Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Malleability of Truth? Capturing the Friedmans and Jerry Sandusky's Adventures in Pedophilia

I enjoy watching masters at work. There is something about effortless and natural competence which I cannot get enough of: Michael Stones' interviews with serial killers; Shawn Michaels' last two matches with the Undertaker; and now Bob Costas' interview with Jerry Sandusky.

The saga of Penn State University has provided an object lesson in bad behavior. The coaches and staff who suspected that children were being molested. The students who riot over their beloved coach being held accountable for his behavior--but who sadly are more compelled to act like fools over football than to be active and responsibly engaged citizens in their communities and nation. The police and other authorities who looked the other way.

When the families of these children come forth--and do not be mistaken, these "underprivileged" kids are indeed black--the victims will have a face, and the drama will enter another act. Will this be the denouement? Rising action? The climax?

I am unsure. Whatever moment in the drama ensues, it will be both epic and tragic.

Listening to Jerry Sandusky's interview with Bob Costas, I was reminded of the award winning documentary Capturing the Friedmans. One of the best films in recent memory, it exposes how a family quite literally imploded when its patriarch, Arnold Friedman, and his son Jessie, were accused of molesting dozens of children in the community of Great Neck, New York during the 1980s.

The film resonates because it highlights how the very nature of the truth is malleable, and largely dependent on context and perspective. The film is also a damning indictment of our society's culture of victimhood and a legal system that has to confront monsters, while doing its best to adhere to some minimum norm of procedural justice.

There are some eerie similarities between Jerry Sandusky's honesty about "innocent" naked play with young boys, and Arnold Friedman's confession of his own pedophilia. To my ear at least, the resonance of their words is interchangeable.

Frightening. Sad. In all, not surprising in the least bit.

This one is yours folks. I am at a loss for words.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is This Guy Just Another Dumb Black Man or What? Herman Cain's Refined Embrace of Ignorance

Gots all this stuff twirlin' about in my head.

Herman Cain needs to hurry up and book his guest spot on Tyler Perry's new age race minstrel show The House of Payne.

Anyone can have a system crash moment where their mainframe goes down and needs to reboot.

But, this newest epic fail by Herbie Cornbread Cain is part of a pattern of failure regarding basic knowledge about matters of public policy. He clearly is not prepared to be President of the United States. This fact is clear.

As I was with Sarah Palin, another triumph of Tea Party GOP anti-intellectual mediocrity, I do not understand the hubris and arrogance which leads a person to believe that they can be President, or hold a senior leadership position in government, when they have little if any interest in matters of foreign or domestic politics.

There is no set formula for what makes a successful Chief Executive. Certainly, intelligence helps. But instinct, charisma, and the ability to select competent people to help you in a collegiate, consensus-based model of decision-making, can work around this gap. A President can be fully degreed, with paper from the country's best institutions, but they can be a dullard who is manipulated by their advisers and handlers. There are educated fools; there are fools who are educated.

However, a successful leader cannot be intellectually "incurious." As Palin's handlers learned in trying to brief her for the 2008 Republican campaign, you cannot cram a lifetime of information into a few months of studying and preparation. While I will never be President, and most certainly do not have the competency for such a role, I remember watching the news in elementary school and reading newspapers and magazines. I liked talking about politics, history, philosophy, and other such matters, with friends and family.

Like you, I picked up a narrative about politics that I take for granted. This is the matrix, an invisible superstucture upon which other, more particular and intentionally learned and acquired information, is built upon.

Herman Cain is a technician who knows how to do math about the movement of objects.

Herman Cain is a technician who can follow a profit maximization rubric that helps him decide if he should shut down pizza franchises.

Herman Cain is no Renaissance man.

Moreover, he, like the anti-intellectual set on the New Right, does not have a basic understanding of current events that is empirically grounded, with breadth, and that goes beyond a talking point, fact-free nation, of Right-wing bloviating and epistemic closure that is coloured for the professionals by the propagandists at the Heritage Foundation, and fingered painted in the dots for the rank and file upright walking knuckledraggers by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

Herman Cain said that God told him to run for office, for he is Moses. Apparently, God is a trickster who also told the other Republican candidates to run for office too. Funny, I don't recall Cain, Perry, Bacchmann or the other Tea Party GOP candidates sharing if God told them that they would win (or not).

Fate is a trickster, maybe he/she/it wanted Herman Cain and company to run because America needs a good laugh, and the Republican field, which months ago became a national joke, is providing a gut-buster of laughs for the reality based community.

But please again, help me understand. How can someone as incurious as Herman Cain sincerely believe that they are qualified to be President?

Political Hermeneutics: A Letter From People of Color (the 99th Percentile) to the OWS Movement

The fault lines of race, class, and gender are central to any analysis of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. Not surprisingly, some folks would like to overlook these issues as being peripheral to a political moment that should be "about class" and "not race."

My rebuttal is predictable and direct: race and racial ideologies are no sideshow in American politics; how can they possibly be peripheral to OWS?

This is especially true as OWS works to define its movement culture, and to make sure that parallel efforts such as Occupy the 'Hood are included within their broader agenda.

Some have accused the Occupy Wall Street Movement of being the product of grumpy angst by generally entitled and privileged white folks who are upset that they are now getting a bum deal. In all, from this perspective, OWS is a version of the white privilege temper tantrum performed on a national scale.

In turn, this assertion leads to the following question: where were the OWS folks when black and brown people were catching hell for decades, as globalization and deindustrialization ravaged our communities, and punched upward mobility and wealth accrual in the gut?

These are fair questions that need to be addressed...and answered by OWS and its advocates. The following is an effort to further that discussion.

On occasion, I work through the hermeneutics of political "texts" that I find online or in print. The following open letter, which is now circulating around the black blogosphere, is quite provocative as it raises many questions that are more than worthy of no small amount of critical engagement.

As is my habit, comments follow in brackets and in bold.

An Open Letter (and Invitation) to the so-called 99% From People of Color (AKA the 99th Percentile)

Dear so-called 99%

[The branding of the OWS movement has been very effective. Who could reasonably agree with such a stark divide where the 1 percent (them) is doing amazingly well, and the 99% (the rest of us) are doing so poorly during the Great Recession.

However, this slogan hides more than it reveals.

For example, the biggest divides in wealth inequality, the ownership of financial instruments, and those who benefited the most from the Bush era tax cuts begins at the top 10 percent of earners. Moreover, if you want to see where the real action is in terms of America's kleptocracy, one should focus their attention on the top 1/10 of 1 percent of earners who are recording unbelievable gains while the American workforce in mass has seen its wages stagnate for the last 40 years.

The top ten percent have done well too: they now control 50 percent of the income and 70 percent of the aggregate wealth. The top 2o percent of the U.S. population controls approximately 84 percent of wealth. What to do about these measures of inequality?

When we use the language of the 1 percent, how do differences of race play into this narrative. The top 1 percent of black and brown folks are doing less well than their equivalents in White America. Does this complement the narrative? Or does it complicate it, because while the black and brown elite may be doing much less well than their white peers, both are still invested in the status quo...or are they?]

You suckers thought that you were so special, ennit? You thought that your heineys were just that much better and softer and more supple than all those poor people of color, huh? There was never any discussion of the “99%” for the past 400 years while Native lands were stolen, Native people were exterminated, black folks were enslaved, Latinos were gerrymandered, Japanese people were placed in internment camps or Arabs were sexually groped, fondled and heavily-petted at airports. No problem, right?

[Yes and no. Wealth accrual and inter-generational transfers of resources in this country have for centuries been racialized. As professionals in sociology, political science, and economics have repeatedly observed, race in America is also a story of wealth--who had it, had access to it, and could pass it down--and then reproduce its benefits for themselves and their descendants.

Scholars such as Joe Feagin, Manning Marable, Ira Katznelson, Eric Williams, Omi and Winant, Oliver and Shapiro, and others have done a wonderful job of tracing out these contours. White folks, both native born and immigrants knew this game. To not participate in it would have been morally and ethically sound (perhaps), but ill-advised in terms of crude self-interest. Who the hell is going to run away from free money?

Whiteness involves being an active signer to what Charles Mills smartly describes as the Racial Contract (or for whites in mass, at the very least being tacit beneficiaries of it). Once you make the bargain those "inconveniences" of history become just that, facts and incongruities to be avoided lest too much uncertainty (and responsibility spawned by introspection) occur.]

There was never any discussion of the fundamental imbalance of power on this continent and inherent unfairness of the trickle-up economics for the past few centuries as the aforementioned groups were only seen as a source of labor for powerful white male interests. Not a word.

Because you thought you were special. You were immune to that. That little issue didn’t involve you.

[Always be careful whenever you insert "never." There were many folks, across the color line, who understood the damnable imbalances of power in this country, especially as they overlap with gender, race, class, and other types of identities. Taken in total these disparities reveal the naked lie that is the American creed of upward mobility and the Horatio Alger myth.

Folks often want to deploy the "they were products of their time defense." Avoid it. Run away from it. The premise is absurd and weak.

Whiteness does involve being special. Historically, it was the cultivation of white mediocrity and the prize for European "ethnics" assimilating into "Americanness." Part of that bargain was to distance oneself from black people, and to look askance at, as well as socially distance oneself from, most people of color. European immigrants deeply--and others as well to this day--understood that to be "White" pays a material, financial, emotional, and psychic wage.

Whiteness is special: it got you low interest loans; it got you the G.I. Bill; it got you a job in a factory with a living wage; it got your kids into college and good high schools; it got you membership in a privileged class.

White folks knew exactly what they were buying into. Do not remove or take away their agency.

There is a reason that white Americans have on average 2 dollars for every 10 cents that blacks and Latinos possess: the State was invested in subsidizing their enrichment and advancement. The wages come with a natural defense as well, where the beneficiaries of White privilege can proudly announce that "their family never owned slaves" or "my grandparents were immigrants."

Guilt free. Hands clean.]

Now, you see that these powerful white males do not care about you either. Now you see that they will—just like they did to “us,” all people of color in this country—extrapolate every single ounce of energy, money and value out of you, your kids, your wife, your mistress.

[We need to ask hard questions here. Historically, elites have not treated their social lessors well. More specifically, Europeans were barbaric to each other across lines of class--in the work houses, in the factories, with indentured servitude--long before they got to the New World and discovered the "blessings" of African labor, chattel slavery, and genocide of indigenous peoples.

We need to define terms. Who are the "powerful?" Who is "white?" How does gender play into this--do not let white women, as beneficiaries of Whiteness and white supremacy too, off the hook so easily.

Here is another challenge. The global power elite numbers only a few thousand. Do they even care about race? They are transnational. Their concern is Capital and finance. Most certainly, race and these other issues of identity and in-group superiority may matter for the middle managers and other lowly administrators in this game. But, do you think that those who are really moving the pieces on the chessboard are at all concerned with such parochial and local interests as race, gender, and sexuality?]

After they do that, they will throw you away, fire you, lay you off, send your job to Mexico or India or someplace else where they can do exactly the same thing to those poor schmucks. Only they’ll do it for much less money. Now, you’re beginning to see that and so you started to call yourself the so-called “99%,” because you realize that you’re not so special at all.

[This is old school for black and brown folks. Hell, listen to classic rap song The Message. We were on to this con game decades ago.

When White America gets a cold, black and brown Americans get the flu. But, what of poor rural whites? What of those folks in the rust belt? On the 'res? How can we work together with them, to find common class interests across the lines of white identity and the wages of Whiteness? Where historically most members of the white poor and working classes have chosen racial affinity over class alliances with people of color?]

Stupid white people.

[The masses are asses. Are white folks any more or less stupid than any other group because of their "skin color?" No.

But, Whiteness does encourage a type of willful historical ignorance, myopia, blind denial, and short shortsightedness. Whiteness has paid white people as a group--for the most part--a type of psychic wage from group belonging. This has come at a moral and ethical cost. Most folks, not because they are White, but because they are lazy, dim witted, and painfully human (and comfortable on the sidelines of history) will not be self-reflective enough to work through the ledger sheet of race and their soul's debit; what is the blood on their hands from the benefits of "benign," "colorblind," white supremacy in the Age of Obama.

In fact, there are still white folks who believe silly fantasies such as this School House Rock video about Ellis Island, the melting pot, and European immigration. There are others who are race traitors, and as such, know the score. The latter have always been with us and on the right side of history. They are down like John Brown. Real warriors.

The question becomes how to move the lazy and settled middle.]

The punch line though? You were always part of the 99%.

[Yes and no again. In absolute terms they were not elites. But, they could feel superior and special by signing restrictive housing covenants; joining the KKK; becoming cops so they could beat a colored, a Mexican, a Chinaman, or an Injun; lynching negroes; and rioting against efforts at school integration in and around Boston.

The system needs to maintain the appearance, and historically for whites, of upward mobility. The system also needs the appearance of inclusion in order to make those who have bought into it psychically invested in the merits of their own hard work, because of course those other people can't succeed because they are "lazy," "un-American," or have "bad culture."

Remember: Success is easy in America. But, only if you work hard enough for it.]

Those powerful white interests love you as much as they love me. Which is to say that they love you about as much a man loves a pregnancy scare from a one-night stand. None. Zero. Idiots.

[Is this the money shot? Sorry, I couldn't resist...]

The bad news: You’re not special and unfortunately you’re just now beginning to realize that. The good news: well hell, at least you’re beginning to realize it now. But those are the two reasons that people of color have not joined this movement en masse: #1 We cannot believe that you were so stupid to not know that you weren’t special and that these powerful white male interests were just using you, and #2 we want to make sure that you gullible sheep will not, as soon as those powerful white male interests try to buy you off with giving your job back with the little benefits and 401k, forget about all of us poor people of color who have been suffering for years.

[Those white folks who are race traitors, critical thinkers, and visionaries who see globally and were long onto the neoliberal con game will get you. But again, most people are profoundly mediocre. Do not forget your audience: Whiteness is profoundly ahistorical; it is literally without history. To ask most White Americans to think about structures, institutions, and power, is a challenge, because to be white, is to be the quintessential individual.

In all, to get the privileged "I" to think structurally is quite difficult, if not impossible, in the long run. Some of them are coming around. I would not hold my breath waiting for the others as it may take an even bigger system shock than the Great Recession to wake them up. But by then, it may be too late.]

We are the faces at the bottom of the well, the very bottom of the 99%.

We are the 99th percentile. The bottom.

[Who is "we?" Who is "the bottom?" Please clarify your terms. Do these cohorts include people of color who are part of the elite? Be mindful of assuming a sense of linked fate or group affinity. These assumptions can lead one to misunderstand how class interests can overcome race, gender, or other assumed intra-group markers of affinity.]

We’re attracted to the movement, but we need assurance that you’re not gonna just up and leave and get tricked again, like you did before.

Now the invitation: we will join you. We are attracted to this movement. We want to join you. The truth is that we need this movement at least as much as you do. The truth is that we want to make something very serious and very permanent happen for the betterment of all poor and middle-class Americans—Native, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, everybody! The truth is that you have always been our brothers and sisters—you just didn’t know it. But we need to know that you’re serious. And what we mean by “serious” is that you aren’t going to back to thinking that you’re part of the 1% again and forget about us. You are not. We are in this together, whether you, my white brothers and sisters, choose to acknowledge it or not. We’re waiting.

So what’s it gonna be?

[I will let these paragraphs stand on their own. To reiterate the author's claims, please tell me, what is it going to be?]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Watching the Vietnam War in HD: General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Vietnamese Officer was "Right"--He was Also "Wrong"

If you are not watching the History Channel's miniseries event "Vietnam in HD," you are truly missing out. The World War Two HD series was unsettling because the original black and white footage was "colorized." This made the events seem more real. The Vietnam War is closer to the present in terms of decades. Ironically, the high definition enhancement makes the events seem surreal.

The hyper-realism of Vietnam in HD is also a rebuttal to how the spin doctors and propagandists sanitize war in order to sell it to the public.

The mass media frames conflict. For example, the Tet Offensive was a tactical victory for the United States. The Vietcong were destroyed as a fighting force. But, the narrative in the mass media was that the United States "lost" the battle.

The North Vietnamese "won" the Tet Offensive because they demonstrated that this would be a long war without an immediate end; they also won because it was now clear that the American government was blatantly lying to the public about the prospect of victory in the near term.

The Pentagon learned a lesson too: contain war coverage through "media pools" where only "approved images" would be sent back home to the American public. If you wondered why we do not see the bodies of American soldiers coming home during the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, look no farther than 'Nam.

For example, the execution of a Vietcong sapper by General Nguyen Ngoc Loan is an iconic photo, and an object lesson in the power of images and media spin doctoring. It is also a much misunderstood moment. General Loan did the "right" thing legally under the Geneva Convention (he shot a combatant who was out of uniform, engaged in sabotage, and thus not protected by the rules of war). However, General Loan's deeds were "wrong" in the court of public opinion, and they became symbolic of the grotesqueness of America's misadventure in Southeast Asia.

I became interested in military affairs in middle school. Then, I was quite fascinated by the dichotomy between military law and the public's perception of events. At the time, what I saw as a misrepresentation of the "truth" by a "traitorous" news media, evolved into realizing that public perception is not "natural" or "organic." Rather, it is something to be "managed."

Moreover, public perception is its own independent reality. Those beliefs further evolved into an understanding that the "legally" defensible thing may not in fact be the ethically or morally correct position to pursue or defend.

In total, war is hell. It is also a state of semi-organized confusion.

Are any of you watching the Vietnam in HD series? What do you think of it so far? For those of a certain age, how did you respond at the time to General Loan shooting his prisoner? Decades from now, will Iraq and Afghanistan be remembered for a similar moment?

Is Abu Ghraib it?

A bonus: I remember recording the following installment of Ethics in America on VHS and watching it repeatedly. What follows is a classic and provocative dilemma: what are the obligations of American journalists in a war zone? If embedded with the "enemy," are you obligated to warn "your own" about an imminent attack?

Friday, November 11, 2011

We Were Always "Men": A Wealth of Dignity in the Civil War Era Photographs of African American Soldiers

They are looking at us through time.

There are folks who write about the Civil War with real expertise. I am most certainly a journeyman and hobbyist by any measure of comparison.

On Veterans Day, these images from the Library of Congress of African American servicemen in the Civil War seemed appropriate. These photos are important because they were some of the first in which black folks had the agency to decide about the terms of their own visual representation.

The idea/theory/framework that cultural studies folks loosely term "ways of seeing" is also helpful here: how bodies are posed exists in relation to a particular type of gaze, where power is differential, and said bodies become objects and not subjects.

For example, the ways that women are posed in fashion magazines and advertisements in the 21st century are a continuation of the male gaze going back to at least the Renaissance. The early photographs and other representations of black bodies (and the Other, more generally) did similar work in manufacturing racial ideologies and legitimating commonsense "knowledge" about black personhood and our humanity.

I particularly like these first two images because of the amount of dignity they convey. The brother in the first photo has all of the norms of 19th century, American, masculine respectability, and honor.

He has a gun and a gold pocket watch. His uniform is pressed. He faces the camera with pride. There is a bit of a swagger and confidence at work here, for he is a bit of a badman. I imagine his friends and family nodding with pride when they see their boy all grown up.

I also like the following photo because of its matter of factness. This brother just "is." There is a certain timelessness, a quiet, relaxed, dignity to his habitus. I feel like he isn't "period"; he could be my cousin/brother/friend, right now, in the Age of Obama.

When I see these images of martial comportment and spirit I am reminded of the existential dread that white Southerners and others must have felt at the mere thought that black men could take up arms. I reject the problematic assertion of films like Glory that "we ran away slaves and came back men." We were always men. But, I get that for the white supremacist imagination, one which understood black people, and black men, in particular, to be childlike, servile, and not fit for freedom, the sight of black men in Union blue must have been truly apocalyptic.

We stand on their shoulders. Again. And they continue to watch us.

He Lives to Rape History: Herman Cain Yearns For the Good Old Days of Jim Crow and "Small Government"

Herman Cain on the stump in Kalamazoo, Michigan. So very sad.

It is a small world. I lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan for a year. There, I would far too often enjoy the lovely evening of a 5 dollar movie, some jazz at the Union, and then a few beers at Burdicks.

My night out on the town would cost me less than 20 dollars.

Kalamazoo was a sad, but dignified place. It was a once prosperous community with beautiful homes from the Gilded Age. Like so many cities across the Rust Belt, Kalamazoo went downhill because of deindustrialization and other changes in the economy that were to the disadvantage of the American worker.

As a measure for comparison, I had an apartment in "the 'Zoo" that cost me about 600 dollars a month including utilities. The same apartment would have easily cost, at a minimum, 2,000 dollars a month in Chicago. Alas, given how inter-generational wealth transfers are to the disadvantage of folks of color, if I had parents to hit up I would have purchased that palatial domicile in a second if afforded the opportunity.

Thus, to hear Herb Cornbread Cain preach the neoliberal, small government, gospel to folks in a community that has been destroyed, precisely by such a civil religion, is more than a little bit off-putting. I shake my head as folks cheer his policies. But, I vomit in my mouth to hear him--once more, as he always does--rape history.

[Do the math. If Herman Cain's pappy walked off the farm in the early 1940s at (let's guess) 20 years old, his parents may have been--and his grandparents most certainly were--born as slaves. How did the free market and the "American Dream" of deregulation help them? Are his supporters that dim? Or are the masses just generally asses?]

It is not only because I am a student of history that I find his allusion to the glory days of Jim Crow, sharecropping, and racialized debt peonage offensive. Rather, it is my common sense.

How can any person, of any reasonable sense, conjure up a story about the evils of "big government," and a racist labor market, as a means of talking about the Horatio Alger myth of the "good old days" relative to blacks in the Jim and Jane Crow South during the 1940s?

I rarely, if ever, use profanity. I will break that rule today: Cain is huffing bullshit as he relays a story that is designed to please the mouth-breathing, upright walking, White conservative populists who are his base; there is no way that even Herman Cain can believe such a noxious fiction. Utterly impossible.

Herman Cain, race minstrel extraordinaire, is truly a performance artist: there are few if any other explanations for his Koch brother funded Bojangles routine.

Folks, he is slouching far past Gomorrah. As a professional Herman Cain watcher, I predict that he is soon about to go somewhere which will leave you shocked--but not at all surprised.

Herman Cain's, "slavery was good for black folks moment," is not too far ahead. You are now forewarned. Be prepared. And do set your clocks by that prediction.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Poetic Violence in Motion: Goodbye Uncle Smokin' Joe Frazier, Do Travel Well

An obligatory goodbye.

The 41 rounds that Joe Frasier and Muhammad Ali fought were poetic violence in motion. Their battles were exercises in grotesque beauty.

Rest in peace Uncle Smoking Joe Frazier. We judge our heroes by the battles they fought, by how their rivals forced greatness out of them. You were a crucible for Muhammad Ali. But you are not a footnote to history, you are a giant in the sport of boxing, and an object lesson in perseverance.

Muhammad Ali confessed to his confidantes that you brought him the closest to death that he had ever been. Together, you two walked the line. Now you have peace. I know you met death, your lover and intimate, with eyes open.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Online Chronicles of an "Angry Black Man" in the Age of Obama: Why is Black Genius So Threatening to Some White Folks?

Writing online is a type of archiving. It is also a type of performance.

What follows is a bit of critical self-reflection, breaking kayfabe, and thinking aloud in public.

I always take a moment to step back whenever I write something on these Internets that riles folks up. When doing so, I ask myself the following: "Okay, if I didn't know the author, what impression would he leave me with?" "What are his politics?" "What 'type' of black man is he?"

He seems pretty reasonable to me, if at times a little provocative and playful. But crazy? Mean? Unreasonable? Not interested in "dialogue?" I just don't see it.

Thus, I am always surprised by the response of some folks to my online work, that in their eyes I am somehow "angry," or "upset." Black folks know that figure, "the angry black man" quite well--he is us, we are at times him. White folks know him too: he looms large in the American political and cultural subconscious, where instead of a 3 dimensional being, this angry black man is a bogeyman caricature, all huff and puff, irrational and rageful towards those innocent white folks who did him no harm.

Of course, there is much to be upset about in this world. And in America, much of this ugliness has worked itself out along lines of race.

Given that clear, plain on its face reality, I nevertheless remain surprised by the power that the very idea of the angry black man holds for so many. Intellectually, I get that white folks, and Whiteness at large, does not want to be forced to confront the righteousness of black anger. Why? Because to do so would force "uncomfortable" conversations about justice, one's personal relationship to white supremacy--and of course their investment in the normality of Whiteness with its White looks, White ways of thinking, White ways of knowing, and White ways of being.

For many, to take ownership over such a fact is the very definition of cognitive dissonance.

America is a country without a history. America has no memory of anything earlier than what happened last week. The historical myopia of Whiteness is no small part of that national personality trait, what is in all, a very bad habit.

I often smile when I read comments by readers who think that I am an angry black man. I am not. Life is too short to overly obsess over the curious ways of white folks. What I struggle and work towards is a holistic type of personhood; I simply want the freedom to be, to integrate every part of my self.

And yes, my blackness, and particular experiences as a working class black man of a certain age, a ghetto nerd, sensualist, reader, and citizen born in the post-Civil Rights moment at the time of hip hop's birth, is a significant part of my full humanity.

Because I love black people, and respect our accomplishments in the face of unimaginable obstacles in these United States, I am at peace, even while I see that there is much work still to be done. Because I understand how black folks helped to save American democracy from its own malformed, retarded, bigotry, I am made quite proud.

Back in the day we used to call that "knowledge of self." At present, I just call it a certain peace of mind.

When I wrote my open letter of sorts to the readers of the Daily Kos about liberal racism, Brother Akbar's words on the need to fully integrate one's self; to not have to ask permission from white folks to speak; to not need white approval when we want to sing our own "heroes" and "sheroes"; and to be unapologetic about demanding that democracy live up to its promises and potential, were echoing in my memory.

Black confidence, black pride, and black self-confidence is scary to many (if not most) white folks. For all of my reflection and research on the topic I do not know why. Of course, I intellectually "get" the ways that race, power, and structures intersect, and how "in-group" identity is normalized. But on a personal and emotional level, how can a people who have so much, who in essence run the world, be so easily upset by black folk's most simple, basic, human needs?

Ultimately, when we refuse to ask permission, we become angry black men and angry black women.

Why is this?

Please, teach me something on these matters. I am eager to sit back, listen, and learn.

What Ever Happened to Shame? Malcolm X Versus Proud Pregnant Black Teens

Hat tip to Rippa on this one. You do have to love Brother Denzel.

A provocative post.

What ever happened to shame? And wasn't shame a good thing when she kept our teen girls from posing bellies-exposed and taking pictures of what should be their private shame and circulating it online?

Please forgive me my old school respectable negro politics. Do pardon my pun, is this what radical sexual autonomy has "birthed?" Where did we go wrong as a people?

Or is this some type of co-parenting adaptive strategy among the underclasses where young women coordinate their pregnancies in order to be in an opportune position to share resources?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Navigating White Privilege and Liberal Racism: 10 Tips for Blogging While Black on the Daily Kos (and Other Predominantly White Spaces Too)

As demonstrated by hundreds of comments, it would appear that I am the object of no small amount of upset by some readers of the Daily Kos.
Am I surprised? No. My style of direct speaking, and commitment to always voice truth to power may not be everyone's cup of tea. That is okay.
As folks who have followed me over the last few years know, I can go all out and cut a damn good promo if need be; I also can move silently and do work with a scalpel; And at times I choose to use a garrote to ether my opponents.
In all, styles make fights and I try to use the right tool from the tool box in order to get the job done.
A few months back, some of my folks online encouraged me to check out Daily Kos and its fracas over race and blogging while black. I received emails from allies and friends asking about my thoughts on the matter, and if I were going to get involved. I'm not 'fam so I initially demurred. But, what I saw while lurking was enough to encourage me to move forward. I chose my time wisely and decided to make some small forays, to do some basic recon in order to get the lay of the land.
As Brother King and the other warriors in our glorious black freedom struggle realized, sometimes you have to shake the bushes to get the snakes out. At other times, you need to lay an ambush to get a sense of how your enemy will react.
I have long been a student of Whiteness. I am particularly interested in racism--and the many manifestations of white privilege--as performed by white liberals.
The latter are particularly fascinating on these matters because in our contemporary political imagination "racism" is something those "other people" do. White supremacy and racism are albatrosses and weights that hang from the necks of the Right, the false white populists, the Tea Party GOP and Birthers, racial reactionaries, and the bomb throwers and bigots like Buchanan, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Beck.
There sins are not "our" sins, in fact, a belief in anti-racism, and the merits of "multiculturalism," are the distinguishing marks of the contemporary left and progressives in the Age of Obama.
I knew what I would find at the Daily Kos. There would be some allies and perhaps even some friends. There would be those put off and afraid. Some would come closer and others would run away. That is the way of the world; Its diversity is a good thing.
I also knew that I would encounter white privilege, glaring examples in fact, that would further the thesis that Whiteness does real work in our society as it impacts all folks across the color line.
I always try to pass along what I have learned on my journeys to others. Here is a primer, a set of helpful hints for black folks (and other fellow travelers), who may endeavor to write about race, politics, culture, and power at the Daily Kos and other predominantly white spaces on these Internets.
Please do amend it as necessary.

10 Tips for Blogging While Black on the Daily Kos (and Other Predominantly White Spaces Too)

1. Every community has certain rules. The rule here is to be "respectful." Respect can also mean conforming, knowing your place, not rocking the boat, and staying on the approved script. Respect is also about power: who wields it; who makes the rules; who gets to decide what behavior is "inappropriate." In majority white spaces, those decisions and rules are always racialized. You probably learned those unspoken rules and life lessons as your guide for life, from a parent, elder, or other sage. Remember, those rules still apply online. Do update your Negro Motorist Green Book with entries about blogging while black at the Daily Kos.
2. Whiteness is ultimately about the maintenance of white privilege. White privilege can be understood in material, economic, legal, social, and political terms. The most basic manifestation of white privilege is the freedom and ability to determine how and when you will be uncomfortable, and under what circumstances. Thus, do not engage in any talk about race, white supremacy, identity politics, or other matters that may make certain folks "uncomfortable," "upset," "feel dirty," or "angry."
3. Your intellectual life, creative voice, and right to speak are subject to the demands of the chorus. You must get permission to speak. You must live for the approval of the (white) Kossacks. If you do not, then you will be marginalized, confronted, and told that your voice is not welcome.
4. To the above: remember that you as the Other are the perpetual teacher. Never forget that special burden. And yes, it is hard to be the teacher when your students will feign knowing more about these matters of life experience, history, and power than you do. Never forget, you are the little man behind the stove--even when others want to argue for an equivalence of insight and experience.
5. For blacks to criticize other black folks for their tom foolery, race minstrel shtick, or hostility to the empowerment of people of color, is verboten. You must speak in an approved tone that does not offend the sensibilities of white folks who may want to participate in the conversation. We live in the age of the black superpublic where there are no more "black spaces" for private talk. Moreover, the white gaze is real; never forget that your conversation and critique should always allow a space for Whiteness to participate. To do any less is both rude and uncivilized.
6. Race is always secondary to class. In fact, if we just stopped talking about all of this race stuff then our problems would be solved. Abandon intersectionality. Remember, it is always class--and you should forget that class location is a function of this country's racial hierarchy. Really, I mean it. Simply forget those inconvenient facts. Delete them now. Your life will be a lot easier.
7. The Right is lampooned and mocked for its "echo chamber" memes and tendency towards "epistemic closure." The Left has its problems in that regard as well. Be prepared.
The Freepers, Townhall, and Fox News types have "Socialist," "libtard" and "class warfare" as their Orwellian newspeak PC working conversation shutdown vocabulary. As an equivalent, many Kossacks throw about "racism" and "sexism" to marginalize those with who they disagree. Like their peers on the Right, most cannot define these terms. They are simply weapons of the lazy and the anti-intellectual. Avoid the fire, smoke, and distraction of those slow moving bludgeons by asking for a definition: most will disengage because they have none to offer.
8. The ban hammer and Daily Kos' "hide rating" is a type of cyberbullying and intimidation. Some rules appear "race neutral." In practice, we know that they are not. Tread carefully. Whiteness is a lie. Because it is a lie, Whiteness is existentially dependent on hiding the truth. The "HR" is a tool to that end.
9. There is frontstage racism and backstage racism. Frontstage racism is that which occurs in public. Backstage racism occurs in private, and in (often) all white spaces where people feel comfortable enough to let their guard down. Because racism has evolved over time, frontstage racism is heavily policed and a source of shame when the perpetrator is called out. Backstage racism continues on in the Age of Obama.
Because of their different political personality types, white liberals and white conservatives manifest racism and racial resentment in divergent, if not complementary ways. What they have in common is a type of racial heliocentrism, what we call "the white racial frame" which puts Whiteness at the center of all things. Conservatives are more honest about this fact. Liberals and white progressives are also paid the psychic wages of Whiteness, but they cash the check while feeling either very great guilty or grossly magnanimous.
10. Take the words of the Kossacks seriously for what they reveal about white privilege and liberal/left/progressive politics is invaluable. For example, on my post regarding Herman Cain's noxious race politics, the commenter Poetic Mind wrote that:
...a selection of uprates...well, my hr stands,I am still unconvinced: the presentation and the racialist undertones still make this post inappropriate for a progressive blog...sure, I am not African American, I may not be able to follow your perspective as an African American, but Dailykos has community standards and I still feel, you haven't met them...but in time with more posts you will probably understand what a progressive blog is really about... progressiveness is looking into the future, not getting hung up by the past!
Progressives are "race neutral." In fact, you need to leave the richness of your humanity and life experiences out of the conversation. Your Blues Sensibility and four centuries of experience in the New World, the Black Atlantic, and as the co-founders of this Republic, ought to be ignored. You are quintessentially American, but that essence is inconvenient. It may make some white folks uncomfortable: we are the envy of the world; but no one really wants to be black.
Ultimately, black folks are in need of a good lecture about the real meaning of "progressive" struggle.
We may have led the fight to improve American democracy and carried whole peoples and their struggles on our backs, but now we have sit at the knee of "the real progressives" and take our moment of instruction. Like John Lewis learned at an Occupy Wall Street protest, you best know your place and always ask for permission to participate.

Chauncey DeVega Versus Daily Kos: Liberal Racists Don't Fancy Black Truth Tellers Too Much

I have been doing an experiment over at the Daily Kos this last month or so. I have long been fascinated by liberal racism, and given what I heard about Daily Kos' war on black bloggers, it seemed the perfect time to do some recon.

Little did I realize what a productive and revealing experience I would have with the "Kossacks."

My post on Herman Cain's minstrel antics and Birth of a Nation has caused folks to stroke out. There are some defenders, but I may be banned in that neck of the woods very soon. At almost 400 comments later--yes I said 400--the ugliness and bullying continues.

If you have a Daily Kos account, please go there and vote my post "up" so that it will go on the front page. And do read the comments, they are a great insight into the pathology of white privilege as enacted through a liberal left "progressive" frame.

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: The Obama Administration Discusses UFO's and Louis Farrakhan Tells the Truth about Extraterrestrial Life

Farrakhan, aliens, and foreign news correspondents equals definitive truth telling.

Obama is a ghetto nerd for real. He lets the Centers for Disease Control issue a report about a zombie outbreak as a means to encourage the public to think about disaster preparedness. Now, the Obama administration issues a statement about U.F.O.'s and extraterrestrial life.

What's next? Will President Obama issue a statement on the Force? That S.H.I.E.L.D. is real? Do the shadow people actually exist? Was the Philadelphia Experiment real? Is Obama secretly using HAARP in order to make the Tea Party GOP act like fools?

The public demands to know Mr. President!

And by the way B-Rock, is Bat Boy chilling at the White House?

White House Says No Evidence of Extraterrestrials

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sorry, E.T. lovers — the White House says it has no evidence that extraterrestrials exist.

The White House made the unusual declaration in response to a feature on its website that allows people to submit petitions that administration officials must respond to if enough people sign on.

In this case, more than 5,000 people signed a petition demanding that the White House disclose the government’s knowledge of extraterrestrial beings, and more than 12,000 signed another petition seeking formal acknowledgement of an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race.

In response, Phil Larson of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wrote that the U.S. government has no evidence that life exists outside Earth, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted any member of the human race.

“In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye,” Larson wrote.

But he didn’t close the door entirely on a close encounter of an alien kind, noting that many scientists and mathematicians believe that, statistically speaking, odds are high that there is life somewhere among the “trillions and trillions of stars in the universe” — although odds of making contact with non-humans are remote.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Birth of a Herman Cain Nation Moment: Cornbread Can't Help His Love of the White Ladies

A black Republican is accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. Sound familiar?

With his race baiting antics for the gleeful delight of white populist conservatives, Herman Cain is indeed writing history with lightning.

Yes, Birth of a Nation is such an obvious allusion that it demands to be done, even if it is in many ways quite vulgar. In all, sometimes we just have to put in work, and state an obvious and ugly truth.

To point: I do not know if the continued support of Herman Cain by the Tea Party GOP brigands, despite his being accused of sexually assaulting a white woman, is a sign of progress.

On one hand, not too long ago, a white woman's screams and false cries of rape were enough to justify a one way trip to the lynching tree. Herman Cain is still with us, and his campaign moves forward, despite--and perhaps even emboldened--by these accusations.

This is quite a puzzle. Herman Cain appeals to a part of the American electorate that is racially resentful, possesses no small amount of anti-black affect, likes black folks who know how to shut up and know their place, and who parrot the fantasies that the White Soul possesses of African American humanity.

Herman Cain fulfills the worst stereotypes and fears of black male predatory sexuality: he is the myth of the black male rapist GOP candidate made quite literally real. Yet, they still have his back.

Again, quite a riddle and mystery is afoot. What do you all think will happen with Herb Cornbread Cain? Is the continued support of his Tea Party GOP base a sign of racial progress?

Or do white conservatives have special rules for "their blacks," folks who are every now and then allowed the sweet pleasures of a white woman's alabaster thighs and tasty honey mead yoni wine?

Could the pass they have issued to Herman Cain actually be an ironic triumph of the hard bigotry of low expectations? Where Herman Cain can't help but to have "slipped up" because what black could possibly resist any white woman? Anywhere? At any time?

Random Notes: Chuck Berry's Sex Tape and Herman Cain's 4th Accuser to Go Public Today

I love it when a plan comes together. I predicted that there would be at least five women accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment. As of today, we have a fourth, who (with Gloria Allred in tow) will be detailing good old Cornbread's naughty habits. I offered a prayer last week. I asked God if he/she/it could arrange that Herman Cain would be outed as a flasher who liked to expose "yee old godfather" to his female employees. Those answers will be forthcoming imminently.

My mind is a twisted labyrinth. For whatever reason, our speculations about Herman Cain's sexual proclivities made me think about Chuck Berry.

[Who knows? Perhaps, there is in fact a collective unconscious that links all people together, where in a Jungian mode, we all share a common set of signs, symbols, and cultural references.]

Whatever Herbie is accused of doing, he can be comforted by the fact it will in no way compare to the level of debauched fun that Chuck Berry indulged in while on the road.


IN THE EARLY 1990S, a friend sent me a short videotaped scene in which a man alleged to be Chuck Berry is shown pissing on a white woman and farting in her face. [See below for a complete transcript.] It was explained to me that Chuck Berry had been hassled so many times by authorities for sexin’ up young white girls while on the road, he took to videotaping all of his one-night stands as legal proof of consent on the girls’ part.

This explanation gained further credence when High Society magazine published eight photos of Berry posing naked with various women, presumably groupies. It was given further credibility in the early 1990s, when a former female chef Berry had employed at his Southern-Air Restaurant in Missouri filed a lawsuit claiming that Berry was covertly videotaping gals in the women’s bathroom using cameras placed at angles that gave aerial and eye-level views of the toilet. [The suit was apparently settled out of court.] And a few years back, Spy magazine ran a feature which described not only the piss-and-fart scene which I viewed, but also other videotapes containing alleged poop-eatin’ by Chuck and his various lady friends.

A year or two after I received the initial videotape, another friend sent me a Berry-themed tape called Sweet Little Sexteen. Lasting over an hour and a half, it contains the initial piss-and-fart clip, plus TV news blurbs about Berry’s restaurant lawsuit, and an interminable parade of hairy, inflamed, slimy, beef-jerky white-girl twats in disgusting clinical closeup, many of them pissing while squatting over motel-room toilet bowls. The tape tends to imply that these segments were all filmed by Berry during one-night-stands. During one sad-yet-funny scene, the feather-headed white girl tries sucking off a skinny old black male wearing only a white T-shirt [presumed to be Berry] for what seems like a half-hour, but he’s apparently too old or coked-out to get it up. He tries shoving his half-hard choco-worm inside her pussy, but it plops out limply each time. He finally retrieves a giant black dildo and rams it up her twat like he’s shoving a thermometer between a turkey’s legs. While she painfully squirms on the monster artificial dong, he cackles, grunts, and asks her things such as “How ya like that big dick goin’ up in ya?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I DON’T REALLY CARE whether or not the man in these videotapes is Chuck Berry. Even if it isn’t, the fact that someone would go to the length of making it all up signifies that Chuck Berry is somehow highly relevant to American cultural psychology. So what reasons could he possibly have for pee-peein’ on all those poor dumb white girls?

My favorite Chuck Berry story involves shriveled Limey junkhog Keith Richards, who never played a note Chuck Berry didn’t play first. In the early 80s, Richards apparently went backstage at a Chuck Berry show and tapped him on the back of the shoulder, hoping to introduce himself. Before looking to see who it was, Berry instinctively hauled off and slugged him in the face.

Good for you Chuck. Shoulda pissed on him, too.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


The following dialogue was transcribed from a segment of videotape lasting a little over two and a half minutes. The action appears to take place in a motel bathroom. It begins with a white woman sitting in a bathtub, lazily scrubbing herself. The woman’s feathered-back blonde hairstyle suggests that the events transpired sometime in the late 1980s. Although the tape is blurry, and although surface “white noise” tends to muddy the sound, it’s credible that the warm brown blob of a man who suddenly steps into the bathtub is rock legend Chuck Berry. He is thin and bony, naked except for a classy gold wristwatch. His hair approximates Chuck’s greased-back black wool. His speaking voice sounds like Chuck Berry’s. But I have no way of proving it’s him, and I’m sure he’d deny it, so I have to throw in all these disclaimers.

CHUCK BERRY [allegedly, of course]: Are you bathing?
You gotta get clean.
Yes, I do.
You like to stay clean, don’t you?
Yes, I do.
You really do.
I’ll give you somethin’ to bathe for. You know that? [stands up over her] I’m-a give you somethin’ to bathe for. See this here? [wiggles his dick]
Yeah? That’s what you bathe with.
It is?
Kiss it...Kiss it...Again...Suck on it...You my girl?
You love me?
Very much?
Mm-hmm? I’ll bet you do.
I do.
Well...You really love me? [begins pissing on her face]
[she gasps, surprised] I really love you.
Yeah? Put your hands down by your thighs. Take it. [she continues gasping as he continues pissing] Take it. Take it. Take it. Open your mouth. Open your mouth. [sound of piss gurgling into her mouth, then Berry unleashes a LOUD, long fart] You can smell my fart. Piss on ya, that’s what I’m doin’. Pissin’ all over you. Mm-hmm. You love me?
Tell me you love me.
I love you.
Alright, then, drink my piss. Drink my piss. [grabs towel and hands it to her] Dry yourself off. Clean yourself off. How’s that piss taste, hmm?
Alright, alright, alright? Tastes bitter, doesn’t it? It’s salty, yeah, I know.
You drank my piss.
Yes, I did.
Yeah. Suck this. SUCK IT. [she’s sucking and gasping and grunting as if in pain] Here, clean yourself. Clean that piss out of your eyes. Poor sugar, little baby. What’s the matter, baby? Did I piss in your eyes?
Did I piss in your eyes? I’m sorry. There’s piss all over your neck and your hair. But you love me.
I love you.
I won’t betray you. I won’t betray you ever. Believe it. [leans in to kiss her, then stops] I can’t kiss you—it smells like piss.
I know.
I’m sorry. Clean yourself off. Take a shower. [he walks out of the tub as she turns on the faucet to clean herself]