Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This is the Point at Which I Swerve You: Loving the Rock's Boston History Themed Promo on John Cena



I would like to thank the kind folks over at Salon for featuring my piece on Rush Limbaugh and the Crisis in White Conservative Manhood (Crooks and Liars also gave it some love which is always appreciated) The piece is running about 12,000 views as of today...that ain't bad for a little armchair psychologizing of the Tea Party GOP's number one bloviator. I will also be on Ring of Fire Radio this weekend. The always supportive Mike Papantonio asked me to sit in for a few minutes. Of course, I accepted the generous invitation.

Consequently, there are some new readers here at WARN. I welcome you all. Do come out of lurking and introduce yourselves. By way of introduction, I am an unapologetic ghetto nerd. Blogging is an exercise in self-indulgence and narcissism. I try to write about issues of public concern, but I am ultimately beholden to my own interests, odd predilections, and hobbies. In short, you never know what you are going to get: for me, that is the fun of talking to different folks about random and varied topics both online and in person.

Wrestlemania is in the air. I had drifted away from the WWE's programming the last year or so. But as always, in the build up to Wrestlemania, things got interesting with the rise of "new"talent (CM Punk), the return of the greats (Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and Chris Jericho), and the feud between the one and only Rock and that guy who goes by the name John Cena. The Rock is an amazing talent. We know this. But, his promo on Monday's Raw which managed to break the fourth wall by winking at the audience in the first segment, play around with the movie Back to the Future and racial identity (just what would the Framers do if they met the Rock?), and end by talking about Paul Revere's famous ride was genius.

Boston was an excellent prop for some highly entertaining storytelling through the devices of physicality, dexterous speech, and athleticism.In all, the Rock's promo was so solid that it rivaled the Revolutionary war revisionism in my favorite episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

[Perhaps some intrepid soul will do a drunken history version of the Rock's rewrite of U.S. history? Could be fun...]

Those of us, we old time, smart marks who lived through the Attitude era were really and truly spoiled. Little did we realize what we were witnessing. Beyond the goodness of the Monday Night Wars, and early ECW, the mid to late nineties (into the first few years of the 2000s) was a golden age. Kayfabe had been broken; but, we still believed. There were performances like the Rock's on almost every show.

Is anyone else looking forward to Wrestlemania? Am I the only ghetto nerd excited to watch Cena and the Rock do the dance? The Rock has to drop the bout to Cena because Dwayne Johnson does not need to win. Nevertheless, the match should be a classic.For my ghetto nerd wrestling compadres, did we simply outgrow professional wrestling? Or has the product changed so much that it in fact left us, those who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s?

Rick Santorum Compares Defeating Barack Obama to Fighting the Nazis in World War 2

When I was about eight or nine years old I decided to cook dinner for my parents. We had a really nice, old school, gas oven. At the time, I had also watched many hours of Julia Child and was deep (or so I thought) into the study of the culinary arts. My palate was ready. I knew that I could make mom and dad a nice meal.

Subsequently, I took some of my allowance money and went to the local butcher. There I spent about thirty or so dollars on ingredients for stuffed peppers. I got the best cuts of ground beef, peppers, spices, and other necessary items. I cooked all day long. I stuffed the peppers generously, used some orange sewing string to secure the pepper tops back on, and cooked them at a high heat in the oven.

I was proud of the result. For thirty dollars--1980s bucks, a not insignificant amount of money at the time--I made a meal that could have been far better prepared for about 5 or so dollars. My mom praised me. My father, who was quite good in the kitchen (as his father was a cook on a tramp steamer), kindly suggested that I needed some breadcrumbs and olive oil to "wet" the dish and bind it together. They ate it. Smiled. And encouraged me to keep trying. In reality, my dinner was horrible. My parents really loved me: they ate this putrid dinner without complaint.

Rick Santorum's speech to his supporters on Super Tuesday was the equivalent of my childhood effort to cook for my parents. His speech was full of red meat for the Tea Party GOP base; it was comfort food for his public. However, Santorum's feast was gag worthy to those of us with a more refined palate.

Working through the entirety of Rick Santorum's speech (and Romney's was pretty close in its level of offensive rhetoric as well) is unnecessary. In all, Santorum's Super Tuesday address to his supplicants was a ham-fisted job that hit all of the obligatory Culture War talking points: Obama is a usurper; the United States is under siege by the President; "small town," "white" America is the "real America"; the strong wall that is the separation of church and state is fictitious, and the Constitution, the framers, and the United States are divinely inspired. Even allowing for these rhetorical flourishes, Santorum offered one utterance that is particularly worth highlighting:
But the greatest generation was the greatest generation not because they had greater -- greater character or courage or perseverance than those of us today. The greatest generation was great because, when freedom was at stake, they rose to meet the call to defend this country.
We’re at a time in this country when freedom is at stake and you are all blessed, as I am, to be here at a time when your country needs you, to be here at a time, like the original founders of this country, who signed that Declaration of Independence, to be here at a time when freedom was at stake and people were willing to go out and do heroic and courageous things to win that victory.
This passage reveals the deepest sentiments felt by the Tea Party GOP and the reactionary Right in the Age of Obama. The use of the words "courage" and "courageous" are pregnant with meaning. Courage implies risk, harm, the moral and ethical high ground, as well as danger. In this speech, Rick Santorum is signaling that the simple act of handing out fliers, calling potential voters, or canvasing a neighborhood with posters, puts his boosters in existential peril. Normal politics is made a crusade because the Obama administration are thugs.

Moreover, the most risk free political actions--Santorum's supporters are in bed with Power and not resisting it--are elevated to the heights of martyrdom. For outsiders looking in, this premise is absurd; for those who support Santorum, are Tea Party types, or reactionary conservatives, this rhetoric creates community and resonates as a type of common sense. The supporters of the New Right see themselves as the equivalent of sojourners, freedom fighters, and/or as abolitionists freeing slaves. The pundit classes use the language of the "enthusiasm gap" to both summarize and obfuscate a simple idea: Santorum's Christian Nationalist conservative brigands believe that they are on the right side of history; the facts can be damned.

In their eyes, the differences between Left and Right, Democrats and Republicans, are not marginal, coincidental, or negotiable. For Santorum and his folk, defeating Barack Obama is a call to arms, one rooted in the apocalypse, and an eschatological narrative that is heavy with political and existential gravity. Quite simply, Barack Obama is the devil: he must be beaten at any cost.

Santorum's channeling of the "Greatest Generation" is integral to his brand of religion infused conservatism, nostalgia, and Right-wing American Exceptionalism. As seen in movies such as Saving Private Ryan, the notion of the Greatest Generation is a lie based upon its own self-sustaining truth, one that does not have to be subjected to critical inquiry. Many Americans accept the idea of a Greatest Generation just because it is--what "real" American could ever challenge the historical myth of those great veterans who fought the Nazis and made the world safe for democracy?

People like true lies. Why? Because they make them feel good, safe, and comfortable (and isn't feeling good the whole point of politics in an age of spectacle and illusion?)

Some basic facts about World War Two are helpful as we try to reconcile Rick Santorum's appeals with the historical record. Consider the following:
  • World War 2 was a global military conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945 which involved nearly all the nations of the world;
  • World War 2 involved approximately 50-70 million casualties worldwide on both sides of the conflict;
  • The Soviets lost almost 25 million military casualties;
  • The United States lost almost half a million people;
  • About 3 million or so people were killed in the death camps;
  • 300,000 people were killed by the Japanese in Nanking;
  • About 2 million people were killed during the Battle of Stalingrad;
  • Approximately, 185,000 people were incinerated instantly, and/or either died later, from the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Does Rick Santorum really want to suggest that defeating a popularly elected American President is akin to defeating the Axis powers? What leaps of faith are necessary to sustain such a premise? And why does the mainstream media continue to give Rick Santorum and his fellow Republicans a pass for such ill founded and specious rhetoric?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Giving the People What They Want? Of Slut Shaming and What if Rush Limbaugh were Black?

I try to give folks what they want. I also try to respond to the chorus that is public opinion whenever I feel the moment and the timing are right.

As of late, the keywords that have brought folks to We Are Respectable Negroes have been--as always--an entertaining lot.

To those who found themselves here in a roundabout way, I do not know anything about black shag haircuts. I also have no interest in discussing Michelle Obama's booty, or in negro penises and white teachers. However, I am working on an essay about racism and The Walking Dead. I do not know if pimps fall in love. My knowledge of such matters would suggest that a pimp's love is quite different from that of a square or a lame. I do have to admire the grammar of he or she who is searching for "white wife with brown child is a subtle message; she is a black cock slut."

Quite a few folks are also curious about the following counterfactual: what if Rush Limbaugh were black? I have not done a "What if?" in some time. Following my "What if Sarah Palin were Black?" (and Time Wise's epic "What if the Tea Party were Black?") I have demurred. Those events are like the Secret Wars in the Marvel comics, or G.I. Joe's silent issue. They are unique, money to be spent on special gifts.

Times change. So let's float the premise. What if Rush Limbaugh was black? Would the response to his misogyny towards Sandra Fluke be any different? I have a more provocative intervention: What if Rush Limbaugh remained white, but Sandra Fluke was black, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American? Allowing for the impact of sexism on life chances, and the hegemonic nature of patriarchy, Sandra Fluke is still a white woman. She benefits from whiteness; as a white woman Sandra Fluke is also part of a protected class. If you doubt the latter, see people's exhibit number one: Missing White Woman Syndrome.

What do you think? And how would you tweak the scenario?

Monday, March 5, 2012

More than Slut Shaming: Rush Limbaugh and the Crisis in White Conservative Manhood



The 2012 Republican primary season has featured many head-scratching moments. From audiences that cheer the macabre and the cruel, a fratricidal nomination process in which the front runners seem intent on destroying one another, and a collective descent into madness where the most fringe Right wing values such as nativism, conspiratorial Birtherism, old fashioned white racism, and puritanical Christian theocratic identity politics are on full display, it seems that the bizarre has become the new normal.

Since the election of Barack Obama, the Tea Party GOP has embraced a kamikaze-like politics in which they are willing to destroy the proverbial village in order to liberate it. This appetite for destruction has reached a fever pitch during the last few weeks. Rick Santorum and the Republican Party have called for limiting women’s reproductive rights under the guise of defending “religion” from the “tyranny” of the Obama administration. A Federal Judge was caught forwarding an email to his friends suggesting that Barack Obama’s conception was the product of drunken sex between his mother Ann Dunham, and a dog. And Rush Limbaugh launched a viciously misogynistic attack on Sandra Fluke, a private citizen, who dared to testify before Congress in defense of a woman’s right to have equal access to birth control.

On the surface, these incidents appear to be unrelated. They are simply the desperate graspings and mouth utterances of an increasingly fringe and desperate Republican Party which is determined to defeat Barack Obama by any means necessary. However, these events are all symptoms of a bigger problem. In the Age of Obama white manhood—and a particular type of conservative white masculinity—is frightened, unsettled, and terrified of its obsolescence. White (conservative) masculinity finds itself in an existential crisis.

For outsiders looking in, the idea that white manhood is somehow imperiled, would in all likelihood, appear absurd. While non-Hispanic white men are only twenty percent of the American public, they control every major social, political, and economic institution in the United States. In addition (borrowing the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement), “the 1%” are almost exclusively white men. White people have at least twenty times the wealth of people of color: white men possess the overwhelming majority of these resources.

However, from the point of view of embattled white manhood, the situation is very much in doubt. If we reverse our perspective, or “turn the map upside down” as young Marines are trained to do in Officer Candidates School, the sense of crisis being felt by white conservative men is made all the more clear.

The election of Barack Obama has challenged a type of racial self-centeredness and narcissism, what is less precisely known as “white privilege,” which has historically put whiteness--and white men--at the center of all things. The white racial frame assumes white dominance as a given: for many, the symbolic politics of a black man, his wife, and children living in the White House, and doing so with grace and dignity, is simply too much to bear. This reality is an upending of their world, an affront to a very narrow sense of what the “American tradition” is, and what the limits of “common sense” actually are.

White people will no longer be a majority in the United States by the year 2042. China is an ascendant power; the United States is in decline. Women have continued to gain socially, politically, and economically—one is even Secretary of State, and a few heartbeats away from the Presidency. Gays and lesbians are winning their full and equal rights as American citizens. The United States elected its first black president. And ironically, while black folks and other people of color have seen the decimation of their middle class, and levels of unemployment approaching 30 percent or more, it is white people, and white men in particular, who are most pessimistic about their futures and economic security.

At its root, conservatism is ultimately about resistance to social change. When imperiled, conservatism becomes reactionary. In the extreme, conservatism yields to its most base authoritarian impulses. As outlined above, the social and political changes of the civil rights and post-civil rights era are a dagger at the heart of contemporary conservatism--and the electoral coalition that has grounded the Republican Party since the 1960s. The maddening politics on display in the 2012 Republican primary are a response to this reality.

For example, public opinion surveys and experiments by researchers have repeatedly demonstrated a close relationship between the idea of who is “American,” and a belief that “Americans” are “naturally” white. The courts and United States’ immigration policy have reflected this idea, where until the 1950s, a person had to be of “white stock and ancestry” according to the commonsense norms of the “average” white person in order to be eligible for American citizenship. Therefore, if we grant that the national identity of the United States is tied to “white,” “masculine,” confidence and power (see: conservatives’ love of cowboy politics and the “swagger” of men such as George Bush) the rise of China imperils American Exceptionalism as an ideology, one which is inseparably linked to both race and nation.

Citizenship in the United States is gendered—the Constitution had to be amended in order to give women the right to vote. Citizenship is also racialized—Jim and Jane Crow white supremacy were formal systems of racial hierarchy that deemed black Americans as second class citizens, and where any white person, regardless of their mediocrity and low accomplishments, were judged to be better than the most gifted, genius, moral, and brilliant person of color.

Race and gender also intersect. (White) manhood has defined itself by controlling access to women’s bodies. Historically, white manhood has also been validated through efforts to dominate and control the bodies of people of color: in particular, those of African Americans. The American rituals of racialized violence, political exclusion and oppression, discrimination in the labor market, and the violent spectacle of the lynching tree, were/are means through which conservative white masculinity, specifically, and white identity, more generally, were validated.

We cannot forget that power is about more than controlling people’s bodies. Power, is also about dictating the contours of people’s life chances. The retrograde and fringe efforts by Republicans and Christian Nationalists such as Rick Santorum, Rush Limbaugh, and others to deny women their reproductive rights is a direct heir to a type of white manhood (and phallocentric politics), that validates itself through the control of female personhood. The white racial resentment which is the currency of the contemporary Republican Party also draws from this same wellspring.

My claim is not that there is something new about the current crisis in conservative white manhood during the Age of Obama and the Great Recession. For example, during the 1990s, movies such as Falling Down and the rise of “the angry white man” were signals to a sense of upset and malaise in which white men (and white people more generally) were believed to be under assault by immigrants, people of color, gays, lesbians, feminists, and “liberals”--all of who were enabled by an “oppressive” multiculturalism and agenda of political correctness.

More recent films such as Fight Club were efforts to work through the meaning of white manhood in an era of globalization, the rise of the service economy, and the decline of “blue collar” American masculinity. Nixon’s silent majority, and Reagan’s New Right, “working class,” white electoral coalition, were also backlashes against the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement, and a belief that white American masculinity was imperiled

Looking back more broadly, the United States struggled with what it meant to be white, male, and American during the great waves of European immigration and World War One during the early part of the twentieth century. It also worked through changing norms of white manhood as the country transitioned from one that was predominantly rural, to one that was urban, during the same time period. Ultimately, these are old questions that are still with us, and which are reoccurring, resisted, and renegotiated by succeeding generations of white men—as well as women and people of color.

The contemporary Republican Party’s return to the decades-old language of the Culture War is an effort to capture the lie of a past, the myth of the Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet America that never was. This America was one of conservative, white, heterosexual, male dominance. From the point of view of conservatives, the gays, women, the poor, and the minorities knew their place. The long history of resistance and defiance by oppressed and aggrieved populations to this racial and social order is overlooked in favor of a comforting lie that puts whiteness, and white middle class masculinity and manhood, at the center of social reality. In the white conservative imagination these identities were triumphant, safe, and never in doubt or challenged.

When Rick Santorum, Rush Limbaugh and their allies suggest that women should be denied reproductive rights, or that they should put aspirin between their legs in order to avoid pregnancy, white conservative manhood is reaching back to this fictive past. Likewise, when conservatives indulge in Birtherism, or wallow in white racism in order to delegitimize President Obama, they are reaching back to this lie of a dreamworld. To outsiders looking in, the claims by Pat Buchanan and Charles Murray that white civilization is under siege and in decline appear to be some type of agitprop theater, what is silly-talk that no reasonable person ought to take seriously.

However, for a particular type of white conservative the threat is absolutely real. The coarseness of the political rhetoric in the Age of Obama, and the Republican Party’s embrace of the most fringe elements of the Right-wing imagination, is largely driven by a desire to protect conservative white manhood and masculinity at any cost.

For them, American civilization is inseparably and irrevocably tied to whiteness, and a very narrow, “traditional” understanding of what is means to be a “man.” Therefore, by this calculus, the suicide bomber politics of the contemporary Republican Party are not insane—rather, they are the necessary and desperate actions of a people who believe that they are facing demographic suicide. The question then becomes: how far will conservatives go to protect a world in which white men and their sympathetic allies (such as Stockholmesque women like Sarah Palin and her “grizzly mom” brigades) are at the center of all things?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

(Non)Racist Federal Judge Says that "Mutt" Barack Obama's Mother Had Sex With a Dog

"Normally I don't send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.
"A little boy said to his mother; 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?'" the email joke reads. "His mother replied, 'Don't even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'"
And folks wonder why black people don't trust the police and the courts?

The news media have caught the vapors over Chief U.S District Judge Richard Cebull's suggestion that President Barack Obama's now deceased mother was a lustful white woman who was so drunk that she had sex with a dog and conceived the country's first black President. Some have dressed this "joke" up by using the language of "bestiality" to describe the implied sex act, an effort at humor which suggests that intercourse across the colorline is akin to coitus between different animal species. Let's be clear: Cebull found it funny to argue that Ann Dunham was such a drunken wanton slut that she would allow a dog to put his penis inside of her vagina to the point of orgasm, and said canine would ejaculate and conceive President Barack Obama.

Despicable. And let's not make prettier this ugliness in order to make it slightly more palatable.

As I alluded to regarding the high school students who made a Youtube video rant disparaging black people, much of the real action in regards to white supremacy in the colorblind age is in "the backstage." Emails, private jokes, humor, comedy, social media, and the Internet are the primary terrain(s) upon which post-civil rights era white racism is circulated. As one of modernity's greatest inventions, white supremacy is adept at using technology to advance itself--radio, postcards, magazines, film and TV have all been vehicles for teaching, learning, and reinforcing the notion of a racial hierarchy in which whites are dominant and non-whites are naturally subordinate.

The defense, "I was just kidding" is one of the first layers of white victimology and deflection that colorblind racists deploy in the Age of Obama. As an object lesson in this strategy, and the twisted logic that reactionary conservative white supremacists use to run away from their bile--as opposed to owning it (a move that I respect)--Cebull stated the following in defense of his misogynistic attack on Barack Obama's mother:
The judge acknowledged that the content of the email was racist, but said he does not consider himself racist. He said the email was intended to be a private communication."It was not intended by me in any way to become public," Cebull said. "I apologize to anybody who is offended by it, and I can obviously understand why people would be offended."
"The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan," Cebull said. "I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. I sent it out because it's anti-Obama."
Apparently, racism is secondary to political intent. Cebull does not realize that his brand of conservatism is inseparable from white racism. This is not a surprise. As Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul have demonstrated, racist appeals are expected from the Tea Party GOP in the 2012 election cycle, and racism is inseparable from "normal" politics for the reactionary populist Right. Nevertheless, this pattern ought to remain troubling for decent minded and reasonable citizens.

He is in good company. There are many United States Justices and Judges who have openly shared their white supremacist bonafides and disdain for non-whites. For example, my favorite is Justice Taney's decision in the Dredd Scott decision where he observed:
Yet the men who framed this declaration were great men… high in their sense of honor, and incapable of asserting principles inconsistent with those on which they were acting. They perfectly understood the meaning of the language they used, and how it would be understood by others; and they knew that it would not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race, which, by common consent, had been excluded from civilized Governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery.
They spoke and acted according to the then established doctrines and principles, and in the ordinary language of the day, no one misunderstood them. The unhappy black race were separate from white by indelible marks, and laws long before established, and were never thought of or spoken of except as property, and when the claims of the owner or the profit of the trader were supposed to need protection.
A close second is Justice Sutherlan, who in the Thind case established the limits of American citizenship as (almost) uniquely limited to "whites" when he decreed that:
What we now hold is that the words 'free white persons' are words of common speech, to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man, synonymous with the word 'Caucasian' only as that [261 U.S. 204, 215] word is popularly understood. As so understood and used, whatever may be the speculations of the ethnologist, it does not include the body of people to whom the appellee belongs.
It is a matter of familiar observation and knowledge that the physical group characteristics of the Hindus render them readily distinguishable from the various groups of persons in this country commonly recognized as white...It is very far from our thought to suggest the slightest question of racial superiority or inferiority. What we suggest is merely racial difference, and it is of such character and extent that the great body of our people instinctively recognize it and reject the thought of assimilation.
Cebull should either resign or be removed from the Court. Yes, the notion that justice is blind has been exposed as a lie many times before, as race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality have all been empirically demonstrated to be variables that impact decisions of "guilty" or "innocent." But ultimately, following this reveal, Cebull he has no credibility as a neutral arbiter of the law.

Many observers have suggested that Cebull should step down because there is no way that a person of color could come before him and expect equal treatment. My objection is a broader one. White supremacy, as well as racism, prejudice, and bigotry more generally, are part of a larger worldview and cognitive schema. A judge who holds beliefs like Cebull is also quite likely to be a person who has many other parochial, retrograde, and prejudicial views regarding matters of public concern. This reality should give any citizen cause, pause, worry, and concern, before entering his court.

White racism hurts people of color. It also hurts white folks too. We compartmentalize these shortcoming at the risk of hurting the public good. Cebull should step down not because he is a racist; rather, he should resign because he has demonstrated a shocking lack of the wisdom, vision, and forethought worthy of a public servant. Racism is not a narrow problem. It is a general defect of character which suggests that many other deficiencies are bubbling beneath the surface. The sooner we start thinking of white supremacy in those terms, the sooner our society will see it for the evil and social ill that it is.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lest We Forget that Rick Santorum Supporters are Real People Too



It is easy to demonize one's political foes.

Red state and Blue state; political polarization; epistemic closure; the great sort; "real America." These are catch phrases which obscure as much about political reality as they reveal. Ultimately, politics is about people and their choice (or not) to support particular policies, personalities, and goals.

However, I am always mindful of the lie which is false equivalence: while the volume may in fact be turned way up on both sides of the ideological divide, there is no equivalent on the Left or from moderates to the propaganda machine of Fox News and the right wing echo chamber. Moreover, the sophistication of their eliminationist appeals, and ability to create an alternate reality for their believers, is without peer. This is not a criticism. It is an observation and a backhanded complement.

With Rick Santorum's rise and popularity among the Republican base, it has become abundantly clear that emotion--perhaps as it always has--rules over reason for a significant part of the voting public. Given the psychological predispositions of the most ardent culture warrior conservatives, one either "gets" Rick Santorum's appeal, or is left shaking their heads in disbelief. This is as much a function of how conservative's brains are hardwired, as it is political socialization, and the sources which Republicans trust to give them cues about political decision-making.

In all, politics is about real people--and their foibles, confusion, passion, and personal, local understandings of social reality. On occasion, the "public" speaks back. The Youtube promo by Right Wing Rants in defense of Rick Santorum, and my observations about the latter's race baiting, Christian Nationalism, and hatred of black liberation theology is a great object lesson in the power of the Right-wing media echo chamber.

There is a good amount of sincerity in these two three videos which makes them all the more troubling. Like many voters, Right Wing Rants does not simply accept the talking points from Fox News and their fellow propagandists. As researchers such as John Zaller and others have pointed out, for a political appeal or cue to be truly effective it has to be reconciled and integrated with preexisting beliefs. Pundits and analysts often overlook this fact in their efforts to make sense of the populist conservative political imagination.



The Right-wing media is persuasive because they offer a worldview, an alternate set of facts, and an emotionally compelling narrative which speaks directly to their public. In short, conservative spin doctors have figured out how to sell their ideology as a faith and a lifestyle where the proclamations, edicts, and conclusions are self-evident. This is especially appealing for low information voters.

There is no cognitive dissonance for the true believer: the facts are shaped by the conclusions and the ideological priors. The Left is still mired in a politics which attempts to speak to the head and not to the heart. And for that reason, among others, conservatives have been able to move the country rightward, and the Democratic Party has willing aided and abetted the shift.

All of the Right-wing talking points on race, Obama, white victimology, a skewed reading of political history, and disingenuous colorblind conservative politics are present here. Fascinating and eerie. Once more, politics is about "real people." We forget that fact at our peril. This is the face of the loyal opposition; he may be one voice in the wilderness, but he is not alone...and he will be voting on election day.

Literary Giant Walter Mosley Supports "Space Coon" President Barack Obama



An anticlimactic Oscars; a leap year anticlimactic Black History Month. As they say, if you live long enough you will see just about everything happen...at least once.

Recycling is good. Watching the above interview reminded me of one of my favorite posts here on We Are Respectable Negroes where I tried to reconcile Barack Obama with the science fiction imagination, and the idea that he is a "space coon." He ought not to exist; yet he does. Aliens may not have landed in Washington D.C. (or Beijing given how things are going), but for so many Americans of a particular conservative political stripe, an African American president is the functional equivalent.

On a related note, I have been invited to speak at the Worldcon Science Fiction convention here in Chicago. I may or may not attend--on principle I reject the requirement of some conferences for presenters to pay an exorbitant fee in order to give a talk. My reasoning has always been that I am giving a chat or a paper. Why can't you give a brother a discount or a pass? Either way, I am flattered to be on the invite list. Who knows? I may pass the begging bowl around We Are Respectable Negroes. If each visitor gives 10 cents I should get there in short order.

Moving forward, Walter Mosley is a national treasure. He drops some real knowledge in this interview on Democracy Now, and it is worth viewing in its entirety. Mosley is also a great supporter of Barack Obama. To be honest, that fact surprised me. Speculative fiction is driven by radical critique. However, Mosley is also part of a generation which never could have imagined that a man who happens to be black would be President of the United States of America. Therefore, I can understand Walter Mosley's Left realpolitik mixed with love, some of it tough, for Barack Obama.

What is your take on Brother Mosley's support of Barack Obama? Surprising? Disappointing? And for those of you who are fans, which of Walter Mosley's many works is your favorite?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Indifference to Ranting White Teens Online: I Take White Racism to Be a Standing Rule and Not an Aberration



"If it bleeds it leads" is both an observation and a rubric for those who work in the traditional news media. Ultimately, bad news is good news because it ensures that viewers and readers get hooked by the first story of wanton disaster, rape, suffering, or human loss, and stay tuned in for the remainder of the show. Those who write about race online, and especially on blogs (or other types of social media), are often governed by a similar rule: talk about racism, practice some variety of "racism chasing," or search out the newest instance of racial injustice or grievance and the readers and the "hits" will come.

The Internet is a big place. I therefore do not begrudge others their proclivities and/or interests--as long as they allow me the same latitude. Writing online is a game of sorts. You can go for the link bait, be sensationalistic in order to help a post go viral, or parrot what you see and read elsewhere in order to be assured of getting at least some residual traffic. In all, I always try to be myself and to follow my own interests. Consequently, some stories just don't move me.

For example, I have little to no interest in the litany of "stuff [insert random group of fools say online] videos." I just don't. I also do not comment on the New Age race minstrelsy of shows like the Basketball Housewives of Atlanta and other such hot garbage. Once more, there is no accounting for taste. However, there are quite a few folks whose work I do find of interest that are compelled to comment on what appears to be a never ending trickle of (white) people behaving badly videos. This has forced a moment of critical self-reflection as I have come to ask myself, "why do I not find these performances--and yes they are performances--at all compelling?"

My answer to this question is one rooted in cynicism. I take white racism to be a norm and not an aberration. Of course, the United States has undergone a radical transformation from a regime of de facto white supremacy to one where there is a black President, and an increasingly diverse middle and upper class. Since the end of World War 2 and the beginning of the Cold War, American elites have worked at moving social norms away from white supremacy (as it did not serve the country's national interests in the struggle against the Soviet Union). This does not mean that the hearts and minds of white folks (and others) in mass were radically transformed.

As sociologists like Omi and Winant have observed, race and racism are trans-historical concepts which are evolving, changing, and adaptive. If racism and racial ideologies were static, they would not continue to over-determine life chances to the advantage of whites, and to the disadvantage of people of color. And just because the expression of white supremacy is now couched in the rhetoric of "colorblindness" and "post-racial" America, does not mean that it no longer exerts power in the service of the racial state and white Power.

The Racist White Teens Go on a Rant video is instructive. It is a rich example of the dual concepts of frontstage and backstage racism wherein whites as a group have learned to perform a public script of tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism, while keeping their real feelings safe and secure in private. Moreover, the video reinforces Eduardo Bonilla-Silva's observations that one of the ways that white supremacy is reproduced, and its lessons learned and taught from one generation to the next, is through humor and joke telling. I would include online rants and Youtube promos in this same genre and family of performance.

The refrain of "we were just kidding," is a common denial and defense mechanism for white racists in the post civil rights era. It is also a skillful deflection. Instead of being forced to confront their own moral defect of white supremacy, the onus is now put on those who are offended by these displays of racism: the objectors are now "too sensitive," "too politically correct," or denying white folks their "freedom of speech."

Whiteness is skilled (usually, but with some exceptions) at being polite in "mixed" company. Whiteness is also honest and open with its racism around those assumed to be of the same race or ethnicity, or like minded politically. The Internet has broken down these barriers of private and public. The white bigotry on display in the Racist White Teens Go on a Rant video happens everyday in this country. It is a common script.

There is a decades-long resource called the General Social Survey which is of great help in explaining my relative indifference to the Racist White Teens Go on a Rant video. Emotions matter. However, I am also an empiricist. As such, the General Social Survey is a powerful barometer of how American racial attitudes have changed from the civil rights era up to the present. White beliefs in "biological" or "natural" black inferiority have diminished significantly over the last several decades. There have also been positive increases in a general sense of social and racial egalitarianism, as well as a rejection of de jure racism in employment, housing, and politics.

However, blacks and whites still live hold radically different perceptions of how close America is to achieving racial equality. For example, in keeping with the theoretical framework known as symbolic racism, significant numbers of whites still believe that African Americans are perennial complainers, could "achieve" if they wanted too (just like white ethnic immigrants), and that institutional racism is a thing of the past.

Of particular relevance to understanding the persistence of day to day white racism (in the frontstage and the backstage) as evidenced in both the the Racist White Teens Go on a Rant video, and Tea Party GOP's pathological hostility to Barack Obama, is a sense of social distance from, a lack of concern about, and a paucity of shared empathy with African Americans. In short, racially resentful whites do not believe that black people are "real Americans." The latter are somehow on the periphery of the American story as understood by a significant percentage of the white American public.

When the data from the General Social Survey is combined with other findings, the story becomes even more damning and complicated.

Conservatism as a political personality type has been repeatedly linked with authoritarianism. There is now strong evidence that conservatism is linked to racism and low IQ. The popular and much discussed Implicit Association Test has reinforced the power of internalized white supremacy on individuals' decision-making.

As a complement, psychologists have found that whites who subconsciously identify black people with monkey and ape imagery are significantly more likely to support the death penalty for African Americans. And coming full circle, public opinion research on white racial attitudes in the years following the election of Barack Obama suggests a sense that many whites now feel "oppressed" by blacks, that anti-white racism is a great social ill, and that white people are somehow disadvantaged in what they see as a "zero-sum" game of racial progress.

The Racist White Teens Go on a Rant video is a typical story. Whites in the Age of Obama may like individual blacks, but not Black People. White folks have historically loved black culture, but they have possessed a deep disdain for black humanity. The teenagers making racist jokes and rants about African Americans in the above video most certainly have "black friends." Provocatively, I would not be surprised if they emphatically support President Barack Obama.

My what a mess this race-making and racism-undoing business is.

For years, the General Social Survey has contained a wonderfully appropriate question, one which I suggest is an especially accurate and valid measurement of racial progress in the post civil rights era. It asked respondents, "how many friends of another race do they have?" The followup question then asks if they had this person over the house for dinner. Predictably, there was a huge gap between the first question and the second.

My instinct would be that the post-racial generation, as embodied by those two young women featured in the Racist White Teens Go on a Rant video, would answer "yes" to the first question at significantly higher rates than their parents. They would likely expand it to include their "friends" on Facebook. But the second question, the real giveaway, would likely not be too much different. Many post racial, post civil rights white folks love to claim people of color as friends. But, how many of these white folks have had black and brown folks over for dinner? And as I like to ask--and what I take to be a true measure of intimacy--how many of those same white folks have let their friends who happen to be people of color use the bathroom?

You may not be able to add that question to the General Social Survey. But, you can use it as a personal litmus test for friendship, the ties that bind, and the denseness of social ties.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Joyful Hating on The Help's Oscar "Success": At Least I Made the White Lady Eat Doo-Doo



The Oscars were a bit lifeless. We had a good opening montage, some bad audio (am I the only person who heard the feedback that sounded like a cell phone ringtone?), a failed effort by Robert Downey Jr. to break the fourth wall, and lots of Hollywood navel gazing and self-congratulatory rhetoric. At least the public was treated to a performance by the amazing Cirque du Soleil.

The politics of black respectability and representation in relationship to
The Help have been the subject of much discussion. Ultimately, the dialogue has boiled down to one tried, true, and still unresolved question which black cultural workers have had to struggle with for more than a century: what to do about the white gaze? Are there roles that self-respecting black actors ought not to take because they validate white racism, and are too close to such perennial stereotypes as the mammy, buck, Sapphire or coon?

People need to eat, so I will not judge actors who take roles that I find distasteful. Ironically, black Americans are in some ways far removed from the era of Mantan Moreland and Hattie McDaniel. In other ways, those archetypes still hang over black cultural production. In all, perhaps we have reached a moment when there is not an overriding sense of linked fate, and where black folks are not obligated to support African-American cultural workers out of a shared ethic of race pride or belief in a common destiny?

To point, I engaged in a little radical autonomy last evening as I booed any mention of The Help and actively cheered against Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Ultimately, white folks got their cathartic moment as the latter won an Oscar for best supporting actress. But, Meryl Streep's Iron Lady put The Help to sleep. I will be happy with small victories.

The child actors in the Kids Reenact the Oscar Nominees got it pitch perfect. Those white folks who love The Help get to embrace a racism sanitized story that is validating and ego gratifying in the service of the white racial frame. In contrast, African Americans get to make a white person eat doo-doo in a movie. Sad indeed is the state of the Black Freedom Struggle in relationship to the arts in the year 2012. Paul Robeson would be proud...yeah right.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brother X-Squared, Black Militant Freedom Fighter, Predicts the 2012 Oscars

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) is proud to bring you the latest installment in our recurring series of interviews with Brother X-Squared, president of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party.

As long time followers of WARNNN already know, Brother X-Squared is a potent activist, black futurist, and visionary thinker. He is also a noted cultural critic in the greatest tradition of African American commentary and letters. It has been many months since our last interview, during which Brother X-Squared revealed his role in the Herman Cain saga, pontificated on the fall of Barack Obama, and made a set of presciently accurate predictions about the Tea Party GOP and the 2012 presidential elections.

In this interview, Brother X-Squared has returned to share his thoughts on this evening's Academy Awards, as well as his unique wisdom on all things political and social, with the readers of We Are Respectable Negroes.

WARNNN: Hello, it has been many months since our last chat. I have tried to phone you, email, and text you, but to no avail. Last time we had an awkward conversation about your role in the Herman Cain brouhaha, and your feelings about my progress as one of your disciples of a sort. Where have you been? Are things okay?

Brother X-Squared: I operate according to my own timetable and not yours. While it has been months to you--and I hear the yearning in your voice for more of my wisdom and knowledge--it has only been the equivalent of hours for me. You use the white man's clock, his calendar, what those evil Caesars and Popes call the "Julian Calendar"--which is actually a way of coordinating their wicked orgies and praying at the sick cult of European barbarism and pagan religion. I depart for a few moments and you have already had your mental mindstate weakened. You have always been mentally flaccid like all of these other lost negroes in America. But, after the instruction I gave you last time, I would have expected that you would show more steel in your thinking.

WARNNN: Pardon me. I greeted you with warmth and kindness. What have I done now? Please explain.

Brother X-Squared: Even in your words you recycle the white man's wickedness. You used the phrase "brouhaha." Break down the origins! Brewing and devil. He who laughs at black people's suffering! Brewing up evil in a cauldron like the natural witches they are!

"Okay." Another evil word used by the twisted forked tongue of the white man. That word is derived from his secret code language called Pig Latin! It was also the language of those filthy Eastern European immigrants who came to America and became "white" by putting their foot on the neck of the proud black man!

These are elementary errors you have committed Brother Chauncey. And while you may be my brother, even though you are confused and your melanin has become drained and weak by cavorting with the white man's civilization and women, I love you as I do all Nubians--even those confused and lost like you. But you are not my disciple. I grant that title. You have not earned it.

WARNNN: Okay then. Where have you been? Are you worried about the 2012 presidential election. The Republicans are in disarray and are showing the true depths of their nativism and xenophobia. In fact, Rick Santorum said that black people were parasites and...

Brother X-Squared: It is clear that you have taken five steps back in my absence. I have no worries. This is all as I have predicted. I was traveling this country. I went to hellish lost cities like Detroit and Flint, Michigan where I have been establishing new chapters of the Renewed Black Panther Party. I also went to Chicago in order to understand the type of weak negroes who would set up that halfrican Barack Obama, a man whose melanin is tainted and diluted by his white mother, as their anointed leader. Sick. Disgusting. I have never been so entertained as when those sad black women visited the White House and fell out of wheelchairs to touch the hem of Michelle Obama's dress as though it was magical.

Rick Santorum was right! The black man in America is a parasite. What has he built? What communities has he created? You sit there begging for scraps from the white man! You are angry because Santorum and Romney and those other foul beasts are telling you the truth about the sorry state of black manhood in America. It hurts doesn't it!

WARNNN: Do you really want to say that Santorum is right? That black people, the children of the Civil Rights Movement, are parasites? Come now, you are being provocative.

Brother X-Squared: My existence as a strong Nubian warrior whose mind state is strong and who asks the white man for nothing is provocative by virtue of its existence. You need to do more reading as the white man tells you the truth even when he lies. There is one devil called Nietzsche--a white fascist who hated black people--who wrote all about these topics and called it ontology. I respect Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. They tell the lost negro to his face what they think of him.

In fact, they are both white supremacists. In my journeys I have uncovered many truths about them. Santorum believes in the Curse of Ham. He thinks that you weak negroes are natural slaves. Mitt Romney is a member of the Illuminati and a Mormon. According to his religion, the black man is a slave in this life and in heaven. Newt Gingrich wants to put you in the fields to learn about the value of hard work by mopping floors and picking cotton! This is glorious!

WARNNN: Please elaborate. I am very confused.

Brother X-Squared: Confusion is a natural state for the black man in America. I am natural melanin reactor. My bronzed and shea butter covered skin amplifies light and converts it into energy which explains why I do not need to sleep and why you spend your time in slumber! Perpetual slaves to the approval of the white man. As I told you years ago, the white man would put a black man up as his pawn. This would be his opportunity to say that white supremacy is dead and also that the white man is oppressed. Elevated Nubians understand this. We call it a dualism or paradox. The paradox of white supremacy is that the white man remains always in charge even as he claims victimhood.

Now, the Republicans can tell you what they really think without apology. And you sit back playing the con game of choose your poison by being in bed with that Obama, who right now is the biggest imperialist on Earth killing black and brown people all over the world and locking up his enemies in secret prisons! I smile and laugh as this country is becoming like that great comedy Mad Max with all of those befouled white people living in filth, or that other very funny movie Robocop.

That last movie is profound. There is a concept called neoliberalism that you should also learn about. A smart white man named David Harvey explained all this years and years ago. I study the white man's wisdom so that I can outmaneuver it. The fall is coming. If you thought those pathetic negroes during Hurricane Katrina were something, you are not at all prepared for what is coming very, very soon. I await it with open arms. From the ashes, Brother X-Squared and the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party will rise to create order from chaos.

WARNNN: We missed you. Truly. Since you brought up the subject of movies. Are you ready for the Oscars? I know you are an enthusiastic movie goer. What are your predictions?

Brother X-Squared: There are levels and levels of evil in this year's Oscars. I have forbidden the members of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party to see many of these movies, and have decided that my children and wives will also not be permitted to watch the Oscars. The white man has marshaled such an assault on black people that this is the equivalent of the gatling gun being used on our honorable brave heroic Zulus by those sick British in Africa. The white man has made a time machine and is showing you all what the future holds for black people! The past is the present!

WARNNN: Do you mean that movie The Help, and how it mocks black people's history, while recuperating white people and Jim Crow?

Brother X-Squared: I see. Some of the scars I have left on your mental mindstate have flowered and produced a little bit of knowledge. As a child you comprehend only one part of the puzzle. But because you are a child you do not see the many dimensions of his wickedness. The Help is a sick white movie. White people love to be saviors in their movies.

Even films that look harmless like those hellish Lethal Weapon movies are all about humiliating and demeaning the strong black man. You lost negroes in America who have not found wisdom like Brother X-Squared even participate in your own debasement by acting in such white propaganda films. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are to be ashamed.

They are no models of righteous black womanhood. No true queen would ever appear in such a
film. Even some of your colleagues had the courage to call out that sick white fantasy movie The Help. This is the 1920s and 1940s all over again! In the 1940s, white Hollywood gave that old mammy Hattie McDaniel an Oscar for playing the loyal black pet to that white she devil Scarlett O'Hara in that horrible movie Gone with the Wind.

The 1920s gave you the most evil movie ever made, Birth of a Nation! The white man wrote history with lightning as that evil KKK member President Wilson famously said about that movie with its shucking and jiving black man-ape rapist characters..

WARNNN: I don't see the connection. I get the allusion to the perennial role of maids and servants for African-Americans which white Hollywood is deeply attached to. But Birth of a Nation? Really, I don't see it.

Brother X-Squared: You never will. The other movie the white cultural elites are in love with is called The Artist! It is a silent movie in black and white! The white man loves the past! He loves a time when weak negroes like you knew their place! I see his evil for what it is. The only thing "artistic" about these movies is how they are so good at assaulting the mindstate of lost Nubians. In the year 2012, you have mammy movies and black and white movies that harken back to Birth of a Nation.


There is other evil which is too subtle for simple travelers and journeyman Nubians to see and comprehend. Do not overlook that movie called Tree of Life! What is the tree for the white man? It is a lynching tree! He lynches you right in public. There is another time travel movie called Midnight in Paris by that sex deviant Woody Allen which is going to win too! The white man again shows you how he is going to bring you to the past and make it real in the present!

And the ultimate example of the white man's deviousness--and I so love him for it--is that movie called The Descendants. What is the white man a descendant of, and what are his descendants for now and all time? They are descendants of wickedness. And how did he mark the black man as a slave, by the one-drop rule! A descendance of blood and bondage!

WARNNN: What are your actual predictions? You have clearly thought much about this topic. Divine the white man's wisdom if you would.

Brother X-Squared: Don't mock me. There is nothing divine about the white man or his so-called wisdom. I have seen all of these films. I do not pay the white man money. One of my brothers lets me into the white man's indoctrination centers for free: there are allies to my cause everywhere. Some of my allies are even white! I also bring my own air popped popcorn that I season with sea salt, saffron oil, and peanut essence. I give the white man nothing. I take everything from him that I desire.

The Artist will win best picture. Although that Hugo movie about that pedophile white man and his sex robot are a close pick. The white man, this Oscar that you call him, is self-important. He will not let any chance to humiliate black people escape him. However, the white man cannot escape his own perverse predilections. Hugo will win for best director.

The critics are all over that Jean Dujardin in that Artist movie. They say he is charming. That is how the white man deceives you, though charm and guile. But, they also love that George Clooney. I could care less. The white man is habitual in his evil, he will continue to follow through with The Artist. Likewise for that man who plays all of the Nazi characters. That homosexual acting Christopher Plummer will also win best supporting actor.

WARNNN: Okay, what about the categories which The Help is nominated for, best actress and supporting actress. Are Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer guaranteed to win?

Brother X-Squared: Does a cockroach sit up on its back legs and play a fiddle while the overseer counts heads the night before Christmas on the plantation?

WARNNN: Huh?

Brother X-Squared: You still have not studied your own African folk tales and wisdom. As that white anthropologist Herskovits proved, our Africanisms live eternal, and you can't even harness their power. Pathetic. The answer is yes! An emphatic yes! And those two handkerchief heads will give some tear filled speech that will wash away all centuries of white bigotry, rape, violence, and hostility towards proud Nubian warriors and queens in this country. Please! What an absurdity! But, the fiction will continue. You will see!

WARNNN: Are there any other nominees of note that you would like to comment upon? And have you seen any movies that you would like to recommend?

Brother X-Squared: Midnight in Paris by that sick white man who married his own Asian daughter will of course win. It is written by a race-mixing incestuous pedophile and features a white man traveling around Paris through the use of some type of magic. Typical white tricknology. I wish the white men in that movie had gone to Algeria during that time. Maybe they would not have come back! Now that would be a great movie! That Planet of the Apes will win for its computer generated monkey foolishness. They took a profound movie about powerful black men making the white man into slaves and ruined it.

Now, that technology will be used to uplift the white man by allowing him to project his sexual insecurities onto the screen all over the world. There will be more sick zoophilia movies from Hollywood. Between that sick white fantasy Avatar movie, and the white man's Planet of the Apes, my mental calluses will have to be strengthened so that I can stand strong against the onslaught--weak negroes like yourself do not have the power and will be seduced into debauchery.

WARNNN: Lord. You pour a gallon's worth of knowledge into a cup Brother X-Squared. I am overwhelmed. No current favorites?

Brother X-Squared: Yes, see the movie Rampart. It is about those corrupt white cops in Los Angeles and stars that white man Woody Harrelson. He is one of my favorites. As he had gotten older he has chosen roles which show the true evil of the white man and his culture. The movie is very funny. There are levels upon levels of white thievery, corruption, and wickedness on display. It even features a depraved toe sucking scene, where the Woody Harrelson character sucks on a black woman's feet! Priceless. Rampart also has all types of white sex deviance on display. It is an accomplishment of the first order.

WARNNN: Thank you as always. Will we be hearing from you again? Perhaps more frequently than as of late?

Brother X-Squared: I come and go as I please. If the people request me I shall return. I have much work to do as I prepare for the inevitable fall of this weakened two legged stool of an empire you call America. Be safe Brother Chauncey. My teachings can protect you.