On his MSNBC show Hardball, Chris Matthews called out Newt Gingrich and other Republicans for what he described as their "dog whistle" appeals to white racism during the South Carolina debate on Monday night.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
An Air Raid Siren: Chris Matthews was Right About Republican Racism in South Carolina, But Wrong About "Dog Whistle" Politics
On his MSNBC show Hardball, Chris Matthews called out Newt Gingrich and other Republicans for what he described as their "dog whistle" appeals to white racism during the South Carolina debate on Monday night.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Such thinking is prologue to Mearsheimer’s admonition that a struggle with China awaits us. “The Chinese are good offensive realists, so they will seek hegemony in Asia,” he tells me, paraphrasing the conclusion to Tragedy. China is not a status quo power. It will seek to dominate the South China Sea as the U.S. has dominated the Greater Caribbean Basin. He continues: “An increasingly powerful China is likely to try to push the U.S. out of Asia, much the way the U.S. pushed European powers out of the Western Hemisphere. Why should we expect China to act any differently than the United States did? Are they more principled than we are? More ethical? Less nationalistic?”
There is racial progress in America: the Republican crowd for last night's South Carolina debate only booed Juan Williams for his uppity back sassing, whereas not too long ago they would have called up a lynching party.
Once more, my black conservative readers, can you please explain your affinity for a Republican party that consistently (and with glee) lies about and belittles African Americans? And which does so before a national audience--and even to one its "exceptional" pet negroes?
Ultimately, I do not know which was the more offensive aspect of the South Carolina Tea Party GOP debate: was it A) Rick Santorum's factually and sociologically challenged understanding of the relationship between poverty, marriage, and opportunity structures or B) Newt Gingrich's consistent insistence that black people are lazy bums who need to pick up mops, and are uniquely addicted to food stamps and welfare?
Monday, January 16, 2012
It is great when you can still be surprised by life. Ignorance is bliss; discovery is joy.
With his intensely autobiographical paintings depicting the day-to-day existence of African Americans in the segregated South, Winfred Rembert has preserved an important, if often disturbing, chapter of American history. His indelible images of toiling in the cotton fields, singing in church, dancing in juke joints, or working on a chain gang are especially powerful, not just because he lived every moment, but because he experienced so much of the injustice and bigotry they show as recently as the 1960s and 70s.
Now in his sixties, Rembert has developed a growing following among collectors and connoisseurs, and enjoyed a number of tributes and exhibitions of his work. In "ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert," the artist relives his turbulent life, abundantly visualized by his extensive paintings and, in a series of intimate reminiscences, shows us how even the most painful memories can be transformed into something meaningful and beautiful. A glowing portrait of how an artist—and his art—is made, "ALL ME" is also a triumphant saga of race in contemporary America.
The Obamas vs the Romneys: The Republican Mind and Visions of Whiteness and Race Suicide on Dr. King's Holiday
The road to the world imagined by Dr. King remains long.
For example, some Americans see Mitt Romney's much publicized family photo as one of homogeneous whiteness and WASP glory.Whether in rust belt towns, gated communities, poor white rural America, or the nondescript suburbs, this is the America of "Nixonland" that so many yearn for. This is real America; the best of us; a country that they/we should die to protect.
Other folks see the family photo of Barack Obama and his kin as the future. Americans are a cosmopolitan people. While there exists a deep and historic nativist impulse, as well as a fear of the Other, the country's greatness has been its ability to include all folks that want to belong-- what is an all embracing sense of pluralism and "we the people" that is flexible, accommodating, and inclusive.
Citizens use heuristics, memes, cues, and slogans to make sense of politics, and to work through their own political decision-making. As such, for many, the photo of Mitt Romney's family is that of "real America," and to deviate from this approved model is hazardous to the Common Good, a decision that is perverse, and one that is "unAmerican."
By implication, for the collective consciousness of the white Tea Party GOP populist electorate--and although they may lack the vocabulary to express this cogently--there is something inherently wrong with the interracial, international, and "diverse" nature of Barack Obama's family. In all, the Obama way is "race suicide": it is a path of destruction for the United States, as to be American is to be quintessentially and unquestionably "white."
Folks like Pat Buchanan are honest enough to voice such sentiments, feelings which are the rotten, beating heart of the Tea Party GOP. Others who share Buchanan's anxieties and loyalties are not as courageous; they play around with his themes while not owning their substance.
On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, conservatives will mouth breath about his legacy as they spin an empty story of racial equality, racist Southern Democrats, and white victimhood in the Age of Obama. These contortions are to be expected. The joke is--and has long been--that the real Dr. King, the radical visionary and not the deracialized, apolitical panderer for gross consumerism and empty politics, would be hated by conservatives, Red State America, and many others fearful of his progressive vision, if he lived in the present.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Football Theodicy? Tom Brady is to Tim Tebow as Stone Cold Steve Austin was to Jake the Snake Roberts
Oh Mr. Tebow, I know that the faithful Christian Nationalist evangelical Dominionists who believe that you are favored by Providence--and that God intervenes in football games--will valorize your suffering as it is both epic and prophetic.
But, I simply could not resist: Tom Brady and the Patriots just kicked your ass.
This begs a question: does Tebow's humiliation introduce a theodicy problem for his zealous faithful? How do they reconcile an all knowing, all loving, omniscient and omnipotent god with the existence of football evil in the form of the unholy trinity that is Brady-McDaniels-Belichick?
Thus, I must ask: Are matters really this dire?
Jess JANUARY 10, 2012 AT 8:05 PM
Vertigo Schtick JANUARY 14, 2012 AT 7:16 AM
Friday, January 13, 2012
Laughter is Your Friend: Courtesy of Comedy Central, Do You Want to Win DVDs of Sinbad, Eddie Griffith and Patrice O'Neil?
I promised to bring the readers of We Are Respectable Negroes more goodies in the year 2012. I generally pass on promotions, but this most recent offer from the good people at Comedy Central was too good to let slip by.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
George Lucas is making the rounds to promote his newest film Red Tails. I attended a screening of the movie several months ago and wrote my review here. On The Daily Show Lucas echoes my observation that Red Tails is a corny, over the top, jingoistic, 1940s era World War 2 movie--just one with black folks as the centerpiece of the story. In short, Red Tails is the World War 2 movie that The Tuskegee Airmen deserved and never received: it is their/our Flying Leathernecks.
I love Star Wars. I owe Lucas and his fantastic creation a great deal both personally and professionally. As such, I feel that I have earned the freedom to engage in some critical ghetto nerd talk about the prequels and Lucas' politics more generally. Dude is on the right side of so many issues, and his body of work signals to this fact, that (to my eyes at least) Red Tails makes up a bit of the ill will left over from the Jar Jar debacle that is the Prequels.
Lucas drops the shield with Stewart, engages in some self-deprecating humor, talks long term plans for the Red Tails franchise, and the reality that Hollywood will not finance black movies save for Tyler Perry's hot garbage new age race minstrelsy (notice how George bites his tongue, speaking very carefully about the coonery and buffoonery that are Madea and Meet the Browns).
Last night, Brother Cornel West appeared on "Brother" Sean Hannity's TV show. Lord. "Brother" Sean Hannity? Save me now. I cannot stomach Fox News; only a few seconds of viewing leave me spent and exhausted--their lies and distortions are that burdensome.
In all, this an entertaining interview. But, it left me with many head-shaking moments, and a few questions.
One, why would Cornel West go on the Hannity Show? Fox viewers are not going to buy his books, they see him as a crazy negro intellectual leftie Commie, so what is the point? Is Brother Cornel just putting his head in the lion's mouth for a cheap thrill?
Two, why would Cornel walk back his observations about Herman Cain being on "the symbolic crack pipe?" You are on enemy territory, why not go hard and stick to principles? And yes, it was fun to hear Hannity mentioning some of my talking points on Herbie Cornbread Imagine There is No Pizza Cain (once more, I had a moment when I regretted not going on Fox News those months back). One day, I will get my metaphorical hands around the throats of Hannity and company, I just have to wait for the moment of my own choosing.
Three, are the talking heads all in bed with each other? Is this a big charade that the true believers, marks, and the low information voting public don't realize is a sham? Left and Right need a good fight, just like boxers who feign hatred for each other to build up the gate. Is this a dynamic present in the Cornel West Fox News interview?
Fourth, do Hannity and the Conservative Jesus Christ hates the poor and loves the rich Christian Nationalist Dominion crowd really believe the crap they spew? I am not a "Christian," but the Right-wing prosperity gospel war monger types have always been the object of much fascination on my part. What mental gymnastics do they use in their biblical hermeneutics? Can their pastors, ministers, and other oracles be brought up on charges of biblical malpractice?
Finally, who the hell are the "so-called" rich that Hannity defends as an oppressed and aggrieved public? What leaps of faith are necessary for listeners to sustain a belief in, and adherence to, such Orwellian fictions?
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
I like giving folks goodies. To that end, I have been gifted with a few copies of Jodi Kantor's new book, The Obamas, to give away to the readers of We Are Respectable Negroes. Widely discussed in the press, a target of criticism by First Lady Michelle Obama, containing titillating gossip about Barack Obama's edict that a staffer must watch Barbershop 1 and 2 in order to learn about the sacred relationship between a black man and his barber, and with tales of ghetto nerd greatness such as an Alice in Wonderland themed party (with an appearance by Chewbacca) in the White House, The Obamas sounds more than intriguing.
Now, you all know that you got to earn your keep around here--no one gets a free ride from this respectable negro.
The election of Barack Obama was an amazing moment for the United States. We saw what was once thought impossible--a black man elected President in a country, where for a majority of its history, folks such as Barack Obama were held as human property. As I have written elsewhere, that moment, as well as the years which followed, were/are the stuff of science fiction. The unbelievable has now become mundane; but for many, there remains a warm glow surrounding the election of the United States' first black president.
Memories are malleable. They do not live like people do. For those of the Civil Rights generation, there is a tendency to exaggerate, lie, bend the truth, or simply "misremember" their role in The Movement. For example, my mother told a tall tale about being in the streets with Dr. King, staring down dogs, and marching for freedom. Moms maintained this lie for years. Under pressure, she later confessed that she had no taste for non-violence and would have gone to jail if a white cop had beat on her. Thus, no Dr. King marching and protesting for her. But, she held onto that creative reinterpretation of history because the story was "fun" (and it inspired her son).
In that spirit, tell me your personal story about the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
You can be creative and do a dry run of the myth which you will spin for your great grand kids when they ask, "where were you when Obama won? What did you do to help his campaign?"
Do you have a poignant story to tell, something so true that it must be shared for the benefit of all times? Or do you have a secret shame, one that you will need to change for the benefit of your legacy? Were you in jail? Indifferent? Overslept on election day or forgot to register? Secretly voted for McCain/Palin, but lied to everyone by telling them that you cast a ballot for then candidate Barack Obama? Did you engage in a post-election night of kinky rutting, one where you and your partner role-played as Barack and Michelle?
Unburden yourself. There is no judgment here--just a cool prize.
The two best submissions (as judged by me) will each receive one copy of The Obamas.
Have at it. The contest will run through Wednesday, January 18th, at which point I will announce our winners.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Damn right! Black women carry the burden for the absence of the black male in the African American community. We are indeed yetis. Some of us are even kinky koalas...inside joke.
[Talk about a turn of phrase.]
Melissa is good in this spot. Unlike some heavy hitters like the genius historian Nell Irvin Painter who crashed and burned on The Colbert Report, Dr. Perry plays the role nicely--she is not too serious and maintains a good sense of humor about the whole matter...while still keeping her game face on.
There is also a nice bit of self-deprecating humor as Melissa describes herself as a "strong black woman"--one who is black on most days.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Uncomfortable Worshipfulness Towards a Killer? Fox News Interviews Chris Kyle, Navy Seal Sniper With 160 Kills
Is it just me, or is there is something profoundly uncomfortable and unsettling about this interview?
I am a bit of a grognard. In my teens, I was more interested in weapons, machines, and things that go boom. With age, I have gravitated more towards military strategy, and am increasingly fascinated by soldiers' individual accounts of combat.
When I was 12 years old I would have found former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle's account exciting. I would have taken his deeds in Iraq (where he killed at least 160 people), as some great display of "manhood." Some years later, now knowing several former and active duty military personnel, I possess a different type of respect for their service.
To the one, all of them have upset the stereotypes of soldiers as video game, heroic warriors, worshiped as two dimensional cartoon characters by many in the American public. Almost all of these veterans, especially those back from Afghanistan and Iraq, are critical of the policies which put them and their comrades in harm's way on imperial misadventures.
Chris Kyle was feted by Bill O'Reilly last week: his deeds were recounted, and killing admired by the Fox News faithful. There is an odd homoeroticism (or is it homosocial worship?) in this interview, where O'Reilly as an archconservative is channeling a deep fascination with the "how" of death, and a type of hyper-masculinity that is the bleeding heart of Right-wing authoritarianism. Here, O'Reilly reminds the viewer of why straight men enjoy watching the freakishly large penises that dominate much of American pornography. Hero worship, with no small amount of projection, is, and remains, the thing--it is the means for a visceral thrill.
I have read many accounts of the personal killing that is done by snipers. They hunt people. The most dangerous prey is their quarry.
“After the first kill, the others come easy. I don’t have to psych myself up, or do anything mentally — I look through the scope, get the target in the cross hairs and kill my enemy before he kills one of my people,” Kyle writes in his new autobiography, “American Sniper.”I wonder what the intimacy of death experienced by Chris Kyle has done to his soul. While many would not frame killing during combat in these terms, soldiers who have to take a life are often damaged by the deed. They become "victims" of a sort. To my eye, it is curious thing that Bill O'Reilly does not ask such an obvious question about his guest's interior life.
As Dave Grossman and others have painstakingly documented, killing is an unnatural act. Moreover, most soldiers are highly resistant to killing, and thus increasingly sophisticated training techniques have been developed to overcome their aversion. In fact, historically, a relatively small number of soldiers have accounted for a disproportionate percentage of kills on the battlefield. These people are "natural" warriors; they exhibit sociopathological tendencies such as low affect, low levels of empathy, and an ability to distance themselves from the act of taking another life. Predictably, these natural killers gravitate to the most elite military units where their particular "gifts" will be of most use--and they will be more likely to get a chance to ply their craft.
This is not a claim that elite soldiers such as the Navy Seals, the unit which Chris Kyle was a member of, are "crazy," sociopaths, or are especially prone to violence outside of a combat situation. It is however, an acknowledgement that there are bad and dangerous men who are born that way. The training sharpens the edge.
The son of a Sunday-school teacher and a church deacon, Kyle credits a higher authority for his longest kill.
From 2,100 yards away from a village just outside of Sadr City in 2008, he spied a man aiming a rocket launcher at an Army convoy and squeezed off one shot from his .338 Lapua Magnum rifle. Dead. From more than a mile away.
“God blew that bullet and hit him,” he said.
For Kyle, the enemy is a “savage” — there’s no room for gray, only black or white.America is a militiarized society. Warfare and martial culture are at the heart of the country's economy and entertainment. Militarism is also central to America's political culture as well. For example, onservatives such as Gingrich, Romney, Bush, Santorum, Perry, and others play the tough guy as chicken hawks who swagger in a phallocentric game and performance which titillates their populist base, even as the irony that all either avoided military service (or exaggerated their responsibilities) remains uncommented upon.
Much the same can be said of the flag wavers in Red State, Right-wing America, a group of people who love to talk tough about foreign intervention, but in a society where a relatively small number of people have gone to war, are likely to have never been in combat.
We also cannot forget that President Obama presides over a killing machine that is almost industrial in its efficiency. While his Tea Party GOP detractors paint him as anything but "aggressive," "manly," "strong," or "brave" on foreign affairs, as Commander in Chief, Barack Obama has stacked up "terrorist" bodies as if they were cord wood. He shows no signs of stopping any time soon.
In total, America is a violent society. We lack the maturity to discuss this fact in honest terms. Likewise, many avoid a mature reflection on what the consequences--psychological, emotional, material, financial, and spiritual--are for those young men and women who are sent off to maintain and expand the empire.
And then we have men like Chris Kyle, an example of martial skill, who killed by the hundreds while wearing the insignia of his favorite Marvel comic book character.
His Charlie platoon even adopted the insignia of the comic-book vigilante The Punisher, spray-painting skulls on their body armor, vehicles, helmets and guns. “You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us, because we will kill you, motherf--ker,” he writes.Maybe I have gotten old. Chris Kyle and his tribe should be respected, they should be given a pat on the back, and welcomed home as best we can. But, their skill at killing should not be celebrated. That is a minor distinction; it is also an important one.
A country needs its heroes, and who it chooses to elevate as exemplars of martial prowess says much about its national character in a given moment. World War One brought us Alvin York. World War Two gave us Audie Murphy, Robert Leckie, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the 442nd Infantry Regiment. Vietnam had Carlos Hathcock. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought us Leroy Arthur Petry and Chris Kyle.
Where do we go from here? And what do heroes such as Chris Kyle--dangerous men with kill streaks in the hundreds--tell us about ourselves and the country's future at the nadir of American empire?
Sunday, January 8, 2012
The Logical Fallacy of Defending Ron Paul's Racism or You Do Know That There Were Racist Abolitionists?
In every part of the United States, there is a broad and impassable line of demarcation between every man who has one drop of African blood in his veins, and every other class in the community. The habits, the feelings, all the prejudices of society, — prejudices which neither refinement, nor argument, nor education, nor religion itself, can subdue, — mark the people of color, whether bond or free, as the subjects of a degradation inevitable and incurable. The African in this'country belongs by birth to the very lowest station in society ; and from that station he can never rise, be his talents, his enterprise, his virtues what they may." — African Repository , Vol. IV., page 118.Even more pithy, Helper included how:
"'The negro is not wholly without talents, but they are limited to imitation, — the learning of what has been previously known. He has neither invention nor judgment. Africans may be consid- ered docile, but few of them are judicious, and thus in mental qualities we are disposed to see a certain analogy with the apes, whose imitative powers are proverbial.'" — Burmeister's Black Man, page 14.
"So great a difference of opinion has ever existed upon the intrinsic value of the negro, that the very perplexity of the ques- tion is a proof that he is altogether a distinct variety. So long as it is generally considered that the negro and the white man are to be governed by the same laws and guided by the same management, so long will the former remain a thorn in the side of every community to which he may unhappily belong. When the horse and the ass shall be found to match in double harness, the white man and the African black will pull together under the same re- gime. It is the grand error of equalizing that which is unequal that has lowered the negro character, and made the black man a reproach." — Baker's Great Basin of the Nile, page 195.
On questions of race and justice the personal is indeed the political. The challenge here--and for libertarianism more broadly--is how these personal choices become impositions on the full citizenship, full rights, and full personhood of other people. To this point, Ron Paul's version of libertarianism offers no satisfying answers for those who are not White, not privileged, and outside of the moneyed classes.
Is he a racist? I do not know. But the policies which Ron Paul advocates, and the philosophy which he subscribes to, are none too friendly to people of color. For me, that is enough of a disqualification.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega is One of the 50 Most Despicable People According to the Right-Wing Blogosphere
Friday, January 6, 2012
A Chappelle Skit in Real Life: Introducing Robert Traynham, Self-Hating Black, Gay, Former Aide to Rick Santorum
ESPN has a great discussion on its website about the Tim Tebow cult of personality.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Racial Misunderstandings: A Black Woman and a White Woman Sit Down to Talk About "Gone With the Wind" and...
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
For example, the audiences that cheer Romney's speeches about a country that is lost, one led by an anti-American usurper, are not necessarily "bad people." They are motivated by a sense of belonging, and made to feel special by virtue of being "real Americans," part of a special tribe anointed with unique insight and wisdom by their oracles.
"It just keeps expanding - I was in Indianola a few months ago and I was talking to someone who works in the department of public welfare here, and she told me that the state of Iowa is going to get fined if they don't sign up more people under the Medicaid program," Santorum said. "They're just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That's what the bottom line is."
He added: "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."
"And provide for themselves and their families," Santorum added, to applause. "The best way to do that is to get the manufacturing sector of the economy rolling again."
"Right," responded one audience member, as another woman can be seen nodding.
First, poverty in America is racialized. The image in the public imagination is of black welfare queens, or illegal aliens birthing "anchor babies" who live off of the government tit, profiting from food stamps and the generosity of the American people. The white poor rarely, if ever, enter the picture. Second, black people are in a parasitic relationship with white Americans (Santorum's "someone" else). In sum, black people are "lazy," and a dependent class, unable to take care of their families except for the generosity and benevolence of white people.
It does not matter that most people on public assistance and welfare in Iowa are white.
It does not matter that there is a deep history which explains how conservatives have spun a fiction about black and brown poverty while ignoring structural economic inequality, and how many of the policies endorsed by the Tea Party GOP in the name of economic austerity and punishing people of color (who are coded as "the poor" or "unproductive citizens"), also disproportionately harm the white working and middle classes.
During an election year, and as a function of a highly polarized 24 hour news environment, it is a given that the incumbent president will be the target of vicious attacks by the out party. By implication, the election of Barack Obama, America's first black president, has amplified all of these tensions. The election of a member of the racial out-group has made the stakes especially high for white conservatism. Obama is anathema to the Tea Party GOP soul, the living embodiment of a world turned upside down, for no man who looks like him could ever be leader of the free world, where whiteness is inseparable from being "American."
By implication, there is a short line from the white racial appeals of Gingrich, Santorum, Paul, Romney and others directly to President Obama. He has been called "the food stamp president" and a "ghetto crackhead." Obama is stained by the Birthers who say he is not an American citizen. The appeals to American exceptionalism are naked arguments that a black man like Obama cannot help but be outside of the "normal" political culture of this country. It has also been implied that President Obama is a perpetual "they," a member of a marginalized group who by association is lazy, anti-white, unqualified, and an "affirmative action baby" that somehow managed to steal a presidential election and win the popular vote.
Many may laugh at such a formulation. However, the Tea Party GOP, Iowa voters, and others who clamor to participate in the Republican primaries, would take such claims as common sense knowledge. For people of color, the outsider, the Other, and those who are not (in their eyes) "quintessentially American" (and thus have to prove their authenticity to the white conservative gaze), this is not your country.
You people may have built and improved this country, but it is not yours. For the Tea Party GOP and the populist conservatism of the present moment, you people are just guests. They will remind you people of that fact at every moment.
Why? Because it is common sense. Didn't you know that?