Monday, August 27, 2012

Origins of a Race-Baiting Birther: How Did Mitt Rommey's Upbringing in a Racist Religion Impact His Attitudes Towards People of Color?

I would like you to use your imagination for a few moments.

Imagine if there was a candidate for the presidency, the highest and most powerful office in the United States, and that he or she once held an official position in a religious order with which they were still very closely involved.

Imagine if that same candidate was raised to be one of the “elect,” with special obligations and a “divine” destiny to ensure that his religion saved America when its Constitution was “hanging by a thread.”

Imagine if this candidate for President belonged to a religion which long argued that black people were judged by God to be “cowards” who were not worthy of true “salvation.” Consequently, black people were destined for servitude and second class citizenship relative to white folks, even in the afterlife.

Finally, imagine if this same religion held such beliefs until 1978—not a century ago, or two hundred years ago—but less than 40 years in the recent past.

We have such a candidate today. His name is Mitt Romney.

Pluralism and tolerance are wonderful values for a society to embrace. Although the United States has been far from perfect in this regard, a belief that our differences can also be a source of strength is part of our national creed.

However, an embrace of diversity and pluralism should not prevent us from asking hard questions about which values ought to be encouraged, and if there are some beliefs and habits that are actually antithetical to our democratic project.

As the American people decide upon their next president in the months and days leading up to November’s election, these questions are made even more important.

Americans do not usually like talking publicly about religion and politics because both are understood by many people to be private matters. However, this anxiety should not stop us from asking basic questions when a concern arises that a candidate’s religion may complicate their loyalty to the Constitution, or make it either impossible or difficult for them to treat all Americans equally regardless of race, creed, or color.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What Took Him So Long? More Than "Dog Whistles" Mitt Romney Finally Goes Full Birther

Told you so. 

Mitt Romney has surrendered to the most despicable urges of white conservative populism and xenophobia. Although he will talk out of both sides of his mouth in denying the obvious, Romney has finally endorsed Birtherism. An honorable man would be a principled bigot; Romney has no principles or honor, thus he will deny, deny, deny, and obfuscate all the while winking at the white racists who are the base of the Tea Party GOP. 

One of my mentors said it is satisfying to reach a point where you have enough material written, and are enough of an authority on a topic, that you can quote yourself. This is not laziness; it is efficiency. I may not have the latter, and I am working on the former, but regarding Mitt Romney's sociopathic, white racist ways, I called out his shenanigans months ago. 

Mitt Romney is only getting started folks--and his bigotry is going to pay great dividends among "the silent majority" of white voters come election day. Candidates go "negative" because it works. White conservative candidates mine white racial resentment because they have calculated that the reward is greater than the risk. Romney's people have run the numbers and decided that ginning up white racism is a tactically sound choice for securing their candidate's victory over President Obama.  

Do allow me my moment of gloating.  Here are three passages from just a few of the pieces I have offered here on We Are Respectable Negroes that speak directly to Romney's concerted campaign of race-baiting and the Southern Strategy 2.0. Do share these prescient observations with your friends, and please tell folks where you heard them first. 

1. As I have written about numerous times, Mitt Romney is a sociopathic racist. His campaign ads have recycled naked and racist stereotypes about Barack Obama--and by implication black Americans. Moreover, Romney's use of both naked racial appeals and dog whistle politics represent one of the most sophisticated uses of racial animus in recent American political history. As the election approaches, Romney and Ryan are going to go places that McCain never would have dared. White racial resentment, and manipulating white racial anxiety in order to win over white voters, is one of the few remaining weapons (along with voter suppression) that Romney and the Tea Party GOP have left in their arsenal given the unpopularity of their proposed policies.

2. By proxy, these racially driven attacks on Barack Obama are really an assault on Black Americans. We are positioned in the White Conservative political imagination as perennial outsiders and second class citizens. As the late Joel Olson smartly observed, in the American political tradition, and in a country founded as a herrenvolk society, to be black means to be an "anti-citizen."

Romney and the Tea Party GOP's efforts to use racially coded speech, dog whistles, and naked racism to mobilize white voters against Barack Obama work only to the degree that the target audience can locate the president relative to the African American community. Thus, hostility to black folks, stereotypes about them, and other negative sentiment, is transferred on to Barack Obama. 
In all, the real America/American exceptionalism talk (both are intimates) that Romney and other Right-wing populists have deployed is a exclusionary one.

"American exceptionalism" is code for white American exceptionalism. "Real America" is code for white America.

3. The Tea Party, with its ethos of white populism, Birtherism, and racial animus towards the country’s first Black President (and people of color more generally) is emblematic of an even bigger challenge for the Republicans—they are looking to a fictive past for inspiration, what were the “good old days” when the colored folk, the gays, and the women all knew their places. This is anAmerica that never truly was. However, it is a true lie and dreamworld that is central to the Right-wing political imagination.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s family photos reflect this contrasting view of America. Mitt Romney’s family is a collective poster child for conservative “whiteopian” Culture War political dreams. Everyone is white; they are all the same.

When the Republican Party talks about a return to “traditional values” and “American exceptionalism” this is the vision of family—and the past—they are signaling to. To them, Mitt Romney’s particular brand of whiteness is normalizing, comforting and familiar.

Late to the Party: The Mainstream News Media is Finally Discussing Mitt Romney's Use of Racism to Win Over White Voters

Obama's team, in turn, says Romney's welfare charges are dishonest. Numerous independent fact-checkers, including The Associated Press, have determined that Romney and his surrogates are distorting the facts...
But that criticism has done little to persuade Romney and his aides to abandon the welfare issue or even tweak its assertions. The White House says the waivers Obama approved for states last month would only allow them to drop the work requirement if they can accomplish the same goals using different methods, a move Obama aides said was done at the request of both Republican and Democratic governors. 
Romney's welfare push comes with risk for the presumptive GOP nominee. Focusing too heavily on welfare, which had barely registered as a campaign issue before Romney began pushing it, could turn off voters who want to hear the candidates offer specific prescriptions for job growth... 
It could open Romney up to criticism that he is injecting race into the campaign and seeking to boost support among white, working-class voters by charging that the nation's first black president is offering a free pass to recipients of a program stereotypically associated with poor African-Americans.
In my best NPR fundraising voice...

I would like to extend a very sincere "thank you" to the kind readers of WARN who offered up some funds for my trip to Chicon7. Several of you dug deep into your pockets and made a donation that put quite a smile on my voice. In this hard economy, I am touched that you could find the resources to indulge my ghetto nerd proclivities and make it possible for me to represent at the World Sci-Fi Conference for the WARN family. We are so close to our fundraising goal of 300 dollars. Monday is the deadline for me to confirm if I will attend Chicon7. I think we can reach this goal if we are able to add one dollar, two dollars, the price of a  Starbucks coffee or a value meal into the begging bowl.

We Are Respectable Negroes is often ahead of the curve on many issues related to American politics, race, and popular culture. I know we are doing something valuable here--and providing a useful service to the folks who have found our humble site. The following piece about how The Associated Press is finally picking up on Mitt Romney's obvious race-baiting is more evidence of that fact.
The streets are watching. We have been discussing these related matters here on WARN for several months: our truth-telling is gaining some traction (and attention).

The mainstream news media is (finally) edging closer to an open discussion of how Mitt Romney is using racism to win over white voters. However, The Associated Press (AP) and other media outlets are still playing a game of political frontage; the AP's hand is up the proverbial dress, but they are still afraid to close the deal.

As I have said previously, and will continue to state whenever the opportunity is appropriate, Mitt Romney is a racist. He traffics in white racial anxiety and bigotry in order to scare white voters into voting against Barack Obama, the country's first black president. Romney is also an unrepentant liar: his "Barack the Welfare King" campaign is part of a larger pattern of intentional distortions and propagandizing that would impress masters of the craft such as Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels.

For many reasons, the mainstream media are very reluctant to criticize Mitt Romney's choice to use white racial resentment for political gains. Primarily, the myth of the liberal media, a fiction which has been created by conservative operatives and opinion leaders, has caused a general retreat from the tenets of responsible journalism. The Fourth Estate has been forced back onto its heels by the Right's Orwellian newspeak and partisan bullying.

To suggest that Mitt Romney is a racist (or manipulates white racism for political purposes) would mean that a journalist or pundit is brave enough to dance on the third rail of American politics and culture. Sadly, most do not have such grit, skill, or character. The triumph of colorblind racism in the post Civil Rights era also means that the default assumption is one where racism does not exist, and it is just an opinion--despite the mass of readily available evidence to the contrary.

And in the most perverse and twisted examples of the realities of race in "post racial" America, white men, generally, and white conservatives, specifically, constitute one of the most protected classes of people in the United States on these matters.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

This is Who They Really Are: NPR Asks Romney's Supporters About His Barack "The Welfare King" Obama Lies

"I really don't want to help somebody who just decides, 'Oh, well, I was raised on welfare. I can raise my children on welfare,' " Malcolm said. "I had a cousin who, she is a registered nurse and the stories she told me about people coming in there and having babies just so they could get more on their food stamps and more on their welfare. It's like no, I don't want to take care of those people."
I am still handing around the begging bowl in order to try to make my way to Chicon7. Two intrepid souls out of the many more visitors to WARN this week have kindly put thrown in some change. Talk about my public embarrassment and shame.

If you like WARN give their monies some company if you can--a dollar or five from a few folks can go a long way. Such gestures are appreciated, as it would make me smile, and ghetto nerds everywhere would be in your debt. Plus, if we make our goal, you get to hear some of my lurid and embarrassing stories, as well as read part of my equally laughable novella.

My obligatory and awkward NPR inspired fundraising moment ends now.
Wednesday's edition of All Things Considered on NPR featured a particularly revealing segment on Mitt Romney's lies about President Obama and welfare reform that many of you will likely find of interest.

NPR interviewed attendees at a rally for Mitt Romney, the Tea Party GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, near Pittsburgh. There, they asked Romney's supporters about the candidate's repeated, willful, and transparently naked lie, that President Obama is going to rollback welfare reform and encourage the "parasitic" and "slothful" behavior of the undeserving (read: black and brown women) poor.

It is apparent that the folks who were interviewed are deeply immersed in a Right-wing propaganda fueled alternate reality universe. Perhaps most troubling, is how when confronted with the basic fact that Mitt Romney, their chosen candidate, is lying about Barack Obama, these individuals have a moment of cognitive dissonance, and then quickly return to partisan script.

The white conservative populist base has decided that Obama is the devil; these same people will then reframe how they process the facts in order to reach this conclusion. This type of post hoc reasoning is disturbing because it can be manipulated to justify all types of anti-social behavior, behavior that is not limited to "harmless" racism, ethnocentrism, and bigotry.

At present, conservatives live in a post-truth universe: a dangerous and frothy mix of guns, god, religion, Fox News, Christian Dominionism, conspiracy theories, and Right-wing talk radio form the boundaries of their cognition and perception. The elites on the Right know that this world is an artifice and a construction based on a lie; the foot soldiers and the base really and truly believe that the lies which are spun by their social betters and "influentials" are in fact true. All Americans suffer because this particularly virulent strain of abnormal politics makes consensus on matters and challenges of shared concern almost impossible to attain.

All Things Considered offered several particularly rich examples of these processes at work. For those of us who are trying to make sense of Romney's Svengali-like hold on post-truth, conservative voters (and right- leaning independents), these exchanges are quite instructive.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is the Tea Party GOP's 2012 Platform Crazy Like a Fox? Or is It Just Plain Crazy?

The naysayers, skeptics, critical thinking old school political hands, Republicans who are terrified of losing to Obama, as well as Democrats who are crowing about an inevitable victory come November, are alternatively either bemoaning or cheering what they see as the batshit crazy "outside of the mainstream" GOP platform that is going to be debuted at next week's convention in Florida. 

I am in the minority of opinion on these matters. Despite what the polling data and other models are suggesting, I believe that Obama, if he wins, will only sneak by in a nail biter. The Bradley Effect was pronounced slain, and dead on arrival, in 2008; however, given Romney's sophisticated use of race-baiting and dog whistle tactics, the ghost in the machine may come roaring back as a political poltergeist in 2012. The experts are also talking about how Obama's likeability may trump both a bad economy, and a candidate in Mitt Romney that is less than inspiring to the GOP base--a man who is also an insincere, negatively enigmatic figure, in the eyes of undecideds and independent voters. 

I do not know if this is a corollary to what political scientists call sociotropic or "pocketbook" voting, but my sense is that a bad economy, plus a black president, are a recipe for a losing election. I do hope that I am wrong. 

To outsiders, the Republican Party platform is pure "red meat" for the base, and as such, has a little bit of something for everyone in the New Right: it doubles down on killing Trayvon Martin(s), keeps lazy and unqualified colored people from jobs that they do not deserve (like the Presidency), ensures that men can control women's bodies, and keeps the damn Mexicans out of the country. It also talks enough about the framers, American exceptionalism, and the merits of trickle down economics so that Saint Ronald Reagan will remain at peace in his grave. 

For those outside of the Right-wing echo chamber, and who have not drunk deeply from the New Right Fox News Tea Party Jim Jones Kool-Aid, the 2012 Republican platform is one more example of how a major political party is in the midst of its death throngs as it slips further down the road to demographic suicide. However, for those in the Fox News echo chamber, and for many low information, right-leaning voters, the language of the document is imminently sensible. 

On immigration, what reasonable person could disagree with the following statement?
"We support changing the way that the decennial census is conducted, so that citizens are distinguished from lawfully present aliens and illegal aliens. In order to preserve the pinciple of one-person, one-vote, the apportionment of representatives among the states should be according to the number of citizens."
Or alternatively, who could disagree with this phrasing against "unfair" programs such as "affirmative action?" The language sounds so meritocratic:
"We support efforts to help low-income individuals get a fair chance based on their potential and individual merit; but we reject preferences, quotas, and set-asides, as the best or sole methods through which fairness can be achieved, whether in government, education or corporate boardrooms...Merit, ability, aptitude, and results should be the factors that determine advancement in our society."
The Republican Party platform uses superficially benign language in order to advance the Right's radical political agenda. This is a genius move. As such, we mock the Tea Party GOP platform at our own peril.

Am I giving the spin masters on the Right too much credit? Or is this platform one of the last exhalations of a political party on the verge of obsolescence, but is willing to fight to the end in defense of its "principles?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Life Isn't Fair: Yes, White Democrats Like Joe Biden Can Talk to Black Folks in Ways that White Republicans Cannot

The chattering classes are still talking about Joe Biden's "y'all" and "put you back in chains" turn of phrase from a speech that he made last week in Danville, Virginia. Republicans, members of the party of Willie Horton and Birtherism, have lept at an opportunity to call a Democrat "racist." The Democrats are playing damage control and highlighting how Vice President Biden was essentially correct: the banksters and usurious financier classes do in fact want to have their full boots and heels on the necks of the American people--and the Republican Party will free them to do so with full force.

Despite all of the posturing and partisan sniping about Joe Biden's comment, the facts are actually quite plain, all this fuss about chains is really much to do about nothing, a non-controversy.

Why? Because white Democrats in the post Civil Rights era can say things to black and brown folks, and talk about race, in ways that Republicans cannot. The pundit classes are afraid to acknowledge this simple truth because their money is made from drama and conflict.

Part of the challenge here also lies in how Americans are immersed in a culture of false equivalence, one in which every point of view, however ridiculous it may be, is somehow made legitimate and valid.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Can You Help a Ghetto Nerd Attend the World Science Fiction Convention Here in Chicago?

You know us black folks, we are always asking folks for something. It is one of our "black habits" as Redd Foxx would say.

Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention (also known as Worldcon), is one of the largest, and longest running, science fiction conferences in the United States (and to my knowledge on Earth). On a lark, and without complete information, I threw my name into the proverbial hat and offered myself up as a panelist for the event.

I very much enjoy giving talks at non-academic fan events and hanging out with fellow geeks and nerds. I also take it as a professional and personal obligation to talk about "serious" stuff, i.e. politics, race, culture, etc. with an audience that often "gets" that there is real substance to their hobby, but just needs the language and a few examples to help them along in realizing what they already know.

To my surprise, the organizers of Chicon 7 asked me to be on three panels--one of which is a meet and great "literary beer" where fans get to talk to authors and other such folks. Yes, I was surprised about that last one too. I was also surprised that panelists, all of them save for "honored guests," are expected to pay for their entry fees to the conference.

When confronted with having to pay for conferences I either 1) sneak in; 2) share a badge with a friend; or 3) ask my department for some money. These are not options for Worldcon here in Chicago as 1) I have been told they are pretty tight with security and checking badges; 2) only one person I know is going, and I don't think that I could pass as "Heather"; and 3) Worldcon falls between budgetary request cycles and my boss folks will also not pay for association memberships.

I am ultimately of two minds. I would like to go, and I think there could be some good professional networking done which will help me out with various projects including WARN. Life is funny, as you never know where and when good things can happen: for example, I may very well be offered one of the high honors of geekdom in the near future because of some folks I met at Chicago's C2E2. If it happens, I will of course share the good news with all of you.

I also think it would be great to represent for the ghetto nerd set. Science fiction and fandom can be very "white" spaces; it is good to shake things up a bit and make sure that a diversity of voices are represented.

On the other hand, I am not so moved as to come up with the 300 dollars out of pocket, in essence paying to present and do work, at a convention. I have other responsibilities regarding family and a 16 year old dog that I must prioritize, regardless of the temptation to do otherwise.

[For those of you who are justifiably curious, I did my research and Stamford Animal Rescue will be getting the money we collected a few months ago.]

This leaves me with hand open, and begging bowl out, to the friends and fans of We Are Respectable Negroes. I learned from my last semi-successful fundraising effort that you need to repeat your pleas for donations more than once. I cannot promise that I will do that, save for a few ghetto nerd related posts, in order to keep fundraising pitch in the foreground. To do more crosses over to nagging...and that isn't cool. 

Apparently, fundraisers are also most successful when they are time-limited. I need to confirm with the conference no later than Friday of this week (or Monday at the latest).

Finally, the experts on these matters suggest that you should give people who are kind enough to donate money a "thank you" or some type of gift and incentive. I like stories and sharing. Hopefully, those stories are not just interesting to me given my delusional state of sustained egomania and borderline narcissism. If we can get me to Worldcon I will offer up the following "gifts."

1. I will share some excerpts from my zombie novella. This will be your chance to laugh, mock, make fun of, and see me exposed as the literary wannabe hack that I really am. A few friends have read parts of Zombie Lives. The response ranges from "great" to "good, but do more of x,y,z" and "you have something solid here that you should send to an agent." One friend doesn't get the genre--and said it just wasn't her cup of tea despite her appreciation for what I was trying to bring to the table in writing a zombie novella that is "about something."

2. Here on WARN, I often, and in a playful manner, talk about sex and taking the ladies to Space Mountain (in reality the ride is more like The Tea Cups at Disneyland). Sometimes these episodes end in embarrassment, confusion, or laughter--usually at me and not with me.

We have two possibilities (of many here) from my catalog of epic sexual and romantic fails.

I can offer up a true story about a night of random intimacy, with a relative stranger which was ruined mid foreplay by an argument about Abraham Lincoln, the color line, and Emancipation.

Or, I can entertain and titillate, as I share a night of great shame and George from Seinfeld-like incompetence and bad luck. Details? Let's just say that this ruined night involves a sex goddess, a dog, pepper spray, and my wounded masculinity. 

It is August and the start of school is approaching. For those of you with kids, money is probably especially tight this time of year. However, if folks can find a dollar or two to throw in the virtual tip jar/donation box in the upper right hand part of the screen, I would very much appreciate the gesture.

If I am able to attend Worldcon I will of course share stories, gossip, photos, and any fun things that happen to transpire. Thank you for indulging me.

The Tea Party GOP's Greatest Fear: President Obama is a "Black-Beast Rapist"...and He is Coming to Get Them

Popular culture is an informal type of public opinion. In its best instances, popular culture is a powerful lens into our collective fears, hopes, and anxieties. I was rewatching David Mamet's Edmond, a great film which explores questions of existential angst, a man's descent into madness (or sanity depending on one's point of view), and his subsequent imprisonment. The final scenes of the film are challenging and provocative; they are a great example of how the "popular" and "political" can intersect in some surprising ways.

While it is little discussed in the mainstream press, or among the pundit classes, I would argue that the New Right and the Tea Party GOP's anti-Obamamania is driven by a sense of imperiled white masculinity. The "angry white man" has been a part of our political and cultural vocabulary for several decades. He ultimately found a home and a political party in the Tea Party GOP. Although white men are the single most powerful and wealthy group of people in this country, the Right has been able to successfully  manipulate a sense of grievance, anxiety, and fears of a lost future where "the blacks," "the minorities," "the women," and "the gays" have taken over.

This is a shrewd political strategy that plays on the relationship between psychology and politics. The petit authoritarianism that is contemporary conservatism fears nothing more than a loss of control. As such, what better way to advance one's political goals than to create a narrative of white victimology?

Ultimately, the fears of the New Right, the Tea Party GOP, and the aggrieved, imperiled white masculinity that Mitt Romney and other Republican elites pander to, are responses to a collective nightmare, what is a waking dream where they are being metaphorically raped and dominated by Barack Obama and people of color. 

During Bush 2's rule, Republicans were obsessed with how the American public, as well as the Democratic Party, should "respect" the Office of the President of the United States. Curiously, a few years later the Tea Party GOP has shown nothing but utter disrespect for President Obama since he won the office in 2008.

There are many examples of this paranoid and conspiratorial behavior.

The State of the Union Speech was interrupted in an unprecedented fashion by a Republican who yelled "you lie" at the President. Major political figures on the Right and in the mass media have alternatively suggested that President Obama is not a United States citizen, is a closet Muslim, takes orders from his dead father's African ghost, and is an "affirmative action" hire who sneaked his way through Columbia and Harvard. Obama has also been faced with threats of violence, mass rebellion, secession, and naked racism. The Tea Party GOP was willing to risk economic Armageddon during the debt-ceiling crisis in order to embarrass Barack Obama.

These conspiratorial fantasies are ultimately about respect, authority, and legitimacy. Partisanship, and an extremely polarized public that has been subjected to Right-wing propagandists who are deeply invested in crisis and rumor mongering, are central to this story too. But, "normal" politics cannot be decoupled from the symbolic politics that are necessarily embodied--quite literally--in Barack Obama, the country's first black president. For many conservatives, and especially aggrieved whites who are made insecure by the United States' changing demographics and a sense that America is not "their country" anymore, Obama is seen as pure evil--he is their anti-Christ.

In the conservative political imagination, people who look like him, his family, and those other black and brown folk with some degree of political and/or economic power, do not belong in or near the White House. White reactionary conservatives may not state the following as plainly as I am willing to: The United States has long been the white man's country; the Tea Party GOP, as a White Party, are willing to do almost anything to regain this true lie and fictive past.

As I have written about numerous times, Mitt Romney is a sociopathic racist. His campaign ads have recycled naked and racist stereotypes about Barack Obama--and by implication black Americans. Moreover, Romney's use of both naked racial appeals and dog whistle politics represent one of the most sophisticated uses of racial animus in recent American political history. As the election approaches, Romney and Ryan are going to go places that McCain never would have dared. White racial resentment, and manipulating white racial anxiety in order to win over white voters, is one of the few remaining weapons (along with voter suppression) that Romney and the Tea Party GOP have left in their arsenal given the unpopularity of their proposed policies.

I am not suggesting that Mitt Romney is experiencing, nor that he is moved by, the same racial fears and white anxieties which motivate the Tea Party GOP base. Romney and his backers are billionaires. They fear nothing. But, Mitt Romney is willing to use the petty fears of reactionary white conservatives and right-leaning independents in order to further his political and economic goals.

In these conversations about President Obama, legitimacy, white voters, and the Tea Party GOP, one variable has been consistently ignored by most pundits and analysts. The Tea Party GOP is a Southern, White political party. Its leaders made a bargain decades ago to absorb the Southern racists, the Dixiecrats, into their fold. By doing so, they flipped the South "red." This choice also meant that the Republican Party was now the party of Jim and Jane Crow, the slaveocracy, and all of the other assorted political, racial, and cultural baggage that comes with it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Heads Up. Kira Davis, Youtube "Niggerization" Black Conservative, Will Be on Blogtalk Radio Tonight

For those of you who are interested in chatting with Kira Davis, "she of the boo hoo Toure hurt my feelings with the mean word niggerization" Youtube video apparently has a BlogTalk online radio show. Here is the description of tonight's episode:
Thanks to all of you who have sent messages of encouragement and support regarding my YouTube response to Toure (oh he of one name). I'll elaborate on my story a bit more and I'm taking calls/questions. I know many people have a lot of questions. Tonight's the night to get them answered!
She is such a victim. Who woulda thunk it?

I think you all should give her a call. I am sure she would love to get the traffic, and will generously respond to all of your questions about niggerization, her defense of Mitt Romney, and the plight of black conservatives in America.

Who knows, maybe Chauncey DeVega will call in as well? It has been a long time since I paid a black conservative a surprise visit.

Kira Davis's The Dark Side airs at 9pm according to BlogTalkRadio. However, her twitter feed says that the show will be live at 9pm central/10pm Eastern so do check twice. The call in number is (424) 220-1807.
Have fun.

More Fun With "Colorblind" Racism Online: "What Did Pressure for Obama to Release His Birth Certificate Have to do With White Privilege?"

Before I go watch the remaining hours of the Chicago Air and Water Show, I wanted to share the following gem with you. 

Apparently, my open letter to black conservative Kira Davis got the attention of some of her supplicants and handlers. I am not that into Twitter--apparently my friend Gordon Gartrelle is doing his thing there, so do check him out--but they sent me some "tweets" that I proceeded to respond to here

Kira is a lost soul. Her website features a cabal of semi-professional black conservative Right-wing race hustlers. Much of their writing is bad comedy. Alas, I could not save Kira from her quest to be the next Michelle Malkin; but if another young person of color takes my advice, I will count that as a win. 

Also, she and her peeps won't respond to my simple request for an interview. Funny. Too bad. 

Last week, I wrote about how I am collecting examples of colorblind conservative racism from political websites and blogs for use in one of my classes on "race in America" (as well as for an article that I would like to write in the near future). In tracking down some of the links from Kira's site, I came upon this gem by Chuck Morse who writes for the blog, "A Whig Manifesto". 

It is always fun to see yourself quoted, and one's arguments filtered through the prism of talking point Tea Party GOP conservatism. The distortions can be epic, what are a type of low rent political cubism or amateurish surrealism.

Moreover, the standing priors and worldview of talking point conservatives are so fundamentally disconnected from political and social reality, that the whole mess would be funny, if not for what it suggested about the health of our civic culture and educational system. 

I will leave you all to annotate and deconstruct the following passages (Morse's essay is here in its entirety). Whenever I encounter work such as this, I marvel, truly I do, at the effectiveness of the Right-wing propaganda machine at disseminating information, crafting an alternative reality, and then reinforcing their talking points through repetition. 

As Chomsky and others have deftly pointed out, the Right-wing propagandists created a lie that the media is somehow "liberal" or "biased" against them. This untruth is accepted as fact. Therefore, it encourages (and legitimates) a willful misrepresentation of the facts by conservatives because such distortions are now reframed as being somehow "fair and balanced." 

Because the Right-wing media machine also circulates and creates conspiranoid fantasies in the Age of Obama, the more you try to correct those who are part of this cult--that word is used intentionally; the New Right and populist conservatism share many of the traits common to a religion--the more a belief in their righteousness and truth-telling is reinforced. In total, the populist Right is a closed community whose political worldview is prefaced upon tautological, closed circle, reasoning.

Ultimately, the Right-wing media industrial complex rivals that of the official state media in China or the former Soviet Union. Impressive. Most impressive.
Chauncey DeVega, a columnist for the left-wing online publication AlterNet, wrote an article on April 29, 2011 entitled 10 Ways That the Birthers Are an Object Lesson in White Privilege. This article, written in response to President Obama’s release of his birth certificate, serves as a rich illustration of a left-wing view of race in America, and how race is used as a political football by the left. Significant portions of the article are reprinted here with commentary.
DeVega begins with the highly sarcastic assertion that: In an era of racism without racists, the Tea Party GOP Birther brigands provide one more lesson in the permanence of the social evil known as White privilege. The author defines our era as one of racism without racists and at first glance this appears to be a sarcastic rejoinder to the assertion by conservatives that they are not racists. Yet this comment raises the question of whether America is a society of racism without racists. Going one step further, this comment begs the question regarding how racism is defined in America today. Who is a racist? What did pressure for Obama to release his birth certificate and other classified information have to do with White privilege?
Of course there are racists in America today as the term has been classically defined. There are still KKK men who parade around in white sheets and who burn crosses on lawns. There still are fringe organizations, neo-Nazi groups come to mind, which adhere to white supremacy which was mainstream in America before World War II and even into the mid 1960’s in some quarters. The image of George Wallace, the Democratic Governor of Alabama, blocking the school door to stop an African-American child from attending school comes to mind as does the Birmingham Alabama police chief Bull Connor turning water hoses on civil rights protesters. In 1968, the Republican civil rights leader, the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, was brutally murdered, shot down in the prime of his life and at the peak of his creativity, by a white supremacist. Lynching was a not an infrequent practice in America until the 1950’s.
As a bonus, here is Morse's analysis of Sarah Palin and her "real talk," "I am not an elitist" appeal to the Right-wing mouth-breathing classes: 
Sarah Palin is an easy target for scorn from the left and the ugly attack against her has more than a whiff of sexism. Palin didn’t attend an Ivy League College and she doesn’t talk like, walk like, or look like your typical liberal eastern seaboard liberal establishment type. President Obama, on the other hand, has the Ivy League College cred, the language, the look, and the walk of the liberal establishment type down to a tee. Like many conservatives before her, Palin is marginalized by the left as “stupid” and therefore as a person who is not to be listened to or taken seriously.
With the type of scorn that has been heaped upon her, it is easy for the left to take the next step and label her as a racist and DeVega performs this hit is classic left-wing style with snide and indirect references to her engaging in racial resentment while calling her a witch on a broomstick to boot. The very idea of actually taking what Palin has to say seriously is not considered as she is instead denounced in classic left-wing agitprop fashion. Palin, who in her at times awkward way is a plain spoken truth teller, poses as a threat to the edifice of left-wing ideology. The populism that she at times espouses is universal to all Americans and that is socially conservative values, limited and honest government, low taxes, and national sovereignty. 
Wow, that last sentence is rich with semiotic and discursive possibilities: it is a political burrito wrapped up in bacon, battered, refried, and then slathered with cheese.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Because Kira Davis was Hurt by Toure and the Word "Niggerization": My Open Letter to a Black Conservative on Youtube

As I have written about here, Toure's more than accurate observation that Mitt Romney is trying to "niggerize" President Obama has been met with gasps, complaints, and no small case of the collective vapors by Conservatives throughout the Right-wing echo chamber. Social media is afire with protests about Toure's "racism." Blogs and muckrakers are driving some traffic with their manufactured outrage at his "racism." Romney's people are calling MSNBC's people in an effort to get Toure fired from his job as a guest commentator on the network.

Regular folks are chiming in as well; they are talking to cameras on Youtube and sharing their pain for all who will listen. One of them is Kiradavis422, (a relatively young) black conservative who is so very hurt and offended by Toure's use of the word "niggerization." I love these videos as they represent the best and worst that digital democracy has to offer, as the Internet allows citizens to give voice to their concerns about political and social matters on a huge stage. 

I also love these Youtube talking head videos because they are teachable moments. As such, if I knew Kira Davis, and could talk to her directly, I would share the following bit of advice regarding her "pain" and "hurt" about Toure's choice of language.

Toure Learned the Word "Niggerization" From the Nazis! The Prize for Proving Godwin's Law Goes to Which Conservative Website?

In 2008, Jonah Goldberg laid one hell of a stinking egg with his lie of a book Liberal Racism. His argument that "liberals" and "progressives" are actually the descendants of Hitler's fascist authoritarianism still resonates across the Right-wing and their mouth-breathing lumpen troglodyte lumpen foot soldiers to the present. These are also the same folks who believe that the now eviscerated and publicly defrocked David Barton was actually a respectable "historian." As such, the depths of their trained and practiced ignorance does not surprise me.

Toure's simple and obvious claim that Mitt Romney is trying to use white racial animus, and anti-black stereotypes for electoral ends against President Obama, is a prima facie, on the face plain, description of social reality. Because conservatives and the New Right live in a fact free, post-truth universe, Toure's observations about Romney's niggerization of Barack Obama must be opposed at every opportunity--even if it means trying to get Toure fired from MSNBC.

The Right-wing website The Gateway Pundit went nuclear yesterday, as it dropped the Nazi-bomb on Toure when one of its contributors suggested that the former's use of the phrase niggerization has "Hitleresque" origins, and is one more example of the wicked authoritarian fascist tendencies of the always vaguely and nebulously defined "Left" in America. Breitbart doubled down on this silly talk in the following passage:
When TourĂ© took to the airwaves of MSNBC earlier this evening to announce that Mitt Romney was engaging in the “niggerization” of Barack Obama, he was using an old Nazi term. “Niggerization,” as it turns out, is a notorious Nazi word referring to the supposed degeneration of art and music. The term in German is “Verniggerung.” It was closely associated with the notion of Jews degrading culture – “Verjudung,” or “Jewification.”
The Gateway Pundit's claims are ahistorical, inaccurate, and desperate efforts at false equivalence, which are not surprisingly, also problematic on factual grounds. In all, that site's suggestion that Toure's phrase "niggerization," what is a basic and elementary claim that the white gaze (and the white racial racial frame) is deeply invested in linking together black personhood with anti-black stereotypes in the service of white supremacy, is at all similar to some Nazi-like rhetoric is both specious and foolish.

The Gateway Pundit's lie of an article is a perfect example of the perils and comedy that come to pass when stupid people try to sound smart. Any suggestion that the phrase niggerization as used by Toure has any substantive relationship at all to the Nazis is bad comedy in its finest, and simultaneously, most grotesque sense.

The editors of the Gateway Pundit should be ashamed. Of course, we all know that Jim Hoft, author of said propaganda, will not be, for in the alternate reality created by conservatives and the New Right, Hitler was a "liberal" and the Tea Party GOP is the party of "civil rights." As Hitler famously suggested, if you are going to lie, you might as well lie big. Mitt Romney and his agents have learned, and indeed practice, that lesson quite well. Shame on them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Toure was Right, Mitt Romney is Engaging in the "Niggerization" of Barack Obama

Yes Virginia, despite what you may hear on Fox News, Right-wing websites, and talk radio, "niggerization" is in fact a real word.

I have had my issues with Toure in the past--most notably his wholesale lifting of my argument that Herman Cain was/is a race minstrel--but I can be the bigger person and acknowledge that he was spot on in his description of Mitt Romney's ugly race-baiting campaign against President Obama. Earlier today on MSNBC, Toure made the matter of fact observation that:
Yeah, that really bothered me. You notice he says anger twice. He's really trying to use racial coding and access some really deep stereotypes about the angry black man. This is part of the playbook against Obama. The otherization, he's not like us. I know it's a heavy thing to say. I don't say it lightly. But this is niggerization. You are not one of us, and that you are like the scary black man who we've been trained to fear.
Toure's only error here is when he, like many in the chattering classes are fond of doing when faced with plain truths, walked-back and qualified his claim about Romney's Southern Strategy 2.0 efforts to "blacken" Obama in the eyes of the white public in order to lighten his blow.

As I have argued here, Mitt Romney is a racist. In coming to this conclusion, I followed Marcus Aurelius' famous observation that we adopt the qualities of our deeds and actions. Romney is using overt and naked racial appeals to gin up white racial resentment, anxiety, and bigotry against the country's first black president. Consequently, he is a white racist. Q.E.D.

Toure was just afraid to close the circle. I am not. Ultimately, if you are going to put your size 13 shoe in another person's butt you might as well go all in. What is the point of pulling it halfway out?

That having been noted, Toure did commit a classic error, one that is common when folks with a great deal of expertise engage in a conversation designed for the lay public. In these circumstances, one needs to be direct, simple, and to the point. Toure has expertise in Cultural Studies, African-American studies, literary theory, and semiotics. The "academese" and technical language--what some would less kindly call "jargon"--always interferes with communicating in plain, direct, and simple tones in a public forum, for a general audience, and on a panel where you are afforded a few seconds to make a point.

Academics (and others with expert knowledge) often prefer to use one word that is dense and rich with meaning, and which pivots off of shared, inside assumptions, than to use several simpler terms to make (almost) the same point. Weapons are effective to the degree that they are deployed in the correct circumstances. Niggerization is a powerful word that perfectly captures the racial invective and stereotypes about race and representation which the Right has been systematically mobilizing against Barack Obama and his family.

Unfortunately, Joe Q. Public only hears the word "nigger." Toure just gave the Right-wing bloviators a talking point, a quill to use for writing their dishonest script that the Tea Party GOP and Mitt Romney are the party of racial equality, opportunity, and diversity, while the Democrats and Obama are the real "racists."

In reality, the Republican Party is the United States' de facto White Party. The Right and its supplicants will boohoo about "reverse racism" and "double standards" in order to force MSNBC to fire Toure. Don't worry, Mitt Romney and his surrogates will be calling President Obama an "angry black who hates America and is not really born in this country and secretly despises white people and wants to give the colored parasitic people free money and welfare at white people's expense while his wife secretly hates white people too and wants to make them eat their broccoli" by next week.

Old habits die hard. The Tea Party GOP is addicted to racism; they are unable to break the habit. The metaphorical glass pipe and that racist political crack rock got em tweaking and feenin.
Lest you think I am kidding about "niggerization" being a "real" word, here is Cornel West using the phrase in a talk at Harvard University a decade ago. The word itself has origins that go back to at least the 1960s and The Black Arts Movement if not earlier (perhaps an intrepid etymologist could find the first use of the word in print or elsewhere and share it with us here).

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Cause Poppa Got an AK-47. C.J. Chivers Discusses his book "The Gun"

This is my rifle, this is my gun, this one's for...

Sorry, I just had a phallocentric gun worship masculine culture of violence psychotic episode. It won't happen again. Really. I promise.

Whenever there is a mass shooting by someone using a "semi-automatic" rifle, America's gun culture comes under scrutiny. Nothing ever happens of course; but for a few weeks there are spirited appeals and hand-wringing over the need to have a national conversation over gun violence. The media obliges as it offers up stories about guns and our national obsession with them.

The NY Times has obliged with this interesting piece about the iconic assault rifle the AK-47, and how it has become one of the most popular guns in the United States (domestic sales rose 50 percent last year). The irony is priceless: I cannot help but smirk at the thought of militia and "patriotic" Red State American types running around in the woods with a Kalashnikov reenacting Red Dawn as their purchase goes to subsidize a Russian arms merchant, who in turn, will be able to offer cheaper weapons to that country's military.

I am a proponent of a reasonable policy towards firearm ownership that involves mandatory training, waiting periods, and background checks. Apparently, the former "evil empire" agrees with my approach:
Izhmash benefits from American gun laws that are looser than in its home market. In Russia, consumers can buy a long-barreled firearm only with a police permit, which requires a clean criminal sheet, a diploma from a gun safety course and a medical certificate of sanity. In the United States, laws vary by state, but buyers often need to clear only an F.B.I. criminal background check.
A few months ago I shilled for C.J. Chivers great book The Gun, which is a cultural history of the AK-47. For those of you interested in social history, cultural studies, technology, geopolitics, or military affairs, it is a wonderful read.

In addition to being a thorough exploration of the mythic origins of the weapon, Chivers offers up a great narrative full of rich story-telling that connects the AK to American foreign policy, the Cold War, Vietnam, terrorism, and popular culture.

Ultimately, the Russians could make a great assault rifle and a decent tank, but they were brought down by an inability to make good washing machines and other consumer goods. History is a trickster.

My favorite story in the book centers on the differences between the AK and the M16 series of weapons. Apparently, the AK-47 makes noise when you shake it because the weapon is manufactured to broader standards of tolerance. Counter-intuitively, this makes the AK series far more reliable than the M-16 which was made to more precise Western standards.

Chivers' discussion of the clusterfuck the corruption laced, bureaucratic nightmare that was the introduction of the M16 in Vietnam is also a powerful warning about the military industrial complex and how the Pentagon privileges profits and good PR over protecting soldiers' lives. As a counter-factual that never could have been in the context of the Cold War, how many American soldiers' lives would have been saved if the Pentagon simply adopted the AK-47 as the standard assault rifle during Vietnam?

Here is a bonus clip about the history of the M16 and genius gun designer Eugene Stoner:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mitt Romney: God's Plan for America is Class Inequality and to Suggest Otherwise is Not Patriotic

As demonstrated by his interview on CBS news today (and later during a speech in Ohio), Mitt Romney is digging deep into his Southern Strategy 2.0 bucket of political feces. Romney's channeling of Lee Atwater's ghost will be much discussed by the pundits and chattering classes. 

As an alternative, I would like to call your attention to this quote from Mitt Romney which may have slipped under your radar a few months ago, before being picked up by the website Politico today. It is just as problematic, if not more so, than Romney's race-baiting:  
“I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare,” Ryan said at the time. “When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent, and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent, you have opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”
There is so much to unpack here. We know that Romney believes in Ayn Rand's vision of a bare minimum government where the weak are surplus humans to be disposed of as a drain on the John Galts of the world. This is the context for Romney's comment. It is also helpful to foreground how language works through unstated assumptions about social reality, is dependent upon a set of shared understandings between the speaker and audience, and exists within a broader context of styles, codes, symbols, affect, and genre that together create meaning.

Romney is proceeding from the assumption that America, a country with extreme wealth inequality, is not already divided. Moreover, Romney is suggesting that extreme class inequality is both natural and desirable. 

Joe Biden's "Chains" of Slavery: Who Would Have Guessed That Mitt Romney is a Closet Black Nationalist?

Does Mitt Romney have a dashiki in his closet? Is he hiding bean pies and bow ties in his garment bag?

Apparently, Joe Biden wants to put "you people" back in chains. Barack Obama is also running a political campaign of hate, anger, and division. Such claims by "Bat Bain" Mitt Romney and the "Boy Wonder" Paul Ryan reek of the rancid stink of desperation. How low will Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Tea Party GOP sink before election night in November?

It is clear to most thinking people that Joe Biden spoke a plain truth when he suggested that the banks, credit card companies, and the financier classes basically have the American people in a state of debt peonage. By rolling back modest consumer protections enacted by President Obama, the Tea Party GOP and Mitt Romney would only make our shared pain even worse.

In these heady political conversations, we must be careful to not forget how chains are actually pretty useful objects. Chains hold bikes to poles so that thieves will not abscond with them. My dog wears a chain so that he will not run off, acting the fool, and get hit by a car. Some people like to play with chains for fun. I like professional wrestling for example, and miss the old school, chain wrestling, Texas catch-as-catch-can style matches from the 1970s and early 1980s. There are also criminals who need to be in chains so that good citizens, and we civilians, will be kept safe from harm.

In all, the vast majority of references to chains have little to do with the horrors of slavery, the Middle Passage, and the Black Holocaust. That Romney's campaign would play with such historically potent imagery--efforts made even more insincere given the Tea Party GOP presidential nominee's blatantly racist Barack Obama is a lazy negro welfare king ads--is not surprising.

In the United States, the history of black Americans is commonly denigrated, made fun of, and mocked by the Right. Moreover, conservatism and racism are one in the same in post Civil Rights America. Consequently, a not so refined mix of race baiting and racial demagoguery is the air that the New Right breathes; it offers them life and sustenance. People can also get high and die from oxygen poisoning; an oxygen rich environment can also burn you alive. If Romney and Ryan continue to play with the combustible politics of white racial resentment and overt bigotry they may suffer either outcome: I can only dream that such an improbable turn of events may yet come to pass.

Sometimes a person has no choice but to yield to the absurd in order to protect their sanity. As such, I will take Mitt Romney's obsession with the chains of racism and Joe Biden as an opportunity to have a cathartic laugh, and to turn matters on their ear, in order to expose the foolishness and insincerity which colors the Right's most recent discovery of anti-black racism.

As I alluded to above, chains are very useful and practical. References to chains are also common  in popular music. Given Mitt Romney's obsession with chains, let's help him build a playlist of "chain" related songs to listen to on his jet alongside the theme from the Harrison Ford movie Air Force One.

Updated with your suggestions....

A few suggestions to start us off:

1. Unchained melody by the Righteous Brothers
2. Breaking the Chains by Dokken
3. Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin
4. In Chains by Depeche Mode
5. Chain of Love by Journey
6. Chain Heavy by Kanye West
7. Unchain My Heart by Ray Charles
8. Chains by Carole King and Gerry Goffin (performed by the Beatles)
9. Chain Gang by Sam Cooke

What songs would you add to the list?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

To Romney, Ryan, and the Right: "You Didn't Build That!" Slaves, Working People, and Lots of Others With Help From the Government Did

We have not featured a guest post here at WARN in some time. I saw this piss poor article over at The Atlantic and had to reach out to Werner Herzog's Bear, our resident historian (who also writes over at his own site Notes from the Ironbound) for the assist. Here Mr. Bear proceeds to eviscerate and maul Andrew Cline's bandwagoning against President Obama for his now (in)famous "you didn't build that" line. As always, Werner Herzog's Bear delivers in fine form.


The Romney campaign, flailing amidst their candidate's incompetence and manifest unlikeability has been resorting to misrepresenting president Obama's words, or just flat out lying about him.  At the center of all of this is the furor over the president's "you didn't build that," line.  When taken out of context, it might indeed be inflammatory, but context is everything.  Here's the whole section of the president's speech:
"There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn't -- look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. 
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires. 
So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That's how we funded the G.I. Bill. That's how we created the middle class. That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That's how we invented the Internet. That's how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that's the reason I'm running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You're not on your own, we're in this together."
What the president was essentially saying here is that the individual successes in this country have been assisted by social and governmental forces.  Apart from the uncharacteristically maladroit way that he tried to get the point across with the "you didn't build that" line, the message is pretty clear.  It's also not all that controversial, since Mitt Romney said something pretty similar to Olympic athletes ten years ago.  Those who are trying to claim that the president was saying that the hard work and effort of entrepreneurs are meaningless and that only the government creates useful things are just lying.  Their claims are so outrageous that they are beneath refutation.

However, there are some who are willing to view president Obama's comments in their proper context and still take him to task for it.  Writing recently in The Atlantic, Andrew Cline has attacked the president's words as contradicting the true nature of America's history.  As a historian, I find many of his claims to be specious, and reflective of a simplistic, blinded view of American history that is fast becoming popular on the political Right.  Invoking that idea of the past, Cline goes back to Thomas Jefferson to say that the government was created only to protect rights, nothing else, and that colonial society, without any help from governmental forces, had created the middle class, in contradiction to what the president said.  There are some problems with these claims that I will detail, but the main problem with Cline's interpretation of history is that it completely misses the reality of American life at the time of Jefferson and beyond.

Cline's blindness to the realities of the American past is actually completely betrayed by the image below the title: a painting of the building of the White House in 1792 with its architects in the foreground.  This benign-looking image masks the reality of the White House's construction, which was accomplished through the use of hired-out slave labor.  The white guys in powdered wigs in the foreground didn't "build that;" they may have drawn up the plans, but many more unfree black slaves did the hard work of actually constructing the White House.  It should be a reminder that this nation's wealth was built in large part on what Abraham Lincoln called "the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil" in his second inaugural address.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Teaching About Racism in a Post Racial Age: The Pleasures of Deconstructing Colorblind Racist Speech Online

We are having a great conversation here about race play and BDSM. I was a bit nervous about the topic because we do not usually discuss sex and relationships here on We Are Respectable Negroes. As often occurs, I am pleasantly surprised by the range of readers here on WARN and their insightful comments. I am learning so much from all of the good sharing that is going on in that conversation. Do chime in if so inclined.

The school year is about to begin. The summer has disappeared and I have three weeks left to work like a madman to get some long overdue work submitted. I did have some good successes and will count them as positives.

Like many of you, I am updating syllabi and rethinking a few of my classes. One of the courses I teach each year is a required section of "Race and Diversity" in the United States. Many of my colleagues do not like teaching the course because the students are not always engaged, the evaluations tend to be low, and the issues discussed can lead to intense and stressful moments for "snowflakes" who are not prepared to think about power and inequality. For that cohort, they are individuals raised by helicopter parents, and believe that institutional and society power has little impact on their ability to succeed in our society. Unfortunately, there are also many adults who have also not grown out of believing in such foolishness.

For those reasons, I enjoy leading the seminar. It is so broadly defined that I can do just about anything in terms of the assignments and themes discussed, and yet still remain "pedagogically sound." Given my research interests, the course is typically a mix of the Sociology of Race 101, cultural studies, labor history, comparative race studies, and critical race theory.

However, teaching this course is not easy. One of the challenges of teaching about race and racial ideologies in the post racial moment is that many "millennials" (and others) born after the Civil Rights Movement actually believe that racism is a thing of the past. Consequently, racism and white supremacy are minor inconveniences in the present.

Undergraduates tend to not believe a thing is real unless they can see it with their own eyes. Many undergraduates, and I would suggest the general public as well, are not yet at a point where they are able to mate sociological theories with empirical reality. The sociological imagination is not yet real for them.

In order to overcome that challenge, I use video clips, examples from popular culture, the news, and other resources which demonstrate that racism and other inequalities are real--and that they have human consequences.

For example, I will be using the much discussed Hurricane Katrina photos where black people looking for food are framed as "looters" whereas whites are "finding" supplies, pictures of Obama and his wife as monkeys, signs and interviews from Tea Party rallies, the new age black face of the white female rapper Kreayshawn, racially coded and dog whistle laced speeches by Republican candidates from the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and the "hoody politics" of the menacing black body and Trayvon Martin, to demonstrate how age old racial ideologies are both reproduced, as well as reinforced, in American society.

Given my interest in cyber racism and digital democracy, I have also been compiling helpful examples from online news media and social networking.sites. As I have written about repeatedly, websites' comments sections offer a great window into the collective political subconscious, and are rich measures of informal public opinion.

To point, here on We Are Respectable Negroes, there is a recurring commenter by the name of "OTB" who is an ideal typical case of conservative, colorblind racism in practice. On this thread for example, his comments are a pitch perfect demonstration of the logic of white racism(s) in the post Civil Rights era.

As such, I will be using his posts as a "living" example of the theories offered by social scientists such as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Joe Feagin, Charles Gallagher, George Yancy, as well as the indispensible Omi and Winant. It is always invigorating and exciting to see the nuts and bolts of colorblind racism--what has been described as "racism without racists"--displayed so perfectly.

In total, OTB's understanding of the relationships between race, American politics, privilege, power, and history is an echo of the theories, empirical research, and historiographies that has been developed to explain how racial dynamics and the color line shifted (or not) in the decades following the Civil Rights Movement to the Age of Obama.

The simple and short story goes something like this.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Playing with Sex, Power, and Race: Did You Know That There Are "Plantation Retreats" Where Black People Go to Serve Their White "Masters?"

Those who have loved and dated across the color line have to negotiate the realities of race in our society, and by extension, its impact on their relationships. For many, this is done through explicit conversations. For others, these dialogues come implicitly, through gestures, and taken for granted shared assumptions. 

But how many folks actually talk about how race impacts their own sexuality, attraction, physicality, or notions of the erotic? 

We live in a society that is structured around many different hierarchies of power, authority, and difference. As Foucault brilliantly observed, Power is not sitting out there in the ether, an abstraction that we just talk about in philosophy classes. Power acts through and upon bodies. Certain people are racialized in American society for example. Their bodies are locations of power--and yes resistance. Likewise, certain types of bodies are marked as "normal," while others are deemed "different" or "abnormal." 

The "popular" imagination holds many assumptions about particular types of bodies. The black male body is something to be policed, controlled, and feared. It is both envied and despised. The Asian female body is "erotic" and "submissive." The black female body alternates between being fecund, always available, and out of control, while simultaneously being marked as "masculine," asexual, and unattractive. Latinas are "hot" and "sexy." White bodies of a certain type are taken as the baseline for what is considered "beautiful" or "normal." 

Ironically, the bodies of black and brown people which are considered beautiful or attractive by the white gaze are judged as such either by how "different" they are from white norms (the exotic or savage) or how close these racialized bodies--almost like impostors or stand-ins--are to the normalized white body.

The very language we use to discuss race, the physical, and the sexual, is a quotidian example of Power in action. But, how are matters complicated when a significant part of a given person's sexuality, and sense of the erotic, is centered on playing around with the dynamics surrounding dominance and submission? 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, and the Right-wing Gun Nut John Galts at The Blaze

I am glad that Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan brings few advantages to the table among Independents; and given his draconian budget plans, and penchant for a Soylent Green future where the government and the social safety net are eviscerated, Ryan could prove to be much dead weight. Vice Presidential nominees are usually a non-factor in Presidential electoral outcomes. I do hope that Ryan joins Palin and Eagleton as an exception to the rule.

Paul Ryan is an devotee of Ayn Rand and her extreme version of libertarianism. In this world, the government should be all but destroyed, and "negative freedom" is the only type of liberty to be pursued. Thanks to populist Right-wing bloviators such as Glenn Beck, and think tanks funded by the Koch Brothers and others, Rand's bad sci-fi dystopian writings have been transformed into policy briefs and legislative guidelines for the Tea Party GOP.

I marvel at the political hydra and mismatched set of alliances that the contemporary Republican Party has become. The Tea Party GOP is a conglomeration of Christian Dominionists and Nationalists, reactionary white racists, neo-Secessionists, and plutocratic corporatists. The mouth breathers in the Tea Party are dupes who are driven by opines about patriotism and the alien Other in "their" White House. These same folks are driven by a crudely selfish, exclusionary, and Calvinist-like understanding of faith where "the elect" are shown god's love and divinity by how much money and worldly goods they are "rewarded with" by their godhead. The banksters laugh--as they always do--at how they can so easily play and manipulate the peons into working against their own immediate and long-term class interests. And of course, the real party leaders such as Rush Limbaugh get paid the big bucks, for they are the Archons who defend the ideological "purity" of the Tea Party GOP and gin up witch hunts against those deemed inauthentic and weak.

Watching Romney and Ryan manage this menagerie will be a fascinating exercise in the weeks to come.

As a follower of Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan is part of a movement on the Right, that despite contemporary Conservatism's penchant for anti-intellectualism and conspiranoid thinking, which is in fact reaching for some "big ideas" through an embrace of libertarianism as a guiding political worldview and value system.

When these "big ideas" filter down to the mouth-breathing lumpen on the New Right, they will (of course) lose some of their rigor. Complex ideas are almost by necessity flattened for ready consumption by the masses. Ayn Rand's vision for a "just" society is no different.

The Right-wing rag sheet The Blaze has a gun porn feature where they show off the newest toys for their readers. As a ghetto nerd, I have a long-standing interest in military science, technology, and things that go boom. In a few weeks, I am also going to (finally) be a gun owner. However, in the aftermath of Aurora and the Sikh temple massacre, there needs to be a serious conversation about the the human costs of this country's gun culture, and changes in the law to limit gun ownership, the types weapons that can be purchased, and the required training necessary to own them.

Given my sentiments, The Blaze's feature on a "special operations" ready semi-automatic "assault style" rifle leaves me feeling a bit dirty. When I was 12, I would have ejaculated all sorts of G.I. Joe/Red Dawn love juice onto the Paratus 16. As an adult, I am much less enthusiastic about such metaphorical onanism.

The comments sections on political websites are a great example of digital democracy (run amok) as they provide a valuable insight into our collective political subconscious. While I agree with the need to prepare for The Big Collapse (and a society that will/can descend into chaos), most of the comments on The Blaze's feature about the Paratus 16 are typical Conservative sewer water and verbal vomit about "liberty," militias, the Constitution, the evils of Barack Obama, and the framers' love of "gun rights."

However, one comment was such a wonderful distillation of the mean-spirited violence and selfishness which is currently being channeled by Ayn Randian libertarianism, and advocated for by the Republican Party, that I wanted to share it with you:


No, you will be one of many begging on the streets after the fall…

I will have one of these to protect myself from people like YOU – the ones who think they are ENTITLED TO MY FOOD, MY WATER, MY SHELTER.

So, go get in line for govt cheese. Don’t venture out to farm country thinking you will get a free meal, you will only get FREE LEAD.


DRPHIL69 is not the crazy uncle in the basement who rants and raves online, talks back to the radio, and does no harm. He is the id of the Tea Party GOP. During the 1980s, this type of rhetoric would have been reserved for the Militia Movement and the late night black helicopter talk radio crowd. With the ascent of the Ayn Randians in the Republican Party, DRPHIL69's passion for guns, channeling of class entitlement, and disdain for the social compact represents the beating heart of the New Right. The political violence captured here is the endgame, what is the logical result of Ronald Reagan's suggestion that government is the problem and never the solution. 

DRPHIL69 is John Galt. Romney and Ryan are John Galt too. Let that fact settle in for a moment. Are you and the American people ready for what John Galt does when he is elected President of the United States? What are you willing to do in order to stop them?