Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Our White Criminal of the Week: White Man Charged With Sexually Molesting Corpse at Toledo, Ohio Funeral Home

A few years back, I won a Black Weblog Award for my mockumentary series White in America. There, I engaged in an act of political imagination to highlight how narratives can be framed in the service of certain unstated assumptions about race, citizenship, belonging, and "culture."

Recent events have provided a pivot point for returning to that conversation. As we have discussed here quite often, in the American collective subconscious, black masculinity is assumed to be inexorably linked to criminality.

For example, many of the defenders of George Zimmerman, the murderer of Trayvon Martin, are dependent on that logic: the burden of proof is on a dead unarmed black person to prove why they "belonged" in a certain neighborhood. By implication, black folks' Constitutional Rights are forever precarious and contingent. They can be challenged by any white person (or those identified with White authority) at any time or any place.

In all, black people are anti-citizens and a criminal class...until proven otherwise. There are many ways to think like a white racist regarding the sociology of crime. One can deny the very existence of white crime (or offer excuses for it), obsessively highlight white victimhood by blacks who commit "hate crimes" against them, or make blanket denials (despite the available data) that white people do not constitute a criminal class in America--one which enjoys a near monopoly over many categories of crime.

These are leaps of faith which are impossible for the white racial frame because the deeds of white people are those of individuals, whereas the individual actions of a given person of color are attributed to some group characteristic, behavior, or common identity.

I am a fan of reversing the gaze. As such, I am going to introduce a recurring series here on WARN which applies a parallel logic to that of reactionary conservatism (and its fixation on "black crime") in order to highlight a "White Criminal of the Week."

Our first nominee is Lawrence Clement, a white man who was accused of sexually molesting a corpse that was put in his charge at H.H. Birkencamp funeral home in Toledo, Ohio.

Sick. Disgusting. Pathological.

As Ethiop famously asked, "what shall we do with the white people?" What in White Culture drives them to do such horrible things?

A family has been protesting outside a funeral home in Toledo, Ohio, after they were told a parttime employee sexually assaulted their loved one's corpse. They want the place shut down."I'm having nightmares about it," her mother, Ann Lemprecht, told WTVG. "I can't imagine someone touching my daughter."

Brenda Shular-Cameron (pictured), a 51-year-old Chrysler employee, who loved horseback riding, camping and anything outdoors, died of multiple organ failure at a hospice in Northwest Ohio earlier this month, reports The Toledo Blade. She was taken to the H.H. Birkenkamp Funeral Home, which has been caring for the deceased for over 150 years.

Soon after, the funeral home manager, Susan Birkencamp, met with Shular-Cameron's two children, Marc Nail and Amber Thebeau-Tunison. She told them their mother's body had been "mistreated," Nail told The Blade, and that another employee had witnessed his coworker Lawrence Clement "fondling" the corpse. If they didn't go to the police, and thus make the incident public record, Birkencamp allegedly said, she would dismiss the $11,000 cost of the funeral services.

Lisa Marshall, a spokeswoman for the funeral home, disagreed with that description of events and said that if the business was interested in covering up the story, it wouldn't have even told the family about the alleged abuse. Marshall wouldn't tell The Blade whether 57-year-old Clement, who is employed part-time and is not a licensed funeral director or embalmer, had regular contact with corpses at the facility.

The funeral home fired Clement, and contacted the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which oversees the state's funeral homes. A police investigation followed.

Clement, who does not appear to have a criminal past, soon gave himself up to authorities, and was arraigned on the federal charge of abusing a corpse. He paid his $50,000 bond, and is now waiting for a grand jury. He should be indicted early this week."We can't even bury her now," her mother, Anne Lamprecht, told The Blade. "We can't make funeral arrangements. We don't know if the police will hold her body. She didn't deserve this. None of the family deserved this."

But Shular-Cameron was buried, a week later than planned, at a different Toledo funeral home. This isn't the first time these charges have besmirched the name of the H.H. Birkenkamp Funeral Home. Twenty-four years ago, two former employees were found guilty of gross abuse of a corpse. One was sentenced to a year in prison, and the other was given limited immunity as part of a plea bargain."

I want Birkencamp out of business," Ann told WTVG." This has happened before, and it continues to happen, unless people do something about it. We have to inform the public so that the public knows what's going on."If the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors find the charges to be valid, they could revoke the license of the home or its director. They can't discipline Clement himself, because he's unlicensed. But the courts can.

Monday, April 9, 2012

From the Files of Stating the Obvious: Reverend Wright Suggests That White Supremacy Drives World Policy

I never understood the controversy about Reverend Jeremiah Wright: his interpretations of race, politics, and American history are (to my eyes) rather matter of fact and obvious.

Apparently, Reverend Wright is bringing the ruckus again. The beauty of this latest manufactured controversy is that even in the efforts to selectively edit and "compile" Reverend Wright's various sermon(s)--which were delivered over a week-long revival at Metropolitan Baptist Church--the truth still shines through.

Moreover, Wright's observations about American imperialism, the intellectual origins of neo-conservatism (for a moment I though he was going to talk about Leo Strauss), and his analysis of how white supremacy is central to Enlightenment era political thought, were an object lesson in his deep bonafides. Ultimately, Reverend Jeremiah Wright is a fascinating figure both because of his love of the limelight and penchant for theatrics, as well as his breadth of training and knowledge.

I have no doubt that Jeremiah has some Charles Mills and Emmanuel Eze on the bookshelf. I also have no doubt that many conservatives, especially those invested in a chauvinistic and reactionary white populism, cannot stand Reverend Wright because he is confident, brilliant, and more than a bit "arrogant." He is smarter than they are; and in the sin of sins for black manhood as seen through the White gaze, Reverend Wright loves to demonstrate his superior intelligence whenever given the chance.

There is another irony at work here. While many have tried to smear President Obama by virtue of his association with Reverend Wright, most of his Right-leaning centrist corporatist policies are anathema to the radically humanistic tenets of Black Liberation Theology.

But then again these are details which are of little concern to those who want to put Reverend Wright and Barack Obama on the same enemies list. Facts be damned. In all, for many in the Right-wing echo chamber, ideology trumps empirical reality.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Who Fears Who? Sanford, Florida Prepares to "Explode" Over Trayvon Martin Case vs. The Tulsa, Oklahoma Racial Pogrom

This story is bubbling up on the white supremacist websites. The mainstream media is floating the black people ready to riot story as it is a classic "if it bleeds it leads" narrative. And now with the arrival of neo-Nazis in Sanford, Florida (who are there to "protect" the white community) matters are only made worst. I love a good dust up. I also smile whenever groups like the National Socialist Movement take one on the chin. However, now is not the time for such shenanigans.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, historical context matters. As the news media frame another story about negro uprisings and rebellions, it is important to push back and to highlight how riots and organized violence have been 1) almost the exclusive domain of whites against people of color in the United States, and 2) as the late Joel Olson pointed out, a primary means of both creating, as well as reinforcing, herrenvolk White Democracy in the American Republic.

Who should fear who in this context? How many more tens of thousands of African Americans have been killed by whites in organized acts of racial violence than the other way around?

Never forget.

Sanford Holds Its Breath! Negroes Plot Uprising Against Whites in Revenge for Trayvon Martin's Murder!

Holiday had been right about the tension. One of the first people I meet scans me up and down and looks at my notebook. “Write something down for me,” he says. “Get the fuck out of here.” He’s an exception. The people stopping and shopping in the late afternoon are reluctant to talk, until they get a few sentences in. And then it sounds like they’re picking up on a monologue they started weeks ago, stopping to take breaths.
Jamelia Jarrells and Jakivia Franklin talk about the killing as customers stroll in and out of the convenience store where they work. There’s no air conditioning, and the door’s constantly open, so most of the lights stay off while the fans stay on.
“I thought Zimmerman should have been arrested that night,” says Jarrells. “Regardless of the fact of whether or not he thought he was defending someone, he killed someone. Even if they arrested him, and he got out that same night, I think people would have felt better.”
...“If I shot somebody who looked like you, or you, shit, I’d be on death row.”
“If he was a white 17-year-old,” says Jarrells, “he wouldn’t have been shot.”
Rashid Abdul Rahman, a retiree, chimes in. “Since we’re in central Florida,” he says, “and there’s so many movements coming through here, it’s going to be OK. If we was in California, they’d be burning this up.”
Burning what up? “The city!”
Do you hear the drums? The natives are restless.
The national news media are going through the obligatory motions in their coverage of Trayvon Martin's murder at the hands of George Zimmerman. In an era of the 24 hour news cycle (when the public's attention span is short), the spectacle surrounding Trayvon Martin's shooting apparently still has some exhausted legs supporting it.

Race, crime, guns, violence, and the law are old elements in the American story. In keeping with this script, there are obligatory acts to our national play. The Trayvon Martin saga has featured many of them.
  • The good negro and "best black friend" of the white offender has been trotted out to defend him;
  • According to his associates and family, George Zimmerman is actually a "friend" and "defender" of the colored people. Zimmerman is misunderstood and unfairly maligned by the public, the NAACP, and the news media;
  • "Outside agitators" are riling up trouble among the good, peaceful, obedient, and docile black folks of Sanford, Florida. There would be no "race troubles" if characters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were not involved in the Trayvon Martin controversy;
  • The murderer is actually the victim. As a defender of white civilization, Zimmerman did what many conservatives (and others) wished they could...but lacked the courage or opportunity to follow through on;
  • White people are victims. Historically, it was an absurd fear of "white oppression" by free blacks that helped to legitimate white racism. In the present, this language has been recycled as "reverse racism." Both rely upon a White racial imagination which sees blacks as perpetual criminals, brigands, and killers.
Across the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries the formula remains the same: race, crime, guns, "scary" black men, and white fear. This holds true even if Trayvon Martin (unarmed and innocent) is dead at the hands of George Zimmerman (armed and hunting his human prey).

The historical irony is rich. For example, as demonstrated many times in places like Rosewood, Chicago, Tulsa, and East St. Louis, racial violence in the United States is almost the exclusive province of whites against blacks. Race riots are almost by definition the murderous mob actions of whites against people of color. Funny then, how in the popular imagination such matters are muddied and inverted.

The anxieties about a "negro uprising" in Sanford, Florida has a storied historical pedigree. For example:

Negroes in Liberty City, Georgia are plotting an insurrection. They are gathering in the woods to burn down the homes of white people in retaliation for violence against them. The local Sheriff has sent out a plea for assistance to the Governor.

Evil progressives are attempting to excite mischief among the negroes of Helena, Arkansas. There is an armed revolution afoot as the black population is going to attack and destroy the white community!

The mayor has ordered 1,000 bullets! Communists are causing agitation as the negro population is planning violence and a Socialist redistribution of wealth against the good white people of their town.

Good white people have been surrounded and held hostage. Thank goodness though! A negro has been bribed to seek out help for the innocent whites laid siege in Orangeburg County, South Carolina by angry blacks. Fifty whites are in route to break the siege by 200 blacks against the vulnerable and at risk whites of Norway, South Carolina!

In thinking through the historical antecedents of Trayvon Martin's murder, and white apologists' reactions to it, here is an eerily prescient news item from the year 1904:

Memory echoes across time: our collective conscience is trans-historical. White supremacy, what is a changing thing, reaches back to the past to find life in the Age of Obama. While the temptation is to focus on the Southern Strategy of the 1960s in order to explain the virulent anti-black and anti-brown animus of the New Right and the Republican Party at present, the roots are in fact much older.

The Conservatives who instinctively rally to defend George Zimmerman are actually the intellectual and emotive kin of racist White populists who lived centuries before. In all, matters would be much improved if the reactionary Right owned their philosophical and intellectual wellsprings in the hanging tree, chain gangs, and press gangs of post-Reconstruction America.

History is real; the past is present in the year 2012. This is true for all black folks. It applied to Trayvon Martin. It also applies to someone as powerful as the President of the United States of America.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Greatest Fear Made Real: Piers Morgan's Ownage of Toure on CNN

Doesn't Toure sound like the WWE's Chris Jericho cutting a promo?

Last week, I had a chance to appear on national television and discuss my views on the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. I was so very tempted to break kayfabe, drop my anonymity and make my debut on a friendly show, with a partial interviewer, of whom I am a fan. While flattered by the invitation I demurred (once more). On one hand I know that these invitations do not come all the time; on the other hand I have to be disciplined and make sure that my one shot is as perfect as I can make it.

I also turned down the invite because of a nagging fear that in my TV debut I will crash and burn. Of course, this will not happen. I cultivate the fear in order to make sure that my game is sharp. But, and I do believe this analogy holds perfectly, a person can abuse themselves with onanistic fervor and hump the bed Ghostface style for years on end, and yet still be relatively unprepared for the confused awkward bliss of losing one's virginity. Simulation is not a perfect representation of reality.

Toure's ownage by Piers Morgan is a reminder of what happens when a neophyte steps into the ring with a master. While I possess no great love for Toure given his shameless copying of my meme which framed Herman Cain as a new age race minstrel, I do feel a bit of pity for him. Toure is akin to the horses charging Maxim machines guns during the first world war. He is hopeless and obsolete relative to Morgan's enfilade, yet the former persists, casualties and attrition be damned.

I have watched Piers Morgan's vivisection of Toure several times as this interview is an object lesson in what not to do during a TV spot. What lessons would you gleam from their exchange? What could Toure have done better during this appearance?

In all, I am glad Toure failed so that hopefully I can succeed when the time comes. Call me selfish. I am just being honest.

Beautiful Lies: Theocrat Propagandist David Barton Explains How the U.S. Constitution is an Anti-Slavery Document

Timing is everything. I am teaching the Federalist Papers and the Constitution later today. In searching for a clip from the PBS on slavery and the founding, I came across the above gem from the one and only pseudo-historian David Barton. Several months ago I posted a gem where Barton gave a Christian-approved tour of the Capital and Washington D.C. where he exposed the "hidden" history of the framers and the founding of the Republic to a crying and emotionally-moved audience.

To my eyes, Barton's expose on how the Constitution is an anti-slavery document is yet another blood boiling exercise in professional lying. His lie is also a genius exercise in propaganda. Here, Douglass's demand that the Constitution lives up to its potential regarding human liberty and freedom is actually a device for Barton to frame the 3/5th's clause as a demonstration of the framers' anti-slavery intent.

This is a common canard for Conservatives who worship the Constitution as a document divinely inspired, and its authors as perfect men--as opposed to people who were pragmatists, with a particular class and racial interest that they were working to protect, all the while crafting a very narrow and anti-populist document.

Ultimately, the Constitution is a pro-slavery, Southern document that protects the rights, privileges, and property of a very narrow part of the population at the expense of others. The Constitution is also practical, radical, and genius. That does not at all absolve the document from the stains of white supremacy which penetrate it. For the Constitution's authors, these facts are not contradictions or problems for their "democratic" project.

Barton is a genius liar. I admire his craft while condemning his dishonesty and ethics. But then again, maybe Barton actually believes the pablum that he is selling to the mouth breathing Christian Conservative Republican Nationalist crowd?

Help me understand. Why would any educated, reasonable, and historically aware person buy into Barton's lies about the Constitution when the truth is far more interesting and compelling?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

And They Call Trayvon Martin "Suspicious?": Of Dartmouth College, Pathological Whiteness, Rape, Hazing, and Vomit-Egg Sandwiches

"The fraternities here have a tremendous sense of entitlement – a different entitlement than you find at Harvard or other Ivy League schools," says Michael Bronski, a Dartmouth professor of women's and gender studies. "Their members are secure that they have bright futures, and they just don't care. I actually see the culture as being predicated on hazing. There's a level of violence at the heart of it that would be completely unacceptable anywhere else, but here, it's just the way things are...
Such rituals were not restricted to SAE. One student tells me that during his pledge term, the brothers in his house set up a tarp in the fraternity basement, covered it in vomit, and made the pledges do a "slip and slide." He loved it. "Everyone peed on it and threw in their chaw," he says. "I thought it was great. I did it 10 times. But I was getting kind of cut up, so the pledge trainer told me I really should stop so I wouldn't get too many infections."
And they say that black people are "suspicious" and have "bad culture."

In the various pieces I have written about the Trayvon Martin murder, as well as my interviews on the subject, I have tried to return to one central theme. Much of the investment in the case by people on both sides of the color line, as well as ideological divide, is driven by a divergent capacity to empathize with the parties involved in this American tragedy. The varied responses to the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman are also fueled by unstated and taken for granted assumptions about black humanity, dignity, citizenship, and belonging. Conservatism's fixation on race, crime, guns, and black criminality is central to this story as well.

Consequently, to many observers Trayvon is an existentially criminal, suspicious, and pathological person by virtue of his being black and male. I have tried to counter this logic by pointing out how these assumptions are a mirror for how whiteness and white people are almost never held accountable as a class or a group for the deeds of any given white person. Whiteness is ultimately the freedom to be an individual; blackness is an anchor that stigmatizes by virtue of melanin count, social identity, and connection (real or imagined, tenuous or strong) to a racialized community.

If the comments and emails I have received are any indication, my allusions to examples of "white" criminality have met with much resistance. Apparently, Wall Street stock brokers and the financier class who almost destroyed the global economy (and indirectly killed thousands if not tens of thousands of people in the process) are individuals: there is no connection between race and their behavior as would have been made if these robber barons were black or brown.

"Grandfatherly" and "kind" old white men such as Jerry Sandusky, a man who anally raped and molested dozens of children at Penn State (and who was aided and abetted by Joe Paterno in these crimes), is not indicative of how white men of a certain age are much more likely to be child molesters, and thus should be racially profiled. Nope. Those are the actions of individual people. It is only black folks, and other people of color, who can face blanket stigma as stereotypes do a particular type of work through the white gaze, and in a society structured in racial hierarchies, as well as malignant racial ideologies. By contrast, malignant and pathological white masculinity is allowed to operate with impunity, support, and nurturing in American society.

Rolling Stone magazine's expose on Dartmouth's fraternity culture is an object lesson in the innocence of White individuality, even while Whiteness itself is very pathological. Imagine if Dartmouth were an HBCU, or if these entitled trustafarians, and soon to be members of the 1 percent, were black or Latino? As someone who has worked in a previous life in college administration, and has colleagues who have remained in those halls, there is much evidence to suggest that students of color who are accused of cheating, inappropriate behavior, and other offenses are punished much more severely than their white, and other often more affluent peers.
Rumors about hazing abounded. One fraternity reportedly beat their pledges; another was said to place them in dog crates while the brothers vomited on them. Another frat ordered its new members to crawl between the legs of a line of naked brothers, "with, you know, their ball sacks flapping on their heads." A fourth was rumored to require its pledges to have sex with a frozen turkey.
I am very familiar with Dartmouth and have visited there many times over the years. As the Rolling Stone piece details, it is a world onto itself, existing in its own reality. That the administrators have surrendered to the bestial behavior of its fraternities, and no where does there seem to be a moment of reflection about how race, class, gender, and privilege are grossly (quite literally in this case) intertwined, is revelatory of how Whiteness is invisible, "normal," and "natural"--even when it is clearly sick and sustains a maladaptive culture.
At last, he and the other whale shits were escorted to the basement, where they were formally baptized as SAE pledges in a kiddie pool filled with a noxious sludge. "By that point you are really, really drunk – which is the point, because if you weren't, you'd never get in it," says Lohse, who was later told that brothers had peed, defecated, vomited and ejaculated into the pool.

His account of the kiddie pool has been almost universally contested by others who took part; according to an SAE brother, the pool was actually filled with food products like water, bread, vinegar, soy sauce, salsa and hot dogs. "When you mix all that stuff together, it smells really gross," the ex-brother says. "And when you're in it, you don't know what it is. We let the pledges' imaginations get the best of them." Lohse, for his part, hasn't backed down. "I know this because I watched them make the batch for the 2011 term," he says. "We were told they needed a few more guys to piss and boot in it."
In all, the these are junior Strauss-Khans in training.
Brothers aren't the only ones injured by this unspoken pact around fraternity life. Sexual assault is rampant at Dartmouth; some female students say they circulate the names of men considered "dangerous" and fraternity houses viewed as "unsafe." Between 2008 and 2010, according to the college's official statistics, Dartmouth averaged about 15 reports of sexual assault each year among its 6,000 students. 
Brown, a school with 8,500 students, averaged eight assaults; Harvard, with 21,000 students, had 21. And those numbers are likely just a fraction of the actual count: One study showed that 95 percent of all sexual assaults among college students are never reported.

In 2006, Dartmouth's Sexual Abuse Awareness Program estimated that there were actually 109 incidents on campus... 
Nearly every woman I speak to on campus complains of the predatory nature of the fraternities and the dangers that go beyond drinking. "There are always a few guys in every house who are known to use date-rape drugs," says Stewart Towle, a member of Sigma Nu, who de-pledged in 2011 because of a number of practices he considered dehumanizing.
One senior, who I'll call Lisa, was "curbed" in this manner the second night of her freshman year. She'd been invited to a fraternity by one of its members. Thinking it an honor, Lisa enthusiastically accepted, and once she got there, she had two drinks. The next thing she remembers is waking up in the hospital with an IV in her arm. "Apparently, security found me in front of the house. That was my introduction to the frats: passing out from drinking, waking up in the hospital and not having any idea what happened." What she did notice were bruises that looked like bites on her chest that hadn't been there before. "To be very honest," she says, "I didn't really want to know what actually happened."
The arrogance, lack of empathy, ethics, and grand hubris of the Dartmouth's frat "bros" detailed in Janet Reitman's article are the same values which led the financier class to act with impunity as they pillaged the American people. Apparently, these future masters of the universe learn their trade and craft quite early at institutions such as Dartmouth. Once more, and as it has long been, whiteness is the complexion for the protection.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Wrestlemania 28 Predictions, Brock Lesnar's Return

What a monster...

Just a quick ghetto nerd, Wrestlemania Eve viewing post.

Brock Lesnar has signed a new contract with the WWE and will likely be involved in some capacity in tomorrow night's event. I hate the Internet. It has utterly and truly ruined the faux mysteries of kayfabe, the good old days of rag sheets, and the awesome goodness of getting the PW Torch newsletter in the mail.

I understand the business side and why Lesnar's contract signing was leaked to drive up PPV orders; but, it takes away the huge pop that would have accompanied Lesnar's "surprise" appearance.

For my smart marks, how would you book Brock's program for the upcoming year? What match should he interfere with at Mania? Would you do a run in or have Lesnar sitting at ringside for the main event and Hell in the Cell?

Alas, I am hyped about Rock-Cena, worried about HHH-Taker, and am anticipating the clinic that Punk and Jericho are going to put on for the fans.

My quick predictions are as follows. Punk gets over on Jericho because the latter is going on a tour with his band after Wrestlemania. Even though he has all of the backstage stroke, Taker has to win. It would be the height of foolishness and HHH's hubris to kill the streak. Taker needs to win and retire with the streak intact. The Rock loses to John Cena because of Lesnar's interference. The Rock could lose clean and it still wouldn't hurt his legacy. Cena is making too much money in merchandise, and is too over with the tweens and young girls to drop the belt. In a perfect world Cena would lose, turn heel, and have a long journey back to the top and redemption.

Unfortunately, it ain't gonna happen.

Monday's Raw should be epic. Welcome back Brock. You are a beast and were greatly missed.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Racial Electronic Voice Phenomenon: Did Rick Santorum Call President Obama a "Government Nigger?"

The interpretation all depends greatly on one's own point of view, does it not?

Last week, the public debated if George Zimmerman used the word "coon" to describe Trayvon Martin before he hunted the latter down and murdered him in cold blood.

This week, Rick Santorum is being accused of calling President Obama a "government nigger." Given his love of "blah" people, those social parasites who live off of the backs and sweat of good hardworking white folks, nothing would surprise me. Ultimately, amateur racism chasers may be compelled towards the accused racist mouth utterances of Rick Santorum, angered, taking the tantalizing bait dangled before them.

However, I would advise the professional anglers to focus elsewhere:

We should instead be focused on how the austerity, "small government" policies advocated by the Tea Party GOP are check and mate for the social safety net, and a means of balancing the federal budget on the backs of brown and black folks.

In another era, Harry Houdini (who debunked seances, spiritualists, and mediums) would have made an intervention and gotten right to the literal, as well as proverbial, heart of these vexing matters of race and speech.

As an alternative, perhaps we need to call in the Ghost Hunters to perform an expert analysis of these racial electronic voice phenomenon? You tell me. Did Rick Santorum call President Obama a "nigger?" Or is this claim just an example of the power of suggestion and formant noise?

I like to give folks the benefit of the doubt. Here are some words that Rick Santorum could have potentially been searching for in his tongue tied moment. These examples come from the Scrabble word finder--a resource that Santorum's aids are likely consulting at this very moment:

1. niggardly

2. negator

3. negotiator

4. niggling

5. niglisone

6. nightmare

7. nighed

Do you have any suggestions to offer?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Smearing Trayvon Martin: The True Lie that Black Men Commit More Crime than Whites

The killing of Trayvon Martin is a Rorschach test for American society. This tragedy reveals a deep divide in our political imaginations and communities. It also is a mirror for the fissures of race, ideology, and party that still vex and befuddle us to the present.

Some folks imagine themselves, their children, and members of their communities as Trayvon Martin. To their eyes, Trayvon is a symbol of how American society all too often devalues the lives of people of color.

Other people imagine themselves as George Zimmerman. To them, he is a "victim," a "good" man who only wanted to protect his neighborhood from crime and "suspicious" people. Moreover, the assertion that George Zimmerman acted out of racial bias in his hunting and killing of Trayvon Martin is personally offensive to them. 

Because Zimmerman is “them,” and “they” are Zimmerman, he is quite simply a "law abiding" citizen who is being made a victim of "reverse racism," "race hustlers," and "the liberal media."

Black men are scary, frightening, and suspicious to George Zimmerman and those people who think like him. These beliefs are part of a matrix of racism, prejudice, and stereotypes which are reproduced and disseminated throughout American culture. Ultimately, many on the Right see George Zimmerman as a hero figure; for voters primed on a toxic mix of conservative rhetoric that bundles together such issues as race, guns, and crime, George Zimmerman is a fetish and totem for their wish fulfillment.

In the post civil rights era, old fashioned racism is out of style. Consequently, supporting George Zimmerman necessarily requires the shaming and smearing of Trayvon Martin. Perhaps I am too generous, but I would like to believe that even for the most strident conservative authoritarians and colorblind racists there would be some level of cognitive dissonance to be overcome in order to justify the killing of an unarmed black teenager who was guilty of no more than holding a bag of Skittles, and walking home wearing a hooded sweatshirt in the rain.

The solution to this puzzle comes in a common sense appeal to black thuggery, hooliganism, and a logic which suggests that people like Trayvon Martin are existential threats to civil order and society: to that end, Zimmerman's defenders marshal "data" and "statistics" which "prove" that black men commit a "disproportionate" amount of crime in American society. This "fact" becomes a casus belli for shooting down innocent black and brown people in the streets either at the hands of police, or corrupt vigilantes such as George Zimmerman.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fun With Hate Mail: "So No the White Fear is not About How Virile and Dynamic the Black Man is But Rather How Mentally Ill the Black Man Is"

Some fun Wednesday evening reading for all of you. Here is another communique that made me laugh this week. I am not going to make a habit of giving these clowns the attention--which is what these letter writers want--but every now and then it is useful for good and reasonable people to be reminded of the bigots in their midst.

Even if these are efforts to provoke (and are outliers in public opinion), they are still evidence of a set of social scripts and logic that speak to the dynamics of racism in "colorblind," post civil rights, post racial America in the Age of Obama. Humor, comedy, satire, and yes, hate mail, are all evidence of the dynamics at work in society's collective subconscious.

There are themes and narratives played out in reactionary and rageful whiteness: we can mock it; but in doing so we overlook much of what is lurking in America's racial id.



I enjoyed your article in Alt news. I think I can answer the one of the questions you posed. I quote " Is this fear a result of a deeply held, 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?".

The short answer is the number one killer of young black men is other young black men. Blacks are psychotic murders who kill on a whim because of their hate filled insanity. That is not white fear speaking but, sadly, too much contact with blacks.

I was talking to a older black man in a park in Atlanta. He had just retired from the parks service and had come back home with the dream of starting a fish farm. He lamented to me about his efforts to look up all his boyhood friends. Basically everyone he used to know died violently or ended up in prison. He was sure he would have ended badly if he had not gone to work for the white parks service and left Atlanta.

A black fellow started a conversation with me in a food line in some city. He regaled me over how he would trust a white man over a black in a heart beat. A white would go out of his way to do you right but a back would always do you wrong. Because blacks are simply evil. Of course I am filtering his words in the nicest way.

Let me tell you how a group of blacks almost beat me up in a park in Florida. I struck up a friendly conversation with a small group of blacks.They started telling me how the white man was holding them down. The white devils understand the way the black mans mind works so well that if you put a white and a black in a class together and teach them side by side the back will fail while the white will pass with honors.

This happens because the teachers use words, phrases, numbers in a way that black minds are biologically unable to understand. I started laughing because I knew they were trying to see how gullible I was. I knew there was no way they could think of themselves as that inferior to whites. They quickly let me know that they were so serious that they were willing to kill me over it.

The thing that makes my skin crawl is that I have run into this same thing with blacks in cities all over this country. I put it down to a ingrained refusal to take personal responsibility for personal actions. I have met a race of people who would rather believe in a incomprehensibly superior God like enemy white race rather than entertain the concept of personal bad habits destroying them. All across this nation are people willing to beat me to death if I counter with the proposal that maybe good study habits would over come this problem.

Statistically speaking blacks are insane. Black on white violence happens ten times more often than white on black. The scary thing is that the FBI fudges the numbers to make the blacks look less violent. A white raping a black is a oddity whereas a black raping a white is a social icon. The police are racist if they base their conduct on the fact that statistically the criminal is a black man.

So no the white fear is not about how virile and dynamic the black man is but rather how mentally ill the black man is. With the introduction of modern recreational drugs black violent irrationality due to brain damage has down right iconic. Yes, I have been attacked by groups of blacks, not mentioned in this letter, over the money in my pocket or hatred of whites five times and attacked by white muggers only once.

I was also attacked by Italians once because the black man they thought had stole from them pointed at me walking down the street and said it was me. They beat me up before they accepted that the thief they had caught had nothing to do with me. I don't know what they did to the black man after they let me go. That number does not include the many times I have altered my course to avoid potential attacks by blacks which is a survival trait you learn due to contact with blacks.


Smearing Trayvon Martin: The Salem Witch Trials, Mass Hysteria, and the Specter of Black Thuggery

The efforts to smear Trayvon Martin by introducing irrelevant information to what is most basically a simple story about white thuggery, and a violation of Constitutional rights, would be a fascinating footnote more worthy of a legal case book than a national drama if not for how conservatives and the glib classes have rallied to defend a murderer.

As I have written about in numerous places, black masculinity is an imperiled identity, one that is forever suspect and at risk. The rights afforded to others do not apply to bodies marked as black and male. Moreover, the obfuscations that are central to an exercise which assumes the criminal culpability and guilt of black Americans in all matters is a script that is centuries old.

The denial necessary to let George Zimmerman walk free, to cover up his deeds, to make excuses for killing innocent people, and to proceed a priori from an assumption that black men are a criminal class that can be killed at will, is evidence of a type of mass White hysteria.

They burned witches in the United States and Europe by the thousands for more than a century using much the same raggedy logic; White people hung and dismembered black women, men, and children and sold their body parts at county fairs using much the same logic; and in the post civil rights moment, Age of Obama, many in the White public skewer murder victims who happen to be black using a logic that assumes black criminality and white innocence in all transgressions--perceived or real--across the color line.

Accepting the self-serving lies of George Zimmerman (fictions he most certainly believes), his enablers, and the police who are collaborators in covering up their criminal incompetence, are in total, a type of spectral evidence.

This is a perfect analogy as the specter, i.e. a ghost, is only "real" to the person who sees it--what is a perfect fit for the claims of George Zimmerman to "self defense" at the hands of a black youth he harassed, stalked, and threatened. Spectral evidence is also a way of creating community. It is a litmus test for determining the boundaries of community, who is included, and who is excluded, by virtue of a shared experience.

The question then becomes how do those who believe in reasonable justice, and that Trayvon Martin was killed by a racist vigilante who likely called him a "coon" during the hunting, marshal evidence against ghosts, spirits, and the ectoplasma of white supremacy? A belief system that assumes all people of color guilty (of any myriad of crimes) at birth?

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?