Tuesday, December 6, 2011
The Final Herman Cain Round-Up: the Race Minstrel Meme; Cain as Affirmative Action Baby; Ishmael and Crouch Go Hard
Cecil Peterson had no history with the police. Even on the day the white stranger insulted his mother, Peterson simply wanted to eat lunch. He sat in his usual seat at the counter of the diner on Woodward Street and ordered his usual BLT and coffee. Somehow he caught the stranger’s eye in the squinted way that begets immediate conflict between men. The stranger glared. Peterson was not one to walk away from confrontation, but he knew the implications of glaring back. One should not glare back at a white man. So he looked down. But the two men crossed paths again after Peterson paid his tab and walked outside. And then came the remark. And then came the fight.
Two white Detroit police officers happened to be passing by the diner that September day in 1966. They ran to the altercation and tried to separate the combatants. At that point, according to their formal report, Peterson turned on the officers and struck them “without provocation.” According to the report, Peterson knocked one officer down and “kicked him in the side.” A second police team arrived and assisted in apprehending the “agitated” Mr. Peterson. Medics took the first officers on the scene to the Wayne County Hospital emergency room. The ER physician’s report noted that both officers had “bruises,” though neither required treatment. The white stranger was not charged.
Peterson was twenty-nine, African American, and an unmarried father of four who worked the line at Cadillac Motor Company. He had not previously come to the attention of the state. He had not been diagnosed or treated for any physical or mental illness. Nor had he been held for crimes or misdemeanors. He had limited interactions with white people and preferred to stay close to home. But on that September day in 1966 his life changed along with his identity. He became a prisoner. And then he became a patient.
Either way, Metzl's work is great, and his interview is well worth the listen.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Goodbye Herman Cain. You will be missed.
Unable to weather repeated charges of sexual harassment and infidelity, the Herman Cain train has finally gone off the tracks. Yet, even by the unique and unconventional standards of the 2012 Republican presidential primary field, Herman Cain was a spectacle—and one with a unique advantage.
I signaled to Herman Cain’s potential in February 2011 in a controversial essay on the online magazine Alternet, where after his break-out speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, I described it as a race minstrel-like performance. There, with everything but blackface cork, Cain channeled his dead black grand pappy with a semi-literate Southern drawl, told white folks that racism is a fiction (and that they are in fact the real victims of bigotry in the Age of Obama), and validated a belief that black people like Herman Cain—those who don’t complain, make trouble, or participate in the Civil Rights Movement—are the way forward.
In total, Herman Cain was a fantasy projection and type of racism shield, an Anti-Obama, who could soothe the anxieties of racially resentful white conservatives. While Cain’s shtick did not rise to the level of comedian David Chappelle’s character Clayton Bigsby, black white supremacist; it was, in many ways, a genius performance. He was Sarah Palin mated with the Boondocks’ Uncle Ruckus.
At the time, I was widely criticized for daring to suggest that Herman Cain was channeling such an offensive stereotype. My analysis proved prescient. In time, other observers either borrowed the meme, or were clearly inspired by it.
Unfortunately, many of those who ran with my suggestion that Herman Cain was performing as a race minstrel for the pleasures of his white conservative public, did not understand the depth of the claim. I was not trying to engage in name calling, or to get a snicker from the public, by calling attention to Herman Cain’s racially infused Tomfoolery. Rather, my deeper point was that Herman Cain’s race minstrel performance was a carefully crafted means towards an end.
Herman Cain was the mouthpiece for the unrepentant id of the New Right. He could advocate for the most extreme aspects of their ideology behind a mask of black incompetence, and “down home” mannerisms, that could potentially protect him from criticism. In addition, conservatives could deploy the race card at will to defend their chosen son: Herman Cain was a black cheerleader who could advance some of their most onerous and extreme policy positions.
The Herman Cain New Age Race Minstrel Show ended in the only way that it could. In keeping with the routine, Cain was brought down by his own arrogance and narcissism. He had grand plans and schemes that he could not fulfill. Because the race minstrel was a white supremacist fantasy that embodied fears about African Americans’ citizenship and freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War, he was a bumbling fool, and an incompetent who was not fit for democracy. And of course, the race minstrel lacked impulse control. His libido and craven pursuit of white women—what was an unattainable prize—would be his ultimate undoing.
From his willful embrace of ignorance on matters of foreign policy, a “9-9-9” tax policy cobbled together by secret advisers (and likely borrowed from a videogame), dreams of electrified fences and moats to kill “illegal” immigrants, rampant and almost cartoon-like levels of Islamophobia and Christian nationalism, “whistling Dixie” demagoguing of blacks who are not Republicans as being “on a plantation,” and of course his purported propensity for sexual harassment and adulterous behavior, Herman Cain played the role of race minstrel for the Tea Party GOP with aplomb and zest.
In all, the Herman Cain candidacy was a thing of ugly beauty. Cain began his presidential primary run with the priceless and under-used phrase “awww...shucky ducky,” seasoned it with a spiritual sung at the National Press Club, and offered a funereal oratory for his campaign that concluded with a quote from the Pokemon cartoon series.
Herman Cain caught lightning in a bottle. He combined the worst aspects of Tyler Perry’s various TV and film exercises in black buffoonery, the denigrating humor of Amos ‘N Andy, and the tropes of 19th century race minstrelsy into one show. While some observers will try to divine some deep and symbolic meaning about race in the Age of Obama from Herman Cain’s brief and shining moment in the 2012 Republican primaries, the lesson here, is in fact, more basic. Give people what they want. In this case, the white populists in the Republican Party wanted a black man who told them that they are not racists, Jim Crow wasn’t that bad, and “our” blacks are better than “those other” blacks who happen to be Democrats.
Herman Cain, master of the racial authenticity game, fashioned himself as “a real black man” as compared to President Barack Obama. He reminded his audience of this “fact” at every opportunity. They lapped it up. Sadly for Herman Cain, just as Michael Steele and other black conservatives learned long ago, the love and affection of the White Right is instrumental, and the devotion to their mascots is temporary, with a limited shelf-life.
As of Saturday, Herman Cain was barely the flavor of the month. Black Walnut has melted; Cornbread is now stale; it is time to go home…or perhaps begin a second career as a traveling bluesman and motivational speaker, for Herman Cain’s unlikely saga as a 2012 Republican presidential primary candidate has yielded more than enough material to last a lifetime.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Their eyes are watching from across the pond. Der Spiegel comments on the embarrassing clown car freak show that is the 2012 Tea Party GOP presidential field. Now the Brits are calling out Americans over racism and sexism in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.
At a gathering of Occupy Wall Street activists at a public space in New York on Monday, one young woman spoke of a bruising experience she had suffered the previous day. Angry and upset, she said she had been shouted down while attempting to facilitate a general assembly. There were nods of recognition and murmurs of sympathy from those seated in a circle around her.
But her battle was not with police officers or security guards. Instead, those who had treated her with disdain were fellow activists, every one of which was white and male.
"It was a really distressing experience having people policing and patronising me" she told the group.
In the aftermath of the eviction from their camp in lower Manhattan, the organisers of Occupy Wall Street are struggling to maintain order at the general assembly, the backbone of its decision-making.
At its heart was an "ongoing crisis for people of colour, women and the marginalised", according to Kanene Holder, a part-time teaching artist from Brooklyn who is active on several working groups.
"White males are used to speaking and running things," said Holder. "You can't expect them to abdicate the power they have just because they are in this movement."
One of the defining features of the leaderless Occupy movement – aside from the occupation itself – has been its horizontal decision-making in the form of its Arab spring-inspired general assembly. The simple idea behind it: that everyone has a voice.
But a quick glance through the paper, television and web coverage spawned since Occupy's first march on Wall Street in September reveals that some voices are louder than others. While images of women as victims have endured, those who speak about the ideas and actions have been predominantly male.
This week marked an important step. On Monday, after a number of women complained of "overly aggressive" men dominating events, OWS has, for the first time, instigated a series of female-led meetings where only women can speak. It was an opportunity for "males to listen and for female marginalised voices to be heard," Holder said.
The meeting at Wall Street, attended by around 20 women and 15 unusually silent men, was the first such gathering.
"There is a high level of awareness to include female voices" said Holder, who said the women-led meeting was voted on and agreed to by men.
At that point, as if to underline the issue, a commotion broke out as a white man burst into the centre of the female-led circle, demanding to speak, and angrily accusing all around him of sexism and racism.
"I'm allowed to speak," he shouted, as another man tried to usher him out of the circle. "You're allowed to be sexist? To get away with this crap?"
Holder insisted: "There is a learning curve. It exists because privilege is learned over a lifetime and cannot be erased overnight."
Rebecca Traister, author of Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" about the 2008 election, said: "This idea that, by its nature, left-wing activism is inclusive is a myth. The left is continually plagued by gender problems.And class, sexuality, race, and other problems too.
Occupy Wall Street's Women Struggle to Make Their Voices Heard can be read here in its entirety.
Verbal Diarrhea? Toure and Henry Louis Gates Jr. Talk to Each Other for Twenty or So Minutes About Black Authenticity
I will leave this interview between Toure and Dr. Gates open for your comments.
As an alternative, I would rather listen to Ol' Dirty Bastard reflect about the ladies and their stinky, sexy, feet:
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Andrew Sullivan and the Bell Curve Follies: "The Average Mental Age of the Negro Soldier is 10 Years Old"
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
High comedy: so Ginger White's business partner preferred to date black men, but she disliked black women's hair. Hmmmm...the plot thickens. How twisted indeed is the intimate relationship between blacks and whites, feet intertwined mid-coitus on the cotton bale, but the mystery of the hair has too much symbolic weight to overcome?
What a sick society we are; white supremacy truly is a poison that has hurt us all.
If the visitor logs to We Are Respectable Negroes are any indication, there are many people who are curious as to the race of Herman Cain's "mistress" Miss Ginger White. As a service, I will try to offer some guidance on this most vexing and pressing issue of public concern.
First things first, there is only one race of people on this blue marble called planet Earth (allowing for hobbits and Neanderthals), and that is the human race.
Clarifications aside, in our contemporary nomenclature while she may be light, bright, and damn near white (as the expression goes), Ginger White is a black woman.
As a student of race, and a keen practitioner of "race science," her features, habitus, and "energy" are dead giveaways to my eye.
Does she claim the tribe? I do not know.
Yes, there is a long history of passing in the black community (as well as in others too).
Could Ginger White play that game and slip by the hypodescent rule, crossing over to whiteness in New Orleans, and dancing at an octoroon ball? Damn straight. Could she go to Latin America or Brazil and reverse the one-drop rule, where any bit of "white" ancestry makes you anything but "black?" Absolutely.
Could Ginger White move to New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles and reinvent herself as a "white woman," turning her back on her kin and people? Yes. It happened all of the time.
Folk wisdom and life experience are also good aids in matters related to the race game. I asked my mother, a black woman from the South, about Herman Cain's habits. She said months ago that he was a womanizer and had an "arrangement" with his wife. I ask moms if she thought Ginger White was black. She laughed and reminded me that a man of Herman Cain's age and social background would see a "high yellow," and "damn near" white woman who had "good hair" as the ultimate prize. He would mess around with a white woman, but Cain would keep a light-skinned black woman as his status symbol.
Commonsense goes a long way on these matters. It can also be easily deceived and tricked. So folks, what clues do you use to win the "guess what box to put this racially ambiguous person in" game? Is it their "habitus?" Skin color? Cues and hints in speech? Other tricks?
And when we play this game, we are often wrong. One, either because said person refuses to acknowledge their racial group, and gets upset when "outed." Or two, our lens is just off, and sometimes we encounter a person whose lineage we just can't place.
Do tell, I bet you have some legendary faux pas to report...all players in the race game do.
A Pitch Perfect Portrait of Narcissism: Herman "the High Achiever" Cain Reflects on His Career and Life
"There is no racism to see here boss! I am shaking the tree, you sees me boss?"
With Herman Cain apparently about to drop out of the race, it is time to have a fire sale. Over the past year I developed a portfolio on the Grand High Vizier of
Monday, November 28, 2011
Cain attempted to get out in front of the news Monday afternoon in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, in which he revealed that the woman will accuse him of an extended affair. According to a preview story posted by the Fox affiliate in Atlanta, the report is scheduled to air at 6 p.m. and will include an interview with Ginger White, a local woman who claims she had a 13-year affair with Cain. The preview promises "records that [White] says back up her story."[Well damn! I stand corrected. Herman Cain's "mistress" is a black woman. Dude is so old school--he marries a black woman, has a sister for a long term "secondary relationship," and harasses white women. Herman Cain needs to start writing blues songs. Seriously.
On CNN, Cain denied the charge. He acknowledged knowing the woman, whom he characterized as an "acquaintance that I thought was a friend." But he said there was no affair.
I will let this post stand as originally written, for it is a testimony for how wonderfully surprising life can be.]
Time to invoke the mercy rule for Herb Cornbread Bojangles Cain. A month or so back, I offered an over/under for Herman Cain's sexual peccadillo count. For humor's sake, I prayed that at least one of his many accusers of sexual harassment would be a big, fat, white woman (the jury is still out). Now, Mr. Cain's supposed side piece, lover, partner to he who is a sexual dynamo and tyrannosaurus pizza maven and troubadour, is scheduled to appear on Atlanta's Fox News affiliate this evening.
A month or so ago I had a theory about Herman Cain's relationship with Sharon Bialek, the woman who accused him of forcing her head into his lap, and of putting his hand up her dress. I slept on this one because it was missing one or two bits of confirming information. With the most recent accusation, I feel a bit more confident in playing Negrodamus.
When Herman Cain was a lobbyist, he lived apart from his wife for months at a time in a "corporate apartment" in the Washington D.C. area. By itself, this is not a sin; for many people, such an arrangement would be practical. Moreover, these apartments are a perk of the job to be enjoyed.
Herman Cain also kept his wife out of the spotlight (I do suspect that they may have an "arrangement" regarding outside relationships; at present, she is without a doubt, none too pleased with him putting business out in the street). Again, not common for someone running for high office. But by itself, his wife's absence is a factor that is neither a death knell, nor especially problematic, when viewed by itself. However, when you factor in the accusations that Herman Cain has sexually harassed (at least) five women, the plot does become more interesting.
I believe that Sharon Bialek was Herman Cain's lover. One does not generally presume to put their hands up a woman's dress, and to force her head into your lap to perform fellatio, unless there exists a general understanding, some history between you. Cain and Bialek had an intimate relationship, and during the infamous evening when he supposedly assaulted her, the latter was calling in a favor that Cain summarily refused. In fact, there are photos of them being quite friendly and familiar with one another taken some weeks after Cain supposedly assaulted her.
Ultimately, Bialek was pissed at Herman Cain and took the moment afforded by his presidential run to get a bit of sweet revenge. But, here is what I cannot figure: why wouldn't she just come out as Cain's mistress? Was it a fear of ruining her own marriage? Or did Bialek reason that she could do more harm to Cain with the sexual harassment charge?
We are creatures of habit. Thus, at this point in the Saga of Herman Cain, it is anticlimactic to speculate as to Miss Ginger White's race--but with such a name, laughter would immediately and rapturously ensue if she were a beautiful, dark complected, black woman. But, I do eagerly await how Herman Cain and his supporters will excuse-make for this most recent accusation of moral behavior
Herman Cain's white populist base gave him a pass for pursuing 5 white women. Will the sixth be the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back? Will the Right's inner racists, and anti-miscegenation credo as projected through the White Racial Id, finally come out to put Herb Cornbread Cain in his "correct" place?
As Limbaugh and other conservative bloviators are so fond of saying about President Obama and the First Lady, me thinks Herman Cain is being a bit "uppity" with his obsessive pursuit of the decadent delights and sweet pleasures of Caucasian yoni...and he is gonna get checked for it, sooner, rather than later.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
A New Scooby Doo Mystery: The Washington Post Asks "Why Aren't Blacks Embracing Occupy Wall Street?"
Blacks have historically suffered the income inequality and job scarcity that the Wall Street protesters are now railing against. Perhaps black America’s absence is sending a message to the Occupiers: “We told you so! Nothing will change. We’ve been here already. It’s hopeless.”The Scooby Doo mystery about the relationship between race and the OWS movement continues...
However, her essay is useful as an entry point for working through why black folks have not flocked to OWS in mass.
White Americans necessarily bought into a lie as they earned the wages of whiteness. Now, the emptiness of the bargain is exposed. White America simply does not have the political maturity, one born of experience and struggle, that is common to black and brown people in this country. Now they are waking up. Perhaps, White America should put on its critical thinking-political swaddling clothes all by itself? Hope may be born from this experience: White folks may not develop a Blues Sensibility, but maybe, just maybe, they can develop a whee bit of an ear for the sorrow songs.
By implication, allowing for the indifferent, most folks are free riders who assume that this rather numerically small number of voices speak for the mass public. Ultimately, OWS is comprised of a minority of the general population. To expect African Americans and other people of color to participate in mass--what is a minority of a minority--is unrealistic, and a false barometer for how "diverse" the OWS movement actually is.
Friday, November 25, 2011
As I did with Joel Olson, here is another thinker whose work I often discuss.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Occupy Wall Street and the hundreds of occupations it has sparked nationwide are among the most inspiring events in the U.S. in the 21st century. The occupations have brought together people to talk, occupy, and organize in new and exciting ways. The convergence of so many people with so many concerns has naturally created tensions within the occupation movement. One of the most significant tensions has been over race.
This is not unusual, given the racial history of the United States. But this tension is particularly dangerous, for unless it is confronted, we cannot build the 99%. The key obstacle to building the 99% is left colorblindness, and the key to overcoming it is to put the struggles of communities of color at the center of this movement. It is the difference between a free world and the continued dominance of the 1%.
Left colorblindness is the belief that race is a “divisive” issue among the 99%, so we should instead focus on problems that “everyone” shares. According to this argument, the movement is for everyone, and people of color should join it rather than attack it.
Left colorblindness claims to be inclusive, but it is actually just another way to keep whites’ interests at the forefront. It tells people of color to join “our” struggle (who makes up this “our,” anyway?) but warns them not to bring their “special” concerns into it. It enables white people to decide which issues are for the 99% and which ones are “too narrow.” It’s another way for whites to expect and insist on favored treatment, even in a democratic movement.
As long as left colorblindness dominates our movement, there will be no 99%. There will instead be a handful of whites claiming to speak for everyone. When people of color have to enter a movement on white people’s terms rather than their own, that’s not the 99%. That’s white democracy.
Occupy everything, attack the white democracy
While no pamphlet can capture everything a nationwide movement can or should do to undermine the white democracy and left colorblindness, below is a short list of questions people might consider asking in movement debates. These questions were developed from actual debates in occupations throughout the U.S.
- Do speakers urge us “get beyond” race? Are they defensive and dismissive of demands for racial justice?
- If speakers urge developing “close working relationships with the police,” do they consider how police terrorize Black, Latino, Native, and undocumented communities? Do they consider how police have attacked occupation encampments?
- If speakers urge us to hold banks accountable, do they encourage us to focus on redlining, predatory lending, and subprime mortgages, which have decimated Black and Latino neighborhoods?
- If speakers urge the cancellation of debts, do they mean for things like electric and heating bills as well as home mortgages and college loans?
- If speakers urge the halting of foreclosures, do they acknowledge that they take place primarily in segregated neighborhoods, and do they propose to start there?
- If speakers urge the creation of more jobs, do they acknowledge that many communities of color have already been in chronic “recessions” for decades, and do they propose to start from there?