Thursday, April 19, 2012

"The White Privilege Discourse is Missing an Important Element: Empathy and Compassion for the Oppressor"

This is one of a series of posts in honor of the late Joel Olson.

The research on white racial identity has evolved since coming to public prominence during the 1980's. At first, "Whiteness Studies" (as it was called at the time) was focused on the idea that White racial identity was a story of absence, typified by loss, and a parasitic relationship to blackness. This first wave was also derided by many conservatives, as well as more Left radical thinkers, as being merely a type of exploitative "white trash studies."

The anti-multiculturalism, dead white male crowd was hostile to any critical intervention that sought to highlight how questions of race and racial hierarchy were/are operative in American society. Forward thinking progressives and liberals were concerned that Whiteness Studies was simply another way of making white people central to conversations about racism. Consequently, Whiteness Studies did the work (however unintentional) of White Privilege even as it sought to problematize the concept.

Joel Olson was part of a second--or perhaps even third wave...depending on how one periodizes the genealogy--of scholars and students who worked to make a "critical" intervention against Whiteness. As a qualifier, "critical" is a much overused descriptor in academic writing. Oftentimes, critical is just a way of separating your own "original" contribution from those of other scholars. It has no real meaning beyond being an attention getter or flag that often signifies what are only minor differences in argument or content.

However, I would suggest that Critical Whiteness Studies was substantively different from earlier scholarship on the subject. The critical intervention here, a tradition I count myself part of, is that we now see Whiteness as not merely or only centered on absence. Rather, Whiteness has content, substance, and meaning. While Whiteness is still parasitic relative to blackness, it does have identifiable attributes, traits, contours, boundaries, characteristics, and substance.

In all, Whiteness is a type of property, privilege, normality, and invisibility. Whiteness is also something that its owners, and those who desire it, are deeply invested in protecting and maintaining. I would also add that Whiteness is a type of racial glue that masks and holds together other, often contentious and disparate identities, which white people as complex individuals possess.

Ultimately, the study of Whiteness, and the loose discipline we know as Critical Whiteness Studies, is about much more than white privilege. Yes, the latter is a foundational concept and useful entry point into the conversation for laypeople; white privilege is also a nice hook for those curious about what Whiteness means in American society on a day-to-day basis. But, it should be a beginning, and not an end, to the rigorous work that is exploring racial ideologies and their consequences for American society.

Psychology Today's "Between the Lines" is a column by Mikhail Lyubansky that explores the linkages between "race, culture, and community." Several of the pieces in that series have focused on White Privilege and how race continues to matter in "post-racial" America. The most recent entry is a nice complement to Joel Olson's work. There, Mikhail Lyubansky offers up a ten point list of what readers should know about White privilege.

Some of the suggestions are very useful for journeyman travelers (the idea that Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack is helpful, yet is just a beginning, and that reading McIntosh does not make you an expert on these matters; White Privilege is not to be minimized as a "historical" phenomenon, it is about the present; and the roots of the White Privilege discourse must be acknowledged as springing forth from the likes of Du Bois, James Baldwin, Harold Cruse, Gloria Anzaldua and Theodore Allen).

Mikhail Lyubansky's other observations are more inside baseball: anti-racism activities by whites can actually be paternalistic and reproduce many of the same dynamics which these same well-meaning white folks ostensibly desire to unsettle; what to do with white anti-racist activists who are now the face of advocacy on these issues, as they ironically make money off of white racism?

In keeping with the idea that Critical Whiteness Studies should be centered on rigorous inquiry in the service of theory building as we strive to more accurately model how race, power, and social relationships interact, there are two points in Mikhail Lyubansky's essay that are problematic.

First, he suggests that:
8. Racial-minority privilege exists and serves an important function. I'm not saying that it is equivalent to white privilege — the power differential alone makes that impossible — but there is such a thing as racial-minority privilege. In marginalized spaces (also called counter spaces), this means that people of color generally have the privilege of speaking about race without having their point of view challenged solely on the basis of their racial identity or racial appearance.
Mikhail Lyubansky offers up a thorough qualification of this claim and how it relates to colorism in black and brown communities, as well as issues of intersectionality. However, I am more interested in the first principle: how can racial minorities (and this holds for gays and lesbians, and also women) have any type of "privilege," be it relative or absolute, in a society and set of social institutions which are prefaced on white superiority and white domination? For example, black and brown people may have what are problematically called "safe spaces" on colleges and universities. But, these "safe spaces" are prefaced on the idea that their voices are not heard or listened to elsewhere. Of symbolic and practical import, these "safe spaces" are often ghettoized in the Office of Multicultural Affairs or Diversity Relations.

The second problematic is as follows:
9. The privilege discourse is missing an important element:empathy and compassion for the oppressor. Social justice activist, Kit Miller (a White woman), observes that empathy has a hard time flowing upstream. Few are more starved for empathy than those who have structural power, because they are often dehumanized on the basis of having that power. How many of us, for example, see police officers as individual human beings motivated by the same universal human needs (e.g., love, acceptance, contribution, mutuality) as the rest of us? How about the politicians belonging to the political party you dislike most?

In the context of race relations, this means that there is not much empathy coming to white folks from across the racial divide. This, of course, is perfectly logical. It is certainly not the responsibility of the oppressed and marginalized to take care of the oppressor's emotional needs. Suggesting otherwise would be, at best, an egregious expression of white privilege. Yet, it is also true that those who oppress others (and certainly those who do not perpetrate oppression themselves but stand by while others do so) have likely themselves experienced oppression and are themselves harmed by their own actions or lack of thereof.
While it certainly impacts people of color disproportionately and more negatively, racism (and racial color-blindness) hurts everyone, even those who are part of the majority group...
It is often not obvious, but to maintain their status, those who are in power must justify their behavior to themselves and that requires a partial loss of their humanity.
Mikhail Lyubansky's take here is very defensive. He is desperately trylng to avoid the smear known as "reverse racism." However, when one proceeds from an anxiety about a specious and disengenous concept such as reverse racism, your argument is flawed from its inception. The idea that those with power are starved for empathy also strikes me as the worst type of feel good tripe that is offered up in a moment when some white folks feel aggrieved, or their feelings hurt, when the institutional and personal power afforded by Whiteness is called out and made transparent.

Perhaps, on a cognitive and philosophical level I am incapable of understanding Mikhail Lyubansky's version of "the love principle." Moreover, Mikhail Lyubansky's social justice take--that one needs to show empathy for those who are deeply invested in maintaining their disproportionate power and control over society to the disadvantage of people of color in mass--as Whiteness works to maximize the life chances of its owners, participants, and allies (to the detriment of others), is simply a bridge too far.

Am I being unfair in these critiques? Is my critical project being handicapped by an inability to both empathize and relate to the perilous anxieties and fears of those who we call "White" in America? What is your critical take on these conversations?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our White Criminal of the Week: White Man Commits 10 Felonies in 9 Hours!

The second honoree in WARN's series on white criminals is a good one. Quigonjin, one of our loyal crime stoppers, was kind enough to send in some information on this foul brigand highwayman. Always remember: if you see something you should say something! White crime only flourishes when we ignore their obviously suspicious behavior.

Given that white people have a particular propensity for cheating and subterfuge, as evidenced by the fact they are more likely to be financially rich, the behavior of William Todd should not be a surprise. White criminals are particularly earnest in their trade--be it looting the finances of millions of Americans in the fraud that precipitated the Great Recession--or committing 10 felonies in 9 hours.

People of color simply do not have it in them to commit crimes on such a scale, and with these high levels of speed and efficiency. Once more, white crime is especially pernicious, threatening, and loathsome. Responsible Americans everywhere should pay close to attention to the white men in their midst as these folks are capable of criminal deeds that astound the mind--and apparently they have a love of marking their turf with human feces.

Be scared, very scared by white men such as William Todd. Because they are pathological--and as such often quite skilled at hiding their predilections--many such men could be ticking time bombs, hiding as your "normal" children, neighbors, husbands, or coworkers. Whiteness is invisible. This trait only contributes to its owners ability to commit crimes as they escape without consequence or arrest.


One man traveling through Tennessee allegedly completed a crime spree with such urgency that even local police say they'd never seen anything like it.

William Todd, 24, is accused of committing 10 felonies in just nine hours while going on a "terror" through Nashville.

"He was just on a terror. I've never seen anything like this before," Sgt. Tony Blackburn, told WSMV.

Todd is not even a native of Nashville. Police say he traveled there on a Greyhound bus from Kentucky before beginning his unprecedented crime spree. Upon arriving in Nashville, he allegedly broke into a local business called The Slaughterhouse, where he stole a Taser, revolver and shotgun. He then proceeded to steal a T-shirt from the Slaughterhouse before burning the business to the ground.

Todd then moved on to a local bar, where he held four patrons at gunpoint. He robbed all four individuals but not before using the Taser on one and pistol-whipping another.

Just five minutes later, Todd moved onto his next alleged felony, carjacking a taxi driver at gunpoint. After leaving the cab, he used the credit cards he had stolen from the bar patrons to buy food.

"He was able to find the Walmart on Nolensville. He goes there and purchased $199 worth of items," Sgt. Blackburn said.

And that was only the beginning.

In the early hours of the following morning, Todd then broke into a local hotel's law office. He not only vandalized the offices but also then defecated on a desk and smeared his feces on some of the framed law degrees.

Leaving the offices, Todd then reportedly robbed several of the hotel guests. He knocked on their door pretending to be a female housekeeper, then robbed them at gunpoint. He was also reportedly crying while doing so.

He then briefly paused for a change in personal appearance.

"We have him on video leaving the hotel with a shaved head," Sgt. Blackburn said.

After crashing his stolen cab into a local parking garage, Todd then quickly held another taxi driver at gunpoint. When police finally apprehended Todd, he was hiding atop Opryland, partially submerged in a water-cooling vat. The Metro Fire Department was brought in to assist in Todd's removal from the vat, using a bucket and ladder truck.His bond has reportedly been set at $180,000.

"He rode the Greyhound bus and had a layover, then left in blue lights," Sgt. Blackburn said. "There definitely could be more charges. We hope that there are no more victims."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Honoring the Late Dr. Joel Olson: "What does Whiteness Mean for White People?"

Joel Olson, a professor at Northern Arizona University whose work I have featured here on more than a few occasions, recently passed away. He was only 43 years old. Olson was the author of The Abolition of White Democracy. There he developed the idea of white racism as central to White (herrenvolk) democracy. Furthermore, Olson posited that blacks were a group of "anti-citizens" who white Americans engaged in mass violence against in order to 1) reinforce racist populist norms, and 2) where violence functioned as a type of social leveler for the imagined fraternity of White Men.

Olson's journal articles and popular writings were also very incisive. His great essay on race, white privilege, and the Occupy Movement will undoubtedly be included in a forthcoming collection of essays about that political moment.

I never met Dr. Olson. But, I would like to do right by his memory and the type of critical scholarship on whiteness which he was engaged in as an intellectual project. We rarely do "theme weeks" here on We Are Respectable Negroes. The loss of Joel calls for a bit of a tribute and reflection. To point, I will be posting a series of essays, found news items, and other pieces that take a critical perspective on Whiteness and white racial identity throughout the week.

There was always a bit of snark and sharpness operating in the spaces between the sentences of The Abolition of White Democracy. Hopefully, I can capture a bit of that energy in my honoring of its author.

As an entry point for Critical Whiteness Week, I offer up the following set of question(s): What does Whiteness mean for white people? What does Whiteness mean for those who are not white? And what does Whiteness mean in "post-racial" America?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Smart People Talking About Race and Crime: Khalil Gibran Muhammad Breaks Down the Condemnation of Blackness

I have been at C2E2 here in Chicago and the con has been great fun. I did some networking and made some progress on the graphic novel which I have been trying to develop. As always, there are lots of great people here. The brother dressed up as Sho'nuff from The Last Dragon was a highlight and most certainly one of the most creative cosplayers here--got to give love to the ghetto nerds.

I also met Herbert Jefferson Jr., the original Boomer on the classic 1970s era Battlestar Galactica. I shook his hand and offered up a hearty thanks for what his role meant to many black and brown folks who were searching for people of color in the white racial frame of popular science fiction and space fantasy during the 1970s. Val Kilmer was also a magnetic and fun speaker.

After coming back from C2E2, I happened to discover the above interview with the newly appointed head of the Schomburg museum in New York and thought it appropriate to share with you all.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad's interview about his book The Condemnation of Blackness is a great follow-up to our conversation about W.E.B. Du Bois, black thuggery, and the politics of African American respectability. I have borrowed a few of Dr. Muhammad's ideas in previous posts--I am especially taken by his suggestion that African Americans have historically been treated as adults for purposes of criminalization and punishment, but are viewed as children in regards to citizenship. Consequently, I wanted to give him the shine he more than deserves.

Muhammad's assertions about the intellectual work done by sociologists (and others) to decriminalize white ethnics during the early 20th century (and to ensure that their deviant classes were viewed as individuals--as opposed to representative actors of a whole "race") is also very telling. Blackness as a necessary group identity, and whiteness as absolute individuality, is still with us in the year 2012: this is a governing meta-narrative for the discourse surrounding the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

Ultimately, when scientists, political elites, and intellectuals conspire to create new truths they generate new regimes of knowledge and "common sense."

Here is a thought for you: imagine if in the same moment that the knowledge workers who struggled to make sure that white ethnics could become massaged into the American tradition through "assimilation" also chose to include black Americans in the mix. What would our society and public life look like in the present? Would people of color be more or less free?

Yes, citizenship and blackness are intentionally constructed as juxtapositions to one another. But, we can still entertain the counter-factual of what could have been.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Diversity Games: Barack Obama and the Rise of "Multiculturalism Incorporated"

Racism is an instinctive tool to capture resources and deny them to competitor "species." This is why Obama is backed by the Wall Street bankers. To them, he is a tool to safeguard their fortunes against the rising tide of public resentment. They are excellent psychologists, and psychic abusers of the popular Black mind.
They know, through their experts in PR (advertising and the management of the public mind), how the popular Black mind pines for symbols of "hope," for action heros on basketball courts and on the big screen — Will Smith saving the fantasy worlds Hollywood conjures with smoke and mirrors. Any hero in any arena can be produced to distract and quell the masses, so long as it is not an actual hero in any arena of actual power...
Obama may have some decent intentions beyond his blatant careerism, but clearly the careerism is primary, and for that he must reassure his sponsors that he can quell the public. The job he is applying for is to keep public affairs calm enough so the same select businesses and the same select gamesters can continue to make the same government-backed mega-profits.
In business circles, this is called "maintaining a stable business environment." Obama says "change" but his sponsors know this to mean "stability." "Change" is what we’ll get from the billions we are forced to pay into taxes and inflated prices that profit all too few.
Populations that have histories of being oppressed are easily duped, because they are so desperate for "relief," for "salvation."
In one of our conversations earlier this week, Cnu offered up a link to a great essay at Counterpunch which worked through the relationship between President Obama, the overclass, and a symbolic politics of racial grievance which does little to challenge deleterious, systemic, institutional, macrolevel changes in American political economy.

While I most certainly believe in the power of aggrieved and subordinate groups to resist power and hegemony, and of course to force elite actors to respond to their justice claims, we must also concede how those at the top are adept at managing conflict as a means of serving their own narrow interests.

The election of Barack Obama is central to this story. It is clear that the colorline has been renegotiated in America since the time of the founding. However, it still remains. The Civil Rights Movement was successful as much because of peoples' activism and resistance, as for how elite actors realized that Jim and Jane Crow white supremacy was a national embarrassment in the context of the Cold War.

More broadly, the Racial State evolved over time because the type of personal, intimate, and directly violent exploitation of the plantation (with its old fashioned "dominative" racism) was not suited for a growing industrialism, or many years later, an economy that would evolve into a global, service based, information age set of international markets and actors. As Wendy Somerson notes, in this model "structural racism and sexism are thus denied through visual inclusion within corporate culture."

White supremacy in the United States (and Europe) had to "evolve" from the personal to the structural and institutional if it was to remain effective at allocating resources, and the gains of the in-group and its elites were to be preserved. By comparison, South Africa's herrenvolk society failed to adapt and was subsequently torn down. The genius of American racism is how it adapted in order to survive--all the while maintaining many of the same core inequalities and hierarchies of years and decades past.

The election of Barack Obama was the culmination of this transition. Multiculturalism incorporated won out. Diversity, even a type that is driven less by "justice" and more by profit maximization and the exploitation of human capital, is taken as a given. However, there is nothing at all radical about it. Ironically, I would suggest that the election of the country's first black President is the death knell for justice claims about racial equality and redistribution.

In a time when whiteness is perceived to be under siege, and the State has been drowned in the bathtub by the Right, the narrow and tenuous coalition of white Americans who were somewhat sympathetic to the idea that racial inequality ought to be addressed through robust policy interventions are now disinterested, and in many cases, hostile to such appeals.

Part of this dynamic is a function of crude self-interest and anxieties about scarce resources in the Great Recession. A second component is a cultivated type of white racial resentment and backlash against black and brown progress (seen in the 1960s and early 1970s with the anti-busing movement; in the 1980s with the "small government," "silent majority," and "California tax revolt;" and with the angry white men culture warriors of the late 1980s and early 1990s) which the Tea Part GOP White Nationalists have grown and nurtured in the Age of Obama.

To many Americans, the symbolism of a black man as President of the United States is an epitaph for racism's death--despite all of the available evidence which demonstrates how race impacts life chances in the present. In all, many across the colorline confuse an increasingly diversified class of (token black and brown) political elites, and a myth of an inclusively diverse America cooked up by the dream merchants on Madison Avenue, with a progressive vision and politics that actually empowers people of color by addressing hard questions about the maldistribution of resources in this country--inequalities that track very closely to the dividing lines of racial hierarchy and privilege.

As I often do, what follows is a particularly timely and telling passage from the great new book The Twilight of Equality. Here, Lisa Duggan is working through the rise of neoliberalism, the Culture Wars, and the power of conservative multiculturalism as a type of commonsense for "post racial" post civil rights America.

Could it be that the election of Barack Obama was the final act in the Black and Brown Freedom Struggle, as the Right can create a narrative that racism is dead--all the while mining white racial resentment and victimhood for electoral gains? Piling on, how has this moment been perverted by white racial resentment and faux Right populism into one where a corporatist center right Democrat is skewered as a "Socialist" for not being even more slavish to the financier class? Or more broadly, that the State and the social safety net must be destroyed in the name of "efficiency" and "small government" because it serves and protects minorities, the poor, women, "liberals," gays and queers, all to the disadvantage of "real Americans?"
From the Clinton Administrations's serious efforts to recruit racial minorities and women into high-level government service, and to reduce the range of exclusions of sexual minorities, to the G. W. Bush administration's more clearly token gestures of inclusion, the rhetoric of "official" neoliberal politics shifted during the 1990s from "culture wars" alliances, to a superficial "multiculturalism" compatible with the global aspirations of U.S. business interests.
"Culture Wars" attacks and alliances did not disappear, but they receded from the national political stage in favor of an emergent rhetorical commitment to diversity, and to a narrow, formal, nonredistributive form of "equality" politics for the new millennium.
...Some proponents of "equality politics" moved away from civil rights lobbies and identity politics organizations to advocate for the abandonment of progressive-left affiliations, and the adoption of a neoliberal brand of identity/equality politics. These organizations, activists, and writers promote "color-blind" and anti-affirmative action racial politics, conservative-libertarian "equality feminism," and gay "normality"...Such a realignment would rival the 1970's "Southern Strategy" that moved phalanxes of former Democratic voters out of the New Deal coalition and into the Republican columns, largely through "culture wars" racism.

What Would W.E.B. Du Bois Say? Black Brigands Waylay White Man in Saint Patrick's Day Attack

It would appear that our long George Zimmerman's national nightmare is about to be over continue. While in lockup, I know that there are many brothers who are eager to make Zimmerman's acquaintance and show him some "love."

The Trayvon Martin murder has encouraged many good white conservatives to come out of the woodwork and confess their love of black people. The former are now obsessed with "black on black" crime as they plead and prey for our salvation. They ask, "where are Al Sharpton and other such 'trouble-making' 'race hustlers' when white folks are attacked by black goons?" "What of fairness!" "Who is protecting us?"

In the theater of the racially absurd that was inaugurated by the election of the country's first black president, white people are now victims; as such, white conservative reactionaries cry and plead for black and brown allies who will stand in the breach with them against White Victimhood.

Of course, these White concerns about black crime, criminality, and intragroup violence are based on a specious and dishonest type of empathy and care. These voices are silent except when white racism is obvious as a motivation in the shooting down, murder--and lackadaisical investigation of such crime by the police--of black and brown people by Whites (and those who overly identify with them).

Moreover, "the black people need to look in the mirror before they talk about anti-black violence crowd" are also deeply invested in both White deflection and White denial of White racism as a social reality. Here, if they can find one example of bad behavior by blacks against long-suffering white folks, all claims of structural inequality and white privilege are rendered null and void. This is a very neat heuristic. It is also one that is shallow and anti-intellectual.

A few folks have asked me what I think about the Saint Patrick's day mob attack by a group of black teens and young adults on a white tourist in Baltimore, Maryland. I generally do not engage such questions because to do so risks legitimizing a narrative where appeals to black criminality are used as a means to avoid critically engaging structural White Supremacy. Outliers become immunizers; hate crimes become not a habit of whites against people of color, but rather a trend of white suffering and oppression. I try not to legitimate such foolishness with a response.

However, and especially given how there are many new readers to We Are Respectable Negroes, I will offer up an answer that is old hat for those who have been here from the beginning. One can be a critic of white supremacy and still be deeply invested in the politics of black respectability, dignity, and success. The street brigand troglodytes who attacked this innocent man deserve to be put under the jail.

By implication, how any fair or keen observer can seriously suggest that black folks tolerate the criminal classes, remains a mystery to me.

Apparently, those people who traffic in the fiction that the vast majority of African Americans love black hooligans, have not spend any time actually talking to us. And most certainly, these same dim types have not conversed across the color line, or sat in on our churches, mosques, barbershops, hair salons, dens, or living rooms, where during private moments the punishments for street urchin mouth breathers that we discuss would (likely) make Hammurabi shutter and look away.

More than a century ago, W.E.B. Du Bois, one of America's greatest intellectuals, made the following observations about black crime. He was a historian, sociologist, political scientist, poet, science fiction writer, cultural critic, and activist. And lest we forget, elder god Du Bois was also a criminologist.

The street beast highwaymen make few distinctions about the color of their victims. They are not to be protected--as black folks often and reasonably did for some among the criminal classes during the reign of the lynching tree. Respectable negroes, the vast majority of black people, want black ign'ts imprisoned, just as we want killers like George Zimmerman to be treated fairly by the law when they shoot people dead in the street. Justice ought to be blind.

As the miner's canary, Black and Brown Americans only want the rules applied and enforced fairly across lines of race and class. We also want the causes of criminal behavior engaged and dealt with just as readily as the crimes themselves.

The Souls of Black Folks captures this perfectly:
So great an economic and social revolution as swept the South in '63 meant a weeding out among the Negroes of the incompetents and vicious, the beginning of a differentiation of social grades.
Now a rising group of people are not lifted bodily from the ground like an inert solid mass, but rather stretch upward like a living plant with its roots still clinging in the mould. The appearance, therefore, of the Negro criminal was a phenomenon to be awaited; and while it causes anxiety, it should not occasion surprise...
Thus grew up a double system of justice, which erred on the white side by undue leniency and the practical immunity of red-handed criminals, and erred on the black side by undue severity, injustice, and lack of discrimination.
For, as I have said, the police system of the South was originally designed to keep track of all Negroes, not simply of criminals; and when the Negroes were freed and the whole South was convinced of the impossibility of free Negro labor, the first and almost universal device was to use the courts as a means of reenslaving the blacks.
It was not then a question of crime, but rather one of color, that settled a man's conviction on almost any charge. Thus Negroes came to look upon courts as instruments of in- justice and oppression, and upon those convicted in them as martyrs and victims.
When, now, the real Negro criminal appeared, and instead of petty stealing and vagrancy we began to have highway robbery, burglary, murder, and rape, there was a curious effect on both sides the color-line: the Negroes refused to believe the evidence of white witnesses or the fairness of white juries, so that the greatest deterrent to crime, the public opinion of one's own social caste, was lost, and the criminal was looked upon as crucified rather than hanged.
On the other hand, the whites, used to being careless as to the guilt or innocence of accused Negroes, were swept in moments of passion beyond law, reason, and decency. Such a situation is bound to increase crime, and has increased it. To natural viciousness and vagrancy are being daily added motives of revolt and revenge which stir up all the latent savagery of both races and make peaceful attention to economic development often impossible
But the chief problem in any community cursed with crime is not the punishment of the criminals, but the preventing of the young from being trained to crime.

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?