Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Let's Make a List: "Goons vs. Coons" and What Could Trayvon Martin Have Done Differently in Order to Still be Alive?

I told you that the black racial apologist parade for George Zimmerman would be in full force. As someone else suggested online, perhaps George Zimmerman called his "best black friend" Joe Oliver a "coon" so many times that the latter began to confuse said word with "goon" (or alternatively that there are local versions of racial slurs that are in fact "complements").

Racial Stockholm Syndrome is real. Joe Oliver and other black accomplices/apologists for anti-black racial violence such as Larry Elder are object lessons in the phenomenon.

In the near future, there are going to be many monographs and edited volumes written about the Trayvon Martin tragedy. I have one or two more posts on the subject to offer in the next few days. So much remains to be said as this event is so personal, for so many of us, on both sides of the colorline.

During Jim and Jane Crow there was an informal pamphlet called The Negro Motorist Green Book which offered guidance, advice, lodging suggestions, and other information for African Americans traveling throughout the perilous South.

Playing off of that idea, what deliverables would you take away from the murder of Trayvon Martin and the spectacle that has come to pass during the last week or so? If you had to crystallize this down into a pamphlet, book, or set of talking points for young black and brown boys (and girls) what would you include?

This could be both cathartic and therapeutic; crowd sourcing is a very reliable means of coming to consensus, learning new information, as well as generating useful and insightful ideas.

Here are a few of my suggestions for the hypothetical and imagined Green Book for Black Men and Boys Walking in Gated Communities Policed by White Vigilantes:

1. As a black male realize that you are guilty until proven innocent. Normal standards of jurisprudence, common sense, and fair play do not apply to you.

2. People of color should be deferent, "respectful," and submissive when confronted by "authority figures." Shut your mouth, answer their questions, and do as you are told. The lessons your grandparents learned still apply in post civil rights, post racial, Age of Obama America. For black folks confronted by White authority the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are very much contingent.

3. You will have friends heretofore unknown; you will have enemies expected; you will have new found enemies and detractors among people who you would have previously thought would have a natural sense of linked fate with you. The takeaway? Remember, every brother ain't a brother, and every sister ain't a sister.

4. The right of self-defense applies to just about every group of citizens in America but you. You are existentially vulnerable under all circumstances to white authority (and those who identify with it). If a young white man defends his life and personhood he is a hero to be valorized. If a young black man defends his life and personhood he is a thug, threat, hoodlum, and a priori a criminal. This last bit of advice is critical: remember, your criminality is automatically assumed by the White gaze. There is little if anything you can do to disprove this assumption.

What would you add to the list?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fun with Hate Mail: "It Seems that 'Anger Problems' are Epidemic in the Black Race and Community. But I Forgot, its the White Man's Fault"

The Trayvon Martin situation just gets worst and worst. Apparently, a self-interested vigilante has concocted a self-serving story that his self-interested and corrupt allies in the police are more than interested in disseminating as truth. The conservative media and other colorblind racists conveniently lap it up like god's word from on high. This saga has all of the makings of an American saga. If Orson Welles were alive today he would have great material for a pathos rich and melodramatic tale about the murder of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman.

Shameless self-promotion. I was fortunate enough to have an Oped appear in the Sunday edition of the NY Daily News. It got a few online comments (a decent number by the News' standards) and was included in the print run as well.

The controversy over Trayvon Martin's murder, and what is really a cut and dry case of premeditated murder against an unarmed black person--an act assumed to be "just" and "appropriate" because our personhood is forever suspect and vulnerable relative to white authority--has brought out the mouth-breathing, white, racial reactionary crowd in droves.

The public sphere is so much fun. To point, I received a fun email that is rich with possibilities for armchair psychologizing and critical analysis.

Here is your opposition, the "polite" racists who are "legitimately" concerned for the health of the black community. These people are real: they are your relatives, neighbors, and friends.

What follows provides some insight into their cognitive processes. Be forewarned.


Mr DeVega, I read your piece on racism in America this morning in the Daily News. The story is once again the "saga of the black man who gets no respect." I do not have to remind you who leads the country in murders, rapes, and robberies. Maybe its the white mans fault. Maybe we whisper in their ears to commit these heinous crimes. Oh yes, these crimes are usually committed to their own people. Make sense of that. I am a death penalty advocate, but lets face it, we already have the death penalty in all states of America. Blacks killing blacks.

By the way, I am a Spirit-filled born-again Christian who was born in the Newark, New Jersey projects in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. I have never committed a crime, but have been a victim of a crime by guess who? I am in college for my MBA degree, so I am not some idiot who usually comments to newspaper controversial articles. My stepfather who was a wonderful black man, bought my family and I a house in Irvington in the seventies. I loved him very much. So this isn't a racist white man who is criticizing the black race.

This is a man who is tired of hearing and reading about black authors, and black advocates crying about injustice when they stand to be in today's society the most violent race in the country. How many illegitimate children are in our country without their birth fathers? I believe Bill Cosby toured the country wanting to know that question. I recently watched the Al Sharpton talk show which he had a black author who wrote the book, "Black man and their guns," or something similar to the title. He was debating with Sharpton and black female guest about why black youth today have guns, and why they use them in a violent manner. Al and the woman told the author that it was the white man's fault that the black youth had guns.

The author said that they did not have to purchase these guns and did not have to commit acts of violence with them. Al and his friend kept their heads in the sand throughout the program. I am still waiting for a newspaper article, and a protest by black speakers telling their people to put the guns down and stop killing and raping each other.

This problem has spilled over into the sports arena. You know when someone mentions that he or she lives in a bad area, what race comes up first? Oh thats right, they don't recieve the same education that the white youth receives. When I was going to school in Newark, blacks, hispanics and whites were receiving the same education. Unfortunately most of the black and hispanic students were concerned about who they could bully, steal money, and harass teachers.

If Martin Luther King was alive today, maybe he would be the black hope for all black youth and people. Because so far, all the black speakers continue to complain and whine about injustice. Maybe Mr. DeVega, the next article you write should be to advocate for the survival of the black race, because as I have previously stated, "they are killing each other." I just had a thought.

When I was a young boy, I found a kitten and brought it up to our apartment to take care of it. We kept the kitten overnight but it was ill, so my stepfather and mother let the kitten go (an ignorant and cruel act). I don't know why to this day they did not bring it to a shelter. Anyway, I found the kitten half buried in the ground out by the apartments, and a couple of black kids were laughing over its grave.

I also remember going to the park with my black friend and suddenly he started beating me up. After the beating, I asked him why he attacked me, he said, he did not know why. My wife and I were married by a two black pastors who were friends of my wife. One evening the black pastor (I forgot his name) said the one problem he continues to have in his life is anger problems. It seems to be an epidemic in the black race and community. But I forgot, its the white man's fault.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Let's Be Honest, George Zimmerman Killed Trayvon Martin Because Black People are Scary

My black people. It's been a while since we have chatted about the invisible knapsack of black privilege in the Age of Obama. Tragically, the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman demands that we black folks engage in some "real talk" (as I like to say) about our special role in American society.

During the last week or so, I have spent a good amount of time listening to white folks talk about the shooting of Trayvon Martin. I have talked to friends, been invisible as I sat next to white people at bars and cafes, and eavesdropped on conversations while riding on the bus. Of course, I have watched Fox News and lurked on Right-wing websites to get a fair sense of "real America's" collective pulse on this issue. I truly care about white people. I am their best friend because I always tell them the truth.

After doing all of this research, I have come to a conclusion that may be a bit upsetting to some of you: black people are scary. In fact, I have come to realize that as a black man, I am a member of a group that scares white people more than any other in America.

I think we should own this fact. Could it be that the disproportionate coverage we are blessed with by the news media has convinced white America that we are a threat to them? Always suspicious, dangerous, and suspect? Is this fear a result of a deeply held--an almost primordial belief that still lurks in the collective subconscious and racial id of Whiteness--that black men are "naturally" more vibrant, masculine, dynamic, virile, and athletic than white men?

Who knows from where this fear flows, and our natural ability to frighten white people comes. As black men we are left to deal with the consequences; the mysterious ways of (some) white people are not ours to divine or understand.

However, I am sure of one thing: regardless of how we may be dressed, many white people find us scary.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Of Mad Men and Season Five? "Nigger Coke" and the Failure of Libertarianism on the Race Question

Mad Men isn’t cowardly for avoiding race. Quite the opposite. It’s brave for being honest about Madison Avenue’s cowardice. While Don Draper and Sterling Cooper may seem woefully behind the times, that just means Matthew Wiener is right on schedule, historically speaking. And if Mad Men’s schedule stays on the course it’s been following, it’s a safe bet that the season now beginning will finally bring us to the point when black consumers stand up and refuse to sit at the back of the advertising bus.
This Sunday we finally get to peer back into the lives of Don Draper and company on the long awaited season 5 debut of AMC's Mad Men. As I have done in the past, I will offer up some quick analysis of the show. Politics is popular culture and popular culture is politics--Mad Men is a great example of that concept in practice, and I am eager to get back into the habit of commenting on the show.

There are many twists and turns ahead. Will black folks become more central in a narrative that is very much about a type of ensconced and cocooned whiteness? How will The Civil Rights Movement, women's liberation, and the the rise of youth counter-culture play into the events of season five? One of the longest narrative arcs of Mad Men is how the world of a "simple," comforting whiteness--a Leave it to Beaver delusion driving the conservative political imagination--is being revealed for the lie that it is (and was).

Times are a changing: there will be much upsetness (and liberation) for the characters on Mad Men.

Slate ran a great series of essays on the role of race in Mad Men. There, Tanner Colby explored the rise of black ad agencies, how advertising and marketing firms handled a changing America that was forced to grapple with white racism by the Civil Rights Movement, and Mad Men's historical accuracy in depicting these events.

Knowing is half the battle. In reading the first part of Mad Men and Black America, I was surprised to learn the following:
After World War II, seeking a competitive advantage over market leader Coca-Cola, Pepsi’s staunchly liberal CEO Walter Mack decided to radically expand his company’s marketing efforts in the underserved black community. He hired a team of black sales reps and marketers to blanket the rural Black Belt of the South and the urban enclaves of the North. This team was responsible for hiring some of the first black fashion models used by a major brand. They created the first in-store, point-of-purchase displays targeting black shoppers and hired Duke Ellington to endorse Pepsi from the stage during his shows. Some even went so far as to marry their brand with the moral uprightness of the emerging civil-rights movement, disseminating information about Coca-Cola CEO Robert W. Woodruff’s outspoken support for segregationist policies and politicians. 
Black consumers, intensely loyal to institutions that showed them respect, turned out in droves. The campaign was a great success. It was so successful that it had to be killed, and quick. While Coca-Cola remained wholesome and All-American, Pepsi was becoming known as “nigger Coke.” Fearing a total collapse among white soda drinkers, at a conference for regional Pepsi bottling executives in 1949, the otherwise progressive Walter Mack took to the podium and said he would not let Pepsi become, in so many words, “a nigger drink.” His top black sales rep, who was in attendance, got up and walked out. Shortly thereafter, the company’s black marketing efforts were quietly scuttled. In 1953, singer/actress Polly Bergen was rolled out as “the Pepsi-Cola Girl,” a fresh-faced, lily-white makeover for the brand.
The color line ran so deep that it even impacted the marketing of soda. America is a sick society. 

We cannot forget that the consumers republic was a battleground for the Black Freedom Struggle. In our tendency to focus on marches, and the trials and triumphs of great men and women, we often forget that in America freedom is demarcated by the capacity (and ability) to fully participate in the marketplace.
The idea of "nigger Coke" reminded me of the controversies about Ron Paul, racism, white supremacy, and libertarianism that came to pass some months ago. As I have written elsewhere, libertarianism is better suited for the drug fueled late night conversations of college trustifarians who mentally masturbate over the rotten and putrid theories of Ayn Rand, than as a serious political theory with the capacity to structure society, and adequately distribute resources in the interest of the Common Good.

One of the central failings of libertarian thought, as embodied by the anti-Civil Rights positions held by Ron Paul, his son, and their acolytes, is a belief that the market can allocate all things fairly and justly. Libertarians often ignore what history has repeatedly demonstrated in the United States--social inequalities centered on hierarchies of personhood and identity are deeply embedded in the country's cultural, political, and social life. 

The market is not free from this dynamic.

As demonstrated by Colby's allusion to how Pepsi would rather sacrifice a whole segment of the marketplace in the interest of short-term profit seeking (and from a fear of white reprisal), racism often leads to outcomes that are sub-optimal.

This blind faith in the market, and a willingness to place black and brown people's full human rights secondary to the freedom of whites to discriminate at will, also ignores the economic realities of Jim and Jane Crow. White businesses engaged in cartel behavior and collusion against black customers and businesses. This involved active violence (the physical destruction of prosperous black communities and black owned businesses by white mobs).

Racism in the marketplace also worked through the mobilization of bias, and rigging the system such that the opportunities for success were fewer. Consequently, the cost of doing business higher for African American entrepreneurs and other strivers. The huge wealth gap between blacks and whites in this country at present is as much a function of racially discriminatory policies like the G.I. Bill and the FHA and VA home loan programs, as it is the result of active efforts by whites to destroy Black America's indigenous economy.

Ultimately, libertarianism is a great philosophy for the rich, the powerful, the in-group, and those on the top of the pyramid who already have all of the toys. For the rest of us? Not so much.

It will be fascinating to see how the characters of Mad Men negotiate the color line...as well as the financial bottom line in season five. What twists and turns do you think the show will have in store for us this season?

Friday, March 23, 2012

He is a Political Coprophagist: Black Conservative Larry Elder Defends the Murderer of Trayvon Martin

Boss we be sick? Our house be burnin' down massa!

I am not at all surprised. Larry Elder is a professional slave catcher and white racism coprophagist.
He and his black conservative kin are the upright walking, human, political versions of the sivit-like creature the

Like the foodies who crave Kopi Luwak coffee (which is harvested from the poop of the Paradoxurus), white racial reactionaries love to pick through the feces of buck-dancing black conservatives so that they can pluck some leaves for a nice home brewed cup of racism denying tea.

The murder of Trayvon Martin transcends race and ideology. It is a matter of common sense, ethics, and justice. However, the mighty dollar overrules all other considerations, for being a black conservative contrarian comes with a nice, big, fat, paycheck--and a taste of the psychic wages of whiteness.

Larry Elder should be ashamed of himself. We know that he is not. And why should Elder experience any upset, anger, or outrage over the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman? Elder is a "special one" who has learned to transcend blackness by disavowing any sense of linked fate or destiny with other people of color.

What is more "realpolitik" and "rational" than that?

John Nash and Mancur Olson would likely be quite proud of Larry Elder's gross devotion to utility maximizing--and a denial of linked fate--as a life mantra.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What if Trayvon Martin were White? and John McWhorter Mentions Chauncey DeVega in the NY Daily News

As popular as statements like these are this week, I’d have a hard time chiming in with writers like Chauncey DeVega — who said that the vicious murder of Trayvon Martin shows that even in modern America, “black people’s citizenship and humanity are forever questionable.” America has come a long way since lynching and the Scottsboro Boys.
Still, police brutality and insensitivity against blacks remain, as I have often argued, the main obstacle to racial healing in this country. I analogize it to a chimney left standing amid the smoking ruins of a house. No one sees the chimney as evidence that the fire never happened.
Yet we can’t rebuild till we get that chimney torn down.
You judge yourself by the quality of your critics. It would seem that I am moving up to a more exclusive neighborhood. My apartment is rent controlled; the lease is up tomorrow. But for now, I will enjoy the view.

John McWhorter offered up a smart and quite incisive piece about the murder of Trayvon Martin in today's edition of the New York Daily News. His lede? a kind mention of me, "Chauncey DeVega." I have at times disagreed with Dr. McWhorter's opinions regarding folks such as Herman Cain, as well as black cultural politics, more generally. However, I have a deep respect for his thinking and argumentation.

The whole essay is worth reading, but one part especially merits further discussion. Here, McWhorter works through the "what if?" Trayvon were white and Zimmerman were black by alluding to the 2006, John White case in New York:
The fashionable line is that the Sanford cops went easy on Zimmerman because Trayvon was black. Certainly, we are told, if Zimmerman were black and had killed a white kid, he would have been hauled off to jail, no questions asked.
But do we know that? The Sanford police would deny it and insist that Zimmerman is free because of the Stand Your Ground law.
It is this law that stands as something concretely addressable. In fact, it even lends itself to the alternate-case racial scenario that so many are applying to the Zimmerman-Trayvon clash.
New Yorkers will recall the case of John White.
White, a black man in his 50s, came out into his Long Island driveway on an August 2006 night to confront white teenagers who had come onto his property making threats against his 19-year-old son, Aaron, including ones to kill him. There had been an argument at a party, related to a woman.
White was carrying a gun. In a scuffle between White and 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro, when Cicciaro grabbed for White’s gun, White fired. The shot killed Cicciaro.
White said that he did not intend to kill the boy. He claimed, reasonably, to have feared for his life and/or that of his son. Yet he was sentenced to two to four years in prison. Then-Gov. David Paterson commuted his sentence after five months in 2010.
White stood his ground — albeit in a state without a law by that name on the books — and went to the slammer.
And now we have Zimmerman and his claim to have stood his ground.
What counter-factuals or "what if?" scenarios have you come up with regarding the murder of Trayvon Martin? What alternate variables can we entertain, ones that reveal more than they would potentially obscure?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chauncey DeVega on the BBC; Of Trayvon Martin and Black People's Magical Power to Transform Harmless Objects Into Guns

I just had the good fortune of doing an interview with the BBC about the Trayvon Martin shooting. I was asked to appear on the show World Have Your Say. It is an informal
round-table conversation between various guests about the issues of the day.

The BBC does two segments of about 30 minutes each. The format is a rough and tumble conversation with little moderation. Once I figured this out for the second show, I was a bit stronger and throwing more elbows in order to get my points across. But in all, I think I gave a decent accounting of myself and WARN. You can listen to the interview here; my segment starts at about 26:45.

On both segments, I alluded to the idea of black people's unique ability to convince armed white people that harmless objects when held in our hands are in fact lethal weapons. The research in social psychology on this phenomenon (as well as the "shoot-no shoot test") is damning. American society is so steeped in white supremacy and anti-black sentiment that white cops can convince themselves that black folks are imminent dangers, when in fact we are innocent and minding our business. Talk about a darkly ironic superpower.

On the BBC, I also mentioned the idea of slave patrols and Sundown towns in order to provide some historical context for why Zimmerman thought that he could kill a black person with impunity, and that the cops would aid and abet this act of premeditated murder. Do you have any links or stories on the Trayvon Martin case that have been under the radar and deserve more shine?

In the interest of sharing, here is a particularly rich segment from the documentary Slave Catchers and Slave Resisters:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

George Zimmerman, the Murder of Trayvon Martin, and the Twenty-First Century Slave Patrol

If there is a version of Godwin's law for discussing African American slavery and the Black Holocaust I always try to step delicately around it. Far too often words such as "lynching," "racism," "field negro," "house negro," "plantation," and "slave catcher" are thrown around with casual disregard for the historical weight which they carry.

In following the most recent developments regarding the murder of Trayvon Martin, I keep returning to one thought.

So much of the existential, psychic, and emotional violence afflicted on people of color in this society is prefaced on a basic idea: there are those who "naturally" belong to a political community and others who are perpetual "guests," "outsiders," or "anti-citizens."

The Black Freedom Struggle was many things: primarily, it was about a fight for civic inclusion, equality, and dignity. The Black Freedom Struggle was also centered on a politics of respectability which keenly understood that white supremacy was dependent on a basic premise: the lowest white person is automatically elevated in social stature, respect, and accomplishment over the most accomplished, brilliant, intelligent, and graceful black person.

Of course, these norms have been massaged and "evolved" to fit the "colorblind" post Civil Rights era. They still exist however, and are as ugly, pernicious (and at times) violent as ever.

"Stop and frisk," "driving while black," housing segregation, being harassed and racially profiled while shopping, and the conservative Right wing vitriol which suggests that President Obama is "uppity" or "arrogant," are all examples of how racism is a cognitive map. The white gaze orders bodies and peoples. Racism puts individuals in the "right" place and reacts with hostility to those who dare to step outside of it.

Trayvon Martin is dead because as a black person he did not follow the approved script. Historically, racism and racial violence have done work through the control of public space. Consider how this works literally in the case of Trayvon Martin. He was killed in a gated community, one located in a town that has a history of racial violence and where black people suffered under Sundown town-like conditions.

Knowing one's rightful place also works in terms of social expectations about power--who has it, how it is exercised, and which types of bodies it can be exercised on with impunity. The idea of blackness being ascribed certain traits and standards of comportment, bearing, behavior, and submission relative to "white" authority is naked and transparent in the phone transcript of George Zimmerman's call to the local police.
7:09 p.m. ET
Dispatcher: "Do you need police, fire or medical?"
Zimmerman: "We had some break-ins in our neighborhood ... and there is a real suspicious guy. ... This guy looks like he's up to no good, he's on drugs or something. It's raining, and he's walking around looking about. "
Dispatcher: "Is this guy white, black, Hispanic?"
Zimmerman: "He looks black."
Dispatcher: "Did you see what he's wearing?"
Zimmerman: "A dark hoodie, grey hoodie, jeans or sweatpants or white shoes. He's walking around staring at the houses.
Dispatcher: "Location?"
Zimmerman: "He's near the clubhouse right now. Now he's coming towards me. He has his hands in his waistband. He is a black male. Something's wrong with him. Yep. He's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is. Send officers over here."
Dispatcher: "Let me know if he does anything else."
Zimmerman: "These a**holes, they always get away. When you come in go straight to the left ... when you pass the clubhouse ..."
Dispatcher: "Clubhouse? "Now he's just staring at me."
During part of this time, Martin is on the phone with a 16-year-old girl. Below is an account of the phone call as relayed to In Session's Sunny Hostin by a lawyer for the Martin family:
Martin told the girl someone was following him, and she advised him to run. Martin said he isn't going to run but will walk quickly. Zimmerman caught up with him, and Martin asked Zimmerman why he was following him. Zimmerman then asked Martin his name and why he was there. The girl on the phone says she heard Zimmerman push Martin, and then the call drops. She tried to call Martin back, but he didn't respond.
What does it mean to be deemed inexorably and permanently "suspicious?" What does it mean to be forever "suspect?" What does it mean to be marked as a "threat" from "the womb to the tomb?" It means to be "black." This is the new/old Curse of Ham as seen in the social and racial imagination of people like George Zimmerman and his enablers in the local police department.

History echoes. Ultimately, George Zimmerman reminds me of those white men riding on the slave patrols, eager, petty tyrants who are looking for any excuse to put their boots on the throat of a black person in order to raise themselves up a bit higher. They live to control public space, and how different bodies exercise their freedoms and liberties in it.

Maybe I just broke a rule about evoking slavery in discussions of twenty-first century American social and political life. But sometimes a little line-stepping is healthy, necessary, cathartic, and appropriate.

When White Supremacists Deconstruct The Walking Dead TV Show...

The only thing that sucked about The Walking Dead this season was the Asian nerd Glenn hooking up with Hershel’s daughter Maggie. That’s reportedly in the comic book though. Otherwise, it was interesting to watch the liberal world collapse and give way to the zero sum world of the zombie apocalypse. 
I think the liberal world will collapse one day, not from a zombie apocalypse, but because it is financially unsustainable due to global aging and changing racial demographics. There will be people like Dale who won’t survive The Day The EBT Card Stops Working. Their humanist principles will end up getting them killed. 
It is people like Merle and Daryl Dixon who will thrive in the zero sum world of the future. There will have to be leaders like Rick Grimes who are capable of making the tough decisions. It won’t be a liberal democracy. I think that is why The Walking Dead has proven to be so popular...We’re tired of the Dales of America. Men are tired of this world. Women are tired of it too.The Walking Dead captures the zeitgeist perfectly.
When I was in high school, a Visiting Fellow at Yale University who was a graphic artist and author came to talk to my English class. We asked him questions such as, "how do you get a job that sounds so cool and fun?" "What do you read? What is a typical day like?"

Our speaker offered answers that I have long since forgotten. But, he did say one thing that I still remember. The Fellow subscribed to various KKK newsletters and white supremacist publications. I was shocked. Why would a black man be reading this stuff? He answered that you have to know what your enemies are up to and how they see the world. You need to understand their twisted minds so that you can anticipate their next move. In all, people of color and other marginalized groups must understand the political imaginations of those who hate us.  To a 12 year old's ears and psyche, that was shocking advice. I value its wisdom to this day.

The season finale of The Walking Dead gave fans of the TV show (and comic) much of what they had been yearning for. There were zombies galore. The Governor is coming. The prison in on the horizon. And Michonne, iconic character that she is, has finally made her first appearance, katana in hand, with two zombies chained and in tow. Of course, T-Dog was still "T-Dog": a cowardly chauffeur for white women who wants to abandon the group, and that never gets to do anything of substance.

For most viewers, there was much to be pleased with in the The Walking Dead's second season finale. However, White Nationalists are decidedly mixed in their appraisal of the show.

The act of interpretation is everything for those of us who are critical students of popular culture. These types of analyses are inherently creative and inventive. The best involve theory building, a deep reading of a text, and a survey of genre (as well as the related literature). The worst types of cultural studies and semiotic work do none of these things: they are no more than intellectual scatology, "informed" opinions that abandon rigor in favor of high-minded intellectual navel gazing and mental masturbation.

Students often ask me, "if this is all an 'interpretation,' how do you separate the 'good' readings from the 'bad' ones? Why is your 'interpretation' more accurate or valid than ours?" My flippant answer is that I have been doing this longer, have read much more than you, and thought more deeply about these topics. My fair and more pedagogically sound answer is that you learn to separate the good from the bad through a survey of examples.

One of the strengths of interpretive/semiotic/textual analysis/discursive approaches to qualitative research in the social sciences and humanities is the breadth of possibility. This is a strength and a weakness. The former is embodied by folks like Hall, Butler, Lacan, Bakhtin, Laclau, Dyer, Lipsitz, Frith, Fiske, hooks, Foucault and others. The latter is exemplified by the fan boy rantings on websites and much of what counts as "cultural criticism" in the popular media.

Moreover, these epic failures in interpretation can also be productive teachable moments. When populist approaches run amok, and meaning is imposed on a text--as opposed to excised, pulled from, or intervened against--we can still learn a great deal about politics, and the ways that various publics and audiences understand popular culture as speaking both "through" and "to" them.

In our discussions of how race does a particular type of "work" in The Walking Dead TV series, many fans, and especially those of color, were troubled by the white-washing of the cast. Michonne had not yet made an appearance. T-Dog is a neutered, subservient, and quite literally muted, black male. Glenn is a model minority. As I wrote here, The Walking Dead television show is very much a drama which focuses on a crisis in white masculine authority. Consequently, black and brown folks are peripheral to its universe.

The White Nationalist and White Supremacist crowd have a different gaze. Our concerns about a lack of diversity and inclusion are their reasons for loving the show. We are happy to see an archetypical badass like Michonne finally introduced; they see this as unfortunate. The White Nationalists see "Jews" and "Zionists" everywhere in The Walking Dead; I am still struggling to make this discovery.

In much the same way that White racists are obsessed with the classic movie Planet of the Apes (what they suggest is a cautionary tale about white oppression), The Walking Dead television show has provided much fodder for their conspiranoid imaginations. It would appear that sometimes oppositional readings of a cultural text can go too far. What follows are some examples of the bastard stepchildren of the postmodern turn as seen on the website Occidental Dissent:

John says:
The civil rights of the zombies are being trampled on. One of them was an aspiring pilot. He wuz gunna lern him how t’ fly, Lordie.

“You should download the comic series. Much better than a Wiki. The Black stud (a staple of the Jewish imagination) was Mr. Articulate, Competent, Brave, Honorable, Eligible Bachelor; he’s just been left out and is nothing at all like T-Dog. Yes, Sophia’s mom is the one who threw herself at the him within five minutes of meeting him (really, it was a very Jewy moment).”

Ewww! I like Carol. One of you fellows, up the thread, wrote something along the lines of Carol being hot, even though her short greying hair creates a “You don’t know how old I am” vibe. The actress that plays Carol has lovely features, and a very youthful face, and she’s petite and cute. She’s all over Darryl – and the glorious, stunning, smoldering, functional, uber-fit, dead-on-target never misses, shoot your arrows at ME baby Natural Man Darryl, he of the sexy eyes, sexy, sexy irresistable eyes (I need to stop, here…) vs the fat boring useless Negro? “

I’m somewhat fascinated by the descriptions Svigor is providing, of the events and characterizations in the orignal comic book. Rather – I am fascinated by the revisions the changes the producers are making. Something’s afoot.
They change a “Handsome, Idealized” Negro male – which would have been so easy to re-create, into a boring, non-essential dullard Negro. Really -the Show Negro is Scarlet O’Hara’s Big re-born.
That’s interesting. He’s NOT getting any White meat ,thus far, either.
They CREATE 2 “redneck” male characters – one of whom sports SS lightening bolts, on his hog, and who is SO wildly popular (the LAST caller on the Talking Dead show last night was a youngish female, pleading for info on the Return of Merle) that they are bringing him back from the presumed Dead, even though he called a Nigger “Nigger” on air.
Denise says:
....FYI – Glenn’s a Korean cause the actor wot plays Glenn is a Korean. I do like the character. He’s the eager little Good Guy. I don’t hate him cause he’s a YellowMan. He’s OK. I think the glenn Maggie pairing is a screech, because they are so physically incongruous. Jack Ryan sez the actress wot plays Maggie is a Hebess – so I don’t care if it’s Hebe Yellow miscegenation.
I’m certain my TV husband Merle will back me up, on this one.
Svigor says:
They didn’t “change” the character. If anything, they replaced him, with a different character. T-Dog (played by IronE Singleton – empasis in original, can’t make this stuff up) is Theodore Douglas. The Black Stud in the comic is named Tyreese. He’s your typical boring, two-dimensional Black Hero (former NFL player, stud, and all-around great guy whose only “flaw” is not knowing how great he is). T-Dog is boring too, but as in plain-old boring, not OMG we’re afraid to do anything other than lionize Blacks boring.
If anything, Shane incorporated a lot of the elements of Tyreese’s character, what with being a rival for leadership, the guy Rick looked to first, etc. They got into a knock-down drag out fight, shortly before TSHTF and Tyreese bought the farm.
It’s not hard to understand. TV is quite conservative. Just as producers don’t want to offend SWPL sensibilities by ever (ever, ever) portraying Blacks negatively, or realistically, they don’t want to chase away White eyeballs with the monumentally offensive (to everyone but Jews and Black men) Blacks on Blondes thing. White people don’t admit it’s offensive to them, but it is, to all but a small minority.
Hell, even Jews know it’s offensive – ever seen a cute brunette coed riding a buck with a star of David around her neck? Didn’t think so.
And T-Dog isn’t going to get any White meat, either. If they wanted to throw him White meat, they would’ve chosen a different actor. One look at “IronE” and it’s obvious he’s not there for any romantic parts. One shot of him kissing anyone, much less a White woman, and ratings would drop like a stone...Doesn’t really count if she’s not sporting a star of David, or playing a Jewess. Especially not if she doesn’t look Jewish – and she doesn’t. Jews get a kick out of playing White roles and dragging them through the mud. But I agree, it isn’t offensive because the mass media hasn’t been waging a psyops campaign to put negroes in bed with White women for the last 50 years, and Yellow men are not credible threats to White men in the Testosterone/masculinity department; TV can make Black men seem intelligent by feeding them lines – they can’t make Yellow men seem more masculine.
Mosin Nagant says:
I predict it will decline as a fully multicultural soap opera.
RobRoySimmons says:
I think you theorizers should just drop a note to the producers asking them to include your version of what a real white man is. Or you could ask them if they are going to go PC with some race mixing BS.
Like Denise said in another thread these DWLs at least find our freedom exciting. How could they not, since its official doctrine that negroes are the equal of whites without a single scintilla of proof, but you better believe or else. Think of the hell that must be a DWLs soul.
Freedom Cobra says:
Does anyone know what make of motorcycle Daryl rides? It’s a mean machine.
Anywho, couple of random thoughts. “Mr.Yo” is one of the few cable drama fights where the White beats the black. As the show gets better the cast gets Whiter. Morales and his tribe take off. Gangsta’s with hearts of gold rot in the city with the old. Weren’t these the “people” we needed to import to pay for Grandma? An old negress immolates at CDC.
Shane was nice Union man. Shane would never let Rick and his family secede from him. Rick did anyway. A child of the South slew the Union’s ghost (er, zombie).

jack says:
Not to rain spoilers but I think a super negro is coming in the third season. Michonne is supposedly some Angry Sistah with a sword.

Svigor says:
SUPER POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT (from the comics): Michonne is a boring cardboard cutout character. She’s just your typical two-fer: invincible negress, and invincible butt-kicking-babe for the T-deficient nerd masses. She does very little of interest: (1) sucks off the negro who was shacked up with the blonde so the blonde could catch them in the act and dump the negro and then attempt suicide because once you’ve gone Black there is no substitute (2) throws herself at the negro, just as the blonde shiksa did, thus proving no woman can resist a negro (3) talks to herself, which leads to a bit of bonding with Ranger Rick, who carries a phone through which he talks to his dead wife (Lori gets eaten) (4) finally kills the governer, who raped and tortured her, after bungling the attempt the first go round. I can’t think of anything else interesting about her. I do know Kirkman keeps her around for a loooooong time.