Thursday, July 12, 2012

Did Mitt Romney Want to Get Booed by the NAACP in Order to Shore Up His Right-wing Bonafides?

Even before Mitt Romney delivered his speech before the NAACP National Convention on Wednesday, it seemed unlikely that his primary motive was to convince large numbers of black voters to turn against President Obama. After the speech, many pundits concluded that Romney actually wanted to get booed, and he even admitted in an interview that he "expected" to get a negative response. By the end of the day, things took a nastier turn when Romney told supporters that if those in the NAACP audience like "free stuff," they should vote for Obama, prompting some to accuse him of race baiting.
As my grandmother would say, Mr. Charlie sure can be smart and tricky.

We speculated about Mitt Romney's reasons for speaking before the NAACP given the pitiful support he enjoys among black voters. Was it a symbolic gesture? Was Romney sincere in his effort to court the black vote? Could it be that the NAACP was not the real intended audience for Romney's speech?

Mitt Romney is turning iron into gold here. Disdain and hostility for black people (and other people of color) is the glue that holds together contemporary conservatism in America. The boos of the NAACP in response to Mitt Romney's stated promise to work against the policy priorities of that organization are points scored in the eyes of the white Right.

Rush Limbaugh "white-wing" conservative bloviator would seem to echo this possibility:
Rush Limbaugh said Mitt Romney’s speech Wednesday to the NAACP fell flat because it was “over these people’s heads” and that the group booed the Republican candidate, who “sounded like Snow White with testicles,” simply because he’s white.
Limbaugh, who regularly refers to the NAACP as the “NAALCP” — the extra L is for “liberal” — claimed that President Barack Obama insulted the group by sending Vice President Joe Biden instead. 
“He’s confident they’ll boo Romney, simply because Romney’s white,” Limbaugh said. “He’s confident of that. But he knows that he’s gonna have hell to pay in private meetings with these people. He’s not gonna get anywhere near it. So what an insult. Here’s Obama sending Biden, not going himself.” 
Limbaugh portrayed the crowd at the NAACP’s annual convention in Houston as ignorant of what was good for them and susceptible to pandering from Obama and other Democratic politicians. 
“This group wants to hear about tax increases and bigger government to take care of people,” he said, according to a transcript. “They don’t want to hear about self-reliance, they don’t want to hear about free enterprise. Free enterprise means you’ve gotta do it yourself. Free enterprise means it’s up to you. Free enterprise means you’re on your own. This group doesn’t want to hear that. I don’t think Romney got a single vote in here today.”
As I observed regarding his genius campaign slogan which argues that Barack Obama is a lazy black man, Romney is a devious foe. Deadly in fact. Romney's speech before the NAACP was a classic misdirection and feint. Just like in chess, or on the battlefield, be very mindful of what the enemy is giving you--the real attack is usually coming from where you least expect it.

Mitt Romney, the NAACP, Ayn Rand, and Libertarian Racism

Mitt Romney is polling at about 1 percent support among African Americans. Consequently, he had nothing to lose by giving an address to the NAACP yesterday.

I will give Mitt Romney extra points for showing up before such a hard audience. Given how Romney was booed, and the unpopularity of his policies, such a speech before the NAACP took some tenacity (others would call it hubris) and strength of conviction.

However, politics is ultimately about winning friends, giving interest groups something they want in order to support you, and securing the votes of a given public: Mitt Romney fell flat in all these regards before the NAACP on Wednesday.

Consider the following. What politician, who is serious about winning over a constituency, spends time in front of one of their most important organizations, and then proceeds to tell them, to their faces, about his support for policies which would hurt them and/or are counter to their interests?

Black folks support President Obama's health care reforms. Black folks disproportionately work for federal and state governments--and are thus put out of their jobs and on the street by Romney and the Republican Party's assault on the public sector and unions. Black folks, as a group of Americans disproportionately represented among the working and lower middle classes, would see their taxes go up under Romney's proposed tax initiatives.

Yet, in a major speech before the NAACP, Mitt Romney says he will work against all of those stated interests and priorities. Riddle you that one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

For Ghetto Nerds and Grognards: Just Like a Good Iron Monger War Profiteer, Pratt & Whitney is Caught Selling U.S. Military Technology to China

The Canadian arm of the aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney closed a six-year U.S. government probe last week by admitting that it helped China produce its first modern attack helicopter, a serious violation of U.S. export laws that drew a multimillion dollar fine. 
At the same time it was helping China, the company was separately earning huge fees from contracts with the Pentagon, including some in which it was building weapons meant to ensure that America can maintain decisive military superiority over China's rising military might. 
The Chinese helicopter that benefited from Pratt's engines and related computer software, now in production, comes outfitted with 30 mm cannons, anti-tank guided missiles, air-to-air missiles and unguided rockets. "This case is a clear example of how the illegal export of sensitive technology reduces the advantages our military currently possesses," Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said in a statement released on June 28. 
The events are once again raising questions about the circumstances under which major defense contractors might be barred from government work. Independent watchdogs have long complained that few such firms have been barred or suspended, even for egregious lawbreaking, such as supplying armaments or related equipment to a hypothetical adversary. 
Nothing in the settlement agreement, in which Pratt & Whitney and two related companies, United Technologies and Hamilton Sundstrand agreed to pay a total of $75 million for multiple violations of export rules, directly threatens Pratt's existing or future government contracting.
Gangster Capitalist Mitt Romney and his handlers are trying to massage away the difference between "outsourcing" and "offshoring" in order to protect the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee's reputation as a defender of the common man and the American dream.  

Regardless of this exercise in Orwellian newspeak, we are reminded once more of how corporations are sociopathic, and not at all beholden to notions of patriotism, nationalism, or the Common Good.

More from the Atlantic:
When Hamilton finally discovered the military use of its software in Feb. 2004, it shut down its production in less than a week. Pratt, still holding out hope for the large civilian helicopter contract, picked up where Hamilton Sundstrand left off and exported its own versions of the software to China through June 2005. 
Prosecutors, in a court filing, said the company turned a "blind eye" to any doubts because it was hungry to earn up to $2 billion from the civilian program. Canadian authorities, after being told about the parallel Z10C helicopter, approved the export of 10 engines. 
Pratt & Whitney's Canadian subsidiary next asked its sister subsidiary Hamilton Sundstrand -- headquartered in the United States -- to write the software needed to control the engines, without saying that the purpose was to equip a military helicopter. From January 2002 to October 2003, Hamilton Sundstrand exported 12 versions of the software to Pratt & Whitney, which sent six of those on to China for use in the development model of the Z10 helicopter, according to the settlement agreement. 
United Technologies made a limited disclosure about its involvement to the State Department in 2006, after an institutional investor said it was researching the company's role in helping China's military and threatened to disinvest. The company has now admitted that disclosure -- which claimed the company believed at the outset there were dual civilian and military helicopter programs -- was inaccurate. 
In the end, Pratt got little more for its troubles than a federal probe. In early 2006, China's Aviation Industry Corporation told Pratt & Whitney the supposedly parallel civilian helicopter development would be scrapped. Instead, China said it would instead build a much larger civilian helicopter, too large for the engines built by Pratt & Whitney.
According to the Justice Department's statement announcing the settlement, the first batches of the Z10 attack helicopter were delivered to the People's Liberation Army of China in 2009 and 2010.
China is a (rising) superpower. It is not at all outside of the realm of reason or possibility that the United States and her allies will be in a conflict with China in the near future. Yet, an American company sells them the software and technology necessary, in violation of the law, to make their war machine more effective at killing American soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines.

There will be few if any consequences for this act of treason. The issue is too technical for the public to latch onto as presently framed; political elites live in a revolving door universe where they move seamlessly from the public to the private sector; and the military-industrial complex has so much money and influence over American life that few folks have the moral fortitude or personal integrity to speak up against it.

Apparently, such trading of technology and secrets between "rival" nations by their corporate actors in order to profit maximize is not at all new or novel. 

For example, I am finally finishing up Adam Hochschild's World War One social history To End All Wars. There he details a similar story of corporate self-interest working contrary to the public good. 

Until reading  To End All Wars, I did not know that during World War One German and British companies traded weapons and material with each other while the citizens of those respective countries were simultaneously killing each another by the millions.

Henry Ford was a notorious anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer. His companies made arms and equipment for the Allies while also providing material support to the Nazis during World War 2.

After the horrors of World War One, the Nye Report on the "merchants of death" concluded that arms manufacturers had a vested interest in war, would act to encourage conflict, and were agents who had little commitment to peace, international stability, or global order. If given the chance, the iron mongers would create and encourage war and killing in order to fatten their bottom line and the shareholders' wallets. 

The corporation is a sociopathic entity. Consequently, if the corporation was a person it would likely be a serial killer. It has been decades since what was good for General Electric was good for Main Street. Ironically, many Americans--especially conservatives where such a belief is held with religious zeal--take this sentiment to still be true.

If the modern corporation is indeed sociopathic, would it not follow that its CEO's and managers are similarly inclined? Why does this not automatically disqualify a candidate like Mitt Romney as a potential protector of the general welfare and steward of our national prosperity?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Freedom Dreams: Paul Gilroy on The Age of Obama vs. The Age of Malcolm X

I occasionally bemoan how the Internet has taken the mystery out of geek and nerd culture. Like others, I too am worried about how social media and the democratization of information has encouraged a dysfunctional public discourse. Anyone can claim expertise with little vetting; opinion based news is now dominant; emotions and feelings are privileged as a type of evidence in lieu of empirical rigor and critical thinking.

However, there are times when the Internet and the digital revolution can aid learning as opposed to stifle it. This great panel discussion about the legacy of Malcolm X is one such example. In the near past, it would have taken months or years for a video or transcript of an event such as this one to circulate. Now, the public has ready access to these types of conversations. This is a net gain.

The featured panelists at the Legacy of Malcolm X conference held in February 2012 are a wonderful mix of thinkers. Paul Gilroy is a noted and highly accomplished philosopher who is best known for his foundational work The Black Atlantic. Tariq Ramadan is a scholar of Islamic Studies, a philosopher, and is frequently called upon to comment on the relationship between religion, secular ethics and law, and the future of a more cosmopolitan Islam. Zead Ramadan is Chairman of the Board for the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Center, and was a family friend of the late Malcolm X.

Heroes are (almost by definition) myths. Some members of the public hold on to these fictions in order to find strength and inspiration. Others find these fictions troublesome and thus take great pleasure in disabusing people of silly thoughts and childish dreams. 

As we have discussed here on a number of occasions, I like my heroes a bit rough around the edges. For me, the details of a person's shortcomings, complexities, and quirks makes them more accessible, and an object of more admiration as opposed to less. Martin Luther King Jr. may have been a womanizer and in many ways a hypocrite (and even a plagiarist). Muhammad Ali was a cruel trickster and provocateur who manipulated the country's ugly racial politics to his own ends.

Malcolm X may have had sex with a man (to some this is an unforgiveable possibility).

Moreover, despite how Brother Malcolm is lionized, he was not a perfect thinker, and much of the political ideology he channeled was not a good fit for confronting the practical political realities (and constraints) of Jim and Jane Crow America.

Their accomplishments are made no less great because of these facts.

Paul Gilroy's intervention about black masculinity and how we, black men in particular, invest ourselves in Brother Malcolm is one of the high points of this panel. But as we approach the 2012 Presidential Election, Gilroy's plain spoken realpolitik observations about Barack Obama as a man whose race is secondary to the institutional constraints placed upon him merits (re)emphasis. As he suggests, we can be a society where race is meaningless, but where racism and white supremacy are still a changing same which governs much of American political and social life.

For all of the talk in 2008 about post racial America, and the promise of a President who happened to be black, many in the public forgot that whoever is elected to the country's highest office is a cog in a bigger machine. To believe that you could have radical transformational change through institutional politics was a chimera and a joke. The system is designed to be sedentary, slow, and constrained by inertia. As such, the Age of Obama vs. the Age of Malcolm is a false comparison. The latter was a figure who worked outside of the system (and in fact created little actionable political change); the former is a product of a multicultural, elite class which is deeply invested in maintaining the status quo of the American as a passive consumer-citizen in a market democracy, and of protecting America as an empire.

Many first time, as well as young voters, did not understand this basic fact of American political life. Now, they are disenchanted and less likely to support Obama in the 2012 election. He is not a radical. He is not a "black" president. Obama is quite simply the President of the United States, and a figure who is part of a system which is beholden to certain interests above and beyond all others.

How do we reenergize these disaffected voters? Can we work with their newly gained political maturity in the interest of the Common Good in order to mobilize them against the plutocrats and the Ayn Rand Tea Party GOP? Or are they just disgusted and are going to sit this election out, thus letting Romney, the far worse of the alternatives, into the White House come November?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Suggestions Please: On the Obligatory Necessity of Developing a Commenting Policy for We Are Respectable Negroes

I like to ask folks for feedback. One of the things I have to decide in the next few months as I move We Are Respectable Negroes forward is what to do about an official commenting policy. 

When I started We Are Respectable Negroes I wanted to create a salon of sorts where different people could talk about topics and issues that are not receiving due attention in the mainstream media. Consequently, there is much complexity of thought and opinion surrounding the various issues addressed on this site. We talk about race, politics, popular culture, history, academia, and other issues of both private and public concern. Sometimes these exchanges can become impassioned. However, they should still be grounded in mutual respect, intellectual honesty, and rigor. 

I also decided to have a relatively relaxed policy towards comments and posting. I have chosen to leave the option available for folks to post anonymously for example. I also do not require OpenId or registering in order to comment here on WARN. I did this so that new folks could feel free to contribute without being unduly hindered. Blogger's software is also not very robust in the options it allows for comment moderation. Consequently, this choice was a practical one as well.

I have a few questions--especially for those of you who read WARN but do not comment--this is also a chance for lurkers to introduce themselves as well. 

Is the current tone of the comment section encouraging or discouraging you from participating? Are there issues you would like to discuss but feel that your point of view would be dismissed, subject to bullying, or otherwise rejected prima facie by other posters? Is there anything I could do as an administrator to make you more likely to chime in?

We have a nice group of folks who always comment. My goal is to broaden that community as much as possible, while still allowing for civil discourse. As we broaden the conversation, out of necessity we are going to have to ensure that some basic rules of order, politeness, and common sense are stated plainly for those new arrivals.

At some point, I am going to have to write a more formal commenting policy. For now, here are my principles going forward here on We Are Respectable Negroes. Please feel free to make suggestions.

1. Don't be impolite. Please be respectful of the other commenters. The goal here is to have a robust conversation. WARN is not a "chat site" or place to "try to get your name up" by "owning" other people. This site is also not an opportunity for you to blog by proxy. If you want to share your talking points, propagandize, write a treatise, or free ride, you should start your own web project. If you would like to offer up a guest post please email me and we can talk about your proposed idea.

2. Keep the conversation moving forward. Chime in on the topic at hand, relate it to other pertinent matters. Share some readings, links, or other material that could enlighten us. Conversations have a life of their own. That can be indulged without derailing the topic at hand.

3. Disagreement is welcome and encouraged. We Are Respectable Negroes is not an amen corner. However, if you cannot disagree without calling names, acting childishly, or generally being a jerk, then please refrain from posting. I am pretty flexible and pragmatic. Readers who have been here longer and have a track record get much more leeway than new arrivals. The rule still generally holds. Such is life. 

4. I reserve the right to delete comments which are not moving us forward or that otherwise violate these very basic guidelines for civil conversation. I also reserve the right to ban repeat offenders. I have only done this on one occasion. I hope that I will never have to do so again. After talking to other people who have been writing online for much longer than me (and are much more successful at it), I am slowly coming to see the wisdom of occasionally pulling the weeds out of the garden in order to encourage growth and new life.

5. I write about the topics which interest me. I do not write for the approval of others or to otherwise please people. I enjoy learning from all the good folks who have found their way to WARN. However, I am not going to be subject to the whims of others who get upset because I do not parrot or mirror their political views, hobbies, or interests. As I always say, the Internet is a big place; feel free to start up your own project.

6. I believe in free speech. However, free speech is not a license to be rude, uncivil, harass, bully, or heckle others here on WARN. If this is your preferred means of interacting with people online it is not a good fit for We Are Respectable Negroes.

7. For now, I am going to leave the "anonymous" option available for those who would like to comment. However, I am going to be very robust in policing comments written under that category. I would suggest picking a name and using it for purposes of encouraging responsible dialogue where we can all learn by talking--and hopefully listening more--to each other. 

Fifteen Kids and Three Baby Daddies: Of Welfare Queens and the Guilt of President Obama by (Black) Association

This is going to be a huge story in the Right-wing media. 

The 2012 presidential election is going to be very, very close. It is a given that Mitt Romney and the Tea Party GOP will use any means necessary to defeat Barack Obama--honorable or otherwise. In addition, they are much buoyed by the recent unemployment data which suggests a further stagnating economy and an extremely vulnerable incumbent: no President in the modern era has won reelection with unemployment figures as dismal as those offered up on Friday.

In these next few months I am going to be detailing the nuts and bolts of how Mitt Romney and the Tea Party GOP are going to use sophisticated appeals to white racial resentment in order to defeat the country's first President who happens not to be white. 

For example, as I suggest here, Mitt Romney's "Obama isn't working" slogan is one of the most nakedly racist campaign slogans which American politics has seen in many years. 

This is part of a broader strategy. The Republican primaries featured almost every degenerate and racist stereotype that can be used to slur black personhood and humanity: their strategy was so brazen that it even included a "black" candidate named Herman Cain who was a walking double-corked, race minstrel. 

The 2012 election will only see more of this Southern Strategy 2.0 redoubled for the Age of Obama.

To this point, the Tea Party GOP has successful deployed Ayn Rand conservatism, with its language of "surplus/unproductive" people and "job creating" citizens, to hoodwink the white authoritarian inclined populist classes into supporting policies which are against their immediate political and economic self-interest(s). 

Attitudes about the State, "big government," and taxes are closely tied to racial animus and hostility. These are dog whistles and code words for white conservatives which enable them to talk about "lazy" black and brown people. Without exception, these appeals are rarely, if ever, centered on how the white middle class is subsidized by the submerged state.

Consequently, the mouth-breathing Tea Party Populists who want lower taxes and a strong national defense (or alternatively, love Social Security and despise "big government") can valorize themselves as "real Americans" and the "guardians" of the national prosperity despite the internal inconsistency of their own political views.

As Martin Gilens and others have smartly detailed, beliefs about poverty are inexorably connected to stereotypes about race. In the white popular imagination, to be poor equals to be a person of color. Gender is part of this narrative as well. This is especially true in the Right-wing conservative imagination: women are to be controlled by men. Black and brown women especially so. 

Political narratives about poverty are also claims about morality, as well as the value of certain groups of people over others. Because conservatives are incapable of acknowledging the force and power of social structures in determining life chances, poor people are framed as being immoral, lazy, craven, decadent. and
They deserve their circumstances. As such, they should be "dispensed" with.

Stories such as the above about a black woman with more than a dozen children by numerous men are going to be increasingly common as the 2012 Presidential election approaches. 

Why? Stories about "professional victims" activate white racial resentment. Such feelings work to win over independent leaning whites and solidify conservatives in their hostility towards President Obama. Because political ideologies are part of a bundle of beliefs that are not cleanly separated, political attitudes which link black and brown folks together (in however tenuous a manner) with poverty and crime have great currency in American politics. 

This racial frame can be easily applied to other issues. It synergizes with the ghetto underclass meme and the Welfare Queen stereotype. Consequently, it also hurts President Obama on issues like healthcare reform and the economy. On the surface, these issues would appear to have little to do with matters of race. However, conservatives understand that if they can attach a black or brown face to any matter of public concern, this move could potentially undermine white public support for the President. 

Ultimately, it does not matter that health care reform should be a race neutral issue, or that poor whites outnumber poor people of color. Alternatively, that we can construct similar stories about wayward white baby daddies, fecund irresponsible white women with kids by multiple fathers with no resources or jobs, and who live on the public dole with hands out expecting Joe Q. Public to support their irresponsible habits, and said narratives are rarely circulated via the mass media.

Since the 1960s, the face of poverty in America has been African American. As such, "black" poverty and "black" degeneracy will be repeated themes in Romney's Ayn Rand-like campaign language of "productive citizens," "job creators," and "lazy" "parasites."

President Obama is guilty by (black) association. There is little, even allowing for a Bill Clinton Sistah Souljah moment, that Obama can do to remove such a vulnerability. Consequently, it is critical that this Right-wing con game be called out at every opportunity.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Herman Cain TV: A White Tea Party Conservative Enabling National Platform for Coonery and Buffoonery

I was a Herman Cainaholic. I have been sober for almost a year. Now, commenter Sabrinabee has forced me off of the wagon. Damn her. 

So, "if you can laugh at me, then you can laugh at yourself?" By implication, white folks' embracing of race minstrelsy Steppin Fetchit coon foolishness is actually an act of self-effacing humility. No racism here; to even suggest as such is unfair and mean to those good white conservatives who just want a they always have:
The coon caricature is one of the most insulting of all anti-black caricatures. The name itself, an abbreviation of raccoon, is dehumanizing. As with Sambo, the coon was portrayed as a lazy, easily frightened, chronically idle, inarticulate, buffoon. The coon differed from the Sambo in subtle but important ways. Sambo was depicted as a perpetual child, not capable of living as an independent adult. The coon acted childish, but he was an adult; albeit a good-for-little adult. Sambo was portrayed as a loyal and contented servant.
Indeed, Sambo was offered as a defense for slavery and segregation. How bad could these institutions have been, asked the racialists, if blacks were contented, even happy, being servants? The coon, although he often worked as a servant, was not happy with his status. He was, simply, too lazy or too cynical to attempt to change his lowly position. Also, by the 1900s, Sambo was identified with older, docile blacks who accepted Jim Crow laws and etiquette; whereas coons were increasingly identified with young, urban blacks who disrespected whites. Stated differently, the coon was a Sambo gone bad...
Unlike Mammy and Sambo, Coon did not know his place. He thought he was as smart as white people; however, his frequent malapropisms and distorted logic suggested that his attempt to compete intellectually with whites was pathetic. His use of bastardized English delighted white audiences and reaffirmed the then commonly held beliefs that blacks were inherently less intelligent. The minstrel coon's goal was leisure, and his leisure was spent strutting, styling, fighting, avoiding real work, eating watermelons, and making a fool of himself. 
If he was married, his wife dominated him. If he was single, he sought to please the flesh without entanglements.
Herman Cain is one of the greatest race minstrels in American history. He is also a brand--one who now has a global platform for circulating his own version of new age race minstrelsy

I mean that as a complement. There is a certain amount of artistic and performative genius necessary for Herman Cain's political blackface routine. Cain is utterly humble and transparent. He has no shame or embarrassment. This transparency enables Cain to connect with his audience by legitimizing their racism, and yearning for a time when it was okay to wear the burnt cork, and before "the blacks" got all sensitive and uppity.

I have a question. Is Herman Cain part of one of the best psyops in recent memory? Is his game that deep?

At present, the race minstrelsy coonery and buffoonery ranking of inequalities would look something like this:

Tyler Perry > BET > Herman Cain > Mantan Moreland

However, Herman Cain TV could push him to the front of the pack.

In total, Herman Cain is the anti-matter relative to Barack Obama. If the latter's ascendance represented a cultural high point for black respectability, Cain's popularity is a function of the white body politic's psychic overcompensation in response to that same moment.

Friday, July 6, 2012

New Age Race Minstrelsy Strikes Again: 6-Year-Old Black Child Rapper "Stars" in Viral "Booty Pop" Video

As a rule, I try not to give degenerate low culture such as the "Booty Pop" video a broader platform than it deserves. I am also breaking a second rule in that I usually do not use profanity: this video featuring six-year-old Albert Roundtree Jr. is pure fuckery.

The past ain't even past, it remains alive long into the present. Booty Pop is a 21st century version of the centuries old racist archetype known as the picaninny.
Picaninnies as portrayed in material culture have skin coloring ranging from medium brown to dark black -- light skinned picaninnies are rare. They include infants and teenagers; however, most appear to be 8-10 years old. Prissy, the inept and hysterical servant girl in Gone With the Wind (Selznick & Fleming, 1939) was an exception. 
She was older than the typical picaninny, but her character was functionally a picaninny. Picaninny girls (and sometimes boys) have hair tied or matted in short stalks that point in all directions; often the boys are bald, their heads shining like metal. The children have big, wide eyes, and oversized mouths -- ostensibly to accommodate huge pieces of watermelon. 
The picaninny caricature shows black children as either poorly dressed, wearing ragged, torn, old and oversized clothes, or, and worse, they are shown as nude or near-nude. This nudity suggests that black children, and by extension black parents, are not concerned with modesty. The nudity also implies that black parents neglect their children. A loving parent would provide clothing. The nudity of black children suggests that blacks are less civilized than whites (who wear clothes). 
The nudity is also problematic because it sexualizes these children. Black children are shown with exposed genitalia and buttocks -- often without apparent shame. Moreover, the buttocks are often exaggerated in size, that is, black children are shown with the buttocks of adults. The widespread depictions of nudity among black children normalizes their sexual objectification, and, by extension, justifies the sexual abuse of these children.
We have a black President, but we also have a global popular culture in which the most debased images of black humanity are a type of currency that stands in for our personhood.

The black superpublic is made real...again. If anyone would like to defend the Booty Pop video as innocent, harmless entertainment, please do so. I need the laugh.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What is the Common Good? Why the Supreme Court's Ruling on Obamacare is an Opportunity for a National Civics Lesson

In civics class we learn that federal courts decide whether laws passed by Congress and the state legislatures are constitutional. Therefore the federal courts are the guardians of our Constitution. That is certainly true, but it not the whole story. In fact, the most important function of the federal courts is to legitimate state building by the political branches...

Some have called Roberts' opinion statesmanlike, putting aside personal ideology to apply the law. Others have called it clever, handing conservatives an ideological victory while giving Democrats a policy result they like. My own view is that the Court as a whole performed the traditional function of federal judges in our constitutional system. The political branches sought to build out the American state and change the terms of the American social contract. The Court legitimated this result, but set new ground rules for politics going forward.

What does the decision mean in terms of constitutional doctrine? Much will depend on who wins the next several presidential elections.
As expected and fitting given its importance, the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (the "ACA" or what conservatives have derisively labeled "Obamacare") has generated much national discussion. For all of the partisan hackery, hysterics, bloviating, right-wing madness and appeals to a Civil War, as well as orgasmic histrionics, there are some really smart people, who are saying some really smart things about the Supreme Court's decision--and what the debates surrounding the Affordable Care Act tell us about American politics and political culture.

[There is so much good stuff out there on this issue; please do send in your reading suggestions as well.]

The Supreme Court's decision upholding the ACA is a lightning rod for the deep divides of party and ideology in the United States where one person's belief that it is reasonable, long overdue, and ethically justified to provide a modest extension of the social safety net through the ACA, is another person's tyrannical decision by "big government" to usurp their individual rights and liberties. These fractious moments--if folks can get past the yelling and reason interfering with emotion--are actually opportunities to conduct a national civics lesson.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Trevion Davis vs. Trayvon Martin: Is "Racism Chasing" the Slot Machine of Blogging and Online Media?

CBS Atlanta 46

A few months ago the great John Scalzi of Old Man War fame, and author of the new book Redshirts, generated quite a bit of controversy with his essay Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is. I am usually not a fan of working through the complex realities of race, power, and politics, via analogy. In my experience, such examples, when used to simplify complex social realities, flatten more than they reveal. That qualifier having been offered, John Scalzi's piece was quite spot on in how it discussed, in a novel manner, the realities of white privilege in post civil rights, Age of Obama, American society.

Yesterday, I took the bus to the casino in order to escape the heat afflicting Chicago. I love slot machines. I also love people watching on the bus. When done together, both bring me to a happy place...especially so if I end up winning a few dollars at the casino. This, the randomness of the slot machine, and learning to surrender to it, is a cathartic and zen-like experience for me.

When I returned home I looked online to catch up on the latest controversy of the day.

As a "black blogger" (I am still trying to figure out exactly what that means), many of the stories which are forwarded to me revolve around matters of racial injustice. Some of these news items are important and deserve more attention. As we saw with the Trayvon Martin murder, the Internet and the independent media/blogosphere can do a good job of shaping the public discourse towards a positive end. I am always keenly on the lookout for such  moments, causes, and opportunities.

However, some news items where the topics just happen to coincidentally involve a person of color, as opposed to revealing something substantive about the relationship between the color line and power, just leave me shrugging my head in disbelief. 

For example, the cause of the day is the shooting of Trevion Davis by the Atlanta police--while the former was robbing an innocent person's home. An important detail: this teenager was armed with a replica gun and pointed it at the officers before he was shot and killed. My motto here is a simple one: if you live a life of crime the wages of sin are death. It is readily apparent that given his life vocation, Trevion Davis was killed because he was a street pirate who just happened to be black, violent, criminal, and stupid. 

[Who knows? Perhaps, my disinterest in such stories is a function of home training and common sense.] 

I understand how a given public can be deeply suspicious of the police--this is especially warranted given how police authority has been used to harass, kill, wrongly arrest, and beat innocent people, many of whom are members of marginalized communities. Nevertheless, I can only respond with consternation at the excuse-making and denials by Davis' family in response to his death. As my mother says, you know what your kids are capable of; don't act surprised when the seeds you have planted bear fruit.

Those of us who are "race men" and "race women" have to be very cautious about how we expend our very limited political capital. Like any people, not all of our folks are noble, perfect, valorous, or good. We hurt ourselves by claiming tragedy and victimization where the matter is crystal clear, and is really about agency and personal responsibility. The infantalization of African Americans, be it by white conservatives or white liberals, or as in the Trevion Davis case by black opinion leaders, is damaging to our pride and dignity as a community.

This brings me full circle. As WARN has grown over time, I have become increasingly interested in the meta level rules that govern social media, the blogosphere, and online communities. By analogy, the garden variety racism chasing embodied by the faux controversy that is the Trevion Davis shooting, reminds me of the recent day I spent playing the slot machines.

There is really no rhyme or reason to winning at the slots. You put your money in, push a button, and win or lose. However, there are various strategies that can be used if one wants to be less unsuccessful and to maximize the return on their investment. Likewise, there are tried and true strategies that can be used to drive traffic, get attention, and rise in prominence online.

Let me be clear. I am not discounting the skill, ability, gifted sense of timing, and creative talent which distinguishes the best online writers and personalities from the vast majority of average players. I would never do such a thing. However, I am compelled to ask how do we balance the formula--if there is such a thing--for being "successful" online with a commitment to truth-telling, rigor, and intellectual honesty?

Thus my question: is racism chasing the slot machine of blogging? 

Here are some suggested slot machine strategies. Do they parallel those used by successful bloggers and other online writers? If so, what does it suggest about the role of digital and social media media as a means of influencing and shaping public opinion?


Slot Machine Tip #1 - Each spin of a slot machine is entirely random.

Slot Machine Tip #2 - Slot machines pay out less than they take in.

Slot Machine Tip #3 - Don’t fall for slot machine myths. Slots don’t get hot or cold, and wearing your lucky red blouse isn’t going to increase your odds of winning. The slots don’t care how many times you play, what you’re wearing, or the temperature of the coins being inserted. They’re going to give you an equal chance of success or failure on each spin.

Slot Machine Tip #4 - Anyone who promises to share a winning slot machine system with you is either lying or delusional. There is no such thing as a winning slot machine system, because all slots are designed to take in more money than they pay out.

Slot Machine Tip #5 - Know when to stop playing. Before you walk into a casino, figure out how much money you can afford to lose. When that amount is gone, it’s time to call it quits for the day. If you lose your predetermined amount and still find yourself headed to the ATM machine or the Western Union office, there’s a distinct chance that you have a gambling problem.

Slot Machine Tip #6 - Learn the rules of the game. Some slot machines can be confusing at first, so take the time to examine the rules printed on the machine. How many lines need to be activated? How many coins can be played on any given spin?

Slot Machine Tip #7 - Don’t play progressives.

Slot Machine Tip #8 - Playing maximum coins doesn’t matter in the long run.

Slot Machine Tip #9 - If you want to lose less money, play the lower denomination slot machines. You’re going to lose more than you win on any slot, but playing the lower denomination games means you’ll be putting less money in on each spin. While the overall return on cheaper slots is less, it’s still surprisingly easy to bust out while chasing a payout on a five-dollar machine. Stick with nickel or penny slot machines and you’ll be playing for hours.

Slot Machine Tip #10 - Always use a slot card (also known as a player’s card). While using a slot card doesn’t increase your odds of winning, it will allow the casino to monitor how much you play and possibly make you eligible for comps such as free meals and hotel accommodations. Registering for a free player’s card only takes a few minutes, and you can end up saving money in the long run, especially if you’re a frequent slots player.

Slot Machine Tip #11 - Stay away from video reel slots.

Slot Machine Tip #12 - Play in casinos with the best payback percentage.

The next time you visit a casino, be sure to keep these slot machine tips in mind. While you may still end up losing money, the advice provided in this article will ensure that you’ll be able to play longer and smarter than those around you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Class Now Trumps Race in America: Have Conservatives Gotten the Memo Yet?

Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, issued a strong warning to anti-poverty advocates at a forum on social connectedness at the Aspen Ideas Festival Saturday, urging the audience to get beyond talking about poverty and race and start thinking about social mobility and class instead.

"Those two conceptual moves, framing it as poverty and thinking about it as a matter of race, have a very deep history... and I think both politically and analytically that's an almost fatally flawed framework," said Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, in response to remarks from co-panelists Anne Mosle, vice president of policy at the Aspen Institute, and Mario Small, chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago.
For most of American history race has overdetermined life chances. Social capital, life spans, health, wealth, and rates of inter-generational class mobility were all impacted by the color line: here, white Americans received a de facto leg up by virtue of their skin color; black and brown folks were penalized by their status as racially marked individuals whose citizenship was contingent and not full.

Robert Putnam, elder god, and author of the foundational book Bowling Alone, is now complicating this narrative. Along with one of his heirs apparent, the University of Chicago's Mario Small, they are suggesting that class now appears to be trumping race in determining one's life trajectory. If black folks have long been maligned as the poster children of the ghetto underclass, Putnam suggests that macrolevel changes in American society are now beginning to impact white people in similar ways.
"You say poverty to most ordinary Americans, most ordinary voters, they think black ghettos," he continued, whereas over the last couple of generations "class, not race is the dominant -- and becoming more dominant -- dimension of difficulty here."

"Relatively speaking, racial differences controlling for class are decreasing while class differences controlling for race are increasing in America," he said. "Non-white folks with a college education are looking more and more like white folks with a college education and white folks who haven't gotten beyond high school are looking more and more like nonwhite folks who haven't finished high school." 
This is a complex story--and one that will be the subject of much discussion in the near future--as it unsettles many of the long standing assumptions held by social scientists, and experts in public policy, about the nature of poverty in America.

It is clear that America's economy has contracted, and thus put its most vulnerable workers at risk. Consequently, the de facto subsidies used by the submerged state to keep white semi and unskilled labor solidly among the ranks of the middle class have long been disappearing.

Black and brown folks were made victims of neoliberalism, and its gangster capitalism ethos, many decades ago. Urged on by the Republican Party through its skillful deployment of the politics of racial resentment and the Culture War narrative, the white working and middle classes sneered and mocked "the welfare queens" and "ghetto underclass" for their "shiftlessness," poor decision making, and "decision" to not abide by "traditional family values." Thus, the ghettto underclass were "surplus" citizens who "earned" their status as second class citizens.

As Charles Murray demonstrates in Coming Apart, the language and political logic of "surplus," "pathological," and "non-productive" citizens is now being applied to the white poor and working classes. One can never forget that globalization, the Great Recession, and Ayn Rand capitalism takes no prisoners. It is simply a matter of who these elites come for first in the interest of profit maximization. In the United States black and brown folks have historically been the most vulnerable groups. Therefore, their position made them the most precarious and expendable.

Here, the miner's canary got ethered; instead of feeling empathy for the bird, the white guy (perhaps an ethnic who just earned his racial bonafides) holding the cage smiled, happy that it wasn't (yet) him...fate is indeed a trickster as he/she is now laying dead in the bowels of the cave.

America is increasingly a bifurcated society of the haves and have nots, where the rich have seen record corporate profits and growth in income during the worst economy since the Great Depression. Simultaneously, the poor, middle, and working classes have been financially eviscerated as the Great Recession cut away all of the metaphorical fat and left only the toughest muscle and bone. Inevitably, this would impact the body politic across the color line where economic Darwinism would leave some black and brown folks, and many whites, in a strong position, while casting off the others onto a human waste pile.

While respecting Putnam's and Small's prescient insights, I am concerned about how a downshifting of race as an overarching variable for framing the relationships between social capital and upward mobility could imperil our ability to explain broader changes in American political economy. Race and class have historically operated (and continue to do so) as interlocking variables in American social life. To abandon such a foundational understanding is too bold a move and one that comes with great risks.

America is organized as a racial state. While it has evolved, this fact has not changed. In a capitalist society, one where whiteness has been protected as property by law and social convention, those norms run deep. They are not easily discarded. Moreover, as an empirical matter, there is a substantial body of data which details how being born black in America negatively impacts your standard of living, chances at getting a job, return on investment in higher education, makes you more likely to be harassed by the police, die at an earlier age, subject to disparate treatment by the criminal justice system, and face unfair burdens in both housing and lending practices.

As a complement this reality, the following two examples are damning and devastating arguments in favor of a nexus of class inequality through the machinations of race and white supremacy in practice.

First, as the book Black Wealth/White Wealth compelling demonstrates, a poor white person has a better chance of moving to the highest income bracket in a lifetime than a black person born at the top of the income scale has of remaining there. In fact, a rich black person born to the upper class is more likely to fall to the bottom rungs of America's income pyramid than they are of remaining there--as compared to a white person born into the same cohort.

Second, while the Great Recession has hurt the middle class in America, white folks have maintained (if not increased) the amount of wealth they have relative to black and brown Americans.

It is a given that most Americans have been hurt by this economic catastrophe. And of course, capitalism is "creative destruction." But, if class is increasingly less important for determining life chances, it seems odd that on an aggregate level that white folks now have at least two dollars for every ten cents which African-Americans hold in wealth--a differential that has increased during the time of the Great Recession.

Robert Putnam's and Mario Small's argument(s) that race is now trumped by class is sweet music for those of us who have long yearned for interracial, cross class alliances, that break the color line in the pursuit of shared social justice and political struggle. The real world often interferes however. The wages of whiteness are real, sweet, and tempting. They are made even more so when imperiled.

For example, white working class men still support Mitt Romney even though they admit that Obama will do more for people in their class position. Although they are doing much better than black and brown folks in the Great Recession, the white working class is more upset, angry, threatened, and negative about the future.

If they possess any construct validity at all, Whiteness and White Racism are ultimately about maintaining a sense of group superiority over people of color. American history has repeatedly demonstrated that Whiteness is the "complexion for the protection." As such, Whiteness is remarkably aspirational and long sighted. To point, White people--good noble race traitors aside--have consistently chosen racial affinity over class alliances across the color line.

Why? Because White elites have compensated the White masses, not always well, for doing so.

This pattern continues into the Age of Obama. The Tea Party GOP is a White Nationalism political party that mines anti-black and brown affect, as well as white racial resentment, to encourage many white Americans to sell out their substantive economic interests in exchange for a superior position in the country's racial order.

Consequently, the members of the White Right are paid the psychic wages of Whiteness as they suck at the tit of  "real America," "Christian," "god and country," sloganeering.

Professors Small and Putnam have demonstrated that the milk of this source of material nourishment is drying up. The sad irony then becomes that many White conservatives (and others who are overly White identified) that are wedded to their position in the racial order will keep sucking away, ever more desperate for its life force, and made more paranoid (as opposed to less) that a black or brown person will want a taste of that shriveled political breast from which the psychic and material wages of Whiteness flow.

Mario Small and Robert Putnam are likely correct that class is soon to eclipse race as both a determinant of life chances and predictor of social mobility in American society. The unfortunate reality remains that broad swaths of the American public have not yet gotten the memo.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Whenever Conservatives Complain About "Obamacare" You Should Sing The Tea Party GOP Diarrhea Song

The Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama's health care reform bill has provided an opportunity for the ideologically crazed, professional liars, faux Right-wing populists, conspiranoids, and propagandists to play their assigned roles in America's latest national drama. 

Representative Jean Schmidt runs around in a fit of political-religious orgasm and ecstasy in a mistaken celebration of the Affordable Care Act being struck down. Tea Party "Christian" evangelicals, channeling their own selfish remix of Jesus Christ's gospels, lay prostrate on the ground and pray that the Republic is saved from the tyranny of having to modestly extend health insurance to the sick and the needy. Republican governors are threatening a constitutional crisis by refusing to implement President Obama's Affordable Care Act. 

Not to be undone, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann engage in their typical mouth utterances as they call out for the Tea Party Mushroom People to mount up on their Hoveround scooters, put on Colonial era clothing, gather up yee old sword canes, and take the fight for "liberty" and "freedom" to that black usurper in the White House and his treasonous political bed mate Chief Justice John Roberts.

In total, these histrionics are just the latest examples of a long habit where the Tea Party GOP proves itself time and time again to be full of bullshit bovine scatology.  

Of course, everybody poops. But, the response by the Republican Party (and conservatives in mass) to the Supreme Court's upholding of the Affordable Care Act is so overflowing with political fecal matter that they have earned their own unique version of the famed Diarrhea Song.

What follows is my gift to them.

The Tea Party GOP Diarrhea Song
When Mitt Romney flips and flops about things he once endorsed

Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When the Tea Party moans and growns while collecting Social Security and Medicare 
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh open up their mouth holes and tell their daily lies 
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When your friends who watch Fox News believe that they are well-informed  
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When your relatives talk about death panels at the family barbeque
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When Sarah Palin with her head full of stupid bloviates
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When the Right-wing echo chamber says that insurance is a crime cause you won't go bankrupt from a broken leg 
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When Republicans cheer sick and dying people cause they find it funny 
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When the New Right talks about States' Rights and picking up their guns to get that black guy 
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When Republicans talk about Dred Scott and how health care reform will lead to Civil War 
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
When you try to watch Fox News or listen to Right wing talk radio and it makes your tummy burst  
Diarrhea chh chh chh, Diarrhea chh chh chh
In this, our time of the great Right-wing derangement, singing The Tea Party GOP Diarrhea Song may be the only way to maintain your peace of mind when faced with the sociopathic and vitriolic madness of folks determined to view the expansion of basic human rights, and the social safety net, as a type of enslavement and oppression.

The Tea Party GOP Diarrhea Song is a populist project. We all know the truth behind the lyrics; at one time or another we have all experienced it. In the spirit of crowd sourcing, do feel free to add your own verses to this version of The Tea Party GOP Diarrhea Song as we find a way to speak truth to power by raising our voices together.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Another Ghetto Nerd Reprieve from Supreme Court Obamacare Discussions: The Recliner of Rage vs. Robotech; Triumph the Comic Insult Dog vs. Weiner Circle

What a sharp inversion of the standing norms which surround black masculinity and geek culture.  

If you had your own recliner of rage, could record a promo, and post it here on WARN (hint, hint), what would you rant about?

I am going to be trying out a few new features here on WARN over the summer to see if they gain traction. One of these will be an advice column; I am also going to be posting interviews with interesting folks--some you know, others I will be introducing you to--from various realms such as education, entertainment, the pundit classes, pro wrestling, and the like.

As a young ghetto nerd I loved me some Robotech. I remember the morning it premiered on three, yes three, TV stations at once. Interestingly, I was immediately struck down by an odd illness that came upon me with such speed that I was forced to stay home that day from school. What a coincidence!

During the three or so years that Robotech aired on TV, I had many lurid Ghostface bed humping dreams about Lynn Minmay, Lisa Hayes, and Miriya Sterling. In a game of "fuck? marry? or kill?" I would have to kill Minmay, fuck Lisa, and wifey up Miriya. Yup, that sounds about right.

With blessings come curses. While it has democratized information, the Internet has exposed and made accessible much of the sacred knowledge that was/is ghetto nerd culture. We do not have arcades anymore because many people prefer to play games online. Professional wrestling's secrets were revealed, and the mysteries of the "rag sheets" made obsolete by online forums, where kayfabe went to die. Sadly, there are no more marks above the age of 10 years old anymore. 

For example, G.I. Joe: The Movie was a project surrounded by rumors at the time of its airing. We ghetto nerds of a certain age remember that Duke was killed in the movie. We would swear, under oath if need be, that such an event had transpired! Funny thing, it would not be until years later that all was revealed: Duke had in fact died, but the ending was changed to accommodate the tender sensibilities of younger viewers. 

Robotech was also the topic of similar rumor-mongering...but these were naughty rumblings from the shadows and netherworlds. Apparently, Robotech contained scenes in which Rick Hunter made sweet love to Lynn Minmay. Talk about masturbatory fodder. Many ghetto nerds would search in places both high and low (and by low I mean nasty, dangerous, bootleg anime, kung-fu, and porn shops near Times Square in New York) for said footage during the 1980s and early 1990s.

We never found it...until now:

Damnable Internet. Some myths and fantasies remain magical and perfect precisely because they are ephemeral. These same myths and fantasies are usually ruined when made real.

A bonus Conan O'Brien moment...

Although I am boycotting Weiner Circle because it is a new age blackface race minstrel show where black women shuck and buck for the pleasures of white folks, in one of the city's most segregated neighborhoods, I had to laugh at this classic moment from Triumph the Comic Insult Dog which was recorded here in the Windy City a few weeks ago.

The politics of pleasure are oftentimes politically incorrect. Embrace the sensation; do not run away from it.

Ghetto Nerd Reprieve from Supreme Court Obamacare Discussions: Tyler Perry to Make a Sci-Fi Film. How Should Madea Go to Outer Space?

"I love sci-fi, I love the Alien movies and the Alien franchise," he tells Black Film. "I was very disappointed with Prometheus, but I love that whole franchise. Those are my favorite movies. I’m actually working on a sci-fi movie right now."
There is nothing more entertaining than watching Michele Bachmann Queen of the Stupid Mushroom Tea Party People rambling on about the tyranny of "Obamacare" and the "activist" John Roberts.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presided over a fundamentally conservative and careful ruling regarding President Obama's healthcare reform package; this is the very model of what a traditional, if not strict constructionist (despite Scalia's complaints) view of the Court as an institution should be. 

Yet, the Tea Party GOP howls and complains about a bill that helps to protect people from bankruptcy if they suffer a broken leg because the faux populist New Right are in fact radicals who want to transform American society against and outside of the country's tradition of consensus/centrist liberalism. 

Ultimately, Chief Justice Roberts wisely decided that to overturn Obamacare would be the third act in a series of extremely Right-leaning decisions following Bush's election in 2000, and then on to Citizens United, which would mark what was once a highly esteemed and respected political institution, as a partisan branch beholden to a Tea Party GOP libertarian political agenda. If he overturned President Obama's very reasonable and centrist healthcare reform bill, Roberts' reputation would be damaged almost beyond repair: his vanity and ego would not allow such a thing, for the historian's pen can be deadly and sharp.

Beyond those observations, We Are Respectable Negroes is a safe harbor. Yes, I could drive some traffic by discussing the Obamacare decision; I am not a good business man. Like George Costanza's father, I do not follow trends. As such, this post is the extent of my comment on this matter. There are so many fun news items circulating around these Intertubes which deserve discussion. How can I ignore them?

To point: Tyler Perry is making a science fiction movie. Yes, Madea, she/he who had a cameo in the reboot of Star Trek, is going to outer space in her next movie.

[I have seen Prometheus three times now--I have so much to say about the movie, but I sense that the moment has passed. If you disagree, please do request that embargoed post and I will post it.]

If Tyler Perry's not so unique brand of coonery and buffoonery were to morph genres from new age race minstrelsy into science fiction or space fantasy what type of movie should he make? Given that Madea is Perry's most popular character, is there a way to incorporate his cross dressing transvestite self into a movie that satisfies the ghetto nerd crowd while also making the less sophisticated lumpen black proletariat Sunday church going set happy?

My suggestion is that Tyler Perry should do a movie where Madea meets either the Leprechaun or the Space Jockeys from the Alien universe. Alternatively, Madea could be in a sequel to the Flash Gordon movie. Imagine the possibilities! Tyler Perry could also be added to Return of the Jedi as one of Jabba's dancers in the inevitable special edition 5.0 that will be released in 2022.

The indispensable website IGN had some fun with Perry's sci-fi possibilities as their commentators offered up the following suggestions. Do add to the list.

  1. It's gonna be about a woman abused by her husband and how she overcomes the space
  2. Then leaves her abusive husband in Cloud City. Travels to a distant planet and she falls in love with the kind strapping young lad that can bullseye womp rats in his T-16.
  3. Diary of a Mad Black Alien.
  4. But not without the help of her snarky Auntie Mama who's gonna help her get her groove back and teach her about respecting herself, in space, where she'll meet a real alien. Don't miss the heartwarming semi romantic comedy with random moments of drama this summer in, You Go Girl, To Space.
  5. Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Madea
  6. Tyler Perry: "Scott, I have some pointers for you. The movie needed.. More black people. In fact, take out all the white actors except one skinny bitchy white actress, and some white actor no one knows. Have the main character be abused by her husband, then move in with her mother, and then moves into a giant space station complete with a black church to get away from her husband. Now, here's where it gets really thrilling. They find out that the white actress is really an evil alien from the planet Caucatia and they sent all the black people to earth because the aliens are all evil racist white devils. So the woman goes back and rounds up all the blacks and browns and mocha's and semi grays to return and kill the evil white devil racist queen. They all eat churches chicken and watermelon together at a big ass table with some fat black man dressed as a woman. The end."
  7. Madea is the new ernest. Only thing left is madea saves halloween. Tyler perry sold out his character big time. I'm surprised he didn't dress in drag when he appeared in star trek.
  8. Tyler Perry is disappointed with Prometheus? I'm sure Ridley Scott is disappointed with Madea's family reunion-goes to space-goes to jail- goes to school-stays at home-blah blah blah. And for one, this whole Madea thing was already done way before Perry by a man called of Ernest P. Whirl. Even the titles of Perry's movies copy Ernest, let alone the whole Cross dressing, foul mouthed, and ornery old woman bit.
  9. Six black youths, an intellectual male, a pothead male, and a jock male, as well as a whorish female, a sweet virgin female, and an angry sassy female, all win a contest to go in space. When there, they discover everything is not as it seems. Aliens are on the ship, there to steal the LCD that one of the black youths brought, because it's a source of great power on their planet.
  10. Some will fall, some will learn to love, lessons will be learned, alien asses will be kicked, the cycle will repeat.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Show Me the Money: Of Slavery Reparations, Foot Baths, Hugs, and North Carolina's Eugenics Program

Commenter Makheru Bradley's helpful observations about the decision by Republicans in North Carolina to deny the survivors of the state's decades-long eugenics program is a nice connection to our goings back and forth in this post about the neutrality of the law and the existence of institutional racism.

Law is a social construct. While some may appeal to concepts such as universal or natural law, I have always been of the mind that this social glue does not transcend time and space. In all, the law is a particular arrangement, of a given society, located in a specific moment in time.

By implication, if a society is structured in inequalities of race, class, gender, ethnicity, or sexuality then its laws will reflect those arrangements of power. The law is a channeling of Power, the ability to normalize certain behaviors, to mark other behaviors as deviant or aberrant, and works to protect certain classes of people from the consequences of their actions: there is a reason that the gangster capitalists on Wall Street who stole billions (and wrecked millions of lives) are "white collar" criminals, who may in a perfect world do a few years in a country club prison, while the guy who steals a television can end up in jail for years or decades.

The former group (and those of their class) make the law; the latter live in a society under statutes and dictates that the first group designed.

For the victims of North Carolina's tyrannical eugenics program, whose justice claims were denied by the Senate Republicans, and that have seen their appeals ignored by the courts, what would justice look like?

Apologies are symbolic acts which do not have any monetary value--and yet are nonetheless resisted (see the many white folks' grumblings about Clinton's quizzical and weak apology to Africans for the enslavement of black Americans). However, apologies do have some amount of moral currency. But, can you take moral currency to the bank and cash it in? Can a person transform the moral high ground into fair compensation for the resources and inter-generational transfers of wealth denied your community by the self-interested and vicious acts of others?

In  Makheru Bradley's allusion to the Tulsa race riots, he signaled to those larger questions. During the red summers of the late 19 teens and early 1920s African American communities were subjected to organized, white mob violence which was aimed at destroying the political economy of Black America in the post World War One era. 

Looking back almost 100 years, and evaluating the future resources destroyed by those pogroms and riots, the black-white wealth gap in the 21st century is clearly related to these acts of economic mass destruction. Ultimately, if the goal of white mob violence in the 20th century was to hobble black people in the decades going forward, it would appear that such a plan was extremely successful. 

I have watched the above video about the Tulsa, Oklahoma race riots many times. I am repeatedly saddened, as the ancestors of those black people who were driven from their homes, and killed by white thugs, seem resigned with having a church service, and a monument constructed to "honor" the suffering of their people. I also cringe when watching similar moments of racial "healing" such as the ceremonial foot washing by white folks of the ancestors and kin of the African Americans who were driven from their homes and communities in acts of mass ethnic cleansing. 

Empty hands, and an "I am sorry," are materially inconsequential gestures. Apologies have little meaning if you are not willing to transfer resources back to those who were unjustly stolen from. Show me the money! 

Aggrieved peoples around the world, from countries such as Israel, to some First World and indigenous peoples, and including nations like South Africa, India, and elsewhere, have been compensated for group disenfranchisement and suffering. I acknowledge that slavery reparations are a non-starter in the United States for this or any other lifetime. This is not a dismissal of the legal or ethical grounds of such a claim. It is simply an acknowledgement of racial realpolitik. Ironically, the election of the country's first Black President was the last nail in the metaphorical coffin of what is/was a very legitimate and legally sound project. 

Nevertheless, I must still ask why are so many African Americans content with symbolic hugs and quasi-apologies that come with no substantive or material transfer of resources? Is this a symptom of exhaustion? Are folks just that broken and beaten, where symbolic acts are all that they feel justly entitled to?

I would argue that African Americans do not need hugs and a foot bath. We need individuals who are willing to use every legal means available both domestically and internationally to advance our justice claims.

Where are such men and women of courage? Have the lions been culled from herd?

Alternatively, please do teach me something. Are the courts so rigged, and Power so omnipresent, that such efforts are just so much wasted energy? 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sucks to be You! North Carolina Republicans Vote Down Compensation for Victims of Forced Sterilization

Once more, our political culture has proven itself to be sick. In a healthy democracy the social compact is respected. Political ideology is trumped by the common good. Divides of party are superseded by decency and common sense. With little fanfare, last week the Republican Party in North Carolina demonstrated that such basic understandings about government (and the golden rule in society at large) are to be disregarded.

For many decades, from at least 1929 to 1974, North Carolina public health officials enforced a Nazi-like eugenics policy which dictated that thousands of "undesirables"--poor men and women, racial minorities, the mentally retarded, and the developmentally impaired--would be sterilized, often without their consent.

North Carolina apologized for its eugenics policy in 2002. While no amount of money can make a person whole after suffering such a horrible violation, in 2011 it was suggested by the state's Eugenics Compensation Task Force that the living victims of these programs should be given the quite modest sum of 50,000 dollars. Last Thursday, along a party-line vote, Republicans in the North Carolina Senate rejected even this most basic of gestures towards compensatory justice.

Their decision is one more example of white conservative populism run amok, where it works to promote a particular and narrow ideology (usually mobilizing the cold and distracting language of "budgetary concerns and priorities") over the common good and human decency. Moreover, even working from within a framework of "principled" conservatism--one that is pragmatic and utilitarian--I would suggest that there is little if any philosophical basis for such a cold and cruel decision.

The Right obsessively shrieks about "tyranny" and "big government." However, the Republicans in North Carolina's Senate do not consider forced sterilization by the state a great crime against personal freedom and liberty. 

Conservatives constantly crow and complain about fiscal responsibility and excess government spending. If they followed a simple economic calculus, these same Republicans would realize that a payout of 50,000 dollars is small, and thus preferable, when compared to the millions of dollars the plaintiffs will likely be awarded in a class action lawsuit. 

Rule of law and the social contract were also disregarded in this case. Ideally, the law is a means to arbitrate disputes in the interest of finding a mutually agreeable solution that should balance both the private and public good. This is especially true when the parties to a crime are still alive: these justice claims are not being made against an entity or agents centuries-past and long ago dead. As such, the compensation could do something for the victims in the present. It would be immediate and material as opposed to a hollow apology given to folks who are long since dead and gone. Applying a different model of governance and decency, the Republican members of North Carolina's Senate decided to spit in the face of healing and community.

Assuming they are not irrational monsters, why would these Republicans choose to deny the victims of the state's eugenics policies any compensation for their pain, suffering, and violation of human liberty?

The victims of these policies were the Other. The black female bodies which became the symbols of this crime and violation are already marginalized. The black female voices who gave testimony about North Carolina's crimes against humanity are to be muted in the conservative political imagination. Both as women, and as people of color, these types of bodies are to be regulated and disciplined by the state, and in particular by white men. This is the core sentiment driving the Right's simultaneously prurient interest in women's sex organs, fear of female sexual agency, and a perverse desire to control women's reproductive choices.

These feelings resonate doubly when the body is black and female for she then becomes the ideal-typical "welfare queen" who has motivated conservative policy initiatives since at least the 1980s. On a very basic level, the political imagination which the Republican Party in North Carolina draws upon for logic and inspiration wants to see black and brown female bodies regulated by the state. Forced sterilization is just a less subtle aspect of a broader desire.

There is a second motivation here as well. While its advocates deploy "race neutral" rhetoric about small government, as well as individual freedom and liberty, in the United States contemporary conservatism is also very much motivated by white racial resentment, white victimology, and hostility to people of color. Together, these attitudes form a bundle of beliefs that cannot be easily separated from one another. This is especially true for the petit authoritarians who comprise the Tea Party New Right.

Because conservatives mine white racial resentment for political capital, the real issue in this dispute about forced sterilization is the ugly "R" word, the evil beast known as "reparations" for slavery. 
“You just can’t rewrite history. It was a sorry time in this country,” state Sen. Don East (R) told the Associated Press. “I’m so sorry it happened, but throwing money don’t change it, don’t make it go away. It still happened”...“If you could lay the issue to rest, it might be one thing. But I’m not so sure it would lay the issue at rest because if you start compensating people who have been ‘victimized’ by past history, I don’t know where that would end,” Sen. Austin Allran (R) told the AP.
[An observation. By this logic, the past should be let go and left unaltered--except when the Tea Party GOP wants to rewrite history and science textbooks in order to serve a Christian Nationalist agenda in the present.]

Social scientists have conducted focus groups and experiments which have demonstrated that white participants consistently support reparations for past social injustices such as slavery when it is an abstract idea. Yet, when the example is contextualized, and applied to the United States, the same white folks reverse their opinions. The Republicans in North Carolina have channeled this energy, but with far less hypocrisy and contradiction.

Their ugliness is naked and transparent.

In essence, they turned to the poor, the disabled, the marginalized, and in particular at black and brown women, and said "it sucks to be you!"

This gross selfishness, betrayal of the social compact, and hostility to "surplus" people who are not "productive" in the Ayn Randian whiteopia dream of the Tea Party GOP is one more data point in the bizarre play that is post civil rights, Age of Obama America. Ultimately, an ethic of care and concern, and a respect for justice, are trumped by political ideology and the Right's efforts to construct a historically myopic and blameless whiteness.

And they wonder why many folks say that in America today conservatism and racism are one and the same.