Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: A Selection From My Novella in Progress "Zombie Lives"

I was able to go to Chicon 7 thanks to the kind fans and boosters of WARN.

When my begging bowl was in hand, I offered a bargain. In exchange for your support, I would offer up a story of both lascivious embarrassment and romantic "epic fail." I would also share parts of a side project I have been working on for fun.

I like to keep my bargains whenever possible. As I mentioned earlier, I have shared portions of this project with a few published fiction writers and other folks that I trust. The response to the sample chapters range from "you got something here that is really good, do x, y, and z," to "not my thing, I don't get speculative fiction or zombie stuff," to "I like this, keep writing, you have enough chapters, and send it off with a pitch/query letter and use the feedback as advice until you get lucky."

At Chicon 7 I had the good fortune to talk to Jack McDevitt. His advice was simple. Don't be afraid. Learn to accept rejection. Listen to trusted friends and others who tell you the truth. He told me directly, in a very kind way, that I already have cashed checks (not enough) for my writing, non-fiction or not, and this means you can do something well enough to get paid by someone. As such, I am already ahead of 90 percent of those other folks who never get a check from anyone.

He asked me, "what do you have to lose?" Not much.

My, much a work in progress, elevator pitch (still too long) is something like this:
Zombie Lives is a work of speculative fiction that is a combination of George Romero meets No Country for Old Men. Zombie Lives is set in the near future where the undead, called "Grabbers," have come to rule most of the world. However, the living have adapted to their existence, residing in fortified cities and communes in relative comfort. 
For most people, the idea that people die and that some return to eat the living is simply a fact of life. However, the vast majority of human beings have never seen a Grabber. As the generations pass, most people become comfortably numb to the fact that they are a minority in the world, forever imperiled.  
Written as a series of interconnected stories, the central conflict in Zombie Lives revolves around how an ensemble of characters, a college aged student, a bounty hunter, a group of constables, and a self-style religious mystic turned street preacher, have come to realize the absurdity of their lives. While they have come to accept the truth--that humans are a minority in a world now ruled by the walking dead--most other people are in denial. 
Ultimately, this culture of denial and lying will destroy them all. The Grabbers are coming, and what were once just phantom bogeymen will soon make themselves all too real for the denizens of the community known as Low Town.
Most of the current books about zombies are all about blood and guts and don't try to use the genre to say anything substantial about our human condition, existential dilemmas, or society at large. Zombie Lives is of course a good old fashioned zombie story where the undead walk the Earth, wreak havoc, but where we, the living, are as always, the real monsters. It is also a meditation on politics, culture, race, and emotion which reflects a political and social moment where citizens have lost faith in government and its ability to solve shared problems.

Have fun at my expense. For obvious reasons, here is just a small excerpt that makes sense on its own, and teases what is to come. If you want more, are curious, have suggestions, do chime in.

Chapter Two: Toro the Constable

Toro knelt on one knee, eyes looking up at the seams of the door. Light crept from out and under them, dust fluttering about. Only five foot six in his biggest and most imposing pair of combat boots, his mom thought it good luck to give him the family name, handed down from her great great grand-mom back in Aztlan to her daughter Kikoko and then all the way to him.

“Mariposa” doesn’t fit too well with boys. And even accounting for the absurdity of a world in which the dead had long ceased dying, being named “butterfly” (even if it was given the masculine edge of "Mariposo") was an indignity that resulted in many a fight and none too few a black eye.

Toro even went by the name Mothra during his teen years (a gender mismatch given that the famed monster was female...but few knew such details); re-christening himself after the great kaiju monster he grew up watching on the old holovids his mom had spoiled him with as a young boy. Mothra only lasted for a few years though, discarded as soon as he left his old clique turned street gang at 18 to move into a new living community with an ailing mom, two younger sisters, a cousin, three very wizened and old, but still quite tough dogs, and one semi-feral cat named Trina.

Thus, Mariposo, a male butterfly, turned Mothra a female kaiju monster, turned Toro a bull, found himself in a household of women.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beyond Mitt Romney's "47 Percent" Quip: Black and Hispanic Democrats Will Destroy the United States

Something to think about for a Friday.

If you have not listened to all of Romney's leaked speech, it is worth watching in its entirety. There is one portion of Romney's fundraising in private "let me tell you what I really think about the little people" conversation that has been little discussed by the pundit classes.

There, Romney said the following:
We're having a much harder time with Hispanic voters. And-- and if the Hispanic voting bloc-- be-- becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting bloc has in-- in the past, why we're-- we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation. 
This is a slap in the face to tens of millions of Americans.

[And you wonder why the Tea Party GOP is trying to keep black and brown folks from voting.] 

First, Romney assumes that black people are anti-citizens whose participation in the democratic process has severely damaged the country. Second, Hispanics and Latinos are going to complete this destruction if they let themselves be tainted by the bad habits of African Americans, and those anti-American tricksters in the Democratic Party.

Romney's racialization of black and brown folks' citizenship, especially given how we have been politically marginalized in a country where white supremacy was the law of the land for centuries, is one more example of the ugly racism which drives his "turn out the base" strategy. As Toure said some weeks ago, Romney is engaged in the systematic "niggerization" of President Obama. One of the ways this is done is by "niggerizing" black people as a group.

Some questions.

Why has there been so much silence on this issue? Are Romney's opponents and critics in the media saving this soundbite for a later moment? Is his quip about half of the population being lazy bums viewed as enough of a bullet, and to bring up another racist claim by Romney is considered overkill? Or do the pundits feel that they have already established the fact that Romney is using racist dog whistles, as well as trying to mobilize white racial resentment. Consequently, why go there again?

The black blogosphere and social activist types online are boohooing and bemoaning the "lynching" of two chairs, but they are silent about a candidate for the Office of the President of the United States who suggested that African Americans, a group which has helped drive and force American democracy forward, are actually agents of its imperilment.

Help me understand. What are your theories?

The Ku Klux Klan Blows Fire Out of Their Noses as Racism Chasers Panic Over "Lynched" Chairs

The image at left was taken by a person passing through the neighborhood. Now, one could easily argue "it's just a chair, what's the big deal? That's not racist!" 
However, in light of Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention, in which he had a largely one-sided conversation with an empty chair he pretended was Barack Obama, this imagery is now associated with the President. 
The image of the chair is associated with the President. Now, lynch that chair from a tree, and you've got a pretty awful racist sentiment calling for lynching the first African-American President!... 
I called the homeowner to ask about his display, citing my concerns as a fellow Austinite. He replied, and I quote, "I don't really give a damn whether it disturbs you or not. You can take [your concerns] and go straight to hell and take Obama with you. I don't give a shit. If you don't like it, don't come down my street." 
Ironically, the homeowner in question, Bud Johnson, won "Yard of the Month" in August 2010 from his Homeowners Association. I guess his display was a little different that month?
In these moments, I am struck by the dualism that is multicultural democracy in the Age of Obama. In many ways, formal racism has been vanquished. Yet, we are obsessed with finding examples of racism in order to remind ourselves of how far the nation has to go. The result is a national play coloured by the absurd and the bizarre.

I am all for calling out racism. I am also all for calling attention to white supremacy. However, there are moments when I just have to laugh at how racism chasing runs amok, and otherwise well-meaning people follow a fool's errand, taking the enemy's feint, holding on like a junkyard dog.

Be warned. Such choices are exhausting and will put holes in your racism chasing shoes.  

Apparently, two white racist reactionary conservatives have chosen to hang chairs from trees in order to lynch President Obama in absentia and by metaphor.  

I understand the deeply rooted structural inequalities of white racism in this society.

I also fully understand how the foul deeds of a few can tell us something about whiteness' deep sociopathology, and its assorted micro-aggressions against people of color.

However, something is horribly amiss when given all of the evidence about systematic white racism in this society, that "lynched" chairs are the source of a mass upset

There is a curious element at play here. For example, the Daily Kos has an essay on these "lynched" chairs, and the foul bigots who would defile furniture, that has almost 400 comments. By comparison, substantive discussions of white racism are often met with denial, deflection, and rage on the same site.

Ultimately, I would suggest that all of this hullabaloo over lynched chairs is a pathetic joke. It is a sugar high that lets good liberals feel that they are winning the good fight against those evil, old school, paleo-racists, that still lurk among us.

It is easy to confront low hanging fruit. It is far more difficult to critically engage how day-to-day white racism and white privilege, often enabled by "well-meaning" white folks, is a reality in this country. 

I must ask: how would those folks who are offended, upset, scared, and not at peace over the equivalent of a failed Chappelle skit respond to real racial violence, or an event such as the KKK's march on Washington during the 1920s?

History teaches us again. During the postbellum period, the KKK were masters of psychological warfare who went to great lengths in order to intimidate and frighten free black Americans. For example, the lynched chairs remind me of this darkly comic anecdote:
Special effects designed to support the belief that Klansmen were Confederate dead returned from hell were later added to their tricks. If a Black was on trial, Klan members sprinkled a little powder which they called "hell fire" on the floor beforehand. When the Black defendant looked down at the floor, one of the Klansmen would run his foot over the powder line, causing a fiery-looking trail. Sometimes and immense volume of flame was blown from the nose.  
We have been conditioned to respond like Pavlov's dogs to racism. Consequently, in our efforts to do right, many of us have lost a sense of calibration, proportion, and precision. Black and brown folks, and white anti-racists, need to expend our efforts on those battles that can really make a difference in our collective life chances, as opposed to weakening our forces on fool's errands such as "lynched" chairs. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"The Man" is Still Holding Down Working Class White People...and Helping the Blacks and Other Minorities Too Much

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has a new survey on the attitudes of "white working class" voters. That label has become an imprecise catch-all that makes for great headlines and conversation among the pundit classes; but it is much more slippery when actually examined empirically. 

For example, a good amount of research has demonstrated that poor people tend to vote for the Democrats. Yet, white men who do not possess college degrees, and have "blue collar" jobs, tend to vote overwhelmingly for Republicans. And in the aggregate, "white working class voters" men without college degrees, and who are not working in salaried jobs, overwhelming support Mitt Romney.

The idea that working class white people are possessed of false consciousness, and are voting against their material interests when they support the Tea Party GOP has become a type of truism. Nevertheless, I believe it is largely an accurate description of their behavior. However, I have also come to realize that perhaps these voters are simply using a different voting calculus, one where white skin and the psychic wages of whiteness matter more than other variables. Their politics are not "abnormal" per se; rather, these voters are simply working towards a different set of goals.

As a complement to this observation, the PRRI has some rich findings that include:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More Conservative Commentariat Class Eliminationist Rhetoric about the "47 Percent": "Thanks To Romney, We Can Single Out ‘Parasites’"

What do you do with parasites? You crush them like cockroaches.

Once more the Right and the Tea Party GOP show us who they have always been. Romney and Ryan are drunk on the Ayn Rand Kool Aid where society is divided between worthwhile people who are "suppliers" or "job creators" and surplus people who are government tit suckers. Instead of running away from Romney's "47 percent of the American public are a waste of oxygen who are dependent on the State and a black President who gives them things they don't deserve" comment, a few brave souls are doubling down.

The eliminationist rhetoric that has become a type of political Esparanto for the Right over the last few decades is dangerous, inflammatory, and violent. On CNN, Mary Matalin, Republican talking head, doubles down on the Tea Party GOP's understanding of those citizens who are "valuable," and those others who ought to be made into Soylent Green.

Matalin used to be one of the more sane Right-wing pundits. It would seem that she too has crossed over from a type of conservatism that was typified by a stay the course, middle of the road, traditionalism, over to a reckless radicalism that seeks to undo the social compact and consensus politics of the post World War Two era and the Great Society.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Ayn Rand wing of the Republican Party are now plainly stating what many have long suspected about American society in the neoliberal age. Citizenship is tiered. It has always been.

We are all equal; however, some of us are more equal--and valuable--than others. The former are to be damned. Conservatives, the Tea Party people especially, who are in the 47 percent are surplus people too.

They simply have not realized it yet.

Open Thread: Deconstructing the Potpourri of Awfulness that is Romney's "47 Percent of Americans Are Lazy Moochers" Speech

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Here is the full video of Mitt Romney's speech to his private donors recorded in May at the home of a sex party hosting, "values voter" booster Marc Leder. The transcript is available here.

There is so much to be said about Romney's speech. I do not know where to begin.

If it were not serious, I would think Romney's open admissions about his joy at outsourcing jobs, putting people out of work, and that Americans, i.e. black and brown folks are lazy moochers whose votes Obama have purchased with welfare and other "entitlements," was an updated version of Andy Kaufman's genius skits about professional wrestling and the thin line between "reality" and "fiction." 

Rather, this is who Mitt Romney really is; this video is also a stark representation of how the plutocrats who support the Tea Party GOP actually think about the rest of us, those surplus people in the 53 percent that ought to simply be gotten rid of. Yes, gotten rid of and destroyed. My suggestion here is not an error in either nuance or emphasis.

We have not done an open thread here on WARN in some time. Romney's potpourri of rich people's entitlement-laced hypocrisy and Ayn Rand awfulness seems as good a reason to chat it up as any other. 

Some thoughts to start us off.

How do you feel about Romney's suggestion that Latinos are an existential threat to the United States, and if they become a solid part of the Democrat base like "the blacks," the nation's future is imperiled?

Did you know that Mitt Romney is a self-made man? Daddy's bucks never helped him. Apparently, those lazy, greedy people just want to rob and steal from hardworking children of millionaires and billionaires like Romney and his friends that pulled off their own Horatio Alger miracle. They are the real victims in the Age of Obama and the Great Recession. In fact, class envy of their enterprising nature and talent, is how Obama, and those who are not John Galt, are destroying America. 

Romney is reiterating the standard line that in America white folks are victimized by people of color. In the world of the Tea Party GOP and its politics of white victimology, white people are a besieged and oppressed class whose life chances would be made better if they could only access "reverse discrimination" programs such as "affirmative action," or get ahold of the mythic "race card."

Moreover, Romney is reinforcing the bizarre belief that in the Age of Obama racism against white people is a bigger problem than that against people of color--despite all of the available evidence to the contrary. Is there anything more absurd than a group of rich white people like Mitt Romney bemoaning their relative "disadvantage?" If so, do share.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Conservatives Grasping at Straws and in Denial: Romney's "47 Percent of the American People are Lazy Bums" is a Great Political Opportunity in Disguise

Mitt Romney is the gift that keeps on giving (or is that taking?). His most recent misstep involves his being recorded at a fundraiser in May joking about outsourcing American jobs to China, and where he called half of the American people free-loading bums who are dependent on Barack Obama. Apparently, the latter is receiving support from these same surplus urchins and government tit suckers only because Obama is giving them free money.

I am working on something more substantive on Romney's "47 percent pay no taxes" lie--and the ugly politics driving his behavior--as we speak. In the meantime, I wanted to share this piece from the Right-wing website NetRight Daily.

Conservatives are falling all over themselves to spin Romney's gaffe into a positive. They are hoping his spurious claims about the "lazy" "unproductive" Americans, the majority of which live in Red State America and vote Republican, can be a national conversation starter about how President Obama has "destroyed" the American Dream and created a class of "dependent" people.

The Right media is trying to turn a political feces sandwich into caviar. It will not work. However, given the sophisticated propaganda operation that is the Right-wing echo chamber, anything remains possible. To point, we have witnessed stranger things in American life than the Tea Party neo-John Birchers who cry about the "immigrants" and the "minorities" all the while clinging to their social security checks and clamoring for "limited government." American politics is a theater for the absurd: as such, Romney's dream merchants may be able to convince the low information Tea Party people, and Right-leaning Independents, that he is in the race for the little guy. Who knows how it will all play out?

Bill Wilson makes some suggestions that I do hope Romney follows--as they will only make matters worse for his campaign. Wilson's piece is a better than average representation of the waste that is produced by the Right-wing myth making machine. As such, there is a good amount going on both in his unstated assumptions and priors, as well as misreads of empirical reality that demand comment (which I will leave up to all of you).

From "Romney's Opportunity": 
At the May fundraiser, Romney had suggested that Republicans’ “message of low taxes doesn’t connect” with those who pay no income tax, and that his job was “not to worry about those people” politically. Because, he said, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
This is actually a pretty astute political analysis of likely voter trends based on income.

But there’s more to it than that. On a more basic level, Romney is telling the truth about the state of dependency in the U.S., and is calling attention to the perverse incentives politically that are created when government assistance becomes a way of life for millions of Americans.

At the same time, Romney was wrong to imply that those same people do not or would not want to escape that web of dependency, that those who are unemployed or poor are so by choice. Therefore, that those stuck on welfare choose to stay there.
Wilson continues:
Sensing the missed opportunity to connect with those presently struggling in this economy, Romney clarified at his press conference that his “campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again” and that he wants “to help all Americans have a bright and prosperous future”.

He added, “Particularly for those who don’t have work, this whole campaign is focused on getting people jobs again”. This is exactly what he needs to be saying.

After all, which is more helpful to most Americans: a real job and the chance for social mobility, or a meager government check that will not save their homes?

Here, Romney is taking the opportunity to pivot his message to how he plans to help all Americans, even ones who are not planning to vote for him, all the while sticking to the original premise of his message that Barack Obama’s campaign is a direct albeit misguided appeal to government dependents...
This video may, in the end, be a blessing in disguise for Romney. But only if he quickly takes advantage of the opportunity it has created for him to explain why government dependency is destroying America. 
Winning over voters by insulting them is always a great strategy for any Presidential candidate. It is especially so when a good portion of the voters Romney has called lazy, dependent, bums are senior citizens, veterans, people in the military, and others who are part of the Tea Party GOP coalition.

Please Mr. Romney, I am begging you, do follow through on Bill Wilson's advice and make his wise words your talking points of the day, week, and month. The American people need to be reminded of what Mitt Romney actually thinks about them as often as possible in order to make an informed decision on election day in November.

Junot Diaz Really, Really Loves His Latinas: Is There Anyone Writing With Equal Affection and Desire For Black Women?

Oh, hello. I’d like to introduce you to someone. Reader, this is Nilda. Oh man, Nilda is something. She’s Dominican, and has super-long hair, like those Pentecostal girls, and a chest you wouldn’t believe—I’m talking world-class. She’s nice, right? Or, like, have you met Alma? She has a long tender horse neck and a big Dominican ass that seems to exist in a fourth dimension beyond jeans. And oh shit don’t even get me started on Magda, with the big mouth and big hips and dark curly hair you could lose a hand in.

These are just a few of the fine, fine women who date Yunior, the hero of Junot Díaz’s excellent new collection of stories, This Is How You Lose Her
Some more Junot Diaz, our founding "ghetto nerd," for you. With the release of his newest book, Diaz really is getting some much well-deserved shine.

Dude loves his Latinas. As a fellow traveler, I love all women. As such, I am a great advocate for race-mixing as my trips to space mountain involve vigorous--and often (whenever possible)--explorations across the color line. I love black women; as Big Pun said, I regulate every shade; but I also have a particular fondness for women from the Iberian peninsula.

If I am a tourist in such appreciation and lustful moments of hedonistic consumption(s) of the human ambrosia that is the female form, Diaz is the master.   

Fittingly, Slate has a piece dedicated to Junot Diaz's apparently incomparable wit and finely honed ability to describe the various varieties, subtleties, and types of Hispanic-Latina beauty. There Dan Kois writes:
Díaz’s commercial breakthrough, Oscar Wao, was also his breakthrough in lady-describing. Look no further than page 13, where a neighbor of seven-year-old Oscar is described thus: “Mari Colón, a thirty-something postal employee who wore red on her lips and walked like she had a bell for an ass.” Oh, my. Sit back for a moment and admire that sentence, the way you might otherwise sit back and admire the ass in question.
Five pages later, we meet the first girl who dumps Oscar, Maritza. Oscar never forgives himself for that one. “A ghetto Mary Jane, hair as black and lush as a thunderhead, probably the only Peruvian girl on the planet with pelo curlier than his sister’s ... body fine enough to make old men forget their infirmities, and from the sixth grade on dating men two, three times her age.” Like once-awkward Maritza, a newly confident Díaz is parading his talents in front of us, daring us to stare.
How wonderfully voyeuristic. It may just be prose on a virtual screen, but such imagery--and how it reminds me of a certain Puerto Rican sister from back in the day--makes a certain part of the anatomy lift like a lead pipe with wings aided by an anti-grav field.

As is true with such things, I do not know if it is just the thought of her that is so exciting these years later, or the memory of the fact that I enjoyed the attention of a queen--one who inspired dudes to have the "how the hell did he get her face?"--and had partaken of her many times and in many ways.

I am getting the vapors. Please let me compose myself for a moment.

The fantasy was a reality. It is rare that such dreams come true...and do not disappoint. But I digress.

Potentially onanistic, self-abuse inspiring tours of one's mental Rolodex of sexual and sensual experiences is fun, a healthy diversion.

But, I have a serious question.

Are there any mainstream authors as popular as Junot Diaz who are writing with such passion, desire, worshipful lust, and affection about black women?

Monday, September 17, 2012

We Ain't Got Nothing For You Here: Political Race and the Paradox of a Black President

Long live black politics! Black politics is dead! And what shall we do with the poor people?

When my friends and I planned Operation Ham Hock during our cultural nationalist conspiratorial minded phase in college, we were correct in that the election of a President who happens to be non-white would be the end of Black Politics and the triumph of color blind white racism. Our vision was not expansive enough. We failed to realize how a black president would cripple any efforts to discuss the realities of poverty, race, and class inequality in America. Damn our youthful ignorance.

Elijah Anderson, prescient and genius as he is, nails our blind spot and under-theorization in the New York Times piece "Is Poverty a Kind of Robbery?" where he observed:
Apparently, the Republicans have backed the Democrats, and President Obama in particular, into the proverbial racial corner. It is a supreme irony that Obama, the nation’s first African-American President, finds himself unable to advocate for truly disadvantaged blacks, or even to speak out forthrightly on racial issues. To do so is to risk alienating white conservative voters, who are more than ready to scream, “we told you so,” that Obama is for “the blacks.”
But it is not just the potential white voters, but the political pundits who quickly draw attention to such actions, slanting their stories to stir up racial resentment. Strikingly, blacks most often understand President Obama’s problems politically, and continue to vote for him, understanding the game full well, that Obama is doing the “best he can” in what is clearly a “deeply racist society.” It’s a conundrum.
Later in the same essay, Thomas Edsall connects the dots:
How different would the nation’s politics be if either party, or at least the Democrats, added the concept of economic exploitation to its repertoire?

Not only would doing so risk inflaming the issue of race, but it would put at risk existing sources of campaign finance on which both parties are dependent...This dependence on moneyed interests effectively precludes exploitation as a theme for either major party to develop. These sources of campaign cash would dry up if they became the target of policies or positions they found threatening.

Even as polarization poses more sharply defined choices to the voter, pressing issues remain off limits. Poverty and hunger have been dropped from the agenda. The range of policy and electoral choices remains confined to what fits comfortably into a world of muted ethical concern, a world in which moral relativism has permeated society not so much from the bottom up, as from the top down.
Left activists and others quite correctly point out how common class concerns are obfuscated and deflected by white racism and White identity politics. The race-making con game is centuries old in America: it goes back to at least Bacon's Rebellion in the 17th century when white planters deemed black folks to be a class of permanent slaves and chattel, and white indentured servants were granted their "forty acres and a mule" upon the end of their "term of service."

In all, white skin carries privileges that are both material and psychic. Poor and working class whites know this very well--even as historians, sociologists, and others would like to pretend that poor whites have been "bamboozled" or "hoodwinked" into voting against their own self-interest--as opposed to making a choice to get in bed with Whiteness...and the perceived and real advantages that come with it.

Racial attitudes are closely tied to opinions about policy issues that are ostensibly "race neutral." This is especially true for conservatives where white racial animus over-determines their views on a number of issues ranging from national defense, to support for the social safety net, and personal privacy. Because black folks are cast as "anti-citizens," views about poverty are intrinsically tied to attitudes and stereotypes about people of color, where the white racial frame deems them as being non-productive, lazy, and a drain on white society.

The potential embodied by "political race," i.e. that shared class concerns can be used to overcome the divides of the color line in pursuit of the Common Good, is alluring. However, in a political moment that combines a black president, fiscal austerity, and rising white nativism, realpolitik may have killed the idea of political race as a viable strategy and made it the first/last resort of hopeful dreamers:  
This skewing of the odds in favor of the rich comes at a time when the Democratic Party is already inhibited by accusations that it likes to foment “class warfare” and to play “the race card.” The result has been a relentless shift of the political center from left to right. The two most recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have pursued agendas well within this limited terrain. There is little reason to believe that Obama, if he wins in November, will feel empowered to push out much further into territory the Democrats have virtually abandoned.
Are common class concerns the way forward? Or will diminishing resources, and a contracting State, mean that working class (and poor) whites will reup and double down on Whiteness in order to maintain their position in the class hierarchy against an imagined threat from black and brown folks?

We dream of political race. But Whiteness wins again, does it not?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Smirking Mitt Walking Away from a Lynching

Mitt Romney's entitled, privileged, and self-righteous smirk when caught in a lie about President Obama and Libya has spawned an Internet meme. On this website, Romney has been depicted walking away from the Hindenburg, civil rights protesters, burning homes, and homeless people. The image, what it represents about his humanity and calculating coldness, both stands in for Romney, while also telling us something about the values and ideas we are reading onto him by virtue of his actions.

Mitt Romney is a sociopathic racist. His Southern Strategy 2.0 is proof of this fact. Romney's repeated lie that Barack Obama, "apologized" for the killing of Ambassador Stevens in Libya, and for the attacks on the consulate, are evidence of a profound lack of human empathy. He will do anything to win the presidency; Romney will double down on his post-truth campaign--even if it means misrepresenting reality while four Americans have recently been killed--even when the facts are still forthcoming.

The Tea Party GOP is a de facto party for "white people's rights." As such, Romney's campaign is dependent upon stirring up white racial resentment in order to defeat the country's first black president. All of his "real America," Birther-like appeals are direct signals that black and brown people are somehow outside of the American political tradition. By definition, a black man cannot and should not lead a "White" republic. Romney's lies about Obama as a thief and "welfare king" who steals from good white people in order to give money to "lazy" and "parasitic" blacks is a direct function of that big lie.

As I have pointed out many times, the Tea Party GOP are direct descendants of the "polite" racists in the John Birch Society (in fact, one of the elder members of the Koch family, the group that funds and supports the Tea Party brigands, was a founding member of the aforementioned organization). They would not kill a black person directly. Instead, these polite racists would watch the lynching, buy the postcards of the destroyed and defiled body, and cheer a spectacular act of violence that reinforced the color line and fueled whiteness as a sense of community, belonging, and exclusion of the Other.

Romney would have been there too, looming in the shadows.

Romney, and other white businessmen like him, both profited from, as well as encouraged Jim and Jane Crow because it was the "rational" thing to do. Romney's type would create racial animosity in the workplace or on the factory floor if it suited the economic logic of divide and conquer where black, brown, and white folks were put against one another in the interests of Capital and greed. Mitt Romney (much unlike his father) is also the very same type of man who would use what was then called "blockbusting" in order to scare white homeowners with a rumor that blacks would soon be moving into the neighborhood--and that any white person who wants to salvage the wealth and equity held in their property had best sell soon.

Romney's smirk, and his cold indifference, are a perfect embodiment of the cowardly and callous racial logic that many white Americans exhibited during the dark days of Jim and Jane Crow. In the Age of Obama, Romney, the Tea Party GOP, and the other assorted members of the rogues gallery that is the New Right, are playing to the worst part of the American (white) collective consciousness. One of "those people" is in "their" White House. Most would not actively do him any harm, but they would certainly not look the other way as Barack Obama is symbolically and (politically) immolated.

In a role befitting a man of his temperament and nature, Mitt Romney would, and is, simply handing the white racial reactionaries on the Right a lighter and some kindling, while he turns, then walking off with a smirk on his face.

It ain't personal. It is only business.

The "Movie" Innocence of Muslims is Just Really Bad Porn

What a let down.

Politics and popular culture can intersect in horrible and tragic ways. Birth of a Nation was a technical marvel and achievement. It also glorified the rise of the KKK, legitimated lynching culture, and produced stereotypes about black Americans' citizenship that resonate to the present with the Tea Party GOP and black conservatives. Innocence of Muslims is a horrible "film" whose aesthetics and sensibilities borrow from a recent trend where blockbuster Hollywood films and TV series (some very good as with Not the Cosbys XXX; and others quite horrible, see Pirates XXX) are remade as adult titles.

This should be no surprise as we have recently learned that the creator of Innocence of Muslims used to work in the adult film industry as a director. Alan Roberts is also a renaissance man: he did time for selling meth.

In all, a failed auteur made a bad movie, one that most people on either side of the debate and violent protests have not seen. The rumor of a thing, and what we imagine it to be, are often far greater (or worst) than what it really is. Innocence of Muslims is a Rorschach test, a political MacGuffin, for aggrieved people and culture warriors to write and impose their own scripts upon.

If they in fact exist, I would like to belief that God, Yahweh, Muhammad, Jesus Christ Soul Brother Number One, Crom, the Blessed Exchequer, or whatever other deities or supernatural beings one prays to (or not) is looking down on this whole mess and laughing with disgust. Great beings with infinite wisdom and power would take little offense at some badly made, crypto agitprop, quasi anti-Muslim porn.

Light is a disinfectant. People need to see a thing before they can honestly condemn it...and most have not even watched Innocence of Muslims. Yet, they want to scream, howl, protest, apologize, maim, and kill. So sad. And yes, utterly predictable.

Friday, September 14, 2012

We Are All Messed Up By This Race Thing: A Little Coonskin to Go With a Side of Junot Diaz

We are having a fun conversation here. It started out as my goofing on the buckdancing black conservatives over at Project 21 and has since taken a detour into Afrocentrism, the Black Atlantic, historical memory, transhumanism, and the interracial sex and dating habits of Star Trek fans.

In all, there are enough themes present there for a pretty solid work of speculative literature. The text may not end up being coherent; it would be pretty interesting nonetheless.

Ghetto nerds tend to roll that way I guess, with their minds overflowing, improvising, and pulling in inspiration from wherever it may come. To point, I had intended to share this great interview with Junot Diaz following my visit to Chicon 7.

[For those seeking a "no-prize," his book The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao is the inspiration for my "ghetto nerds" moniker/badge of honor.]

Speaking to the Boston Review, Diaz signals to many of the themes which animate WARN, as well as my own creative work. White supremacy is everywhere. We all breathe it, internalize it, reproduce it, and give it life--despite how the insincere and dishonest rhetoric of "colorblindess" in the post Civil Right era suggests otherwise. By implication, artists have to struggle with how to write realistically and honestly about racism/sexism/homophobia and other systems of strucutural oppression without legitimating those power relationships.

Junot Diaz comments on this challenge with beautiful wit and clarity. He suggests that race has made us all insane. Is our chief ghetto nerd right?
Paula: This reminds me of a point you made in the question and answer session following your lecture yesterday. You said that people of color fuel white supremacy as much as white people do; that it is something we are all implicated in. You went on to suggest that only by first recognizing the social and material realities we live in—by naming and examining the effects of white supremacy—can we hope to transform our practices.

Junot: How can you change something if you won’t even acknowledge its existence, or if you downplay its significance? White supremacy is the great silence of our world, and in it is embedded much of what ails us as a planet. The silence around white supremacy is like the silence around Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, or the Voldemort name which must never be uttered in the Harry Potter novels. And yet here’s the rub: if a critique of white supremacy doesn’t first flow through you, doesn’t first implicate you, then you have missed the mark; you have, in fact, almost guaranteed its survival and reproduction. There’s that old saying: the devil’s greatest trick is that he convinced people that he doesn’t exist. Well, white supremacy’s greatest trick is that it has convinced people that, if it exists at all, it exists always in other people, never in us.

Paula: I wanted to ask you about something else you said in the lecture yesterday. You said you wanted to, and thought you could, “figure out a way to represent most honestly—represent in the language, and represent in the way people talk, and represent in the discourse—what [you], just one person, thought was a racial reality,” but without endorsing that reality. You indicated that you aim to realistically represent “our entire insane racial logic” but in a way that “the actual material does not endorse that reality” at the level of structure. This is certainly what I would argue your work succeeds in doing. But I would like to hear more about how you go about creating, at the level of structure, a disjuncture between the realistic representation of race and an endorsement of the racial logic on which the representation is based.

Junot: The things I say. [Laughs] OK, let me see if I can make sense of my own damn self. Let’s see if I can speak to the actual texts. Well, at its most simplistic in, say, Drown, we have a book where racist shit happens—but it’s not like at a thematic level the book is saying: Right on, racist shit! I was hoping that the book would expose my characters’ race craziness and that this craziness would strike readers, at the very minimum, as authentic. But exposing our racisms, etc., accurately has never seemed to be enough; the problem with faithful representations is that they run the risk of being mere titillation or sensationalism. In my books, I try to show how these oppressive paradigms work together with the social reality of the characters to undermine the very dreams the characters have for themselves.

So, Yunior thinks X and Y about people and that logic is, in part, what fucks him up. Now if the redounding is too blunt and obvious, then what you get is a moralistic parable and not literature. But, if it’s done well, then you get both the ugliness that comes out of showing how people really are around issues like race and gender, but also a hidden underlying counter-current that puts in front of you the very real, very personal, consequences of these orientations.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the Clash of Civilizations, Neocons, and the Innocence of Muslims

For his part, Obama, from the very start of his presidency, had set out to douse the fires of the "clash of civilizations", then still raging courtesy of Messrs Bush and Bin Laden, among others. 
An editorial in the New York Times commenting on Obama's famous address to the Muslim world from Cairo University, lauded him for having "steered away from the poisonous post-9/11 clash of civilizations mythology that drove so much of President George W. Bush’s rhetoric and disastrous policy." 
To reignite "the clash" in some form serves to bolster the American Right as a whole, the American Christian Right (which is a mainstay of the Republican Party) in particular, while at the same time undermining Obama, who at best had acted to bring this clash to an end, and at worst is "a bloody Muslim" himself.
I came upon this piece via Balloon Juice and thought I would share it with you all. I have more questions than answers regarding the deadly mayhem that erupted in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere after the release of a video that was understood by many as disrespectful towards Islam and Muhammad. Hani Shukrallah does some great work here locating the recent violence in the region within a broader framework. The clash of civilizations narrative is deep and old; The Right will use it to undercut Obama; And while little discussed in the American corporate media, Islamicists and Neo-con culture warriors do have no small tendencies of character, ideology, and behavior in common.

I do not believe that any religion is due "respect" a priori: people earn respect by their deeds, faith and religion is a means (ostensibly) to that end and should be judged by that standard. If one wants to suggest that Christianity is due some respect, show me the deeds of Christians so that we can make a judgement. If some want to argue that Islam is worthy of respect, let us evaluate the acts and deeds of those called Muslim. If Judaism should be respected, we must examine the behavior of those called Jews. The calculus is deceptively simple.

Religious mythologies that some people take to be factual descriptions of reality are not granted immediate elevation in a society where church and state are separate, and where faith ought to be a personal and private matter. Moreover, that people of any religion would kill, riot, murder, rampage, and commit acts of wanton violence because their god was "offended"--how does anyone actually know the mind of god?--or a book, a bunch of paper with a binding was "defaced," is outside of my personality type and worldview. I am not religiously minded; I cannot understand such matters. As I often wonder, if your god is so great, and your faith so deep, how can such petty acts even move you?

However, this does not mean that Nations are as free as I am, a private citizen, to ignore how religion and faith are important to certain publics and countries around the world. Here, the violence in the Middle East surrounding this most recent "offense" against Islam is a symptom of other social dysfunctions. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Professional Black Conservative Race Hustling Group "Project 21" Condemns Chauncey DeVega Again...Sigh

Project 21 member Demetrius Minor rebuts Chauncey and suggests the left clean its own house of hatred, saying:
This is another example of the vile and vicious hate displayed by the left.  Instead of engaging in a dialogue that would help progress racial relations, liberals have decided to ostracize and demonize black conservatives.  We must condemn this despicable rhetoric once and for all.
I would like to thank my friends, god, the academy, Joy Yee's Chinese Restaurant, and Sapporo beer for this award.

More fun from my honest--and apparently quite provocative critique--of the pregnant silence by Black Conservatives regarding their white masters in the Tea Party GOP's plans to prevent African Americans from voting in the upcoming election. The "break in case of emergency professional black conservative best friends and support group" Project 21 is upset at me again. I last earned their attention when I called out Herman Cain's race minstrel routine last year. For a second time--is that a record for pseudonymous members of the online commentariat class?--I am now a proud recipient of their auspicious, wonderful, ire and disdain.

I also learned something new in reading their complaints as shared with the Right-wing organization The National Center for Public Policy Research, I am apparently at the center of a vast Left-wing conspiracy:
Besides the Daily Kos, Chauncey’s rants can still be read on AlterNet as well as Salon and the Washington Post-bankrolled The Root.  So these are not the rantings of a lone individual with a purchased web address — Chauncey is well-regarded and supported in his hate mongering by the leftist establishment.
Once more, where is my check?

Ignoring my suggestion that it is a bad look for black conservatives to channel Brother Douglass given that the former are in bed with white racial reactionaries, and in another life would have printed the postcards announcing their own spectacular lynching, Project 21 member Stacy Swimp offers:
Black conservatives embrace Frederick Douglass because he — perhaps more than anyone else, especially for his time — promoted individual responsibility, a work ethic and limited government as a path toward growth and gain for black Americans.  He felt the best thing government could do for black Americans at the time was to get out of the way of their progress.
Frederick Douglass honored the dignity and resolve of black Americans and sought for them to rise and fall on their own merits.  He knew people contain the ability to succeed on their own.  He felt nothing could be stop success if one applied themselves, and that is why black conservatives embrace and honor him today.
Neither slavery nor racism are solely to blame for the current condition of America’s urban communities.  Moral surrender was our undoing.  It is very interesting for a black leftist to chastise black conservatives for looking to Frederick Douglass for guidance and strength after the left has perverted the message of people such as him as they have tried to systematically sabotage those he fought for.
The left has institutionalized an inferiority complex among too many people.  Black conservatives embrace the Frederick Douglass and his teachings to reverse this terrible condition.
I am curious about one matter. These black conservatives like to complain about Chauncey DeVega but they never reach out for an interview. Why is that? What are they afraid of?

 I would love to debate a representative from Project 21 (or some sad soul they want to offer up as a sacrifice) about the role of black conservatives in the Tea Party GOP.

They can even bring friends along so that it will be a fair fight. It is a small world; perhaps one of the black water carriers for the neo-Confederate Right will step up to the plate and we can put on a show?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chauncey DeVega is a Bad Boy: Fox News Nation and Newsbusters Are Upset that I Called Out Their Black Conservative Human Props

I love it when a plan comes together...

When you call out black (and brown) conservatives for their race hustle in the service of the Tea Party GOP, and its stated policy of ginning up white racism in order to defeat Barack Obama, their protectors always take the bait.

As I pointed out here in my short piece on how the Republican Party is betraying the legacy of Frederick Douglass, the Tea Party GOP and those shuffling, grinning, buck dancing, black conservatives who support disenfranchising African-American voters, are truly a beast with two backs.

I have pained them: Fox News Nation and Newsbusters are crying foul at this "racist" observation. As they always do regarding these matters of race and politics, the Right and its foot soldiers prove once more that they are addicted to bigotry, prejudice, and a propagandized version of history that is totally and completely disconnected from empirical reality.

In all, the Right and the Tea Party are addicted to political meth; in the Age of Obama they freebase white racial resentment to get their high; Mitt Romney, Fox News, and the Right-wing echo chamber are their pushers.

As I enjoy doing, here are some particularly entertaining and noteworthy comments from the Fox News, Newsbusters peanut gallery.

These are the very same folks who believe that President Obama is not an American citizen, that Dr. King would support the Tea Party GOP, and that white folks are oppressed by lazy, welfare scam artist negroes who are engaging in widespread voter fraud that is aided and abetted by the Black Panther Party and Attorney General Eric Holder. Comedy gold. Priceless.
The Liberals like Daily Kos ARE the racis!s.
As for voter ID:  They sure have no problem showing their photo ID when cashing their welfare check, or withdraw the money from their welfare "direct deposit". WITHOUT  a PHOTO ID, No dice, NO money.  I heard they even had to show a PHOTO  ID at the Dem convention.  However, when voting they don't have to????  What's the matter the voter FRAUD will be getting to hard to do???

Pete Dosado 
Chauncey DeVega is a prime example of a negro exhibiting the Stockholm Syndrome!  He has empathy for those who have held his own people in chains for so long and continue to manipulate their thinking and actions!  What other conclusion is there that he is against those who break from the past of slavery and segreagation?  Chauncey DeVega wants a return to Jim Crow so that he can rail against it but at the same time supports the Democrats who were responsible for segregation of the races with different schools and separate bathrooms!  No wonder that he gets support from the likes of Rachel Maddow who enjoys using and manipulating characters such as Chauncey DeVega for their twisted political aims!

SO you kooky kossack Frederick Douglass was a hero for escaping his bondage from a plantation and today the Allen Wests, Mia Love and Herman Cains are not because they didn't buy into the lies of the liberal plantation and wanted no part of it? Yeah DeVega you're a kook...and a racist of the first magnitude.

Yes and the Democratic BlacksSuck off theTit of their Master Uncle Sam. He throws them a crumb or too to keep them quiet while his policies keeps them for emancipating themselves with a good education and a real job. But the unions and politicians are sure enjoying their moment as the nanny to this group.

So, De Vega is saying that  Black Americans should not be allowed to choose their own political party and are not up to the task of getting voter ID's, like the rest of the American citizens.  What a racist put down! And they accuse others of racism.

If I have to show ID at the store to buy broccoli, EVERYONE has to show ID to vote.
 Most likely has a drivers license with a photo.  It should be taken away.  Anybody this stupid and racist shouldn't be allowed on the road.  Expect road rage after the election.

The chains and bondages of slavery that this divider speaks of were protected by the democrat party, the party of the KKK. It took a Republican president to break the chains but now democrats have them back in entitlement chains where they are manageable. Blacks in America take note: this article author wants you down and to stay there.

Wow, what an a**hole.  In his view, if a black person isn't a lefty democrat then they must be sellouts and 'house boy's.  Amazing.  Never for one second does he think that conservative blacks might've arrived at their position through their own independent thought and views on the issues.  That they're incapable of independent reasoning and honest rational differences of opinion.  Can you imagine the outcry if a black conservative said this about liberal blacks?   

Seriously, though.  What a colossal a**hole this guy is.  And it's conservatives who are racist?

I am so tired of this specious, straw man argument that if you require a photo ID to vote, you are violating someone's civil rights. What CLAPTRAP! Voting in an election in the USA that I grew up in has always been a PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT, and required that, in order to vote, you prove that you are a CITIZEN, and not just someone who happens to reside here during an election cycle. I have ALWAYS needed a photo ID to drive, to cash checks, to apply for credit, to apply for a job, to visit a doctor, and, more recently, to purchase certain types of cold medicine at my local Wal-mart. And you want to tell me that this same proof of residency, citizenship, and identification is not necessary for something as important as VOTING for someone who can greatly impact our community and way of life? What NONSENSE! I do not care what color your skin happens to be or how rich or poor you are, but I do care that ANYONE who votes does so in a thoughtful, LEGAL manner, and that you care enough about the process to follow the established and time-honored precedents that have made this country unique in history.

The Liberals like Daily Kos ARE the racis!s.
As for voter ID:  They sure have no problem showing their photo ID when cashing their welfare check, or withdraw the money from their welfare "direct deposit". WITHOUT  a PHOTO ID, No dice, NO money.  I heard they even had to show a PHOTO  ID at the Dem convention.  However, when voting they don't have to????  What's the matter the voter FRAUD will be getting to hard to do???

He is just mad because most are too stupid to get an ID!
Race and gay bashing, etc.,  has never been so prevelent in decades since the left now uses it for political justification.  By doing this the left conducts the most racist activity since the 60s. 
Conservatives - Everyone has equal opportunity and equal access to methods to achieve success
Liberals - Special groups of people chosen by us based on their race, s ex, sexual orientation, etc, will get special preference to opportunity and addition access to methods to achieve success because they cannot do it on their own and are incapable of achieving success without our assistance

How in God's name did we get to this place of racism and hatred again?
I do not know one conservative Republican who has a racist bone in them.  I lived thru the 60's.  I was a young working adult when MLK was killed. I worked in the blackest neighborhood of my city. 
The racism is on the left pure and simple.  They see it everywhere, in every post, in every instance, in every gathering.

Until blk Americans realize what the Democrats have foisted on them MLK will be spinning in his holy grave.

Yes, I was young in the 60's and this great divide is due to potus and all on the liberals. I have never had a problems in my mixed life but now it seems to be changing.
Good bye obama I want my country back
Where anyone such as I can say I am Rublican without getting insulted. ITS BEEN A FREE COUNTRY TILL YOU AND YOURS.

This has got to be one of the most disgusting things I've ever read... I was so disgusted that I didn't even bother to finish the article.  I hope that this "blogger" doesn't actually consider himself in anyway a good person or accepting of others.  This entire campaign season has just left a bad taste in my mouth from the way people have been comporting themselves and this is just some more sprinkles on top of the icing on top of the cake...

Steve Pryor  
 They should be scared.  Imagine a b l a c k conservative surrounded by a progressive socialist mob.  They would love to prove the force of their reasons by tearing him limb from limb, and they would go out afterwards and celebrate with a round of beers.

He Could Apparently See the Future: The Whiteness of Sci-Fi and Robert Heinlein's Libertarian Racism

When I was in the 3rd grade, my class practiced reciting the names of all of the countries in the world. We got to the continent of Africa and I was doing okay. The teacher would point to different students and ask us to read a few names off of the list. As fate would have it, I got to read the "N's."

Nigeria. Okay. Namibia. Okay. Niger? That was a problem. I said "nigger." The teacher, a nice white woman, looked embarrassed. She asked me to repeat it again, and to work harder on sounding out the words. "Nigggerrr" I said...holding the "g" for emphasis. Thankfully, we proceeded onward; my peccadillo ignored by the other students and the (now relieved) teacher. She must have reasoned that the only black kid in the class just said "nigger," and either his peers had the good sense to ignore it, or he was blissfully ignorant of what he just did.

Thank the fates.

That was an epic fail; my using the phrase "grok" and shilling for Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange World a month ago was a similar instance of retroactive face palming. It is good to be embarrassed on occasion--it keeps one humble. Why? Because what you think you know, and in fact do not, is often more dangerous than what you know that you do not know.

A week and a half ago I went to Chicon 7 and had quite a good learning experience. There, I almost attended a meeting of the Heinlein society and other events interfered. After reading more about Robert Heinlein, a foundational figure of golden age science fiction (a genre that solved the race problem by "white washing" the future), I am glad that I did not play myself by attending such a celebratory gathering.

Separating a person from their art is not an easy project. For example, the recently deceased Michael Clarke Duncan starred in Green Mile, one of the most racist movies in recent memory. He was also a brother from Chicago who seemed genuine, and happened to be the lead actor in a movie that carried racial implications which were likely outside of his understanding.

By comparison, Robert Heinlein was a serious thinker who presented himself as such. Consequently, I hold him to a different standard. I give folks their agency. As such, here are some of his thoughts on the race question, and why I may have to jettison him from my personal canon.

From The World SF Blog:
Anyway it wasn’t me:
But I don’t have any prejudice for Negroes, either. I don’t feel any guilt over the fact that slavery existed in this country from 1619 to the Civil War. I didn’t do it. Nor did any of my ancestors to the best of my knowledge (which is pretty complete) own slaves. I had many relatives and one grandfather on the union side during the Civil War, none that I know of on the Southern side other than one cousin we aren’t proud of—Jefferson Davis. But I’m not accepting any guilt on his behalf, either—I didn’t do it. 
But really it was good for them:
Nor do I feel responsible for the generally low state of the Negro—as one Negro friend pointed out to me; the lucky Negroes were the ones who were enslaved. Having traveled quite a bit in Africa, I know what she means. One thing is clear: Whether one speaks of technology or social institutions, “civilization” was invented by us, not by the Negroes. As races, as cultures, we are five thousand years, about, ahead of them. Except for the culture, both institutions and technology, that they got from us, they would still be in the stone age, along with its slavery, cannibalism, tyranny, and utter lack of the concept we call “justice.” 
And are they really equal? 
Buz, one of the sacrosanct assumptions is that the two races, white and black, really are “equal” save for environmental handicaps the Negro has unjustly suffered. Is this true? I don’t know, not enough data observed by me, not enough reliable data observed by others, so far as I know. Obviously the two races are different physically, not only in color but in hair, bony structure, and in many other ways—blood types, for example. Must we nevertheless assume that, despite obvious and gross physical differences, these two varieties are nevertheless essentially identical in their nervous systems? I don’t know but I do know that in any other field of science such an assumption would be regarded as just plain silly even as a working hypothesis, more so as a conclusive presumption not even to be questioned.
It’s a free market innit:
However, this question as to whether the two races are “different” or “equal” or what need never come up if we are concerned only with equality under the law—if each man is free to make of himself whatever he is capable of making of himself. When I hire a mechanical engineer I am not concerned with his skin color but I sure as hell am concerned with his grasp of mathematics, his knowledge of strength of materials, of linkages, of power plants, of instrumentation, etc.—and if he can’t cut the buck, I certainly do not want to be forced to hire him because of his color. Nor does it matter to me (at the time of hiring) that he “never had a chance” to learn these things. 
Goodness. Not to be outdone, the whole letter itself is far more racially noxious and toxic.

Perhaps Heinlein had access to a time machine, as this passage from his letter sounds like something written by the libertarians in the Tea Party GOP:
I had better shut up or I’ll never finish this letter—I started out in this vein just intending to make a passing comment on your article. “Equality before the law”—Is it right to force white children to ride buses halfway across Manhattan in order that a kid in Harlem can sit next to a white child in second grade? I don’t think so; I think the white child is being discriminated against because of his color.
To his credit, Heinlein was a gifted visionary and futurist. Yet, I was not prepared for how Heinlein's letter was so "forward thinking" and "futuristic" in how it anticipated the type of white supremacy that would come to maturity in the post-civil rights era and the Age of Obama.

Teach me something. Am I being too hard on Robert Heinlein? Should I separate his art from his racism? Is there something in his vision that can be salvaged apart from his personal bigotry? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

A "Both Sides Do It" Pedagogical Failure: Romney's Race-Baiting versus Obama's "Beer Politics"

The school year began a few weeks ago. As is my charge, I am teaching several courses on American politics. This is a fun time time to be leading these seminars because the presidential race provides many rich examples of the concepts we are discussing from the literature.

When a head-scratching moment occurs--one of those pedagogical failures we occasionally talk about here on WARN--I like to share it both as 1) therapy and 2) because sometimes you just have to bow to the absurd.

The Right-wing media has created its own reality. This alternate universe is also swallowing up many young people with its comforting suckers and tentacles. The stakes are high here: if you can capture a young person, socialize them into a political worldview, then naturalize it, the chances are pretty good that you can win the generational struggle. Every culture has to reproduce itself or die. The New Right and the Tea Party GOP are no exception.

In one of my classes there is a nice guy; he seems well-intentioned and very sincere. I also do not doubt that he will turn out to be quite bright. However, last week he offered up a comment that shows how even the most well-intentioned people--and in particular, the most naive and trusting--can be sucked into the spin machine that is the Right-wing media echo chamber.

We were talking about Mitt Romney's specious lie that Obama is giving welfare away to lazy black and brown people. I located Romney's ploy in the context of the Southern Strategy, and how Romney and company have all but admitted that their race-baiting antics are a means to an end, where the goal is mobilizing angry, racially resentful white voters against the country's first black President.

Our young student looked curious and confused. He raised his hand and made the point that "both sides do it."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

They Claim Frederick Douglass as a Hero But Today's (Black) Republicans Would Keep Him From Voting

The Tea Party GOP is engaged in a concerted effort to keep African Americans from voting. This is not surprising given the Republican Party's animus towards people of color; likewise, Romney and Ryan are bereft of new ideas--save for a retread of the failed supply side, trickle down economics which led to the Great Recession. Voter suppression reflects both these realities.

While their efforts to demobilize voters by robbing them of basic rights through onerous and unnecessary restrictions on access to the franchise is par for the Southern Strategy 2.0, there is a core level of hypocrisy present in the Tea Party GOP's machinations that should be called out for the base ugliness which it embodies.

Republicans are quick to claim the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. 
However, the Republican Party is also the United States' de facto White political party: it lives off of the toxic fumes of "colorblind" racism and white identity politics.

Once more, history (and empirical reality) confounds and exposes the big lie that is the modus operandi of the Right.

The Tea Party GOP's efforts at robbing black folks of their constitutional right to vote is an affront to the legacies of both Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lincoln. The former fought and died in the Black Freedom Struggle; the Voting Rights Act was one of his crowning achievements. Lincoln defeated the Confederacy. This led to Reconstruction, what was one of the most radically democratic experiments in American history where men who were just a few years (or months) ago counted as human property would soon elect their own leaders (and kin) to Congress and the Senate.

King and Lincoln died to expand the franchise to millions of black Americans. The Tea Party GOP is working to steal the right to vote from black Americans so that Romney and Ryan can be elected to the White House. This is an ugly juxaposition: it directly contrasts a struggle for the Common Good with a selfish political exercise to install a plutocrat who will continue to represent the interests of the one percent at the expense of the rest of us. 

There is another American icon that is claimed by the Tea Party GOP, one who has a "special relationship" with black conservatives. Frederick Douglass, radical abolitionist, intellectual, and freedom fighter, is consider a shining star, "one of their own" by black conservatives. In a twist of history, Douglass, this hero to black Republicans, would be disenfranchised by the very anti-voting access policies that the Tea Party GOP is implementing across the United States.

David Blight, one of America's great historians, called attention to this reality in a recent essay in the NY Times. Here, he unleashes rhetorical violence on the Republican Party and the white supremacist roots of their efforts to deny black folks (and others) the right to vote in the upcoming election:
By the mid-1840s, he had emerged as one of the greatest orators and writers in American history. But legally, Douglass began his public life by committing what today we would consider voter fraud, using an assumed name...
In Douglass’s greatest speech, the Fourth of July oration in 1852, he argued that often the only way to describe American hypocrisy about race was with “scorching irony,” “biting ridicule” and “withering sarcasm.” Today’s Republican Party seems deeply concerned with rooting out voter fraud of the kind Douglass practiced. So, with Douglass’s story as background, I have a modest proposal for it. In the 23 states where Republicans have either enacted voter-ID laws or shortened early voting hours in urban districts, and consistent with their current reigning ideology, they should adopt a simpler strategy of voter suppression.  
To those potentially millions of young, elderly, brown and black registered voters who, despite no evidence of voter fraud, they now insist must obtain government ID, why not merely offer money? Pay them not to vote. Give each a check for $711 in honor of Frederick Douglass. Buy their “freedom,” and the election. Call it the “Frederick Douglass Voter Voucher.” 
Give people a choice: take the money and just not vote, or travel miles without easy transportation to obtain a driver’s license they do not need. It’s their “liberty”; let them decide how best to use it. Perhaps they will forget their history as much as the Republican Party seems to wish the nation would.
Black conservatives are one of the rotten legs supporting the racist stool that is the Tea Party GOP. As such, their silence is expected. It is part of a bargain which they have made. For many, it is a lucrative hustle that pays the bills and brings the marginally talented an outsized amount of attention and exposure. 

This makes their choice to stand mute, or in some cases to serve as the human props and political blackface mask in support of efforts to demobilize African American voters, no less contemptible. Black conservatives want to claim Frederick Douglass, but they spit in the face of his legacy. 

Ultimately, such contradictions cause no cognitive dissonance or upset. Black conservatives who stand silent on these matters, or commit the civic sin of supporting the disenfranchisement of black and brown folks (as well as the poor), demonstrate that they too are slaves to the psychic wages of Whiteness--and the material gains that come with the choice to be a political Judas, Kiplingesque middle man, or colonial administrator who can interpret the drums of the natives.

Black conservatives such as these are not the descendants of Frederick Douglass, a great man who beat down an evil white overseer and slave breaker named Covey, escaped to freedom, and became a legend for all time. 

Rather, the black conservatives of the C.L. Bryant stripe, those Clarence Thomases, Herman Cains, Allen Wests, and other related ilk, were more likely to play the role of the mythic Black Confederate, fighting and dying in the service of their white masters to keep other African-Americans in chains and bondage.

In total, black conservatives and the Tea Party GOP need to get Frederick Douglass out of their collective mouth, for they are not heirs, in any way, to his honored legacy.