Friday, November 30, 2012

Historian Kate Masur Plays Script Doctor With Spielberg's Whitewashed Movie "Lincoln"

Moviegoers and historians alike should pay attention. Spielberg’s Lincoln is a work of art, a film about morality, democracy, and human agency that tells us something about its creators and—since Lincoln will be watched and loved by millions—about ourselves. Like any other movie, novel, or painting, the film ought to be discussed and critiqued. Indeed, it should be subjected to a particularly searching analysis precisely because of its prominence and power. 
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the wake of an op-ed I wrote about the film for The New York Times, in which I pointed out the passivity and generic nature of the black characters in the film. I argued that the filmmakers’ “imagination” (to quote Spielberg) was one in which white men gave the gift of freedom to African-Americans. 
A rich debate has developed among historians and in the greater blogosphere about this film. Some writers have agreed with my points wholeheartedly, arguing that the film underemphasized the role African-Americans played in influencing the abolition debate in Washington. Others have said that black characters are unimportant to the film’s larger goals. Some critics have claimed that I would only have been satisfied with an entirely different film—perhaps one focused on slaves’ struggle to get free, or on Lincoln’s relationship with Frederick Douglass. 
To be sure, I’d like to see more Hollywood films that feature prominent and complex black characters. My point, though, was that the filmmakers’ artistic choices revealed assumptions about black passivity and white agency that are inaccurate, damaging, and difficult to dislodge.
The conversation about Spielberg's movie Lincoln continues. There is so much going on here--and one main theme driving the controversy which has so far gone unaddressed to this point--regarding history, memory, and the politics of popular culture. In all, we have only scratched the surface of Lincoln's meaning and the public's relationship to the film.

Lincoln did not come out of the ether fully formed like Athena from Zeus' head. Like all filmmakers, Spielberg made choices about what to include and what to leave out of the movie. I am always surprised by how some in the public want to view a film as a settled matter, that was naturally formed, and is above revision and/or critical inquiry. There is something wonderfully "modern" about such a perspective.

As readers of We Are Respectable Negroes know, I like to play script doctor. Making suggestions to improve a film is a fanboy's dream; this responsibility is one of the sacred duties of we who are ghetto nerds.

Historian Kate Masur, whose essay about Lincoln's flattening of history and willful omission of black folks' agency, has been the subject of much discussion here and elsewhere. She kindly sent me an email about her followup piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Race(ing) Popular Culture: More Thoughts on the Whitewashing of "Lincoln" and the Fathom Sneak Preview of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 on Blu-ray

I just got back from watching two digitally remastered episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) Season Two here in Chicago. The second year of TNG is when things really get going. It introduced the Borg in the episode "Q Who", and also explored the nature of humanity and sentience in the classic episode "The Measure of a Man."

Both episodes were glorious on the big screen: the Season Two blu-ray is a must buy. As a bonus,"The Measure of a Man" included about 10 minutes of new footage. In all, the additions added little to the plot. But, I have to admit it was great fun to watch TNG with a hardcore audience that mocked Wesley Crusher, who laughed at the homoerotic relationship between Data and Geordi, and was titillated by all the hot Picard sexy action with his still hungry and desirous ex-lover in "The Measure of a Man."

This screening reminded me of how powerful Star Trek has been in terms of presenting a hopeful vision of the future that was progressive and inclusive along lines of race, gender, and sexuality. From "The Measure of a Man's" discussion of slavery, to Deep Space Nine's exploration of queer and lesbian identity (as well as black masculinity), and classic Trek's bold embrace of characters such as Uhura, Chekhov, and Sulu, the Star Trek franchise was well ahead of most mass culture in preparing the (white) public for a multicultural future.

The presence of black and brown folks in Star Trek--and the show's honesty in dealing with questions of social justice (both through the use of metaphor and explicitly) made their presence feel natural. In watching TNG tonight in the theater, I was reminded of how popular culture is at its core about the creation of meaning across and within communities. We all "got" why the show was special. All present "got" the inside jokes. We all had a common frame of reference, even as a given individual may choose to read meaning into the show in their own way.

The range of reactions to the whitewashing of the movie Lincoln is a similar phenomenon. However, there are some qualifiers and differences. We have not reached a consensus on the meaning of the film. A given person's political priors, investment in the whiteness of memory, and attachment to the hagiography mythos surrounding President Lincoln, is also a lens which colors how a given person reads the movie.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A "Spielberg's Movie 'Lincoln' is an Exercise in Bad Historiography and Whitewashing of History" Roundup

Spielberg's historical epic Lincoln, which explores the political gamesmanship surrounding the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, is a work of popular film that desperately wants to be taken seriously as a commentary about American political life and culture.

Consequently, there has been quite a bit of interesting commentary offered up about Spielberg most recent work. Some of the discussion consists of rank apologism for the film's blatant whitewashing of history (some of it by black conservatives); other folks have (correctly) taken Spielberg to task for the choices he made in presenting a woefully flawed depiction of both the historical moment and forces which drove the President to formally finalize the reality that chattel slavery was a dead and dying institution.

I saw the film. Daniel Day Lewis deserves an Oscar nomination for his uncanny channeling of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln itself was tedious, and could easily win an award for most sleep inducing film of the year. Nevertheless, for those of us interested in the relationship between popular culture and politics, Lincoln offers much to discuss.

Here are some provocative commentaries about the film.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where is the Outrage? 11 Year old Girl Accused of "Seducing" 20 Men Who Gang Raped Her

Former Cleveland Police Department Sgt. Chad Langdon, who was the lead investigator on the case, also testified that an 11-year-old - due to her emotional immaturity - legally cannot give consent for a sexual encounter. Taylor questioned why the underage girl had not been charged with anything for choosing to violate that rule, indicating that she was "the reason" that the encounters happened.

"Like the spider and the fly. Wasn't she saying, 'Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly?' " Taylor asked.

"I wouldn't call her a spider," Langdon replied. "I'd say she was just an 11-year-old girl."

"I hope nothing like this ever happens to your two teenage sons," Taylor snapped back.

Warren asked Langdon what he would do if his own sons had been involved in such a case. "I would not whitewash it or sweep it under the rug," the detective said.

Cruse is the second of 20 male defendants to be tried for allegedly sexually assaulting the girl over the course of four months in 2010 in Cleveland. 
The news media moves from one story to the next with a great deal of speed. There are examples of forced memes--such as Fox News' fixation on the Benghazi non-story--that circulate and hang around for weeks or months (what is an eternity in the era of 24 hour news coverage). But, most stories do no linger for more than a few days.

The public watches the car accident news pileup in an act of forced spectatorship; they tire of it; the 24 hours news cycle force then feeds the public another issue which they eagerly consume. In all, there is no connection between the importance of a news item and the amount of time the mass media spends on it. Ephemeral nonsense can linger about for days or weeks, while substantial issues which impact our collective life chances disappear almost immediately.

Two years ago an eleven year old girl was gang raped in Texas by a pack of 20 man beasts over the course of several months. These cretins then recorded this evil and shared it with like-minded highwaymen in their local high school. At the time, the story was a blip on the national radar. It was discussed in the alternative press and online. However, the mainstream news media paid little attention to this heinous crime.

The trial has finally begun in earnest. One would think that such a moment would be the subject of a prime time news special and that a media circus would ensue. Alternatively, that coverage of the event would be replayed over and over again on the 24 hours news channels, their executives and on-air personalities long trained in the habit of combusting in orgiastic delight whenever a young white woman goes missing or a white child is put at risk.

Ratings are king; the genre of news reporting known as "missing white woman syndrome" is money in the bank for advertisers and TV networks.

In the news business there is a truism and slogan that guides programming: "if it bleeds it leads." Apparently, this is true unless the story is about a young brown child who has been subject to wanton violence.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Skills Do You Have? Kelvin Doe is 15 Years Old and a Self-Taught MIT Prodigy from Sierra Leone

This young man is an inspiration.

If the system falls down, and the big Reset comes, he will be running Bartertown. I doubt he will need a version of Masterblaster to keep control: Kelvin Doe is so sharp, he may invent a cyborg or some type of improvised power armor to serve as his enforcer(s).

Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima event, and other disasters, both man made and willed by Mother Nature, are reminders that most of us do not have the skills necessary to rebuild following such near cataclysms.

We have skills that are "practical" and "useful" for life in an information based economy where we can rely on either other's specializations.

For example, as suggested by the grand social theorist Emile Durkheim, societies are organized around systems of either "mechanical" or "organic" solidarity.

The former are highly regimented, very hierarchical, "traditional," and where individuals are not highly differentiated from each other in terms of their skill sets.

The latter are post-industrial and modern. They consist of highly specialized types of laborers, living in a culture that is more individualistic, and where the members are dependent on one another. These relationships (and the resulting social cohesion) are ostensibly enforced by means that are less coercive than those used in tribal and traditional societies, where clan groups, religion, and kinship networks are used to tie individuals together.

Watching this young autodidact and engineer from Sierra Leonne, I am forced to do my own skills assessment. I can fix some things, but not anything highly technical. I have a loose understanding of the principles underlying how electricity works in the abstract. But, I could not build you a generator. I can explain how a combustion engine works. I could not build one or do major repairs without a shop manual. At best, an academic type like myself would be taking lessons from young Mr. Doe to avoid being a mere laborer. Maybe, I could be a scribe, or a senior adviser, if I were lucky and proved my worth to him as someone wise, manipulative, contemplative, and devious when necessary.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Michonne or Maggie? Race, Gender, and Rape on The Walking Dead TV Series

The Walking Dead TV series exists in a universe apart and separate from the comic book. Season Three's storyline with The Governor has reinforced this fact. However, both of these stories are a version of "The Walking Dead." As such, they provide an example of what Culture Studies types call "intertextuality." Here, the comic book and TV series reference each other, while also signaling to other examples of storytelling in the zombie genre.

[For example, the TV series character named "Milton" is a clear allusion to Dr. Logan's character in George Romero's classic film Day of the Dead and his "pet" zombie Bub.]

As I wrote about hereThe Walking Dead TV series has little to no interest in developing its African-American characters. The graphic novel has several black male characters who are integral to the story, and are not sideshow stand-ins that are included because of a sense of multicultural political correct noblesse oblige. By contrast, the AMC series has (the now dead) "T-Dog"--a character that was a glorified black man servant chauffeur to the white characters, a black gollum mute with few lines, who lived only to serve and protect the other survivors.

Michonne, a fan favorite, and a richly developed, full, interesting, and challenging character in the graphic novel, was first introduced as a black caretaker and best friend/magical negro to Andrea on the TV series.

There, this iconic character is a black pit bull warrior, unfeeling, laconic, and damaged. Michonne, has a few more lines of dialogue than T-Dog; but she is dangerously close to being a two-dimensional figure whose only plot purpose is only to serve as a weapon to be unhinged at the command of Rick, the leader of the intrepid group of zombie apocalypse survivors.

In future episodes, I would suggest that it will be even more clear that Michonne is only a slightly more under control version of the X-Men's Wolverine for Rick. Wolverine was Weapon X; Michonne is a Samurai sword wielding loyal negress.

Glenn is the Asian fix it man, former pizza delivery man, and loyal friend of the white men in the party. Glenn is a post apocalyptic version of the model minority myth. Glenn is not a full "Hop Sing"; however, he is very close to that archetype.

To point. For two seasons, he remains "feminized"--"sneaky, evasive, and stealthy"--until being forced into "manhood" by Merle's interrogation in the most recent episode "When the Dead Come Knocking." Glenn's loyalty to Rick, and the system of white male patriarchal authority he embodies in the show, was symbolically "rewarded" by the former's sexual union with Maggie, a white woman.

In The Walking Dead universe, upward racial mobility would seem to have its "perks."

The Walking Dead TV series is ultimately a story about how white male authority is enduring in a world populated by the undead. As a premise, this is a fine, interesting, and potentially fascinating framework for genre storytelling (I wonder how many viewers understand that this is the not so subtle subtext of the series?).

As further proof of the continuing dominance of white masculinity in a world where the dead now walk the Earth, this season's villain has also surrendered to the white racial frame, where The Governor, who was originally Hispanic in the graphic novel, has been rewritten as a white character.

I can accept that The Walking Dead TV series occupies its own universe and narrative space. I can also accept that people of color are peripheral in this universe, and as such, the roles played by them will be different than the vision offered by the graphic novel. But, I am less forgiving of how a character such as Michonne has been robbed of her power and complexity. My claim is a challenging and provocative one: if you love a character and respect them, then you, the author/creator, must at times let bad things happen to your beloved creation. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Drudge Report: Negro Zombies Try to Eat White Shoppers for Cheap Phones on Black Friday at Walmart

I respect White Supremacist websites such as Stormfront, Chimpout, and Niggermania. I do not like them; their public is my enemy; and the White Nationalists who frequent such sites have no love for me either.

But, they are far less dangerous than the Drudge Report. Moreover, they are honest brokers. Such a trait is to be respected, if not worthy of a beer at the bar while we discuss "race realism."

If I were a White Conservative who listened to Rush Limbaugh, watched Fox News, and frequented Drudge, I would likely be possessed of a great level of anxiety and fear about the Black Muslim usurper President and his black hoard that waylays good white people on Black Friday. 

In the spirit of "real talk": if my news and media diet was only drawn from such sources I would hate black people too. I would do so without apology. Racism would be my standing decision rule. However, I would not call it racism. My bigotry would be couched in the language of "reasonable prejudgment."

I would also arm myself in preparation for the Negro Jubilee--an event aided and abetted by the millions of Hispanics, and the 47 percent moochers, who helped to "steal" the election from Mitt Romney.

One should not forget that the bubble of Right-wing epistemic closure and its echo chamber are real; reason cannot penetrate it. The New Right's brand of authoritarianism in the Age of Obama only gains strength the more that it is defeated and called attention to. Their reality is governed by a paradox which those who are students of empiricism, reality, and want to see a respectable Republican Party, cannot understand. We are children of the Enlightenment; the Tea Party GOP practices witchcraft, as they are carryovers from the Dark Ages. There is no compromise possible--not now or ever. 

Ultimately, I do hope that all of you had a nice and restful Thanksgiving. I also hope that you resisted the pull of empty consumerism and the allure of buying cheap garbage made in China from Walmart (and other stores). 

Despite, or maybe because of your respite, the enemies of decency, the Common Good, and the humanity of black and brown folks never rest. They have a  news network, websites, talk radio shows, and a TV network to disseminate the propaganda of the White Right. 

Apparently, in a sea of wretched, multiracial humanity, the only person that matters for the White Gaze is an older white woman, apparently washed away by a mass of negritude that churns, moves, and swallows her whole: it is negro quicksand, undulating, hungry, and desirous of White flesh. Will the other decent white people, shopping for cheap crap in the midst of a sea of melanin stew and sticky tar baby coloreds, with their heavy paws yearning for cheap prepaid cellphones and white flesh, be able to escape the burr haired mass?

I wonder. 

For the honest, and curious, here is a video of the mischief at a Walmart in Moultrie, Georgia on Black Friday, which was frontpaged on the Drudge Report. 

This is a mass spectacle of interracial consumerist democracy run amok. Why do the Drudge Report and other mainstream conservative websites only choose to highlight the wretchedness of black people while simultaneously overlooking the same foul behavior by white folks? 

Once more, White Privilege the White Racial Frame is a hell of a drug.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Conversation With Author Maurice Broaddus on Speculative Fiction, the Craft of Writing, Race and Science Fiction, and C.L. Bryant

I hope you all have a good and restful Thanksgiving. For our first podcast episode I reached out to a long time friend and fellow expert on Star Wars to discuss the future of the franchise in light of Lucas Arts sale to Disney.

In this newest podcast, I am keeping with our ghetto nerd theme. Because of your kindness I was able to attend the World Science Fiction Convention, which was held here in Chicago during August of this year. There, I met Maurice Broaddus. He is cool folks. He is also an accomplished fantasy and speculative fiction author. Maurice is the author of the Knights of Breton Court series of "urban fantasy" novels. He is also the editor of the horror anthology series Dark Faith.

In this conversation, Maurice and I discuss the craft of writing, race and the science fiction community, and his "evolution" to being a principled conservative who also embraces the tenets of black liberation theology. Oh yeah--how can I forget--Brother Maurice also had the good fortune to interview C.L. Bryant, black propagandist garbage pail kid buck-dancing conservative for hire and the producer of the hellish documentary Runaway Slave.

In all, some good stuff here. I hope you enjoy it and also become a fan of Maurice Broaddus.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sitting on a Keg of Dynamite: Tarantino Discusses his New Slavery Revenge Fantasy Film "Django"

PLAYBOY: In the movie, slaves are raped and men fight against each other like pit bulls. When you made Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction, you were criticized for liberal use of the N word. There’s plenty of that here. Are you sitting on a powder keg? 
TARANTINO: Now I’m picturing myself sitting on a keg of TNT like a Looney Tunes cartoon. It remains to be seen, I guess. If we are, it’s not because I’m trying to be inflammatory. I’m just telling my story the way I’m telling it. I’m putting it in a spaghetti Western framework and highlighting the surreal qualities inherent in the material. I’m highlighting them mythically and operatically, and in terms of violence and gruesomeness, with pitch-black humor. That’s all part of the spaghetti Western genre, but I’m doing it about a section of history that couldn’t be more surreal, bizarre, cruel or perversely comedic when looked at from a certain view. They go hand in hand.
I am a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino's work. He is one of the most talented filmmakers of his--or any other--generation. In some ways, even more so than Pulp Fiction, I would argue that Kill Bill is a master work of pastiche and post-modern aesthetic conventions. In total, Tarantino's film opus is a love letter to cinema and geek culture. As a ghetto nerd, I hold him in the highest regards.

However, the more I learn about his newest "exploitation" revenge film Django, which is set in the antebellum South, the more I am concerned about his ability to match his genre sensibilities with the primordially difficult issues of race and representation that are embodied by popular culture's relationship to the Black Holocaust and chattel slavery.

As he shares in a recent interview with Playboy, Tarantino is playing with some combustible elements in Django:
PLAYBOY: But the idea of portraying these slave women as prostitutes—
TARANTINO: Well, they’re not 100 percent prostitutes. The Cleopatra Club in the film is not a brothel. It’s a gentlemen’s club, a bring-your-own-bottle kind of place. There it’s bring your own pony, and you can have dinner with her.
PLAYBOY: Pony is the term for an attractive slave woman?
PLAYBOY: And that really existed?
TARANTINO: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think it’s the cornerstone of slavery, or one of the things that made it work. Aside from the labor force, it was the sex on demand. The minute people own other people, we all know that’s definitely part of it. Did they do that back then? Yes. They do that right now—go to Bangkok. The thing about the Cleopatra Club is, if you like your slave girl you can take her there. You can have dinner. You can socialize. If you are a guy who wants to take your pony and just fuck her for a night on the town, okay, you can do that. But maybe you actually love your girl and she’s kind of your de facto wife. This is a way to take her out and show her a good time.
My principle worries about Django are centered on how audiences will receive and interpret the film. Every time I have seen the trailer in the theater there is an uncomfortable moment of awkward silence, then curiosity, obligatory laughter, and excitement.

People take away meaning from popular culture in their own ways.

Some will see Django as harmless fun and a signal that it is okay to laugh at a tale of slavery, rape, and one of history's great crimes which has still not been given a full accounting of. Others, will be offended not so much at the text itself, but that a white filmmaker dared to play with such a controversial and provocative subject. I imagine that many young viewers who are already socialized into a color blind lie will enjoy Django because slavery was "so long ago anyway" and why not have a good laugh at it?

The Mouth of Madness: White Dreams of White Genocide and Inventing "Black" Music

The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to a system that degrades them.
The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in US society. 
The existence of the white race depends on the willingness of those assigned to it to place their racial interests above class, gender, or any other interests they hold. The defection of enough of its members to make it unreliable as a predictor of behavior will lead to its collapse.
RACE TRAITOR aims to serve as an intellectual center for those seeking to abolish the white race. It will encourage dissent from the conformity that maintains it and popularize examples of defection from its ranks, analyze the forces that hold it together and those that promise to tear it apart. Part of its task will be to promote debate among abolitionists. When possible, it will support practical measures, guided by the principle, Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.
Brother Noel Ignatiev's wisdom resonates to this day. I love how his reasonable, calm, insightful, and fair description of how Whiteness hurts white people, and imperils American civilization (and its long term health)--see Romney's use of white identity politics and how close this brought him to the White House--is a source of so much pain and angst for the White Right.

Apparently, my basic question about the meaning of Whiteness in the aftermath of Mitt Romney's defeat has earned (again) the attention of the polite White Nationalist crowd. They are great entertainment. Moreover, the more these good folks attempt to explain their understanding of "race realism" and "racialism" the more fascinating and twisted their logic and argumentation becomes.

I am particularly fascinated with the White Right's obsession with White victimhood. I did not know that the most powerful group of people in the United States--white men, and by proxy, white women--were so imperiled. I also did not know that White people exist under a perpetual threat of "genocide." As G.I. Joe taught a whole generation of young people, knowing is half the battle.

In reading some of the posts in defense of aggrieved Whiteness, I came upon this explanation of the origins of black music in the New World.

Yes, I think Mindweapon really shot himself in the foot there. I won’t stand for the monkey-see-monkey-do behavior of our vibrant and diverse African cousins being equated with them creating entirely new types of music when it was Whites that did most of the legwork, and Whites that are the greatest exponents of those artistic traditions. 
What’s next? Claiming the Chinese are responsible for putting the man on the moon because they make profuse use of firecrackers? 
The truth of the matter is that Jazz, Blues and Rock and Roll are played using musical instruments invented by WHITES, powered by electricity technology invented by WHITES, using musical scales invented by WHITES based on mathematics invented by WHITES, recorded with media technologies invented by WHITES and sung in a WHITE language with lyrics in a writing system created by WHITES. 
Hey, I guess even Obama is right once in a while: “They didn’t built it, someone else made that happen.” 
Jazz, Blues and Rock and Roll are not even “positive externalities” of BRA that can’t pay the bill. They are just another facet of negro riding on whitey’s back. If we had no BRA we would have better Jazz, better Blues and better Rock and Roll.

Apparently, there are White Nationalist ethnomusicologists who are desperately working to correct errors in scholarship which would suggest that there is such a thing as "black" music, and/or a black musical and aesthetic tradition.

Imperiled Whiteness as channeled by White Nationalists is mired in an epic irony. They bemoan and hate upon the petit Black nationalist crowd that desperately claim all things of merit in the World (and the West) were the product of Black Genius. The low level White Nationalists who are engaged in their own racist chauvinistic political masturbation online use the same decision rules as those they despise: the only difference is that instead of Afrotopian dreaming, the White Nationalist crowd is engaged in a fictive Nordic European cave-dwelling Whiteness under siege fantasy. 

I usually delete comments by racist trolls. I will not change that policy. However, since I looked into the mouth of madness, I will let madness speak--within reason--as I am curious about how Internet White Nationalists reconcile their personal fictions with empirical reality.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Post Mitt Romney, What Does "Whiteness" Mean to You?

Almost two weeks post election, the media is still fascinated by Mitt Romney's defeat and how America's ostensibly changing racial demographics will doom (or not) the Republican Party to obsolescence. The chattering classes are getting a bit more close to the foundational questions that we as a country should be reflecting upon in this moment.

Last week for example, The New York Times offered up an interesting, albeit brief, exploration of the relationship between immigration and American national identity. There, the amazingly accomplished historian, Nell Irvin Painter, an authority on the history of white people, was given too little time to explore the foundational questions that a longer and more sustained essay would have most certainly allowed her. In fairness, the other essays were insightful as well.

However, not one of these excellent short essays broached the basic question of how the black-white binary is dependent upon the fact that African-Americans are by definition "unassimilable." Blacks folks are not an "ethnic" group as classically defined by Sociology--we are the basement group against which non-blacks (and many Afro-Caribbean immigrants) define their position in the social hierarchy. For at least three centuries, this "public" calculus has remain unchanged in the United States.

Perhaps, such questions are political dynamite in the Age of Obama and post-civil rights multicultural America? This fact would explain the obvious evasion.

Moreover, we are not asking these important questions either:

Are demographics destiny? Do race and ethnicity neatly map onto political attitudes and ideology? Are racial categories static or changing? And how does a consideration of how race is a category defined by both stability and change upset all of this premature doomsday epitaph writing for the preeminent power of Whiteness in American politics?

I believe in first principles. As such, we should always strive to define our terms.

For me, one of the values of writing online is that pedagogy can be transformed into a type of public performance--the great Claire Potter who writes for The Chronicle of Higher Education under the pen name "Tenured Radical" is sponsoring a panel at the ASA conference on that very same topic (I was invited to participate, but regretfully had to decline. The invite was so very much appreciated).

I benefit from writing online in many ways. Primarily, this genre of writing forces me to make the theory laded speech that is common to academics (and others) more transparent. These conversations are also helpful because one can survey the range of common sense understandings surrounding such concepts as race, class, gender, and sexuality which exist in day-to-day life.

Social scientists are trained to the idea of the sociological imagination--ironically, many of them forget the power of the quotidian, and how real folks live these concepts, even if they do not have the vocabulary to describe their lives in such academic terms.

To point. I would suggest that the Mitt Romney postmortem of white people, and the role of a particular type of Whiteness in American politics, is both very premature and misspecified.

Before we work through the details of this error in reasoning by the pundit classes, it is necessary to meditate on some basic matters: "Whiteness" as a term and concept is circulating throughout the public discourse during this political moment; let's try to define the essential attributes of Whiteness before talking about its changing relationship to the future of American politics and social life.

For me, Whiteness is many things. These observations are far from exhaustive.

Whiteness is separate and apart from "white" people. There are many white people--and some people of color--overly identified with and invested in Whiteness. However, the socio-historical and political concept known as Whiteness does not necessarily tell me anything about a given white person.

Whiteness is a type of privilege and property. Whiteness is also typified by invisibility and a sense of normality for its owners. As such, in America, to be "normal" is to be white.

Whiteness is benign and innocent for its owners and allies. Whiteness is also terrifying, violent, destructive, and belligerent towards those who have suffered under it.

How would you define Whiteness? Complete the following sentence if you would: "To me, Whiteness is..."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Occam's Razor: Is the Petreaus "Scandal" Really About Covering Up the Military's Ties to Tampa's Underground Sex Culture?

Some fun and a quick thought for the weekend.

Today's Congressional hearings with David Petraeus, former head of the CIA, were a Rorschach test: conspiratorial minded Republicans heard what they wanted to hear about a non-scandal and non-coverup in Libya; other more reasonable folks heard a story about a chaotic, kinetic, and (then) developing attack on the U.S. Consulate/CIA listening station that was--and is--still being sorted out.

The Petraeus-Paula Broadwell-Jill Kelley scandal is like a bad Lifetime TV movie. There is sex, betrayal, high society living, greed, debt, wannabe celebrities, and powerful people. I believe in Occam's razor where the simplest explanation is usually the most correct one. I am also a fan of a good conspiracy theory. As much as the Tea Party GOP would like it to be, the Petraeus imbroglio is not about Obama, blackmail, or a cover-up regarding Libya.

This whole matter will eventually be exposed as a twisted tale of sex, alpha male indulgence, suburban debauchery, and Tampa's underground swinger and sex party scene.

Some data points:

Tavis Smiley Making Sense and Calling Out Foolishness: "Latinos, Women and Young People--That is the New Governing Coalition"

This is real simple for me. With all due respect to the formidable coalition of Latinos, women, and young voters, Barack Obama would not be sitting in the Oval Office right now had Black folk stayed home in their "house slippers." African Americans are his most loyal constituency and everybody in the Obama reelection campaign and in the Obama White House knows it. The president owes Black folk. BIG time. 
The poet Gwendolyn Brooks had this wonderful refrain, "the last of the loud." Respectfully, somebody has to remind the president day in and day out of the debt he owes Black America. After four years of being sidelined and silenced, it's time to get loud. We have to be willing to engage even if we are "the last of the loud." 
Our Latino brothers and sisters immediately (as in the day after the election) jumped on a national media conference call to make it clear that they saved the president in some key battleground states. I ain't mad at 'em. That's exactly what they should have done. Black folk taught the disenfranchised masses how to make demands in the name of unarmed truth and unconditional love. Ready for the hard truth? At the moment, our Latino brothers and sisters are better examples of the Black prophetic tradition than are Black folk.
Tavis Smiley is the second man in a tag team of provocation and "truth telling" with Cornel West. They have been calling out President Obama and his stable of academics and activists for many months, beginning with the president's first term. West cut another vicious promo against his opposition last week. Smiley, is choosing to take a different tact with this insightful essay on how African-Americans are being (conveniently) written out of Obama's re-election story.

Smiley is highlighting some uncomfortable truths that some in the black-brown coalition which defeated Romney do not want to discuss at this celebratory juncture.

How will the emergence of Hispanics as the country's largest "minority" group impact national politics, generally and black politics, specifically?

I am deeply suspicious of any claims regarding "natural" affinity between African-Americans and other minority groups. Race is not destiny. A shared status as "people of color" says little about how those identities, especially for ethnic groups like Hispanics (who can be of any race), are contingent and evolving.

For example, if Hispanics are inaugurated into "whiteness" what will that mean for shared interests with black Americans? 

Black Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans are competitors both in the labor market, as well as the political arena. There may be areas of overlap and shared concern; there will be, and are, areas of competition, as well as a divergence of interests.

The black/white binary has dominated American social, political, and cultural life for at least 300 years. In the United States, Asians, Hispanics, and other groups have been "triangulating" between these two poles. Here, political and economic power are two additional dimensions in a binary relationship which must be considered. White Americans are preeminently strong on both axes. Black Americans have been able to attain political power at a cost: they are weak in terms of economic power. Asian Americans have economic power. But, they are weak in terms of political power.

Thus, a question.

As Hispanics leverage their role in Obama's re-election and translate it into real political currency--something black people will not be able to do--what will happen as they gain access both in terms of economic and political power? Moreover, what happens to the United States (and to the African-American community) if Hispanics can use their status as an ethnic group to gain more political and economic power than Black Americans?

The shameless gloating about the decline of White Conservative Masculinity, and the demographic winter of white people, is an ironic and trickster-like mask: black folks are approaching their own demographic and political winter given the ascendance of Hispanics as the country's largest "minority" group. Whiteness is repositioning itself for this reality; Blackness needs to reposition itself as well. The "browning" of America may actually make for some interesting--and surprising--bedfellows.

Eric Liu's "After the White Establishment" is a (White) Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: "The Emerging Coalition of Color Needs to Recommit to Americanness Itself"

It’s not just that a president was elected against the express wishes of a majority of white Americans; after all, that happened twice with Bill Clinton. It’s that we chose to keep a black man in the Oval Office. And the “we” who did that included more nonwhites than ever recorded in an American electorate
But the question now is what we do — and who “we” are. Whites in America, like Americans in the world, may still have more power in absolute terms than anyone else. But they have less power than they used to (like Americans in the world). This moment in history, and its accelerating demographic shift, could give us zero-sum politics fueled by white status anxiety.  Or it could give us the opportunity to at last detach Americanness from whiteness... 
At the same time, the emerging coalition of color needs to recommit to Americanness itself. There’s a civic creed at the heart of this country, a culture of democracy and inclusive self-government, that’s worthy of commitment. It’s time for people of every color to reclaim and redeem that universal, unifying creed: to identify first as Americans so that the full diversity of our identities can flourish...
Race is a dance. It is also a set of relationships and norms. Race is also a ritual--one which often follows a predictable script.

In post civil rights America, color blindness is a civic virtue. The politics that were brought into existence with the difficult and forced birth of multicultural democracy at the end of the civil rights movement involved a consensus of sorts: both white people and people of color were equally capable of racism. White supremacy, as well as Jim and Jane Crow, were simply byproducts of poor decision making and a maladaptive "Southern" culture; they were separate and apart from any deep reflections on either the nature of White Government, or of Whiteness itself.

This was a pragmatic decision that was driven by the needs of elites in the context of the Cold War who wanted to put the national embarrassment of formal white supremacy behind them. They found a practical solution that was forced by the bravery and courage of the foot soldiers, men and women, children and adults, black folks and our allies, in the Civil Rights Movement and the long Black Freedom Struggle.

The descendant of this consensus is a multicultural America that is possessed by a lie of false equivalence. Here, public discussions of white racism, and the semi-permanence of the color line, fall into a trap where justice claims by people of color--or simply matter of fact, sharp, and real observations about the nature of white identity politics and racism--are met by a need to defend, protect, and recuperate Whiteness.

[See the hysterical response to Reverend Wright's truth telling and astute reading of American history during Obama's first presidential campaign.]

Racial discourse in the public sphere is dictated by a commandment that white folks as a group must always be allowed the option of being shown in a kind light (even as the dominant culture views white racism as abominable, anachronistic, and shameful).

For example, critiques of the clear and open politics of white racial resentment, dog whistles, and overt racial appeals by Mitt Romney's campaign were met by silly editorials about "black racism" because the latter group made a calculated choice to support Barack Obama as the Republican Party's policies were so nakedly hostile to them.

In popular culture, the stories about black people fighting white racism in such films as Mississippi Burning and Glory revolve around white saviors. Black Americans have their agency removed; our agency and role in taking back freedom is conveniently "white washed." The Help is another horrid example of the white savior narrative where a story about black people's struggles are told through the eyes of a white main character, and white racists--the majority of the population during American Apartheid--are painted as caricatures and outliers.

Spielberg's epic Lincoln commits the same sin wherein black people are depicted as two dimensional characters, mere observers in our own Emancipation struggle. And the soon to be released "42", which is about the life of Jackie Robinson (I was among the first in the country to see it Wednesday night here in Chicago), while a very good movie, also falls prey to the need for Whiteness to recuperate itself through conspicuous characters whose only function is to show how not all white folks are/were racist.

The postmortem of Mitt Romney's defeat by President Obama, and the demographic suicide facing the country's White Political Party (otherwise known as the Tea Party GOP) adheres to the same script. The pundit class has begun a healthy, although ahistorical, discussion of what the "browning" of America will mean for the country's politics. But, in a search for a triumphalist theme, these same observers are, for the most part, ignoring how White identity politics still won Mitt Romney the majority of the White vote.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dear Angry White Conservatives Mourning Romney's Loss: Chill Out

Alternet and Salon featured this essay yesterday. Help a brother out if you could by sharing this piece with your friends and contacts on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. My open letter to aggrieved conservatives is making its rounds online, but I think we can do even better. They are having a collective sad and need our help and support.
Dear Angry White Conservatives Who Are Mourning Mitt Romney’s Loss,

If Fox News is any indication, many of you are dismayed, upset, and befuddled by Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama. Some of these feelings are normal. Politics is tribal. When your team loses, a bit of sadness is expected.  

However, some white folks are acting out in some very unhealthy ways. Young white conservatives participated in a near riot at the University of Mississippi where they hurled rocks at bystanders, used racial slurs, and burned Obama and Biden campaign signs. Other angry white folks used the Internet to send out racist messages and pictures on Twitter as an act of protest and anger at the country’s re-election of its first black president. I believe that these events are malicious outliers.

Many white people who voted for Mitt Romney are simply scared and angry that a “black socialist Muslim atheist Communist usurper” was reelected President of the United States.

89 percent of Mitt Romney’s voters were white. 59 percent of the white vote went to Mitt Romney. He also won the majority of white voters in every age and gender group. We live in a country that is racially segregated. The United States is also very polarized politically. At present, Americans are not talking to each other across the dividing lines of race, class, and ideology.

Because many white conservatives only interact with like-minded people who come from the same racial background, it seemed obvious to them that Obama was going to lose on election night. With the defeat of Mitt Romney, they are experiencing the universal hurt that comes when reality interjects itself into a dream world and fantasy.  

Many white people are feeling imperiled because President Obama’s win is being framed by the news media as a sign that people of color are gaining political power in the United States. The pundits keep talking about “the browning of America” and how the Republican Party will continue to lose elections if it just relies on white voters to win.  I imagine that many white people, especially conservatives and older voters, may be feeling a bit obsolete as the country changes around them.

I am white people’s best friend. As such, I will tell you things that other people will not; I will tell you the truth even when it makes you upset at me.

The media wants to scare you with all sorts of talk about how, in a few decades, America will be a “majority minority” country. You “want your country back” and people mock you for these sentiments. I am a good listener. Other people find joy in your tears and from the sad images of Mitt Romney’s headquarters, Republican rallies, and voters on election night. I feel your pain. I am your friend.

Guess what? Things are going to be okay.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

He was a Spy Betrayed by Barack Obama: Elmo's Secret Connection to the Petraeus Sex Scandal and the Benghazi Cover-up

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) works hard to bring you, our readers, the stories and information that you cannot find anywhere else. In the four years since our founding, we have had the good fortune to bring you candid interviews with such public figures as Herman Cain, Jesse Jackson and Pat Buchanan. Some of our greatest coups have involved exclusive interviews with such personalities as Racism, Whiteness, and Glenn Beck's ill-fated Blackboard. And of course, the one and only Brother X-Squared made his Internet debut on our site.

We always strive to bring you the truth--through any means necessary--here at WARNNN. Bill the Lizard, one of our investigative reporters, has uncovered new information about the Petraeus CIA scandal.

The connections run deep from the White House, to PBS, the CIA, and to the State Department. The Petraeus sex scandal and cover-up are just one part of a many tentacled tale of deceit, corruption, violence, and murder. 

Correlation is causation. News junkies also know that a pattern of events means that they must all be related and connected to each other in some way. To deny these facts is to deny reality.

The liberal media has been conspiring to suppress the truth about the Obama Administration's cover up of the events in Benghazi, Libya where several months ago an American consulate was overrun, and the ambassador, along with several other people, was killed. While Fox News and the brave patriots on the Internet have been the only voices willing to tell the American people the truth about Libya, events have continued to develop and spin out of control. Several days ago, Iran tried to shoot down an American drone which was on a peaceful mission in international waters. Now, the (recently resigned) head of the CIA is embroiled in a scandal which reaches to the top levels of the Pentagon, the FBI, and Congress.

The Obama administration, just as they did with the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal, the rampant corruption with Obama's energy "czars," and the failed company Solyndra, is desperately manipulating events and suppressing information in order to protect their own public image. Obama was able to hide the truth about the Libya debacle and Iran's attack on a United States' research drone so that he could get re-elected and defeat Mitt Romney.

Obama revealed his true nature during the election when he used voter suppression tactics and a concerted campaign of lies and character assassination against the Republican challenger in order to maintain his illegitimate hold on the White House. Now, Obama is making sure that all of the parties connected to the Libya disaster and his various other foreign policy failures are removed from play.

Apparently, the much beloved Sesame Street character known as Elmo, has for many years, been an off the books contract agent for the CIA. In much the same way that the State Department issues diplomatic credentials as cover for CIA operatives, Elmo was able to use his position with PBS, and as a worldwide ambassador to children, in order to hide in plain sight. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Huh? The Solution to the Failure of Mitt Romney's Use of the Southern Strategy...Double Down on the Southern Strategy Again!

These people are stuck on stupid are stuck in a feedback loop which is the result of rigid path dependency and narrow decision-making.

Laura Ingraham's suggestion that the Republican Party can reposition itself for victory in the future by returning to its core "principles" would be laughable if not for the bizarre understandings of political reality contained in such a prescription.

Ingraham should not be counted as an elite decision maker on the Right; however, the Tea Party GOP is a party where Fox News and its propaganda apparatus are dictating policy. The result has been a fantasy world where its believers, and the Republican leadership, are insulated from reality.

The second consequence of the Right-wing media industrial complex's influence on the Republican Party is that mediocre talents which are "entertaining" for the mouth-breathing base, and who are better suited as cheerleaders, are elevated to the role of quarterback. Such a strategy will not ensure victory in the long run. Moreover, such a strategy encourages political dysfunction and undermines American democracy because ideological purity and extremism are preferred over the pragmatism and horse trading upon with good governance is dependent.

Mitt Romney's race baiting, and efforts to gin up white racial resentment against President Obama backfired. Thus, they helped to contribute to his defeat last Tuesday. While Romney's use of the Southern Strategy 2.0 helped him mobilize support among white voters, this strategy likely pushed away some Independents, and motivated people of color to turn out in record numbers against him.

The pundits on the Right seem unable to grasp how changing demographics, combined with their embrace of a de facto "whites only" set of policy initiatives, have pushed the Republican party towards obsolescence.

The second problem with Ingraham's suggestion that the Right should go back to its "core values" is one of selective memory and delusion caused by their version of the "noble lie."

One Week Post-Romney: How Will White Conservative Masculinity Continue to be a Problem?

Me thinks that Conservative White Masculinity needs an intervention to get its head right...

This will be the first full week of news media coverage following the defeat of Mitt Romney by Barack Obama. The meme of how white identity politics, and an obsolescent type of Whiteness in an America that is increasingly "diverse" doomed the Tea Party GOP, will continue as the talking point of the week.

This narrative is very entertaining. It reminds me of the academic conferences about Whiteness and White Privilege that were popular in the 1990s. The conversations about Whiteness and white privilege in the Age of Obama are touching on some similar themes--but as I will point out this week--lack the same level of historical or theoretical rigor.

This week will also be telling for how embattled white conservative masculinity responds to its interrogation by the news media. Will it become enraged? How will it lash out? Will the Right circle the wagons and further embrace the Culture War narrative? Or will the adults in the room call for moderation, nuance, and critical self-reflection?

Ultimately, one thing is certain: Whiteness does not like to be interrogated. The type of White identity politics that are the brand name of the Republican Party is particularly hostile to any type of rigor, empiricism, or introspection. Moreover, and by definition, Whiteness conceives of itself as "normal."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cornel West Unleashed: Obama is a Republican in Black Face; Sharpton, Dyson, and Harris-Perry are Political Mercenaries and Sell Outs

Brother Cornel is at it again. He is dynamic and pragmatic. Before the election, Dr. West was calling out President Obama as one of his fiercest critics. In the weeks before the election, Brother West urged everyone to vote for Obama because the alternative was totally unacceptable. Cornel is now calling out Obama as a blackface Republican.

Moreover, he has expanded the target list to include black academics and activists such as Doctors Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Dyson, as well as Reverend Al Sharpton--a group he considers guilty of having "sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage."

What is the bigger game here? Is Brother Cornel just ratcheting up the tension for a national tour that will climax in a pundit battle royal where all of the mentioned parties go at live? Is Brother Cornel sincere (which I think he is)? Or are his complaints and critiques just part of an elaborate type of political theater? What the heck is going on here?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chauncey DeVega Will be Appearing on Our Common Ground Radio Tonight to Discuss Barack Obama's Re-election Victory and What It Means for the Future

Updated. I have embedded the audio from the interview below.

I will be appearing on Our Common Ground tonight at 10pm EST.

Janice Graham was one of the first folks to invent me to do an interview. Her show has a long history and I am always honored to be included. We will be talking about Obama's re-election, what comes next, and whatever other subjects Janice chooses to bring to the floor. The show is pretty relaxed--and it is an hour--so we should have plenty of time to go back and forth.

Our Common Ground is also live. You can listen at this link. The show does accept phone calls so do chime in if you are so inclined. Should be fun. I hope to hear from you tonight.

Listen to internet radio with OCG on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, November 9, 2012

Postmodern Political Theater: Rush Limbaugh Rants About a Lack of Truth and Honesty in the News Media

I came upon this video of Rush Limbaugh's show and just had to share it. Here, "El Rushbo" is conducting a post graduate level seminar in Orwellian Right-wing new speak.

This is postmodern agitprop political theater: the master liar is bemoaning a lack of truth and honesty in the media while suggesting that conservatives did not engage in a campaign of character assassination against Barack Obama.

In the Exorcist movies, we are cautioned to never talk to the devil because he mixes truths with lies. The same rule applies when listening to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.

One would think that the magical thinking, Fox News media bubble that undermined Mitt Romney's electoral chances would urge the bloviators on the Right towards some degree of moderation in their pathological lying.

If Limbaugh is a bellwether, the Republican propagandists are going to simply rewrite history and double down on this habit. I used to believe that the Conservative media apparatus was one of the most effective propaganda machines in recent memory. However, as I observe their behavior post-Romney, it would appear that the Right is simply continuing with the same old lies and not updating them for the new season.

Don't the lies have to be internally consistent in order to be compelling and believable for the Right-wing media's audience? Or is Conservative Red State America so out of touch, and its supplicants so disoriented from reality, that to embrace empirical truth is akin to an act of religious heresy?

The carnival barkers and flimflam artists on the Right are like End Times prophets. They predict that the end of the world will come on Friday. Said event does not occur. These seers change the date to next Wednesday. The world does not end (again). Their believers suffer no loss of faith; they simply believe that the schedule was changed and their leader has a special and unique relationship with god.

The Right-wing media's audience and the base of the Tea Party GOP are those very same fools. Is it even possible to have a politics of consensus, in the interest of the Common Good, when the basic facts of reality, and the terms of discussion, can not even be agreed upon?

Victimology Follies: Mitt Romney's Loss and the "Demographic Winter" of White People

Maybe white conservative voters should have mass orgies where no one wears a condom? Would this guarantee victory in the future?

There are many theories about why Mitt Romney lost on Tuesday.

Some smart folks are talking about the importance of the Democrats' superior ability to microtarget voters, how Obama flipped retrospective voters to evaluate the economy in terms favorable to him, and how efforts at shrinking the electorate through voter suppression actually hurt the Tea Party GOP.

Other smart people are engaging in some real talk as they call out the Republican Party's belief in magic and lies. As I suggested here, the Tea Party GOP is a cult where political orthodoxy serves as a religion. Faith--what is a belief in things that cannot be proved through normal means, appeals to science, or empiricism--has damaged the Right's ability to reason about political reality.

The implications of this dynamic are worrisome: Mitt Romney's defeat, and the Tea Party GOP's surprise at that fact, is a symptom of mass psychosis.

The easy money, what is a sexy story that puts butts in the seats, is being devoted to the puzzle of white voters and how demographic changes have doomed the Republican Party to obsolescence. By comparison, I would suggest that all of the energy that is being spent on figuring out the "white problem" in America's electoral politics is very premature, and tinged by a lack of historical context.

The decline of White America thesis, and what changing demographics will mean for the country's politics and future, is an old and tired trope that has been around since (at least) the end of the Civil War. The befuddlement by the Right-wing media and political establishment in response to their thorough thrashing by President Obama and his coalition of women, young people, and people of color, is focused on how to bring more brown people into the Republican Party.

Here, there is no real interest in altering issue positions to appeal to a broader base; no, the Right is ironically deploying a strategy of political black and brown face quota theater (what they accuse liberals and the Left of doing) where people of color will instinctively come over to the Right because of racial kinship and affinity.

Implicit in their complaining and dismay is a deep vein of white victimology. America is not "their country" anymore; this arrangement is unnatural and unfair. From the perspective of "imperiled," "normal," spoiled, and entitled Whiteness, a President who can win without a majority of white (male) voters does not have a real mandate for change.

The herrenvolk politics of conservative white male America are mirrored by the fears and worries of White Nationalists about the extinction of the "white race" and what their propagandists have termed "Demographic Winter."

The Republican Party is the United States' de facto White Political Party. Therefore, the Republican Party has a great deal of overlap with racist white people. All Republicans are not racists. However, racially resentful and bigoted white people are much more likely to be Republican and conservative. In all, if one were to draw a Venn diagram of both the Republican Party and White Nationalists, the overlap would be pretty significant.

I am unsure about how the responsible adults in the Republican Party will reclaim their organization and its proud and respectable history.

It is clear that the United States is mired in extreme political polarization. While there is all sorts of silly talk fan fiction about a "second civil war," (which is not going to happen) the more substantive and important concern is how do we rehabilitate the Republican Party so that it can act responsibly as one of the country's two institutional parties. I am also concerned about how the Tea Party GOP's extremism makes the Republican Party a fertile recruiting ground for White Nationalists.

As the "reality" of demographic change in America remains a talking point in the weeks to come, the narrative of white victimology and imperiled Whiteness will become even more common. This cannot be to the benefit of the Common Good. It will be a blessing for white racist organizations, Fox News, and bloviators like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.

A national obsession over the obsolescence of White America in the Age of Obama cannot end well. To paraphrase Langston Hughes, what does Whiteness do when its dreams are deferred? Does it shrivel up? Or does it lash out?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Not So Post-Racial: White University of Mississippi Students "Riot" Against Barack Obama's Re-election

What would James Meredith do?

While Barack Obama has been re-elected to a second term as the United States first President who happens to be black, there is still much work to be done if America is to become truly "post-racial":
JACKSON, Miss. — A protest at the University of Mississippi against the re-election of President Barack Obama grew into crowd of about 400 people with shouted racial slurs as rumors of a riot spread on social media. Two people were arrested on minor charges. 
The university said in a statement Wednesday that the gathering at the student union began late Tuesday night with about 30 to 40 students, but grew within 20 minutes as word spread. Some students chanted political slogans while others used derogatory racial statements and profanity, the statement said. 
The incident comes just after the 50th anniversary of violent rioting that greeted the forced integration of Ole Miss with the enrollment of its first black student, James Meredith. 
Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones promised an investigation and said “all of us are ashamed of the few students who have negatively affected the reputations of each of us and of our university.”
The American people learned an important lesson during these last four years. Barack Obama is a transformative figure; however, Obama is not a superman who will heal America's racial wounds through his mere presence in the White House.

There are a number of puzzles and contradictions that still need to be resolved as we work through how the symbolic power of a black president may not translate into an improvement in relations across the color line. According to recent surveys whites and people of color remain very much at odds with one another. Moreover, a majority of Americans now report higher levels of anti-black animus than they did four years ago.

Could it be that Barack Obama was reelected because 1) voters found his issue positions much more preferable than Mitt Romney's, but also 2) that a good number of white voters like Obama as a person but do not necessarily feel much affinity towards their fellow black and brown Americans? The United States is a multicultural democracy which remains highly segregated along lines of race and class. Race relations in the Age of Obama are a confirmation of that fact.

Before the American people take a victory lap of self-congratulatory delight in how changing demographics may force a new multiracial political realignment in the near future, they still need to confront the racist vitriol which has moved from the front stage to the backstage--where it comes out through acts of implicit bias, institutional discrimination, micro-aggressions, and cyber racism.

Racism is a tradition and a habit. It is not just confined to older Americans. The hope that white supremacy and racism will quite literally "die off" is lazy thinking. As demonstrated by this near riot at the University of Mississippi, there are young white people who are more than willing to carry on the racist legacies of their parents and grandparents.

Ultimately, one of the greatest perils caused by the myth of post racial, post civil rights America, is that young people believe that a country which is capable of electing a black man as president has conquered its racial demons. They need to be reminded, often, that post civil rights America is a blip on the radar, what is an experiment, which could be undone.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Does It Feel Like to be a Problem? How Do (Conservative) White Men Really Feel About Their Role in Mitt Romney's Defeat Last Night?

The post-mortem for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has begun in earnest. Obama's deft campaign strategy aside, was Romney doomed by an inability to tell the truth, low likeability ratings, Ayn Randian plutocratic comments about the "47 percent," his position on letting the car industry fail, or consistent appeals to the far Right through a use of anti-black and anti-immigrant rhetoric?
There are many causes of political death for Romney. In time, some will be proven to be more important and significant than others.

The leading explanation suggests that Romney and the Tea Party GOP were defeated because of changing demographics, and an electoral base which was overly dependent on white voters. Because the Republican Party is the country's de facto White People's Political Party, Romney put himself in an untenable position: to motivate the base, he would have to embrace policies that would push away and alienate women, people of color, young people, and a part of the white electorate who was turned off by the Right's herrenvolk, "take our county back" appeals to a mythic White American past.

Romney and the Republican Party's America no longer exists. In truth, it was always a chimera and a lie. But, the lie could be sustained because enough white folks took it to be real.

Whiteness is characterized by a set of attributes which include invisibility and a sense of being "normal." White racial identity--and white masculinity in particular--does not like being interrogated.

Ironically, in a version of "racial heliocentrism," whiteness loves being the center of all things.

As such, intense discussions about "white working class male voters" have become a part of America's public discourse in almost every recent national election.

In the Age of Obama, conversations about the meaning of whiteness in this "new" America have become increasingly common as well. To wit: there are a number of articles on a variety of news sites, blogs, and in other media, that are trying to figure out "the white problem" and its relationship to Romney's defeat last night.

Does Whiteness--or at least some of its owners--like being discussed in such a public manner?

I have always felt that macro level discussions of aggregate social identities, like "blackness" and "whiteness" for example, obscure as much as they reveal. Consequently, I am very curious about how white men, as individuals, across divides of party and ideology, feel about last night's election.

Do conservative white men (or white men more generally) really feel imperiled and obsolete in the Age of Obama? Is the world really against them? Do white men who are liberal, Left leaning, progressive, independent, or otherwise aligned feel unfairly lumped in with how whites (men in particular) as a group that are being presented as obsolescent holdovers who doomed Mitt Romney and the Republican Party to defeat?

Alternatively, do white men who left their "natural" home in the Republican Party, and were not lured in by the Right's identity politics, feel good about themselves as outliers that saw a way forward and are embracing a more diverse and inclusive America?

White men are the object and not the subject in these conversations. Of course, white men are able to control the master narrative because they control the country's mass media and are the single more powerful group of people in the United States (if not the world). But, the elite white men who can act as proxies and stand-ins for "how white men feel" on the news, and among the pundit classes, are by definition not a representative group. 

White folks, and white men in particular, please teach me something about these matters.

Barack Obama is President of the United States Again...Thank God for the George Costanza Theory of Political Predictions

I predicted that Obama would lose tonight. I got exactly what I wanted. Obama won. Crom is good. The math heads and stats junkies like Nate Silver were right. Math is also good.

We can exhale together. My Seinfeld theory of predictions was proven correct: go for the opposite in order to get the result you want.

Drinking a Sapporo beer and smiling--I am so happy that President Obama has been elected President of the United States of America (again). "Reelection" sounds so passive to my ear. Obama was subject to a severe referendum where he was held to much higher standards than other presidents before him precisely because of his race. He won the presidency. His second term was not a vote to return to a standing decision rule. Obama's second term is the product of an active consideration by the American people about his fitness for office and legitimacy to rule.

Sometimes we, the American people, get it right despite ourselves. In this case, Obama was a superior candidate, whose policies had more appeal than Romney's, and the people stood up against the challenger's post-truth demagoguery, race baiting tactics. Race still matters. How can it not be given our country's history?

But, America is a young country of change where the children of slaves and immigrants can become full citizens and make history as representatives, senators, the professional and middle class, strivers, upwardly dreaming working class folks, and yes, as President of the United States.  

American Exceptionalism is and ought not to be the bullying politics of imperialism, jingoism, and a belief that this country never apologizes abroad because "god" mandated us above the rest of the world. No, American Exceptionalism, as demonstrated by today's events, is embodied by the People evaluating two candidates, voting in the best one, and soundly rejecting policies that played to the worst of us and not the best of us.

The myth of meritocracy is often just that--a nice, self-serving, lie. Tonight, the myth was proven true by a candidate, a man, and the machine he assembled to motivate his base, craft policy, and win a second groundbreaking election. Romney lost...and he deserved to lose. Romney's back to the future Southern Strategy 2.0 is now firmly in the dustbin of history. Sure, it will motivate a good part of the electorate to vote. Other candidates may try to copy Romney's playbook. They too will likely face a similar outcome. 

In all, the Republican Party is now facing demographic suicide. They must adapt, or become increasingly irrelevant, as their older members die off and the Right competes for an increasingly angry, hostile, and marginalized part of White America.

What follows is a random observation about how we have changed as a nation. At Obama's rally here in Chicago they are playing the Otis Redding song "Try a Little Tenderness," the sample flipped by Kanye West and Jay-Z for their song "Otis." Who would have ever thought such a thing was possible?

A second question. Will the Republican Party mature, reach out, and bring in the old guard centrists who were/are the adult voices in the room so that they can be competitive and work for the Common Good? Or will the Tea Party GOP dig in, become even more extreme, and further obstruct the Common Good in order to advance their increasingly narrow partisan agenda? Does Romney's defeat lead to a more reasonable Republican Party or one that is even more extreme and intransigent? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When Greed and Neoliberalism Came to Professional Wrestling: On Election Day, Do You Really Want Mitt "The Million Dollar Man" Romney to be President?

Consider this an open thread on tonight's election.

The polls will be closing in several hours. Who will be the next President of the United States?

Mitt Romney is the prince of the plutocrats. While some self-interested--and very wealth voters--would find logical reasons to support him, there are other members of the public who will vote Romney in order to "get their country back." Little do they realize that Romney is an agent of the very forces which "stole" America from them long ago.

In my professional wrestling as politics series, I have tried to highlight the carnival-like aspects of the 2012 election, the role of racial resentment and polite racism in supporting Romney (and his use of said appeals to win white voters), and offered some advice about how Obama could perhaps win over white "working class" voters.

Ultimately, the low information independent voters who will decide tonight's election do not know much about policy. They are motivated by emotion and a given candidate's skill at storytelling (or professional levels of sociopathic lying as in Romney's case). In an effort to work within their learning styles, as well as cognitive limits, I would like to offer this public an example of what a vote for Mitt Romney translates into in practical terms.

Mitt Romney is the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. The latter was a popular "heel" wrestler in the 1980s who flaunted his wealth, and was famous for his belief that everyone had a price. DiBiase was the embodiment of Romney's honest and plain talk in private to his donors about how half of Americans are lazy parasitic bums who live off of rich people like him. There is a significant difference between Romney and DiBiase. The latter was honest about his contempt for regular folks and the working classes.

The Million Dollar Man was a prototype for the politics of greed and Ayn Rand populism that has taken over the Republican Party and put them in a fever dream and mania state. DiBiase's character was also a great foreshadowing of the neoliberal turn: he believed in privatizing all things--including children's swimming pools--because the State and the public should be assets controlled by rich people like him. Because popular culture is a mirror for the sociopolitical, DiBiase was reflecting the trickle down lie that was Reagan-era tax policy by exaggerating its worst aspects.

Ironically, the grotesque caricature that was the Million Dollar Man was surpassed in the present by the recklessness of Wall Street, and robber baron gangster capitalists like Mitt Romney, who almost  destroyed the American economy.

With the power of the 1%, and because America is a corporateocracy run for the benefit of the few, Mitt Romney has taken a professional wrestling gimmick and elevated it to the grand stage provided by a national presidential race. The question then becomes, will independents, low information voters, people mired in white racial resentment, and those who support third party candidates help to elect Mitt Romney?

We will find out soon. Your thoughts? How do you think the night will play out?