Friday, March 16, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Featured Reader Comment: Just What Do We Know About Young People's Attitudes About Race and Politics?
I do think middle school, high school, college kids think about race (to the extent they think about it at all) differently than someone my age, your age, or generations before did, but if you engage them I just can’t believe that they’d say race doesn’t matter. I also can’t buy that kids are tapped into any idea of the “market” and its “invisible hand.” I might be willing to concede that market speak is so pervasive that maybe they’re taking it in from the ether, but I would expect that more from young white kids with “conservative” parents (yes I’m stereotyping a bit) than young POC.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
But members of UC Berkeley's Black Student Union said the overall message was inspiring.
"What I got out of it was how we as black students can take our education and utilize it to build the black community back up," said Stephan Montouth. "We're looking at the minister's statements in terms of how to empower the black community not all of the other controversial things that he may have said in the past."
Pity those black and brown students who opted out--they would be written off, disappeared in the minds of those who fashioned themselves more "radical." We had little use for free riders. I was also fond of telling such cast offs of their untouchable status directly to their faces.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Critical Pedagogy: "White" Scholars Who Work on "The Race Issue"--Interviews with Tim Wise and Leon Litwak
We all work from a particular set of life experiences and social locations. Even for empiricists who ostensibly believe in positivism, the personal does find its way into one's research, scholarship, and writing. For my buck, it is better to know such things beforehand as they are a value added that appears between the lines of a given text, offering context, color, and influencing a text's unstated assumptions.
To point, Tim Wise is a friend of WARN. Whenever I get a chance to shill for one of his essays (the newest on Derrick Bell and Obama is great by the way) I do so. He is also a great speaker, one who is generous and patient with his audience and hosts. The above interview offers a narrative for his life's work, views on social justice, and shares some great insights on critical pedagogy.
Monday, March 12, 2012
What Kennedy wrote of Matsuda was equally true of Bell: By claiming that being a member of a minority group automatically connotes a certain and superior worldview, he argued, she “stereotypes scholars.” The CLS racialism simply inverted pernicious white stereotypes about black people: Instead of being inherently inferior, they were inherently superior.
As befit his racialist ideology, Bell was also a consummate race-card player. His academic career consisted of a long series of racial confrontations with the institutions he worked for. After being hired as an avowed racial token at Harvard, Bell left for Oregon, where he became the first black dean of a non-black school. But he resigned his deanship when the faculty voted against giving tenure to an Asian woman. He then went to Stanford, where a bizarre incident unfolded. Many of the students in his constitutional law course complained about his teaching, saying it was disorganized and excessively politicized.
At the same time, Obama was not a racial bomb-thrower. As Sugrue notes, Obama’s racial views were not yet fully formed, but Obama never subscribed to Bell’s crude racial essentialism and guilt-card playing. If he had been forced to openly state whether he agreed with Bell’s racialist theories, he would have been caught in a bind, trapped between the racial solidarity that was expected of him and the universalism he was inwardly inclined toward. But he was not forced to.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Derrick Bell Fallout (Continued): Fighting for the Full and Equal Rights of Black People is Most Certainly Anti-White Racism
Saturday, March 10, 2012
The conspiranoid thinking of the Tea Party GOP with its Birtherism, Obama derangement syndrome, and other assorted pathologies, is the rank afterbirth of conservatism during the moment that is late capitalism. This madness leads to a propensity to believe in the absurd. For example, the Tea Party GOP Right-wing media's most recent effort to slander President Barack Obama.
For the faux populist Right, and folks such as Rick Santorum and his allies, "higher education" is a refuge of the commies, homos, queers, drug users, elitists, coloreds, hippies, secularists, liberals, and their assorted ilk. Consequently, how can any patriotic God fearing American not oppose such a wicked cabal?
I smile at this hostility because it grossly exaggerates the power that academics and others have to influence their students, and society as a whole. After watching Fox News or reading World Net Daily, I am made to feel like a member of The Legion of Doom, as opposed to a struggling lecturer. My power is presented as being outsized; rather than that of he who only has power over office supplies, notepads, pins, and yellow Post-It notes. I wish that critical and engaged scholars could change the lives of students in mass. Sadly, that the reach is far shorter than what most imagine it to be.
At this juncture, I am left wondering is the hostility of conservatives to those who teach for a living a function of a base, centuries old, anti-intellectualism? Some type of misplaced class snobbery? Do they hate Obama primary because he is black? Or could it be that many conservatives hate President Obama because he is an educated black man? And this fact terrifies them? Are the Culture Wars just a carry over from a group of people who lost the Enlightenment and now want to burn witches and kill heretics in the year 2012?
This same public will consistently work against its own class interests in service of advancing a culture war, "values," narrative. They are moved by emotion, and the Manichean politics of the New Right and the Tea Party crowd, precisely because populist conservatism deemphasizes reasoned decision-making and instead emphasizes emotion, religion, and crude identity politics.
Ironically, Breitbart, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the assorted Right wing propagandists, while skilled in offering up a type of political rhetoric for those who "want to feel smart," actually encourage glibness and stupidity. Even more funny and unexpected, the very figures they attack are some of the best thinkers which America has to offer. In all, the enemies list of the New Right is the foundation of a solid syllabus for any person who wants to think critically, and in doing so, to ask difficult questions about power, institutions, and politics. Ultimately, (and excluding the dead Austrian economist that Glenn Beck masturbates over) New Right, anti-Obama conservatives, are putting on blast some of those very people whose theories have the capacity to undo their agenda.
In keeping with this theme, who do you think should be added to the troglodyte Right's list of verboten thought?
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
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.
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.
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.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
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."
Monday, March 5, 2012
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.
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.
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
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
"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!'"
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
It is easy to demonize one's political foes.
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.