want the working classes and poor to buy used clothes and other items? You want the American people to work in sweatshops without any rules for their safety and protection?

Herman Cain: I was po' growing up. Sometimes you got's to live within your means and make hard choices. I am tired and you are coming after me like I talked bad about your momma or something.

WARNNN: Let's change gears for a moment. During a recent interview you said that if you were elected President that you would select more Supreme Court Justices like Clarence Thomas? He is under a great deal of criticism for accepting monies from parties to cases that have come before the court. His wife was actually on the payroll of one of the plaintiffs in a case he presided over. There are calls for an investigation and perhaps his impeachment. Do these facts trouble you at all? Would you like to reassess your endorsement of Clarence Thomas?

Herman Cain: Like my grand-pappy said "I does not care!"

WARNNN: Like Clarence Thomas, you have also been accused of sexual harassment. Are these charges false? Did you sexually harass two women, who....

Herman Cain: I don't know what you are talking about, I have no recollection of those matters.

WARNNN: So two women were not each paid a 5 figure settlement, and agreed to never talk about the purported incidents where you supposedly harassed them?

Herman Cain: Oh those women. Now I remember. I told HR to handle it. I don't know what happened after then. I am ready for my high tech lynching just like Clarence Thomas. I am a front runner and a target. Those liberals at Politico are picking on me 'cause I am a strong black man! And...

WARNNN: Politico is hardly liberal Mr. Cain. In fact, you knew about this story for weeks and chose to do nothing about it. Level with us, they say the cover up is always worse than the crime. Come clean. What really happened Mr. Cain? Your public and the American people deserve to know.

Herman Cain: Okay, one more time. When I was growing up we were poor, really poor. I finally worked really hard you know. Kept my noise clean and out of all that Civil Rights trouble making. But I saw things, you know. The guys with the money, driving around with the chromed out Cadillac, getting all of the women. My dad eventually saved up enough money to buy one, you know, a way of saying, "look we made it!" But, I never forgot those men with the fancy cars and all the attention and women they had. Real respect, you know what I mean.

WARNNN: I think I see where this is going, did you...

Herman Cain: Let me finish. As a man of god, I know the power of baring one's soul in the eyes of the people. So, I learned some rules from them, rules to keep me out of trouble. That is why anyone who works for me must get my permission to talk first, I want silence and obedience. There are other rules too, women especially can't make eye contact with me. That isn't permitted. If you look me in the eyes it means you want me, you want to get to know me.

WARNNN: Wow. Let me confirm. Are you saying these women came onto you in some way? Lured you in?

Herman Cain: Toot sweet they did! I told them, you look at me it means that you want the Herman Cain experience, I am the Herminator and I won't be stopped. I told them, you are gonna get on board the Cain train one way or another! Dig it!

WARNNN: What else happened? You are a married man Mr. Cain. Did that not enter your mind?

Herman Cain: You see one of those women is from Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, being a poor boy who grew up in the South and riding in the back of the bus 'cause I didn't want any trouble, I dreamed of such an exotic woman. I stole sips from the white water fountain when I was growing up and figures what's the big deal, so I just had to have some of her sweet love. Don't you get me? Makes sense, right?

WARNNN: You have to appreciate the irony Mr. Cain, you are an admirer of Clarence Thomas, a man who sexually harassed Anita Hill and made lurid jokes about pubic hair and referenced porno movies and the actor Long Dong Silver. Now you are basically admitting that you harassed those two women years ago?

Herman Cain: I never harassed them. But, you got to let Cain be Cain. I offered them the Herman Cain experience after they made eye contact with me and dared to speak without being spoken to first. That is a huge difference. Clarence may have had his Long Dong Silver jokes, but I got the "9-9-9." You get me? 9 inches of length, 9 inches of girth, and 9 hours of satisfaction! I am not like that fake black man Barack Obama, I am the real deal, a real black man. I am black walnut ice cream, not the flavor of the month, I told those women that you can eat it on the cone or the cup, it lasts longer than a week.

WARNNN: Excuse me? Would you like to repeat that? That is so offensive that...

Herman Cain: This horse done be out the barn, don't stop me now. I don't snuff my own seeds, I's follow through on my business to completion. You have a woman and you leave her smoking and then you have a smoke after. Get me? In fact, I told those women, the one in the hotel actually, that the way to know if meat is good is too taste it. If it is too salty you know the ingredients are cheap. I ain't salty. I am "grade A," high quality.

WARNNN: Why did you settle? Did these women rebuff your advances? Threaten to sue, to out you, ruin your career?

Herman Cain: We made a deal. I told them that I can't be denied, they would give in eventually because I am the Herminator. The only way to keep women away from me is to put me inside a building surrounded by an electric fence that says in English and Spanish that if you touch it you will be electrocuted. We knew that wasn't going to work, so a little hush money and their walking papers seemed like the best deal.

WARNNN: One quick, final question. Are you at all worried that these accusations could hurt your campaign? That by admitting to these charges that your run for the presidency will be derailed?

Herman Cain: All those white people in the Tea Party who like me can't possibly be pretending. They will have my back like they always do.

WARNNN: I do have to say that you did not disappoint us Mr. Cain. Good luck with your campaign and I do hope that we get to chat with you again.

Herman Cain: I am off to sell some books, I got's alot of people to talk with and convert. You will see me again soon. God bless America. I love this country.

Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega on Ring of Fire Radio Talking About the Tea Party GOP Death Cult

Boo! Did I scare you?

Here is my interview with the always gracious Mike Papantonio, host of Ring of Fire Radio, and also a frequent guest on the Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC.

I like this interview. I cut to the chase and really hit my point about the stages of grief and the extreme political ideologies of the Tea Party GOP as highlighted by the clown car that is their 2012 presidential candidates. An interview is also a dance--Mike led the conversation quite skillfully and we got to do some good work together that I hope the listeners enjoyed.

As always, please offer your thoughts, suggestions, advice, and reactions.

Some Historical Truths Are More Frightening than Halloween Fictions: Torturing Slaves at the Lalaurie House in New Orleans

Happy Halloween...

Paul Mooney always cuts to the bone. He offers a fair question though: where are all the black ghosts? And why are white folks in America obsessed with spooks, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night?

There is a rich tradition of belief across the Black Atlantic in which the elders in the spirit world mingle with the living and offer advice and guidance across the great divide that separates their world from ours. But to my knowledge, we have yet to see a practitioner of Obeah, Santeria, or Vodun on any of various ghost hunter reality shows.

Wouldn't it make a great episode though? Imagine the frights if the ghost hunters went to an old plantation and recorded some electromagnetic voice phenomena. What would the long departed slaves communicate to us in the present? Would they be happy? Would they be angry?

The following is a story fit for a horror movie. In the 1800s, The Lalaurie House in New Orleans was the site of deeds that were gross, evil, banal, and barbaric. Here, slaves were subject to tortures beyond imagination by an owner who would make Jigsaw from the Saw films look gentle.

If the story is to be believed, apparently the unsettled souls of our ancestors still reach out to torment the living.

For folks like me who came of age in the 1980s, the Amityville Horror was the ultimate "what if?" sleep over scenario. After reading about the horrors of the Lalaurie house I will have to reevaluate that standing rule.


The finery of the Lalaurie house was attended to by dozens of slaves and Madame Lalaurie was brutally cruel to them. She kept her cook chained to the fireplace in the kitchen where the sumptuous dinners were prepared and many of the others were treated much worse.

We have to remember that, in those days, the slaves were not even regarded as being human. They were simply property and many slave owners thought of them as being lower than animals. Of course, this does not excuse the treatment of the slaves, or the institution of slavery itself, but merely serves as a reminder of just how insane Madame Lalaurie may have been.... because her mistreatment of the slaves went far beyond cruelty.

It was the neighbors on Royal Street who first began to suspect something was not quite right in the Lalaurie house. There were whispered conversations about how the Lalaurie slaves seemed to come and go quite often. Parlor maids would be replaced with no explanation or the stable boy was suddenly just disappear... never to be seen again.

Then, one day a neighbor was climbing her own stairs when she heard a scream and saw Madame Lalaurie chasing a little girl, the Madame’s personal servant, with a whip. She pursued the girl onto the roof of the house, where the child jumped to her death. The neighbor later saw the small slave girl buried in a shallow grave beneath the cypress trees in the yard.

A law that prohibited the cruel treatment of slaves was in effect in New Orleans and the authorities who investigated the neighbor’s claims impounded the Lalaurie slaves and sold them at auction. Unfortunately for them, Madame Lalaurie coaxed some relatives into buying them and then selling them back to her in secret.The stories continued about the mistreatment of the Lalaurie slaves and uneasy whispering spread among her former friends. A few party invitations were declined, dinner invitations were ignored and the family was soon politely avoided by other members of the Creole society.

Finally, in April of 1834, all of the doubts about Madame Lalaurie were realized.....A terrible fire broke out in the Lalaurie kitchen. Legend has it that it was set by the cook, who could endure no more of the Madame’s tortures. Regardless of how it started, the fire swept through the house.

After the blaze was put out, the fire fighters discovered a horrible sight behind a secret, barred door in the attic. They found more than a dozen slaves here, chained to the wall in a horrible state. They were both male and female.... some were strapped to makeshift operating tables... some were confined in cages made for dogs.... human body parts were scattered around and heads and human organs were placed haphazardly in buckets.... grisly souvenirs were stacked on shelves and next to them a collection of whips and paddles.

It was more horrible that anything created in man’s imagination.According to the newspaper, the New Orleans Bee, all of the victims were naked and the ones not on tables were chained to the wall. Some of the women had their stomachs sliced open and their insides wrapped about their waists. One woman had her mouth stuffed with animal excrement and then her lips were sewn shut.

The men were in even more horrible states. Fingernails had been ripped off, eyes poked out, and private parts sliced away. One man hung in shackles with a stick protruding from a hole that had been drilled in the top of his head. It had been used to “stir” his brains.

The tortures had been administered so as to not bring quick death. Mouths had been pinned shut and hands had been sewn to various parts of the body. Regardless, many of them had been dead for quite some time. Others were unconscious and some cried in pain, begging to be killed and put out of their misery.

The fire fighters fled the scene in disgust and doctors were summoned from a nearby hospital. It is uncertain just how many slaves were found in Madame Lalaurie’s “torture chamber” but most of them were dead. There were a few who still clung to life.... like a woman whose arms and legs had been removed and another who had been forced into a tiny cage with all of her limbs broken than set again at odd angles.

Needless to say, the horrifying reports from the Lalaurie house were the most hideous things to ever occur in the city and word soon spread about the atrocities. It was believed that Madame Lalaurie alone was responsible for the horror and that her husband turned a blind, but knowing, eye to her activities.Passionate words swept through New Orleans and a mob gathered outside the house, calling for vengeance and carrying hanging ropes.

Suddenly, a carriage roared out of the gates and into the milling crowd. It soon disappeared out of sight. Madame Lalaurie and her family were never seen again.

Rumors circulated as to what became of them.... some said they ran away to France and others claimed they lived in the forest along the north shore of Lake Ponchatrain. Still other rumors claimed the family vanished into one of the small towns near New Orleans, where friends and relatives sheltered them from harm. Could this be true? And if so, could the terrible actions of Madame LaLaurie have "infected" another house in addition to the mansion in the French Quarter?

Whatever became of the Lalaurie family, there is no record that any legal action was ever taken against her and no mention that she was ever seen in New Orleans, or her fine home, again.

Of course, the same thing cannot be said for her victims.....The stories of ghosts and a haunting at 1140 Royal Street began almost as soon as the Lalaurie carriage fled the house in the darkness...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Robert Putnam, Social Capital, and (Not) Bowling Alone in Afghanistan

I am watching my beloved New England Patriots lose to the Steelers; I need a distraction.

Robert Putnam is one of the country's preeminent social scientists. It is rare that an excellently researched work (as compared to Samuel Huntington's much overrated Who Are We?, a book that I very which loathe) crosses over to undergraduates, graduate students, and the general public--Bowling Alone did just that.

This interview is so much ghetto nerd academic awesomeness. For example, I had not thought of the Great Recession and robber baron theft by the financier class as a failure of social capital.

And who knew that Robert Putnam had a personal audience with Libya's Muammar Gaddafi?

I have so many fond memories that are connected either directly or indirectly to bowling. I played video games in the arcade of Johnson's Duckpin Lanes with Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson when I was in middle school. I traveled up and down the roads of New England and the tri-state area with friends and family to Junior Bowling Tournament events (and I never will forget beating then soon to be PBA star Patrick Allen in a trios match; needless to say, he was none too pleased). Summers were also great fun, as me and my friends would bowl for free in an effort to "break the bank" so to speak, clocking in at least 100 games a day.

Reading this piece from the AP about Kabul, Afghanistan's first (and at present, only) bowling alley really puts matters in perspective. While millions of Americans are suffering through the Great Recession, there are some folks in other parts of the world who would quite literally kill for just a few of the basic amenities (and relative social stability) that many of us have taken for granted, for far too long.

The little things do matter; they are also very revealing bellwethers of a society's overall social and political health.

Here is one such example:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Saturday Documentary: Just Who are The One Percent?

It may come as a surprise to some, but sociologists, demographers, political scientists, anthropologists, and economists know very little about about the top 1 percent of earners in this country.

In contrast, the poor and "the underclasses" have been the subject of volumes of research on their habits, values, hygiene, life chances, communities, neighborhoods, health, income, criminality, and wealth. Why? Because "the public," more generally, and the poor, specifically, are seen as a problem to be regulated and managed by the State.

The "income defense industry," financier, moneyed classes are an amorphous group. They are discussed in clinical terms such as "the power elite" or the "global superclass." Alternatively, the top 1 percent are talked about in the language and logic of conspiracy and threat as the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers or the Shadow Government.

In all, the moneyed classes have the resources and social networks with which to protect their interests. Privacy allows them to operate with relative impunity; thus, the kleptocrats can game the system and pull the levers of the government to ensure that they are rarely the focus of coverage by the media--or research by academics or journalists.

I don't blame them for desperately clinging to their privacy. If I were a member of a class which made an average of 27 million dollars a year, while the rest of the public only earned an average of 34 thousand dollars a year, I too would lay low and operate in the shadows.

The documentary The 1 Percent offers a great peek into the world of the moneyed elite. Beyond the pop culture fantasies of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, these folks are the real deal.

When you watch this documentary keep in mind that most wealth in America is inherited, the class position of one's parents largely determines where a given individual ends up in the income and wealth hierarchy as an adult, and that these are the very people who Rick Perry, Herman Cain and others want to exempt from taxes.

And what about this?

So wealth is a sign of Christ's love? The poor are poor because God has decided that wealth would be too much of a burden for them? In the 21st century, how did Christianity become perverted and hoodwinked by retread Calvinists who now call themselves Republicans?

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.